WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/24/2019

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):

The Image Book (2018):   takes images from films of the past, digitally alters them, and philosophizes in voiceover. More late Godard for cinema masochists (we’ll probably end up joining them). The Image Book at Kino-Lorber.

FILM FESTIVALS – Sundance Film Festival (Park City, UT, Jan 24-Feb 3):

The 2019 movie season officially kicks off with Sundance, where a hundred hopeful independent movies, including a few off-the-wall ones, come to vie for a handful of distribution contracts. In recent years, Sundance added the “Next” and “Midnight” screening sections to add some weirdness to the otherwise tame lineup of dramas about privileged white people and their problems (alternating with imported dramas about underprivileged brown people and their problems). This year, however, that hasn’t helped much, as there doesn’t appear to be a Sorry to Bother You or a Swiss Army Man lurking in the program. Maybe we missed them, though.

Here’s what we’ll be tracking in the coming months:

    • “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” – The latest installment in this ongoing popular but terrifying puppet show will screen as part of the Indie Episodic Program 1 collection of curated shorts Jan. 29-31.
    • Greener Grass – Seeing as how this is an extension of a Saturday Short we previously featured on these pages, we’re pretty certain it will be weird; we’re not sure how this idea can expand to fill 100 minutes, but we’re eager to find out. Playing in the Midnight category on Jan. 26, 29, 31, and Feb. 1-2.
    • Koko-di Koko-da – A Nordic fairy tale ” set within the nightmarish landscape between wakefulness and sleep” about a couple with relationship problems beset by “outlandishly distorted nursery-rhyme antagonists” while camping.  Screens Jan. 25-27, 31, and Feb. 1.
    • “Now Apocalypse” – The first three episodes of a new Starz series from about (who would have guessed?) oversexed young people in surreal situations début at Sundance on Jamuary 29, with an encore January 30.
    • Paradise Hills – A young woman wakes up to find she’s been imprisoned in a hoity-toity Victorian finishing school/reform school on an island; the best case scenario is that this “NEXT” feature turns out to be The Love Witch meets “The Prisoner.” Jan. 26-27, 29, 31, or Feb. 1.

Sundance Film Festival Home Page.

FILM FESTIVALS: Slamdance Film Festival (Park City, UT, Jan 25-31):

Slamdance is Sundance’s punkier, sometimes (usually) weirder little brother, a low-budget alternative to the mid-budget institution. We’ll be reviewing a few that caught our eye a few days from now (with a bonus shorts reviews thrown in)…

  • Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture – Despite the imposing subtitle, this is a sometimes tasteless mockumentary showing the rise and fall of Junie Spoons, a child superstar in the mold of Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus, told with dolls. Screens January 25 and 28.
  • A Great Lamp – An experimental film, with animated and magical realist segments, following three alienated young men as they await a rocket launch. January 27 and 29.

Slamdance Film Festival Home Page.

IN DEVELOPMENT (pre-production):

The Color out of Space (end 2019/early 2020?):  to star in an adaptation of ‘s “The Colour out of Space,” directed by ? Yes, we’ll buy a ticket, thanks. “Space,” Lovecraft’s 1927 tale of a meteorite which falls to earth and brings unspeakable horrors with it, has been (largely unsuccessfully) adapted for screen many times, notably as Die, Monster, Die! with (not to mention all the ripoffs of the basic premise, like The Blob). SciFi4Me has the scoop.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Best F(r)iends Vol.1 + Vol. 2 (2018): The Room‘s and Greg Sestero reunite; Sestero plays a homeless man rescued by Wiseau’s corpse-robbing multician, and they go on a quirky road trip. The world gets almost four more hours of oddball Wiseau engaging in adventures described as “surreal” and “bizarre.” Blu-ray only. Buy Best F(r)iends Volume 1 + 2.

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  MOVIES ON TUBI.TV:

Bronson (2008): Read the Canonically Weird review! ‘s stylized and surrealistic biopic about Charles Bronson, Britain’s most violent prisoner, with a terrifying starmaking performance from . Watch Bronson free on Tubi.tv.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE:

Next week we’ll bring you a little preview of three feature films (and a short or two or three) from Slamdance (see above), which may or may not be making their way to your screens soon. El Rob Hubbard will also knock another one out of the reader-suggested review queue with 1985s little-seen advertising satire Bliss. We’ll wrap up the week by announcing our nominees for the 9th installment of our annual “Weirdcademy Awards”—and open up voting to members of the Weirdcademy (that’s you, by the way). Stay tuned!

