Last night’s screening of SXFantastic selection “The FP” at the Alamo Ritz began — as apparently all screenings of “The FP” begin — with a ceremonial Four Loko chug race: Crew members, including the brotherly directing team of Brandon and Jason Trost, versus audience members. It was a goofy mood-setter, and maybe a bit of a warning: to fully appreciate their movie you might need to be drunk and high.
“The FP” stands for Frazier Park, the area of California where the Brothers Trost hail from and which, if “The FP” is to believed, is perhaps the white trashiest place on earth. In the Trosts’ demented vision the FP is a post-apocalyptic wasteland where rival gangs from “The 245″ and “The 248″ battle for control of the area’s alcohol by playing Dance Dance Revolution. Whoever controls the booze controls the hobos, and whoever controls the hobos can keep the ducks in the park fed. And what is a town with ducks?
(Footage of the Four Loko races at “The FP”)
It’s that sort of movie, the kind that doesn’t make any sense and is damn proud of it. “The FP” looks like something high school kids make with their parents’ video camera on weekends, only in this case it was made by two professional filmmakers nearing their 30s — Brandon is a busy cinematographer whose next project is the “Ghost Rider” sequel — a fact that makes the film’s subterraneanly low-grade production values that much more charming. Though the film’s interiors are strewn with debris and broken tech, outdoor scenes show Frazier Park as a normal-looking American town with houses and cars and trees. It seems like the only people who realize society has collapsed and been replaced by a retro-futuristic hellhole are the main characters.
They include co-director Jason Trost as the none-too-coincidentally named J-Tro, an eyepatch-wearing Dance Dance master with his brother B-Tro. In a hysterical pre-credits sequence that plays like an avant-retarde version of the Drago-Apollo fight from “Rocky IV,” B-Tro falls at the hands of the evil L Dubba E (Lee Valmassy), prompting one of those classic shots where you hook a camera to a crane and shoot straight down at the actors as they look up and shout “NOOOOOO!” Some time later, J-Tro is walking the earth a la Rambo in “First Blood” when his old running buddy KCDC (Art Hsu) finds him and begs him to come back to The FP to save their turf from L Dubba E. When he returns, he finds his crush Stacy (Caitlyn Folley) in L Dubba E’s arms. What’s a one-eyed, mulletted, white boy dancer to do?
The joke is the sheer ludicrousness of it all, a world built on Dance Dance Revolution populated by redneck douches who talk in hip hop slang, fighting over the lamest turf ever for the sake of feeding some ducks. The whole point is that there is no point — just like most 80s action movies that take themselves far too seriously. And that joke works in the beginning, during the big DDR battle, but it begins to wear a bit thin during the middle act. I wasn’t surprised to hear to learn “The FP” started as a short film because that’s exactly what it feels like: a great one-joke short film expanded into an undercooked one-joke feature film. The Trosts expanded their running time, but not their repertoire of material.
It was around the halfway point of “The FP,” as the audience’s natural laughter began to die down, that I first noticed the forced laughs and loud comments from the filmmakers’ row of seats at the Alamo. The Trosts brought a bunch of their crew members out to South By Southwest to celebrate their premiere, and they were really into the movie. At times, they laughed at every line — even the ones that weren’t intended as jokes. One member of the group hooted and yelled and even heckled the film a few times, despite a constant rain of shushes from the folks around her. The longer that went on, the more “The FP” began to feel like a giant inside joke foisted on an unsuspecting audience and less like the inspired experimental film about macho stupidity it appeared to be in its early brilliant moments.
If the Trosts and their entourage wanted to disrupt their own movie, I suppose that’s their right. “The FP” is a confrontational film with intentionally crappy design; perhaps sabotaging their own debut is just another twist of their meta-meta filmmaking approach. The movie’s supposed to be crummy, so maybe we’re supposed to have a crummy time watching it too? In that case, they should have made everyone chug a can of Four Loko.
(An excerpt from the post-film Q&A)