first reported in my interview with SCZ last year is still going strong (I know, I was supposed to contact a doctor a long time back, but who actually goes to doctors? Nobody I know can afford to). Trailer dropped this week and I gotta say I've been humming the SCZ/Jeff Herriot tune (I'm guessing is called) Shotgun Safari featured therein for days now.
My Tired Shadow came out and shit, I don't think I've plugged it yet. Don't sleep on Hirsch, kids, he's the goods. Anyway, I've got this here piece by Joey about his affinity for Zahler and it kinda seems like a perfect time to put it out in the world.
The Katabasis of S. Craig Zahler
by Joseph Hirsch
Maybe I’m a bit closed-minded, as I prefer to watch the same movies over and over again. Either that or I watch the news or some old Simpsons episodes. Give me a handful of Kubrick and Leone movies, plus a couple of dumb comedies, and I’m good. Occasionally I’ll get sucked into watching something with friends or family members, but I’ll usually start to tune it out and politely wait through the movie for the remainder of its runtime. Very rarely something new will break through the shell of indifference I sit in, and I’ll sit up and take note.
As the movie progressed and violence erupted, I forgot my previous, minor quibbles about the film and even forgot about that great dialogue. It is very rare, and only a few directors can bring it off, but by the time the film reached its climax and the horror unfolded, I was made to feel the violence on-screen, in my stomach and in my bones. I felt like I was back in Iraq; like when watching an Oliver Stone or a Scorsese film, or some of Spike Lee’s movies or Andrew Dominik’s pictures. The violence had a queasy nigh-sexual quality to it that makes one’s viscera squirm (I don’t know how to elaborate on this feeling more, but it’s hard to induce).
The movie, as it turned out, was made by a guy named S. Craig Zahler who’d written some novels I hadn’t read at that point.
Brawl doesn’t so much have acts as infernal layers, going from grim to brutal to over-the-top terrifying, taking its sweet time to get there and never being boring for a moment. It makes no claims to realism and yet has its own weight and brimstone verisimilitude and hits some sort of primal, instinctive nerve that puts it in a category with very few horror movies, those like George A. Romero’s Dead films, the better offerings in the Alien franchise, or Jaws.
I am usually not curious about the people who make movies (and I honestly don’t respect many of them), and I generally don’t care for men with ponytails (it’s a knee-jerk reaction, but I’m being honest). Having frontloaded those caveats and fired my birdshot from both barrels, though, let me just say that this Craig Zahler guy is, to quote the writer Charles Willeford, “an oddity of some magnitude,” and I mean that in a good way. He does not seem to be a product of Tinseltown, but someone like, say, Steve Buscemi, who lived a full life before venturing into the land of make-believe. It seems to have given him an armored authenticity most directors lack, even those who make movies about tough men enduring tough times.
I don’t want to put the jinx on Zahler, and many directors have turned into mediocrities or journeymen after one or two truly great projects, but something tells me that this guy is following his muse straight to hell, and that Dragged will exceed my high expectations. And somewhere along the way the scuffling is going to be done underground. Maybe in a parking garage?
author of several novels including Rolling Country, Flash Blood and Kentucky Bestiary. He previously worked as a sports correspondent for Fight Hype covering boxing matches around the globe, and he was also a finalist in a Glimmer Train Short Story Award Competition for New Writers. He served four years in the U.S. Army, wherein his travels took him to Iraq and Germany. He currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Keep up with him at his website.