Proving that regional theater—albeit of the Grand Guignol meets bear-baiting variety—is alive and well, The Backyard clumsily investigates the suburban phenomenon of backyard wrestling: underground, amateur circuits of mostly white trash teenagers imitating pro wrestling’s telegenic histronics, then going one better.
For those who have missed reports of same from Jerry Springer, mail-order videos and art-school MFA shows: These pain-hungry grapplers incorporate bloodletting props like thumbtacks, barbed wire, razor blades, plate glass, and lightbulbs. In tribute to pro wrestling’s baroque media accoutrements, backyard brawlers don homemade costumes and assume strangely monikered personae (such as the Lizard, Scar, Bongo the Pot Smoking Monster, A.D.D. Dave, and the Retarded Butcher). In one case, an enterprising teen finagles himself a Vince McMahon-style role as backyard promoter, compiling the best clips onto a local cable-access show, complete with face-to-camera grudge-match vendetta vows. The most surprising interviews, however, are with a number of approving adults. “Heck, you could be sitting around smoking dope,” says one high school teacher. “Instead, you’re hitting each other on the head with garbage cans.”
Though filled with violent smackdowns, slackjawed interviews, and bizarre characters, Hough’s doc never rises above the level of first-year student project, hobbled by scattershot editing, badly written intertitles, and useless directorial voice-over. Nevertheless, this masochistically fascinating video mixtape is further evidence of the never ending entertainment value of the American underclass for hipsters who incorrectly fancy themselves to be any different from the sadistic slobs shown watching from the sidelines.