WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/10/2021

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

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.

FILM FESTIVALS(Arizona Underground Film Festival, Tuscon, AZ, Sep. 17-25):

It’s the 14th year for this underground film festival, one of many small fests from around the country that we rarely cover. This one comes to our notice because they’ll be screening two films we’ve reviewed here in 2021—5000 Space Aliens and Country of Hotels—so we suspect much of the rest of the slate may be up our alley. Here are a few features that caught our eye:

  • DimLand – A woman goes to a country retreat where she meets a masked figure who convinces her to flee further from reality.
  • Medusa – A French film about a romantic triangle between a man, a woman, and her mute, paralyzed sister; not much else is known except that stars. Not to be confused with the 2020 American horror movie of the same name, or the 2021 Brazilian drama of the same name about female vigilantes that’s currently playing at TIFF.
  • Ordinary Creatures – A “very strange” road movie/comedy further described by programmers as “borderline surreal.”

Arizona Underground Film Festival official homepage.

FILM FESTIVALS(Nottingham International Film Festival, Nottingham, UK, Sep. 24-26):

For Brits, here’s an even smaller festival that includes two of the movies featured above: Medusa and Country of Hotels (with a Q&A with director ). The offbeat documentary about female wrestlers, Luchadoras, also plays there.

Nottingham International Film Festival official homepage.

IN DEVELOPMENT (post-production):

Mermaids’ Lament (est. 2022): Without giving too much away, allow us to quote director : “It’s an homage, in a way, to Man Facing Southeast… a psychological drama about a woman who may or may not have been a mermaid but definitely suffered a major trauma leaving her homeless and mute. Her life collides with a therapist who has a crippling anxiety about the ocean.” Mermaids’ Lament Facebook page.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Crazy Nights [Follie di notte] (1978): A mondo-style documentary about burlesque performances in the disco age, hosted by model and confidant Amanda Lear. Directed by sleaze specialist , distributor Full Moon hyperbolically describes it as “the wildest and weirdest mondo movie ever made!” On Blu-ray or DVD. Buy Crazy Nights.

Vertigo (1958): Read the Canonically Weird entry! A 4K Ultra HD upgrade (plus a bonus standard Blu-ray), previously available as part of a four-movie set. Buy Vertigo.

CANONICALLY WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

This section will no longer be updated regularly. Instead, we direct you to our new “Repertory Cinemas Near You” page. This week, we added Indiana University Cinema to the list, as they’ve resumed live screenings and will feature The Blood of a Poet [Le sang d’un poète] (1930) as a companion to a lecture on the Surrealist photographs of Lee Miller (who also played the statue in Poet) on Sunday, Sept. 12. We will continue to mention exceptional events in this space from time to time.

FREE ONLINE WEIRD MOVIES ON TUBI.TV:

Gothic (1986): Read the Canonically Weird entry! Ken Russell‘s typically skewed take on the night Mary Shelley came up with the idea for “Frankenstein” is now listed as “leaving soon” on Tubi.tv (though we’ve noticed “soon” may mean months in Tubitalk). Watch Gothic on Tubi.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE:

Join us tomorrow at 10:15 PM ET on Netflix (via the Teleparty extension) for our screening of The Signal (2014). As always, look for the link to join around 10 PM ET here, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

And further down the road, we are planning a special screening of Strange Frame: Love & Sax (2012) with director on hand to answer your questions on September 18. The usual time, but this one will be hosted on Tubi.tv, so everyone can join in, no subscriptions required. More details this weekend.

Next week Shane Wilson reviews the cult classic Rock & Roll High School (1979), Giles Edwards takes on the Esperanto horror Incubus (1966), and  Gregory J. Smalley finally gets around to the fourth installment of the second series of Evangelion: Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time (2021). Onward and weirdward!

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

CAPSULE: TICKLES THE CLOWN (2021)

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DIRECTED BY: BC Fourteen

FEATURING: Voices of , Jennifer Fourteen, Marco Guzman

PLOT: 2000 years in the future, the alien Illuminati have taken over Earth, and the key to defeating them lies in the DNA of an imprisoned sociopathic clown super-criminal.