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: 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)

NORTH (1994): THE WEIRDNESS OF A COLOSSAL FLOP – A CASE STUDY

When the Wizard of Weirdness benevolently gave each of us regular contributors the opportunity to pitch one movie onto the List—with no veto—the Present Author got away with Nothing But Trouble (1991). It’s a controversial pick, for sure. My reasoning was, why pick a movie that was probably comfortably fated to end up on the List sooner or later? You get an opportunity, you take it. There were a few shocked gasps and Greg, notably, nearly lost his lunch. For what it’s worth, the Good Bad Flicks podcast recently vindicated my fanny right out of purgatory on that movie. Me, Good Bad Flicks, and everybody on the set but and Chevy Sourpuss Chase stand alone in our crusade, even if apologetically.

Still from North (1994)

But it could have been worse. Throughout my time in the Weird Vineyards, I’ve had a devil on my left shoulder digging his pitchfork into my clavicle, maniacally whispering the name of JUST ONE MOVIE into my ear. “Nominate it, it’ll be hilarious!” When that veto-proof list slot came up, the screaming from my sinister side became deafening, but I resisted. Since the List is now closed, and I finally feel it’s safe to mention the name of the movie that no one on this site has dared to utter…

Got your HazMat suits zipped up? Got your clothespins on your nose? Got your handy jug of brain bleach ready? I shall prepare to utter its vile name. This is going to be good. This movie had an identical budget to Nothing But Trouble, and fared even a little bit worse. It’s a one-word title. It’s even a monosyllabic title. In fact, it’s a title that just so happens to be the name of a pretty famous primary compass direction.

North (1994) is one of the most notoriously spectacular failures in box office history. And make no mistake, this is NOT a List recommendation! North is just too terrible.

Like Nothing But Trouble, North had a jaw-dropping line-up of splurged comedic talent, a runaway budget, and a high concept that was a unique take on a familiar structure. It should have been a hit. So should Skidoo or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but these things happen.

Yet when you think about weird movies, you can’t long avoid North. How can you ignore ’s tush on a billboard, Jason Alexander as a pants-obsessed haberdasher, Kathy Bates as the last person to appear in blackface and have her career survive, Dan Aykroyd and Reba McEntire as a mom-and-pop duo performing a Texas hoedown about the death of their son, a Citizen Kane homage with a kid school newspaper editor making Jon Lovitz his suck-up toady, Alan Arkin as a manic motormouth judge holding court in a furniture store, Abe Vigoda getting put out to sea on an iceberg, and in multiple roles playing… nah, you’ll never believe me. All this, directed by the man who gave the world beloved classics like This Is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride.

The premise seems harmless enough: a kid divorces his parents and Continue reading NORTH (1994): THE WEIRDNESS OF A COLOSSAL FLOP – A CASE STUDY

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: CRASH (1996)

DIRECTED BY: David Cronenberg

FEATURING: James Spader, Holly Hunter, , ,

PLOT: The survivor of a violent car crash immerses himself in a hidden world of auto accident fetishists and the dangerous and masochistic lengths they go to in search of sexual gratification.

Still from Crash (1996)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: With three other entries, you can’t feel too bad about depriving David Cronenberg of another spot on our very full list. But Crash undeniably focuses on a very unusual kink, and treats its obsessive pursuers with respect and understanding.

COMMENTS: When Crash came out, the conversation inevitably focused on its central fetish. Given his filmography—a  CV. deeply fascinated with the horrors of the body—a tale of sexual adventurers who find carnal thrills in confronting the specter of mechanized death must have seemed like a natural match for David Cronenberg. But the literalization of the characters’ passions—both sexual and automotive—was almost destined to shock and offend, regardless of who was behind the camera. Talk of such an outré fetish sucked all the air out of the room, reducing Crash to a one-line précis: “that movie where people get off on car crashes.” (Eventually to be replaced by: “No, the earlier one; not the one that solved racism.”)

For anyone who went to the multiplex anticipating the sex-fueled romp that the controversy portended, it must have been a rude awakening indeed. Has there ever been a sadder movie about sex?  Crash‘s interests are not prurient, strictly speaking. The characters are deeply unsatisfied, sexually and in all other ways. It’s almost cliché by now to build a film around characters who “just want to feel something,” but Cronenberg earns it by investing in the emotional hollows of people who feel isolated and yearn for an experience that feels authentic and meaningful, no matter how transgressive or self-destructive.

