Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bad Movie Night 2014 Recap (Part Two)

 Picking up right where we left off, Dr. Strange ended, and so began the bathroom and smoke breaks that rob every fest of precious movie time, but for those who stuck around, I rewarded them with Crispin Glover's bizarro video for "Ben," his bizarro version of the already bizarre Michael Jackson song. You might have heard it - it's apparently part of the Cirque de Soleil tribute to Jackson - but maybe didn't know it was a love song to a rat. The title song, in fact, to the sequel to Willard, and not the one with Crispin Glover (that was a remake). Later, I played the video again with Glover's commentary, where he speaks without taking a breath for three minutes and gives you more information than you can possibly process about what the hell his video is about. And that, my friends, was the prelude to A Talking Cat?!?

 For years, people have been asking me if I'll show The Room at Bad Movie Night, and for years, I've had to explain that I don't enjoy The Room, even in an unintentionally funny level. I think it's boring in its amateurish execution. Sorry. It just doesn't do anything for me. I understand that many comedians I respect love the movie and extol its virtues, but when I saw it for the first time, I couldn't wait for it to be over. However, it doesn't stop people from asking, so I opted instead to give them what I'd heard what the "Family Movie" equivalent of The Room: A Talking Cat?!? In execution, it's fair to compare it to The Room, but there's something charmingly awful about this stupid little movie that melted our frozen, bitter hearts.

 Maybe it was reusing the same establishing / transitional shots over and over again (including the one where the camera starts shaking), even when they didn't make any sense. Why does the camera cut to the beach when all of the characters live near the mountains? Good question. Is one of the houses clearly a rental, possibly where porn shoots happen, and one that took all of the family photos off of the walls, leaving nails inexplicably featured? Most likely. Does the other house get two, completely different, exterior shots, one that can't possibly be the same house? Yes indeed. And that's just the technical aspects. If I were to tell you that David DeCoteau (pretending to be "Mary Crawford"), director of Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama, was behind the camera, all of that would make sense. But I suspect that most of you are wondering about the talking cat.

 The top billed "name" in A Talking Cat?!? is Eric Roberts (Chicks Dig Gay Guys) as the voice of Duffy, the titular character, and it's clear from the moment he starts talking that he recorded all of his voiceover via speakerphone, probably while on the toilet. How much of it is scripted and how much is just Roberts rambling is up for debate, but Duffy (Squeaky) does a lot of narrating and not a lot of talking. That's because he can only talk to a person once. He says he didn't make the rules, but who would have? Anyway, the people at Bad Movie Night were confused because it certainly seems like Duffy is responding to questions before he actually talks to them (kind of like Garfield), but I explained they'd know when he was talking, because of the crude, reverse Clutch Cargo style animation superimposed over his mouth.

 Duffy has a plan to bring two families together and wanders between their houses talking to these weirdos one at a time. There's the single father (Sigmund and the Sea Monsters' Johnnie Whitaker) with his son (Justin Cone), who is clearly gay but is shoehorned into an awkward romance with a girl (Alison Sieke) that is using him to get out of reading her English texts. The other family has an overworked mother (Kristine DeBell, of Alice in Wonderland: An X Rated Fantasy) with a daughter she won't allow to go to college (Janis Peebles) and an idiot son (newcomer Daniel Dannas) who doesn't think he has an imagination. And he probably doesn't. To be honest, I was distracted by the duct tape covering the Apple logo on the daughter's Macbook (not to be mistaken for the Macbook that also has duct tape covering the logo that the single dad has). Oh, they all have names, but you won't care what they are.

 For a long time, we thought that maybe A Talking Cat?!? was about coming to terms with being a closeted teen, especially when the two sons get in the pool together and the one with no imagination teaches the other one how to swim, but apparently not. To be honest, I don't know what the point of A Talking Cat?!? is, other than to give you something new to laugh at in every scene. It's either one of the most poorly executed family films ever, or a work of secret brilliance. There are so many awkward, silly, and stupid moments that you never get bored, which is a plus. The room was howling with laughter towards the end, which should never be the case when a cat is hit by a car, let alone a talking one, but when you see the terrible way they convey that Duffy is "comfortable but not doing well," it's hard not to chuckle. I feel like people who love The Room are really going to take to A Talking Cat?!?, and as far as I'm concerned, it's the better of the two at not achieving anything it sets out to do.

