Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Fest 5 (Day Two): Treevenge, American Juggalo, ThanksKilling 3, and Demolition Man

 Before the Ninja III: The Domination experience, we watched Jason Eisener's Treevenge, but I didn't feel it would be fair to let that be overshadowed by including it with the previous review. Ninja III stands alone. That said, Treevenge is no slouch. Blogorium regulars will no doubt recognize that Eisener tends to pop up here now and then, both for his film Hobo with a Shotgun and for his short films and entries into anthologies like The ABCs of Death and V/H/S 2. I like this man's short films. I like them a lot.

 Treevenge is the kind of subject that would make Blogorium Holiday Hijacker Douglas Fir squeal about - it's the story of Christmas as told from the perspective of the trees, from cutting down the forest to living room fixture. As blasphemous as this is going to sound (and no doubt by design of the director), the short is designed to feel like a combination of "slave narrative" and "Holocaust survival" story. No, really. It's horrifying, and made even more so by the fact that the trees speak to each other in their own language (it sounds a little bit like Ewoks) and are subtitled so we know what they're saying.

 So after a horrifying set up of families being torn apart and herded in the back of trucks to unscrupulous tree dealers (the ones that are too scrawny go to the "wreath" pile), we get to the degrading "decorating" in the home, and um... how would one even put this? Inter-species man-on-tree sex? Maybe? Yeah, Eisener goes there, or at least shows us the lubed-up stump. But don't worry, because the title is certainly no misnomer. And what glorious Treevenge it is! I'll put this up on the Blogorium in December, because it's definitely going to benefit more than it would in the middle of July. Still, a quality Summer Fest entry.


 After Ninja III: The Domination, when most of the audience went outside for the customary "too long" smoke break, I gave the folks inside a real dose of the scary by putting on American Juggalo. If you haven't heard of this already, American Juggalo is a documentary filmed at The Gathering of the Juggalos which consists of nothing but interviews with fans of The Insane Clown Posse. While the title is appropriate, I feel you could also call the short documentary "Faces of Meth" and that would also be totally fitting.

 Behold the naked pregnant Juggalo posing for pictures while her boyfriend talks about how being a Juggalo is great. Or the girl that's so high she can't get out of her car. Or maybe the guy throwing M-80s into the middle of a field and manages even to scare himself. Or the guy who has his friend spray paint his face. As these Juggalos desperately try to explain to you that this is an inviting, friendly atmosphere of true fans looking to share in an experience while also doing whip-its. Sometimes they forget where they are in mid-sentence. One guy tries to convince you that he met a brain surgeon who was a Juggalo. Many of them gleefully explain how they quit their job because they couldn't get the weekend of the Gathering off. I wonder how Arby's got by.

 While it's true that there may be no more reliable punching bag than a Juggalo these days, none of the many subjects of this documentary even come close to making the case that they're misrepresented. The girl who insists she's not high, she's just "like this all the time" or the truly terrified looks on the children who were dragged along by their parents tell you that yes, this is a frightening place to be. Unless you like to have Faygo sprayed on you from people riding in the back of a bus with the top cut off, or maybe if you just like to get REALLY high and listen to ear-splitting "music" for the weekend. Apparently I traumatized the mother of two young children by showing her American Juggalo that night, but the upside is that we now have two less social disasters to worry about.


 So what on earth could I follow American Juggalo with? Well, how about an aborted attempt to watch the sequel to ThanksKilling? You guys remember ThanksKilling right? The "killer turkey" movie so amazing that I watched it twice in one day during Summer Fest III? It was crude, short, and really violent, with a warped sense of humor and everybody loved it. The premise of ThanksKilling 3 seemed like it would be a worthy sequel: ThanksKilling 2: In Space (the sequel promised at the end of the first film) was so terrible that nearly every copy in existence was destroyed. Turkey sets out to find the last surviving DVD of the film and take his revenge!

 I don't know if I ever mentioned this during the Summer Fest recaps, but at the end of ThanksKilling, when the "In Space" sequel was teased, I remarked that I would "happily donate some money to make that happen," which is apparently how ThanksKilling 3 came to be (via Kickstarter). I'm glad I didn't make good on that promise, because while the idea of bypassing your own sequel is a clever idea, the execution is terrible. ThanksKilling 3 is just terrible.

 ThanksKilling worked largely because of Turkey, the foul mouthed killer, but also because of the charming ineptitude of most of the cast and the absurdity of the story. For example, why the kids would ever believe that Turkey was the girl's father just because he's wearing the dead dad's face is hilarious. Even Turkey can't believe how stupid they are. It's a low-fi horror flick with an amusing hook, violence, and a little gratudity. The fake opening of ThanksKilling 3, which shows some of ThanksKilling 2: In Space, seems promising: for a moment it looks like a really dumb knock-off of the game Starfox, with Turkey flying around in space with a talking pumpkin pie as his wingman. But things quickly fall apart.

 Instead of keeping it simple, ThanksKilling 3 expands the scope in unnecessary ways, removing the best part of the first film (Turkey) from the story for long stretches. Instead, it focuses on overlapping stories of a TV turkey roaster salesman, an intergalactic bounty hunter robot with worm sidekick, and a puppet with amnesia. In fact, there are FAR too many puppets in ThanksKilling 3, to the point that the novelty of Turkey disappears almost as much as he does. Other than a Natural Born Killers-esque "sitcom" set-up, the only character we were remotely interested in is missing from the first thirty minutes of the movie, which was as long as people were willing to sit through.

 So out of courtesy, I did something that I haven't done since Horror Fest III: I turned the movie off. It didn't stop people from deciding it was time to call it a night, but for the few that stuck around, I felt like I had to make amends.


 How do you make amends for something so disappointing? Well, there's always Demolition Man.

 I can't imagine that anyone reading this blog doesn't already know what Demolition Man is, but if you somehow missed the entirety of the 1990s or just assumed that Sly Stallone topped out at Rocky IV, allow me to suggest you check out a very silly action movie that happens to be twenty years old this year. Sylvester Stallone vs. Wesley Snipes in a Utopian future where nobody is allowed to curse of be violent and where all restaurants are Taco Bell.

 Stallone is super cop John Spartan, and Snipes is maniacal supper-baddie Simon Phoenix. When Spartan's arrest of Phoenix goes horribly wrong and hostages are killed, BOTH of them end up going to the same ultra-futuristic prison, where inmates are cryogenically frozen. Phoenix is awakened in 2032 and finds the peaceful society totally incapable to dealing with his brand of psycho-mischief. With no idea how to stop him, the San Angeles police department thaw out Spartan, and our futuristic smack-down begins. Also Denis Leary gets to reuse most of his MTV bumper promo rants again while playing the leader of an underground resistance to the "Utopia" above.

 Demolition Man is a goofy movie, to be sure, but one with its fair share of fun action sequences (the fight in the museum is a standout) and succeeds in being intentionally and unintentionally funny in equal measure. It was definitely the action / sci-fi "comfort food" we desperately needed after ThanksKilling 3 arrived dead on arrival, and with the added benefit of watching it with someone who had never seen it before, which was quite amusing. So we couldn't match the highs of Ninja III: The Domination; at least I was able to level out the low of ThanksKilling 3. I'll settle for that as we head into the final stretch tomorrow...

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