And, there’s only one day left to vote in our annual send Alfred to a Summer Blockbuster poll. If it ended today, Alfred would be complaining about being sent to cover Slender Man, the Melissa McCarthy vehicle Life of the Party, and Jaws/Godzilla mashup The Meg—but there’s plenty of time for that to change.
Speaking of Alfred, he’ll be dealing with his blockbuster anxiety by seeking the comfort of another Ingmar Bergman movie: this time up, it’s Autumn Sonata. Then it’s time to clear out some of that reader-suggested list, as G. Smalley watches the S&M-themed pink movie Blind Beast; Pete Trbovich suffers through the Swedish horror parody Evil Ed; and Giles Edwards revisits Dark City.
Once again, it’s time to review the weirdest search terms that brought users to the site this week. We think “movie where fat guy was tied up and fed paint chips” is probably a real film, although can’t say we recognize it. A bit weirder is the extremely specific “list the 1950,s sci fi band w films santa monica library carries” (read literally, this seems to be a request for the name of a sci-fi band from the 1950s who made multiple movies that are in the Santa Monica library’s collection. Sorry, no idea.) Our weirdest search term of the week, however, was undoubtedly “lailqphlztkuozaup3ezpvhlzt51mth” (for security reasons we actually changed one digit in that string, which didn’t make a difference to the overall nonsense). Not only does that random string not turn up anything on our site—making it technically impossible for someone to visit us from a search link—Google turns up no hits for it at all. A hacker searching for passwords? Maybe. But how did they end up here?
Here’s how the ridiculously-long reader-suggested review queue stands: Blind Beast (next week!); Evil Ed (next week!); Genius Party; The Idiots; “Premium” (depending on availability); Spermula; Killer Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE→
Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…
Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.
IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):
Altered Perception (2018): Volunteers for a trial medication that promises to cure false perceptions find themselves instead addicted to a psychedelic drug that causes psychosis. With a title like that, it better have some great hallucination scenes. Altered Perception official site.
The Cleanse (2018): An unemployed man lands at a retreat where he undergoes a “cleanse” therapy, which involves drinking foul brews and vomiting up min-monsters. The L.A. Times‘ Gary Goldstein called it “one short, strange trip…” The Cleanse official site.
FILM FESTIVALS – Cannes Film Festival (Cannes. France, 5/8-5/19):
Cannes is an odd duck. Not known as a “weird-friendly” festival—movies like David Cronenberg‘s Crash and Antichrist have been famously hooted at by Cannes crowds who were having none of that—it aims to flatter the mainstream arthouse crowd with middle-of-the-road dramas (and, rarely, dramadies, so long as they are not too funny to be taken seriously). Cannes programmers revel in the dry, the conventional, and the pompous; Cannes’ juries’ tastes resemble those of Academy Awards voters, but with an even higher premium placed on boringness. Still, one or two movies worth looking at always seem to find their way onto the card, and 2018 is particularly rich. Many years, a Cannes debut will end up Certified Weird: three films in the past six years, including, most recently, 2012’s Holy Motors. Movies at Cannes may either be screened “in competition” for the big prize, the Palm D’or; screen out-of-competition; or be entered in the “Un Certain Regard” section (a sort of also-ran competition for films that are either from first time directors, or are considered too daring or different to have a shot at the Palme d’Or). Recently, many filmmakers have been debuting their films in the parallel festival called Directors’ Fortnight, which runs contemporaneous to Cannes proper but does not hand out awards for individual films. (Panos Cosmatos‘ surreal supernatural revenge drama Mandy, which debuted at Sundance, will play there).
Here’s what we would be keeping tabs on if we were in France next week:
The House That Jack Built – We question how weird it will be, but Lars von Trier‘s serial killer pic is one of the most buzzed-about titles at Cannes, and does feature a mysterious entity called “the Verge” who dialogues with a murderous Matt Dillon. Out of competition.
Lazzaro Felice [Happy as Lazzaro] – Hard to figure out what this Italian movie is about, but the synopsis suggests intriguing characters like a time-traveler and a ruler known as the “Queen of Cigarettes.” In competition.
