Nashville friends of actor Jim Varney, known for his “Hey, Vern” commercials and “Ernest” movies, have created a disaster called “Existo,” a “leftist musical” lampooning Christian conservatives. As a “Rocky Horror” knockoff, it fails brilliantly, and the songs don’t draw upon Nashville’s rich musical legacy. Poorly lit, shabbily written, simply unfunny pic will earn neither theatrical distribution nor future festival slots, but can perhaps be marketed as straight-to-video for fans of Varney, who has a supporting role as a “poet and art guerrilla.”
Story focuses on an America in which Christian fundamentalists have taken over and bohemian underground types become “art” revolutionaries. Co-writer Bruce Arnston plays title character, an underground artist whose enemies include a televangelist (Mike Montgomery) who broadcasts from what is apparently the country’s lone TV channel. At an underground nightclub — hosted, of course, by a fat drag queen — Existo sings silly songs about subsidizing art, flag burning and combo crayon-condom distribution. As a songwriter, Arnston is hardly a visionary slamming close-mindedness. Helmer-scripter Coke Sams and Arnston indulge in broad stereotypes and junior-high genital humor. Tech credits need work, particularly the lighting, which creates a frustratingly dark look.