Bag Boy Lover Boy: Andres Torres’ gritty NYC horror comedy is a transgressive masterpiece
This review will be unashamedly subjective because I loved Bag Boy Lover Boy a heap and a half and I admit to being blinded by that love and relent to the possibility that my critical barometer may be somewhat skewed. And I don’t care. Writer/director Andres Torres’ startling 2014 festival fave is an exercise in perversion, but not cruelty. It’s rich in style, but not overly styled to the point of being slick and bland like so many independent movies are. It’s funny as f**k, but it takes its characters seriously and does what every amalgam of horror and comedy should do, allowing the humor to wring out naturally from the extremity of the situations. It’s weird and arch but it’s no hipster wank. It’s bloody and vulgar but not cartoonishly so nor is it a depressing wallow. Imagine an amalgam of Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood, Bill Lustig’s Maniac, Abel Fererra’s Driller Killer and Napolean Dynamite and you get a vague idea of Bag Boy Lover Boy‘s vibe, but even those comparisons aren’t fully accurate.
Whatever the movie is, it just is. Some will — and do — hate it, some will feel invigorated by it. I firmly fall into the latter category.
The film stars Jon Wachter as Albert, a slow-witted hot dog vendor who becomes the object of fascination for a sleazy fetish photographer named Ivan (Theodore Bouloukos). First, Ivan defends the slack-jawed, lazy-lidded Albert from braying yuppies who slam his BBQ hygiene and then he invites the simpleton to his studio with the promise to teach him the business. Albert’s life is simple and tawdry, his nights spent grilling meat and pining over women, his days spent masturbating in his fleabag apartment. Suddenly, he finds himself as Ivan’s new “muse,” a model (“He looks like a bag boy from a deli in Hell!”, Ivan enthusiastically tells an associate) who is covered in fake blood and asked to mime sex and murder for the shutterbug’s pornography. But Albert doesn’t want to be a model. He wants to be a photographer. He wants to be an “artist.” And when Ivan is whisked away on business to Italy, Albert decides to self-educate, taking over Ivan’s studio, luring hookers and the down-on-their-luck girls to the lair where he photographs them, murders them, mates with them and even eats them.
Bag Boy Lover Boy is a show-stopping showcase for Wachter whose Albert is truly one of the most pathetic wretches to ever appear on screen, his hilariously vacant line delivery slurred out through his swollen lips and filtered through a thick Slavic accent. He’s stunning and his greasy energy bounces beautifully off Bouloukos, whose ego is matched by his size and bluster. Torres’ simple narrative guides the film, but he’s not terribly concerned about plot mechanics, instead opting to just follow his mesmerizing lead into all manner of revolting adventure. And yet, as sick as the film gets (hamburger meat has never looked more revolting), it’s not gratuitous. Torres is a smart filmmaker and he knows when to pull back, showing and suggesting enough to shock us but not bum us out. And every time things do get gross, Wachter does something bizarre or says something ridiculous and we snap back into the realm of the absurd.
There’s a lot of movies like Bag Boy Lover Boy and yet there’s not other movie like it. Does that make sense? It’s one of those rare character pieces where actors, location (the authentic, guerrilla-shot NYC streets and alleys are amazing), music, editing and direction all synch up like instruments in a jazz track, each seemingly pulling in different directions, undisciplined, their shared tensions perhaps accidentally creating great art.
Severin‘s Blu-ray looks and sounds great (love the menu, which isolates and loops a fantasy sequence to hypnotic effect), but to be honest, I haven’t explored the special features (which include a commentary, student films and more). I don’t want to. At least not yet. Bag Boy Lover Boy is such a titanic piece of transgression that I’m simply not ready to see the wizard behind the curtain just yet. I prefer to believe that the film was beamed in from another dimension, where NYC is still a dangerous, otherwoldly place full of punk rock and perversion.