Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ticked Off Trannies With Knives (2010): Tranny as Victim and Victor

Ticked Off Trannies With Knives (2010)
dir: Israel Luna

This could also be better known as Day of the Tranny.  While Ticked Off Trannies With Knives is an amazing exploitation title, Day of the Tranny would be better because a) it acknowledges the deep deep debt it owes to I Spit On Your Grave, originally titled Day of the Woman and b) it doesn't reduce the victims to mere exploitation punch-lines. While the title is certainly sensational, it also belies the actual subject of the movie, which is a rape/murder-revenge fantasy that mirrors I Spit On Your Grave in terms of its harrowing nature and its possible empowerment messaging.

I could basically just write ditto on yesterday's I Spit On Your Grave review, and it would be completely accurate.  Well, not completely.  This has a bit more style, pizzazz, and personality than I Spit On Your Grave, which works to simultaneously humanize the victims, and actually be a better movie.  Oh, and I would have to replace Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel with GLAAD.

Ticked-Off Trannies is about a group of trannies - drag queens, transvestites, or transgendered people; in this movie, its more the first two - who go off on dates with a group of bio-gendered men, only to be drugged, beaten, raped and murdered, leaving one survivor.  This survivor and two more of her friends set traps for the rapist-murderers in order to exact bloody revenge.  Much like I Spit On Your Grave, that's the thick and thin of the plot.

Because of the title, Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives received a LOT of undeserved attention for being reductive of the perils that come with being a drag queen, transvestite or transgendered person.  In real life, they usually sit on the outsides of life, and are the target of bigoted attacks or murders.  One prominent example was in the movie Paris is Burning, a documentary about the Harlem ball culture of the underground LGBTQ scene, where one of the prime subjects of the movie, Venus Xtravaganza, was found strangled underneath a bed four days after she was murdered.  This is not a punchline.

And, Ticked-Off Trannies, despite its title, does not treat this situation like a punchline.  Much like I Spit On Your Grave, this is a harrowing, gut-wrenching experience which scars your soul.  It brings attention to the situation of violence against trans people, and also alludes to the idea that there is no justice for the outsiders of the world.  Much like I Spit On Your Grave, Ticked-Off Trannies alludes to the idea that the best justice is your own justice.

Luna acknowledges his owing to the movies of the '70s, as well as his inspiration from the Rodriguez/Tarantino movie Grindhouse. He rips through this classic exploitation flick and stylizes it like it came out of the grindhouse of the '70s.  Luna does have some gags to speed the movie up, like a missing reel gag, which brings a bit of humor to make the harrowing experience a less bitter pill to swallow and make it slightly more appealing to the masses.  Slightly.

Also, like I Spit On Your Grave, the rape/murder is excruciating, but it also comes back to identity.  As a member of the LGBTQ community, I found it harrowing and easier to identify with the victims.  And, it is the victims' story.  Luna doesn't allow the rape/murder to be intentionally vicariously enjoyed. He makes it as brutal as tense as one can in a horror movie.  But, that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed by the sick portion of the population who are determined to enjoy the torture and rape of another human being.

Is this problematic?  Again, it's up to you to decide that.  This is decidedly not a movie to encourage or make light of the violence the Ts face in everyday life.  This is a movie that brings this to attention, and doesn't even give the pat justifications of a movie like Boys Don't Cry, where the FTM transgendered person lied to everybody around her.  Ticked-Off Trannies gives a full-on exploitation experience that brings attention to the issue, and also gives a revenge fantasy when it could be needed.

And, I repeat, due to its stylization, it is less soul searing than I Spit On Your Grave, but not much isn't really.

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