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I was a grimy punk kid for a good chunk of my life and like to think that I still am, in some ways. I slept in squats, dumpster dove at a Trader Joe's a few times, and wore pants (with the appropriate patches) for weeks at a time. I can say that I have slept dangerously sloshed in a public park with an empty, blown up wine pouch (aka space-bag) under my head, and had woken up happy that I scored the makeshift pillow--that time. However, I know for a fact that when it came to being crusty, I was in the minor leagues. I am sure of this for two main encompassing reasons. First, I'm a little afraid of germs. Even at my most hardcore (or inebriated), I was pretty fucking wimpy in that area (any further insight here I might sound nuts). Let's just say, sometimes I can't hang. Secondly, in my various travels, I have run into some individuals who truly excel in being disgusting and take real pride it. Certain folks take the crust-punk lifestyle to the next level. It's definitely something to be admired but, you know, from afar. Stink is true cred to an elite crowd, and status can be measured in layers of vomit ingrained in the “battle vest”. For them, puke is a big deal or, more accurately, less a problem than with normal people. The truest practitioner of the gross-arts can throw up all over their Fleas and Lice t-shirt, in the middle of the pit, without skipping a beat, and even give a few hugs after. Not me, as (far as I can remember) blowing chunks on myself means the end of that party. I'm not talking shit-- I'm envious. We were all out there talking the game, and they were living it--pure, stinky ass freedom. I'm not a stylish person or a meticulously clean person, I just wasn't wired for a lot of what must be endured to rise through the rankest of ranks. I suck at snot rockets, won't smoke meth, and refuse to eat McDonald's, let alone half a Mcgriddle found on the ground. I also never contracted a disease from fucking dead people, like in Rot (1999), which sounds like it would be worth a lot of punk points.
Sarah (Tiffany Stinky) has a problem, well a few problems, but one really pressing one. She has been spending a lot of time at the funeral home lately, under the guise that she is using the cadavers as inspiration for art. Unfortunately, while swept up in her character study, she accidentally copulates with one of the stiff ones and contracts some kind of flesh-eating virus. Before she fully understands the scope of her infection, she gives the dead-guy-STDs to her boyfriend Muzzy (Billy Scam) who is somewhat perturbed when he finds out. The two begin to, literally, fall apart, and not having many courses of action, they decide to go around town causing mischief and possibly starting a worldwide zombie-dick-disease epidemic to a steady playlist of 90s street punk riffs. Things aren't as natural as they seem, however, as the disease (code name ROT)  is part of a somewhat murky plan devised by the diabolical Dr. Robert Olsen (Joel D. Wynkoop), a discredited former leading force in the government’s biological warfare program and part-time funeral home employee. On the upside, he has a cure for the infliction and something of a crush on Sarah. Before a deal can be worked out though, government intervention adds guys in dark suits and sunshades into the chaos. Sooner or later, everything is covered in vomit, people are full-on melting in alleyways, and we all learn a good lesson on safe sex.
Rot is Nekromantik (1987), some Twisted Issues (1988) and a tiny bit of Repo Man (1984) recorded over the family birthday VHS. It's a strange intersection at the SOV markets for gross-out horror and niche punk community films, however, (somewhat unsurprisingly) the two disciplines complement each other well. The concept alone should shake a few from putting it on at all, and it makes itself known in the first ten minutes, if you didn't already read a synopsis. Jörg Buttgereit's DNA is heavily present in a lot of the film's story, especially on paper, but implanted inside a muted Slime City (1988) for the grimy 90s kid. It goes for the nice and easy shock--very quickly you go from dead people fucking to a disturbingly dark colored projectile barf with little foreplay. The mess isn't going to come close to breaking anyone who is already accustomed to its precursors, nevertheless, it is successfully demented. It helps that the film fills the moments in between gross-out scenes with punk “lifestyle” hijinks and low rent Natural Born Killers (1994) relationship moments. There are flashes of passed around tapes like The Edge of Quarrel (2000) or even Thrust in Me (1985), where it's obvious that it's a group of friends making a film very (very) loosely based on their daily life and conversations. More frequently, it feels like the dysfunctional necrophilia version of Jimmy and Judy (2006), somehow placing our cadaver boinking maiden as the relatable narrator who is young, in love, and seemingly just along for the ride. The mix of extreme horror and crime couple tropes with the “how we live” filmmaking makes an awesomely confusing tone. Somewhere, I think there is supposed to be some allusions to addiction in there, although it falls into the larger, over exaggerated street kid theme without much impact.  Dead bodies show up much less than one would think, but the corn and sleaze ratio works for the most part. Later on, it gets a little thick on the silly mad scientist shit, which wears a little more than the rest, despite that the film seems to move extremely quickly all-around. Without ever deciding what kind of mail order tape it wants to be, it pulls off being a wonderfully awkward and unique piece of trash. 
