Tag Archives: Direct to video

366 UNDERGROUND: WINNERS TAPE ALL: THE HENDERSON BROTHERS STORY (2015)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Justin Channell

FEATURING: Zane Crosby, Joshua Lively, and Chris LaMartina

PLOT: The exploits of a hyper-low-budget ’80s horror duo are chronicled in the form of a public access television “documentary”.

Still from Winners Tape All (2015)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Winners Tape All is a cheeky dissection of the various failings (and unlikely successes) of the straight-to-VHS horror phenomenon that gripped (?) the nation back in the 1980s. While some of the fake movies “discussed” in this mockumentary would easily be Certifiable contenders, Channell’s homage to one of the stranger pop-genres stands as a straightforward, well-made, and very funny bit of fare.

COMMENTS: Today’s big-name directors would do well to learn a lesson from some of the novices that have sprung up in recent years: your movie should only be as long as it has to be. Winners Tape All stands as a testament to the fact that a movie less than an hour and a half long isn’t less of a movie for its efforts, but can be much more. This breezy mockumentary clocks in at a sweet sixty-seven minutes. It is brief, but uses every moment well, exploring the fictional history of two crummy film-makers from West Virginia in a manner that is both hilarious and, somehow, a little touching.

Within the framework of an “Eye on the Cinema” public access TV episode, Channell tells us about the Henderson brothers. These step-brothers are a lens through which Channell explores the genre. With only two movies to their credit (Curse of Stabberman and Cannibal Swim Club), they represent what cinephiles regard as all that’s wrong with amateur auteurs. The narrative, however, makes clear that guys like these were instrumental in propping up a genre that, though lacking perhaps in quality, made up for it in mind-numbing quantity. That distributors can’t be bothered to transfer so many of those shot-on-video rental horror movies with titles like Scream Dream and Mad Mutilator to cheap-o DVDs suggests that those “50 Classics of Horror” compilations out there barely scratch the surface.

Zipping back and forth between interviews with Richard Henderson (Joshua Lively), a laid-back surfer of a movie maker, and Michael Henderson (Zane Crosby), a pony-tailed gore fan with a hick accent, we also get to see snippets of the two awful horror movies that made them “rich” (Curse of Stabberman‘s popularity on the rental circuit was unexpected) and then bankrupted their distribution label (Cannibal Swim Club was more of the same coming out a little too late). Scattered throughout are interludes with perhaps the most die-hard fan ever made, Henry Jacoby (Chris LaMartina). While part of me feels Jacoby’s awkward zeal compromises the movie somewhat, another part acknowledges that he is in all likelihood an accurate representative of militant bad-horror enthusiasts.

Little jokes and asides come and go, sometimes stacking on each other. Michael addresses the phenomenon of “walk time” for Curse of Stabberman (used to fill out a movie’s time clock when plot and dialogue are wanting); later, Richard echoes the idea with “swim time” when discussing Cannibal Swim Club, giving a “see what we did there?” kind of look to the camera. I’m no expert in the genre being ribbed here, but I’ve seen enough to know that Channell’s distilled all the very worst parts of it into these guys and the two movies they made. While I’d be loath to watch either of the films from the Henderson’s oeuvre, it was a very enjoyable experience to see those two brothers done justice (of sorts)—or, more accurately, to see justice done for all those amateur directors, writers, and actors who, despite the theme of their chosen genre, were never ones to say die.

Winners Tape All is available exclusively from IWC Films.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s always fun to see straight-faced depictions of made-up things which are just plain ridiculous.”–Jesse Skeen, DVD Talk (DVD)

199. CAT SOUP (2001)

Nekojiru-so

“Many animators participated in the creation of Nekojiru-so, but I wonder how many of the animators fully understood the concept and manifested that understanding in the animation. When Yuasa and I explained things during animation meetings, we really didn’t understand it ourselves either.”–Tatsuo Satō, Cat Soup director, DVD commentary

RecommendedWeirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Tatsuo Satō

FEATURING: Not applicable (the film is animated with no dialogue)

PLOT: After nearly drowning in a bathtub, a young anthropomorphic cat sees his sick older sister being led away by a purple figure, follows it, and engages in a tug of war in which he recovers part of her body. He then returns home where he finds the sister still ill and convalescing, and gives her the part he recovered from the purple figure. She recovers from her sickness, and the pair embark on a series surreal adventures throughout the cartoon cosmos, although the sister is only half-alive until they eventually locate a mystical flower that restores her.

