CAPSULE: @SUICIDEROOM (2011)

Sala Samobójców, AKA Suicide Room

DIRECTED BY: Jan Komasa

FEATURING: Jakub Gierszal, Agata Kulesza, Krzysztof Pieczynski, Roma Gasiorowska-Zurawska

PLOT: When a spoiled rich boy is mocked after an embarrassing high school incident publicly

Still from @suicide room (2011)

reveals his homosexual desires, he retreats into a virtual world, a community called “suicide room” full of teens trying to work up the courage to kill themselves.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The hallucinatory virtual reality episodes that look like video captures from “Sims 3: Depressed Emo Kid Expansion Pack” add a novelty and curiosity factor, but @suicideroom isn’t weird at its core: it’s an earnest look at teen depression and suicide.

COMMENTS: Call it a gimmick if you must, but @suicideroom‘s animated sequences are the drawing card rather than a distraction in this teen depression drama. Without the virtual reality wrinkle, this Polish import would play a bit like a suicide-prevention after-school special with a budget, complete with almost comically uninvolved, clueless parents and an appropriately over-emoting tortured teen. The backstory is simple enough. Dominik is handsome, popular and privileged. He’s already got a date for the prom and a private chauffeur supplied by his absentee parents. He’s got everything a slightly-Bieberish looking kid could want, and is the last guy in his class who you’d expect to suffer from depression—but after a male-on-male dare-kiss goes viral, he quickly goes from heartthrob to pariah. And here’s where things get a little strange. Dominik retreats to his room, where after thrashing about a bit and beating his mattress in despair, a chat window pops up on his laptop and invites him to join an online community. After personalizing his avatar he finds himself set loose in an impossibly detailed virtual nightclub, chasing a comely toon with pink hair; they go to video chat and he meets Sylwia, a weepy blonde shut-in wearing a plastic mask who is also the proprietress of the “Suicide Room.” Sylwia is both a character in the real-life story and a symbol of the romantic allure of youthful melancholia; there is a mysterious, allegorical feel to her unlikely online recruitment/seduction of Dominik. Once Dominik is initiated into the secret suicide society, any pretense that this is a real virtual community disappears; the impossibly fluid and responsive world of Suicide Room follows the rules of an animated cartoon, not the clunky mechanics of online community like World of Warcraft. Characters fight ridiculously complicated anime-inspired duels seen through multiple angles and split-screens, sail over oceans of polygonal waves, and turn into howling banshees when they get angry. What we see is the online world as embellished by Dominik’s imagination, a wired existence that’s realer and more appealing to him than the harsh realities of the world outside his door. The stylistic strategy could be described either as “virtual magical realism” or “digital Expressionism.” Whatever you call it, it may be in fact too successful, since whenever we’re following Dominik’s “real” story we’re always looking forward to our next trip inside the dreamlike magical box for a peek at what the electronic pixies have been up to in our absence. Unfortunately, nothing good can last, and Dominik’s return to the real world when his Internet is pulled ends in tragedy, and with a phone number for a suicide prevention hotline. It’s not entirely clear whether the director means to criticize social media for encouraging isolation from the real world and allowing the spread of dangerous ideas like suicide-promotion support groups, or whether its prominence in the story simply reflects teen reality at this point in history. Regardless, such musings add a bit more interest to this well-intentioned, semi-successful, slightly odd drama that may resonate with the younger crowd.

While it’s a worthwhile watch, @suicideroom is a tough movie to market outside of its native Poland. In the U.S.A., emo went out of style in November 2011, exactly one year after silly bandz, and even the most depressed American teenager would watch that Katy Perry movie before tuning in to a subtitled Polish film with opera on the soundtrack.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

…helmer-writer Jan Komasa overplays his hand… ultimately creating an unsympathetic protagonist whose fate doesn’t inspire much interest… Replete with bizarre avatars, the pic’s slick animated segments convey the feeling of being inside an online sword-and-sorcery game.”–Alissa Simon, Variety (contemporaneous)

LIST CANDIDATE: SOUND OF NOISE (2010)

DIRECTED BY: Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjärne Nilsson

FEATURING: Bengt Nilsson, Sanna Persson

PLOT: A music-hating, tone deaf detective from a family of musical prodigies tracks down a