Le Livre du Image [Image Book] – We haven’t been the biggest fans of his late work, but Jean-Luc Godard always demands attention; he describes this one as “like a bad dream written on a stormy night.” In competition.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – Terry Gilliam‘s ill-fated Quixote variation, 20 years in the making and still under a legal cloud, is possibly the most anticipated debut at Cannes. Out of competition.
Muere, Monstruo, Muere [Murder Me, Monster] – A beheading leads an investigator to develop a strange conspiracy theory. Un Certain Regard.
Under the Silver Lake – A young man goes on a “surreal quest” through Los Angeles to find a mysterious missing girl; from the director of the indie horror it It Follows. In competition.
The Cleanse (2018): See description in “Limited Release” above. Like many indies nowadays, this film is also available for VOD purchase the day it hits theaters. Buy The Cleanse on-demand.
Kaleidoscope (2016): Psychological thriller in which a recently-released prisoner finds his domineering mother is interfering with his ability to reintegrate into society. The second feature from Rupert Jones (brother of Kaleidoscope‘s star, veteran character actor Toby Jones); his first was an opera (2013’s The Answer to Everything) cast with homeless people. On DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD. Buy Kaleidoscope.
PLOT: Paul meets an attractive woman in a Manhattan coffee shop after he gets off work. Under the pretext of his buying a paperweight from her roommate, she gives him her number. He calls her, is invited over to her SoHo loft, loses his money on the cab ride over, and is plagued by a bizarre series of missteps and coincidences that result in a dead body and his pursuit by a lynch mob as he tries in vain to make his way back home.
Originally titles Lies, the script for After Hours was Joseph Minion’s thesis project for Columbia Film School. His professor was Dusan Makavejev. He got an “A.”
Minion lifted about a third of the film (much of Marcy’s character) from a radio monologue by Joe Frank, who won a plagiarism lawsuit against the producers.
Griffin Dunne and Amy Robinson, then-struggling actors who took up producing, optioned Minion’s screenplay. They pitched the project to Martin Scorsese, but when they did not hear back from him they began negotiations with Tim Burton, who had yet to make a feature film at the time. Months later, when Scorsese’s first attempt to make The Last Temptation of Christ fell apart, he expressed interest in the project. When Burton heard this news he gracefully withdrew, saying he did not want to stand in the way of Scorsese.
The ending of After Hours had not been decided on when shooting began. (One proposed, and unused, surrealistic ending had Paul climbing into Verna Bloom’s womb and being reborn uptown). The first cut used a downbeat attempt at a conclusion that bombed with test audiences. Scorsese then went back and re-shot the ending we see today. (Director Michael Powell suggested the resolution Scorsese finally used).
Scorsese won the “Best Director” award at the Cannes Film Festival for After Hours.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Kiki’s papier-mâché sculpture of a man staring up at the sky, mouth agape and gnarled fingers held before his face, like a flash-fried Pompeii victim preserved in ash. Paul thinks it looks like a three-dimensional version of “The Shriek.” The statue turns up unexpectedly later in the night, and an eerily and ironically similar piece plays a key role in the climax.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Burn victim?; “Surrender Dorothy”; mummified escape
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: No other black comedy has ever captured such a perfect mix of unease, absurdity, melancholy, and danger with the light, unforced touch that Scorsese does here. Man’s fate in an uncaring universe ruled by the iron fist of coincidence has never seemed so horrifyingly hilarious.
FEATURING: Chris Asimos, Oliver Bell, Matt Jones, Sasha Cuha, Airsh “King” Khan, Justine Jones, Aimee Nichols, Pugsley Buzzard, Luke Clayson, Kitten Natividad
PLOT: A gay superhero and his team go on a quest to retrieve a golden penis stolen by a gang of circus freaks.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: This cartoonish gay superhero grossout flick will almost certainly make one of our lists: we fully expect to see it on our 10 Weirdest Movies of 2018 list. It’s a big jump from one of the weirdest of the year to weirdest of all time, though, a leap the slight Fags isn’t quite capable of making.
