REVIEW: American Scumbags (2016)

This is the third film that I’ve reviewed for filmmaker Dakota Bailey, with his last film, My Master Satan being the first feature. His latest, American Scumbags, rings very much like the last, in that it features sketchy people doing sketchy things involving drugs and murder in what amounts to Anytown, USA.

The thing about Bailey’s films is that there as raw as you could possibly imagine. They have a heavy SOV feel, but are apparently shot digitally on a mini-cam. This might explain some of the technical issues, such as trouble with audio leveling and some shaking of the picture, although to be fair, the audio was much better crafted in this film than in his last, and the music that had a tendency to be off-putting in Satan has switched – from a dark metal to a more punk feel. Aside from those improvements, the movie feels very much like a spiritual sequel to his past products.

It’s hard to discern a real plot to the movie; Individuals who are pointed out as the movie goes on but are instantly forgettable make backdoor deals with one another, kill one another, or have sex with one another – or possibly all three. Of the storylines I can make out, one involves a guy who is upset about a former flame blocking him on social media and hooking up with a new man.

This part features the stand-out of the film, after he shoots the new boyfriend and maims the girl with battery acid. Although the gunshots in the movie are just audio, the violence level is amped over Satan. A man is thrown from a bridge with bloody aftermath, and the aforementioned acid splash works extremely well.

Another story – actually, two other stories – involve men who apparently owe each other money, or drugs in exchange for money…to be honest, it wasn’t very clear to me. The movie features many, many scenes of people talking on phones, answering phones, or calling people on phones, with a variety of fades, cuts, and wipes in between each segment. Sometimes within the same segment or same scene. It’s a bit of a mess on the editing side, which made it slightly hard to follow at points for this reviewer. There is also a bit about a recently-paroled pedophile and a wheeling-and-dealing handicapped old man. Even scumbags hate pedophiles, apparently.

In the end, multiple people are killed, a hit is set up, and the film ends abruptly. I’ve always referred to this type of ending as a Bicentennial Man ending, based on the old Robin Williams film that has slowly seeped from my memory, but had something to do with robots. That film ends in such a wild-cut of a manner, it’s like there is a reel missing. American Scumbags also has an abrupt stop, after only 58 minutes, to boot. Like all of his films, the movie ends with rollicking music over cast images, and although I hadn’t noticed it in previous films, there are several minutes after the credits that just say “Hail Satan.”

If a resurrected Ed Wood and a John Waters lookalike teamed up to direct a spiritual sequel to Wayne Allan Harold’s Townies, you’d probably end up with something along the lines of American Scumbags. It’s not for everyone, but Bailey has a growing following, and for fans of his work, American Scumbags will live up to and exceed his past films.

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