Still from Sound of Noise (2010)

gang of musical terrorists staging disruptive avant-garde percussion performances across Malmö, Sweden.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: If David Lynch directed the Swedish cast of STOMP in an action-comedy, I think it might go a little something like this…

COMMENTS: Tummy drums. Banknotes in a shredder. Jackhammer. Bowed power lines. These are some of the instruments employed by Sound of Noise‘s anarcho-musical terrorists, who bang on the Swedish city of Malmö like a giant drum kit by staging surprise polyrhythmic concertos in emergency rooms, banks, and other public spaces. Hot on their trail is detective Amadeus Warnebring, the black sheep of a family of musical prodigies; he has a hearing disorder which makes the sound of music intolerable to his ears, so that attending a Haydn recital staged by his younger brother, a celebrity conductor, hurts more than his pride. Sound of Noise takes this outlandish setup as its base melody, then syncopates the beat into a thematic experiment that builds to a bizarro crescendo. An undercurrent of humor serves as a constant backbeat that keeps us from getting lost in the thematic noodling. This is a very funny film, from the way it parodies caper movie conventions as the criminal mastermind musicians recruit expert anti-establishment drummers from their straight day jobs to the moment the masked sextet breaks into a bank with the declaration “This is a gig! Just listen and nobody gets hurt!” Besides the comedy, the music itself provides pop appeal: each of the four movements of “Music for One City and Six Drummers,” the conceptual piece the detective is trying in vain to stop, is feisty, inventive, and catchy as hell. In the second performance, one musician bangs rubber stamps against a teller’s window while another taps the keys of a computer keyboard; his fellows accompany him with adding machines and paper shredders, stirring the soul by appropriating and reordering the mundane commotion of ordinary life. We can hardly wait to hear what the each succeeding movement will bring. The music the “terrorists” play is experimental and dangerous, but it’s not academic or obscure: in contrast to the chilly exclusivity of the symphonic musical establishment (Sound‘s main satirical target), these tunes staged in the public square aim to connect with ordinary people and set toes to tapping. The movie would like to advocate the same aesthetic mix of cutting-edge creativity and unpretentious appeal, but detective Amadeus’ storyline goes off-beat and heads into dissonant narrative realms. His back story is merely quirky, but it develops into something genuinely strange when he discovers that he can no longer hear the sound made by an “instrument” after it has been played on by the drummers. So, in discordant allegory, the percussionists progressive performances are helping antagonist Amadeus to achieve his dream of a music-free utopia of silence. Following this plotline to its illogical conclusion leads to an exceedingly odd and somewhat muddled finale where Amadeus’ selective deafness and his spiritual connection to Sanna, the female music theorist who leads the band, merge into a personal musical apocalypse. The movie’s competing rhythms of absurd comedy, police procedural, action (there’s a chase scene where a drummer tosses cymbals out of his van to slow down his pursuers), music, and surreal speculation don’t always merge perfectly, but the beats are original and high-spirited enough to keep you intrigued for the symphony’s short running time. Plus, I bet the official soundtrack is a blast to play at parties.

Sound of Noise is a feature-length riff on “Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers,” Ola Simonsson’s 2001 short film about six percussionists (played by the same actors) who break into an apartment to play music on the resident’s appliances while they are out walking their dog.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“If you’re looking to fill out your weird quotient for the week, there’s no better option in town right now than this Swedish film doozy. Unique to a fault…”–Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: MAY (2002)

DIRECTED BY: Lucky McKee

FEATURING: , ,

PLOT: A girl with a lazy eye grows up as a social outcast with a doll as her only friend; she gets corrective lenses as a young adult and is suddenly set loose on the dating world with no social skills and a dangerously loose grip on reality.

Still from May (2002)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: May, the character, is weird as hell; May, the movie, not as much, especially after it abandons the awkward character study of its first two thirds for a familiar slasher denouement.