Still from Cat Soup (2001)
BACKGROUND:

  • Cat Soup is based on a series of manga by the artist Nekojiru (a pseudonym that actually translates as “cat soup”). Although Nekojiru’s stories were also dreamlike, they were more structured than this adaptation, and little of Cat Soup is taken directly from her works. Nekojiru committed suicide in 1998.
  • Technically, the Japanese title translates as something like “Cat Soup Flower.”
  • Director Tatsuo Satō specializes in television anime and has directed episodes of “Martian Successor Nadesico,” “Ninja Scroll: The Series,” and “Bodacious Space Pirates.”
  • Co-writer Masaaki Yuasa also produced and was the animation director; he has since directed his own feature (2004’s Mind Game) and several shorts and TV episodes, while continuing to work as an animator on other projects.
  • Because it was an OVA (“Original Video Animation” in anime parlance, meaning direct-to-DVD with no theatrical release), Cat Soup was not eligible to compete in many film festivals, although it did take honors at a few (including recognition as Fantasia’s Best Short Film of 2001).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Choosing a single image from Cat Soup, which is a 30-minute barrage of insane, enchanting, and frequently disturbing visions made by animators who had been freed from almost any constraints on what they were allowed to imagine, is a tall task. We selected a still from the scene which literally enacts the title. Making this “cat soup” involves dressing up in mouse dominatrix gear and chopping up the yummy kitties with a giant pair of scissors.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: In some ways I envy the reviewer who was the first to get to Cat Soup and dub it “Hello Kitty on acid.” (Although I actually haven’t been able to track down the critic who first said that; perhaps the description is so obvious that everyone just assumes someone else came up with it before they did). I think a better description, perhaps, would be “Hello Kitty goes to Hell,” because the acidic hallucinations here all occur in the context of cat spirits wandering a weird world halfway between life and death, a place where God appears as a carnival magician and cuts planets in half and slurps their molten cores like soup. The brisk 30 minute runtime is the perfect length for this nearly plot-free pageant of morbid feline surrealism, which hits your surreal receptors hard, but doesn’t last so long you build up a tolerance to the insanity.


English-language DVD trailer for Cat Soup

COMMENTS: Cat Soup is a short feature that flummoxes even anime Continue reading 199. CAT SOUP (2001)

CAPSULE: MIDNIGHT SKATER (2002)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: Lucas Campbell

FEATURING: Cory Maidens, Ezra Haidet

PLOT: A killer chops up his fellow students on a college campus while a zombie plague brews.

Still from Midnight Skater (2002)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Even if this glorified home movie were good—and not only is it not good, it’s perversely proud of its badness—it’s not at all weird (except in the most obvious and derivative sense of the word). Midnight Skater simply apes the ironic grindhouse-throwback aesthetic, without putting its own spin on the genre.

COMMENTS: Why do low-budget filmmakers assume that comedy is easy? Whenever they’re wringing their hands over lack of a production budget, they say, “I know! We’ll make it a comedy! Then we can make fun of our own crap budget, it’ll be hilarious!” To a large extent this phenomenon is the poisonous effect of on the modern horror mentality, but it’s also the fallacy of believing that because Boner Bob’s impression of a gay meth dealer makes all his frat brothers at the Saturday night kegger spit Schlitz through their nostrils, his antics will make sober strangers crack up, too.

Midnight Skater does have one kinda-laugh, when the killer gives an absurdly literal recap of his latest necrophiliac adventure. Far more painful attempts at comedy come from a simpering, anime-and-D&D-obsessed gay nerd with a combination lisp/sneer and attitude of arrogant cowardice. The lame kill puns don’t even rise to the level of groaners (“now that’s what I call good head” quips the killer after crushing a victim’s skull). Mostly, the movie is a painful parade of bad lighting, overacting, audible offscreen noise, surprisingly ugly kids, OK zombie makeup, and crew members spraying people with syringes of tomato soup from just off camcorder.

