If, like me, you fondly remember such Ozploitation classics as Patrick (1978) and Dead End Drive-In (1986), — whether you caught them at your local drive-in, on home video, or on late-night cable television — you’ll be thrilled to know that writer/director Dwayne Labbé has crafted a jaw-droppingly madcap Australian feature that recalls its heritage in that genre while burning rubber into the present day. Musclecar is a riveting, pulsating, blast of a fun film that had me smiling throughout.
Bambi (Jacinta Stapelton) may have taken Queen’s song “I’m in Love with My Car” too seriously to heart. She is a proud B-movie filmmaker with a love for hot rods. On the verge of a big payday for her next project, she has her hotheaded brother Buck (Blackwood) take her to buy her dream car, a 1968 lipstick red Dodge Phoenix, which sets her back a cool ten grand. As astute readers might guess, Bambi should have waited for the deal to finalize before making her purchase. Now with a fuel-guzzling auto, no money for gas, and a film crew that is suddenly unemployed, she needs to figure out how to fill the tank. Without giving too much more away, I’ll just say that she is not above resorting to voodoo sacrifices.
Musclecar is a true labor of love. Like the Italian film The LaPlace’s Demon that debuted at Fantasia earlier this year, Musclecar has taken a number of years to get from its early stages to its world premiere, but is well worth the wait. Award-winning animator Dwayne Labbé wrote the first draft of his screenplay in 2009 after deciding on the project with producer Aaran Creece, and the shoot was completed in April 2010. After long post-production, editing, legal, and other processes, the film has finally been unleashed on unsuspecting audiences.
There are so many reasons to love Musclecar, beginning with the story. Labbé has taken a tale of obsession and passion, and ramped it up with outré elements of both humor and horror. As much as Bambi is consumed with her car, other characters are plagued by their desire for her. One in particular, Randy (Tai Scrivener), gives in to a willingness to do anything to win her over that drives him to possess her as much as her preoccupation does in her diabolical quest to obtain the unique fuel she seeks.
Labbé’s lead actors are professionals with impressive supporting resumes; he wisely cast them in their first lead roles in a motion picture and they delivered, big-time. The cast gives crackerjack performances, especially Jacinta Stapelton. She goes all in with her turn as Bambi, and obviously has a lot of fun with her character’s strong charisma and magnetic charms. Tai Scrivener is spot-on in his portrayal of Randy (let’s just say the name truly fits the character), a slave to his own ego and id. Blackwood is also terrific as Buck, Bambi’s testosterone-driven brother who has had to clean up her messes his whole life. The supporting cast, of which some members appear in various humorous states of undress, is ace, as well.
Labbé peppers Musclecar with animated and comic book sequences that help flesh out the tale on the film’s limited budget, and these sequences add a great deal of amusement to the proceedings. The film has a unique, impressive look thanks to its vivid set design, Labbé’s imagination, director of photography Darrell Martin’s fantastic work, and the special effects from Adam Johansen and Damien Martin of Odd Studio. The movie’s soundtrack is a rocking ball, as well.
Quite simply, Musclecar is sheer, amusing entertainment with a professional sheen that belies its low-budget roots while simultaneously fully embracing them. It has a big heart that beats throughout, whether it is delivering dark humor or supernatural horror. Keep an eye out for this film, because you won’t see anything else quite like it anytime soon.
Musclecar had its world premiere at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival on November 2, and has upcoming screenings at Sydney, Australia’s A Night of Horror International Film Festival (November 29–December 3), and is a nominee for Best Horror Feature at Singapore’s Genre Celebration Festival. For more information, visit the film’s official website at https://www.musclecarmovie.com or its official Facebook and Twitter pages.