(Welcome to Videodrome. A recurring column plumbing the depths of vintage and contemporary cinema – from cult, exploitation, trash and grindhouse to sci-fi, horror, noir, documentary and beyond.)
Four years before Harmony Korine’s seminal hilljack masterpiece Gummo would shock audiences across the world and rewrite the rules of independent cinema forever, an amateur auteur by the name of Craig Smith was exploring a very similar corner of the zeitgeist with his thirty-minute short film Psychedelic Glue Sniffin’ Hillbillies.
True to its title, Hillbillies is a plot-less, Appalachian exploitation fever dream featuring wall-to-wall music by George Thorogood, Charles Manson, Wendell Austin, Helios Creed and a slew of un-Shazamable sludge metal. Tailored to the ceaseless soundtrack is a barrage of Brakhage-esque visuals and vérité docu-nuggets of drunk, Gorilla glue-addled bumpkins (sometimes masked, often shirtless) playing it up for the camera and engaging in all sorts of strange and occultist behavior.
In a world now awake to matters of privilege, systemic inequality and addiction, Hillbilles is problematic with a capital P. I’m not sure if Smith was from the community he profiles in his film or an interloper, but his depiction of future MAGA country is not for the faint of heart. Watching it is like freebasing powdered bleach.
Though it was never widely seen or distributed, Smith sold Hillbillies on VHS and DVD through his website from the nineties through the early-2000’s. I discovered it via a bootleg clip on YouTube in 2010 and ordered a DVD on the now defunct gluesniff.com. In 2018, however, Craig finally uploaded the entire film uncut to Vimeo, where it has so far amassed a mere eight hundred views. Hopefully, this article helps change those numbers for the better and assists in canonizing a piece of independent American cinema all budding filmmakers and outsider art lovers should know and celebrate. | e o’keefe