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JAMES CAHILL: AUTEUR OF BADNESS

by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [November 10, 2018]

 

 

 

 

 

[HollywoodInvestigator.com]  Some filmmakers are just plain bad. Their ineptitude is indistinguishable from that of hundreds of other no-budget filmmakers. Then there are the uniquely bad filmmakers. They put their own personal stamp of badness onto every project, such that their cinematic train wrecks are unmistakably theirs alone. These are the auteurs of badness. A pantheon that includes such legends of the uniquely awful as Ed Wood, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Andy Milligan, David "The Rock" Nelson, and yes, James Cahill. His films are inept. But they're consistently inept. And consistently entertaining -- and hilarious! -- in their ineptitude.

Like many true auteurs of badness, Cahill wears many creative hats. He wrote, directed, produced, and stars in both Snitch'd (2003) and Juarez, Mexico (2005). In both films Cahill cast himself as a macho, martial arts expert, doing undercover detective work. He plays a cop in Snitch'd. A private eye in Juarez, Mexico (a poor man's Bordertown, about the many women murdered in Juarez, Mexico).

This miscasting is one of these film's funniest aspects. Cahill is a short, skinny guy who talks with a lisp. One might justifiably call him effete, if not downright effeminate. Yet he insists on playing kick-ass heroes. His detective heroes are always beating the crap out of men much taller, broader, and well-muscled than himself.

These fight scenes are a Cahill gem. They are so poorly choreographed as to appear intentionally satirical, except they're not. We get the sense that we're supposed to be taking these fights seriously, which makes them that much more hilarious!

 

 

 

A Cahill favorite is to beat a man's head against a hard surface, in quick jack-hammer fashion. He does this in both films. But to avoid harming the actor, Cahill "slams" the actors head down slowly -- and the head clearly isn't making contact with the hard surface.

Many a Cahill "victim" simple collapses after a Cahill "strike," feigning unconsciousness in a most unconvincing fashion. I love the bar fight in Juarez, Mexico. Three tough guys are sitting at a table. One man sees Cahill glaring at him, so he whispers to his companions and runs from the bar, frightened of Cahill. Cahill approaches the other men. One of them, a big hulking figure, is about to attack Cahill, but the tiny Cahill simply beats him down with one blow.

Cahill then approaches the remaining man, and lisps, "You want some of this?"

"No!" the much bigger man begs off.

So funny to see this tiny dude with a lisp scare the hell out of men so much bigger than himself. And there are so many of these ridiculous fights scenes in both films.

Of course, these films are generous in offering other forms of badness. There's the usual bad acting, cheap sets, inappropriate sets (a hospital "in the middle of the Mexican desert" -- we are told -- that on the outside looks like a California college campus), lame dialog, and ridiculous story points.

 

 

For instance, Cahill and his assistant tour a factory, trying to learn about a worker who disappeared. A nearby worker (Carmen Perez), notices them, very noticeably. The sharp-eyed Cahill notices her noticing. He and his assistant decide to talk to this worker.

How do they go about meeting her?

Cahill and his assistant lurk in a dark doorway, then jump Perez as she passes by. Cahill clamps his hand over her mouth, while his assistant tells Perez, "Don't worry, we just want to talk!"

Huh? Couldn't they have just approached her?

They then tell her, by way of "explanation," that they think someone is following her. But that hardly explains the need to jump and grab her. Cahill, the director, is simply trying to infuse some drama or action or suspense into the scene -- yet fails to justify it in any logical way.

It's hard to pinpoint Cahill's ethnicity. His name is WASPY, he looks (to me) Asian, and his films are mostly Latino themed. Yet Cahill casts himself as white. In Snitch'd Cahill plays a cop who goes undercover in a mostly Latino high school. We know Cahill is supposed to be white, because when a student calls him a Spanish name, Cahill must asks a fellow student (Eva Longoria, before she was famous) to translate what he had just been called.

"White boy," Longoria replies.

Snitch'd is even more poorly cast than is Juarez, Mexico. Many of the actors playing high school students look well into their twenties. The guns look like toys. And they sound like it. When they're dropped or tossed aside, you can hear the hollow plastic clatter on the floor.

