Wednesday, August 3, 2011

That dog does not want to be anywhere near your crotch, sir. Stop it.

A few weeks ago, friend-to-all-video-stores Phil Blankenship tweeted about a movie called Things, and it sounded pretty awesome in a WTF sort-of-way. A cool-sounding company called Intervision Picture Corp. recently released a special edition DVD (and a limited run of VHS copies), but fortunately for me and unfortunately for them, I was able to put my money back into my awesome wallet when my buddy told me that he already owned the previous DVD release (from the filmmakers' website) and would lend it to me. Later, I took my money back out of my awesome wallet and used it to buy a gram of Skywalker OG which was ultimately some bullshit, so I guess both Intervision and I lost 20 bucks that day.

Things is one of those ultra-low-budget/shot-on-weekends flicks made by some Tim Hortons-eating motherfuckers back in 1989; they shot it on Super 8 film and the only "professional" actor in the entire movie is a porn star named Amber Lynn. She plays this woman who looks like she just came back from some corporate hotshot type's mega-yuppie house, doing blow with said hotshot and another girl, until some bald dude in glasses showed up with a gun and rudely ordered the two girls to vacate the premises.

Now she's standing in front of what looks like the fuckin' Federated Group, or the Home Entertainment section of Crazy Gideon's circa 2004 (which means the products on display are from the early 80's) and either she's pretending to be or actually is an anchorwoman for the local news, only she keeps looking over to her right while reading Tonight's Stories for some reason, like she can see the manager of Crazy Gideon's staring at her and who can blame him -- this chick looks like she'd be more than up for a little Disco Disco Good Good.

I don't know, man, I'm watching her read the cue cards and it's like it never occurred to the filmmakers that maybe those cards should've been placed a little closer to the camera, perhaps even in the same fuckin' room. She has a co-anchor who carries with him the air of Kirk Cameron if he was gay and in Less Than Zero, and it looks like he co-anchors his shit from the Furniture section of Crazy Gideon's, sitting on a couch chair but not the comfy kind, it's the kind you can't recline. These news reports are placed pell-mell throughout the film, and they mostly consist of Amber Lynn telling us about 2 guys who are currently on the run or missing or something, I don't fucking know, don't expect me to pay attention to the goddamn thing.

But the main story involves this dude with a sweet mustache and a sweet-ass John Stamos circa '89 mullet and he's dressed like Garbage Day from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, so to me, he's already Lieutenant Awesome in this bitch. He shows up at his brother's house in the woods, with Canadian Ricky Jay as his +1. Nobody's home, though -- or at least that's the impression the movie gives you until suddenly out pops the brother, talking that Hey Keep It Down bullshit, because his wife's in the next room; she's been fallen very ill, ever since she let some quack named Dr. Lucas perform some kind of experiment on her inner plumbing because Blondie here can't shit out a baby.

I'm not too sure it's the wife's fault, though; I mean, look at the fuckin' husband -- he looks like he'd be the kind of guy to shoot blanks, probably due to his balls getting irradiated as a result of too much fucking around old computer parts, because this guy looks like he loves him some fuckin' computers. In the pre-credits opening sequence, he's introduced trying to bang some naked chick with a mask over her face. Already in the first couple of minutes this movie is overwhelmingly Win; the badly dubbed actor sounds like one of Trey Parker's many anonymous side-character voices on South Park, the sad drugged-out porno music is a total beaut with its synthesized cheesiness, and at the end of the scene, you find out that this was all a dream -- meaning that even in this geek's fantasies, the best he can do is score with Butterfaces who need to mask themselves in order to entice the opposite sex.

Anyway, while the poor wife is suffering from intense pain in the bedroom, Perfect Husband, Sweet Mustache, and Canadian Ricky Jay are in the living room drinking beer and pranking each other with Cockroach Sandwiches because it's "Party party party!" according to one of them upon arrival. Look, I'm no fuckin' bon vivant who could put P. Diddy, Kanye West, or any other black music producer to shame when it comes to throwing nauseatingly excessive shindigs, but c'mon, 3 guys and a sick girl ain't a fuckin' party -- at best, it's a disturbing viral video.

