I’m not sure what exactly it was that leaked into the water supply of North Carolina a few decades back, but the documented effects of this Substance ‘X’ has been the mutation of a rather sizable number of perfectly normal people into terrifyingly talented indie film creators. So unlike the effects of the various Substance ‘X’ threats we were warned about in one 1950’s science fiction film after another, this has actually been a pretty damned good thing for us. One perfect example of why this is a good thing for us is Jaysen Buterin.
While the majority of his output in his (relatively) short career so far as a writer/director has been in short film work and with his first full-length feature only just announced, he’s managed to pack one hell of a wallop into his work so far. In the case of three of his shorts, the Hot Pink Jesus trilogy, you even have a feature’s worth of material to sit down, sit back with, and enjoy.
The Gospel According to Booze, Bullets & Hot Pink Jesus was also Buterin’s first work as a writer/director. Like any other conscientious amateur looking to do his best first work, Buterin sought out and obtained a small library’s worth of books and instructional materials on the finer art of “How-To.” Outside of a now dog-eared copy of Robert Rodriguez’s book on filmmaking, they pretty much remain to this day largely unread as he basically decided to wing it and learn as he went. This is probably a good thing. While there are absolutely noticeable influences in his filmmaking style, early Robert Rodriguez in particular, Buterin has a style that is absolutely and enjoyably his own. Learning as he went, and maybe not knowing his limitations at all times, likely went a long way towards developing that style.
Hot Pink Jesus is a trilogy of shorts that would fit nicely into the collections of film fans who love the pulpy, underworld crime-based, action films of guys like Rodriguez, Tarantino, Ringo Lam, John Woo, Wai-Keung "Andrew" Lau, and others. The concept is beautifully simple and opens itself up to many storytelling opportunities.
Years ago a monastery was raided by bandits. As they came in shooting down anyone they could, they killed a member of the monastery creating a pure white statue of Jesus. The blood of the murdered man covered the statue, seeping into the material and turning it bright pink. As the years went by, this statue became a thing of legend for the superstitious dwellers of the underworld. The stories that grew around it claimed that those who possessed it would find it most advantageous to their good fortunes. This of course means that everyone who doesn’t own it wants it from the one who does, and that leads to a trail of blood wherever the Hot Pink Jesus goes. Essentially, it’s a storytelling device to link the unrelated or mostly unrelated stories together into a whole.
Buterin likes to keep the true nature of the Hot Pink Jesus to himself. If asked if this supernatural element to his films is in fact supernatural or merely reflective of the superstitious mindset of his characters, his answer is yes, no, and all of the above. After all, why spoil the perfectly good ambiguity of the thing or the personal takes on the matter by the viewers of the trilogy?
The three stories themselves are extremely entertaining and surprisingly well crafted for first-time efforts. Buterin not only had a natural eye for action, but he had a natural understanding for where and how to break the action up, and how to create his own darker versions of the Yasujiro Ozu "Pillow Shot" in various scenes for maximum effectiveness. It also helps that his stylized directing in the trilogy is almost as hypnotically engrossing at times as the best of the above mentioned directors.
The shorts became almost instant sensations on the indie film circuit, deservedly snapping up nominations and awards wherever they screened, and became an instant calling card at festivals and conventions for Buterin. They also began opening doors for him in the growing indie film community throughout the greater Raleigh, North Carolina area, providing him a network of filmmaking friends that allowed him to both grow the scale and scope of his own later endeavors as well as to contribute his talents to the works of others.
His next effort as a writer/director, Between Hell and a Hard Place, stayed somewhat in line with the style of The Gospel According to Booze, Bullets & Hot Pink Jesus, following two denizens of the underworld as they visit a deserted stretch of land that has long been used as the dumping grounds for their victims as well as the victims of others. For the two main characters it should be an easy night’s work, but then things get a little strange. Alone in the dark, far from any civilization, and on the grounds containing countless victims of underworld hits and murders, the two of them begin to see things in the shadows of the darkness, effecting both the killer with seemingly no conscience at all and his partner facing a crisis of conscience. The tagline is a nice teaser for the short.
“Killing is easy... staying dead is the hard part.”
The short was also his contribution to Beneath the Old Dark House, collaborating with Matt Cloude, Jesse Knight, Brett Mullen (of Bombshell Bloodbath fame) on an anthology of shorts tied together by a common story thread. Along with working as the writer/director on those films, he also played producer to Jessie Knight’s well received indie short The Orbs, a story of booze, smokes, paranoia, and a dysfunctional couple’s deterioration, and acted in indie films such as Fix It In Post, Hatchet County, and the sure to be infamous (in a good way) Knob Goblins, amongst others.
His next trick is focusing his time and effort as writer, director, and producer on his first full-length feature film, Don’t Let the Light In, a film that, if one goes by the description, may be delving far deeper into the more traditional horror genre than some of his previous works.
Along with this output of creative endeavors, as well as having his pokers in a few fires that can’t yet be publicly discussed, and keeping up with his family life, Buterin has also become something of a fixture on the regional convention scene. His very genial, good humored, and quick witted nature, the polar opposite of many of the roles he’s played on film to date, makes him a natural fit on panels or for hosting them. He’s also somehow recently found the time to become the Film Track Manager for ConCarolinas, a job he gave a more than admirable showing in for the 2015 convention.
If you like your pulpy, shoot ‘em ups with a little bit of grindhouse flavor to them, you owe it to yourself to check out the DVD of The Gospel According to Booze, Bullets & Hot Pink Jesus. It’s a fantastic and immensely enjoyable introduction to the worlds inside Jaysen Buterin’s mind. Then get out there and check out his other works.
The Mad Ones Films home page can be found here. There’s also a Facebook page here where news and updates can be found.
Jerry Chandler, when not writing, confesses to having being saved by the Hot Pink Jesus and Max Dioblo’s Taco-Rama. But only on the appropriate holidays.