Midnight Skater has garnered a surprising amount of praise from the few critics who actually condescended to look at it. The explanation is always that the kids look like they had a lot of fun making the movie. And, indeed, if you were part of the gang of college freshmen that made Midnight Skater, you’d be proud of the achievement, and have a great time reliving the film with your buddies over a case of cheap brewskies. On that level, the movie is a success—but a success for the makers, not for the viewers. It is a crime that this glorified home movie somehow got onto Netflix, and might accidentally take up a slot people could use to rent a real film. There’s a big difference between “good for you, you made a movie!” and “you made a good movie.” Encouraging amateurs to go out and make their own movies is one thing, but at some point, you have to stop giving people bonus points just for being inexperienced and enthusiastic. This is the marketplace of ideas, not a third grade soccer league; everyone doesn’t deserve a trophy just for participating.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…getting in the same Spock state of brain with the insane and inventive no-budget filmmakers here may require Ritalin, a gross of sugary juice boxes and about a hundred trips to the video store (or at least a couple readings of The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film). This is horror and hilarity as channeled through a TV eye mentality, a narrative knowledge derived almost exclusively from issues of Fangoria and untold reams of fan fiction.”–Bill Gibron, DVD Talk (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by “Angry Rob,” who said “the acting is bad but the writing is brilliant.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

166. TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE (1987)

“That was a strange tale, wasn’t it, Bobby?”–Shirley L. Jones in Tales from the Quadead Zone

Beware

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Keefe L. Turner

PLOT: A woman reads her invisible child two stories from a book entitled “Tales of the Quadead Zone.” In one, a redneck family never has enough food for everyone at the table to eat, until one of the clan figures out a solution. In another, a man retrieves his dead brothers’ corpse in order to ritually abuse it.

Still from Tales from the Quadead Zone (1987)
BACKGROUND:

  • Chester Turner’s 1984 movie Black Devil Doll from Hell was originally written as one of the segments in this anthology film, but was expanded to a full-length feature instead. A remnant of that intention may linger in the theme song, which claims that “dolls will kill…”
  • Although they did almost all of the technical work themselves, Turner and Shirley Jones made up fictitious names for the camera and sound credits so the crew would seem larger than it was. Turner is still credited with direction, writing, music, special effects, and editing.
  • Most of the cast and crew have surnames of either “Jones” or “Turner.”
  • Disappointed after receiving less than $1,000 from the distributor of Black Devil Doll from Hell, Turner and Jones decided to sell copies of Tales from the Quadead Zone themselves. They traveled to every video store they could find within a 25 mile radius of Chicago selling their tapes.
  • After completing Quadead Zone, Turner quit filmmaking (because he hadn’t made any money at it) and started a construction business. For two decades he was unaware that his videotapes were being bootlegged and circulated among a small cult of trash-film devotees. (One original VHS copy of Quadead sold for $1,300). Internet rumors circulated claiming that Turner was dead, but Massacre Video’s Louis Justin eventually tracked him down by calling every Chester Turner for whom he could find a telephone number.
  • Turner has publicly stated he’s interested in making Tales from the Quadead Zone 2 and Black Devil Doll from Hell 2 (for which he’s already written a script—it’s subtitled “The Goddoll” and will be a spoof of The Godfather).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The corpse dressed up as a clown. Who dresses up a corpse as a clown? What makes the scene especially unforgettable is the basic chroma-key technology used to depict an orangish-red blob of pure spirit entering the dead body.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: What the heck is a “quadead” zone? A zone with four dead people in it? You’ll have no more clue after watching the movie than you did before, but you will at least understand that any film made by the unique Chester Novell Turner deserves a name that doesn’t make sense. Turner’s two-movie horror universe is a world of puppet rapists, killer rednecks, undead clowns and invisible child ghosts, shot through a camcorder lens, acted out by friends and family, and accompanied by a homemade Casio keyboard score that frequently drowns out the dialogue. Of his two brain-damaged films, Tales from the Quadead Zone earns a slight edge over Black Devil Doll from Hell, mainly because it’s a half-hour shorter, and features a broader range of non-actors engaging in awkward pauses in more varied environments.

Scarecrow Video’s trailer for a screening of Tales from the Quadead Zone

COMMENTS: The credits and theme song really tell you what you’re getting into with Tales from the Quadead Zone. With the unmetrical opening Continue reading 166. TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE (1987)

CAPSULE: BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL (1984)

Beware

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING:

PLOT: A sexually-repressed church lady buys a magical puppet who comes to life and rapes her, waking her slumbering libido.Still from Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Chester Novell Turner deserves some sort of weird movie recognition for his two movie opus of Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984) and Tales from the Quadead Zone (1987), films which reveal the relative polish and elegance of the maligned Sadly, a spot on the list of the weirdest movies of all time for Black Devil Doll from Hell is not that recognition. Although the doll sex scenes are a hoot, the movie as a whole is dull, and made up mostly of filler.

