THE DUKE WATCHES
THE BACKYARD
A couple years ago or so, a flick was released that I ain’t
gonna name on account of some folks might take this anecdote to
be proof that the media is the reason I’m so fat and kids are
psychopaths and also society in general is not to my liking. A
couple friends of mine saw this flick, and decided that the
thing to do would be to set up a boxing ring of sorts in the
front garden, wherein they would beat each other shitless for an
hour or two.

It got them out the house, at least.

It is with soul-crushing regret that I note the following; I
never witnessed any of these bloodthirsty bouts, on account of
The Duke was too often in the pub, getting so drunk that other
folks would be puking my barf, and therefore in no mindset for
to observe this barbarism, barbarism which ensued with nary a
drink being served.

Now that sobriety and such settles soundly around my form like
some rose-scented duvet of some kind, it is with great
enthusiasm that I sat down for to watch a flick by the name of
The Backyard, all about teenagers who like nothing more of a
Saturday afternoon than to smash glass on each others heads,
tear barbed wire across each others flesh, throw each other
through boards of wood covered in broken glass and set on fire,
and all in the name of the wrestling.

Seeing
The Backyard allows The Duke to imagine what those front-
lawn fisticuffs might have been like, except, to their eternal
discredit, my friends didn’t use fire and glass, and didn’t even
bother to staple things to each others heads.

The director of this documentary, Paul Hough, (Son of John
Hough, the man responsible for
Legend Of Hell House and Howling
IV
, amongst others) doesn’t want you to think that he might be
the kinda fella who would cheer on as folks get flung left and
right through tables and ladders. For sure, his camera lingers
on every spit-up concoction of blood and teeth, and he makes
sure to capture every second of barbed-wire carnage, but he’s a
much better class of spectator. For shame, he says, as youths
cheer on the bodily destruction of their peers. For shame, but
hey, lets get closer, lets see if that 12 year-old is gonna barf
or some shit.

Some of this shit though, it doesn’t seem like the coolest thing
I ever did encounter. There’s something disquieting about seeing
a young fella in England, no more than thirteen, if even that,
sliding a razor blade across his head so as the blood looks
better for the “audience”, i.e., a few goons cheering from
behind a fence, most of whom join in, anyhow. He cuts too deep,
and the blood pours all over him, whilst he ignores yacking
about “Wash your face!”

In fact, there’s lots of things in
The Backyard that trouble a
fella’s comfort glands. I don’t know what’s more unpleasant; the
fact that not only parents, but entire school districts support
this kinda madness - coming along to cheer as their youngsters
get thumb-tacks stuck into their arms, or even to participate as
in the case of the two brothers we meet early on, whose mother
not only helps build the torture contraptions, but also joins in
at the end - or the scenes were one fella’s mother stands at the
sidelines, coughing up uncomprehending tears as her youngster,
The Retarded Butcher, flings a fella through a table. She stands
there, scolding and such, “This is it! No more wrestling for
you!”, whilst the two fellas throw themselves through wood and
glass, oblivious.

Some of these youngsters are mean motherfuckers, too. There are
some real characters, folks that add a pathos to it all, like
The Lizard, probably the oldest, a 26 year-old who wants nothing
more in this life than to break into professional wrestling, but
on the other hand, there’s a nasty little shit by the name of
Chaos, who likens the rush and so on to “Going downtown and
doin’ some gay-bashin’.”

Hough doesn’t have much of anything to say about it all,
preferring to let us witness these fucked-up shenanigans and
meet a few of the participants, and then maybe get our own sense
of where it fits into the decline-of-society-o-meter. Perhaps
most surprising is how sensible some of the pro-backyard
wrestling arguments seem. The parents of one fella, Scar, talk
about how proud they are, since the kid was almost dead as a
toddler, living most of his young life in hospital wards, and
yet here he is, fitting in with people, full of confidence, and
even displaying a fine business sense, organising all sorts of
“events”.

What
The Backyard doesn’t have time for, is the kind of crass
exploitation that you can find in any number of
Backyard
Wrestling Onslaught
type videos. For sure, the fight sequences
are pretty compelling, but the stuff you remember afterwards is
the shit in-between all the bloodletting and getting set on
fire. Some of this shit is heartbreaking, some of it is
hilarious. Sometimes both at once, like when two tiny six-year-
olds fling each other about the place to the cheers of the
onlookers. Then there’s the occasion when a skinhead fella
enquires as to the intelligence levels of a wrestler who’s just
been flung onto a flaming piece of wood. “What would you do if
you caught fire?”, he asks, disgusted. “I’d get burned”, is the
philosophical response.

Hough’s film has a distinct lack of technical razzle-dazzle, but
the curiosity of his camera is compelling. He’s not afraid of
travelling around a bit, either, bounding from Nevada to Las
Vegas to rural England with nary a thought of the cost.

He falters at times, though. At the very end, he tries to fling
in some conclusion of some kind about how it all relates to
parental abuse, but only one fella says anything of this nature,
and whilst it’s a heartbreaking moment (the fella talks about
how he doesn’t equate pain with anything negative, but with
love, since that’s how his father loved him), he can’t hope to
sell the idea that this is obviously the reason why thousands of
well-adjusted kids from happy, supportive homes are busy tearing
each other jaw-less.

In fact, if
The Backyard has any anything to say at all, it’s
that our misconceptions need to be addressed right the fuck now.
These aren’t teen delinquents with one hand on a crack-pipe and
the other on a lead pipe, these are young fellas who intend to
go to college, or become police officers, not snarling
reprobates who just wanna stomp on folks guts all the live-long
day.

It’s pretty harsh shit to be taking up as a hobby, though. What
the fuck’s wrong with
Pokemon all of a damn sudden?

There are moments here when you’re convinced somebody’s about to
die, like when one lad has his head stuck between the rungs of a
ladder and then somebody jumps on the damn thing. How his neck
wasn’t snapped in three is a marvel in itself. That he gets up
afterwards and swings around some old road-signs is a
motherfucking miracle.

These youngsters are hella disciplined, they know exactly what
to do, know how to “take a move”, which I initially thought
meant you don’t cry like a big sissy-pants, but turns out to
have something to do with positioning the body and so on.

What it all boils down to, is that this is some thought-
provoking material. It’s a film about people who are at once
incredibly intelligent and incredibly fucking stupid. Folks who
cry as they watch their boyfriends get their backs ruptured, and
then hug and say about how fucking great you were, baby.

It’s a flick worth seeing, is what The Duke would suggest.

Thanks folks.

Drop The Duke A Line
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