All posts by Gregory J. Smalley (366weirdmovies)

Originally an anonymous encyclopediast who closely guarded his secret identity to prevent his occult enemies from exposing him, a 2010 Freedom of Information Act request revealed that "366weirdmovies" is actually Greg Smalley, a freelance writer and licensed attorney from Louisville, KY. His orientation is listed as "hetero" and his relationship status as "single," but Mr. Smalley's "turn-ons" and "favorite Michael Bay movie" were redacted from the FOIA report. Mr. Smalley is a member of the Online Film Critics Society.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 2/15/2019

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):

Mega Time Squad (2018): Read Giles Edwards’ mini-review and listen to his interview with director Tim Van Dammen. A New Zealand set time-travel caper comedy. Unknown where it is playing, but Rotten Tomatoes assures us it’s going up on a screen somewhere this week. Mega Time Squad official site.

Ruben Brandt, Collector (2018): A psychotherapists commissions thefts of famous paintings, believing he will stop having nightmares about the artworks once he owns them. Intellectual, mildly surreal adult animation from Hungary. Ruben Brandt, Collector official site.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

Big Shark (2019): attempts to extend his 15 minutes of fame to the 18-minute mark with this effort exploiting 2013’s hot topic, sharks. It is pretty much guaranteed to be awful, but since Tommy’s mumbling his way through it, it will still probably be better than The Meg. The Big Shark official site currently redirects to a site selling Wiseau-branded boxer shorts with no mention of Big Shark.

Cristina (est. 2019): A woman is plagued by the demon raised by her Satanist father. Per the director, it’s a “fascinating and terrifying amalgam of classic theological horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, but armed with a hefty dose of surrealism.” Set to begin principal photography in the spring. No official site yet.

Kung Fu Hustle 2 (20??):  has announced that he has begun work on the sequel to 2004’s Canonically Weird Kung Fu Hustle. The sequel will take place in the present day, and Chow, now 56, will not star (but may appear in a cameo). “Martial Arts Action Cinema” appears to have broken the news in the English-speaking world, based on a Chow interview (in Chinese).

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Audition [Ôdishon] (1999): Read the Certified Weird review! ‘s terrifying masterpiece of anti-erotic extremity comes to Region A Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video, from a 2016 restoration, with most of the same features on the old Shout! Factory release plus  a new commentary track by Tom Mes, a new introduction from and interview with Miike, and more (first pressing includes an exclusive booklet, too). Buy Audition.

Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980): A prisoner is released in 1926 Weimar Germany and vows to go straight, but is sucked back into a life of crime. Rainer Weiner Fassbinder’s 15-hour miniseries is told straight for most of its running, but ends with a surreal epilogue. A Criterion Collection upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray. Buy Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Horror Express (1972): Read Otto Black’s review. A frozen “ape-man” turns out to be a body-possessing alien who causes trouble on the trans-Siberian express. Although this horror is (famously) in the public domain, true fans may want to purchase this Arrow Blu-ray for the restoration, commentary track, interviews, and first-pressing collectible booklet. Buy Horror Express.

Possum (2018): A puppeteer returns home to face his stepfather and secrets from his past. The script is from a short story the British director originally wrote for an anthology exploring Freud’s notion of the uncanny. On DVD or VOD. Buy Possum.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON TUBI.TV:

Night Train to Terror (1985): Read the Certified Weird entry! If everybody’s got something to do—everybody but you—then maybe you can watch this to horror anthology, made from three unreleased features cut down to the point of incoherence and linked by a framing story about God and Satan arguing about the fate of the characters while a teenage lipsynching New Wave band practices in the next train compartment. Watch Night Train to Terror free on Tubi.tv.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Next week we’ll announce the winner of 366 Weird Movies’ biggest fan contest (still time to enter!) In terms of reviews, Pete Trbovich will go into the reader-suggested review queue for 1973’s Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural, while G. Smalley brings you a long-delayed review of ‘s psychedelic flop The Last Movie (at last!) plus The Greasy Strangler ‘s  ‘s sophomore feature (a romantic comedy, of all things), An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn. And, we’ll reveal the winners of the 9th Annual Weirdcademy Awards (there’s still time to vote in that, too, although the only contests that are actually competitive are Weirdest Short Film and Weirdest Scene).

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.