Still from Tickles the Clown (2021)

COMMENTS: Tickles the Clown is notable simply because, by all rational criteria, it shouldn’t exist. A spoofy science fiction saga mocking conspiracy theories done in the style of an extremely cheap video game, it appears to come solely from the obsessive mind of one “B.C. Fourteen,” a prolific (111 writing credits) director/screenwriter who also produces work under the names “B.C. Furtney” and “Christopher Maitland.” It’s the latest installment in a four-movie-and-counting series that includes Bigfoot vs. the Illuminati, Trump vs the Illuminati, and Bigfoot vs Megalodon.

Besides the unaccountable fact that there were three previous movies in the series, two things stand out about Tickles. The first is the animation, which appears to use some video game engine modeling technology like Unreal Engine together with a stock library of motion captures. It’s clearly not hand animated; characters’ faces never change expression (for that reason, several of them are almost always depicted in helmeted spacesuits), and backgrounds are completely static. In place of expressive movements, characters sway slightly or gesticulate at random, like video game avatars awaiting entry into conversation with a player. The effect is slightly uncanny, but, at feature length, mostly tedious. One of the movie’s biggest shocks come in the credits, when you discover it took a team of eleven individuals to create this animation.

The second notable feature is the movie’s insane world-building (much of which we gather from the explanation on the back of the DVD, along with a lengthy exposition drop or two). The series is set two millennia in the future, and the Illuminati antagonists are stereotypical “grey” aliens led by a clone of , who is building some kind of Death Star and also has black magick rituals up his sleeve. Meanwhile, Big Foot—a jive-talkin’ Big Foot, no less—has joined the Rebel Alliance; a conversation with a werewolf who appears on his spaceship’s viewscreen divulges some backstory that is likely familiar to longtime viewers of the series (aw, who am I kidding?)

As for the movie… it’s mostly dull and talky, but every now and then it sparkles with some demented absurdity. The main plot has heroine Princess Kali repeatedly returning to criminal mastermind Tickles’ maximum security cell to try to convince or bribe him into giving up a blood sample (for ludicrously contrived reasons, they can’t get the genetic markers they need if the blood is taken involuntarily). Thus, most of the movie is just a drawn-out conversation between Kali and the recalcitrant-but-horny Tickles, who taunts her with his super-genius insights into her character and background (and tries to get her to show him her boobs). In other words, it’s a Silence of the Lambs rip-off plot in a Star Wars rip-off setting. But those odd touches! It starts off with a quote from Nietzsche, which is not a promising opening for an indie comedy. Every now and then, a bit of live-action stock footage—a mushroom cloud, a cup of tea, an elephant penis (!)—appears to punctuate the script’s point. There’s the relative star power of Bill Oberst, Jr., who injects a surprising malevolent life force into the perpetually grinning Tickles, laughing maniacally and generally playing the role like a potty-mouthed Saturday morning cartoon villain hopped up on too much sugary cereal. Big Foot is cringily voiced as an African American (he even says “word!” at one point). There are numerous plot holes, including the fact that Tickles’ big escape from a maximum security galactic jail is completely unexplained in-movie (the box cover clarifies the situation, albeit with a typo, although to be fair it also describes a completely different plot than the one in the movie).

Tickles the Clown is intended as a comedy, although it’s not very funny. It often plays as a comedy of errors, though one not funny enough for the so-bad-it’s-good crowd. By all accounts, it’s not any better or worse than the previous three entries in the series. Even as cheaply produced as these movies are, given the spotty distribution—Tickles is only available on DVD, one of the previous three movies is on Amazon Prime, but not the rest— it’s hard to believe they are making enough money to justify hiring Bill Oberst for voiceover.  Forget the question of whether the psychopathic clown and the alien Aleister Crowley clone will team up to defeat Big Foot and the generic space rebels, the big mystery posed by the Illuminati series is: how are these obscure movies continuing to get made, in the face of the world’s utter indifference?

