And Now the Streaming Starts Presents:
Review by Jenny Orosel
Just because you don’t have any money, doesn’t mean you can’t make a movie. Some fantastic features were made for less than some people spend on a car. The easiest way to make a movie for almost nothing is to fit under one of three categories. First off is a chatty flick like CLERKS (1994) or MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (1981). If you have actors who can deliver a line with half conviction and a decent script, it costs barely anything to film a couple folks talking. The second is to make it as impressively complex as PRIMER (2004) or LA HABITACION DE FERMAT (2007). Your audience will spend so much time trying to figure out the puzzle, they won’t have the chance to notice the sets are made out of some guy’s basement. The way that takes the most skill, though, is to pull off a comedy. If you can really make your audience laugh, they’ll be willing to forgive the occasional boom mike drooping into frame. This is how CONJOINED (2013) was able to be as memorable as it was—it was funnier than most Hollywood films, even as you’re trying not to barf.
CONJOINED opens with Stanley (Tom Long) on Skype planning his upcoming wedding with the love of his life, Alina (Michelle Ellen Jones). It makes little difference to Stanley that he’s never been in the same room as her; he loves her just the same. After they hang up, Stanley confides to his favorite webcam girl, Courtney (Deidre Stephens), that his biggest fear is that Alina will be disappointed in how small his house was. Oh, if only that were his worst problem.
In their last chat before she moved in, Alina confessed she has a twin sister Alisa (Keefer Barlow) who will be moving in with them, as the two are…close. Stanley’s a little more freaked out, but trudges on. It’s only when the sisters show up at his door that he realizes THEY’RE CONJOINED! (which should surprise no one in the audience who knew the title going in) Never mind the fact the two actresses look nothing alike. There’s even a joke about them not being identical twins. That especially sets the tone for just how serious this movie is.
Alina is the sweet one. Alisa has issues, especially with anyone who sees her as a freak. That covers a lot of people. Stanley tries time and time again to find a date for Alisa. The problem is Stanley isn’t very bright and keeps finding “bros” who, of course, see the twins as freaks. Each and every time, Alisa murders the offending party in a violent, gruesome manner. If you really want to think deeply during this movie, it’ll occur to you that some of these murders would be difficult to commit while connected to another human. However, CONJOINED is best enjoyed without the deep thinking.
Stanley helps hide the bodies because, if Alisa goes to jail, then Alina goes to jail, too. Stanley and his buddy Jerry (Jake Byrd) come up with a brilliant plan to separate the twins so they can be done with Alisa’s antics (never mind the whole “accessory to murder” thing when they help hid the bodies—if you’re still looking for anything resembling realism by this point, you’re watching the wrong movie). And, of course Stanley and Jerry can take care of this themselves; they have some sort of job that involves dead bodies, corn-filled poop, dirty hazmat suits, and power tools. What else could they need?
Yes, not only do you have to suspend disbelief for CONJOINED, but Disbelief leaves to get a few drinks from the bar and won’t come back for about an hour and a half. It is far from perfect. The “lab” where Stanley and Jerry work looks a lot like a suburban living room, as does the police detective office. Rather than try and hide the cheapness of the production, director Joe Grisaffi and his crew embrace it. Whether it was due to financial or logistical constraints, they couldn’t find a set of actresses who looked like actual twins, so they didn’t even try. Rather than buy multiple costumes, Stanley and Jerry simply walk around with the same fecal stains on their work clothes for days, not even changing them for the “surgery” scenes. I do wonder if they got the fake blood on discount, because that is one thing they have in abundance.
Another thing CONJOINED has in abundance is remarkably good comic timing. I have seen multi-million-dollar Hollywood comedies that didn’t have that elusive thing that makes some laughs work while others fall flat. It might be due to the editing (also done by Grisaffi), or the actors just being naturally funny. I suspect it’s a combination of both, and the crazy, fearless script by Chuck and Tim Norfolk. While horror-comedies are coming back into fashion, all too often they think the gross-out in itself will garner laughs. The Norfolks realized you need to do more than just throw disgusting images at the screen. Yes, there are moments of “I can’t believe they just did that!” but also some witty jokes and the occasional moments of humanity even from the most inhumane characters.
When going for gross-out comedies, it can go in two different directions. One is the way of THE GREASY STRANGLER (2016) where it felt as if the filmmakers were disgusted with their own characters. CONJOINED is not like that. Instead, it reminded me of early John Waters circa FEMALE TROUBLE (1974), where he showed an obvious affection for the most perverse, most revolting characters. Not only do we get some great laughs, but there’s a compassion for the characters missing from, not just the recent gross-out comedies, but from a lot of the mainstream comedies. As long as you can stomach gore and dismemberment, I highly recommend spending a good hour and fifteen minutes with CONJOINED.
WHERE TO WATCH CONJOINED--Currently it is streaming free with basic Amazon Prime.
© Copyright 2017 by Jenny Orosel