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Canuxploitation!

Bullies

1986, Starring Jonathan Crombie, Janet-Laine Green, Stephen Hunter, Dehl Berti, Olivia d'Abo. Directed by Paul Lynch.





A mid-80s entry by Paul Lynch that is better conceived, directed, and presented than his earlier cult classic Prom Night, Bullies is about a family who must defend themselves when they are harassed by the Cullens, a backwoods family who intimidate and terrorize a small town.

After the death of a relative (at the hands of the Cullens, no less) Matt and his parents move from the big city to take over the family general store. It isn't long before they are welcomed by the aforementioned bullies. Lynch brings the film language of Deliverance into the 80s to show the audience that the Cullens are a bunch of crackers. Instead of overalls and missing teeth, they have leather jackets, tough crew cuts and drive Ford Broncos. Young Jimmy Cullen play country licks on his guitar (presumably instead of the banjo), they drink moonshine and even have rusted out cars on their front lawn. Yee-haw!

Matt's family is astonished to see the Cullens push around the townspeople, including the mayor and the sheriff. They aren't immune to the bullying either. When Judd, one of the older sons of the Cullen clan takes a liking to Matt's mom, he forces her to dance with him at the town bar. When Matt's stepdad Clay butts in, he almost gets his sweater-vest-wearing-self put in traction. Matt is humiliated by Clay's lack of manliness and befriends a seemingly tough Native Canadian named Will Crow, who teaches him the mystical art of throwing spears through metal hoops.

Then, Matt meets the charming young Becky Cullen (played by Olivia d'Abo), and she tells him how she is also a victim of her family's bullying. Feeling a special bond, Matt celebrates their friendship by watching Becky swim around the ol' fishin' hole in white T-shirt. Of course, this is not really a good idea, and Matt subsequently (some might say deservedly) gets his ass kicked by Jimmy Cullen. Things get progressively worse as Will Crow gets a unwarranted beating, and Judd Cullen rapes Matt's mom while Matt is in the next room listening. Finally the tide begins to turn when Becky shows up toting a trusty squirrel huntin' rifle and shoots Judd in the leg. As Matt's mom lays in a hospital bed, Clay decides that he has had enough. Climbing in the family car with the ineffective sheriff in tow, our undynamic duo unwisely decides to confront the Cullens. But what they don't know is that Matt has taken Will Crow's car, and is bringing up the rear. And it's a good thing, too, because he arrives just in time to see the sheriff killed and Clay wounded. Summoning Bruce Banner-like rage, Matt launches into action.

The revenge classic Straw Dogs is what immediately comes to mind when watching Bullies. The tagline for this film is "Heroes aren't born, they'?re cornered." Problem is, the hero in Bullies isn't defending himself like Dustin Hoffman is. Matt and the rest of the town let the Cullens push them around for an hour or so, but the actual revenge in this revenge film only begins after Matt goes back to face the Cullens on their own turf. " Cornered" indeed. The main crux in Straw Dogs is that a pacifist is forced to resort to violence when bullies rape his wife and try to break into his house to kill him, and the Hollywood version of this is "guard the homestead" films like Home Alone. In Canada, we have "rural revenge" films like Bullies that feature a dose of violence in backwoods settings. Other films in this sub-genre include Trapped, Junior, and Rolling Vengeance. Even Porky's features crackers getting a lesson from fresh faced youngsters! Obviously part of this has to do with cost and availability of setting-- Canada has lots of great locations to shoot these films cheaply and believably. However, I think Canadians identify with these " reluctant action heroes" because they provide an alternative to the gung-ho American bullet orgies of Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone.

Seeing the mountains in the background of Bullies' beautiful scenery will immediately clue you into the fact that this movie was filmed in British Columbia. Don't pat yourself on the back too much, because unlike most of these films, Bullies actually takes place in Canada. It was filmed in Thunderhill provincial park, the characters name drop Burnaby and in one scene you can see The Starlight Drive-in in Enderby, BC.

This film takes quite a bit of flak for being violent. I think it gets it such a bad reputation because in 1993, Paul Lynch and some scenes from Bullies appeared on an episode of Donahue about how films could cause violence in real life. Lynch probably saw it as a chance to promote his latest Shannon Tweed film, No Contest, because Bullies isn't particularly bloody, even when you compare it to Straw Dogs itself. In fact, I can easily recommend Bullies as one of the best entries of the rural revenge sub-genre of Canuxploitation.


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