The Taint (2011)
Drew Boduc and Dan Nelson
Drew Bolduc (Phil O’Ginny/Drew), Colleen Wash (Misandra), Cody Crenshaw (Houdini), Kenneth Hall (Ludas)
Side effects of a penile enhancement drug released into the water supply.
The water supply is tainted with a bad male enhancement drug that turns men into murderous boner zombies. This movie does not pass the Bechdel test.
So after reviewing Left Behind last time, I wanted to tackle something that would get the taste of that movie’s awful religious agenda out of my mouth, and what better thing for that than copious amounts of semen? As far as content goes, The Taint is about as far from the Left Behind series as I can actually go without just watching weird pornography. (That was totally an option, by the way!) The Taint is quite possibly the most tasteless movie I have ever seen and I consider myself to be pretty well versed on tasteless cinema. This movie outdid Troma’s schtick so proficiently that Lloyd Kaufman actually acquired the distribution rights.
The movie opens on our protagonist Phil (director/writer Drew Bolduc) being chased from a barn by a farmer with an Amish beard, goggles, and a scythe. After a hypnotic opening credits sequence that lays down a rough outline of what’s going on, we rejoin Phil as he’s accosted by a crazed man with a very visible squirting erection. This’ll be the jumping off point for a lot of people, so have a good two weeks! I promise the next one won’t be so appalling!
A woman steps in and kills the boner zombie. This is Misandra (subtext!), she’s a no-nonsense badass who, as revealed in a flashback, was forced to kill her loving husband when he drank tainted water and tried to kill her. She claims to know of an untainted water source and promises to take Phil to it, so they set off through the woods to find it. On their travels they come across a gang of uninfected men led by Phil’s high school gym teacher Mr. Johnson, who now goes by Houdini, and a crazed masked man named Ludas who claims to be the scientist responsible for the taint.
There’s a lot to love here. The sense of humor is childish, filthy, and offensive but there’s an earnestness and audacity to it that just makes every joke land perfectly. There’s a running gag where Phil switches his sunglasses from a white framed pair to black frames whenever he intends to kill something that’s so oddball that it always at least got a smile from me and the payoff for that toward the end of the movie is a great bit of black humor. Everything Houdini and his gang do is hilarious, even when it’s also traumatizing and disturbing. The introduction of Misandra and her back story was so funny I had to replay the scene twice the first time I watched it.
The special effects are better than a lot of movies with twice the budget of The Taint. There are some truly amazing gore set-pieces and there’s several of them. The money they spent on make-up prosthetics and dildos alone must have eaten up at least a third of the budget. And they still managed to have production values that are far and above what I’ve come to expect from any indie movie, let alone one on this end of the spectrum. Bolduc and Nelson show that even trash can be made to look professional.
The soundtrack alone is worthy of accolades. The score was composed by Bolduc himself and it feels equal parts modern and like a throwback to 80s horror movie scores a la John Carpenter (it is comparable to Carpenter’s scores in terms of quality as well.) Even if you’re too squeamish for the movie, give the soundtrack a listen.
On the acting front things are a bit mixed. Drew Bolduc plays two characters and neither of them are breathtaking marvels of immersion, but one is meant to be a douche-bag teenage Lothario and the other is a closeted asshole scientist. Both have the same bored tone to their lines but it’s not out of character for either of them and there are noticeable differences between them, so I’m not sure where to stand on that.
Cody Crenshaw and Coleen Wash are both a bit wooden in their line delivery but they sell the dramatic moments of their characters fairly well and at all other times they’re just kind of playing parodies. Crenshaw really delivers some pathos to Houdini in the backstory and even though he’s constantly funny, brings across the tortured soul that his character really is.
Kenneth Hall is legitimately and inarguably great as Ludas: he does pre-taint Ludas and crazy mask-wearing-talking-entirely-in-yelling post-taint Ludas with absolute seriousness and it elevates his part of the story. His scenes carry a lot of weight and he sells it in spite of the over-the-top insanity going on around him, it takes a good actor to sell “Behold, my best friends’ parents basement!” and a breakdown over losing someone he was in love with and have both be equally affecting.
There are some amazing (especially considering the budget) gore effects, the soundtrack is the best home-brew score I’ve heard in a movie since the heyday of John Carpenter, the production quality is beautifully done and more than makes up for some weak acting. The movie is hilarious and sophomoric and violent and wonderful and you can just sit down and have a lot of fun watching it.
I could easily sign off now, but let me go all Patrick Bateman on you. If you’re looking for a funny, messed-up, disgusting, good time then you’ll obviously like this. At face value The Taint is just such a fun bad taste gonzo horror movie that you might not even bother looking for any deeper meaning than “dick jokes are funny”, but you should!
If you want to go into this movie without any spoilers and experience the magic for yourself then just skip the block of text between the next two pictures.
