REVIEW: Rottentail [2019]

Score: 3/10 | ★


Rating: NR | Runtime: 106 minutes | Release Date: April 12th, 2019 (USA)
Studio: Ammo Content
Director(s): Brian Skiba
Writer(s): David C. Hayes & Brian Skiba / David C. Hayes, Kevin Moyers & Kurt Belcher (graphic novel)

“I don’t want to change!”

I’m a proponent for fun comic book adaptations that don’t adhere to the Christopher Nolan school of brooding drama that’s more or less taken over the genre, but I’d hope the goal would be smart wit rather than dumb idiocy. That doesn’t mean I necessarily begrudge the sort who seek out fare such as Brian Skiba‘s Rottentail or its source material from Kurt Belcher, David C. Hayes, and Kevin Moyers. Some just like cheesy over-the-top one-liners that were definitely written before the scenes trying too hard to give them flimsy enough context to land. And while I commend an artist’s willingness to lean into the fact they’re intentionally creating a bad product, I pity them that the result can never be as good as the experience making it.

Suddenly you’re working towards a performance art piece wherein the audience is the star and the film a catalyst. The art isn’t thus what’s being watched, but the act of those watching it. Script and sense are thrown out the window in lieu of moments that will purposefully elicit a reaction from viewers at the expense of the characters engaged within. So it doesn’t matter who’s being killed or why so long as the killing itself occurs for our amusement. Plot-holes aren’t a liability, but the goal. Films like these are therefore the ones that birth fans foaming at the mouth for critics’ blood because the incomprehensibility the latter points out is exactly why the former loves them. One speaks of the movie, the other about the event.

Well I’m here to talk about the film and its wild premise revolving around government experimentation, evangelical greed, and high school reunion. It’s one that makes absolutely no sense outside of a desire to excite a very specific section of our population: red-blooded teenage boys. Rottentail is quite honestly built upon the back of an incel whose objective intelligence forever ensures he could never get the girl. So while his tenth grade science fair project is lauded by the principal and earns a smile from his prettiest classmate, young Peter Cotton finds himself the victim of her inconsiderate and abusive boyfriend. Jake murders his pet rabbit (and best friend), marries Anna, and becomes rich while Peter continues an existence predicated on his being perpetually shit upon.

Since being the “nice guy” failed, it shouldn’t surprise when a freak accident transforms Peter (Corin Nemec) into an uncouth bully himself. This metamorphosis commences after a violent attack combines his own rabbit-based fertility serum with the venom of a rabbit-like monster created by his associate Dr. Stanley (Gianni Capaldi). With no means of prevention, Peter’s mild-mannered self is all but replaced by the creature’s abrasive persona. Despite numerous incongruities that would have us believe the human part of this hybrid still wields control, the demon bunny has the wheel. So don’t believe the synopsis when it says Peter is out for revenge on those who wronged him. Rottentail merely wants to prove his virility. That he does so at the expense of Peter’s enemies is purely coincidental.

There’s General Phelps (Tank Jones), the man who stole Peter’s serum before it was completed because he wanted to give his wife (Emily Mena) uninterrupted pleasure (the joke being that he has to fight with a permanent erection). There’s Dr. Stanley’s undeserved superiority considering he has pretty much the same job as Peter (his success seemingly a byproduct of him being an asshole). And of course a grown-up Jake (William McNamara) who is now a popular pastor using his occupation’s squeaky-clean façade as a shield against his being an opportunistic charlatan devoid of a moral compass. Why does Rottentail go after them? Because they get in his way. That Peter was to help Anna (Dominique Swain) expose Jake’s deceptions remains crucial to her trajectory, but not his.

What follows is thus a series of idiotic moments strung together to resemble a plot. A lazy guard is introduced so he can inexplicably show up later with a giant joint and in turn a smoke-filled van for Rottentail to drive. The military is present because the filmmakers know they would be—each brief shift to the two surviving officers’ whereabouts more useless to the whole. And the decision to make Jake a man of God allows for the occasion to have Peter dress-up like the Easter Bunny and talk back to children. It’s rabbit-themed humor like this that occurs most often, though, whether it be pooping a mound of pellets or eating lettuce with nothing but his front teeth. Sometimes Rottentail even remembers he has super speed.

That last one comes with cartoon lightning and blurring effects that show just how low a budget Skiba is working with while the prosthetics Nemec wears are contrastingly pretty great. Even the little rabbit monster that bites him works in large part because of practical effects succeeding where computer graphics never could. Sadly that glimpse of production value only made me wish the project could have gotten out from under its bottom-barrel ambitions. I can look past subpar acting and shoddy effects if the script is sounder than a sexist, man’s man pissing contest. Because Rottentail is not, it’s hard to give it any benefit of the doubt. It becomes impossible upon realizing its original content was published in 2015 and not 1985. Poor taste is an understatement.

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