 The bar was set pretty low with A Talking Cat?!?, but met in its own dumb way. Knowing what was to come, I scheduled a movie that seemed like a surefire "winner" - an alien invasion movie made in Texas in the 1980s, with top to bottom bad acting, sets that don't make any sense, and special effects that are anything but. And in that regard, I guess Mutilations succeeded. The rest of the crowd didn't agree, but compared with what followed, it's a charming failure.

 Mutilations is the little movie that couldn't: despite the best efforts of the cast, crew, and visual effects team, there's not much about the film that works. But they're trying so hard to make a good movie that you feel sorry for not enjoying the film. It gets and "A" for Effort and a "D-" for execution. Even at 67 minutes, it feels like the middle goes on for too long. There's a promising set up involving some hobos being, uh, mutilated by a quaint little spaceship and its passengers, done mostly from the alien's perspective. I personally enjoyed Professor Jim McFarland (Al Baker) and his students, each of whom struggle to deliver even one line correctly. Even the guy who seems to be playing Stephen King's character from Creepshow. They're likable losers, and I guess characters, too.

 McFarland, his assistant Ann (Katherine Hutson) and astronomy students travel to a remote country area to study meteorites and / or possible reports of mutilations. How that fits into their field of study is better not to ask, because the first thing they find is a stop motion, inside out cow that the cast is rear projected behind. And there's no mistaking that's what it is. They end up in the house of a hermit when a UFO crashes outside and must find a way out. Now, I could point out that this is the largest "shack" I've ever seen, but the geography of the caves beneath it (bootleggers owned it before the crazy, Harlan Ellison looking dude who has a history with the aliens) is mind boggling.

 Once they get down there, you do get to see the rest of the aliens (prior to that point, it's a set of legs and one arm), and they, um, don't disappoint. The lizard-y things are also crudely stop motion animated, but using some miniatures (why would a bootlegger own a harpoon?), there's a vaguely convincing battle between human and alien. And then we learn flashlights are their weakness. And that 60 year old dynamite takes a very long time to explode. And then it's over. Some people live, some people die, and they gave it their all. I guess Mutilations has the benefit of looking better by comparison to what came next. Because then there was Things...

 Before I tell you about my experience with Barry J. Gillis' low-fi-North of the Border monstrosity, here's a brief sampling of what people who experienced the film Things had to say about it.

 "Things is proof that some independent movies should never be made." - Sarah M.

 "I watched Things and I am not a better person for it. This movie is so bad it may have caused permanent damage." - Patrick C.

"Things. It was definitely a thing. I wish it wasn't." - Neil W.

 "Things is a high-tension roller coaster through your own brain as you question why you thought it was a good idea" - Zak M.

"Things pushes the boundaries of what defines cinema... but not in the way you would hope." - Chris H.

 "Feel like Canada took a shit in your brain? You have just experienced Things." - Matt E. 

I've spent more than my fair share with bad movies over the last twenty years (at least). It's not as though I don't know what I'm getting into here. Usually, the Cap'n has his line and it doesn't get crossed: for example, I've seen exactly one and a half Uwe Boll movies (Blubberella and In the Name of the King), and only two and a half Asylum movies (Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, plus the tail end of Crocosaurus vs. Gatoroid or something like that). There are things I simply know better than to get involved with. I don't know that I'll ever finish Horror of the Blood Monsters / Vampire Men of the Lost World, and I'm okay with that. Sometimes only making it twenty minutes is good enough after four tries.

 That still pales in comparison to watching Things. And I finished Things. Twice. I heard that it was the kind of movie that hurt to watch, but that if you planned on seeing it, you needed to at least watch it again with people who hadn't seen it. Then you could see what it looked like when you watched it. I'm not exaggerating when I say it broke my brain for a while the first time, in a combination of frustration and "what the fuck am I watching" that I haven't experienced since a friend went temporarily insane after the one-two punch of American Wedding and Gigli. Like I said, I know my bad movies. I watched The Happening four times in one year.

 Things is unlike any bad movie I think I've ever seen - a deliberate exercise in not giving a shit about being a horror movie and instead putting the monsters in the background while two guys (Gillis and Doug Bunston) dick around with each other. It was three, but then one of them (Bruce Roach) was "sucked into another dimension" (was not available for filming) only to mysteriously reappear later with a chainsaw, and then be eaten and turn into a talking skull. Bunston's character (also named Doug) dies at least twice and comes back, but the last time might be a dream, unless the whole movie is a dream (which it might be), in which case who knows. The titular characters come as a result of a deal that Doug makes with Dr. Lucas (Jan W. Pachul), in order to impregnate his wife (Patricia Sadler) through some sort of evil ritual or something. There's an evil book and tape recorder in the freezer, as well as Don (Gillis)'s coat. That's where you put it, I guess.

