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Reviewed by Jim Washington
“et’s put cough drops in our butt holes and play viddy games.” – Granny
The above quote was originally going to be offered without context or comment, as a glimpse into the twisted world of “Squidbillies. Upon further reflection, perhaps just a bit of context might be called for, so here goes: Granny, matriarch of the Cuyler clan, says this line dressed as a little boy and clutching her walker, speaking to a pedophile during the filming of a “To Catch a Predator”-style TV show. Part of the genius of this utterance – dang, there’s some comment, too – is that it’s not clear if a) this is what Granny thinks kids actually do, b) it’s what she thinks the pedophile wants to hear, or c) most disturbingly and not at all out of the question, it’s just what Granny feels like doing.
The Cuylers are a family of cephalopods living in “the butt crack of Georgia,” apparently left there after flood waters receded millions of years ago. Their story is told in the strikingly original, shockingly violent, and dangerously hilarious Adult Swim animated show “Squidbillies,” the second volume of which has now found release on DVD. The show is written by “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” alums Dave Willis, also one of the originators of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” and Jim Fortier, who worked on “The Brak Show.” These guys have known each other since growing up in Georgia, and their offbeat Southern sensibility shines through their characters.
The head of the Cuyler family is Early, a short-tempered, ultra-patriotic and well-armed squid with a vast collection of opinions, addictions, and trucker hats with messages such as Laugh So I Can Watch ‘Em Bounce. His son, Rusty, born from a not-exactly-consensual union with a vastly fat human female, is a bit more compassionate and unsure of himself, with an affinity for heavy metal and “computing machines.” He doesn’t exactly approve of his father’s mindless violence, bigotry, or stalking habit, but he does hunger for paternal approval. Granny, the senile yet sexually driven great-grandmother of Early, keeps the family lore and helps out with home enterprises such as pine cone liquor making and the strangely popular “tanning booths” (basically a spit over a roaring fire).
Outside the family, the characters get weird. The Sheriff, who looks like he’s drawn left-handed by a right-handed artist, tries to impose some kind of order on the clan, but will listen to their explanations that aliens actually burned down their shack, which was filled with personal watercraft and the Hope Diamond as far as the insurance company knows, and has accepted an empty light beer can in lieu of ID and insurance information when pulling over Early and Rusty for drunk driving. Also, he’s apparently a clone. Dan Halen, a local business magnate who resembles a troll doll, lords over the family and the region at the helm of Dan Halen Industries, complete with a familiar winged logo. He thinks nothing of testing poisonous body spray on the populace, or experimenting on chickens to create a hybrid creature with dozens of wings which excretes ranch dressing (and causes hideous tumors in consumers). Also, he’s apparently evil incarnate and has been around since the dawn of recorded time.
The show is not for the faint of heart. Characters regularly have their faces shot off, hides skinned, get charred on roasting spits, eaten by bears or chopped, sliced, diced, stabbed or flattened by industrial equipment. Thankfully, they are quite resilient, showing up fine in the next episode or even the next frame. The genius of “Squidbillies” lies in the writers’ skewed views on everything from religion (I love the version of the “Footsteps in the Sand” poem sung by Satan) to sex (Rusty must pass a series of manhood tests in order to receive his first Tuscaloosa Dumpling, “a revolting yet arousing act of sexual perversion/rite of passage’’ that involves a mix of a Cherokee Chinstrap, topped off with Montgomery Monkey Tail and finished off with a Gravy Chaser) to rural life.
Southerners will appreciate the small details, from the use of phrases like “buddy-ro” to the foot-shaped gas pedal in Early’s broken-down truck to the Patrick Swayze poster on the wall in the family shack. Billy Joe Shaver’s surreal title songs are a treat, as well.
Some folks, of course, might take offense at all this. It would be advisable for them to stay far, far away from this show.
Special Features: Creators Willis and Fortier have some interesting round-table discussions (or rather, round-the-porch-drinking-beer discussions) on the DVD’s extras, which also include commentary on some episodes, previews, and a convention panel talk with cast members.