Is it fair to judge on facepaint alone? Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez’s new documentary THE UNITED STATES OF INSANITY explores this and many other questions in examining the controversial American Hip-Hop group Insane Clown Posse. ICP to their fans, aka Juggalos, the group’s iconic black and white face paint has preceded violent lyrics, raucous concerts, and a reputation for lawlessness since their formation in 1989. This eventually led to the FBI classifying Juggalos as a gang threat and set the stage for a first amendment debate recalling the Satanic Panic that flourished in the 80’s.  While the doc earnestly tries to cover the myriad issues in ICP’s controversy, it also attempts to shine a light on the fans and goes into the history of leadmen Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J resulting in an informative, if not bloated documentary of a misunderstood band.

Putnam and Sanchez do well in starting the doc right off by introducing the artists, in their face paint no less, then dives into their history and formation. Coming from a poor home, the budding artists entertained themselves and formed bonds of familial friendship. We meet the duo’s family including the endlessly supportive Linda, Violent J’s Mom. Through old pics and stories of growing up, ICP is humanized, the rancid veneer peeled away, and we begin to see the insanity behind the insanity. The doc doesn’t attempt to paint its subject in an angelic light, but it does tend to veer away from their history of legal issues and altercations.

Shortly after covering their meager upbringing, their family, and ICP’s perception among their peers and the music industry, we are introduced to their fans. A varied clan of freaks, the Juggalos appear to come from varied backgrounds. Mostly white, mostly midwestern, their fan base connects with the miscreant message and no holds barred lyrical bombardments. This sets up the utter surprise when the FBI designates ICP’s Juggalo fans as gang members in 2011 and sets the stage for the film’s most fascinating explorations on freedom of expression and guilt by association. ICP’s lawyers repeatedly defend the group while even one fan, a caregiver, is fired for her participation in the documentary.

Through copious interviews with fans, family, and Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J a community is revealed that identifies with the struggles and rejection that ICP seems to have embraced after all. Freedom of speech, not judging on appearance, not judging on conduct (a dubious point, that), and the embrace of the underdog is their message it seems. While fascinating I will say that the film, clocking in at 1 hr. 39 minutes is a little indulgent. A few trims here and there, or perhaps a clearer depiction of the band’s run-ins with the law might have been helpful, but this is still a solid piece that ultimately gives insight on its subject in a way we have not seen along with plenty of 2-liter bottles of Faygo soda showering fans.

7 out of 10

 

The United States of Insanity
RATING: UR
Runtime: 1 Hr. 39 Mins
Directed By:
Tom Putnam, Brenna Sanchez
Written By:

 

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About the Author

Norm(an) Gidney is a nearly lifelong horror fan. Beginning his love for the scare at the age of 5 by watching John Carpenter's Halloween, he set out on a quest to share his passion for all things spooky with the rest of the world.
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