 Anyway, Susan dies and the things come out (they look like big ants with teeth out of Alien) and Fred disappears and Don and Doug (who are brothers) pour alcohol on each other and put bugs in their sandwiches and distract each other from using the bathroom and watch horror movies on TV. Our only respite from this are news reports (?) from porn star Amber Lynn (herself). Half the time she's talking about news that has no bearing on the story, but every now and then she'll mention something that suggests Don and Fred are dangerous people and have been on the run for two weeks, which is either meant to cast doubt on what we're seeing or is just a poorly done example of breaking the fourth wall. Maybe it doesn't matter.

 Confounding the situation is the fact that Gillis shot Things on 8mm without sound, and rerecorded it all in what feels like one go with a single microphone. All the voices are done with one microphone, and many of them sound like the same person making voices. All of the sound effects are one the same way (a sink turns into him pouring water from one cup to another), complete with the muffled sound of the microphone scraping against hands, clothing, etc. To cover this up, there are a series of different music cues from his friends' bands, many of which only make Things more baffling.

 I hated Things the first time I watched it, and I saw it alone, with no one to help ease the mental anguish. The second time, during Bad Movie Night, I decided to sit next to the TV, facing the people who could leave at any time (remember, the door was unlocked) but who subjected themselves willingly to a movie that only wants to infuriate you, to dismantle your brain bit by bit. One person watched the movie with a pillow pressed firmly against his face. Another repeatedly gave me the finger. Many, MANY times I heard the phrases "what?", "what the fuck?", and "fuck you, movie!" as time wore on. Things is a maddening endurance test for even the most hardened bad movie-phile, but when it ends and you hit the title card that says:

 Well, you feel like you earned it, whatever that's worth. And based on the reaction, not much. As an apology, I saved Samurai Cop for last, because if you want a bad action movie to close things out on, this is near the top of the bottom. For reasons beyond me, I was not aware of Samurai Cop, which is a shame, because it beats Bionic Ninja or whatever the name of the movie I tried to show at Bad Movie Night many years ago was. (That ended up being a case of one title being used for many different movies on home video, so the film I thought I ordered in no way matched what we started watching, and that was a shame considering the clip from YouTube).

 Samurai Cop is every bad action movie you've ever seen distilled to the ultimate formula, and then botched horribly in execution. I know that everyone keeps calling Detective / Officer Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon) "samurai," but there's really no evidence of that in the film at all. He has a few bad looking chop sockey fights, some truly awkward sex scenes (I'm not sure that Marshall knows how "sex" works), and a sped up samurai sword fight with Yamashita (Robert Z'Dar) at the end, because they clearly didn't want to really use those swords against each other. Otherwise, it's a lot of gun fights, some explosions, car chases, home invasions, and line delivery that even a robot could improve on. And you love it the entire time.

 Is it fair to assume that Hannon's partner, Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) is high throughout the movie? Maybe not, but he sure looks like it in every reaction shot. Does Robert Z'Dar hide inside of a laundry basket with a trash can in order to cut off someone's head in a hospital? He does, and when he emerges, he's wearing a doctor's coat and credentials, so we can assume he'll just walk out, right? Nope. Back to crouching in the hamper with the severed head in the trashcan. If, for some reason, you're reading a recap of something called Bad Movie Night and you don't know how tall Robert Z'Dar is (or what he looks like), may I suggest looking at this? Now you know why the imagine of him crouching back into the hamper is hilarious.

 There is a precision to action movies, even the terrible ones, that Samurai Cop seems to lack. Maybe it's the fight scene in a garden that abruptly cuts to a different location where Hannon is unmistakably wearing a wig. Yeah, that's probably it, since that happens again. Personally, I kind of liked the little details, like a dog in somebody's yard chasing Hannon and Frazer as they run past, a reminder of how little concern went into making this look like a real movie. But then again, compared to Things, Samurai Cop looked like Lethal Weapon, and A Talking Cat?!? looked like The Godfather*. Even Mutilations looked less crappy in comparison. To be fair, Samurai Cop is endearing in the same way Andy Sidaris movies are, which from my perspective is a compliment. And that ought to be good enough.

 Due to time considerations, we had to skip Battle of the Damned, Suburban Sasquatch, and Destroyer, but all three will make appearances during Summer Fest in July. Stay tuned...

* - Neil W.

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