'Meathead Goes Hog Wild': Fantasia Review

Courtesy of Fantasia Film Festival
An underground freakout with a personality all its own.

The title is no overstatement.

A psycho-breakdown flick that goes full-tilt violent without losing its odd, almost endearing underlying friendliness, Meathead Goes Hog Wild is as crazy as its NY Post-headline title but not as jokey, watching as a Chicago man endures the worst day of his life. Collaborating on their first feature after directing assorted shorts individually, Kevin Cline (who also stars), Zach Harris and Sean Pierce offer a microbudget film that will inevitably be compared to Falling Down but is far stranger and — since its nameless protagonist is not a middle-class failure but a young man on society's fringe — addresses very different socioeconomic themes. It will be a "not for everybody" product even within fringe audiences like Fantasia's, but many of those who walk away hating it will still find it hard to dismiss entirely.

Cline has nearly no acting credits to his name. But his apparent lack of training is only really problematic in a couple of late scenes that require him to explode with emotion while the camera watches him closely; in long shots and scenes where he's not facing the camera, his frustrated rage can be hilarious. He plays a Chicago slacker who gets fired from a butcher shop (the unkempt, sexually starved guy can't stop staring at customers' breasts) and, after an increasingly frustrating evening, lets himself into the store and steals every bit of meat he can carry.

His door is hanging on one hinge already — recoil at how many of those steaks he crams down his gullet immediately after getting home — but he's connected enough to his youthful good nature to fry up a piece of meat for his neighborhood's homeless hepcat, an act that inspires him to give away the rest of his loot in a rougher part of town. There, this tough day gets truly frightening, and while our meathead rolls with some punches, he snaps when a mugger steals a phone containing the number all his romantic hopes rely on.

Some of the ensuing scenes would count as implausible outside the world of underground cinema, but the centerpiece is something in a category of its own: Cline, whose scrawny, hunching body is already stripped to the boxers as he runs down streets, loses that last hinge and goes completely feral in an abandoned building — he's an amphetamine cave man, grunting and leaping and doing lewd things with garbage. It's an extended spectacle, with Cline fully committed and probably burning every calorie he just consumed; then the action spills out into populated areas, where the story gets darker still.

Tech elements are predictably rough, but not enough to bother any filmgoer gonzo enough to appreciate this strange beast.

Production company: Punctuation Films

Cast: Kevin Cline, Rose Sengenberger, Nick Luzietti, Sam Sweiss

Directors-Screenwriters-Producers: Kevin Cline, Zach Harris, Sean Pierce

Directors of photography-Editors: Zach Harris, Sean Pierce

Music: Andrew Harper

No rating, 102 minutes

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