COMMENTS: When 69-year-old Russ Meyer-ex Kitten Natividad counts as your star power, you know you’re aiming at a very particular audience. Fags presumes (or at least hopes for) a certain level of familiarity with yesteryear’s trash culture, although if you’ve seen at least one Troma movie you’ll recognize the silly-yet-offensive spirit. Obviously, John Waters is an inspiration (one of the better throwaway jokes is a Divine reference), but given the bright comic book design and heedless incoherence, I suspect Australia’s surreal Nazi-fighting comedy adventure “Danger 5” was a more direct stylistic influence.
Set in an anything-goes world of freak show gangs, Aztec cults and GILF brothels, the plot is bonkers. The action begins in small-minded small-town “Dullsville,” where dashing yachtsman Beau (AKA the “Cockslinger”) and his beefy, mustachioed longtime companion Lump are brought in to handle a gang of gay-bashing thugs. (“The toughest gays in town,” this avenging duo eschews limp wrists for pimp hands.) Soon enough, they find themselves chasing after jewels stolen from mama Kitten’s retirement home bordello, along with a mystical dildo. A buxom killer transvestite and a lethargic Indian eunuch (the original owner of the phallus in question) join the team, along with the young thug hostage Squirt, who opens up to his queer side as the adventure continues. The team is opposed by burlesque queen Wanda the Giantess and her gang of freaks (including a bald gal with crab claws) and tailed by the local sheriff and his sadistic hacker assistant. The gang’s adventures take them to a booby-trapped tiki truck stop, a gender-bending pagan temple, and into a freaky Freak Town final showdown. And that’s just scratching the surface of the maximalist mayhem.
The plot moves quickly enough and takes itself with so little seriousness that you probably won’t mind some suspect writing. Very few of the jokes land, tending towards the obvious, the juvenile, and the toilet-minded. (Baseball bat sodomy is not one of my favorite sources of comedy, but at least no one can accuse Fags of being overly PC.) The plot often makes little sense, but coherence was not a major point of emphasis. A melee at McBastard’s Meat Pies has almost no visible motivation but lots of cheesy violence and stiletto-heeled crotch-kicking. At one point Lump is captured and tortured with a laser finger; it’s not completely clear how he is abducted, and entirely unclear how he escapes. Plot points seem to have been left on the cutting room floor. On the other hand, the design elements—a grab bag of colorfully bizarre sets and costumes, low budget CGI, and animation both traditional and stop motion—are impressive, all the more so considering the obvious low budget. Key set pieces include a psychedelic musical number sung by the castrated fakir and a trip into a swamp filled with stop-motion penis-themed vermin. And if that’s not enough for your money, there’s a roadside performance by horror rockers “the Mummies” thrown in for good measure.
It goes without saying that neither homophobes nor the easily grossed-out will want to encounter Fags, but if you’re made of sterner stuff, you should find it fast-paced fluff that satisfies your guilty desire for absurd sleaze served with a twist of retro pop-culture surrealism. Currently in very limited release in the U.S., a DVD release is scheduled for June 1. More information can be found on the movie’s home page.
PLOT: A teenage girl turns the tables on a sexual predator, subjecting him to torture in retribution for his misdeeds.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: For regular consumers of torture-based horror, the turnabout of predator and prey in Hard Candy is an interesting surprise. But twist aside, what’s notable about the movie isn’t how strange it is, but how it uses the genre to address heavy questions about guilt, justice, and gender roles.
COMMENTS: In January of this year, confessed serial child molester Larry Nassar was forced to sit quietly while 156 women confronted him about his crimes and the pain they have endured ever since. And Larry Nassar did not like it. This man, whose systematic abuse was aided by America’s top gymnastics coaches, abetted by the country’s gymnastics federation, and protected by Michigan State University, submitted a letter to the judge protesting that having to endure the testimony of his many targets was detrimental to his mental health and asserting that he was a good person who was being unfairly victimized by hateful, hateful women. Suffice it to say, the letter was poorly received.
The reason I bring this up—aside from maybe wanting to add just one more link on Google that reminds the world that Larry Nassar is heinous slimeball—is because Hard Candy does a fantastic job of getting inside the deluded mind of the privileged sex criminal: rejecting the existence of a crime, then mitigating its seriousness, and finally claiming victimhood for himself. The film’s subject, photographer Jeff, uses all these techniques to deceive us into sympathizing with him, even as we watch him go through all the steps of sexual predation: grooming, leading passively, shifting guilt back onto his targets. And he’s good at it, so when the 14-year old girl he’s been expecting to seduce drugs him, ties him up, and proceeds to insult and threaten him, there’s still this lingering sense that he’s a decent guy who has just gotten himself into a real pickle.
