Dead Hooker in a Trunk
2009, Starring Rikki Gagne, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, C.J. Wallis, Carlos Gallardo. Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska (Twisted Twins Productions).
Guest Review by Christopher O'Neill
For their debut feature, identical sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska (who star as well as write and direct) prove to be a force with an admirably aggressive energy. Armed with an offensively eye-catching title like Dead Hooker in a Trunk, it will come as little surprise that this British Columbia-shot no/low budgeter contains over the top gore, bad language and jet black humour targeting topics such as religion, dismemberment and necrophilia. As with Jason Eisener's Hobo With a Shotgun, this film began life as a fake trailer to a non-existent feature which proved popular enough for the Soskas to write a feature-length screenplay combining the over-the-top moments from their sample offering with a workable narrative.
Shot on-and-off over six months for around $2,500 on a Panasonic HVX-200 camcorder, most of the principal cast double up performing duties behind the camera (C.J. Wallis appears in the film while also being credited with the music score, one of the two camera operators, editing, and many other behind the scenes roles). According to Jen Soska, the final product is “the result of credit cards maxed out, savings depleted, and the support of our loved ones.” Under these circumstances, it's hardly surprising that the finished product is a scrappy affair that shows the strain of a lack of finances and doesn’t have the polish that would be expected from an experienced filmmaking team. Yet Dead Hooker in a Trunk stubbornly holds together due to the defiant youthful exuberance of the people who created it.
The action unfolds against the suburbs, back streets, drug dens and motel rooms of Vancouver as four friends discover the body of a hooker and a stash of drugs in the trunk of their Pontiac Thunderbird. Each of the friends is appropriately named to reflect their persona: rebellious “Badass” (Sylvia Soska), her rational twin sister “Geek” (Jen Soska), drug-addicted rocker “Junkie” (Rikki Gagne) and the sheltered church-going “Goody Two Shoes” (C.J. Wallis), who secretly – but obviously – pines after Geek. Tensions flare immediately within the group as Geek wants to call the police but Badass stops her, saying that, after an evening of heavy drinking and partying, she cannot remember if she is responsible for the corpse (“last night is really fuzzy right now!”). What they do not realize is the corpse of the hooker is the latest victim of a serial killer who targets streetwalkers.
The mismatched quartet bitch and bicker as they drive to a motel for the night to plan their next move. With little cash, they manage to convince a sleazy motel clerk to give them a free room in return for a sexual dalliance with the prostitute – the fact that she is not breathing fails to bother him as he simply fails to notice. Meanwhile, Badass decides to bury the body (“you can't just drive around with a corpse in your car!”) but when she goes to find a shovel, Geek calls the police. Two officers show up but Badass fools them into expecting a kinky threesome and instead leaves them unconscious, naked and handcuffed together. The incident increases tensions within the group, with the sisters fighting, resulting in Badass punching Geek out old, Junkie needing another drug fix and Goody Two Shoes trying to stay calm about the situation.
It is now daylight and the gang wait until dark to dispose of the body, which they once again load into the trunk of the car. All of this activity is being observed by the hooker's cowboy costume-clad pimp (John Tench), who follows the quartet to their next destination. Badass, Geek and Goodie Two Shoes wait in an underground parking lot while Junkie goes to score heroin from her dealer/lover. While doing so, a rival drug gang -- of Triads -- force their way into the apartment, disembowel the dealer and attempt to hack off Junkie's arm with a chainsaw. Badass senses something is wrong, grabs a handgun and comes to Junkie's rescue by executing the Triads one-by-one. Meanwhile, back in the underground car park, Geek regains consciousness and once again attempts to contact the police. But before she can complete her call, she is attacked by a mysterious hooded figure – the hooker's killer – and has one of her eyeballs knocked out by a blow to the back of the head from a baseball bat.
The gang take off once again in the Thunderbird. Relentlessly shouting and screaming at one another, they soon pull over to the side of the road. As the group quarrels, Junkie throws her arms up in frustration and a passing car’s trunk rips off her wounded arm. Badass retrieves the arm – which is wedged in the fender of the trunk – after punching the driver and the gang drive off to a secluded area by a lake. Geek patches up her eye socket with black duct tape while Goodie Two Shoes reattaches Junkie's arm (“Sew it up, like a quilt or something!”). As evening draws in, the group light up a fire and finally begin to bond. Geek reveals, “in really a fucked-up way, this is probably the most fun I've ever had”.
As dawn breaks the cowboy pimp appears on horseback and attacks Badass by throwing a rope around her legs and dragging her across the ground. “I believe you've got my whore!” he tells her, but she fights back and eventually kills him by snapping his neck. Geek, Goodie Two Shoes and Junkie arrive on the scene and Goodie Two Shoes pent-up rage surfaces. She screams a tirade of offensive insults at the cowboy corpse (“You ever been skull-fucked after an ass rape!?!?”) before accidentally striking Geek, but she assures him “It's OK, you didn't get my good eye!” Badass is still intent on dumping the hooker unceremoniously, but Goodie takes the moral high ground and decides to walk, as does Geek, while Junkie needs to go to hospital to have her arm examined.
With the group now split up they each have time to reflect and, after much soul searching, all come back together to finish what was started. While at the hooker's house they learn from a newspaper about the serial killer who has been targeting prostitutes. With the realization that Badass is not responsible for her death, a man is spotted outside of the house wielding a baseball bat and grins at the sight of the quartet. Thinking he is the murderer, Goodie Two Shoes tackles the man to the ground and, believing they have captured the killer, the gang proceeds to dismember him with an assortment of power tools and dump the remains in numerous refuse bags. Convinced they are no longer in danger, they set about getting back to their normal lives. But the real killer appears and kidnaps Badass. Can Geek, Junkie and Goodie Two Shoes save her?
Dead Hooker in a Trunk is the sort of production that, had it been made 20 or 30 years earlier, probably would have been shot on grainy Super8 or fuzzy analogue video. Instead, it was shot in high definition and framed in cinemascope dimensions which bring a lavish stylishness to its grey and grungy imagery and off-colour subject matter. The handheld style of the visuals – complete with restless movement and zooms – has its drawbacks since details are sometimes seen too fleetingly or are barely glimpsed at all, resulting in some minor confusion. But this doesn’t really matter, since overall it adds a sense of urgency to the narrative, and any elements which are not initially clear are eventually clarified as the film moves along.
What is ultimately most commendable about Dead Hooker in a Trunk is that it stands out from other films of a similar nature because, while it often veers into the crudity typical of Troma films, the Soskas never aim for a purposely moronic, patronizing level. The sisters are clearly attempting to make a "proper" film and, despite its rough edges, they essentially succeed. Along with the aforementioned Hobo With a Shotgun, it's wonderful to see an upsurge in the independent exploitation field within Canada and it will be intriguing to see what Sylvia and Jen Soska do next with a higher budget and more resources at their disposal.