If there is one die-hard rule for exploitation cinema, it’s that revenge is always a good thing — or at the very least, a profitable thing. It’s a theme that’s been mined again and again on cult celluloid, and while a straightforward revenge fantasy might be a boring and ultimately pointless exercise, when it’s pumped on the steroids of extreme and over-the-top grindhouse lunacy, it can become an art unto itself.
Such is the case with James Glickenhaus’ infamous 1980 gore-and-gotcha epic The Exterminator. Robert Ginty plays an ex-Vietnam vet who returns to New York City with his best BFF (who saved his life in the war, of course). But after said friend is crippled for life by a meathook to the spine, courtesy of the local band of nogoodniks, out come the flamethrowers, meat grinders and firearms galore.
While a tamer revenge epic would just focus on the hunt for the origin-providing perps, The Exterminator quickly and crazily evolves into something much bigger as Ginty’s character becomes a folk hero soaked in the blood of pervs, punks and gangsters of all types. The police are naturally hot on his trial, but things get even weirder when the CIA decides he must be a foreign agent sent to discredit the current administration’s “war on crime.”
It’s a wild ride, and the trailer only hints at the level of gore and violence present (thanks to the outstanding make-up and effects by Stan Winston, just a few years before his groundbreaking work in The Thing and The Terminator). So if you have a queasy tummy, go easy on that buttered popcorn.
And naturally such a gem of all-out gonzo gore can only be seen in the cinematic slaughterhouse of the Cult Fiction Underground below Logue’s Black Raven Emporium at 2915 Gallatin Road in East Nashville. Show times are 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and mind you don’t clog the drain in the floor.