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The series is pretty wild for the most part but what could be something very fun and memorable has been a tough chore to finish…  It’s one of the most difficult films [in the series] to watch and I was not a fan. Skip it.”–“Blacktooth,” Horror Society (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: THX 1138 (1971)

“You are a true believer, blessings of the State, blessings of the masses. Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents, and be happy!” — automated life coach booth in THX 1138

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: George Lucas

FEATURING: , Donald Pleasence, Maggie McOmie,

PLOT: A citizen of a future dystopia rebels against his society and must flee the consequences, hobbled by the people he genuinely cares about.

Still from THX 1138 (1971)

COMMENTS: The first thing we must do is firmly separate the subject of THX 1138‘s creator from the discussion of THX 1138. That alone makes this a challenging movie to view objectively. We’re here today to decide whether THX 1138 is a weird movie. Would the discussion be the same if its famous director wasn’t also the guy who made Star Wars?

George Lucas sows creative seeds here which will later bear fruit in Star Wars. The legions of android cops who chase the title character and company around brings to mind future Stormtroopers; their shiny metallic faces would later update into the countenance of C-3PO. The society is that of a hivemind of stoic drones, like many worlds in the Star Wars universe. Lucas, the world’s champion in the Second-Guessing-Yourself Olympics, would re-release new cuts of THX 1138; new versions opened with a brief trailer for the classic serial Buck Rogers series, which Lucas indicated was a huge influence on Star Wars (as if we couldn’t guess).

When it comes to THX 1138, Buck Rogers is far from its main influence. THX 1138 is about a futuristic dystopian society where one citizen rebels and tries to either escape the system or bring it all crashing down. Other movies in this genre using this exact same story template include (*deep breath!*): Metropolis, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. TAlphaville, Fantastic Planet, Brazil, Akira, Zardoz, The Apple, Snowpiercer, High-Rise, The Platform, and Greatland, just to mention a few already reviewed here. Now consider the literature: “1984,” “Brave New World,” and the never-adapted, shamefully underrated Ira Levin novel This Perfect Day.” These literary works share a ton of DNA with THX 1138.

The dystopian genre produces both some of mainstream cinema’s most beloved masterpieces and some titles from the crème de la crème of the List. But it’s been done. Every kind of batty off-the-wall dystopia idea has been done ten times.

So THX 1138 fails at originality. However, it is strong in execution. Like all the great sci-fi classics from the mid-20th century, it has a distinct look and feel all its own. The movie’s entire society is housed underground, so it has a claustrophobic mentality from start to finish. Even though it’s a color film, the palette is, pathologically, a glaring white with gray and black accents. Everyone is shaved skinhead-bald, regardless of gender, which together with the pure white pajamas they wear makes them all appear like laboratory rats frantically Continue reading CAPSULE: THX 1138 (1971)

CHANNEL 366: BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR (2021)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Gandja Monteiro, Jake Schreier, Matt Sobel, Nick Antosca, Arkasha Stevenson

FEATURING: , , Eric Lange

PLOT: A filmmaker seeking revenge on a producer takes a surreal and supernatural trip down the rabbit hole after making a deal with a witch.

Still from Brand New Cherry Flavor (2021)

COMMENTS: Lisa Nova drives to Los Angeles to meet with producer Lou Burke about expanding her short film “Lucy’s Eye” into a feature. Lou loves the film, a check is written, and a contract is signed. But Lou revokes his promise to allow Lisa to direct after she refuses his sexual advances. Lisa vows revenge on the predatory producer. Lisa goes to see Boro, an odd woman she met at a party who told her she could hurt someone for her. Boro is a witch of sorts, and for a price she will put a curse on your enemy.

“Brand New Cherry Flavor” is a Netflix limited series consisting of eight fortyish minute episodes. Motivations are hammered out pretty quick in the first episode; going forward, it is all about the revenge. The plot is primarily supernatural horror. There is a significant amount of violence and gore ranging from eye trauma to decapitation. And there are definitely enough wacky, what-the-hell moments to qualify the series as weird.