COMMENTS: It’s easy to see why so many people relate to May. The film’s horror isn’t based on remote external threat of ravening psychos harvesting body parts, but on the uncomfortable internal reality of human loneliness. Angela Bettis, who strokes a stranger’s hand as he naps and grins inappropriately when she tells a story about a disemboweled dog, makes for an unforgettably awkward and desperate May. She can’t even stand up straight; she’s always quivering and tottering on her feet, a woman who can’t find a stable footing in the social world. Her “lazy eye” affliction, which is suddenly cured by modern advances in contact lenses, is a brilliant device to explain how this otherwise attractive girl could have grown up so gawky and socially damaged.

For this script’s purposes, May can’t just be a common fat ugly cow who never gets a second look. She can’t just be constantly rejected by everyone she meets, sitting alone in her room night after night talking to her doll Sally; she needs to be desirable and attractive enough to have potential paramours to play off of. She gets a terrific pair in an amateur horror director played by Jeremy Sisto, whose fascination with the macabre leads him into a dangerous flirtation with this creepy character, and in Anna Farris’ predatory lesbian party girl, who thinks she’s as kinky as May but has no concept of what it’s like to be genuinely twisted. The early reels show geeky May impressing a date with a home cooked meal of mac and cheese and Gatorade and trying to decide what to do when the guy doesn’t call her back after she misreads his social cues and wrongly assumes he’s into cannibalism. This part of the movie is excellent and uncomfortable; we genuinely root for the pathetic girl to find true friendship, while at the same time being relieved we’re not the ones who have to supply it.

Bettis plays May like a female Travis Bickle, but when she finally cracks, it’s the movie that loses it. All of May’s endearing, ungainly mannerisms suddenly fall aside as she becomes a confident killer enacting a weirdo’s revenge fantasy against the cool kids. The more competent and dangerous she becomes, the less creepy she is. What had been an engagingly freaky character study suddenly bows to psycho movie kill conventions, and we spend the last third of the movie just watching the secondary cast get slashed. Although the final scene restores May’s vulnerability and is gruesomely memorable, it doesn’t redeem the movie’s sin of abandoning its freak spirit for horror movie conventionality.

May is more of a “weirdo” movie than a “weird” movie; there are only a few scenes—blind kids crawling on glass, May crying blood, and a schizophrenic crack-up montage—that break with narrative realism in any meaningful way. It’s an above average horror outing sporting superior performances, but it’s not a revolutionary genre movie, and given the film’s socially ghoulish first two thirds, there is a sense of a missed opportunity to do something truly special. “I like weird, a lot,” says one of May’s would-be seducers. The joke is that he’s merely a tourist observing human oddity for a lark, and he’s not prepared to handle sincere, dangerous weirdness on May’s level. To some extent, the same thing can be said for the film; it’s fascinated by its weird character, but it’s not interested in descending into the ultimate depths of depraved weirdness.

The May DVD includes two separate commentaries, each hosted by director Lucky McKee but featuring different cast and crew members. The second commentary includes reminiscences by May‘s craft services provider (i.e. the film’s caterer), which turns out to be a funny concept (he reveals the secret to Jeremy Sisto’s heart—jalapeno poppers—and explains how you supply jujubees to a set on a non-existent budget).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“A bizarre (and sometimes repulsive) exercise that’s a little too willing to swoon in its own weird embrace.”–Robert Denerstein, Denver Rocky Mountain News (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by “Br.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

With the hours ticking down in the third Reader’s Choice poll (voting ends at midnight EST, Aug. 8), some clear (if not prohibitive) favorites have emerged. In Group A, American Astronaut leads perpetual runner-up Adaptation by a count of 27 votes to 16. The Group B contest is tighter, with David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers ahead of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels by a slim 37-32 margin. The “rescue” category, on the other hand, is not even close to competitive: Chris Marker’s time-travel classic La Jetée has more than double the number of votes as its nearest competitor (which, in a shocking contrast, is Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny). You’ve got a few more days to make a difference, but it looks like American Astronaut and Dead Ringers will be your newest additions to the List.

Next week you can look forward to reviews of the Swedish anarcho-absurdist music satire Sound of Noise (2010), the weirdo-horror May (2002), another dip into ‘s seemingly bottomless well for The Amazing Transplant, and… well, we’re not 100% sure yet. Let’s just say a mystery weird movie to be named later.

