Honky Tonk Blood A Macabrely Nice Surprise

Correction: The Honky Tonk Blood Troubador Tuesday date is Tuesday, March 8, not March 1.

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Dawn McGee
See more photos from Thursday's premiere in our slideshow.

Rocks Off will admit we were skeptical going into Thursday night's premiere of Honky Tonk Blood at the River Oaks Theatre. It's not so much that we thought the idea of a black comedy set in the Houston music scene was dubious - hardly - more that we went into the screening wondering if there was going to be any there there.

There is.

Produced, written, shot and directed by Johnny Falstaff, John Evans, and the Southern Backtones' Hank Schyma, and starring the trio alongside a litany of local musicans and scenesters, Honky Tonk Blood is witty and entertaining. It's equal parts hyperbolic music-biz parody, sly noir homage (the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple is a major influence), and big-time valentine to Houston.

How much acting they're actually doing could be debated, but the three leads are all naturals on camera and suit their roles to a T: Falstaff as a Faustian record-label boss both bacon-grease slick and rattlesnake lethal; Evans as a good-ole-boy rock star who may be wiser than he lets on; and Schyma as a somewhat naïve unknown musician who has more trouble getting gigs than getting laid.

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The supporting roles are equally well-cast, including Craig Kinsey as a stoner prophet; Myke Foster as the embodiment of all things sex, drugs and rock and roll; and Two Star Symphony's Jo Bird as the sci-fi porn star of a movie-within-a-movie that drew the biggest howl from Thursday's crowd and that Rocks Off is not going to spoil for you by describing. Kinsey's Sideshow Tramps bandmate Geoffrey Muller has the best line in the movie as a salty street musician, while Scattered Pages, Jaime Hellcat and the Hates pop up in hilarious cameos.

So anyway, when his flagship artist (Foster) dies in a mysterious fall and Evans' sales begin slipping, Falstaff and his partner (Pale's Calvin Stanley as a bottom-line A&R type) decide their label might have more luck with "Montrose Music" than rockabilly and sign the Southern Backtones on Evans' advice. When that doesn't pay off quite as quickly as Falstaff likes, he employs a Plan B that involves tequila and a mysterious redheaded femme fatale.

What really makes Honky Tonk Blood work as well as it does are the spot-on details, from Schyma's "rathole" of an apartment to a Japanese man warbling his way through "Home on the Range" (badly) at Cosmo's and Emily Bell's over-the-top turn as Schyma's coked-up girlfriend with an enormous bladder and faulty aim with a used tampon. And yes, that is Santa Claus on the bicycle.

As for the soundtrack, it's solid stuff, ranging from Falstaff's Latin-laced rockabilly and a chicken-pickin' guitar pull at the Proletariat (!) to star turns from Evans at the Continental Club and Sideshow Tramps at a Westheimer Block Party (we think), plus appropriately creepy avant-garde strangeness from Two Star Symphony and a couple of propulsive U2-ish cuts from the Backtones.

Half the fun, of course, is the laundry list of local landmarks such as La Carafe, Proletariat (RIP), Rudyard's, AvantGarden and the River Oaks itself, to name a very few. In fact, the movie is so Houston that Rocks Off couldn't help but wonder how it will play outside of Texas. No doubt Sundance-goers will be befuddled that a movie shot in Texas does not contain one horse in the entire film, although there are a couple of cows and you'll never look at a pair of spurs the same way again.

Rocks Off gives Honky Tonk Blood two severed thumbs up. We can foresee a healthy cult afterlife for the movie as a party favor, a fucked-up postcard/gag gift from a fucked-up town - Schyma says he's working on hammering out a DVD deal - and, hopefully, as a midnight flick two or three times a year back at the River Oaks.

Honky Tonk Blood screens next Saturday at Hugh & Jeff's in League City. Schyma, Evans and Falstaff play the next installment of Troubador Tuesday, March 8, downstairs at House of Blues.

We hope that's not the last of it, either. Unlike its actors, Honky Tonk Blood is going to be difficult to kill off.


Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

Location Info

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Landmark River Oaks Theatre

2009 W. Gray St., Houston, TX

Category: Film


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14 comments
Mark C Austin
Mark C Austin

Sincerely entertained by this movie! Kudos to all of those involved in it. After reading this article (including even the ridiculous comments), I'm eager to see it again and will buy it as soon as its on sale at Cactus. I wanted to grab the soundtrack that night, but was short on cash. Falstaff, Backtones, Tramps, John Evans, tons of good stuff on it.

Make another movie soon!

Houston Junkie
Houston Junkie

This film kept me entertained from start to finish (cant say that about many films) loved all the great houston locations used. Impressed with the writing, or maybe it was just the way the characters pulled off the lines, either way it was great. Don't ruin it by making a sequel, but look forward to seeing other work you do.

