After sitting through the entirety of Michael Bilandic’s new film, Hellaware, there will likely only be one line running through your mind: “I’ll cut yo dick off.” A bizarre satire of the pretentious New York art scene, Hellaware is both a disturbing and comedic depiction of the life of a struggling photographer living in Brooklyn.
From the very beginning, the protagonist Nate is what can only be described as an asshole. He is rude, self-serving, and insensitive—too self-righteous to give in to gimmicks, but too desperate to maintain his integrity. He criticizes the artists around him not just because their work is absurd, but also because of their ability to succeed without artistic talent or substance. While searching for inspiration, Nate stumbles across a teenage horrorcore rap group from Delaware and their only song, I’ll Cut Yo Dick Off.
Entirely offensive and aesthetically unpleasant, the bizarrely catchy music video and song make up the majority of the soundtrack. The rap group itself, Young Torture Killaz, maintains an odd balance between innocence and corruption; the teens partake in whatever dangerous acts and substances they can, while maintaining an aura of youthful naïveté. The paroled leader of the group, Rusty, is nothing more than a directionless kid who, trusting in Nate, hopes to earn his band a break.
The scenes in which Nate is together with the teenagers are the most disturbing, but also the most visually striking. Emulating the effects of the drugs they have taken, the rooms spin and masked faces emerge from the dark, while a microphone is passed around and “I’ll Cut Yo Dick Off” blares through speakers. Throughout, Nate’s camera obtrusively flashes on images of debauchery and illicit substance-fueled destruction. These photos surface later in the sterile and pretentious setting of Manhattan art galleries, where there is just as much drug abuse but far less innocence.
Ultimately, Nate destroys relationships with his friends and The Young Torture Killaz in order to make a name for himself. Ignoring Rusty’s pleas not to display photos that violate his parole, Nate is practically asking for the retaliation. This culminates in the final scene at the art gallery—brief and violent—in which Rusty destroys Nate’s art as quickly as it was created. Ironically, and appropriately for the film, this destruction only increase the art’s market value and the photo which sells at the highest price is the one on which Rusty spray paints, “Nate iz a homo.”
Hellaware in simple terms is a condemnation of hypocrisy and exploitation. Bilandic highlights the double standards of a community that preaches individuality and substance, while promoting little more than over-inflated egos and high-priced parlor tricks. Although not perfect—at times too comedic to be profound—it is worth watching for anyone with a strong stomach and a dark sense of humor.