Rot is shot on video with minimal Florida locations and with presumably no budget. There is only a handful of settings, which includes parking lots and more than one bathroom. Parts of the film are too dark or manic to decipher what's happening, leaving you with some laughable struggle sound effects and a black screen for minutes at a time. Although constantly cramped, it takes a few great lessons from its resourceful influences to create some creepy mood shots and keeps pace with quick cuts between its available angles. Most of the inconsistent lighting works out, giving each of the limited settings their own flavor of grit and coloring. The effects build up strength as they go and are heavily boosted by the creative passion behind the scenes but never really come close to the wince-inducing gore and explicit content of its spiritual parents. Don't get me wrong, it's not a movie to watch while having dinner, the subject matter just puts it in a league with some nasty fucking classics.  It's a lot of puking-- a medley of spew-- chunky, creamy, strange colors. There is at least one vomit exchange (two I think) that your mom is not going to dig (that's not fair, I don't know her, but really most people aren't going to like it). The rotting flesh is pulled off with a mix of inventive ooze, “cake zombie” type makeup and camera grain. Once people really start getting sick, the film utilizes several different clever and frugal techniques for things like conveniently timed body melting. Gore-wise, its relatively high-quality stuff, especially when compared to the other technical aspects of the film. At its worst, the faces of the main characters look like they are going to see a Mercyful Fate show, and that's still pretty cool. The sound gets patchy on some dialog and on a lot of the effects, which is most likely tied (again) to each location. If there is any scoring, I don't remember it. There is an abundant soundtrack of 90s punk rock (plus some industrial metal, I think), and that's a pretty good consolation prize.
The film's director, Marcus Koch, would go on to spend most of his time in special effects, producing flesh and slime for a range of straight to video horror to this day. Rot was an early experiment for Koch and his first directorial effort. His three other feature films (100 Tears 2007, Fell 2010 and Bloodshock 2015) lay heavier into the torture porn angle, with his most recent being a part of the American Guinea Pig series, which has gained some followers (and returned to the viral infection concept a little). I assume most of the roles are played by Florida locals, having no other discernable credits (that I know of). The exclusion being the legendary Joel D. Wynkoop who had already received a b-movie doctrine, appearing as the recurring character DR. Dan Hess in a series of shoestring films by Tim Ritter (starting with Wicked Games in1994). Wynkoop continues to work in the genre currently, with over one hundred roles to his name, including a wide assortment of disheveled antagonists and a few detectives. All the dialog is pretty terrible, but Wynkoop gets a lot of the worst, as the film spends extended periods of time circling him as he monologues about his origins and his plans. Basically, the happy couple at the focus of the film, Sarah (Tiffany Stinky) and Muzzy (Billy Scam) just yell things at each other. Still, I have seen films with a lot less chemistry that didn't start with undead infidelity.
Rot is homegrown SOV horror adorned in plenty of bile and some hand me down Doc Martin's. For the right audience (myself included), the film can be a loud, messy spitball of entertainment and well worth hunting down. It's probably going to succeed in grossing some people out (rightfully so, as it spends a lot of the movie in bathrooms that look the part), which I think everyone will count as a win in this case. I get a lot of joy out of the clash between two of my favorite things--body horror and 90s punk rock. I guess, being the crustiest is just like anything else, there is always going to be someone more hardcore than you. It doesn't matter how many times you puke on yourself, somewhere out there, somebody is fucking a corpse with the perfect soundtrack, and you can't beat that (nor should you want to).
1h 20min | 1999
 Director: Marcus Koch 


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