Posts Tagged ‘Batshit


Frailty (2001)

frailtyposterFor a long time, I’d been hearing really good things about Bill Paxton’s directorial debut Frailty. Naturally, I was skeptical: I’d only just recently admitted to myself that I like watching Paxton in action. Specifically, his turn in Near Dark delighted me to no end, and I finally had to come to terms with the fact that he is an enjoyable, if ridiculous, force on screen. After the endorsement of several folks, all of whom have opinions we normally respect, we decided to take a gamble. While I don’t necessarily regret it, I will say that a movie hasn’t inspired such passionate anger in me since that piece-of-shit Godzilla remake.

First things first: I can’t account for my disgust without revealing the film’s secrets. So, if you are stuck in the late 90’s/early aughts and still obsessed with plot twists, read no further. To the rest of you, it should already raise a red flag that the success of Frailty completely hinges upon its twist(ed) ending.

Now, let’s see if I can sum this shit up. Fenton Mieks (Matthew McConaughey) appears uninvited at his local FBI office. He’s looking for Agent Doyle (Powers Boothe), the detective searching for the “God’s Hand” serial killer. Fenton insists he knows, quite intimately, who the killer is. Doyle is skeptical, but with leads having run dry long ago, he has no choice but to hear him out. Long story short, when Fenton and his younger brother Adam were growing up, his widower dad (Bill Paxton) woke up in the middle of the night with a vision from God telling him it was his family’s job to kill sinners. The light of the lord bequeaths upon him a list of sinners by name and a few instruments with which to catch and kill them. Dad wastes no time getting the great cull started, and when he brings the first victim home, Fenton is horrified.  He is pretty sure his father has lost his shit completely. Young Adam is too little to know who’s right, and is more inclined to believe his father knows what he’s doing when he takes his hatchet to harlots and heretics.

We're a happy family, we're a happy family, we're a happy family, me, God and Daddy!

We’re a happy family, we’re a happy family, we’re a happy family, me, God and Daddy!

When Fenton decries his father’s actions and opts not to help murder people, dear old dad says the vision of God has told him that he should be next on the chopping block. But I guess he doesn’t quite have the strength of Abraham, and instead just has Fenton dig a giant hole in the ground that eventually will be his home for two or three weeks; just long enough until he sees the light of God, of course. Adam is allowed to give his brother one glass of water a day, but no food. I guess hunger can cause visions, right? So Fenton says he saw the light and is allowed out, and, you know, to eat and stuff, so that’s kind of nice. He still balks when his dad hands him the axe, though. Instead of whacking a sinner’s head off, he intentionally misses and sinks the blade into his father’s belly.

At this point Agent Doyle is  thinking ‘boy howdy, that’s quite a story, but them pieces don’t fit together.’ Fenton insists his brother Adam is the God’s Hand killer, carrying out the work started by daddy all those years ago. Doyle wants some sort of proof, and for whatever reason agrees to go to the plot of land where Fenton says all the bodies are buried. Finally, the two are alone and Fenton can reveal the truth: he’s not Fenton at all! He’s actually Adam! And his dad wasn’t crazy, he really did get a list of sinner’s names from the almighty lord and has carte blanche to murder

It's hard to be called to duty by the lord himself. Really hard. Just look at what it's done to Paxton's forehead.

It’s hard to be called to duty by the lord himself. Really hard. Just look at what it’s done to Paxton’s forehead.

them all! Even more twisty, Agent Doyle is just such a sinner and his end is imminent! OH MY (literal) GOOOOOODD!

Seriously? Seriously. How is this movie not an endorsement for religious zealotry? What. The. Fuck. At first I was thinking to myself: oh, okay, I get it; this movie’s going to say something interesting about religious fanaticism! BUT THE EXACT OPPOSITE HAPPENED! I am pretty sure I seethed and fumed about the irresponsibility of such an ending for entire days after I’d watched this. Aren’t we taking the whole ‘eye for an eye’ thing a little too fucking literally here? The worst part of it is, after watching the special features on the disc it seems painfully clear that Paxton and writer Brent Hanley don’t seem bothered by this shit in the slightest. It’s almost as if the implications of their supposedly masterful twist ending didn’t concern either of them; they only wanted to make the audience gasp. And, I guess the second worst part is, it fucking worked. How is it possible that normal people are not bothered by the meaning behind this creepy-ass, evangelical ending?

