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New Release Review - BLOODY KNUCKLES

When an artist has his hand severed by gangsters, the appendage returns to enact revenge.


Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Matt O'Mahoney

Starring: Adam Boys, Kasey Ryne Mazak, Ken Tsui, Gabrielle Giraud




"The real purpose of Bloody Knuckles isn’t to give you the willies, but to make us think, stimulating our conceptions about what free speech should entail, and challenging the recent dangerous, encroaching erosion of those rights by fringe maniacs."




Of the many dismembered body parts strewn throughout the horror genre, hands are sinisterly ubiquitous. Maybe because hands have been so crucial to the development of our race, the evolution of long, opposable thumbs enabling us to craft and yield weapons that allow us dominance over other species. Or maybe it’s simply due to that fact that, moving about independent of the body’s wider context, a palm and its wiggling digits looks like a big, hairless spider! Hands feature prominently in the ace Amicus short in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, the knockabout teen fun of Idle Hands, not to mention the fisty schizophrenic slapstick of Evil Dead 2, or Freddy Krueger’s preferred mode of dispatch. But it is 1981’s The Hand that Bloody Knuckles draws inspiration from; in both films, a comic book artist loses his drawing hand, but the latent creative urge proves too strong, and the disembodied appendage returns sentient and murderous, to enact gruesome revenge upon those who have annoyed their host.
However, whereas in The Hand, Michael Caine’s hapless illustrator was disabled by a car accident, here Travis (Adam Boys) is set upon by a bunch of Chinese gangsters, who have taken violent offense to one of Travis’ gleefully transgressive comic books, entitled ‘Vulgarian Invasion’ and so cut his right hand off. While I hope we can all agree that lopping off someone’s paw for something they’ve drawn is an extreme, childish and despotic action, one can see why these thugs were offended; the opening credits feature a montage of Vulgarian Invasion’s front covers, brilliant and brutal and objectionable to a page. In fact, they’re so cartoon nasty that I daren’t elaborate upon them online in case I inadvertently end up on some sort of register - suffice to say that one memorable cover features a gay superhero - Homo Dynamous - who tears heads and dripping spinal cords from homophobic neo-Nazis (hehehe), and another that has a central image… which college age David Cameron would (allegedly) approve of (oink oink).
The real purpose of Bloody Knuckles isn’t to give you the willies, but to make us think, stimulating our conceptions about what free speech should entail, and challenging the recent dangerous, encroaching erosion of those rights by fringe maniacs (just ask Danish cartoonists, or the surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo). While terrorising Travis, Kasey Ryne Mazak’s gangster Fong conjures some threatening word play with the homophonic phrase ‘you can’t stop the profit’. Like Bloody Knuckles as a whole, the suggestion is about as subtle as a chainsaw to the wrist, but then those who would restrict our right to speech don’t go in for sensitivity much. In fact, the aberrant appendage doesn’t even show up and start enacting gory revenge until about a third of the way in (and when it does, the film joyfully manages to give the little fella a funny, vulgar personality all of its own); the film is more concerned with ordaining its satire of censorship and the various authorities that collude to enact it. Setting the film in Canada seems appositely deliberate; there’s a subplot that takes off Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, with a group of Canuck terrorists taking the usual hyperbolic umbrage to what essentially amounts to silly but ultimately harmless art - Canada seems such a laidback, relaxed country, the absurd unlikeliness of such an outrage occurring there exposes other countries’ accepted intolerance (plus, one of the terrorists is played by Robin Bougie, he of Cinema Sewer infamy, which, to underground comic fans, is all the seal of approval we require).
But don’t worry if this makes Bloody Knuckles sound at all worthy. It isn’t. That’s abundantly clear by the time a real life Homo Dynamous emerges from a leather bar to kick, and do other things to, some arses; another vivid aspect of this film’s dedication to ‘supporting filth and depravity’. Like Travis’ comic books, Bloody Knuckles may be crudely drawn, but it is bursting with laudable ideas and raunchy imagination.



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