With the passing of another Toronto International Film Festival, it has now been a year since Astron-6’s latest feature, The Editor, had its world premiere. In that time, it has been generating a massive following. Astron-6 fanatics praised it and even a solid core of folks who weren’t enamored with their former output found the film to be a leap forward for the team. The Editor’s festival life has been good to it, but that time has (for the most part) come to an end, as the film begins to receive small theatrical and physical releases around the world. For North America, Scream Factory has released a fantastic Blu-ray edition, featuring a nice batch of special features.
Prior to The Editor, Astron-6 worked quick and cheap. Manborg was shot for a measly $1,000 and even though Father’s Day saw them with a budget ten times as large, it was still a micro-budget film. Father’s Day was a successful film, however, and while it may not have brought riches to the team (as they lament on the behind-the-scenes disc feature here) it did cement their name in the genre cinema world. For The Editor, they decided to beef up their budget. They were able to secure just shy of $100,000, which allowed them to not only improve the visual aesthetic but also to hire (for the first time) outside crew members and bring on board a few choice cast members. The problem, Astron-6 had never worked like this before. All their former films had been small crews and smaller in scope. As learned in the behind-the-scenes, the team wasn’t really prepared for the changing atmosphere and they blew through a large portion of the budget in a short time. Survival kicked in and the team let go some of the crew, promoted other members, and went back to what they knew best: they did everything themselves.To their credit, this is not witnessed on the screen one bit. In fact, The Editor is one of the best-looking genre films of the year. Father’s Day was no slouch but The Editor ups the ante in a tremendous way. The lighting and cinematography are brilliant, replicating the styles intended (which range from Italian gore films ala Lucio Fulci; to the Gialli of Bava, Argento, and Martino; and finally sprinkled with a little Eurocrime). While the principle cast is, as expected, composed of Astron-6’s Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, and Conor Sweeney, bit roles were given to notable faces like Udo Kier, Paz de la Huerta, and Laurence R Harvey.
Paz has been no stranger to controversy. In the past few years, she has made a name of herself out of being quite difficult to work with. This does show up on screen but Astron-6 use it to their benefit. Cast as an aging and troubled actor, Paz’s apparent intoxicated state works in favor of the film’s narrative. When she stumbles or slurs through her lines, it only strengthens her character. Its not that Paz’s performance is great (or even good), it is that Aston-6 knew exactly how to use her. Brooks, Kennedy, and Sweeney all turn in probably their best performances to date. Brooks, in particular, is quite shocking as the film’s titular editor, Ray Ciso. He is most often the film’s straight man, with Sweeney and Kennedy stepping in to handle more of the comedic aspects, and really grounds the film.The conversation about Astron-6, since Father’s Day’s finding its home with Troma, has often been that they do “Troma” better than Troma. For Father’s Day this certainly true (at least of recent Troma films). It does not fit so well for The Editor. There is a fine line between satire and spoof and The Editor rests firmly on this line. The Troma school of thought has always felt more like spoof. Even when they are not targeting any specific film or style of film in particular, the style in which their films are created embody the elements familiar to spoofs — broad comedy, gross-out humor and gore, etc. The Editor certainly has elements of this, and there are times where it is working on the level on some of the greatest spoofs of all time, but this is far more of a loving ode than an outright parody.
The film works best during its satirical moments, where their mishmash of comedy, allusion, and authentic and high production value is strewn together in a cohesive manner. The only major issue the film is faced with is its runtime. The second act does begin to slag a hair, with the 95-minute runtime perhaps overstaying its welcome by 5 or so minutes. It is during these moments that the intermittently uneven balance between broad comedy and succinct satire is most apparent. Much like Father’s Day, however, Astron-6 are able to win you back with the ludicrous, over-the-top finale.The Editor is Astron-6’s best film to date. It sees the filmmakers maintaining their brand, while at the same time taking major technical strides forward and ditching some of the lesser juvenile humor of their earlier work. Even the film’s weakest elements are, at best, mild. The Editor sits nicely in the current wave of neo-Giallo and does manage to even out-stylize some of its best contemporaries. It’s almost a shame that it seems unlikely that the team would ever take a completely serious shot at creating a Giallo, because the talent and familiarity of the genre they showcase with The Editor proves they have what it takes. The Editor is now available on Blu-ray via Scream Factory