Chainsaw Sally (2004)
Starring April Monique Burril, Mark Redfield, David R. Callhoun, Kristen Hudson
Written & Directed by Jimmy O Burril
You want to talk hype? I’ve been hearing about this movie for going on two years now, from the moment the concept was first thought up until it arrived at my front door, barely a month would go by without something new coming out about Chainsaw Sally. Gotta give it to the creators, they know how to bring attention to themselves.
Of course, whenever you have that much hype for any movie, and an indie movie most of all, there’s a great chance of being let down by expecting too much. With that in mind I finally sat down to watch the screener of Chainsaw Sally over the Thanksgiving weekend, after multiple DVD player issues, with absolutely no expectations at all. It’s always best to do that with independents, that way it doesn’t hurt as much when it sucks.
Luckily for me, Chainsaw Sally didn’t suck at all. In fact, it was pretty damn cool.
By day, Sally (Burril) is a mild-mannered librarian who is seen as a dork by most of the people in her backwater burg, and is left more or less alone. Piss her off, however, and you’ll get to see the other side of her, the side that takes out anyone who goes out of their way to taunt her. That’s the side she hides from everyone save for her brother, the cross-dressing, gender confused Ruby (Alec Joseph). The two of them live in a mobile home out in the woods, a location a scant few hundred yards from the house they grew up in, the same house they witnessed their parents brutally murdered 13 years previous.
Now the house is empty, and greedy land developer Harvey Benton (Calhoun) wants it for his own, so he can build condos there. In order to get it, however, he has to persuade the owner of the house and all the land it’s on, down to earth millionaire Steve Kellerman (Redfield), to sell. Kellerman come to town to learn more about the land he just recently discovered he owns, and where better to do some research than the local library? I think you see how it all comes together now.
Since the movie is called Chainsaw Sally, one would expect a lot of havoc being wreaked on a fairly regular basis, correct? In truth the havoc is kept to a minimum, with Burril (the director, not the lead) choosing instead to build more on the characters and their individual situations rather than film a 90-minute bloodbath. Don’t get me wrong, when there is death it’s messy and blatant, but it’s not the main focus of the movie.
This is part of what makes it work so well, but it wouldn’t mean anything except for a boring viewing experience if the performances behind the concept weren’t up to par. Luckily that is not the case here, either, as all the actors (with a few minor exceptions) do a great job with their roles, the most convincing of which was Redfield as Steve Kellerman. He was just spot-on with the role and made his time on screen that much more enjoyable for it, and thusly the film that much more believable overall. Mrs. Burril also did a good job with Sally, and seeing as how she’s the central character that’s pretty damn important. She plays the quiet, helpful librarian just as well as the insane cannibalistic murderer, and can switch them on and off when it’s necessary. Not a bad range for a relative new comer, I have to say.
As always, there were some issues. The film has a voice-over that pops in occasionally that, while it does help to move the plot along in some cases, is just distracting most of the time. I would rather the filmmaker tell me the story through the course of events and let me fill the rest in on my own if needed than have a voice pop in and outline exactly what was going on. The look of the movie isn’t that great either; seeing as how it was shot on DV it just has a cheap-ish feel to it. You really notice it at first, but the good performances and quick-paced script help to draw your attention away after a while, thankfully. I just think it would’ve looked better on film, but then what doesn’t? I also understand the reason DV is used so often nowadays, cost, so it can be forgiven.
One other point that deserves praise is the music. Most indie films hurt me their choice of songs to go over the beginning/end credits or all the stuff in-between, but this soundtrack was actually pretty damn good. Good punk/rockabilly makes for a better viewing experience for me every time, and this soundtrack’s got some great stuff on it.
So was it worth all the hype? Very few things are, especially in the world of independent film, but this one didn’t let me down like I had been prepared for it to do. You can read any reviews you want, and there are quite a few good ones out there for Chainsaw Sally right now, but you won’t really know if you’ll dig it till you see it. Me? I dug it.
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