Working on Christmas Eve while his wife and daughter are at home, Martin’s bottled up emotions about fatherhood manifest as a series of uncontrollable spasms and movements.
A failing writer loses his grip on reality as his wife grows pregnant with their child.
CONTENT WARNING: This short contains violence.
“I was surprised by reactions to the film. I thought people would find it funny or absurd, but people look really shaken when they come out. When we screened it at South by Southwest, there was a filmmaker I know who makes very strange films. And afterward, he looked like he had been through the wringer: ‘I’ve never seen anything like that. I thought, ‘Oh, come on.’ What can seem fun to one person can seem totally deranged to someone else.”–Jim Hosking, Rolling Stone
FEATURING: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo
PLOT: Big Ronnie eats an extremely greasy diet and runs a scam tour of L.A. disco locations with his unmarried adult son and live-in cook Brayden. At night he transforms into a lard-soaked monster who strangles people. When Brayden catches the eye of a girl on the tour, Big Ronnie becomes jealous and determines to seduce her himself.
- The movie was supported and partly financed by the venerable British Film Institute.
- This was 72-year-old actor and former punk-club owner Michael St. Michaels’ first leading role—unless you count his film debut in 1987s direct-to-VHS The Video Dead.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Big Ronnie’s big prosthetic, flapping in the car wash blower’s breeze.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Disco spotlight; pig-nosed stranglee; “hootie tootie disco cutie”
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Gross, greasy and bizarre, Jim Hosking‘s debut feature is the closest thing you’ll see to a modern John Waters Trash Trilogy film, filtered through the fashionable surreal comedy sensibilities of Tim and Eric or Quentin Dupieux. Strangler is more than the sum of those influences, however: it is its own little world where a lisping man with a pig snout can walk around town without raising an eyebrow, and a spotlight might suddenly appear on an alley wall for a character to do a spontaneous dance number. The fat-to-nutrient content is too out-of-whack for this to count as healthy entertainment, but it’s fine as a guilty pleasure treat. It’s too big, bold and weird to be ignored; it’s not 2016’s best movie, or even the year’s best weird movie, but it is this season’s most insistently in-your-face assault on taste and reality.
Short clip from The Greasy Strangler
COMMENTS: “Let’s get greasy!” shouted the producers from the Continue reading 262. THE GREASY STRANGLER (2016)
“It was just an extra splash of weird. We decided it wasn’t weird enough to begin with, so what can we really do to make this weird?”–Kiowa Winans on Ink‘s DVD commentary [explaining why the Incubi staves end in human hands]
FEATURING: (as Chris Kelly), Quinn Hunchar, Jessica Duffy, Jeremy Make, Jennifer Batter
PLOT: Ink introduces us to a world where a race of guardian angels called “Storytellers” guard over humanity and bring pleasant dreams while we sleep, while the evil “Incubi” sneak by our bedsides and send nightmares. One night, a mysterious cowled and chained figure comes into the room of a sleeping girl, defeats the assembled Storytellers, and snatches the child away to a limbo halfway between the waking and dreaming worlds. Meanwhile, in the earthly realm, the girl’s body lapses into a coma, while her estranged, workaholic father refuses to leave a billion dollar contract he’s working on to visit his daughter in the hospital.
- Jamin Winans not only wrote, edited and directed the film, but also composed the soundtrack. Jamin’s wife Kiowa handled both sound design and art direction as well as serving as producer.
- The movie was made for only $250,000.
- Ink won the Best International Feature award at the Cancun Film Festival.
- Despite faring well on the festival circuit, Ink was not picked up by a distributor; the producers self-distributed the movie to a few cinemas and oversaw the DVD and Blu-ray releases themselves.
- After its DVD release, Ink was downloaded 400,000 times, becoming one of the ten most pirated features of the week of its release alongside major Hollywood films like Zombieland. On the official website, the filmmakers request voluntary donations from those who watched the movie for free.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The Incubi, demons for the digital age. Unmasked, these shadowy figures with glowing spectacles have become the film’s iconic poster image, but they are even more frightening when they hide their true visages behind happy-face projections flickering on perpetually on-the-fritz LCD monitors affixed to their heads.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Ink taps into the beautifully frightening, often disquieting aesthetic of fairy tales, mixing high-tech nightmare visions with ancient storytelling traditions to create a new mythology that’s simultaneously progressive and connected to the past. It blunts its weirdness by resolving its symbolism completely by the end, although the literal plot resolution remains a paradox. Even though all becomes clear by the end, the early reels can be a wild ride.
Original trailer for Ink
“He showed me this little script he had written for Eraserhead. It was only a few pages with this weird imagery and not much dialogue and this baby kind of thing.”–Jack Nance
PLOT: Henry is a factory worker living in a dingy apartment in a desolate urban nowhere. His girlfriend Mary’s mother informs him the girl has given birth to his child—although Mary objects, “Mother, they’re still not sure it is a baby!” Henry and Mary get married and care for the monstrous, reptilian, constantly crying infant until Mary can take no more and deserts the family, leaving Henry alone to care for the mutant and to dream of the oatmeal-faced woman who lives inside his radiator and sings to him about the delights of heaven.
- Eraserhead was started with a $10,000 grant from the American Film Institute while Lynch was a student at their conservatory. Initially, the 21 or 22 page script was intended to run about 40 minutes. Lynch kept adding details, like the Lady in the Radiator (who was not in the original script), and the movie eventually took five years to complete.
- When Lynch ran out of money from the AFI, the actress Sissy Spacek and her husband, Hollywood production designer Jack Fisk, contributed money to help complete the film. Fisk also played the role of the Man in the Planet.
- Lynch slept in the set used for Henry’s apartment for a year while making the film.
- After the initial screening, Lynch cut 20 minutes off of the film. Little of the excised footage survives.
- Eraserhead was originally distributed by Ben Barenholtz’s Libra Films and was marketed as a “midnight movie” like their previous underground sensation, El Topo (1970).
- Based on the success of Eraserhead, Lynch was invited to create the mainstream drama The Elephant Man (1980) for Paramount, a huge critical success for which he received the first of his three “Best Director” nominations at the Academy Awards.
- Jack Nance had at least a small role in four other Lynch movies, and played Pete Martell in Lynch’s television series, “Twin Peaks.” His scenes in the movie adaptation Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) were deleted. Nance died in 1997 after being struck in the head in an altercation at a doughnut shop.
- Lynch has written that when he was having difficulty with the direction the production was heading, he read a Bible verse that tied the entire vision together for him, although he has refused to cite the verse and in a recent interview actually claims to have forgotten it.
- Winner of this site’s 2019 Mad Movie Tournament as the most popular weird movie ever made.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The iconic image is Henry, wearing that expression permanently lodged between the quizzical and the horrified, with the peak of his absurd pompadour glowing in the light as suspended eraser shavings float and glitter behind him. Of course, Eraserhead is nothing if not a series of indelible images, so others may find the scarred man who sits by the broken window, the mutant infant, or the girl in the radiator to be the vision that haunts their nightmares.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Eraserhead is probably the greatest recreation of a nightmare ever filmed, a marvelous and ambiguous mix of private and cosmic secrets torn from the subconscious. Or, as Lynch puts it, it’s “a dream of dark and disturbing things.”
Clip from Eraserhead
COMMENTS: When you tell people you are interested in “weird” movies, I’d wager at least half Continue reading 22. ERASERHEAD (1977)