Consider the vacant stares of the beautiful people that populate Crash, led by loveable freak-a-deek James Spader. His James Ballard (who, significantly, shares a name with the original novel’s author) has a gorgeous wife, a powerful job in the film industry, a modern-to-with-an-inch-of-its-life condo… and he is dead to the world. He and his wife trade tales of their infidelities in hope of getting a charge from the jealousy. It takes a fatal car wreck that leaves him seriously injured to jump-start his moribund psyche. He pursues it by hooking up with a fellow survivor of his crash, but finds even deeper connections through an obsessive photographer who masterminds a secret underground club of fellow auto-smashup aficionados who re-enact car crashes of the rich and famous. None of these other people seem any happier, desperate as they are to recapture a high that can only be achieved by risking life itself.

Even if you’re enough of a go-with-the-flow kind of person to buy into the whole symphorophilic angle, Cronenberg manages to find a way to heighten the stakes for you, most notably through one of Vaughan’s acolytes, a crash victim in braces (Arquette) with a large scar on her leg that goes from being a visual simile of a vagina to a literal substitute for one. Of course, if you’ve watched James Woods turn his chest cavity into a gun holster, this may not seem that shocking to you. But where other Cronenberg films explore the human body through the lens of hallucination or horror-fantasy, Crash sets those filters aside. Yep, they’re really going to do it like that. Yep, they’re really going to revel in it.

And that’s probably what turned off so many people about Crash. There’s no shield, no veneer of artificiality to protect you from these people and things they will do to make a connection. They’re too weird to be normal, but not weird enough to easily dismiss, and certainly not the kind of “weirdness” the mainstream can usually handle, like being into super sexytime. As Cronenberg himself says, “I love to disappoint people.” Judging from the agony Spader and Unger radiate as their ultimate act of intercourse falls a mite short of true satisfaction, Cronenberg is a very happy man.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…the result is so far from being involving or compelling, so intentionally disconnected from any kind of recognizable emotion, that by comparison David Lynch’s removed ‘Lost Highway’ plays like ‘Lassie Come Home.'” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times [contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Kyle Conley. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/18/2019

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):

St. Bernard Syndicate (2018): A Danish businessman partners with an investor who’s just been diagnosed with A.L.S. in a scheme to sell St. Bernards to the Chinese. Sounds subtly strange at best, but Brian Orndorf of Blu-ray.com did claim it is “very funny at times, but also chilling and always interested in weirdness…” No official site located.

IN DEVELOPMENT (post-production):

Synchronic (2019?): and are back to work quickly after finishing 2017’s The Endless with another film in a loose reality-bending series hearkening all the way back to their debut, Resolution. (2014’s romantic fantasy Spring is the only outlier in their oeuvre.) This time the duo play New Orleans paramedics who encounter and investigate victims of a designer drug. Scooped by Dread Central (the article may contain a minor spoiler).

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Madeline’s Madeline (2018): Read our review. This arty and dreamlike coming-of-age story features one of the best (and most overlooked) acting debut of the year in Helena Howard, and came in #8 in our list of weirdest movies of 2018. DVD, Blu-ray and VOD. Buy Madeline’s Madeline.

The Plague Dogs (1982): This not-for-kids animated tale follows two hounds who escape from a research lab and are hunted down as potential carriers of the plague. Adapted by from a novel by Richard Adams (Watership Down), and in our reader-suggested queue. This new Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory includes both the theatrical cut and the director’s cut (previously unavailable in the U.S.) Buy The Plague Dogs.

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.

YOU LINK US! YOU REALLY LINK US!:

366 Weird Movies @ List Challenge –  “Darko” has created a checklist for the List at the popular “List Challenge” site. An easy way to check off how many movies you’ve seen from the 366 canon. We know of one person who scored 100%; if you like you can tell us your score. 366 Weird Movies FULL LIST.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE:

Next week we’ll continue to clean out our cupboards of old (but still quality) movie reviews. Shane Wilson brings you a popular one from the reader-suggestion queue in ‘s weirdly fetishistic Crash (1996); Pete Trbovich experiments with form in his “case study” of the Hollywood flop North (1994); and G. Smalley covers the better-late-than-never 2018 DVD debut of ‘ wild punk gangster western comedy Straight to Hell (1987). We’ll be taking off Martin Luther King day, so enjoy your three-day weekend (Americans). See you next week!

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920): Read the Canonically Weird entry! In case you missed it last week, here is a free version of the Expressionist horror classic, one of those silent movies loved by people who hate silent movies. The classical score is by Giuseppe Becce and the title cards are in the original German (so be sure to turn on subtitles by hitting the [cc] button).

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

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