Subculture-portrait documentaries don’t get much more absurd than Bodyslam: The Revenge of the Banana, one of five films to be featured in the genre-centric Midnight section of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Ryan Harvie and John Paul Horstmann’s lovingly loopy movie is a study of the Seattle Semi-Professional (SSP) Wrestling cabaret, which for a decade was put on at a city bar by misfits who found community through clotheslines and crotch-shots.
These performers are a deranged crew led by Josh Black, who takes the stage as Ronald McFondle (his finishing move? The anal fist!). Harvie and Horstmann’s nonfiction film is not only an amusing snapshot of a strange underground scene, but a bizarre real-life drama of betrayal and treachery courtesy of antisocial SSP member Paul, who dons a yellow fruit suit in order to slap faces and drop elbows as The Banana. Bristling at being paired with a partner (aptly named The Second Banana) whose shenanigans he loathes, Paul turns heel and reports SSP for code violations to the government and gets them temporarily shut down — leading to a Capitol Hill confrontation that proves almost as surreal as SSP’s profane bouts.
Considerably less mad is Emelie, which subscribes to a conventional psycho-stalker routine in detailing the increasingly unhinged behavior of a babysitter named Ana (Sarah Bolger) who’s hired to care for a suburban couple’s three children. One look at the pretty Ana’s eyes is enough to make her underlying craziness clear, and it’s not long before she’s feeding a little girl’s pet hamster to her brother’s snake, having eleven-year-old Jacob (Joshua Rush) fetch her a tampon while she sits on the toilet, and showing the kids a sex tape made by their father — with someone other than their mother, no less. A game of rather dull, darkly lit cat-and-mouse eventually ensues, though before that, director Michael Thelin gets some suspenseful mileage out of Ana’s whacked-out activities — even if his story’s maternal-need-run-amok undercurrents feel like wan approximations of the same themes dealt with, in far more horrific fashion, by 2007’s French shocker Inside.
Also treading familiar territory is Stung, a proudly B-grade monster movie about a couple of caterers (Matt O’Leary and Jessica Cook) working at a countryside mansion party who wind up battling a swarm of hormonally mutated wasps. Director Benni Diez’s film strikes an ideal balance between suspense and silliness, replete with romantic tension between its leads, superb creature effects, and lively supporting characters headlined by an amusing Clifton Collins Jr. as a nerdy hunchback whose hump eventually sprouts an insectoid second noggin. Also worth getting excited about: the preternaturally cool Lance Henriksen as a town mayor prone to guzzling wine and expounding on issues of love and masculinity.
Stinging partygoers who then literally split apart to birth even larger wasps, Stung’s monsters prove formidable larger-than-life fiends, and Diez and screenwriter Adam Aresty make sure to keep their action both dripping in gore and rife with ridiculousness — although it seems like a missed opportunity that no one ever kills one of these bugs while exclaiming, “Buzz off.”