It was a thin week for bizarre search terms, but as always we will collect the strangest ones we catch for our popular Weirdest Search Term of the Week contest. First, we have to give honorable mentions to two searchers looking for websites servicing incomprehensible and/or untranslatable fetishes: “loveflies on vagina movies.com” and “www.saxxy grail mobail no.” We’ll move on to an absurd sex pair that would probably be the weirdest search terms to grace another, less weird, site, but are fairly par for our course: “amazonian catfish oral sex” and “tattoo pinocchio sex.” For our weirdest search term, we’re going to step outside the sex world, though, and go with this one from the world of violence: “i watch a black and white scene then i want to kill.” We knew the average moviegoer doesn’t enjoy black and white movies, but we had no idea they were so fed up with them they spontaneously confessed their homicidal impulses to Google!

Here’s the ridiculously-long-and-ever-growing reader-suggested review queue: May (next week!); The Hour-glass Sanatorium [Saanatorium pod klepsidra] (out of print in Region 1, but we’ll keep looking); Liquid Sky (re-review); “Twin Peaks” (TV series); SocietyLittle Otik; Final Programme; Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 8/3/2012

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film (2010): The title tells all; this is an 80 minute survey of 20th century experimental film, highlighted by the final recorded interview of pioneer Stan Brakhage. Playing at the Anthology Archives in New York City for one week only. Free Radicals official site.

SCREENINGS (Cinefamily, Los Angeles, CA, Aug. 5)

After the Triumph of Your Birth (2012): According to the press release it’s a “a surreal, dark humored portrait of the outsider; a music driven celebration of uncertainty.” After watching the trailer we’re still not sure what to make of it, but it does look professionally assembled and weird. The sold out (?) showing at Cinefamily this Sunday, Aug. 5, is to be followed by the official premier and an accompanying Maria McKee concert in Santa Monica on September 13, followed (we’re guessing) by a DVD release. After the Triumph of Your Birth official site.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

Fantastic Planet (est. 2013): It’s little more than a rumor at this point, but if it comes true it will be one of those “say it ain’t so!” moments: a remake of the indescribably original, Certified Weird Fantastic Planet. We would expect it to be live action, in 3-D, and star Shia LaBouef as Terr and Jennifer Lawrence as Tiwa. Michael Bay or James Cameron are the obvious choices for director. It’s just an IMDB entry right now, and let’s pray it stays that way.

NEW ON DVD:

The Bunny Game (2012): B&W experimental S&M shocksploitation about a prostitute named “Bunny” picked up and ritualistically tortured and humiliated but a trucker named “Hog.” WARNING: This has been “banned in Britain”; but then again, it’s not that hard to get something banned in Britain (these guys forbade Possession, for crying out loud!) Buy The Bunny Game.

Detention (2012): A postmodern, self-aware slasher sci-fi comedy that also parodies 1980s teen movies. Depending on how the idea is handled, this could totally rule, or end up totally gay. Buy Detention.

“Midnight Movies Vol 4: Thriller Triple Feature” (Bloodstained Shadow/Short Night of Glass Dolls/Who Saw Her Die?): We hadn’t heard of any of the movies in the first three volumes Blue Underground’s new triple feature series, until Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971) on Vol. 4 finally rang a bell. It’s a fairly well-regarded (despite the presence of Barbara Bach) giallo with sex and hallucination sequences. The companion features look more forgettable, but you could do worse than to get three giallos for the price of one. Buy “Midnight Movies Vol 4: Thriller Triple Feature” (Bloodstained Shadow/Short Night of Glass Dolls/Who Saw Her Die).

“Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXIV”: The twenty-fourth volume of bad movie goodness from the movie-mocking robots of the Satellite of Love. Episodes include the two Fugitive Alien movies, the Soviet spectacle The Sword and the Dragon, and El Santo’s only MST3K appearance in Samson vs. the Vampire Woman. Buy “Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXIV”.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

The Bunny Game (2012): See description in DVD above. Buy The Bunny Game [Blu-ray].

Detention (2012): See description in DVD above. Buy Detention [Blu-ray].

Nazi Invasion: Team Europe 3-D [AKA Jackboots on Whitehall] (2010): Read our capsule review. They made the action-figure Nazis invading Britain movie Jackboots on Whitehall into 3-D, then changed the name on us. We’re not fooled. Buy Nazi Invasion: Team Europe [AKA Jackboots on Whitehall] [Blu-ray 3D].