COMMENTS: The original tagline to Black Devil Doll from Hell was “Was it a nightmare? Or was it for real?” It should have been “I was raped by a puppet—and I liked it!” Shot on video with a budget of about $8,000—although when you watch you’ll find yourself wondering what Turner could possibly have spent all that money on—Black Devil Doll is basically an elaborate home movie starring Turner’s then-girlfriend and a cast and crew made up of relatives and buddies. Massacre Video’s DVD presentation is taken from the best source material possible, which is a transfer of an vintage VHS tape. Anyone who dug the glitchy visual aesthetic of Trash Humpers should respond to this one: with warping around the edges and lots of horizontal roll to accentuate the washed-out lighting, Black Devil Doll is authentic analog ugliness. You shouldn’t want to see it any other way—these visual smudges are all part of recreating the authentic “just took a chance on this turkey because of the crazy title and cover” 1980s video store experience. Watching a pristine, restored version of Black Devil Doll from Hell would be as pointless as a Spike Lee remake with Halle Berry in the lead and Samuel L. Jackson voicing the puppet. While the visuals are drab, the audio is frustrating. There is a constant background hiss, the dialogue can be hard to make out, and Turner’s childishly repetitive Casio keyboard score is irritating beyond belief. At one point, he holds a single ear-piercing high note for 45 seconds (I timed it). And let’s not forget that the acting is terrible, and the direction, too—there are long pauses in the dialogue while Turner patiently waits for the actors to remember their next line, and scenes where star Jones just putters morosely around her house, doing nothing to advance the story. All this incompetence would be intolerable, if the core idea of a supernatural rapist who looks like Rick James turned into a ventriloquist’s dummy wasn’t so inherently bizarre and ludicrous. As it is, you’re left watching wide-eyed in sick fascination to see what strange, sleazy turn the tortoise-paced story will come up with next. The Devil Doll occasionally exhales smoke through his mouth, solely because it’s a cheap effect that looks marginally cool. After blasting his victim with a vent of steam he utters the classic seduction line “now that you have smelt the foulness of my breath, you may feel the sweetness of my tongue!” (I’m totally trying that line out on my next date). The sex scenes look absolutely ridiculous and anti-erotic, but the puppet’s technique must be is superlative, because soon after he rocks her world the church lady proclaims “I didn’t know it could be this beautiful!” She soon throws her Bible in the trash and starts searching the house to find the Devil Doll (whom she dubs “Mr. Wonderful”) for another round of fine lovin’ (splinters be damned!), but he’s gone missing. With the doll departed, she picks up strange men instead, but no one can satisfy her. It’s all quite amazing; you keep on watching not because it’s entertaining, but out of awe that something like this even exists.

Massacre Video’s releases comes in a box set together with Turner’s other movie, Tales from the Quadead Zone (which we chose to represent the Chester N. Turner phenomenon on the List). The Black Devil Doll disc includes an alternate cut of the film that’s missing 13 minutes (they kept all 12 minutes of credits, though). There’s also a thirty minute interview with writer/director Turner and star Jones, and, even better, a commentary track. Jones, now likely a grandmother, makes some priceless comments: she calls the puppet “my baby!” when he first appears, critiques her own nipples, and breaks into an uncontrollable fit of laughter during the sex scene.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The shot-on-video wave that turned horror VHS collecting into such a bizarre free for all in the 1980s resulted in many outrageous oddities, but none can really compete with the brain-shredding experience of Black Devil Doll from Hell.”–Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital (DVD)

131. DOGGIEWOGGIEZ! POOCHIEWOOCHIEZ! (2012)

“We’ve always had a thing with how people treat little people at Everything Is Terrible!, like it’s really weird and creepy… I think it’s the same thing with humans and dogs. They’re weirdly sexualized, they’re weirdly turned into little kids at the same time. When they’re your best friend it turns into this weird, gross, furry pile where you can’t tell where the lines are between human and dog, master and slave, and sex, and it’s just ugh. In that way it turned out to be perfect, because when you watch The Holy Mountain you’re so confused about the world and you feel icky, but at the same time it’s beautiful. It felt perfect when it was coming together because it was gross but then you put 15 layers of dogs together and be like, ‘I think that’s kind of beautiful.'”–Commodore Gilgamesh on Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez!

