Ribspreader Poster

Ribspreader (2022) Review

Ribspreader, the first feature film from Dick Dale, the Australian punk musician not the deceased surf guitarist, is in his words “Australia’s first splatter-punk video nasty”. And after working on it for nearly ten years, he should know. And after an opening scene featuring a hooker giving herself a coat hanger abortion only to turn around and proposition a passing stranger who promptly kills her, you’ll know too.

Bryan Burns (Tommy Darwin, Innocence, Family Demons) achieved fame as CC Rider, the Australian equivalent of the Marlboro Man. But those days are long past, and now he lives in obscurity with his mother. Or did until she dies of lung cancer, leaving him to face life in Murder City on his own.

And he is alone, the closest thing he has to a friend is Gypsy Lee (Marni Russo, Codename: Heartfire, The Reality of Humanity) a hooker who barely tolerates him, “You bring the big bucks, I’ll look after that little cock of yours.” It’s not long until he’s ready to stick his head in a noose and be done with it. However, as he’s about to end it all, he hears a voice call his name, and it’s not his mother reaching out from the great beyond.

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It’s the voice of Sigmund (Tommy Darwin), the talking cigarette from an anti-smoking campaign. He tells Bryan that he should start killing smokers to cleanse himself of his sins and avenge his mother’s death. And he should make a jacket out of their lungs, a smocking jacket of course. To this, he’ll have to become the Ribspreader, the most feared killer in a city full of killers.

Ribspreader is just as outrageous and tasteless as it sounds, it’s the Australian equivalent of a Troma film, complete with a cameo from Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger, Visitors – Complete Edition) as Mayor Walker. He’s just one of several cameos in the film, there are actors such as Chantal Contouri (Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, Thirst), Laurence R. Harvey (The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence), BFF Girls) and Neil Foley (Body Melt, Romper Stomper) to Australian country music icon Chad Morgan and Rat Scabies, drummer for the English punk band The Damned.

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But it’s not the cameos that are Ribspreader’s main attraction, it’s the outrageous jokes and over the top gore, both of which the film has plenty of. The opening DIY abortion, an old lady taking another senior citizen’s eye out with a knitting needle, an acoustic guitar used as an instrument of mass murder, there’s plenty of blood being spilt even without the title character’s activities. But in a city where serial killing is a way of life, what else would you expect?

The humour is, as you might expect, all over the place in a constant stream of hit or miss gags. And that’s one of the problems I had with the film. It’s a bit too unfocused, constantly going off on tangents that are raised and then just as quickly dropped. I would probably have laughed more often if the film had been a bit more focused. That lack of focus might be the result of the film’s years long production, either from Dale writing in new ideas that occurred to him during those years or having to write around things like departing cast members, COVID and/or a lack of resources.

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Despite that, you have to give him credit not just for getting the film done, but for having it turn out as good as it did despite a road to the screen that inspired its own film, Video Nasty: The Making of Ribspreader. It would hardly have been the first time an indie film fell apart due to problems like these. Thankfully, it was finished, because this is one of the better horror comedies to come out in the past few years. The blood soaked final act alone is worth the effort to see it.

Dark, nasty and hysterically wrong in all the best ways, Ribspreader won’t be for everybody. But those who enjoy this kind of madness will have a blast with it.

Ribspreader has been released on Blu-ray and DVD in Australia and is available to stream there and possibly elsewhere. Dale also plans to bring the film to select European theatres and festivals, starting in May. You can check the film’s Facebook group for more information.

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