CAPSULE: BRAID (2018)

DIRECTED BY: Mitzi Peirone

FEATURING: Imogen Waterhouse, Sarah Hay, Madeline Brewer, Scott Cohen

PLOT: Two girls scheme to steal from their rich, but psychotic, old friend, but doing so requires them to go along with her fantasies: “the Game.”

Still from Braid (2018)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: A hallucinatory thriller with modest ambitions to blow your mind, Braid finds itself in the weird pile, but not at the top of the heap. It’s a perfectly reasonable “B” selection to watch while waiting for something weirder to come down the pike.

COMMENTS: In the official opening scene of Braid, two collegiate drug dealers are inventorying their stash in their Manhattan loft, oblivious to the distant sound of police sirens. When the banging comes on their door, the film suddenly switches to black and white, security cam-style, as they make an improbable escape out the window and down the fire escape. What was decadent and glamorous in color suddenly turns dingy and desperate. At a later point, one of the girls pops what she thinks is Vicodin, but turns out to be a hallucinogen that turns the lawn purple (pro-tip: popping random pills is not recommended when you’re in the middle of pulling a caper). These visual dislocations, which are a constant in Braid, serve as a reminder of how fickle perception can be. They’re a reflection of the main plot device: a young lady trapped in a delusion that’s she’s still a little girl playing doctor with her friends. Later, we view a scene filmed upside down, for no apparent reason; debuting filmmaker Mitzi Peirone is often just using the delusion excuse to throw a lot of stuff on the screen that she thinks will look cool, like water flowing backwards into the faucet. (Actually, that’s not a bad strategy for a movie with a theme of disorientation.)

Petula and Tilda, the two college dropout robbers, are sufficiently rude and narcissistic that we’re amped to see them get their  comeuppance at the whims of their fruitcake ex-friend. Of course, Daphne, living in a dilapidated mansion and still playing house even though she now actually owns a house, herself is too detached from reality to root for. There is a detective sniffing around, but he seems fated to fall victim to the last of the game’s three rules: “no outsiders allowed.” Still, even though things threaten to get a little torture porn-y at times when Daphne goes to any lengths to keep her friends playing the Game, the film does make a dash for meaningful empathy at the very end.

There is a twist about a third of the way through that I didn’t see coming. It’s no stunner, but it is clever enough for an evening’s entertainment. A number of seemingly odd moments—such as the cliche old doomsayer cackling at the pair as they prepare to re-engage with their long lost gal pal—start to make (some) sense in retrospect. On the other hand, it also makes you conscious of how some of the early scenes were contrived specifically to fool the audience, rather than for organic story reasons. And some stuff never really adds up at all, such as a foot fetish scene. Still, the reveal is done well, and allows Peirone to pull out a lot of stops for a schizo-surrealist montage the supplies a high point before things start to peter out in a dreamy, melancholy epilogue (the film had been tautly paced up to that point).

The film’s insights into the subjectivity of human perception never really threaten to get beyond the superficial, but they do make a decent substrate for a weird-ass thriller. Peirone shows skill in putting the whole together, and with the help of cinematographer Todd Banhazl has a great (if undisciplined) visual flair. Keep your expectations at the level of a smart B-thriller and you may be pleasantly surprised by how well Braid threads these three women together.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Bolstered by its kinetic cinematography and stellar production design, Mitzi Peirone’s surreal nightmare Braid is a crazy fever dream of deranged games and broken realities.”–Adam Patterson, Film Pulse (festival screening)

YOUR VOTE DETERMINES THE WINNER OF THE 9TH ANNUAL WEIRDCADEMY AWARDS

So gets a Most Conventional Actor Oscar for stumbling around drunk in Las Vegas and failing to get an erection in the final scene, but when sorts a mysterious hallucinogenic powder he finds lying around in a Satanic biker’s lair and forges his own axe to mow down the hippies who burnt his true love alive, he doesn’t even get a sniff from the Academy? And now is forced to give up making movies about dystopian futures where singles are sent to a hotel where they must find a mate or be turned into an animal of their choice, and instead make costume dramas about serving wenches, fat bi queens, and Tories wearing powdered Whigs to get the Academy to give him a Most Conventional Picture nod? So what retreads did the Academy of Arts and Sciences see fit to nominate for the Most Conventional Picture Oscar of 2018? A black and white documentary about Mexicans harvesting those little plum tomatoes they put in salads? The fourth remake of a weepie about untalented drunk sellout musicians that sucked the first three times? This year’s Italian-stereotype-conquers-racism-and-finds-a-black-friend road trip comedy? A couple of movies with “Black” right there in the title, to show they are taking diversity seriously?