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Commodore Gilgamesh, Ghoul Skool

FEATURING: None (some recognizable actors and celebrities can be glimpsed in movie clips)

PLOT: This movie is 55 minutes of clips of strange and funny dog clips from movies and videotapes, arranged into a pop-absurdist montage that loosely follows the plot of Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s The Holy Mountain. Appropriated scenes range from major motion pictures like Beethoven to direct-to-video instructional manuals on dog massage, with the snippets arranged thematically (dog grooming, dog sex, talking dogs making terrible puns, etc). The editing crew also takes the canine footage and manipulates it into original psychedelic collages to further strengthen the connection to the mystical Mountain.

Still from Doogiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez!

BACKGROUND:

  • Everything is Terrible! is a consortium that collects strange and funny found footage clips from how-to videos, amateur Christian puppet shows, infomercials, and other video detritus of the past, often transforming the results with simple editing techniques to make it even weirder. Their website has been active since 2007. The members post under pseudonyms and only appear in public wearing fuzzy monster masks (although at Doggiewoggiez live screenings, they appeared in dog masks instead).
  • Everything is Terrible! released two previous full-length compilations of found-footage clips—Everything is Terrible! The Movie and 2Everything2Terrible2: Tokyo Drift—but Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez! was their first themed release and their most conceptually ambitious project.
  • The movie’s extremely modest $2,000 budget was successfully funded via the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter.
  • One source reports the film contains 1500 cuts (which would work out to about one scene every 2 seconds). It took a little over a year to assemble the footage.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: “The Dog Molecule” segment, where we see a puppy puffing on a tiny pipe version of its own head, and the camera pulls back to reveal an identical third pooch puffing on that canine.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Constructing a remake of the flamboyant Surrealist epic The Holy Mountain would be a fool’s errand; there would be no way to out-weird the original. Unless, of course, you remade the self-indulgent spiritual odyssey as a comedy, illustrating the key scenes using found footage from crappy dog videos. Then, you’d be creating a parallel universe of weirdness.

Teaser for Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez!

COMMENTS: A startling indictment of the indignities desperate Hollywood producers will inflict upon man’s best friend in the name of cheap Continue reading 131. DOGGIEWOGGIEZ! POOCHIEWOOCHIEZ! (2012)

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: THE BRIDE OF FRANK (1996)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: Steve Ballot

FEATURING: Frank Meyer

PLOT: Frank, a mentally challenged old man with a speech impediment, kills various people he

Still from he Bride of Frank (1996)

meets as he searches for true love from a woman with large breasts.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: As an authentic piece of goombah outsider art, The Bride of Frank is actually weird, but it’s also bad. And I mean real bad, not “entertaining” bad.

COMMENTS: The movie begins with a toothless old man tricking a five year-old girl into getting into his big rig, trying to get her to kiss him, then crushing her head under the wheel of his truck after she calls him a “dirty bum.” If that scenario sounds like can’t miss comedy gold to you, then you’re The Bride of Frank‘s target audience. All others will want to observe that “beware” rating. That opening scene of child molestation played for laughs does have the virtue of driving away most of the audience before the film can even get started; anyone who continues on past that point can’t pretend to be surprised by the senseless killing, simulated defecation, and sexual perversion that follows. Tonally, the opening, which makes us want to destroy Frank with fire, is a huge problem because it’s out of character with the way the rest of the movie wants to portray him—as a hideous-looking but childlike outcast, a la Frankenstein’s monster, who only kills bad people after they insult and reject him. To wit: Frank decapitates a nerd and relieves himself inside the corpse after being insulted at his birthday party, rips the face off a transvestite who tricks him into a sexual encounter, tears the eye out of a 300 pound exotic dancer and violates her corpse because she’s a tease, and so on. Yawn. Are we jaded yet? More conventional comic relief comes from the poetically obscene homoerotic/homophobic repartee between two of Frank’s coworkers, which is slightly amusing, but nothing you haven’t heard before if you’ve ever worked with Jersey teamsters on a loading dock. Frank, the weatherbeaten, dim, ex-homeless killer whose speech impediment is so thick he’s often subtitled, is played by real-life ex-homeless man Frank Meyer. Frank is like regular Edith Massey, except he’s not in on the joke. He’s not acting, he’s simply Continue reading CAPSULE: THE BRIDE OF FRANK (1996)

LIST CANDIDATE: THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS (2001)

This post was originally lost in the Great Server Crash of 2010; the article was partially recovered from Google cache, and the rest of the text was recreated. Sorry, original comments were irretrievably lost in cyberspace.

