366 UNDERGROUND: DEAR GOD, NO! (2011)

DIRECTED BY: James Anthony Bickart

FEATURING: Jett Bryant, Madeline Brumby, Paul McComiskey, Olivia LaCroix, John Collins, Shane Morton, Nick Morgan, Rusty Stache, Nick Hood, Jim Sligh, Rachelle Lynn, Jim Stacy

PLOT: The Impalers are a vicious motorcycle gang rampaging across the land indulging in drug trafficking and other antisocial behavior, like rape and nun killing. After a shoot-out in a strip club, they top off the party with a home invasion, whereupon their paths cross with a mad scientist, his daughter and associate. They plan a night of fun, with humiliation, rape and murder on the menu… but the scientist has something unexpected in the basement. Meanwhile, there’s something in the woods that’s killing animals and quickly working its way up the food chain…

Still from Dear God No! (2011)

COMMENTS: Dear God, No! (official site) is another throwback to the grindhouse flicks of the 1970’s, when political correctness didn’t exist. It goes balls to the wall with the 5 B’s of Exploitation Movies – Bikers, Bullets, Boobs, Blood, Beer – all of which are in ample supply… and adds another ‘B’ to the party – Bigfoot. Like most of the neo-grindhouse films, there’s lots of loving homage on display, and most of it is done very well. Unfortunately, DGN! falls into the same trap as most other trash throwback films do, that of overkill… everything is intentionally over the top, way too much to take really seriously or to really get offended by. There’s no real sense of transgression, which most of the actual 70’s grindhouse features actually had; and, most of the comedy and acting here is really labored. That said, on the technical side of things it’s good, solid low-budget work. It’s a fun ride, and it looks like the real thing—arrested adolescents will bow down in praise, feeling ‘bad’ and ‘dirty’ for over an hour. Afterwards, they’ll be wanting something a bit more substantial. So will you, probably.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

We have an interesting week of reviews coming up, with a surprise for long-time readers who’ve been paying close attention. First off, 366 Underground says “yes” to reviewing 2011’s bikers-meet-mad-scientist grindhouse tribute Dear God No!; Alfred Eaker chooses Let Me Die a Woman (1978); and we’ll (un)cover the sexy psychedelic sci-fi shenanigans of one Barbarella (1968). By popular demand, we’ll also be correcting our earlier oversight when we passed over ‘s 2001 absurdist space rock opera The American Astronaut, finally elevating it its rightful place on the List. All that strangeness should keep you buzzing throughout next week.

Drunk ESL porn searchers once again dominate the results in our “Weirdest Search Term of the Week” contest. First up is “www.brass pinto of sexy movies &movies.com++.” Now, it amazes us that, for whatever reason, at large segment of the search population thinks that you must use the following format to get decent results on Google: “www.[this is the subject I actually want information on].com.” Yet, we never get searches for “www.what are the weirdest movies ever made?.com”; every www…com formatted query is looking for something sexual: in this case, “brass pinto of sexy movies &movies.” With that digression out of the way, we move on to the next inexplicable search, this time for “all franch porn movie 1980 that contents ships win awoman boyfriend or hadueb.” If you can make heads or tails of what that searcher is actually looking for (all French porn movies from 1980 that ship with a woman’s boyfriend?), then you should probably seek some kind of counseling. Still, neither of these impressed us as the Weirdest Search Term of the Week; not when “1. if you saw a naked woman chasing a chicken through medieval france you would know she did something wrong…what did she do?” shows up in our server logs. (We figured out the answer; that doesn’t make the fact that someone asked the question any less bizarre…)

This was the first week in years when we did not get a reader suggestion for a bizarre film to review; have we finally discovered all the great weird movie candidates? Probably not, be at any rate, here’s how that ridiculously-long reader-suggested review queue stands: Barbarella (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 8/10/2012

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):

Champions of the Deep: The Sword of the Sea: It appears to be some sort of children’s martial arts aquatic environmentalist allegory where two kid black belts battle grownups who represent the evils of overfishing (or something). In the most absurd scene in the trailer, a villain armed with a kayak paddle fights a hero wielding a magical sword. Many independent films aimed at specialized audiences only play theatrically for one week at a single theater in New York City or Los Angeles; this one is playing at a single theater in Providence, Rhode Island. Champions of the Deep: The Sword of the Sea official site.

SCREENINGS (Sat, Aug. 11, Chicago, IL.):

The Movie Orgy (1968): If you think the mash-up is a new phenomenon, you should check out Joe (Gremlins) Dante’s epic (270 minute!) feature which mixes together several full-length B-movies (including the grasshopper invasion of Beginning of the End) along with commercials, discarded industrial films and other video effluvia to create a surreal pop culture stew. Dante will be at the screening presenting a new digital print of the film. The Movie Orgy at the Nightingale (Chicago).

