Every week, I scour Netflix for a movie rated at one star and put it in my queue, suffering through it for your entertainment so that you don’t have to. In the past, I’ve taken on anime cancer demons, softcore Iraq War porn and racist ventriloquism, and this week, it’s the single greatest documentary since Air Guitar Nation.
THE BACKYARD (2002)
Starring: Juggalos. So many Juggalos.
Back when the Worst of Netflix started, my very first column focused on Splatter Rampage Wrestling. It was that DVD, full of high schoolers doing suplexes on a trampoline (complete with someone’s 9 year-old kid brother as the referee), that made me realize that there was comedy gold to be mined from Netflix’s lone-star selections, and when I saw an 80-minute backyard wrestling documentary sitting in my queue, I figured it was time to revisit the subject.
But believe it or not, The Backyard is one of the few one-star selections that actually doesn’t deserve its rating. It’s a little heavy-handed at times, but it presents its subject in a mostly impartial way, and while it’s as low budget as you’d expect an amateur documentary to be, it’s pretty interesting and frequently hilarious. I can only assume that the ratings are coming from people reacting to the subjects rather than the film itself, and on one level, I can understand why they’d hit they’d be so quick to hit the single star.
Because this movie is chock full o’ morons.
That’s kind of a given when you’re watching a movie about dudes who drop out of high school to spend their weekends setting themselves on fire for a crowd of four in a suburban back yard, but filmmaker Paul Hough knows how to get the best out of them, and frequently ventures into the realm of the hilarious.
The movie opens with Bo and Justin, two amateur wrestlers prepping for a “Three Stages of Hell” match to be performed in front of a sold out crowd…
…that also involves their mom:
Seeing their mom cut a sinister, villainous promo in which she actually stroked a black cat while reading notebook-paper cue cards was worth the price of admission alone, but getting to watch the boys explain hardcore wrestling to their grandma by bringing out a barbed wire baseball bat in a dining room full of ceramic cows?
That is literally the funniest thing I have ever seen.
From there, Hough moves on to a world tour of backyard wrestling promotions, spending time with a young man named Chaos, who provides all the mandatory “if you don’t like it, f–k you” and homophobia you’d expect from a high school dropout (“But I’m probably going to go back and finish and…. get a job or some sh–.”) and bringing out the actually really interesting story of Scar. So named because of the massive scars covering him from a series of 28 operations he had between the ages of 5 and 8, Scar is one of the few backyard wrestlers whose parents actively approve of his hardcore wrestling shennanigans, saying that he’s got to make his own choices and that he understands death and injury better than most people.
It’s a pretty thought-provoking point that, as you might expect, is almost immediately shoved to the back burner when Scar meets up with a teenager named The Retarded Butcher for a match behind the bleachers at a local baseball diamond, which is interrupted by a very angry Mrs. The Retarded Butcher’s Mom.
Hough even manages to find a small-town school district that encourages backyard wrestling among the students (“You could be sittin’ around smokin’ dope for all we know, but instead you’re not. You’re hitting each other on the head with garbage cans,” says a teacher) and heads to England, where a truly gruesome scene of a kid who cuts himself too deeply with a razor while trying to blade and just will not stop bleeding is balanced out by the fact that they’re utterly charming about it:
“Usually we just go round mine, or round Ross’s [ROSS WAVES CHEERILY] and make a night of it.”
The real star of the show, however, is “The Lizard.”
The saga of the Lizard takes up the bulk of the movie, following him as he deals with various promoters, including Josh James, a 17 year-old entrepreneur described as “The Vince McMahon of backyard wrestling,” who runs as tight a ship as you can when you’re having middle schoolers bodyslam each other in a dirt lot. He assigns penalties to wrestlers who show up late (making them wrestle the fat guy) and even gets his wrestlers to sign waivers, which provides a pretty good source of conflict when one guy’s mom refuses to sign, reminding her son – a minor – that he can’t be taking these kinds of risks with his baby on the way.
But back to the Lizard, who Hough describes as “at 26 years old […] the oldest backyarder on the backyard circuit.” There is nothing I could possibly say about that guy that would be better than what’s in the actual movie, so here are some choice quotes:
On being suspended by James: “”It’s kinda like a bunch of bullcrap you know I left early because my girlfriend came with me and my baby was hot so I left early you know.”
On his gimmick: “This is the Lizard. What he does is he creeps around at night.”
On determination: “As God says in the Bible, anything that is impossible is can be possible as long as you put your heart and desire to it. Now that does not say that, but I’m saying that.”
And finally, on his life if pro wrestling doesn’t work out: “I do have something backing me up and that’s the pizza business and being shift manager. And I have that backing me up. And right now I am studying to be a police officer. And I have that backing me up, because I’m going to try to get into the Police Academy.”
|Chris Sims is a freelance comedy writer from South Carolina. He briefly attended USC before he dropped out to spend more time with Grand Theft Auto, and his career subsequently took the path that you might expect from someone who makes that sort of decision. He blogs at http://www.the-isb.com and creates comics at http://www.actionagecomics.com.|