DIRECTED BY: Jeremy Kasten

FEATURING: Andras Jones, Seth Green, Jeffrey Combs, Beth Bates, Ted Raimi

PLOT: Awakening from a dream to find himself on an operating table, an amnesiac is

Scene from The Attic Expeditions (2001)

informed that he is a schizophrenic murderer who has been committed to a private institution and is now being sent to a halfway home—nicknamed “the House of Love”—to be rehabilitated.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: The Attic Expeditions sounds echoes of some (better) weird movies: Jacob’s Ladder (in the way that the script offers different possible explanations for the protagonist’s hallucinations, and jerks the viewer back and forth between those theories) and Donnie Darko (in that it seems the director intended to tell a fantastical story that “made sense” on a literal level, but lost control of the story when he took it one paradox too far).  An interesting, confusing, out-of-control picture, it’s as fascinating for its misses as for its hits.  It falls just short of a general recommendation, but it is recommended to anyone interested in psychological, mindbending horror seasoned with heaping doses of confusion and who isn’t a stickler for great acting.  This is the kind of curious, singular picture that could wind up filling one of the final slots in the List.

COMMENTS: Trevor Blackburn may be a schizophrenic murderer, or he may be an amnesiac sorcerer, or he may be the victim of an unethical psychological experiment; or he may be all three.  It’s impossible to tell, especially since The Attic Expeditions is full of contradictions and contains segments where the timeline suddenly resets and the action repeats itself with slight variations.  The mystery promiscuously throws out clues, but every possible explanation for Trevor’s woes seems chained to its own refutation.  Trevor is an unreliable narrator in triplicate: he’s a definite amnesiac, a possible schizophrenic, and, to top it all off, his state-appointed guardian appears to be deliberately playing with his loose grip on reality.  Psychiatrist Dr. Ek (played by Jefferey Combs as a variation on Herbert West as a pot-smoking, skin-popping headshrinker) uses Trevor as a case study for an experiment in Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS (2001)

CAPSULE: SMASH CUT (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Lee Demarbre

FEATURING: , Sasha Grey, Jesse Buck, Michael Berryman,

PLOT: An incompetent horror director discovers he can make realistic gore effects by killing

Still from Smash Cut (2009)

his critics and co-workers and using their severed body parts as special effects.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With Smash Cut, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter auteur Lee Demarbre pulls back the weirdness and takes a step towards the conventional (to the extent that a comedic tribute to Herschel Gordon Lewis’ cheesy gore films, featuring a main character who considers a dead stripper in the trunk of his car to be his muse, can be considered mainstream).  The results are, frankly, a little boring, though camp gorehounds might find some entertainment here.

COMMENTS:  The one sentence plot synopsis tells you all you need to know; there are very few story surprises as Smash Cut unspools.  You can figure out that the diabolical director starts to enjoy killing as his megalomania grows, finds it increasingly difficult to cover his tracks as the bodies pile up, and is eventually thwarted by the clean-cut young heroes.  Since we know what’s coming, it’s crucial that Smash Cut deliver on the gags (especially the weird gags), and unfortunately this is where the movie falls down on the job.  The best parts are the two films-within-the-film, perhaps because they push their deranged style to its limits and stay true to their own madness.  The first is director and future serial killer Abel Whitman’s trashterpiece Terror Toy, featuring a ragdoll clown murdering a busty psychiatrist with an ink pen and one of the worst “dangling eyeball” scenes you’ll ever witness.  The second featurette is a silent art film created as a mousetrap to try to play on the felonious filmmaker’s sense of guilt.  In between those two highlights are some interesting, mildly absurd touches—for example, a “suicide” by harpoon and a minor character who sets army men on fire—and a lot of deliberately unconvincing, campy gore effects (though the scene where Abel extracts eyeballs with a box cutter delivers a significant cringe factor).  The acting is inconsistent, which is not necessarily a problem in the overall spoofy enterprise, but Continue reading CAPSULE: SMASH CUT (2009)