Director: Adam Rehmeier
Cast: Rodleen Getsic, Jeff Renfro, Drettie Page, Greg Gilmore
Disk Extras: Commentary with Adam Rehmeier and Rodleen Getsic / “Caretaking the Monster” making of featurette / Trailers / Photo Gallery
In 1985 New York underground filmmaker Nick Zedd coined the term “Cinema of Transgression” to describe his and his contemporaries’ (like Richard Kern and Lydia Lunch) low-budget, boundary pushing films. These 8mm art films were more often than not offensive, divisive and sometimes downright hard to watch. “If it’s not transgressive, it’s not underground. It has to be threatening the status quo by doing something surprising, not just imitating what’s been done before,” Zedd has been quoted as saying. TheFreeDictionary.com defines the word “transgressive” as “exceeding a limit or boundary, especially of social acceptability”. If I had just one word to describe Adam Rehmeier’s (writer/director) and Rodleen Getsic’s (writer/lead actress) completely fearless and uncompromising horror film The Bunny Game, it would indeed be transgressive. It not only goes against social and societal norms but also norms of filmmaking itself.
The very basic plot thread follows Sylvia (also credited as “Bunny”), a coke-fueled street-walker, as she deals with her cyclical life of doing drugs and being horribly abused by johns. Unfortunately for her, she eventually climbs in the cab with JR (credited as “Hogg”), a trucker who knocks her out with some sort of chemical-laden cloth and drives her out in the middle of a gravel pit, far away from anything or anyone. As she finally wakes up, she is subjected to increasingly perverse and pitiless torture. Now, knowing how that is all that really happens, most would think, “sounds like shitty ‘torture porn’ to me” but that couldn’t be farther from reality. The Bunny Game is a stripped-down, psychologically damaging descent into madness that proves that you don’t need gore or special effects to build a powerfully effective horror movie. What you do need is talented artists willing to do anything to see their vision come to fruition. And I mean “artists” in the most emotion evoking, thought provoking and gifted way.
The spare cast and crew (Rehmeier behind the camera and no one else) literally suffered for their art. According to the director in the supplemental featurette “Caretaking The Monster”, everything you see in the film –aside from the drug use– is very real; no stunts and no make-up effects. Writer and actress Rodleen Getsic (the movie is based on her real-life abduction) fasted for more than a month to become a gaunt, sickly looking druggy prostitute, had her head shaved and got very roughed up in her role. She is a brilliant, first time actress who became that sympathetic victim, not only a victim of JR and numerous johns but of her vices, obvious self-loathing and sadness. The other lead, Jeff Renfro (who appropriately enough usually works in the film industry as a transportation coordinator and driver) plays the seethingly evil “JR” aka “Hogg” in his first role in front of the camera. Renfro is a frightening madman whose portrayal reminded me so much of Dennis Hopper’s gas-huffing maniacal character “Frank Booth” from David Lynch’s unforgettable Blue Velvet. Yes, he’s that intense of a person.
There is very little dialogue in the movie, coming mainly when JR is demeaning Sylvia or talking on his CB radio. But there is no lack of audio terror. The original music score, also by Rehmeier, and music from metal band Harassor is meant to be very grating and create a constant state of discomfort. The sounds, along with the stark black and white cinematography, unorthodox camerawork and editing, on top of the already dark and twisted content make for an almost unwatchable, cringing horror. The Bunny Game also does something very unique; no blood or gore, neither graphic nor alluded to. The torture she goes through is mostly psychological which sounds like it couldn’t be extreme, but the degradation, mayhem and looming death that she endures is more disturbing than any gore flick I have ever seen. Only the end of the movie left me a little nonplussed. It was almost like they didn’t know how to come down from such a severe film so they decided to just not deal with it. Honestly, only my love for Rodleen Getsic and her character made me need to know what happened to her. I was very invested in her well-being and I still think she may need a hug.