The Taint spends very little time in the post-apocalyptic time period, instead focusing on the stories of our four leads per-apocalypse. After Misandra’s origin is revealed, we learn about Houdini, Ludas, and then finally Phil. This seems like pointless filler at best, particularly with Houdini who barely has any influence on the plot yet has the most in-depth back story, but on closer inspection the puprose for these lengthy scenes becomes clear. The Taint is an extremely biting satire of misogyny and it’s fairly ingenious.
Each of the four main characters represents some form of misogyny (and a little bit of homophobia). Misandra is a female misogynist, a type some men refer to as a “good one”, the kind of woman who extolls her love of sports and manly things and talks about how much she hates drama and emotions and other negative girly junk. She sells her virtues to Phil near the end of the movie talking about how her father told her she could overcome gender bias by being tough, but it’s obvious the only woman she’s helping is herself and that’s all she really cares about.
Houdini is a pure misogynist, he barely even sees women as human beings. When his girlfriend starts crying he offers to beat her so she’ll have something to cry about, he sees gang rape as his earned right after the end of the world just because he and his crew are uninfected. The reasons for this are tied to his childhood and the abusive treatment he received from his father, it turns out that he offered to beat his girlfriend so she’ll feel better because that’s what his father did to him when he cried. He’s obviously beyond help and only a step down from the head-crushing infected men he tries so hard not to become.
Ludas isn’t a misogynist, at least not at the beginning of his story, but he sees a world literally infested with it and ultimately gives up on fighting it. He has the ability to fix the problem but ultimately decides that the effects of the taint are man’s true destiny and shrugs it off with an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude. It’s his story that’s tinged with the most metaphor and sort of delivers the entire thesis statement of the film.
Phil is a casual misogynist: he sees women as objects of sexual conquest and little more, but there’s no hate or malice tied to it. He has the highest probability of redemption and the biggest character arc. After Ludas infects himself and Phil with tainted wine and impales Misandra through the head with his penis (subtext?) Phil decides to take a stand. He kills Ludas and then goes on a rampage, shooting the dicks off of every misogynist he sees, becoming a literal Social Justice Warrior (he even dons an American flag at one point as a cape, after using it to wipe all the semen off his face naturally. Did I mention this movie is tasteless?) He kills a respectable amount but he’s only one person and he’s working on borrowed time. He stops beneath an underpass and watches a group of misogynists torture and kill a few remaining women, laughing and masturbating furiously as they do. If he had taken a stand sooner and had more help he might’ve made a difference but alone he can’t change anything. As he sinks to his knees, succumbing to the taint, the screen goes monochromatic and we see Phil’s face frozen in defeat, silhouettes of penises rotating around it as he realizes he and humanity are lost.
I’m not kidding myself about the importance of this movie. Only those with the most twisted of sensibilities could even sit through The Taint, let alone enjoy it, but that doesn’t negate from what it is. Movies like Django Unchained and Boss Nigger will never have the cultural impact of 12 Years a Slave but that doesn’t mean their messages don’t sink in or hit home. Exploitation has always been the home of the ideas that the mainstream doesn’t want to deal with and that goes far beyond sex and violence into more complicated issues like sexism, racism, and class disparity. More times than not exploitation movies have said the same thing as more reputable films in a louder voice and with a harsher tone and that is one of many reasons why one can’t simply limit movies (or anything else) to such simple categories as “high” and “low” art.
As I said in my first column, doomsday stories are ultimately about people and this particular scenario is about the way society views women. It simplifies the circumstances of misogyny to the most basic metaphor: Misogynists are violent monsters with literal anger boners (and they’re the product of men attempting to become more sexually appealing to the opposite sex, the greatest irony of all), women are victims or soon-to-be victims and the only ones that aren’t are those who put up a front and never let their guard down, and the rest of all men aren’t monsters but they could be under the right set of circumstances if they just stop caring and give in.
At one point Phil states “I’m not a misogynist, I don’t crush women’s heads with rocks” which is pretty much the “NOTALLMEN” hashtag personified. (I remind the readers that this movie was released in 2011, before of all the nonsense of the last 3 years, so they were well ahead of their time in that regard.) It’s a statement (intentional or not) that just because you’re a man and you’re not actively awful to women doesn’t mean you’re part of the solution and that’s pretty impressive for a come-soaked horror movie about boner zombies.
Unfortunately the Blu-Ray/DVD combo set is listed as “out of stock” on Amazon, Troma, and the movie’s official website. I’ve sent an email and got a reply from Drew Bolduc saying he was going to order some more DVDs to sell through the website, so hopefully there will be more options in the future. For now you can fight over one $49.99 copy of the Blu-Ray on Amazon, buy the regular DVD from Troma (where it appears to still be in stock, for now), or buy a VHS copy from the movie’s official website.
NEXT TIME ON DOOMSDAY REELS
“This is stupid. We should be fucking and drinking by now.”