*** (out of 5)
May 15, 2014
Don McManus as MIKE
Jay Paulson as DAVE G.
Betsy Rue as ASHLEY SAINT
Chris Wylde as KRIS
Catherine Annette as CASEY
Lee Kholafai as JOSH
Lanny Joon as NICO
Clint Brink as DEVIN
Studio: Vineyard Haven
Directed by: Robert Nathan
BY KEVIN CARR
Watching a movie like “Lucky Bastard” was a dicey endeavor for me. There was just a lot of potential for it to turn me off.
No, it’s not because of the NC-17 rating. And no, it’s not because of the graphic sexuality in the film or the setting deep within the porn community. Seriously, I’m not that easily offended.
My concern with “Lucky Bastard” from the moment I hit play was that I have become so tired of found footage horror movies that I worried the delivery of the film would wear on me from that angle. Additionally, because there was a no-holds-barred NC-17 rating, there was great potential for this to become nothing more than a rape-torture-murder home invasion type of film, and that’s just not my cup of tea.
However, I was actually pretty impressed with the outcome of the film. It’s not the greatest horror film that’s come down the pike, but it makes a point to tell a real horror story without getting overly exploitative or gimmicky.
“Lucky Bastard” follows a porno production in the San Fernando Valley. Producer/director Mike (Don McManus) makes a series known as “Lucky Bastard,” during which fans get a chance to nail a professional porn star. Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue) is a veteran performer who reluctantly agrees to star in one of these films for Mike, even though she has a general rule to not work with amateurs. The lucky bastard who gets his shot is a creepy guy named Dave G. (Jay Paulson), who from the onset appears to have some problems. When they finally get on set and things don’t go as smoothly as everyone would like, including an embarrassingly premature finish, Dave goes off the rails and seeks revenge on the entire cast and crew.
While I’ve been annoyed with found footage as a gimmick style for years, the presentation of “Lucky Bastard” did not really bother me. The set-up for the filming was organic to the story, and it made sense in the context of the film. Sure, there’s always the question of who edited all of this together after the fact, but the presence of the cameras and the capturing of the footage was never something in question.
However, more than just the explanation for the footage, the actual footage itself wasn’t the usual nauseating shakycam you get from most found footage films. There’s something to be said for porn producers who want a certain degree of quality in the shooting of their footage.
There are some pretty bold choices in “Lucky Bastard,” more than just the brazen setting. Here is a horror movie that forgoes the creepy haunted house or the shadows you would normally expect. It takes some guts to shoot a thriller in the bright lights of a production under the sunny Californian sky, and while this didn’t play for an eerie feel, it did challenge the viewer to face a real-life threat in broad daylight.
The other thing that raised this film above the basic horror production is the use of somewhat recognizable actors, which can hamper a film like “Paranormal Activity 2” or “Apollo 18,” but raises the reputation of a movie like this. Perhaps this eased my mind that this wasn’t going to attempt to out-extreme recent films like “The Human Centipede” or “A Serbian Film,” or perhaps it just raised the quality of performances beyond community theater improv. Either way, it worked for me.
The core of the horror film presented here is a potential real-life “What if?” scenario. While I don’t work in the adult film industry, the ins and outs of the business as presented seemed realistic to me. It didn’t seem like the filmmakers were just making things up but rather approached this as a realistic scenario that honestly could happen (and scarily enough probably has).