Slitting the little old church lady's throat was a cathartic moment for Caedmon Jamonsta. It happens about two-thirds of the way into Trannysnatchers, a locally produced horror-comedy which Jamonsta wrote, scored and co-directed. Understandably, the scene was less pleasant for the woman. Kept in a cage for days by the film's cult of "gender outlaws," she's finally dragged into the barn of the farmhouse that serves as the group's headquarters, tied to a pentagram and sliced across the neck with a knife, her blood pooling into a mixing bowl. It wasn't the killing the actress minded so much, really: It was the rant she had to recite just before her murder. "Fucking diseased faggots!" she screams at her cross-dressed tormentors. "Die of AIDS and rot in damnation!" As the mother of a gay son, she struggled to get the venom out.
"We all assured her that what's really important here is you're representing all this hatred and oppression we've had to deal with in our lives," Jamonsta says, "and we are being vindicated by that oppression being destroyed."
If John Waters made a Satanic horror flick, he'd still have to drop some serious acid to come up with Trannysnatchers. Cheekily dubbed "an occult classic," the movie centers on a gang of transgendered hitmen (er, hit-people?) attempting to summon a hermaphroditic being which, when conjured to earth, will allegedly bring about "the end of gender." Let's just say the "sex change via hacksaw" scene might only be the second-nuttiest thing in the picture. It's crazed, but also deeply angry—at homophobia, the so-called "gender binary," even the conservatism within gay culture itself—and releases its frustrations via plasma-drenched satire. Beneath all that lysergic madness and serrated social commentary, however, beats an empathetic heart.
"We kept saying, throughout the process of making this movie, that it was basically a valentine to 16-year-old gay kids in Kansas who feel alone and don't think there's anybody that's like them or thinks like them," Jamonsta says. Adds co-director James Jamonsta: "It's kind of like our It Gets Better video."
Trannysnatchers grew out of SICK., the conceptual dance night the Jamonstas and co-writer Benjamin Porter used to produce at Holocene. To promote their events, the duo, along with a group of collaborators, would upload short videos to MySpace. "I never went to film school, James never went to film school, but we really liked making short films," Caedmon says. "So we were like, fuck it, let's make a movie. How hard could that be?" Casting the regulars from their promo videos—musicians and performance artists of various stripes—Caedmon and Porter wrote a 16-page outline, with only six lines of dialogue, and allowed the actors to develop their own characters through improvisation. Shooting primarily on an old dairy farm in Beavercreek, using props leftover from their SICK. parties, Trannysnatchers took shape literally as it was being shot. That feeling of raw discovery—along with the sense of exuberant, do-it-yourself amateurism—gives the film a distinct, punk-style energy that fuels it along, even when the plot gets a bit muddy.
For all its anarchic zaniness, though, Trannysnatchers has emotional wounds at its core. All the creators have experienced the barbs of prejudice and the loneliness of alienation, from outside and inside the gay community. And that's a crucial point: They didn't make the film only for kids in the Midwest coming to grips with their sexuality. It's for weirdos of any orientation.
"I refer to this film as our FUBU: It's for us, by us," says actress Nandi La Sophia. "But I think anyone can enjoy it who likes horror films, who likes '80s flicks, drag, who's interested in gender nonconformity—and who wants to kill the Westboro Baptist ministry.â
Critic's Score: 73
SEE IT: Trannysnatchers screens at the Hollywood Theatre, 7:15 pm and 9:30 pm Friday, April 20.