Travis, an underground comic book artist, is known throughout his city for creating comics in the name of bad taste but ones that also challenge the status quo. Unfortunately the target in his latest issue, Leonard Fong, happens to be head of the Chinese gang that’s destroying the city and takes great offense to the comic. As a warning, Travis has his right hand cutoff by Fong and gives up on his art as a result. That is until Travis’s hand comes back wanting to pick up where they left off and also wanting revenge.
Matt O’Mahoney’s feature film debut, “Bloody Knuckles” is something that I, and many others, have been looking forward to for sometime. There’s just something about a movie where a chopped off hand causes a ruckus that makes you stop and take notice. Thanks to a producer on the film and the fine folks at Artsploitation, I was able to finally get my greedy, grubby little mitts on the movie. After all the time and anticipation it was a pleasant surprise to see that “Bloody Knuckles” is more than a movie about severed hand shenanigans.
Local business entrepreneur Leonard Fong comes under fire after a local brand of rat poison causes a special-needs child to melt and explode. However, unbeknownst to the public, it’s all part of his shady tactics to run the people out of the downtown city in order for him to take control of the area. Catching wind of the news reports, local underground comic book artist, Travis, puts Fong in his latest issue but when the comic falls into Fong’s hands, he takes great offense and has Travis’s right-hand cutoff as a warning. After the incident, Travis gives up on everything…until his severed hand comes back. His right-hand attempts to goad Travis into picking up the pencil again, but when Travis still refuses, his hand instigates a bloody fight with Fong and his gang once it starts killing off members.
Trust me, I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, a movie about a severed hand coming to life where the former owner has to try and stop it…Isn’t that ‘Idle Hands’ but with a different title?”
No. No it’s not. Predominately because “Bloody Knuckles” is a good movie where “Idle Hands” is not — and don’t give me any attitude because it’s not a good movie and you know it (although I am saying it for no other reason than to be a dick). Now, sardonic comments aside, the real reason the movies are not comparable is because they are completely different concepts. The amputated appendage is where the similarities begin and end.
With the trailer and what information was out there I was expecting “Bloody Knuckles” to be entirely about this hand causing mayhem and killing people — that was just my simple assumption. What the movie is about is something much more fascinating. It oddly becomes a piece that’s a celebration of counter-cultures and an analysis on what creative integrity and freedom of speech means in the face of censorship. Of course all of this is told through dick and fart jokes.
Again, I know what you’re thinking: “Eww! Subtext? Get it away! Get it away!”
Yes, “Bloody Knuckles” is full of that dreaded subtext we all hate and fear. Don’t worry though, on the surface you still have this hilariously bizarre splatter-comedy that exists in the vein of guys like Frank Henenlotter and Lloyd Kaufman. And yes, the overarching plot is about this rogue hand that seeks revenge against a Chinese crime boss and his gang which results in decapitations, stabbings, melting faces, and a number of other over-the-top gory sequences. All of that’s there for your demented psychotronic viewing pleasure.
The cusp of the movie is about what happens when Travis (Adam Boys) loses his hand due to someone taking offense to his underground comic books and how that affects him as an artist. In some ways, “Bloody Knuckles” is this sort of cinematic adaptation of what happened to real-life comic artist, Mike Diana. Except replace the obscenity charge (and arrest) with a Chinese gang who lops off limbs. Really though, is there that much of a difference? And it would be very easy for this to become a heavy-handed movie that beats down on the audience that concept of having and needing the freedom to say or create what you like, no matter the cost Thankfully, Matt and his movie now how to play everything without being overbearing by having the film's point is delivered very naturally through the progression of the story and characters.
You sort of have this “ah-ha” moment when Travis gets into an argument with his hand about the risk of continuing on with the comic. Matt O’Mahoney blends this moment in with the gross-out comedic nature of the film by having Travis tell his hand how nasty it is for making him taste his own butt in the same argument(to explain: the hand sticks its finger up Travis’s butt while he’s sleeping and then fish hooks him). That’s what makes the movie work; it manages to be both smart and juvenile simultaneously without every alienating the audience by choosing one style over the other.
Normally, this would be the part of the review where I downplay by own interpretations of the movie and say you can enjoy it as something else but I think that would be a disservice to what Mike has done with his film. “Bloody Knuckles” has its flaws but it is still an intelligent movie about the importance of unhindered creativity and speech that celebrates sub-cultures, in conjunction with being a gross splatter-comedy. So, yes, absolutely watch this movie if you want to see an absurd piece of crass comedy with plenty of gore-gags — “Bloody Knuckles” is the perfect movie to throw on when there’s friends, junk food, and adult beverages abound. It’s also a movie worth going into because there’s something substantially more to it than that. Something that I think the audience of Film Bizarro could definitely appreciate.