SCREENINGS (Thur., Aug. 16, Nationwide):

Rifftrax Live: Manos, the Hands of Fate: Read our review of Manos. The weird little minimalist horror feature made by an El Paso fertilizer salesman on a dare gets re-mocked (with all new jokes) by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 veterans of Rifftrax (the MST3K crew originally broadcast a mangled Manos in 1993, in the process rediscovering the movie and sparking a minor Torgo cult). Find out where the live simulcast is playing near you.

ACCEPTED:

Thunder-Sky! – Celebrating the Life and Times of Artist Raymond Thunder-Sky: 366 contributor Alfred Eaker‘s documentary about autistic artist Raymond Thunder-Sky—who frequented construction sites dressed as a clown wearing a hard hat—will play at the Cincinnati Film Festival this September. More details when the full festival lineup is announced, but congratulations are in order! More on the Thunder-Sky documentary from thundersky.org.

NEW ON DVD:

Johnny Guitar (1954): Read the guest review. Nicholas Ray’s unique feminist western may not be weird, but it has undeniable cult appeal, and this Olive Film’s release is—shockingly—the movie’s first appearance on Region 1 DVD. Buy Johnny Guitar.

Prairie Love (2011): Sundance programmers described this Dakota-set story of a man who sneaks into the place of guy going to meet his prison-bound paramour for the first time as “wonderfully bizarre” and “brazenly idiosyncratic.” Of course, that equates to no theatrical distribution and belated debut on DVD, but at least we’re happy to see it. Buy Prairie Love.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Johnny Guitar (1954): See description in DVD above. Buy Johnny Guitar [Blu-ray].

Sebastiane (1976): A homoerotic version of the story of St. Sebastian, the third century Catholic martyr; it was shocking at the time for its copious full-frontal male nudity and filthy phantasmagoria. The first feature from Derek Jarman, who apprenticed as a production designer for Ken Russell. Buy Sebastiane [Blu-ray].

The Tempest (1979): Derek Jarman’s avant-garde interpretation of Shakespeare’s play features bizarre costumes and characterizations and moves the action from an island to a Gothic mansion. Kino’s release includes three of Jarman’s short films as a bonus. Buy The Tempest [Blu-ray].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

Obsession: Letters to David Lynch (2005): Homemade semi-mockumentary (mixing man-in-the-street interviews with scripted segments) about a struggling actor on a quest to meet David Lynch. Part of the Troma trove. Watch Obsession: Letters to David Lynch 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.

THE AMAZING TRANSPLANT (1970)

Of course, , the self-taught, innovative grand dame of sexploitation and grindhouse films, personally stamped everything she did. Wishman’s repeated focus on inanimate objects is her most infamous trademark. Hideous wallpaper, repeated shots of feet, and dirty floor tiles were favorite concentrations in some of the most outrageous compositions ever filtered through a lens. All of those abound in The Amazing Transplant (1970), but there is an additional focal point here: a giant moose head hanging on the wall. I have no idea what the hell it means, if anything. It is tempting to say that, perhaps, it’s a symbolic joke at the expense of male testosterone, except that this may also be Wishman’s most misogynistic film—which is saying quite a lot.

The Hands of Orlac (1924), Mad Love (1935), The Beast With Five Fingers (1946) and The Hand (1981), all dealt with with hand transplants resulting in murderous hands. Most of these films at least had an iota of style, and two of them starred the iconic character actor Peter Lorre. In this film, Doris Wishman gives us her take on a transplanted member. Naturally, no Wishman film would dare to tackle something so acceptable as a hand. No, Wishman’s raving lunatic has a newly-grafted penis. Lest one be tempted to conjure up the image of David Cronenberg’s vampire phallus growing from the armpit of the late porn star Marilyn Chambers (Rabid-1977), I lament to report that The Amazing Transplant is nowhere near as anatomically outrageous. That is simply because we never see the Edward Hyde anaconda of poor Arthur (Juan Fernandez)—which is probably a good thing. Perhaps the hanging moose head is a sufficient avatar for all things phallic after all.

Still from The Amazing Transplant (1970)Wishman usually dubbed her films, which led her to focus the camera on anything but the actor speaking. Here, Wishman did her audience a commendable service, despite the fact that the dubbing is atrocious. The acting here is possibly the worst found in any Doris Wishman film, and not seeing her amateur thespians mouth their dialogue may actually make the film more bearable.

Arthur was never too adept with women, at least not until his late bosom bud Felix, a Casanova Continue reading THE AMAZING TRANSPLANT (1970)

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)

Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!