Total Recall (1990): Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as an ordinary man with implanted memories in this mildly-mindbending sci-fi hit super-loosely based on a Phillip K. Dick novel. Forget the currently playing 2012 remake—OK, you could probably forget the original too, but if you can only forget one version of Total Recall, the remake is the one to forget. This “mind-bending” edition is said to be an upgrade over the poor-quality, feature-free 2006 Blu release. Buy Total Recall (Mind-Bending Edition) [Blu-ray].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

Scrambled Beer (2007): Chilean comedy about a roommate who involuntarily travels through time. We haven’t watched it all the way through but we can confirm a character drinks scrambled beer. Watch Scrambled Beer free on YouTube.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

DEADLY WEAPONS (1973)/DOUBLE AGENT 73 (1974)

‘s Deadly Weapons (1973) and Double Agent 73 (1974), both starring 73FF(!)-32-36 Chesty Morgan, makes for a bizarre double feature, and a bizarre Something Weird Blu-ray release. This set (entitled “Chesty Morgan’s Bosom Buddies”) also includes a third feature The Immoral Three (1975), which does not include Morgan (who had, remarkably, taken the star bit between her teeth and was promptly sacked by Wishman). We focus on the first two features starring Chesty.

 had the incomparable Divine. Wishman had the incomparable Chesty Morgan. The big difference is that Divine could actually act. Morgan, an exploitation freak of nature, was the energizer bunny rabbit to Wishman’s directorial enthusiasm.

Wishman’s influence on John Waters cannot be underestimated. Her films are a visual smorgasbord of bad taste with attentive detail. Wishman’s nonsensical lens focus is so mercurial it brings to mind ‘s frozen camera in Three’s A Crowd (1927). Repeated, dumbfounded concentration on queer inanimate objects disrupts the narrative flow and coats Wishman’s films in loving disjointedness. Cut-away shots of hedges, a repellently hued yellow-ochre telephone, the most beautifully ghastly wallpaper ever captured on celluloid, and nonsensical extreme close-ups of Morgan’s 73-inch fleshbags creates a visually surreal train wreck of a movie.

Morgan’s voice is dubbed in both films. Apparently, her polish accent was so thick as to be indecipherable. Unfortunately, her acting range is nowhere near as mammoth as her breasts. Morgan begins with leathery boredom and ends with celluloid sleep walking. Now, dress this big breasted zombie up in bad wigs and garish clothing to enact a zany plot!

Well, yes, there is a plot of sorts to Deadly Weapons. It has something to do with Morgan as an office manager (!) wearing 8-inch platform heels and a blouse at least two sizes too small. She has a Continue reading DEADLY WEAPONS (1973)/DOUBLE AGENT 73 (1974)

121. 8 1/2 (1963)

AKA Otto e Mezzo; Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2

CLAUDIA: Let’s leave this place. It makes me uneasy. It doesn’t seem real.

GUIDO: I really like it. Isn’t that odd?

Must See

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , Sandra Milo, Claudia Cardinale, , Edra Gale

PLOT: Full of doubts and very near to suffering a breakdown from stress, a director is planning to make his next movie, never making much progress. The story is continuously interrupted by flashbacks to his boyhood and dream sequences, including one where he imagines all the women in his life living together in a harem. The production is complicated further by the arrival of his wife on the set, who is humiliated to find that his mistress is also there.

Still from 8 1/2 (1963)

BACKGROUND:

  • By Fellini’s count, this was the 8 1/2th film he directed (counting shorts and co-directing gigs as 1/2 of a movie each).
  • This was Fellini’s first feature after the incredible international success of La Dolce Vita (1960). In the movie, Fellini’s alter ego Guido has just come off of a great success, and everyone around him is expecting him to produce another masterpiece.
  • After making La Dolce Vita and before 8 1/2, Fellini became involved in Jungian psychoanalysis and started keeping a dream diary.
  • 8 1/2 won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1964. It played out of competition at Cannes, because the Italians split up their two 1963 prestige pictures, 8 1/2 and Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, between Cannes and the Moscow Film Festival (a successful strategy, as Visconti took Cannes and Fellini Moscow). 8 1/2 has since far surpassed its companion and become a staple of “best movies of all time” lists. It ranked #9 on the 2002 version of Sight & Sound’s critic’s poll of the greatest movies ever made, and #3 on the director’s poll.
  • The “dance” ending was originally intended as a promotional trailer, but Fellini decided he liked the optimistic tone of this sequence better than the dark ending he had originally planned.
  • Unaccountably, this intellectual meditation on artistic doubt was adapted as a Broadway musical (!) called “Nine,” which was then made into a mediocre Hollywood musical.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: It is with great reluctance that I select the image of Marcello Mastroianni flown like a kite above the beach as 8 1/2‘s representative image; not because it isn’t a fascinating and beautiful invention, but because I have to pass on so many other worthy candidates. In particular, I would have loved to pick a shot of Guido with a whip trying in vain to tame the women in the harem of his mind; but that ten minute sequence flows so beautifully and seamlessly from polygamous bliss to infantilism to feminist rebellion that it unfortunately can’t be summed up in a single still.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Watching 8 1/2 is like being dropped inside Federico Fellini’s brain


American trailer for 8 1/2

and wandering around inside its convoluted folds. As self-centered stream-of-consciousness filmmaking, this wonderfully masturbatory masterpiece has never been equaled. The film flows smoothly from anxiety-ridden nightmares to wish-fulfillment daydreams to some state we could safely call “reality” (although some new magic is always creeping up on even the most mundane moments of Guido’s confused existence).

COMMENTS: Expressing my disappointment with the middelbrow conventionality of 2009’s Continue reading 121. 8 1/2 (1963)

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: ENTER NOWHERE (2011)

DIRECTED BY: Jack Heller

FEATURING: Scott Eastwood, Katherine Waterston, Shaun Sipos, Christopher Denham, Leigh Lezark, Jesse Perez

PLOT:  In an isolated cabin, four strangers’ fates depend upon whether or not they can solve a

Still from Enter Nowhere (2011)

bizarre conundrum.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Enter Nowhere is not a bizarre movie; it is conventionally filmed and professionally shot within its adequate budget. Solid acting and appropriate camera work combined with good production values keep it out of the homemade and campy categories. It’s Enter Nowhere‘s plot that makes for a weird viewing experience. It is a genuine puzzler. The movie’s imaginative and unusual, logic-defying story as well as its constant, unexpected twists and turns keep the viewer off balance and disoriented, while riveted to the screen through the very end.

COMMENTS: Once again, Lion’s Gate has saved the day by picking up a high quality, independent effort for mainstream distribution. This time, it’s a small budget film shot on Long Island with Sarah Paxton, Scott Eastwood, and Katherine Waterston. The solid performances and clever plot fully warrant Lion’s Gate’s backing.

When three strangers with wildly varying backgrounds find themselves stranded at a shanty in the woods, they assume the others’ presence is coincidental.  But as a series of disturbing evens unfolds, it gradually becomes apparent that there is some sort of morbid, horrifying design to the situation. Worse, the travelers can’t seem to leave or even agree on basic facts. Journeying in circles, unable to find geographic landmarks twice in a row, and enduring extremes in weather and temperature, the trio is running out of food, water, time, and ideas for extracting themselves from their predicament. Until a fourth participant discovers the cabin, that is; and he has an agenda that is, at best, unsavory.

A psychological thriller taking place in one location and focusing on dialogue over action, Enter Nowhere is tense and engrossing. The cabin and the surrounding woods are creepy, ala The Evil Dead, and the plot steadily mounts a foreboding aura of dread and inevitable doom. The fun of puzzlers such as Enter Nowhere is trying to figure out what’s happening, and we do so in real time, along with central characters who don’t know anything more than we do about the situation.

I know what you’re thinking. Enter Nowhere is another Saw, or maybe one of endless variations on “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” like Jacob’s Ladder or Dead And Buried. Wrong! Every time you think you’ve figured out the riddle and solution, Enter Nowhere contorts and twists again, heading off in an unexpected direction. The story is fresh and completely unpredictable.

