Butcher Block is a weekly series celebrating horror’s most extreme films and the minds behind them. Dedicated to graphic gore and splatter, each week will explore the dark, the disturbed, and the depraved in horror, and the blood and guts involved. For the films that use special effects of gore as an art form, and the fans that revel in the carnage, this series is for you.
In 2007, an international trailer contest was run in promotion of the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse. Director Jason Eisener got together with collaborators Rob Cotterill and John Davies, wrote a script, and shot a trailer titled “Hobo with a Shotgun” for a mere $150 in a few days. It went viral on YouTube shortly after and won the contest. The exposure led to a feature film version getting fast-tracked, the second fake trailer from Grindhouse to earn one (after Machete).
The feature length film takes the highlight reel of the faux trailer and expands it to a brisk hour and a half story that replaces original Hobo David Brunt for a more recognizable genre mainstay; Rutger Hauer. Also gone is the scratchy, dusty vintage film quality and replaced instead with the vivid technicolor world that feels more akin to Suspiria. Though the visual style might have been updated, the film still retains that grindhouse DNA, dialogue and all.
The plot is a simple tale of an antihero taking matters into his own bloodied hands. When Hauer’s Hobo arrives in Hope Town by way of train boxcar, he soon finds the town is under the oppressive rule of The Drake and his sadistic sons. A public decapitation is Hobo’s introduction to the town’s deep-seated corruption, and eventually, Hobo snaps. If you surmised that the film’s title should be taken literally, then you win a prize; Hobo does indeed pick up a shotgun and begins a murder spree to remove the town’s pimps, drug dealers, pedophiles, and corrupt.
Eisener’s feature take on this character feels like a vivid colored Troma meets grindhouse film, so enjoyment mileage will vary depending on tastes for crude humor and gore, both of which there is plenty. Thanks to key special makeup effects artist Zane Knisely (Hannibal, The Void, The Monster) and team, the practical effects-driven gore is a huge highlight. Heads pop off and shower surrounding characters in blood. A character takes a hacksaw to the neck of a victim, slowly driving the serrated blade back and forth into their flesh. A doctor is impaled with a sword. An ice skate is used as a knife to someone’s chest. All were handled practically, and all reveled in excess violence and blood, which wouldn’t have been easy to contend with during production.
With both Hobo and his adversaries slaughtering their way through Hope Town, forcing the citizens to pick a side, a late game summoning of two armor-clad demons, dubbed “The Plague,” adds a new level of light-hearted weirdness to balance to grit. The gore, tone, and look of Hobo with a Shotgun makes for a perfect pairing to Turbo Kid, all the more fitting considering Eisener served as executive producer for the cult hit.
With dialogue like, “I’m gonna wash this blood off… with your blood,” and, “It’s a beautiful day for a skate-rape” and a ton of dismemberment (including genitalia mutilation), Hobo with a Shotgun is example of extreme splatter cinema with heart, humor, and Troma-like sensibilities that’s sure to offend the delicate.