Friday, September 24, 2021

Yuppie vs Hobo: The Vagrant (1992)

The Vagrant (1992)
Rating: ***
Starring: Bill Paxton, Michael Ironside and Marshall Bell

While the remnants of the 80s' Golden Age slashers do their darnest to breathe life unto their brand of cinematic carnage by end of its decade, the early 90s experimented with what can be done with the hack-and-slash formula and brought out a recognizable amount of horror thrillers that used an element or two from the stabby horror sub-genre. Yuppie horror (Or Yuppie-In-Peril as some would call it) is a fine example of a slasher aftershock that focuses on the comfortable existence of young urban professionals getting disrupted by often violent outside forces, from malicious family members and disgruntled officers to, well, as suggested by this film, random vagrants whose threat may or may not exists. 

Successful Arizona businessman Graham Krackowski (Bill Paxton) just wanted a quaint and tidy house to nests his perfect little life of paperwork, salaries and finances. He finds one eventually in the suburbs and it was quite a charming abode until, much to his horror, Graham discovers a very dirty vagrant dawdling in his new property. Unsettled but trying to be rational, he dismisses the bum as nothing more than a nuisance, but that proves to be easier said than done when the vagrant seemingly begins to stalk him both in real life and in his nightmares.

Growing paranoid from the homeless man's presence, Graham goes to the extreme to make his house safe from his perceived intruder, going as far as calling the cops multiple times on the man and even walling up his place with an elaborate, military-style security system. But things are about to hunker down for the worse when a string of suspicious murders starts happening around town and all the leads (as in, dismembered body parts) trail back to our growingly schizoid businessman. Has Graham completely lost it, walking and killing in his sleep? Or is there something else far more vile responsible for the gruesome bodycount?

One on end, The Vagrant (1992) is this cheeky satire on yuppie lifestyle doubling as a jab at prejudice mindset as the first third of the story appears to be working on the idea that Graham is an oblivious douche who couldn't wrap around his brain as to why no one would take his issue with the homeless man seriously, granted that said homeless man hadn't done anything overly vindictive despite his very dirty and manic appearance. The increasingly distressed approach Graham goes in order to resolve his problem is mostly played for laughs at how ridiculous they were getting, its direction oozing with surrealism and a good pinch of black humor, plus it kinda helps that our lead's pathetic, ass-kissing nature is played charmingly well by Bill Paxton, keeping his character from being too being unlikable albeit still being a one-note hack.

Once the bodycount starts, The Vagrant (1992) kinda goes all over with the strangeness as it shifts focus on victimizing Graham while still playing around the idea that he may not be, or is at least no longer right on the head. There are times where this works, with the added intrigue giving more substance to the story and it barely hinders the comedic satire of court dramas, popular psychology and media sensationalism around these parts, though there are moments where the resulting developments felt too random to vibe with the movie's sudden curveballs and do nothing more than be a hurdle on the pacing. (i.e. Graham's transition into a trailer park supervisor) A good bulk of the killings are also done offscreen, later to be revealed as bloody body parts in a probable ploy on the ambiguousness of the perpetrator, so those hoping to see a massacre may want to keep an open mind as the film aims for more creep factor and gooey absurdity than carnal violence for its kills. 

It all leads to a finale that certainly fits the slasher bill and the overall growing weirdness, complete with gnarly last minute deaths and a far-fetched explanation to everything that would either make you groan or just stare blankly because, of course, that's their explanation they'll go with. By the end of it, The Vagrant (1992) is a cult classic that earned its reputation for how bizarre it is, unsteadily teetering between being smart and outrageous. It definitely has a good set of talents to keep the performance watchable courtesy of Paxton in his lead role and Michael Ironside as a bumbling, trigger-happy detective, as well as a production value showing enough budget was used to keep the movie watchable, but the story undoubtedly could've used a lot of tweaking and maybe a better understanding on which satire to stick with to maintain a consistent sense of humor. A fun little timewaster and that's pretty much the gist of this movie.

1 elderly female seen murdered, fingers cut off
1 female found dismembered inside a fridge
1 elderly female suffers a heart seizure
1 dog found murdered with a meat cleaver
1 male dies from shock (?)
1 male impaled with a chair
1 male repeatedly shot, last seen dying from his wounds
Total: 7 (?)

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