The plot evokes memories of Audition, which is appropriate, as Brian Nelson’s screenplay was evidently inspired by news reports of gangs of girls in Japan who lured businessmen into traps online. But where the earlier film hides its intentions behind the tropes of romantic comedy, Hard Candy quickly adopts the conventions of horror, including bondage and body mutilation. The film’s innovation is to flip the script and turn the diminutive (Page is a full foot shorter than her co-star), incautious heroine into the diabolical, unstoppable engine of terror. The result is that she can be read as a violent lunatic, when it is vital to remember that the man she is tormenting is a very bad person.
Movies can be victims of changing times. In 2005, many reviewers called Page’s Hayley a psychopath and lamented the film’s second-half descent into cat-and-mouse thriller. But today, she comes across more as an avenging angel come to force the guilty to acknowledge their sins. It’s noteworthy that the scene that falls the flattest—Page has to sidestep Sandra Oh’s inquisitive neighbor—is the one that tries the hardest to impose the conventions of a thriller onto a battle over the nature of evil. Hard Candy turns out to have been ahead of its time.
Page is truly magnificent, by the way; this was her breakthrough performance, and she has never since had a role that equals it in power. But it’s worth noting that she has a good partner in Wilson, who hits all the right beats for a character who is innately gifted at evading, deflecting, and denying responsibility for his actions. His bland dismissals and patronizing defenses are essential in pushing her forward, validating her anger and justifying her ultimate plan.
The final woman to stand up to Larry Nassar in court was the woman whose testimony triggered his downfall. Rachael Denhollander— whose name also deserves to be remembered—demonstrated unbelievable magnanimity by promising to pray for Nassar, that he find true repentance and forgiveness. And that is probably the most moral and decent response that anyone could hope for under the circumstances. Hard Candy suggests an alternate response, and while it plays more toward wish fulfillment and is by no means appropriate in a civil society, in the face of an evil that is often unspeakable, the movie shows why it still has appeal.
The poll is closed. The winners were Slender Man, The Meg, and Life of the Party. Look for reviews this summer!
Summer’s almost here, and that means it’s time for the 366 Weird Movies reader base to send me, Alfred Eaker, on my fifth masochistic field trip of blockbuster movie torture. The candidates are below. Be sure to view the entire post; you will vote at the end.
Life of the Party (Opens May 11). 1 hour and 45 minutes ofMelissa McCarthy‘s one-note jokes. Guess what it’s about? Melissa as the life of the party. If I get drafted into this, I’m taking my toenail clippers and a crossword puzzles (and I guarantee that I will still be able to give a detailed review).
Deadpool 2 (May 18). The first one was, I think, the most successful R-rated movie to date being about a foul mouthed superhero (OK, yeah, that’s what I want out of superheroes). I haven’t seen it. Although it has the same writer, a different director was tapped. The jokes in the trailer are of the narcissistic macho cutesy variety, which are the absolute worst kind.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25). God, the trailer looks so obvious and bad. The credentials don’t help; directed by one of the most pedestrian directors of the last 50 years (Ron Howard) and written by Lawrence Kasdan who, lets be honest, managed to followup the best of the Star Wars movies (Empire Strikes Back) with one of the worst (Return of the Jedi). After the too-original-for-its-own-good The Last Jedi proved to be the Milk of Magnesia for formula-craving alt-right fanboys, this looks to settle them back into a regular bowel movement routine.
Action Point (June 1) brags that it stars the cast of Jackass and BadGrandpa, which means a lot of predictable juvenile pratfalls to amuse rednecks. It looks to be as exciting as a mud and tractor pull.
