“Hey Asshole, Don’t Flick Your Boogers On My Crime Scene”: The Diabolical Charm of Chris LaMartina
It takes Baltimore filmmaker Chris LaMartina only five minutes or less to satisfy every expectation one presumably has for a microbudget, exploitation feature. In the opening three minutes of his 2010 slasher film, President’s Day, we’re treated to topless females, high school idiocy, a masked killer and the kind of homemade gore effects that tend to incite equal parts laughter and discomfort.
I’m singling out this particular scene because the rest of the movie departs drastically from this tone, expanding its focus far beyond blood and breasts. Speeding through this “B-Movie quota”, it’s almost as if LaMartina is saying “now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can get on with my movie.” Two minutes in I thought I’d be viewing trash for trash’s sake. While I’m usually fine with that concept, I was thrilled —and somewhat relieved—that LaMartina had constructed a film (or “video” if you want to be an asshole about it) that possessed heart, talent and the determination in direct contrast to churned-out Hollywood horror with only a five thousand dollar budget.
Though President’s Day is an ensemble piece, it mainly centers on two Lincoln High School students: an intelligent slacker, Barry (Bennie Mack McCoy IV) and his latest crush, a cute-as-a-button new girl by the name of Joanna (Lizzy Denning). In true Scooby Doo fashion, the adolescent duo work together in unmasking a killer dressed as Abraham Lincoln, who has been systematically murdering the Lincoln High candidates running for student council president. While this plot may sound like just another twist on the slasher genre, LaMartina’s humorous and original voice break through the barriers that typically hinder a shot-on-video genre feature. The resourcefulness and sheer entertainment exemplified here make it all the easier to ignore just how “DV” it all is. Hollywood would do well to snatch this kid up, as his penchant for blood and absurd humor seem capable of single-handedly entertaining the teenage demographic for years to come.
LaMartina’s unique sensibilities flourish even more so in his 2011 follow up, Witch’s Brew. Made for slightly more money, which should be obvious from an impressive werewolf transformation scene, Witch’s Brew is a less filtered version of LaMartina. While still operating within horror, he opts out of limiting himself to a sub-genre, and instead tackles all sub-genres at once. From witchcraft to werewolves, to slashings to cannibalism, Witch’s Brew tells the story of two twenty-somethings’ – Jeff and Preston’s – microbrewery after a slighted witch applies a curse to their product, “Slacker Lager.” From then on, all the Baltimore citizens that sample said beer either suffer from a gruesome supernatural death, or transform into creatures.
While there are no notable stars in the aforementioned double-feature, fans of independent exploitation might recognize Seduction Cinema actress, Ruby LaRocca, who hasn’t lost one iota of her enigmatic intensity; the host and founder of the unfathomable YouTube phenomenon, “My DVD Collection” Shawn C. Phillips also appears in President’s Day and Witch’s Brew, lending his enthusiastic allure. Phillips’s performances actually stand out and make for humorous highlights in both films. I, of course, also have to mention the presence of another Baltimore native, George Stover, who one might recognize from his Baltimore cohort, John Waters’s earlier movies. Stover’s comic timing and delivery are a perfect match for LaMartina’s often twisted sense of humor, making him one of the most qualified actors for delivering absurd dialogue such as “hey asshole, don’t flick your boogers on my crime scene.”
I’d like to end this piece by tying LaMartina back to Baltimore somehow, maybe saying something about how he’s been infused with the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe, or has inherited John Waters’s sense of humor; but that’s a stretch. While LaMartina’s tales are certainly hilariously sinister, his voice is distinct, preventing me from likening him to those aforementioned Baltimore legends. If anything, his work is more exemplary of ‘90s teen comedies, and Wes Craven’s Scream franchise (and, no, that’s not an insult). Unlike many today who set out to film on a miniscule budget, LaMartina doesn’t actually seem interested in making B motion pictures, despite his obvious appreciation for the genre. Ignoring the hand-me-down system, LaMartina doesn’t excuse his inexpensive production values. His goal is to entertain his audience on a Hollywood level, using only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the cost. This is what makes Chris LaMartina a true blue B-filmmaker. And like many B-filmmakers of yesteryear who possessed a similar drive, and creative resourcefulness, it’s only a matter of time before he goes A.
For more information on Chris LaMartina and his films, visit: