All posts by Eric Gabbard

First and foremost, I love film...especially weird ones! That is why you are finding me here. My favorites are to numerous to list but many come from the 60's and 70's when films and directors really began to push the envelope. My taste in music is just as weird, with some of my favorites being Tom Waits, Ween, Can, The Residents and Radiohead. I wish I had more time to read, but two of my favorite books to recommend are Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Larry McMurtry's All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers. I also try to do some painting when possible. I love my wife and my 2 kids. I live in Erie, PA and the city is really out of touch with culture unfortunately. I also find naps refreshing, but honestly I'd rather just watch another movie.

94. PINK FLOYD THE WALL (1982)

“It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before—a weird fusion of live action, story-telling and of the surreal.”–Pink Floyd the Wall Director Alan Parker on the movie’s Cannes premiere

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Alan Parker

FEATURING: Bob Geldof, Kevin McKeon, Jenny Wright,

PLOT: The movie begins with a man sitting motionless in a chair in a hotel room.  A series of scrambled flashbacks, fantasies and impressions tell the story of Pink, who grew up fatherless but became a successful, if unhappy, rock star prone to tantrums and bouts of severe depression.  Eventually, Pink’s manager and a crowd of roadies and doctors break down the hotel room door and give him a shot which revives him; his body rots, he peels it away to reveal himself as a fascist dictator who goes onstage to perform.
Still from Pink Floyd: the Wall

BACKGROUND:

  • “The Wall” began life as a 1979 concept album by Pink Floyd.  The double LP and the single “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” both reached #1 on Billboard’s U.S. charts.  “The Wall” remains one of the 50 top selling albums of all time to this day.
  • Most of the incidents in The Wall stem from Roger Waters’ personal history; a few, however, are taken from the life of former Pink Floyd lead singer Syd Barrett, a psychedelic drug abuser whose erratic behavior caused him to be kicked out of the band and to eventually become a recluse.
  • Almost all of the songs from the original album appear in the movie, sometimes in slightly altered forms.
  • With Alan Parker as producer, The Wall movie was originally intended to be a concert film with animated sequences and a few specially shot live action scenes.  When the concert footage was found to be unusable, the project was reimagined as a (semi-) narrative film with Parker as director.
  • Pink Floyd singer/bassist and Wall librettist Roger Waters originally wanted to play the lead, but after a poor screen test fellow musician Bob Geldof was cast instead.  Ironically, Geldof, lead singer for the Irish punk band The Boomtown Rats, was reportedly not a Floyd fan.
  • Parker and Waters clashed on the set, with the director almost quitting several times.
  • Designer/animator Gerald Scarfe was a caricaturist and political cartoonist before he began collaborating with Pink Floyd.
  • The cheering extras at the fascist concert were actual white supremacists.
  • Director Parker called The Wall “the most expensive student film ever made.”

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  Picking a single image to represent The Wall is a tough assignment.  Among the live-action sequences, the vision of British schoolchildren in faceless blob masks marching into a meat-grinder is fairly unforgettable.  It would be criminal, though, to elevate any mere photograph over Gerald Scarfe’s animations; even picking among them is a tough call.  Though short, these bizarre and horrific images blaze across the screen in such a haunting way that their impact makes up for the brevity. We’re going to select the scene of the goosestepping fascist hammers as the most unforgettable (partly because the hammer imagery that recurs throughout the movie reaches a startling peak with this scene, and partly because Sacrfe’s crossed hammer symbol proved so iconic that it was adopted by actual fascist groups).  If you chose the genitalia-shaped flowers who entwine, mate, and then grow teeth and viciously rip into each other before the female swallows the male whole, however, we couldn’t argue against it.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRDPink Floyd: the Wall is a collaboration between three separate


Original trailer for Pink Floyd The Wall

creative talents.  In 1979 Roger Waters performed a public self-psychoanalysis by writing a bombastic, self-indulgent rock opera, full of catchy melodies and sardonic lyrics.  When it came time to adapt the album into a movie, he enlisted political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe to provide animated segments, which ultimately included a surrealistic version of the bombing of London during World War II, a judge who is literally an ass, and some of the scariest cartoon vaginas ever drawn.  Bringing it all together was director Alan Parker (Midnight Express), who devised fantastic over-the-top live action visuals to complement the music and found a way to weave the competing thematic strands (autobiography, social commentary, and spur-of-the-moment surrealistic flights of fancy) into something comprehensible, while nonetheless keeping it defiantly weird.  Trying to meld these three separate creative egos on a project whose source material was already grandiose and scattershot could easily have produced an incoherent, pretentious mess.  Remarkably, the result instead is a semi-coherent, pretentious near-masterpiece.

COMMENTS: Watching, or listening, to Pink Floyd: The Wall is one miserable experience. All Continue reading 94. PINK FLOYD THE WALL (1982)

LIST CANDIDATE: PINK FLOYD:THE WALL (1982)

Pink Floyd the Wall has been promoted to “Certified Weird” status.  Comments have been closed; please post all new comments on the official entry.

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Alan Parker

FEATURING: Bob Geldof, Bob Hoskins, Jenny Wright

PLOT: A rock singer, “Pink,” isolates himself in a hotel room and reflects upon his life while

Still from Pink Floyd: the Wall

slipping further into drug addiction and madness. The film has little in the way of dialogue and is heavy on visual interpretations of Roger Waters lyrics for the 1979 double album of the same name.  The metaphorical “wall” is constructed around the rock singer’s life separating him from the outside world and alone with his tortured thoughts and memories.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Possibly for one reason only: the fantastic and bizarre animation sequences rendered by British political caricaturist Gerald Scarfe.  Although the sequences are relatively short, the horrific images blaze across the screen in such a haunting way that the impact makes up for the brevity.

COMMENTS: Watching, or listening, to Pink Floyd: The Wall is one miserable experience. All the key elements of a depressing film are on display: madness, alienation, the atrocities of war, mind-numbing drug addiction, infidelity, fascism…well, you get my drift.  This is not an upbeat or fun movie by any stretch of the imagination.  Yet, the film is constructed in such a skillful manner by director Alan Parker that it is hard not to justify its reputation as a work of art.

Upon the opening scene we see the protagonist rock star “Pink” (Bob Geldof) in his hotel room staring blankly at the television screen with a long burned out cigarette perched between his fingers.  Pink is in this position and state of mind for many of his scenes.  It is open to interpretation, but perhaps all of the scenes of the film are what is playing out in his unraveling mind.  The images correlate to the lyrics of each song, and we start off things by learning of Pink’s father’s death in World War II.  His bunker was blown to bits by an air raid bombardment.  Pink never knew his father and it is clear that this had a major impact in his childhood, as evidenced by a scene where he is playing in a park as a young child and desperately tries clinging on to a hand of an unsuspecting and unwilling male father figure.  As Pink grows up and goes to school he’s subjected to the harsh British educational Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: PINK FLOYD:THE WALL (1982)

CAPSULE: ALL MY FRIENDS ARE FUNERAL SINGERS (2010)

DIRECTED BY: Tim Rutili

FEATURING: Angela Bettis, members of the indie-rock band Califone

PLOT: A fortune teller carries out her psychic reading business in a country house inhabited

Still from All My Friends Are Funeral Singers

by a slew of ghosts.  The spirits do not haunt her, but keep her company; they’re one big family.  When the ghosts see a mysterious light outside, they feel they are being beckoned and rebel against the fortune teller, thinking she has trapped them against their will.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Although it is a bit quirky and takes a unique spin on the age-old haunted house tales, it is simply not that weird.  It is an unlikely little gem that unfortunately few will probably see.

COMMENTSAll My Friends Are Funeral Singers (great title, by the way) is the directorial debut by Tim Rutili, the front-man for the underrated indie-rock outfit Califone.  Being familiar with the band and a fan of their music, this movie sparked my interest.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a good film with an actual story and good acting, not just an extended music video piece displaying the band’s musical talents.  Viewers who are unacquainted by the music of Califone should appreciate this film for what it is…  a decidedly different independent movie with a supernatural approach. This is certainly not your typical horror film.  If anything, it is a hodgepodge of drama, comedy, and a pinch of suspense, all intermingled with the worldly twang of Califone’s score.

The character Zel is nicely played by Angela Bettis, whom some may recognize from another independent horror film: May.  Zel lives in an old isolated country house and makes her living providing fortunes and psychic readings.  What her customers are unaware of is that she is assisted by the actual spirits that live in the house with her.  The ghosts are not frightening or menacing, just regular looking people all wearing pristine white suits or dresses and having normal conversations.  They sit around playing Trivial Pursuit, theorize about the connections between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations, talk about sex, or play music (sometimes too loudly for Zel’s liking).  Most fascinating are the snippets of documentary-style interviews with many of the ghosts discussing how they bit the dust.  A ghostly bride exclaims “I hung myself with my ‘something blue.'”  Another prominent spiritual entity is a young mute girl who Continue reading CAPSULE: ALL MY FRIENDS ARE FUNERAL SINGERS (2010)

CAPSULE: NECROMENTIA (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Pearry Reginald Teo

FEATURING: Layton Matthews, Chad Grimes, Santiago Craig

PLOT:Various characters lives entangle when the gateways to Hell open.  They seek lost loved ones or retribution, which can be granted by learning the mysteries of a Ouija board… carved into human flesh.  Of course there is a price to pay, and it isn’t pretty.

Still from Necromentia (2009)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It is an unoriginal and ho-hum horror movie. Once you get past the human Ouija board, all you are left with are uninteresting characters and standard “torture porn” clichés. Almost nothing is overtly weird, and nothing is exactly new either.

COMMENTS:  I keep waiting for a new horror movie that is going to knock me for a loop. “Torture porn” and the recent resurgence of vampire lore has overstayed its welcome.   For a genre that seemingly has unlimited weirdness potential, horror usually churns out the same old recycled thing.  I caught the trailers for Necromentia a year ago and it looked dark, exciting and new.  It should come as no surprise, but in fact, it was a huge let down.

The box cover declares this movie to be a cross between Saw and Hellraiser, but “better than both.”  Um, no.  During my younger years, I ate up Clive Barker’s twisted visions.  Barker was the more dangerous Stephen King, focusing on horrors of the flesh and demons straight from Hell.  Necromentia borrows heavily from Barker’s “Hellbound Heart” which eventually was adapted into Hellraiser (instead of using a puzzle box, the filmmakers decide to open up Hell by carving a Ouija board onto someone’s back).  The iconic villain Pinhead is poorly replaced by a dude wearing a gas mask and cranial-halo headgear screwed into place. Even a summoned demon is an updated Hellraiser Cenobite… it’s the Chatterer, on steroids!  Necromentia is a blatant rip-off in many regards.

We have four central characters: Hagen, who longs to bring his lover back from the dead; Travis, who wants to join his handicapped brother in the afterlife; Morbius, who is bent on revenge against those who have betrayed him; and Mr. Skinny, the mysterious figure who holds the secrets to the Ouija board.  Their stories come together by the end, but by that time I couldn’t have cared less about any of them.

There were obvious budgetary limitations.  The gateway to Hell is seen as a long corridor that could be any old building’s underground tunnel leading to the boiler room.  The props for torture are the usual mutilation tools:  hooks, chains, and primitive (but admittedly cool-looking) multi-bladed medical equipment.  It gets gory for sure.  Precise cuts penetrate skin.  There’s a realistic severed pinky.  At one point, we are supposed to be shocked that a female character is not being tortured against her will, but is actually paying for this pain.  Those crazy sadomasochists!  One character, who tortures while striking Christ-like poses, is trying to kick heroin (because that’s obviously worse than torturing people).  And you have scenes of disemboweling and intestines being paraded around.  Are you starting to get the idea?

If this movie has anything that remotely flirts with weirdness, it comes in the form of a character wearing a pig mask manically playing a piano while reciting a song to entice a handicapped boy to commit suicide.  It’s a weird little scene thrown in the mix with a hallucinatory atmosphere captured by warped camerawork.  But as far as suicide ditties go, it doesn’t hold a candle to the catchiness of Big Fun’s “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It)” in Heathers.

As much as I kind of liked this scene, I couldn’t help thinking how cool it would be if Pinhead came into the picture and began tearing this pigman apart, or maybe just dismembered the generic gas mask man.  I quote from Hellraiser: “The suffering…the sweet suffering.”  I suffered watching Necromentia, but it sure as hell wasn’t sweet.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…wastes no time in becoming very weird… Teo’s latest dark and twisted foray into the mad and macabre is a competent thinking man’s horror.”–Lee Griffiths, Total Sci-Fi Online (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by reader “dclxvi” [we’re pretty sure, although he called it “Necromania“]. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: HOUR OF THE WOLF [VARGTIMMEN] (1968)

DIRECTED BY: Ingmar Bergman

FEATURING: Max von Sydow,

PLOT: An artist is haunted by memories of his past. While isolated on an island with his pregnant wife, his demons catch up to him. Madness and delusion creep deeper into his mind as a gang of mysterious island dwellers intervene in the couple’s life. A secret, scandalous affair surfaces, and when supernatural forces intervene, the couple’s relationship and sanity is strained.

Still from Hour of the Wolf [Vargtimmen] (1968)
WHY IT SHOULD’T MAKE THE LIST: This is a tough film to decipher. The ending is certainly weird, but the lead-up to that point is too ponderous and ambiguous. Bergman is a master and his lone foray into the horror genre is an excellent piece of film-making; his artistry in delving into the lower depths of the human psyche is better established in his other well-known masterpieces, however.

COMMENTS: The older I get, the more I appreciate Ingmar Bergman films. There is something about Swedish movies that encapsulates human existence like no other country. Scenes are left dangling on a thread waiting to snap. The slow, or still, images can verge on monotony, but are usually necessary to convey the pathos of the souls here. Sometimes watching scenes slowly transpire is the best way to fully grasp how life can unravel around us. A scene in this film actually plays out for an entire minute with the main character staring at his watch to express how even sixty seconds can feel like an eternity. Time can sometimes lay heavy on a burdened mind. What I’m trying to suggest here is that Bergman is amazing at capturing exactly what it means to be human. We sin and regret, yet we still long for penance and understanding. Even when our existence feels loathsome, it sure is nice to have someone else around to share in our misery. Modern Swedish director Roy Andersson (You, The Living) knows this as well and, like Bergman, his films are wrought with longing stares of sadness.  Both Swedes capture these depressing moments and bring them alive with precise balance and well thought out execution.  Even dialogue is matter-of-fact.  Nothing said in their films seems to be unimportant or drivel; it’s Continue reading CAPSULE: HOUR OF THE WOLF [VARGTIMMEN] (1968)

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: SINGAPORE SLING [Singapore sling: O anthropos pou agapise ena ptoma] (1990)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Nikos Nikolaidis

FEATURING: Meredyth Herold, Michele Valley, Panos Thanassoulis

PLOT: An alcoholic detective searches for a lost love, presumably dead, and ends up a

Still from Singapore Sling (1990)

captive of two psychotic women. The women (a mother and daughter) ceaselessly torture the helpless and incapacitated victim. He remains mute as they participate in bizarre sexual practices and flaunt their derangement, sometimes literally in his face.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Singapore Sling is one of the rare films where practically every frame is teeming with weirdness.  The imagery, behavior, and even the strange nuances in the women’s dialogue are often over-the-top and perverse, yet even while the viewer is made to feel uncomfortable, there is an overwhelming desire to see what comes next.   Just when you think it couldn’t possibly get any weirder it somehow manages to top itself.

COMMENTSSingapore Sling is one messed up film.  It is a twisted take on the film noirs that filled cinemas in the early part of the 20th century.  Specifically, it pays homage to Otto Preminger’s stylish classic Laura (1944).  I use the word homage very loosely here, however.  The original film’s music theme is used sporadically throughout, the detective’s lost lover is named Laura, and the nutcase daughter has a painted portrait of herself like Gene Tierney’s Laura character.  The similarities pretty much end there.  Deviance always played a central part in noirs, but not anywhere close to the degree that is on display here.  I have to smile thinking about a dolled up 1940’s socialite having a night out at the theater, dressed to the nines in her pearl necklace and pillbox hat, witnessing this vulgarity.  “What is she going to do with that kiwi fruit”?  Gasp!

Film noir translates to “black film” and Singapore Sling is the purest black possible.  Actually, the black and white cinematography is surprisingly lush and almost seems too perfect for a film with this subject matter.  The beautiful crispness works to its advantage and the film would not have the same impact if shot in color.  The contrast of the blacks and whites are stark and sets the mood perfectly.  If I have any quarrel with the movie it is with the decision to Continue reading RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: SINGAPORE SLING [Singapore sling: O anthropos pou agapise ena ptoma] (1990)

CAPSULE: GETTING ANY? [MINNA YATTERUKA!] (1994)

DIRECTED BY: Takeshi Kitano

FEATURING: Dankan, Takeshi “Beat” Kitano

PLOT: A horny loser tries his best to get laid. He decides his main goal is to have sex in a car

Still from Getting Any? (1994)

and when that doesn’t work, he embarks on various escapades to gain money or notoriety; he even goes as far as becoming invisible to get some action.   Absurd situations and mistaken identities lead to one disaster after another.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It is slapstick comedy Japanese-style. While much Japanese humor leans toward absurdity, this film misses the mark completely. The ending comes off as slightly weird, yet the pointless and unfunny comedy bits which lead up to the finale make the ending just another misguided joke that falls flat (or in this case, splat).

COMMENTS: For as many movies I have seen in my life, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never seen the classic films by acclaimed director Takeshi “Beat” Kitano.  Films such as Hana-Bi, Sonatine and Violent Cop are all considered masterpieces in the yakuza films genre. Getting Any? is a straight-up slapstick comedy farce and is probably not the best place to start in exploring Kitano’s works.  His yakuza films are noted for their subtle use of deadpan acting and humor nestled snugly within the violent action.  If that is the case, Getting Any? acts as the polar opposite.  The humor is in your face with infinite gags and subtlety is thrown out the window with some goofy sound effect.  It is nonsensical, amateurish, juvenile and above all else… not funny.  The film satirizes iconic Japanese pop culture such as the Zatoichi films, Lone Wolf and Cub and even Godzilla pictures.  It also takes a stab at Western pop culture, although the references (Michael Jackson and Ghostbusters) were relevant 10 years prior to the release of this film.

The lead character Asao (Dankan) is a middle-aged man desperate to find just one woman to have sex with him.  He is a perpetual daydreamer who constantly fantasizes about an alter-ego who is always lucky in this department. In Asao’s mind, there must be a surefire way to get women to easily bare their breasts and succumb to his sexual advances.  His first inclination is to get a car because that seems like the most opportune place to do the deed. Continue reading CAPSULE: GETTING ANY? [MINNA YATTERUKA!] (1994)