Ding Dong Dead (2009) Ding Dong Dead (2009/2010) **

     I’ve found a lot of fault with Creep Creepersin’s movies thus far— and I’ll be finding fault with Ding Dong Dead as well— but one thing I absolutely cannot slight is his work ethic. Seventeen feature films in just six years (plus eight more in varying stages of completion, an anthology segment, and a seven-episode public-access TV show) is an extremely impressive turnout rate for somebody with such limited resources, especially when you factor in all the time and effort that goes into running a touring punk band. Either undertaking is a full-time job, and neither one reliably brings in enough money to obviate the need for an actual full-time job; doing both at once while also working for a living is a labor fit for Herakles. The pace of Creepersin’s output is such that it becomes even more remarkable how little he repeats himself. True, his movies have obvious patterns of recurring themes and character types, but any close comparison with other, similarly positioned filmmakers will reveal Creepersin to be as prolific an idea man as he is a writer, director, and producer. Not for him the easy fallback of a long-running series or the comfortable rut of a favorite subgenre. Creepersin’s repertoire to date includes zombies, slashers, women in prison, bawdy superheroes, and views from the inside of mental collapse, plus heaven knows what else in the numerous films that I haven’t yet watched or investigated. In Ding Dong Dead, he goes in yet another direction, leaving the territory of horror altogether. Ding Dong Dead is a black parody of vigilante movies on the Taxi Driver-Death Wish-Falling Down continuum. Its antihero is an average guy (well, maybe just a bit below average…) driven to violence by the social cancer afflicting his crime-ridden neighborhood— except that this movie’s mean streets are the cul-de-sacs of a frumpy Southern California suburb, and the crime wave that its Travis Bickle-Paul Kersey figure dedicates himself to stamping out is the harmlessly annoying work of a band of teenage pranksters.

     That ersatz Bickle-Kersey is a guy named Doug (Luke Y. Thompson, of Mad Cowgirl and Naked Beneath the Water). He lives in the same house as the central couple in He (which I therefore assume to be Creep Creepersin’s real-world abode), and could almost be that movie’s title character post-divorce. We meet Doug in the process of losing his job; he overslept, missed clock-in time, and is now getting an angry earful from his soon to be former boss. The reason Doug slept through the alarm is that he was kept up most of the night by stealthy sounds outside his house, as if a small army of prowlers were casing his property in reconnaissance for future crimes. Claudia (Elina Madison, from Corporate Cutthroat Massacre and Orgy of Blood), the young-ish war widow across the street whom Doug fancies, but lacks the nerve to ask out properly, reports something similar when they chat over mutual lawn-watering later that morning.

     Doug and Claudia obviously don’t know this yet, but they’ve been targeted by a hypothetically vicious girl gang called the Ding Dong Ditchers. No, they don’t get that name by being a bunch of man-hating lesbians, but rather because their signature form of mischief is to irritate homeowners by ringing their doorbells and then running away before anyone has a chance to answer. If they’re really in a mood to raise hell, all ten members of the gang might take turns hitting the same house in a single night. The girls are also fond of obstructing traffic by walking as slowly as possible down the middle of the street, which is what they’re doing when Doug first consciously encounters them. He gets a little road-ragey with them for adding gratuitous delay to his trip home from wherever he went, and the confrontation inspires the Ding Dong Ditchers to show him who really controls this town.

     D.D. Dahlia (Dead Inside’s Tara Strand) and D.D. Dana (Megan Frances, from Silent Night, Zombie Night and The Open Door), the girls toward whom Doug directed the brunt of his ire, are the hotheads of the gang. They want to take the most extreme measures against their new neighborhood nemesis— give his house a good egging, maybe even toilet paper his trees. Gang leader D.D. Diva (Stripped’s Nicole Sienna) quickly puts the kibosh on that, however. Such vulgar displays of power are not the Ding Dong Ditchers’ way. Their way is to act in the spirit of the kid poking her finger mere inches from her little sister’s face and taunting, “I’m not touching you!” Theirs is the art of vexing a foe into submission with annoyances so petty that no law forbidding them is realistically imaginable, and remaining thereby impervious to legal repercussions. But when D.D. Dahlia and D.D. Dana overstep the limits of their mission in a retaliatory sortie against Doug’s house, and the latter girl is killed in a freak accident while fleeing the scene, the consequent escalation of hostilities ends with the Ding Dong Ditchers getting the Full Bronson.

     Ding Dong Dead suffers from amateurish acting and a severely underdeveloped plot, but it makes up for those defects to some extent with clarity of vision and an incisive sense of humor. Creepersin clearly knows his vigilante flicks, and he uses that knowledge to fair effect. Ding Dong Dead has the perfect counterfeit of a 70’s downer ending and an able reductio ad absurdum of the faux-solemn “Who is the real criminal now?” pose that the slimier crime-revenge pictures of the grindhouse era used to take as cover for their most shameless descents into exploitation. Said shameless descents get a pretty convincing shout-out, too, in the wildly over-the-top surfeit of vengeance that Doug doles out after the Ding Dong Ditchers finally push him too far. It’s perhaps to be expected that those scenes would display unusual astuteness in combining vastly excessive brutality with winking self-deprecation, since that aspect of Ding Dong Dead is, within certain obvious limits, autobiographical. In an interview appended to the DVD, Creepersin reports squaring off against a group of adolescent practical jokers with exactly the Ding Dong Ditchers’ modus operandi; the absurd frenzies of impotent rage that they provoked from him, and the attendant mad fantasies of retributive violence, were the ultimate inspiration behind this movie. So while it still commits Creepersin’s usual sin of playing like a bloated short, Ding Dong Dead has at least a little more to recommend it than most of his early features.



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