‘Some people taste like dogshit and other people taste like watermelon sherbet.’
‘Sounds like a metaphor for humanity.’
Judy (Chet Siegel) quits her coffee shop job to commit to DUH, the three-person band she fronts, but they need a van to fulfil tour dates … which gets them together with Peckerhead (David Littleton), an aw-shucks older guy who admits he’s living in his van and is willing to become DUH’s roadie-driver apparently just because he’s a bit lonely and open to being exploited. But, as we saw in a prologue, he suffers from a specific condition – at midnight, he transforms into a fanged, crusty-faced cannibal and rampages for thirteen minutes, and he only came by that van by eating its actual owner. Of course, Judy, drummer Mel (Ruby McCollister) and third wheel Max (Jeff Riddle, who actually wrote DUH’s songs) catch on soon that there’s a gruesome downside to Peck – who murders and devours a venue manager who rips off the band – but are willing to enter into a semi-Faustian bargain because, well, they really need the van. When Judy calls Peck a monster, he huffily responds that he prefers the term ‘thing’ – and we only get a few hints as to his backstory, while the rules of his change-o carnage-a-rama lifestyle are deftly established.
A variation on the being-pals-with-a-monster theme of The Little Shop of Horrors, this has a nice sense of its punk milieu – what the band get out of hanging around with a gut-chewing, eye-gouging monster isn’t instant wealth and fame but a minor assist in their shitty round of travelling between one ripoff and the next with the driven Judy growing a conscience more quickly than her band-mates as the murders pile up, even if the victims are mostly assholes who were in the way. First-time writer-director Matthew John Lawrence sloshes the gore and throws away cynical gags in the way you’d expect from a film that includes a Toxic Avenger 2 clip, but gives Siegel and Littleton subtler characterisations than might be expected – and the two leads are interestingly complicated, with Siegel discovering a heroic streak and Littleton playing amiable but slightly annoying tagalong with an edge of incipient threat.