The horror-comedy has always been a tenuous genre blender. In addition to the question of which side you favor – the scares or the laughs – there’s the question of how one handles the source material. Are you mocking horror, or paying tribute to it? Both takes can provide a lot of entertainment, but for my money, the guys who should be making these films are the guys who fucking love horror movies. Such is the case with The Janitor, which spreads on more gore than most of today’s slashers while keeping the humor fresh and relentless.
A horror-comedy can get away with a lot more gore. It helps that, in The Janitor’s case, it’s unrated - but the fact is that the cartoonish, over-the-top violence of a slapstick gore movie is more acceptable to folks than realistic sadism. Well, thank God for that, because this movie takes full advantage of it. Writer/editor/director/star Andy Signore’s affinity for horror flicks comes through in every bloody set piece, and his natural knack for comedy is just as prevalent. For a prime example of both, look no further than lead character Lionel’s ongoing feud with a bum played by Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, who gawks drunkenly as he’s ripped limb from limb.
Lionel, played by Signore, is a custodian at Generico. Under the tutelage of fellow janitor Mr. Growbo (superb newcomer Bruce Cronander, who left a law practice to start his acting career), Lionel does his best not to let the corporate goons bring him down – oh, who am I kidding. He starts his killing spree in the first two minutes. He’s sick of the way that the suits literally (literally) piss on him, not to mention his angst over a crush on office worker Hillary. And he’ll employ every tool of his trade – toilet brushes, plungers, industrial cleaner – to exact his revenge.
But it isn’t just Generico employees who face his wrath. Punks, hookers, hobos and frat boys will fall by Lionel’s hand. This citywide killing spree quickly draws the attention of inept feds. And when they get a lead in the case – namely, Lionel’s semen – that’s when the loyal Growbo steps in to save the day. And by “save the day” I mean “drinking cum and jacking off an unconscious FBI agent”.
It isn’t just the gross-out antics that make this film. It’s the fact that every character has a comic quirk that makes them memorable. From Kaufman’s chortling transient, to the STD-obsessed Generico manager, to the recurring character billed as “Innocent Vomiting Bystander” – Signore and co-director T.J. Nordaker get laughs from every performer.
Okay, so it’s funny and gory. But a Hall of Famer? Well folks, I’ve mentioned the name Bruce Cronander once, and it’s time to mention it again. When Lionel stumbles upon the opportunity to transition to a more desirable –far more desirable – janitorial position, it drives a wedge between himself and his mentor. Mr. Growbo turns on his homicidal pal, and despite the fact that this movie is utterly ridiculous, you feel a little for these guys, thanks largely to Cronander’s genuine, likeable on-screen presence. And then, it all culminates in a blood-soaked, titty-tastic showdown in a sorority house.
If a movie like this ever saw theatrical release, it would eclipse the manufactured sex comedies of today, along with completely asinine “parody” flicks like Meet the Spartans. But it’s just as well that a gem like this remains independent – after all, if it were studio-produced, would any of the shit I’ve described have made it to the final print?
Props also go to John Carreon as Willis, a new janitor who helps Lionel in his final struggle. It’ll give you a new appreciation (“new” assuming you ever had one) for Chris de Burgh’s “Lady in Red”. And a shout-out to the fetus. Nuff said…I don’t want to spoil every classic gag in The Janitor, and believe me, I haven’t come close. You simply have to see this film. It’s a slasher on steroids, with laughs both outrageous and subtle. The writing and direction are right on the money from beginning to end, making this a quintessential horror-comedy that must be seen to be believed. It’s Essential!