And the shit's gonna get even more disturbing because it turns out that Dr. Lucas is one of those EEEEVIL doctors -- a mad doctor. Whenever he's not sticking his finger in some old guy's rectum or keeping up his shitty penmanship by writing referrals and prescriptions, he's busy torture-porning innocent people and it doesn't even seem to be a In The Name Of Science deal with him, I think he just likes to unwind by flaying the flesh off someone's hand or tearing a motherfucker's tongue out. He's the kind of madman who MWAHAHA's while his way-past-any-help victims beg for the sweet release of death.

What's even more freaky is that he does this with the help of a staff; how the fuck did he luck himself into finding like-minded people, did he post an ad on Craigslist? Or is the local job market so bad that these people are willing to ignore all the mutilations and scooped-out eyeballs as long as they're getting health insurance? The movie was shot in Canada but I think it takes place in the States, so I don't think this part of the film is supposed to be a Barbarian Invasions-style indictment on socialized medicine in the Great White North (I bet it won't stop Glenn Beck from using clips from this movie to stir the pot, though). Ah, doesn't matter now -- what matters is that unbeknownst to Sterile Husband and Barren Wife, the doc's created some kind of Thing or Things (kinda hazy on that one) that end up incubating inside the ol' ball & chain before finally pulling an Alien (causing the wife to pull a John Hurt) and now it's fuckin' on.

I take that back, it's not so much "on", as it's just merely "there". Perhaps it's just me, but these guys are reacting rather differently than expected upon discovering that there's a bunch of cat-sized carnivorous monsters prowling the house, having just eaten an innocent woman "to the skull" and looking for more of the same -- or maybe not, because these Things are as lackadaisical as our protagonists. They're not particularly fast or menacing, despite resembling junior Deadly Spawns crossed with a tarantula with a terrible case of Elephantiasis of the nuts -- it's pretty tasty -- but yeah, they walk like someone is holding them off-camera and doing that slightly-bouncy walk that kids would do with their toy soldiers and G.I. Joes when playing War or something. Mostly the Things just chill out and bum around the house; only occasionally, will they attack, and even then, they prefer to use the path of least resistance. These Things are fuckin' slackers, man.

For the most part, the Three Amigos in this flick don't seem too bent out of shape about what's going on, and the main emotional undercurrent between them seems to be one of either Frazzled Annoyance or Drunken Disbelief; the husband doesn't so much mourn the horrific death of his wife, as he just uses it as an excuse for him to start telling his buddies how this all reminds him of some horror novel he read. The plot of the movie seems to be an annoyance to the movie itself, which is far more content spending it's time with the characters acting like tipsy weirdos from the planet of Do The Complete Opposite Of What A Human Being Would Do and speaking in such a rambling, non-sequitur'd manner, that it makes one wonder if Coleman Francis (in Narrator Mode) did a dialogue polish (from beyond the grave) on the screenplay.

But that's cool with me because that's what really makes Things worth watching; you can eliminate the whole Killer Penile Tarantulas On The Loose plot and this movie would still be Top of the Pops for me. These guys, they're putting tape recorders and jackets in freezers and declaring out loud every fuckin' thing they do or see, whether or not there's another living person in the room with them. When they speak, they seem to be in a competition where the actor who can do the most stressing-of-the-wrong-syllable-in-a-word will win a prize -- shit, man, everything they do in general is just so fucking strange. Like, there's one part where Sweet Mustache takes a swig of beer and complains about the flavor, ("Must of came from a well in West Africa"), so he takes the bottle over to the sink and adds "pure American water" to it while humming to himself, then he puts his hand over the bottle and shakes it up before drinking it again.

They devote, like, an entire fuckin' minute of screen time to that kind of bullshit. They also devote long stretches of time to motherfuckers opening cabinets and looking inside for food, motherfuckers looking at artwork on the wall, motherfuckers playing with one of those drinking birds (the same kind from Darkman), leaving me to consider the possibility that the film's title might not be referring to the sharp-fanged monsters at all, but rather, it's serving as a description of the overall plot: just a random series of things happening.

I think a large part of this movie's weirdness stems from the filmmakers fancying themselves as Funny Motherfuckers. See, they're going for an Evil Dead vibe of mixing in the scary with the funny (they also make some of the clumsiest, awkward references to movies EVAAAR in this joint), and while they do succeed in making an overweight asshole crippled by back pain for being an overweight asshole laugh, it's because the humor is so astoundingly unfunny that I couldn't help but crack the fuck up -- it's like the cinematic equivalent to Darrell Bluett. I mean, c'mon -- I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to take it seriously when one character shoves his hand into some leftover blood & guts on a bed, then puts it up to his nose before declaring "Yeah, that's human blood, all right". Whatever, I'm not hating on the motherfuckers, and as long as people are laughing, who gives a shit as to WHY they're laughing. It's better than them booing, that's for fuckin' sure.

