|Bo and Justin Gates act out their family psychological traumas with the help of a barbed-wire ring and their taunting mom.|
A world of hurt
The amazing documentary "The Backyard" is a mind-pounding look at teenagers across America and abroad who imitate pro wrestling in their backyards.
By JOSHUA TANZER
(Originally reviewed at the Brooklyn International Film Festival in April 2003.)
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
I think my brain is bleeding from watching "The Backyard."
|Directed by: Paul Hough.|
Featuring: Rob Van Dam, Scar, Chaos, Jon Johnson, Joshua James, The Lizard, Bo Gates, Justin Gates, Bo and Justin's mom and grandma, Phil Snyder and family, The Retarded Butcher, Penny, Sanity, Wild Thing, Mantis, Sic, Heartless, Karnage, Turbo, Nympho, Razor Blade, El Salvador, 2DollarMan, Captain Anarchy, Botchie Rotton, The Haugan Family, Jennifer Choinsk, Cindy Bradshaw, T.J. Watson, Kristin Kowallek, Andre Jones, Mike Hughes and family, Tj Storm, The Gladiator, The Gump, Daddy Wigga, Jlow Bob, White Dragon, Dr. Michael Laughlin, Amy Crowe, The Suarez Family, Saton Avila, The Cook Family, Annette Lewis, Deathwish, Payne, Ivan Van Del, Beautiful Bobby Lee, LockJaw, Drastic, Smash.
Music by: Seth Jordan.
Related links: Official site
22 E. 12th St.
Opens Aug. 29, 2003|
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NYU film grad Paul Hough discovered the nationwide phenomenon of backyard wrestling the subculture of teenagers who imitate their favorite pro wrestlers by bashing one another bloody for the entertainment of their friends and neighbors and wound up with a spectacular smackdown of a movie. By the end of the film, I felt like I'd taken its hour and a quarter of body slams, barbed-wire massages, broken-glass gougings and flaming-club beatings personally.
It felt awesome.
"The Backyard" is an amazing and appalling display of what the youth of America can do given a little aggression, a pay-per-view subscription, a gruesome imagination and a backyard.
The documentary is filled with fascinating, if disturbing, characters like "Chaos," a high school dropout who wrestles in the extremely bloody High Impact Wrestling league of Tucson, Arizona. He likes it because it reminds him of "going downtown and gay-bashing."
Chaos explains the difference between real "deathmatch" wrestling, which uses such paraphernalia as barbed-wire-wrapped club and fluorescent light tubes, not trash cans, breakable folding tables and "fucking weak barbed wire that's like rubber-tipped."
|Scar has his parents' wholehearted support as a wrestler after struggling through childhood with a debilitating liver ailment.|| |
"That's some pussy stuff right there," he notes.
We also meet a 17-year-old impresario who bosses the teenagers of Modesto, Calif., by virtue of running the local cable-access wrestling show. There's a pair of brothers in Nevada who act out their angry family dynamics in what they call "3 Stages of Hell II," with their mother actively taunting them during the match. There's a high school junior named Matthew who goes by the name "Scar" because 28 major surgeries for a childhood liver ailment left his body covered in scars. His parents support his wrestling pursuits because "he just never had a choice with all the things happening to him and he ought to have a choice."
We see more parents and school officials who, surprisingly, support their kids' wrestling but one of them emphatically doesn't. A schoolteacher for the first time watches her son fight under the name "The Retarded Butcher," and she sobs through the whole ordeal. You'd be horrified too, most likely.
Yet, there are two secrets that become clear as the documentary goes on. One is that most of the kids know pretty much what they're doing. Many of their stunts are designed and repeatedly rehearsed to look as entertainingly violent as possible without actually injuring anyone. Upstate New York college student Phil Snyder, who did regular high school wrestling as well, is planning to go into hotel management and notes that a scarred face might be a problem in his future career.
It becomes clear that this stuff isn't fake but the arsenals are carefully chosen to break easily or to scratch the skin, maybe, but not to injure or wound. Opponents are never thrown onto hard ground they're always thrown through breakable tables or boards to slow their fall. "It takes very little talent to fall through a stack of tables," one New York fighter points out.
| ||Fluorescent light tubes, wooden boards, thumbtacks and more weapons are used to cause superficial but genuinely bloody wounds.|
But secret two emerges on a trip to England, where youngsters think of themselves as more sophisticated than the American brawlers but they still give away one of the disturbing tricks of the trade calculatedly cutting themselves in order to bleed more. It's one of the few really sickening moments in the film.
Another comes when a Tucson girl is thrown right on her head, to the oblivious cheers of the small crowd. In the same backyard, Scar seems to land very badly on his back, and another kid is one false move from having his neck snapped in a flip. It wouldn't be surprising at all to see someone paralyzed from what they assumed was safe, harmless entertainment, and for that reason I can't accept backyard wrestling too easily. I sympathize with these kids more than I ever expected, but I really worry about them. You can view "The Backyard" with horror or amusement, but either way, you can't look away from this intensely real film.
|APRIL 29, 2003|
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