I confess… I’m kind of obsessed with juggalo culture. Now, wait a second! I didn’t say I was a juggalo myself! I just will stop whatever I’m doing and watch anything remotely revealing about America’s favorite ninjas. If you are unfamiliar with the bunch, juggalos are fans of Insane Clown Posse, a clown-rap (?) group that is often richly soaked with family values and profanity laden death threats. Their followers, the juggalos (or if you’re a lady, juggalette), are a perfect mixture of naive logic, white trash sensibility, intense kinship, and remarkable consistency to make poor life choices. I enjoy observing juggalos almost as nature footage, because their basis of humanity is so starkly different from mine that they almost seem like a different species.
One of the only podcast I listen to, the Filmdrunk Frotcast, earned enough Kickstarter funds to hire a camera crew to document their voyage to the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, in my proud home state of Illinois. The guys rented an RV and just dove right into the festival. It took only a matter of seconds of entering the grounds before a threatening fellow told the cameraman to “Turn that f***ing camera off.” I’d probably be sweating off my temporary hatchetman tattoo at that point.
But, not that surprisingly (to me), most of the people there were actually nice folk. Misguided, for sure, but mostly nice. In fact the whole thing looked a lot like any other music festival you would go to. Everyone dresses the same, likes similar music, and are either drunk or high. But unlike Lollapalooza, The Gathering features a beautiful glimpse at a class of Americana you likely will never encounter in your day-to-day life.
Whoop Dreams is not without its flaws, though. Most apparent is the length. It’s only 40 minutes long! The other three people I watched the film with all said, “Awww, that should have been way longer.” So I guess that’s kind of a compliment and a criticism, it was so entertaining to me that I was upset that it wasn’t twice as long.
Secondly, the Frotcast guys aren’t really given much personality, which is sad because I listen to their podcast and know they have great personalities. An overarching lack of focus contributed to this, I imagine. They just sort of go to the Gathering, film random stuff, and leave. I was kind of hoping for a Heart of Darkness type voyage through Cave-in-Rock, IL, where the “normal” guys are driven delirious from exposure to the culture. Or maybe just learn a lesson about something? Or just have a voice about anything? I don’t know. As it stands now, it’s really just a lot of (beautifully shot) fly on the wall imagery and a nice handful of hilarious interviews. But the Frotcast guys are almost completely background players. I would have enjoyed seeing a doc about a group of outsiders entering this weird situation (which is how it started), but it ends up getting abandoned for an unfocused collection of weird behavior. By the time we get to the finale of the documentary, the Frotcast guys are hugging their pillows, happy to be going home, and it doesn’t feel earned based on the 40 minutes we just watched.
In fact, the supplemental materials are probably better than the film itself. The commentary tracks and Vince Mancini’s tour diaries offer a staggeringly more detailed and hilarious account of their trip. If they were somehow able to capture the magic of the tour diaries, it would have quite possibly been one of my favorite documentaries. But it didn’t. And I’m not sure where they went wrong in the production. Maybe this was just destined to be a journalistic voyage as opposed to a cinematic one?
So, my high(ish) score here isn’t necessarily reflective on the doc being entirely successful, but more so on the fact that it was super cheap and gave me a really good bang for the buck. At $3 (or $5 if you get the Deluxe Ninja Package), I’d say I got a good amount of laughs in the 40 minutes provided. Whoop whoop.
7.5 out of 10