Yeah, you can't hate on the fuckin' movie in a Mean Asshole Blogger kind-of-way, at least I can't, even though it's absolutely fucking terrible. See, Things looks/feels like an unfortunate case of some guys who literally just started making movies, meaning we see all the classic fuck-ups one would normally make when one is 14 years old and fucking around with Daddy's Quasar VHS camcorder.

It reminds me of something Robert Rodriguez wrote in that book of his; when he was shooting student films, he noticed how polished his joints were compared to the rest of his class, and that was because most of them waited until they were in film school to pick up a camera. Rodriguez, on the other hand, had been practicing his craft for years with the family video camera & VCR, so by the time he upgraded from VHS to 16mm, homeboy already had a decent grasp on shit like Pacing and Shot Composition -- because nobody starts off making movies like a smooth motherfucker, you gotta fall on your face and eat shit many fuckin' times before you can get your shit together long enough to make an El Mariachi or an Evil Dead.

It's like they wanted to throw in everything but the kitchen sink, until they found out they could only afford a kitchen sink, because the house they were shooting in came with one. They didn't even get the sound right, so they re-recorded everything in post and the shit's in sync, like, half the time, and the sound design itself is very selective because sometimes I guess we in the audience don't need to always hear someone screaming, even though their mouth is open.

Maybe Francis Ford Coppola was in a wine & lithium stupor one night and caught this heartbreaking work of staggering unintentional genius (by way of incompetence), and he got the idea of the No-Screaming scream from them, then used that shit for the end of The Godfather Part III. There's also the music, which sometimes sounds warped, like it was being played on a faulty tape-player. Also, the movie sometimes leaves it up to you to figure out what the fuck a character is looking at/reacting to. And I swear, during one scene I caught a quick glimpse of the clapperboard in-between shots. These are a few of my favorite -- ahem -- things.

The best section of the movie is probably the last 20 minutes or so, because it really begins to ladle on the ridiculousness, particularly with the return of Dr. Lucas. The dubbing also goes completely off the fuckin' rails at this point, like maybe they realized how far gone the movie was and figured they could salvage it by having Super Wacky Fun Time and playing the whole thing off like it was a 70's Kung Fu flick. The actors then go into silent movie theatrics; any opportunity to wildly flail one's arms and make overly expressive faces is taken and ran with all the way to fuckin' Baja. Have you ever seen that short film Paul Thomas Anderson & Adam Sandler made for one of those charity shows where a bunch of celebrities with tax shelters and off-shore accounts show up and guilt trip you with how awesome and caring they are towards their fellow man, all while making you laugh (and think!)? Well, the acting in Things occasionally reminded me of that short.

My initial reaction following Things was similar to this guy's reaction, but after giving myself about a day to recover, I can conclude that yes, it's one of those post-Wood so-bad-they're-good joints, the kind of movie that I wouldn't be surprised to find out has already played at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theater to a room full of people hopped up on Pabst Blue Ribbon, giddiness and skinny jeans. This is pure uncut shit, though -- your casual viewer of The Room or Birdemic: Shock and Terror might not be able to handle it, they might come out of it like that kid in that Stephen King short story, The Jaunt.

But if you're the kind of person whose inner child has already been Day of the Locust'd, then you're probably the kind of person who would/should look for this sort of thing. You might enjoy watching it and mocking it/getting owned by it, forgetting for at least 80 minutes that your own cinematic endeavors aren't so far apart from this one. For those 80 minutes, man, you are Somewhere Else and you didn't even have to get high to get there, you're totally sober and yet it still feels like someone put something into your drink -- not for raping purposes, of course not, because who the fuck would want to sexually relate with YOU -- but just to see you make an ass of yourself as you try to make sense of the nonsensical and fail miserably at it. Because you don't so much watch Things as you just let Things happen to you.

In conclusion, I love that the credits were made with the same fonts one can find in your average editing software or public access character generator, but nobody ever uses on account of being some ugly, garish lame-ass shit. Helvetica forever, bitches.



THINGS Moments: Reaction In The Bathroom from Intervision Picture Corp. on Vimeo.