Ouijagirl
Ouijagirl

I loved it. Definite cult favorite possibilities. There is so much quirkyness, and images so well put-together, that I think it will have appeal far beyond Houston. Hopefully this is just the beginning of the film art that they guys share with us. Bring it on!

Hankschyma
Hankschyma

Honky Tonk Blood depicted woman poorly. It also depicted men poorly... and aliens poorly... and flies and meal worms poorly too. But in my opinion, it portrayed Houston AWESOME!!!xoxox everyoneThank you for coming. I'll see what i can do to get those crosses wrangledHank

Formica
Formica

I guess I can understand those who disliked that the lead 3 were all male, but if you go there, you have to start saying, "And there weren't any black leads!" "Yeah, or any Latinos!" "Or gays!" "Or older actors!"

The fact is, this movie happened to be about three youngish, straight, white guys; two of them wrote it. They put their buddy in it. It was PERFECTLY cast.That's how it is. For them to have forced a female lead would have been tokenism, which does no one good.The guys tried valiantly to put ALL of their friends in it, and gave screamingly funny and cools roles to some. I'd guess half the overall cast were women (?). And the crew was FULL of women, who were thus given the chance to practice their skills and build their resumes. No sexism there.

The 3 male leads also reflected the music industry pretty accurately, in that - honestly - there aren't as many gals out there [doing their own music].

I didn't miss seeing women at all. It never even *occurred* to me.I just thought it was hilarious! And thoughtful - lots of quite interesting bits (that I won't divulge for those who haven't had the pleasure) that I've never heard anyone say on film before.Or in real life, actually.

Kyle, you might want to mention to your source that most of the male roles weren't exactly "nice guys" either.And some of them were treated in ways that when *women* get that in films, people yell that it's glorifying violence against women, etc.Sorry - you can't have it both ways.

As for being free of plot? I think your friend may have gone to the bar too many times. There was indeed a great little story, and unlike many movies, the bulk of the music scenes were part of the plot, rather than tacked in like a musical, or gratuitously included to show how pretty/sexy/hot the singer is.

These boys are all ugly as stumps, so *that* obviously wasn't the point. <jk>

Congrats, gentlemen!On to Cannes!! (or at least Beaumont)</jk>

Rich HB
Rich HB

Sunday nights at the old Blue Iguana (1993-97, the property is mentioned above as its later incarnation as the Proletariat) was Rock-a-billy night. The Flamin' Hellcats (Jamie), The Sundowners (Johnny Falstaff), and The Southern Backtones (Hank Schyma) were all featured regularly. Along with with Jesse Dayton's recent forays on stage and screen (Capt. Klegg and the up coming "Becoming Kinky") it appears that we were inadvertently fermenting a brew for budding thespians.

texhuf
texhuf

You folks need to settle down on the portrayal of women in this movie. It is a movie. It is essentially a dark comedy from a campy jaded point of view. I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent woman and fiercely independent. I had no issues with it. This is not a Meryl Streep picture. It is an exaggerated view of the music industry. But, let's be honest. It ain't too exaggerated. As a woman who will soon be marrying a musician, I have seen my fair share of ridiculous women. This was by no means a big stretch. Groupies are just that - groupies. And the insane things they do are not so different from what was on the big screen last night. The women were portrayed as such, because there is - most times - truth in art. There are definitely smart, interesting women in this world as well, but the characters in this film were drawn to the dark side - and that's where the crazy gals hang.

I truly enjoyed this movie. It was dark, humorous and intelligent. Kudos to all involved.

SK
SK

Whoever put up all the Honky Tonk Blood signs on the corners in Montrose should take them down. Don't trash the city.

CortneyM
CortneyM

Yay for use of "macabrely"! Excellent word.

Overall I enjoyed it. Loved seeing our city and some of our finest local talent on the big screen. Music was fantastic (of course) and I laughed a lot.

Unfortunately I don't think it will have the same appeal to people outside Houston or those unfamiliar with the places and musicians featured. I'll be interested to see how it's received elsewhere in Texas. I hope I'm wrong.

I commented on Twitter about the "sexist" tone of the movie. Maybe that's not the best word, but I just didn't care for the way all the women featured came off as dumb and/or slutty. Maybe I'm taking this more seriously than I should. Still, it's something that struck me after I left.

Kyle
Kyle

I almost went last night, but didn't. My sources tell me that it was cool to see Houston landmarks, but that the plot was terrible, that it was like 5 music videos strung together, and that it was incredibly sexist with no significant female characters and a pretty negative portrayal of the women that were depicted.

lovesick
lovesick

When I first saw the crosses I just thought some rock-a-billy died there,then I noticed more all over town....I like them :) makes me remember the fallen. I can't wait to see the movie :) Where is Hugh and Jeff's?

MommaT
MommaT

You didn't go to the movie, yet you felt compelled to critique it......interesting.

We went, we saw, we dug it. Looking forward to the next music based dark comedy/murder mystery movie. Great job guys!

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