Incredibles 2 (June 15). Again, I missed out on the original, but the trailer looks like a commercial for a line of toys.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (June 22). Geez, the last one actually made dinosaurs boring. I miss seeing a guy in a wrinkled lizard suit stomping on toy tanks.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6). Helmed by the director of the original, this promises to be… more of the same, and that wasn’t very good to begin with. I received a lot of hate for my lukewarm review of its predecessor. Heads were exploding all over fanboy forums. I think I’ve been far more offensive since then, so perhaps this will restore me to some kind of previous glory.
Skyscraper (July 13). Towering Inferno meets Die Hard. How original. At least Steve McQueen and Paul Newman were actual actors and could form syllables. Of course, they’re dead. The trailer gets philosophical, announcing: “Courage has no limits.” Hmph! Smell likes Old Spice. Director Thurber’s resume is that of an assembly line hack.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (July 20). The first one was unbearably phony, with people in scuba flippers dancing to ABBA and waxing schmaltzy. Despite the presence of Meryl Streep (who embarrassed herself enough in the original) and Cher, even the title tells you it’s a fatigued rehash. To get us excited, they add an exclamation point. This actually looked like the worst of the lot, until I saw the trailer for Life of the Party.
Mission Impossible: Fallout (July 27). How much longer are we going to have to watch Tom Cruise take off his shirt and run? Even less exciting is the co-star casting of the worst Superman actor in history.
The Meg (Aug 10). Jaws meets Godzilla? Might have some kind of potential if it was directed by someone so inept that they could produce an unintentional masterpiece. Instead, it has director Jon Turtletaub, who has been consistent in producing one film after another that is a hodgepodge of stale, leftover scraps.
The Happy Time Murders (August 17). On paper, a muppet movie about a serial killer offing the entire cast of a children’s TV show sounds amazing. However, director Brian Henson (who’s no chip off the old block) and writer Todd Berger (The Smurfs and Kung Fu Panda) don’t leave a lot of room for optimism.
Slender Man (Aug 24). When the haunted house attraction I work for sent an actor dressed as “Slender Man” to pass out street fliers, people freaked out and it made national news. I’m so out of the loop, I didn’t even know Slender Man was a preexisting character until today when I received the list of summer movies. When original ideas for a horror flicker run short, throw in images of maggots. That’ll gross ’em out! The trailer was a mere 2 minutes and within that time frame my mind started wandering toward my chemistry assignment (and I HATE chemistry).
(Poll is open for 1 week only. You may vote once per day).
Sumer is a-cumen in, and so it’s once again time to punish Alfred Eaker by sending him to three Hollywood summer blockbusters. We’ll have a poll up tomorrow. Next week will also bring you your first look at Australia’s would-be gay cult film, Fags in the Fast Lane. Then, Shane Wilson goes into the reader-suggested queue for the torture-porn twist Hard Candy, while G. Smalley finally gets around to an official review of the oft-requested Martin Scorsese black comedy After Hours. Loudly sing, cuckoo!
It’s time once again for our weekly survey of weird search terms that unaccountably brought users to the site this week. First off, here’s a search we see variations of a lot: “mainstream bestiality scenes.” Guys, give it up; there is nothing mainstream about bestiality, and (Coming Soon notwithstanding) there never will be. Next up is the search for a “fantasy movie where people are transported to a magical land and the bad guys throw their prisoners at a wall of sticky do.” Yuck (if “do” is what we think it is.) For our official Weirdest Search Term of the Week, we select “a movie that thry put a drunk man inbthe car spin it on ice jump in a scream,” a query which itself might have been typed by a drunk man in a car spinning on the ice.
Bill Wurtz makes absurd shorts and music videos featuring Microsoft Paint-style animations with muzak quality instrument samples. The song And the Day Goes On could be the beginning of a new era for rundown grocery store background music.
Moon Child (1989): A parapsychological cult believes they may have found the prophesied “moon child” in a 12-year old orphan. From Agustí Villaronga, with a score by Dead Can Dance. Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Cult Epics. Review coming soon. Buy Moon Child.
The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made: A glorified YouTube upload posing as a one-hour feature film, but an interesting set of clips, nevertheless. At least three of these selections are Certified Weird, many others are reviewed here, and, as is usually the case with these kinds of lists, not all of them are actually bad—just beyond the curator’s expectations of what a movie “should” be. Watch The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made free on Tubi.TV.
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.
Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!