Yes, the Oscars are a joke, and everyone knows it. (Just try finding someone willing to host the ceremony.) But you, my friend, you aren’t content with the same-old same-old, new wine in a familiar glass. You want weird in your movies. The Weirdcademy Awards are for you, the moviegoer whose friends roll their eyes and sigh loudly when you suggest buying tickets to the latest black and white Estonian witchcraft werewolf love story.

Although the editors of 366 Weird Movies select the nominees from the pool of available movies, the Awards themselves are a naked popularity contest and do not necessarily reflect either the artistic merit or intrinsic weirdness of the films involved. The Weirdcademy Awards are tongue-in-cheek and for fun only. Ballot-stuffing is a frequent occurrence. Please, no wagering.

The Weirdcademy Awards are given to the Weirdest Movie, Actor, Actress and Scene of the previous year, as voted by the members of the Weirdcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Weirdness.

Who makes up the Weirdcademy? Membership is open to all readers of 366 Weird Movies. The rules for joining the Weirdcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Weirdness are as follows. To officially join, locate an official online ballot (such as the one below) and hover your mouse pointer over the radial button representing the choice of movie you would like to see win any award in any category. Then, simply depress the left button of your mouse to make your selection. Selections made using the right mouse button will be disregarded, and you will be forced to reapply. If your application for membership is approved, a dot will appear next to your choice. You are not done yet, so continue reading. To be certified as a voting member of the Weirdcademy, at some point subsequent to making your selection, you must navigate your mouse button to the box marked “vote.” Now, again depress your left mouse button to confirm your membership as a voting member of the Weirdcademy.

(Vote as many times as you like, but only once per day, please. We’ll keep voting open until February 24 at 12:00 Noon EST, so we can announce our results before the Academy Awards and steal their thunder).

There is no requirement that you’ve have to actually see all the movies in any category before voting.

Be sure to also vote for Weirdest Short Film of the Year. To watch all five nominees and to cast your vote, please click here.

Without further delay, we unveil the nominees for the 2018 Weirdcademy Awards below:
Continue reading YOUR VOTE DETERMINES THE WINNER OF THE 9TH ANNUAL WEIRDCADEMY AWARDS

SLAMDANCE 2019 REMOTE COVERAGE

We didn’t get to fly out to Park City this year for the Sundance festivities (our budget has never allowed for trips to Park City), the rival Slamdance Festival was kind enough to offer us a handful of digital screeners to create a virtual fest in the 366 Weird Movies home offices. So, while I didn’t get the full audience experience watching these underground films—chuckling with fellow patrons at the antics of these onscreen loonies while the scent of popcorn wafts through the darkened room—at least you won’t have to hear me complain about trekking through Park City’s sub-zero temperatures to see them (I watched them via Chromecast in front of a roaring gas fireplace clutching a glass of beer, thank you very much).

Obviously, we focused only on movies we thought sounded somewhat weird, ignoring the vanilla dramas and documentaries that make up the bulk of the programming. All of these films will have debuted by the time you’re reading this, but if you’re in Park City and you still want to catch them, Dollhouse and The Vast of Night play again on the 28th, while “Slip Road” can be seen on the same night in the “Anarchy Shorts” section.  A Great Lamp and “Finding the Asshole” play again on the 29th (and “Asshole” is also now available to everyone online), while “Butt Fantasia” encores on the 31st.

So, while “major” critics are salivating over Sundance’s latest dramas about attractive young white people grappling with their mommy and daddy issues, we’ll show you what’s going on in the underbelly of Park City, where the weirdos congregate to screen their latest experimental offenses about unattractive young white people grappling with much weirder mommy and daddy issues.

Speaking of weird mommy issues, first up in our queue is Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity in American Popular Culture (don’t worry, the scary pseudoacademic title is part of the joke). Using an aesthetic borrowed from “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” and a sense of humor derived from “South Park,” Nicole Brending tells of the rise and fall of Junie Spoons, a child superstar a la Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus, entirely with children’s dolls. This project was a labor of love by Brending, who launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 that failed to reach its goal, but kept hope alive and managed to complete the film (for a reported budget of “no money”) five years later.

