SXSW Film Festival Movie Review: ASSHOLES (2017)

ASSHOLES is one of the most bizarre, original, and flat-out gross films you’ll ever see.  Written and directed by Peter Vack, the film tackles various forms of addiction in a way that will either slap a goofy smile across your face or repulse you entirely.

To describe the plot of ASSHOLES is a task that I’m not adequately prepared for.  Adah (Betsey Brown) is a drug and alcohol addict who seeks mental help as she struggles to stay sober and cope in her lonely new life as a clean person.  Aaron (Jack Dunphy), her brother’s best friend, visits the same therapist to discuss his own addiction to porn (anal porn, more specifically) and his curiosity about hardcore anal sex.  The flawed characters eventually connect and bond over their desires and addictions, falling in love over poppers and ass-play.

I know that sounds relatively straight-forward, but don’t let it fool you. ASSHOLES also features disgusting herpes sores, the worst kind of PDA, random uses of thrash metal music, literal ass faces, and an anal demon that is conjured due to excessive butt stuff.  This is REQUIEM FOR A DREAM played for laughs, and it’s effective as hell.

The cast and crew of ASSHOLES are dynamite from top to bottom, each member being dedicated to a unique vision.  Peter Vack admirably pulls quadruple duty, writing, directing, producing, and starring as Adah’s brother, with a great Max Landis joining him as a producer. Dunphy and Brown exude a sickly likable chemistry as the leads, wringing an earnest sympathy from their human flaws and remaining an oddly sweet couple even in their most detestable moments together.  And can we just appreciate that Eileen Dietz-fucking Pazuzu-plays Mephistopheles, the demon that’s conjured from Adah’s rear?  Someone deserves a medal for inspired casting.

ASSHOLES is absolutely a love-it-or-hate-it type of film.  There’s no doubt in my mind that viewers will be incredibly turned off by what’s happening on screen.  However, if, like me (you’re in to weird shit) you like wholly original films and pitch black humor, ASSHOLES is 74 minutes of insane joy.  I loved every minute of it.

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