No less illustrious a pair of film-makers than Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez attempted to reinvigorate the grindhouse style of filming so beloved of their youth. That was back in 2007 with Death Proof and Planet Terror and it never really caught on. Films like Machete and Hobo With A Shotgun represent perhaps the death-throes of the otherwise moribund revival, which makes the claims of Billboard to be in that style all the more baffling.
Essentially an ultra-low budget relationships drama with some horror trappings, Billboard lacks the consistent exploitation streak to enable it to truly make its home amidst the house of grind. As is sadly the case with so much bottom-rung filmmaking (budget-wise) there’s a real dearth of talent on both sides of the camera, with too little in the way of creativity and imagination available to paper over the considerable cracks. Grindhouse seems, from my limited experience of it, to represent a celebration of style over substance, but when your film lacks style as well and resorts to occasional changes in film stock and “missing reel” inter-titles as its flourishes, you’re in trouble.
The running time is mercifully brief, but with going-nowhere scenes like Danny’s unsuccessful visit to an off-licence and a couple of policemen knocking on Katie’s door to ask what all the banging is about, you wonder whether some judicious pruning might have been able to reduce this down to a short film, a format in which it would have undoubtedly worked much better.
The acting is wholly amateurish and although the absurdly low budget of £3,000.00 means that criticism feels churlish, the credit due to writer-director Jamie Patterson for getting his vision up on the screen will only stretch so far. Some sequences are altogether painful to watch and sadly the brief improvement in tone, pace and inventiveness that accompanies Alex’s arrival at Katie’s house quickly fizzles out as the script runs out of ideas.
One for the idly curious and faintly masochistic only. You can either download or buy the DVD of the film here.