Still from Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture (2018)Even if it’s unpolished and uneven, that kind of personal passion usually results in something worth watching, and that’s the case here. Dollhouse provides steady chuckles and is frequently in very bad taste—especially considering that its mockumentary subject becomes a washed-up, drug addicted divorcee felon in her early teens. Among the -approved provocations are a pre-teen sex tape (with pixellated doll penis), dolls stuck with syringes, black men voiced by white women, Mapplethrope photos, and a vagina transplant/repossession. The Continue reading SLAMDANCE 2019 REMOTE COVERAGE

CAPSULE: STRAIGHT TO HELL (1987)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Joe Strummer, Dick Rude, Courtney Love

PLOT: Three gangsters, with a pregnant girlfriend in tow, blow an assignment, rob a bank, and hide out in a Central American village ruled by a band of coffee-addicted desperadoes.

Still from Straight to Hell (1987)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: This silly, violent and absurd attempt at a Western comedy made by non-comedians doesn’t really work, except as a curio.

COMMENTS: The story behind Straight to Hell is that filmmaker Alex Cox had assembled a number of punk bands for a concert in Nicaragua, which had to be canceled due to political turmoil. With his schedule involuntarily cleared and time on his hands, he sat down with a guy named Dick Rude (!) and scratched out a movie script in three days, using the musicians and whoever was available on short notice as actors. The result is a silly spoof, made on the spur of the moment, with punk rockers trying to be comedians. There’s a party vibe, and it’s clear that the cast and crew had a blast farting around in the desert. It’s equally clear that you will never have as much fun watching it as they did making it.

Sy Richardson (whom Cox had worked with before on Repo Man and Sid and Nancy) was one of the few actual actors available for the project on short notice, so the prolific character actor gets a rare featured role here, and makes the best of the opportunity. (Because he’s cool, black, and wears a suit and tie while brandishing a gun, he’s often pointed to as a precursor to Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules in Pulp Fiction). The Clash’s Joe Strummer is second-in-command, while Rude takes the role of the youngest and jumpiest of the gang. Courtney Love is Sy’s shrill, preggo girlfriend, who’s so effectively annoying that they effectively write her out of the script after the setup. Besides the main cast, Eighties underground culture aficionados can keep an eye out for cameos by the Pogues, Elvis Costello, Grace Jones, , and even .

And yes, it is weird, although more in the vein of a spectacularly drunk Mel Brooks than of . The credits list a “sex and cruelty consultant” (a bit tongue-in-cheekly, since there’s not terribly much of either). What you do get it some attempted slapstick from musicians trying to be comics, scenes spoofing Once Upon the Time in the West and Cool Hand Luke, hard-to-understand accents (not only from the rotten-toothed Shane MacGowan), a Western hot dog vendor, a butler who serves coffee to desperate killers, a barrelhouse piano version of “Night on Bald Mountain,” a musical number (including “Danny Boy”) or two, and a long conclusory shootout to prune the cast (including a few extra bodies like Jarmusch who show up at the last minute to get mowed down). Perhaps the oddest touch of all are two brief shots of Ray Harryhausen-style animated skeletons: a wolf who howls at the moon and a human clutching a knife between its teeth. It’s like Cox bought a few seconds of unused footage from a Charles Band production and shoehorned them into his movie at random. Whatever charm Straight to Hell possesses comes from the fact that you seldom have any idea what will happen next.

The story is supposedly based on the Canonically Weird Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!—Cox went so far as to secure the adaptation rights—but the similarities between the two films are completely superficial. Remastered with new digital gore effects and re-released in a director’s cut in 2010, Straight to Hell is obscure, but Kino-Lorber’s 2018 edition with director’s commentary is actually its third appearance on DVD (it was released by Anchor Bay in 2001, and by Microcinema DVD under the title Straight to Hell Returns in 2010). The film is also available on Blu-ray or streaming outlets.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s a very weird vibe, and it requires one to not only accept, but also embrace, boredom. If the movie has one theory, it’s this: if you stare long enough at a certain spot, something weird and cool is bound to happen.”–Jeffery M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid (DVD)

APOCRYPHA

An administrative announcement, just so the review above makes sense: we have completed the List of 366 Weird Movies, which henceforth will be referred to as “Canonically Weird,” or “the Canon.”

As previously announced, we will be continuing to honor other films, at a slower pace; once officially confirmed, these supplemental entries will be listed as “Apocryphally Weird,” or “the Apocrypha.”  Therefore, Umbilical World counts as an “Apocrypha Candidate.”

