An Indie horror comedy that lends a helping hand
Matt O.’s Bloody Knuckles is a horror comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. An underground cartoonist loses his hand to an Asian street gang, only for the hand to return later with a mind of its own. An indie movie that revels in its gore and offensiveness, Bloody Knuckles has the grotesque comedic styling of an Evil Dead with a profoundly twisted sense of humor.
Travis (Adam Boys) is an underground comic book artist publishing his offensive independent comic book, Vulgarian Invasions. Travis claims the comic stands against censorship and supports freedom of speech with its extremely graphic subjects. It’s a local comic that has caught on in his small circle of freaks and weirdos. He gets interviewed by an investigative journalist doing a piece on Vulgarian Invasions, Amy (Gabrielle Giraud). Things go very badly for Travis when he attacks a local businessman in his comics over toxic pesticides, Leonard Fong (Kasey Ryne Mazak). Fong is actually the leader of a Chinese street gang, the Golden Dragons.
The Golden Dragons teach Travis a nasty lesson when they chop off his drawing hand, telling him if he informs the police they’ll finish the job. Much to the surprise of Travis, his severed hand returns later with a mind of its own. The hand moves with a life of its own, much like Thing from the Addams Family. Travis has already fallen into a funk over the loss of his hand when his severed hand shows backs up. Travis then ends up in a contentious, testy relationship with his former appendage.
Bloody Knuckles enjoys itself, having fun along the way with its crazy premise. Travis eventually teams up with a masked S&M vigilante inspired by one of his own comics, called Homo Dynamous. For a low-budget indie, the effects look great for Travis’s disembodied hand. They are quite effective at giving the hand its own movement.
Maybe we are supposed to root for the severed hand, I don’t know.
Maybe we are supposed to root for the severed hand, I don’t know.
My main problem with Bloody Knuckles is Travis himself, especially in a middle act that drags when he becomes depressed after losing his hand. Travis becomes a fairly unlikable character after he loses it, which becomes a problem when he’s the protagonist. Maybe we are supposed to root for the severed hand, I don’t know. That is a problem in a film that runs a tick over eighty minutes. There is a distinct Evil Dead vibe to the problems Travis faces when his hand returns, probably the funniest parts of Bloody Knuckles.
Writer and director Matt O. serves up a horror comedy worth checking out despite an unlikable lead character in Travis. The juvenile comedy works with a solid heaping of gore and over the top outrageousness. Bloody Knuckles deservedly got a lot of play on the festival circuit as a fresh indie film. It tries to make a point about the freedom of art and artists in Western society, no matter how crude or offensive, should be protected at all costs. That feels like mere window dressing for the bloody comedy but is a point worth remembering in the wake of attacks like the Charlie Hebdo incident.
Artsploitation Films gives Bloody Knuckles a satisfactory, if not perfect, presentation on Blu-ray considering its micro-budget. The 82-minute main feature is encoded in AVC at 23.26 Mbps. The 1080P video is framed in a normal 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio.
Shot on low-end digital cameras by mainstream Hollywood standards, the indie film has decent definition and mild clarity. This Blu-ray transfer was likely derived from the film’s digital intermediate, so it fully reflects the filmmaker’s intentions.
The most noticeable problem with Bloody Knuckle’s flat video are the milky black levels and spotty detail. Rarely does its video have inky black levels with perfect contrast. Macroblocking and other compression artifacts rear their head in the darker scenes. A second pass with the AVC video encoder could have done wonders eliminating the banding and posterization.
If you take its low budget in consideration, the picture quality is quite capable. It is fairly sharp and the digital video is mostly clean. The subdued color palette does look soft and dismal in darker scenes. Some scenes are clearly better lit than others, producing far better definition and clarity with a much nicer contrast.
Bloody Knuckles packs a solid punch with its 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Some LFE activity is apparent and the surround channels are shockingly active with discrete cues. That creates a strong sense of immersion for the indie horror film’s mix. The score nicely works with this movie’s sense of humor and gore. Dialogue is immaculately placed in the soundstage with intelligibility and clarity.
Two inferior Dolby Digital soundtracks are included alongside the primary DTS-HD MA audio. Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles appear in an off-yellow font.
Artsploitation Films includes the Blu-ray in their trademark clear case with one of Travis’s Vulgarian Invasions comic strip on the inside cover. A nice complement of special features highlight director Matt O., including a couple of short films and multiple interviews. The short deleted scenes could have been left in the film, they are finished scenes that would have added a little more information.
Director’s Commentary – Matt O. goes over the film practically scene by scene in this solo commentary. It’s not the most engaging one I’ve heard but the filmmaker candidly discusses his memories from the shoot and any problems he encountered. Much of the film was shot guerrilla style without proper permits.
Deleted Scene 1 (00:27 in HD)
Deleted Scene 2 (01:30 in HD)
Deleted Scene 3 (00:45 in HD)
Hate Letter To Censorship (07:08 in HD) – An interview with Matt O. at some film festival about Bloody Knuckles and his prior work.
Diabolik DVD (05:43 in HD) – Matt O. visits the offices of Diabolik DVD in Philadelphia. The well-known horror retailer appears to operate out of the basement of some suburban home. Matt goes over some of the movies he finds at Diabolik, sharing his favorites.
Cinema Sewer (08:39 in HD) – Matt O. interviews the creator of zine Cinema Sewer.
Lunchmeat (04:31 in HD) – The guy behind online/print magazine Lunchmeat, focused on VHS collecting and culture, is interviewed.
Bloody Knuckles Trailer (01:51 in HD)
Children of the Night Trailer (01:23 in HD)
Horsehead Trailer (02:21 in HD)
Cub Trailer (01:44 in HD)
Adjust Tracking (05:10 in HD) – A neat, little short film by Matt O. about a kid watching an old VHS slasher and the nasty surprise that awaits when his father gets upset. This was originally intended for The ABCs of Death compilation movie.
Electric Fence (17:42 in HD) – Matt O.’s first film, a nasty little short feature from several years ago. It involves an experimental penis transplant, need I say more.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.