Enter Nowhere was shot on a small budget, but is professionally filmed and edited, with solid acting.  It is a modest budget production, but not a low budget movie. Enter Nowhere is one of the most cleverly constructed puzzlers I’ve seen yet, and it not only held my attention, but had me tearing the threads out of my seat cushion in nervousness and consternation.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

 “Playing like a combination of Back to the Future, Jacob’s Ladder, and Dean Koontz’s Strangers, but not actually resembling any of those titles, Enter Nowhere offers just enough originality to make it worth recommending.”–Mike Long, DVD Sleuth

CAPSULE: TWO TONS OF TURQUOISE TO TAOS TONIGHT (1975)

AKA Moment to Moment; Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos; Jive

BewareWeirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Elsie Downey

PLOT: None, although certain strands (such as the idea that someone has been hired to convey

Still from Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight (1975)

two tons of turquoise to Taos tonight) recur throughout this series of brief sketches.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s actually too far out, man; it’s almost an hour of nonsense, but too randomly assembled to be any fun. The individual sketches aren’t carefully composed beforehand and they aren’t allowed to play out to their full potential, resulting in comedy that’s juvenile and ridiculous rather than cleverly absurd.

COMMENTS: If Robert Downey Sr. were James Joyce, then Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight would be his Finnegan’s Wake; the point where he took what had been fertile boundary-pushing experimentation beyond the limits of the audience’s tolerance, and ended up producing something so obscure and esoteric that it was of interest only to the author himself. It’s clear enough what he intended to do: make a movie with no beginning or end, one that existed only “moment to moment” (the film’s original title). The problem is that the individual moments aren’t very good and don’t link up to anything universal; there are too many sections of the film that are just montages of Elsie Downey wearing different outfits, or Downey family home movies that have been spliced into the film at random points. As for the individual bits, there are far too many moments when the actors look like they’re improvising while high as a kite, working without a plan and assuming everything they’re doing is hilarious. An example is the frankfurter scene, where a man and woman are sleeping on a park bench and the fella asks her to fetch him a frankfurter. He repeats the request over and over until she finally leaves the bench, then a couple of youngsters walk over—one of whom can’t say anything but “ri-ight…”—and strike up a nonsense conversation with the bum. The woman comes back sans hot dog and the man asks where his food is; the woman answers, “you’re lucky I got up at all.” Hilarious, right? Well, if you don’t like that one, at least there will be another gag in thirty seconds; the problem is it’s not likely to be any more amusing or interesting than the last bit. There are a few brief moments that shine through the general avant-garde dreck: a game of baseball played by men on horseback, a woman who donates her panties to a hungry man, and conventionally funny exchanges like the man who proclaims “I have a brain tumor,” to which his companion responds “It’s all in your head.” But, after watching a scene where a woman with an eyepatch and a cowboy snort cocaine and giggle inanely at each other’s babbling monologues, you might assume that large parts of this mess are just too autobiographical for comfort. Downey Sr.’s best work came when he had a clearly stated central theme (advertising in Putney Swope, religion in Greaser’s Palace) which he could play off of with his improvisatory absurdist riffs. Set him loose without any sort of structure and he’s like a bebop musician who just assumes that if he ignores the melody he can play the greatest, most out-there free jazz you ever heard. The result may be beautiful to his ears, but most folks will only hear a noise that sounds like a cat with a kazoo taped over his mouth and his tail caught in a blender.

Some of the dozens of investors who put up money to fund Downey’s mad vision and may have later regretted it included Hal Ashby, Norman Lear and Jack Nicholson. Taos was, essentially, Downey’s last experimental film venture; in the 1980s and 90s he would sell out, only to direct some horrible Hollywood flops (like the Mad magazine financed fiasco Up the Academy). Despite the fact that his wife Elsie Downey is featured in almost every scene, and the film basically plays like a love letter to her, the couple divorced the year this was released. Taos was screened at underground venues but understandably never got any real distribution; Downey has continued to tinker with the editing through the years. The version offered on Eclipse’s “Up All Night with Robert Downey Sr.” disc is a recent re-edit that cuts 20 minutes off the running time (it’s still too long).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…taps the same welcomed vein of indulgent weirdo gags found in Soderbergh’s ‘Schizopolis’ or Rafelson’s ‘Head’…”–Aaron Hillis, IFC (DVD)

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