Even so, Snitch'd is entertaining, in a weirdly "What were they thinking?" endearing sort of way. Cahill smirks his way through much of the film, like he's trying to play a suave James Bond type. You look at him and think, this inept, non-charismatic Asian-playing-a-white-guy actually imagines he's the next Rambo/tough guy/action hero. Especially funny are his pursed lips and staring eyes when he sneaks around the house with his gun in "action hero" pose. Cahill is morbidly funny!

And yes, Cahill once again grabs a guy's head (a high school student's, this time) and repeatedly "slams" it against a desk in what's supposed to be a quick "jack-hammer" fashion ... only it's slow, and the victim's head clearly isn't making contact with the table. The victim seems to just go along with having his head banged against the desk, because director Cahill told him to.

 

 

 

Also funny is when Cahill uses martial arts to defeat some eight gun-totting gangstas, partially with the aid of ping-pong paddles.

Then there's the "actress" who, when she's acting "sad" and telling Cahill about her recently deceased friend, seems to be actually smiling.

The most historically noteworthy thing about Snitch'd is that its female lead Eva Longoria later became famous for Desperate Housewives, although she isn't much better in this film than the rest of the cast. Some, but not much. Then again, it must have been hard for the twentysomething Longoria to play a high school student swept off her feet by Cahill, or mouth his script's clich´┐Ż-ridden relationship dialog.

Cahill and Longoria's "flirting" in the school library is another very funny moment! They're supposed to be teenagers, yet their relationship dialog sounds like two adults talking, who in turn got their lines from bad romantic comedies.

Despite such ineptness, I have a soft spot for amateurs who buy a camcorder and think they can make a Hollywood style feature. Although I wonder if Snitch'd was shot on super-8 or 16mm film. You can hear a camera whirring in some shots. And there's a soft, shot-on-film-then-blown-up look to it.

Like most bad filmmakers, Cahill is an acquired taste. And perhaps he's "growing" as a filmmaker, because his most recent film, Crush(Ed), (2009) is a comedy. Maybe Cahill realized that, since his previous films were unintentionally funny, perhaps his next project should be an intentionally funny film.

How was Crush(Ed) ever made?

The DVD includes an interview with writer/executive producer Paul Laubach. He admits that he'd never written a screenplay before. But his 14-year-old daughter wants to be an actress. So Laubach wrote a script for his daughter to appear in, and then financed it!

Laubach claims to be a real estate professional, who's made enough money in real estate investing to risk money on Crush(Ed). He'd already known filmmaker James Cahill for several years, and Cahill told Laubach that if he could pay for the film (which Laubach did), he, Cahill, would direct it.

The result is Crush(Ed), made to make a little girl's dreams come true!

Well, that's a common enough way to raise film financing in Hollywood. I've actually known some men who've financed films for their daughters or mistresses to appear in. This situation is common enough to be the basis for another film, Mistress.

Such showcase films often don't turn out too well. As for Crush(Ed), it's no masterpiece -- but it's surprisingly good for what it is.

Crush(Ed) is about a fat man who has dating problems. He's looking for love, with little luck.

Comically, Crush(Ed) straddles the fence. It's part "dumb comedy," the sort that's full of fat jokes, and food spills, and pratfalls, and sexual innuendos, and dead pets. Yet it also aims for some witty banter. Some of lead actor Scott Ditman's opening lines seem intended for Woody Allen. Indeed, Ditman's hapless, unlucky-in-love character is reminiscent of both Allen's Play It Again, Sam and Steve Martin's The Lonely Guy.

 

 

Naturally, Allen's and Martin's films are far superior. But I was entertained by Crush(Ed). It's not a bad first writing effort. The satirical targets are very old. Past filmmakers (e.g., Allen and Martin, and many others) have covered this terrain before, and made many of the same observations about love, and loneliness, and the battle of the sexes.

Crush(Ed) is better than Snitch'd and Juarez, Mexico. Partially it's because Cahill is better cast in this film. He plays a comedic stoner, rather than the serious, kick-ass, action hero he miscast himself in, in his two earlier films.

Crush(Ed) is a decent time-killer. It's not a first-rate, smart, witty comedy (such as those by Allen, Martin, or Christopher Guest). But it's actually no worse than many of the Hollywood "dumb comedies" put out by the big studios.

 


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