The three central characters all give quality performances. Eric Lange is great as the arrogant and lascivious producer. It was very satisfying seeing him get his comeuppance, and by the end of the series I almost felt sorry for him—almost. Rosa Salazar plays Lisa Nova with a quiet confidence. I found myself liking her more with every episode. One of my favorite scenes has her tripping on some magic stew that actually made me feel like I was stoned myself. My favorite character was Boro, played by Catherine Keener. Her army of zombies, affinity for kittens, matter-of-fact commentary and facial expressions made me smile or laugh out loud several times. There are some genuinely creepy moments and a few shocks, but there is a good deal of humor in this horror series.

I am under the impression that when Netflix uses the term “limited series“ that they do not intend a second season. I really enjoyed “Brand New Cherry Flavor,” and there is definitely more story to tell here. I would welcome a season two. The full series is available to watch on Netflix right now.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

Brand New Cherry Flavor may be the best showcase yet for Salazar and her ability to carry a project that, with a different lead, would have collapsed under the weight of its self-conscious weirdness… Not everything Lynchian aspires to be utterly oblique and not everything Cronenbergian aspires to a complete body horror miasma, but it’s striking how Brand New Cherry Flavor achieves beats that are ‘weird’ or ‘gross’ without ever being pervasively unsettling.”–Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter (contemporaneous)

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/3/2021

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

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):

Memory House: A black Brazilian experiences racism at the hands of his white employers and retreats to a house filled with masks. Social commentary told in a magical realist/fourth-wall-breaking fashion. Receives a very limited Oscar-qualifying release in LA and NYC this week. Memory House official site.

Mogul Mowgli: On the cusp of a career breakthrough, a Pakistani rapper (Riz Ahmed) is diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and spirals into a series of flashbacks and hallucinations. This “surreal drama” from first time director Bassam Tariq is getting a lot of positive buzz from the critics. Mogul Mowgli official site.

IN DEVELOPMENT (announced):

“Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities” [formerly titled “Guillermo del Toro Presents 10 After Midnight”] (2022): Netflix has announced an eight-episode anthology series curated by the very busy (whose remake of the 1947 film noir Nightmare Alley releases later this year), intended to “challenge our traditional notions of horror.” Although this project has been known for a long time, we just received significant new information: besides the name change, we have episode titles, directors ans writers, and partial cast lists. Our readers may be interested in the two stories written by del Toto himself, as well as offerings from , , and, perhaps most notably, (who both directs and co-scripts). Add to that an adaptation starring , and you have what we would consider must-stream TV. Deadline has more details.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Bugsy Malone (1976): The story of prohibition-era gangster Malone, but told as a musical with an all-kid cast (including Scott Baio and Jodie Foster). ‘s first feature came in an era when Hollywood would greenlight just about anything. On Blu-ray from Paramount Presents. Buy Bugsy Malone.

Dune (1984): Read Eric Gabbard’s review. With the upcoming on the horizon, Arrow re-releases ‘s personal least-favorite Lynch movie in a deluxe 2-disc Blu-ray limited edition with every conceivable type of extra feature, a 60-page booklet, poster, lobby card reproductions, and so on. You can buy it on HD Ultra or standard Blu-ray, while also considering that next week they release a 3-disc steelbook edition with the movie on both HD and standard Blu-ray, but without the booklet or lobby cards. So check your choices carefully when ordering (the following link defaults to standard Blu-rays). Buy Dune.

Love Rites (1987): A man becomes obsessed with a prostitute he meets on the Metro. ‘s final film is experimental and arty, but not especially erotic, and not really recommended—but here it is for the die-hards. On Blu-ray or DVD from Kino Classics. Buy Love Rites.

CANONICALLY WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

This section will no longer be updated regularly. Instead, we direct you to our new “Repertory Cinemas Near You” page. We will continue to mention exceptional events in this space from time to time, however.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: September’s Netflix party will be The Signal (2014). Save the date and time: September 11 at 10:15.

We are also planning on squeezing in an additional watch party this month on September 18: Strange Frame: Love & Sax (2012), with director in the chat room to answer your questions. This will stream on Tubi.tv, so no subscriptions will be required. More details to follow soon.

As for next week’s reviews, Terri “Goregirl” McSorley checks out Netflix’s “Brand New Cherry Flavor”; Pete Trbovich thinks about THX 1138; and goes really underground for the animated satire (?) Tickles the Clown. Onward and weirdward!

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that we 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!