Monday, October 8, 2012


I didn’t realize I had a VHS collection until it had reached a modest size. In fact, it was a completely accidental thing. Some folks have comfort foods, and well, I have comfort films. Initially, all I really wanted was to have access to all the movies I had fond recollections of seeing on local TV as a kid. That eventually expanded to include all the flicks with haunting box art that I was never allowed to rent as a child. Then there came my desire to find a lot of the brutally edited-for-television flicks I enjoyed as a teenager on USA Network’s Up All Night. It was a good hobby in that it was cheap and easy to track a lot of this stuff down. Places like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster, which had absorbed cool libraries from the mom and pop shops they had taken over years before, were dying off and getting rid of this stuff for pennies, literally. It also brought to me a sense of warmth and nostalgia from a secure point in my life. The fact that I had purchased a lot of these titles on VHS wasn’t intentional either. It just so happened that a lot of these movies never made the leap to DVD. Collecting sort of took on a historical precedence as I became aware of exactly how many films were likely going to slip through the cracks as schools of VHS-only, out-of-print tapes were being tilled into landfills across the country. You know how they have those statistical ads on television that tell you how often a burglary or sexual assault occurs? Well, just as horrific to me was the fact that a lot of films were dying, potentially never to be rediscovered, around the clock. So, my collecting criteria expanded to include a lot of stuff I’d never even heard of. It has become less about nostalgia and more about actually discovering lesser known titles and preserving them by sharing through screenings. It’s viral magic.

As with any hobby, there are probably people out there who collect based purely on the “obscurity” of the title. When you’re collecting, it’s good to be aware that there are two brands of obscurity. The first and most commonly sought-after type of obscurity is the kind that is brought upon by the rarity of the item. This is perhaps the most dangerous type of obscurity because a lot of people will celebrate a title for its sheer rarity even if it happens to be a total piece of shit. It can create a deceptive hype around an ultimately disappointing title. The second kind of obscurity is when there is a title that is relatively common and yet is not very well known. This can be equally deceptive, as it can cheat you out of seeing a lot of great stuff. However, there’s also the other side of the coin, where something might be obscure because it is a total piece of shit that fucking sucks soooooo bad – and this brings us to “King Frat” on the All American Video label, a subsidiary of Mogul.

This movie is most often referred to as an “Animal House” Clone, though it is nothing of the sort. The process of cloning something would imply some sort of sophisticated process, whereas “King Frat” is about as scientific as shitting into an empty bottle of Old English; instead, it would be more fair to call it a blatant ripoff, and it’s a complete fucking mess. Don’t let people fool you with that “so bad it’s good” bullshit, either. It’s actually so bad it’s sobering. The night I decided to watch this, I was actually totally trashed, so I was in the right frame of mind to enjoy a sophomoric comedy, but it completely assailed my buzz and left it for dead. 

There’s nothing to synopsize in terms of plot because there isn’t any. There is no real dilemma, nor is there any adversity for the characters to go up against. It’s basically just a bunch of crap that happens. In fact, there aren’t even any characters really. Instead, you get a handful of people who are just consistently on screen. About the most development we get is for some 50 year old Native American dude who gets dumped from the movie about a quarter-way in. Other than that, there are no arcs. The only guy who stands out is 41 year old John DiSanti as JJ “Gross-out” Gumbroski, who is essentially “King Frat”’s Belushi, only DiSanti comes across like a far less charismatic Joe Besser.  You don’t even really get the sense that these guys are rebelling against anything so much as they are just being assholes since the movie doesn’t really have a main antagonist that’s out to get them. Instead, we just have a bunch of loosely strung vignettes with them carrying out unlikely pranks, such as putting smoldering weed in a funeral home’s air vent so the service turns into a laugh riot. After that, Gross-Out appears in a fart contest to get beer money. At some point some dipshit in a gorilla suit gets his penis stuck in a girl, which really makes no sense. Then, the movie concludes when the barely present token black guy gets beat up by the square white guy frat. Otherwise, the jokes are impotent, the nudity is scant, and the annoying theme song is wielded with maddening repetition.

About the only kind thing I can say is that it is competently shot. Other than that, the actors and script collide to create a soulless vacuum. The gross-out humor is “Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie”-caliber - pathetic when you consider "King Frat" only meets a bench mark set by a film designed to appeal to stupid little kids. The most debilitating absence is that of a legitimate trial or tribulation, and the conclusive "triumph" is just sort of tacked on. These are supposed to be misfit characters, and yet there’s never any downside for them to bounce back from. However, this isn't to say that this film couldn't have been good somehow. There are plenty of films in this vein that have virtually no plot, and yet kick copious amounts of ass because they're witty and have great performances. Films such as "Hot Moves" and "The Party Animal" prove this. Unfortunately there is noone on Michael Zorek's level anywhere in this film. Overall, this is an uneventful bag of shit that deserves to remain obscure. Consider this a head on a pike and ignore the hype.

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