We’ll be using this terminology from now on. You can consider all former “List Candidates” to be converted to “Apocrypha Candidates” automatically. Now we return you to your regularly scheduled weirdness.

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: UMBILICAL WORLD (2018)

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Voices of David Firth, Paul MacKenzie, Christian Webb

PLOT: A remixed collection of David Firth’s absurdist flash animation cartoons, like “Salad Fingers” and “Health Reminder,” assembled into a stream-of-consciousness feature with some new material.

Still from Umbilical World (2018)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: The nature of the project—an anthologized (though “remixed”) collection of previously published material as opposed to something originally conceived as a unified piece—makes Umbilical World somewhat suspect as an official List entry. There is enough bizareness here to merit the “” tag, however, and that will be more than enough endorsement for many folks.

COMMENTS: Umbilical World begins with “Salad Fingers,” the sweet green goblin with vegetable digits (and David Firth’s most popular creation) struck by lightning and dissolving into a puddle, out of which a glistening umbilical organ rises and glides into low Earth orbit, where it grows on to have relations with celestial objects.

It’s totally and delightfully surreal, of course, but this opening is also a way of implying connectivity between these shorts, although in reality there is no serious connective tissue between the segments. The absurdist miniatures here range from the silly tale of Salad Fingers adopting some sort of oil-soaked battered tin war surplus cylinder, to a skit with skinless gangsters using twisted Prohibition-era slang to order drinks, to straight-up satires of ads and public-service announcements, to a truly nightmarish bit involving a razor-taloned doctor puppet who wounds a horse and feasts on its blood. (Those who have only been exposed to Firth’s lighter, satirical side may be shocked by how terrifyingly dark he can go.) There is, at least, a unity of style and attitude, themes of insanity and death and despair and tubes suck through your skull, and a consistent vein of coal-black humor used to cope with these existential terrors. Extra-weird bits include a character vomiting scrabble tiles when questioned by a head sticking out of a tree stump—not to mention a baby-faced umbilicus entering a photograph of a vagina, emerging from a photograph of an anus, and vomiting eyeballs. There’s a new insane concept once every thirty seconds on average. And there are a surprising number of decapitations—usually not fatal—running throughout the work.

The transitions between the sequences are new material, with ideas like Salad Fingers taking place on a microscopic world on a piece of moldy bread. Characters also watch new cartoons on televisions embedded in the back of other characters heads. Stylistically, much of the animation remains true to Firth’s original flash versions, updated to HD; there are also segments dabbling in an ultra-grotesque form of cutout animation, with cross-eyed photorealistic heads bobbling unsteadily on animated bodies. One extended, trippy bit of digital manipulation, where 21st century  amoebas morph in pseudo-3D over the image before exploding into a fractal supernova and then turning into a stop-motion / homage with mannequin heads and a spinning plate of fruit and sundered body parts, ventures into brave new territory. The music—by Flying Lotus, the late Marcus Fjellström, and others—is eerie and well-matched to the mood. And while the individual pieces featured here may work better as shorts—there can be too much of a good thing, at least in one sitting—the experience is like leaving Firth’s YouTube channel on autoplay while waiting for the drugs to kick in, then checking in just when you’re peaking to find something on that plays like a collaboration between , , and a serial killer.

On a personal level, I was only familiar with the three Firth shorts previously published on these pages, plus a few more we screened and passed over for another day. I suspect someone like me may be in the best position to appreciate this collection. If you have too much familiarity with Firth’s work, you might be disappointed in how little new material is here, or be upset if your personal favorite was left out. If you have too little familiarity with Firth’s work, you might miss out on a bit of context or some of the umbilical connections, or simply be stunned by the mix of -style jokes with nightmares that would make bolt up in bed screaming. In any case, there is an obvious pitch to this work: Firth has worked hard publishing on YouTube to build a fan base, but paltry streaming advertising revenues don’t pay the bills for 99% of content providers. Like a Kickstarter reward, Umbilical World offers fans a chance to show him a little financial support, and to receive something new and exclusive in exchange. Umbilical World also immortalizes Firth’s work in a less ephemeral fashion. It’s available streaming (click here for options), or on DVD with a bonus “making of” documentary and director’s commentary.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“In terms of the vibe, think Bill Plympton crossed with Eraserhead.”–Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins