2019 Psychotronic Scarecrow Challenge: Day 18: Outside Ozona (1998)

Day 18 Only on VHS: Watch something on the true psychotronic format

Quentin Tarantino goes off into the dusty, deserted Midwest in this sharply written, existential tale that questions how we deal with regret and loneliness, fate and death at the whims of respected Chicago psychiatrist Alan Defaux, aka The Skokie Ripper (David Paymer; 1981’s This House Possessed, Rob Reiner’s An American President, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell), a multistate serial killer who celebrates his exploits over the air of a “superstation” that covers five states surrounding Oklahoma: WKOK 98.7 FM, with DJ Dix Mayal who, in a beef with station manager Floyd Bibbs (Meatloaf; 1992’s Wayne’s World, 1999’s Fight Club), flips the station from country to rhythm and blues (an Oscar-caliber portrayal by American blues icon Taj Mahal; 1972’s Sounder, 1991’s Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey).

Writer and director J.D Cardone (Thunder Alley; a new review for the Scarecrow Challenge, see Day 16) brings us exquisite character development within a creepy-quirky, well-written dark comedy thriller threaded with multi-storylines. At its core Outside Ozona is a cop vs. criminal tale that reminds of Joel and Ethan Coen’s better-known Fargo (1996) — courtesy of the only “unknown” in the cast: Lucy Webb (1980’s Not Necessary the News sketch comedy show; wife of film co-star Kevin Pollack of Tom Cruise’s A Few Good Men). Webb shines just-as-bright as Frances McDormand’s put-upon law officer, Marge Gunderson, as the serial killing-tracking F.B.I agent Ellen Deene.

There’s not one bad performance in Outside Ozona, which also stars Robert Forester (another Oscar caliber performance; also of 1979’s The Black Hole, 1980’s Alligator, 1997’s Jackie Brown) as Odell Parks, a kind-hearted widowed trucker who’s admired afar by a truck stop waitress played by Swoosie Kurtz (U.S TV’s Mike and Molly), but adores a motor-stranded Native America woman taking her mother to the ocean off the Texas coast to die (and his rig plays a major part in the film’s climax that converges all of the storyline into a harrowing conclusion). Sherilyn Fenn (1986’s The Wraith, 1990’s Crime Zone, 2012’s Bigfoot) and her sister become Defaux’s victims (he bludgeons them with a toilet tank lid at a remote rest stop; he poses Fenn’s body, holding her heart); Kevin Pollack and Penelope Ann Miller (Al Pacino’s Carlito’s Way) are an unemployed circus clown and his exotic dancer-hooker girlfriend reduced to robbing a convenience store and giving lap dances in a dive bar to survive.

And all of their lives converge — outside of Ozona, Texas.

In the pungent backwash of “Tarantinoesque” films made in the wake of Pulp Fiction (B&S Movies wanted to, but never got around to, formulating a “Tarantino Copycat/Ripoff” list during our Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tribute week to his films, but Indie Wire and Uproxx beat us to it — and they go deep, but fail to mention J.S Cardone’s contribution to the Tarantino canons), Outside Ozona is the lone, sweet Texas-to-Oklahoma rose. Yeah, I know Oliver Stone brought us the western-noir that was U-Turn (1997) and Stone is god, but it pales in comparison (to my gray matter) to the film-noir leanings from the mind of J.S Cardone. So, if for only to see Taj Mahal in one of his rare acting roles (he dominates the screen as Dix), seek out Outside Ozona as a POV on Vudu and TraktTV. There’s no free VHS rips, sorry. And, while it has never been released on DVD, you can buy the cool road sign-skull poster.

Why Cardone never formulated a neo-noir buddy flick-sequel centered on Meat Loaf’s station manager and Taj’s DJ (their chemistry is magically electric) . . . what organ wouldn’t I sell to see that film?

Outside Ozona received extensive, foreign video and television distribution with the diverse titles of (most of them are great: but keep “Somewhere in America” and “Radio Station”): El crimen no conoce fronteras (Argentina; Crime Knows No Borders), Um Assassinato na Estrada (Brazil; A Murderer on the Road), Synora thanatou (Greek; Border of Death), Valahol Amerikában (Hungary; Somewhere in America), Radio Killer (Italy), Radiostacja (Poland; Radio Station), Смертельный попутчик (Russia; Death Companion), and Camino del infierno (Spain; Hell Road).

While we’re on the subject of Quentin Tarantino and have your attention: In case you missed our Tarantino week, here’s the list of all the remaining films we reviewed, so you can catch up:

Four Rooms (1995)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007)
Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)
My Best Friend’s Birthday (1988)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
True Romance (1993)

And these compilation lists:

Exploring The 8 Films of Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures
Exploring: Movies that influenced Quentin Tarantino
Exploring: 37 Movies that make up Kill Bill

About the Author:You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

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