The latest skateboarding documentary to be released following the success of Lords of Dogtown, Dragonslayer possesses limited scope in displaying the life of John ‘Skeeter’ Sandoval over the period of a year. Not being able to skate myself (or excel in any sporting field whatsoever) I have found great solace in watching sporting videos. There’s something quite majestic about watching someone control and manipulate their environment to their advantage. For five minutes. Testing the boredom threshold immensely soon after, skating videos are the rare exception. There’s something fantastic about watching someone defy gravity in a concrete embankment shaped like a pool. Of course I learned this the hard way, having lived with three skaters for eighteen months in a house that possessed a self-made ramp in its backyard.
Dragonslayer presents the life of a skater that I became familiar with. Far from being just a bunch of lazy stoners – surely a popular viewpoint if the production of those skateboarding is not a crime t-shirt was warranted production – they’re incredibly hard working and very friendly. (I know that I am not willing to devote two hours to cleaning out an abandoned pool just for the purposes of skating.) And enjoy a bong hit every so often.
Supposedly about the skater sub-culture, the documentary gets lazy and instead focuses on Skeeter and his friend and his girlfriend. But instead of becoming a biographical piece on his life it instead resembles the mentality of the parties we’d host at that house once in a while – a jumble of drunken images compiled together for memory purposes.
Which is fine, really. The Pantera home videos the band released in the 90s had no focus whatsoever and were just 90 minutes of them puking and swearing and it became a hilarious, entertaining piece albeit mostly disjointed but no one cared. It didn’t take itself seriously and we had a better result for it. The problem with this doco is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be and we’re left with a film tied together with gaffer tape. We see the gnarly life that Skeeter leads and how much his fans love him, alongside footage of him camping in a friends backyard because he can’t afford accommodation.
That’s not to say it’s a total write-off. There’s plenty of fun moments and for a low budget hand-held camera, the picture is of surprisingly good quality. Skateboarders will lap it up no doubt and it is open enough for even the most ardent non-skater to enjoy a screening. The entire film is a crash course in DIY filmmaking and should be recognised as such. However the greatest success Dragonslayer achieves is presenting a wholly human aspect to a professional skater. Skeeter is still the kid that went to the skatepark to learn new tricks and impress girls while studying all the moves the older, more experienced skaters had. And that’s the kind of skaters I lived with. They’re out to have a good time; anything else is just a bonus.
If you know nothing about skaters then I couldn’t recommend this higher. But if you’re after any old skate doco, stick with Dogtown & Z-Boys. They showed us how it’s done. This has a lot of heart but doesn’t have the (funds?) to get a little heavier. But the soundtrack is flipping excellent. And it’ll inspire you to light up if you’re like me.
[rating=3] and a half.
Extras include two trailers (that’s it?).
Nicholas Brodie - follow Nick on Twitter here: @fodusempire
Directed by: Tristan Patterson
Starring: Josh 'Skreech' Sandoval
Dragonslayer is out now on DVD and VOD through Madman.
Nicholas Brodie is a writer with big hopes and tiny dreams. Possessing an MA in Film he is on hand to provide opinion pieces and reviews on what's new and, hopefully, still relevant.