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Memphis Flyer The Video Phile

MARCH 1, 1999:  There’s a line in one of the Porky’s movies that is relevant to this video review. This school administrator finds some pornographic film, and he distastefully announces that he was so disgusted he viewed the whole thing – twice.

I’ve watched the video Exploding Varmints (Advanced Action Videos, $22.95) several times now. I’ve shown it to a group of friends, and I’ve watched it alone. I’ve watched it drunk and I’ve watched it sober. I’ve watched it while I washed dishes and swept the floor. I’ve even kept it on as I drifted off to sleep, which gave me some pretty bizarre dreams in which everything is seen through a rifle scope.

So far I haven’t been able to figure out what makes this 40-minute video so compelling and revolting. You have to be a really sick bastard to come up with the idea. And you have to be a pretty sick bastard to enjoy watching it.

The title sums it up: Exploding Varmints: Part 1 . I don’t know what the producers have in mind for parts two and three, but this video’s mission is on the back of the video jacket. “From your favorite easy chair, experience the excitement of exploding so many varmints your shoulders will ache … and witness hundreds of confirmed exploding kills in this action-packed video.”

Then there’s a bona fide review by a guy named Harry in Centerville, California “Boy! These varmints explode big-time.”

The descendants of all those fine Americans who took pot shots at buffalo from the cabooses of West-bound trains are bored, and they need something to do. Our lazy video culture demands that we entrust our killing instinct to someone else while we watch vicariously. Nowadays, the buffalo are legally protected, but gophers and prairie dogs that tear up private land aren’t. Gophers and prairie dogs also don’t fall down as hard as large mammals, so the producers of Exploding Varmints use specially tipped ammunition that makes fur and entrails fly 20 feet in the air.

In this video, two guys go out with high-powered rifles in Northern California. One is a pretty-boy figure named Louis, the other is a shirtless, hairy, paunchy guy named Gary. They have a truck and thousands of acres of hunting ground. They explode the varmints to a soundtrack that is half-porn, half-video game.

Gary and Louis are often too busy showing off their hunting skills to bring us quality camera footage. But after 10 minutes, that hardly seems to matter, because they kill a lot of varmints. Every 10 seconds there’s another cut-away to another critter getting blasted. Most are caught standing perfectly still; some are nailed while running for cover. Two or three actually get away. When that happens, a subtitle reads, “Lucky Varmint!”

“I love doing this! This is excellent,” Louis announces. They cut back to a shot of him smiling contentedly while he runs his hands through his shiny black hair.

Gary and Louis break up the shooting to keep it from becoming too monotonous. They instruct us on what kind of rifle to use. They tell us how to approach ranchers to get permission to kill varmints on their land (“Ask them,” Louis advises. “It’ll be okay as long as you don’t shoot his cows, his irrigation pipes, or his wife”).

Between killing footage, they also give us a lesson on the ecosystem. “We’re doing a service to the coyotes, the bald eagles, and the hawks,” Louis says. “For you nature lovers, it all goes back into the food chain.” Then they show footage of a variety of different birds. Given the mood they set, you can’t help but sit at the edge of your seat and wait for Gary to get a little antsy with his trigger finger.

I don’t recommend this video for everybody. I don’t recommend it at all. But I do think that, once word of this gets out, some twisted freaks out there will make it an underground sensation.

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