The Cornshukker is a bizarre flick from 1997 about a peaceful creature whose life is threatened when locals disturb his quiet existence. Starring amateur actors and filmed on shoestring budget this surreal black comedy is all vibes and little filler. Vinegar Syndrome and VHShitfest bring the forgotten film to Blu-ray in a serviceable A/V package sourced from a surviving VHS tape. A nice set of bonus features help round out the package making this arthouse friendly film For Fans Only.
“Do you think the world has enough noise in it?”
Birthed from the mid-90s indie film boom, The Cornshukker finds its roots in the arthouse arena with its bizarre visuals and black comedy setups which gives this surreal feature a goofy playground to wax philosophical about the dangers of xenophobia. Our title character is revered as a mythical creature who shares his ramshackle house with screeching crawdads and spends his days eating corn and telepathically ordering pizza. However, when word gets out about his presence in the community things take an unfortunate turn.
We meet the well-dressed Cornshukker (Jason Snider) as he is interviewed for the local paper by the absurdly named Aleczander Degrosellini The Third (Tony Balay) who screams out “You are the greatest mystery in the world!” It should be noted that Alec’s hairstyle is all party in the back and no business upfront if you know what I mean. Between bizarre inserts, Cornshukker is visited by a Spanish tango dancer, a Girl Scout, and a cosmetics saleswoman whose lipstick application transforms Cornshukker into Nux from Mad Max: Fury Road.
A boisterous man of the cloth visits our mythical creature hoping to reach his soul. This man’s introduction is the funniest thing in the movie: “Hello, my name is Reverend Lewd but I'm very decent.” The Rev (David Briggs) preaches the sins of modern society and offers hope for Cornshukker within his good books. Easily the best performance of the film is this actor’s commitment to the southern gospel delivery of the Good Word all while grabbing his crotch. Very decent, huh?
Jason Snider’s performance as Cornshukker is full of physical ticks and gesturing like an alien presence inhabiting a human body. It's quite good for an untrained actor especially when scenes call for him to interact with the locals. The rest of the cast are all doing their best with some reading from cue cards to others hamming it up to full effect including an appearance by The King.
The Cornshukker is an exercise in philosophical meandering couched in xenophobia and arthouse visuals. From the first scene with the interviewer, we get a sense that the Cornshukker has been this mythical entity that conjured fables of his existence through the annals of time. With every interaction, he only says “I know” giving us this omniscient presence that chooses a dilapidated shack as his home and corn his obsession. It's a clever device to connect the bizarre happenings and weird elements added to the plot. Director Brandon Snider’s budget-friendly choice of 16mm Black and White photography adds creep factor to the proceedings which in turn allows the comedy to land easily.
There isn’t a dull moment here which is the biggest credit to this utterly bizarre feature that hangs its hat on a solid concept of alienation and fear of the unknown. Snider’s camera frames the scenes with confidence keeping this feature out of the amateur category for that alone. I’d pair The Cornshukker as a midnight double feature with Clerks as they’re both meandering arthouse-style byproducts of the 90’s indie boom.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Cornshukker arrives on Blu-ray thanks to VHShitfest with Vinegar Syndrome. The All-Region 50GB disc is housed in a transparent keepcase with reversible artwork. Loading the disc you’ll get a VHS-quality FBI warning and VHShitfest logo before landing on the Main Menu screen a scene from the film playing adjacent typical navigation options.
The Cornshukker arrives on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080i HD transfer with a 1.37.1 full frame aspect ratio. A note on the artwork provides an insight to the quality and history of the film’s presentation: “The original 16mm film elements were lost. All that remained was a VHS so please be advised that the transfer quality is confined by the limitations of the format.” Image quality is soft as expected with the typical VHS anomalies and fuzz. Detail is scarce but within the context of the feature, this adds to the unique atmosphere presented. Compression artifacts are minimal, keeping this VHS-sourced HD image looking good given the limitations of the source tape. Compared to other videotape-sourced HD images this one appears less refined but offers better authoring.
Audio for The Cornshukker arrives via a respectable DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track that is heavily limited by the source restrictions. Dialogue exchanges are discernible with the weird synth scoring elements prominent in the mix.
While not loaded with bonus features VHShitfest and Vinegar Syndrome have provided enough here for interested audiences to explore. Start with the commentary track then move through the rest.
Motivated by the 90’s indie boom and the rise of arthouse films on VHS, ambitious filmmakers could crank out bizarre stuff with the hopes of finding an audience. Fans of those experimental features and black comedies will find something to enjoy within the weird world of The Cornshukker. VHShitfest and Vinegar Syndrome bring the film to Blu-ray with a serviceable A/V package that is limited by the source VHS tape. Bonus features round out the package offering some interesting bits making this disc For Fans Only.