Bill Arceneaux Appreciation Post: A Real Wet One

I was recently contacted by the enigmatic D.I.Y. filmmaker Wigwolf (who appears to be exactly what they sound like: a werewolf in a wig) about possibly reviewing their homemade gross-out comedy The Wet Ones on this blog.  I enthusiastically obliged, since we’re always on the lookout for genuine outsider art around here, and I recently had a positive experience reviewing the sub-Troma horror comedy Psycho Ape! through a similar solicitation.  The self-published DVD packaging & weirdo video-art aesthetic of The Wet Ones screamed out my name.  It turned out to be a siren call.  At 141 relentless minutes of Barbie doll savagery & video-warp psychedelia, it plays like an edgelord de-evolution of Todd Haynes’s Superstar, with 10x the shock value and none of the heart.  The Wet Ones is visually impressive as handmade serial-killer bedroom art, but it’s almost too belligerent to watch with the sound on, especially once you get to the dozenth repeated joke about female circumcision and getting “stabbed in the pussy” (which, surprisingly, does not take long).  Every cursed-doll character is voiced either like Lumpy Space Princess or Eric Cartman, with little variation between those extremes.  It recalls the similarly offensive-on-purpose Charles Manson puppet show Live Freaky! Die Freaky!, another idiosyncratic curio that’s best enjoyed projected on the wall at a party with the dialogue muted.  And I feel terrible for saying any of this; it’s such a low-profile D.I.Y. production that there’s no way to write about not enjoying it without feeling like I’m punching down.

Oddly enough, I had heard of The Wet Ones before Wigwolf reached out, thanks to coverage on local film critic Bill Arceneaux’s Moviegoing With Bill newsletter, which made it sound like one of last year’s can’t-miss oddities.  Returning to Bill’s piece on the movie, “Here’s to Those Wet and Wild Ones“, I can confidently say he did a much better job engaging with Wigwolf and Wigwolf’s art than I possibly could.  That’s because Bill thought to contact the director and ask pointed questions about their intent with this shit-smeared kaleidoscope, an interview that made me appreciate The Wet Ones more than I ever did watching it.  When ruminating on the film’s daunting length, Wigwolf explains, “The main obstacle I faced was that, since more than half the movie was improvised, the run time got really out of control. I hate to cut anything, but I did cut three full plotlines from the movie, and still ended up with a two-and-a-half-hour run time. I’m not good at editing myself and I’m also a troll so it was kind of funny to me to make something so loud, obnoxious, and unreasonably long.”  When explaining its purpose as a “challenging” provocation, they admit, “I figured the movie would be challenging, I mean you have to pay attention. There’s a lot in there about alienation and loneliness, I have strong feelings about how our society is right now and I get sad seeing so many people become alienated and disconnected. I’m obsessed with suicide and the feelings that lead to it and that runs through almost every frame of The Wet Ones. As silly as the movie is, it’s also an expression of sadness and disillusionment. […] I find all the beauty in the world through mistakes and imperfections, and distortions.”  That’s great stuff!  I highly recommend you read the full interview whether or not a tape-warp Barbie doll meltdown sounds like your kind of thing.

The Moviegoing with Bill newsletter is often where I first hear about low-budget, no-profile movies like The Wet Ones, even as someone who spends an embarrassing amount of their free time looking for bizarro new releases.  Just in the past few months, Bill has reviewed the titles Phony, Demigod, Tower Rats, The Secret Society for Slow Romance, and Straight to VHS, which I have seen covered nowhere else online.  It’s impressive.  What’s even more impressive is his enthusiasm for reaching out to D.I.Y. filmmakers & likeminded movie nerds about this kind of outsider art.  I’ve met Bill IRL and have spoken with him at length on our podcast, but only because he reached out to ask us what Swampflix is all about soon after we started publishing in 2015.  He’s a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic with paid pieces on sites like The Spool, Occupy, and Offbeat, so it’s surprising he would have any interest in our self-published digi-zine film blog.  And yet he recently nominated me for inclusion in the South Eastern Film Critics Association for my work with Swampflix, an honor I find bewildering.  Chances are that if you’ve made, screened, written about, or even just attended independent cinema in Louisiana (if not beyond), Bill Arceneaux has reached out to you online to see what you’re about, and whether you’re interested in collaboration.  And if he hasn’t, he’d probably love to hear from you.  That’s an invaluable impulse in our subcultural niche, considering how anti-social of a hobby it is to sit quietly in the dark to watch movies.  I imagine it’s even more rewarding for D.I.Y. filmmakers like Wigwolf, since self-publishing your art in our modern online hellscape is often just broadcasting into the void, with no one to answer back (or, worse yet, for some dipshit to review your self-made movie negatively even though it’s entirely harmless & avoidable).

There isn’t much of a point to this post besides encouraging anyone who engages with The Wet Ones to also read Bill Arceneaux’s interview with its creator.  It’s an essential companion piece.  And while you’re over on the Moviegoing with Bill page, go ahead and subscribe to the newsletter.  You’ll find tons of weirdo outsider art through that resource – some that will blow your mind, and some that will turn your stomach.

-Brandon Ledet

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