McConaughey plots his next move...

McConaughey plots his next move…

While its politics absolutely disgust me, the truth is the film is not a bad piece of work, technically speaking. Paxton seems to know what he’s doing behind the camera, even if he can’t entirely pull off the devout dad role. He’s not the only one who seems to have trouble with his acting; McConaughey is no prince in this either. He’s not terrible, but after just watching (and loving) True Detective it’s pretty clear to see just how much he’s grown as an actor. And speaking of True Detective, I couldn’t help but see a lot of similarities between the two. Not to throw gas into the plagiarism fire plaguing writer Nic Pizzolatto, but there is a bit here that makes me wonder. Aside from the obvious McConaughey link, both pieces of work take place, in large part, in an office of the law. Both pieces center around a man, played by McConaughey, retelling a story in which he may or may not be suspected of committing serious crimes. Both have a weird Southern Gothic spiritualism thing going on, but thankfully True Detective‘s ending, while perhaps ultimately disappointing, was benign.

Anyway, whatever. This movie sucks. It’s irresponsible, reprehensible, and lazy. And, despite what Paxton and Hanley would have you believe, murder is not okay.


Taxidermia (2006)

Every time I see a list on the internet of “the 10 most disturbing movies you’ve never seen” I feel like I’ve been challenged; either to prove how many of them I have seen, or to see the ones I haven’t. Sometimes I surprise myself with how many on any given list I’ve experienced, other times I am disgusted with myself for clocking in at zero. Anyway, one such list had on it a Hungarian film I’d never heard of. Turns out, I don’t think I’ve actually seen a single Hungarian film in my entire life, so I was doubly interested in checking out Taxidermia. All I have to say is it’s a damn shame this was my first foray into Hungarian cinema. My gag reflex is triggered just at the thought of this movie.

Taxidermia follows three generations of Hungarian men. Our genealogic odyssey starts with the pathetic and desperate Morosgoványi, who I guess is some kind of military servant responsible for the Kálmán family somewhere that is cold and remote. Morosgoványi amuses himself by drinking flames and squirting fire out of his dick and screwing holes in walls and slaughtered pigs. He impregnates his superior’s wife, who gives birth to his son, who has a tail, which I guess is supposed to have something to do with those pigs that Morosgoványi screws, or doesn’t screw, or thinks he screws, or whatever. After Kálmán kills Morosgoványi, he treats the newborn baby as his own.

Morosgoványi reporting for flame-dicked duty.

Morosgoványi reporting for flame-dicked duty.

Christened Balatony, the boy grows up to be one of Hungary’s biggest and brightest competitive eaters. We watch as he induces his own vomiting, only to shove some other disgusting, viscous food product down his throat. He has a hard-on for the female competitive-eating champion, Gizi, but so does his top-rival in the competitive-eating world. Who will win her heart? Well I don’t know who actually does, but she ends up marrying Balatony and they give birth to a boy they name Lajoska.

Balatony eats his way to the top.

Balatony eats his way to the top.

Lajoska is nothing like his parents; he’s skinny, frail, and not even remotely interested in the fact that his father, now bound to a chair due to his morbid obesity, can digest food bars, wrapper and all, with no problem. Lajoska’s passion is taxidermy, he’s good at it and his shop seems to do decent business. But he’s constantly berated by his father for being a weakling. It’s only a matter of time before his father’s incessant badgering pushes him over the edge.

Lajoska attempts to muscle up.

Lajoska attempts to muscle up.

Holy. Fucking. Shit. This is, without a doubt, the most disgusting movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Maybe you think that’s an overstatement. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating. Maybe you just think I watch chocolate-chip cookies and rainbows on parade, and don’t know what disgusting is. But you’re wrong. This is more disgusting than Salò. Gory isn’t exactly the right word, though there’s a pretty solid, minutes-long scene of our taxidermist rooting around viscera. There’s also vomit. Lots and lots of vomit. And lots of glossy post-vomit chins. And competitive eaters going at a giant plate of caviar. And engorged penises alongside rotting animal carcasses. I mean. Really. Fucking. Disgusting.

Balatony as a vast, old man.

Balatony as a vast, old man.

What really made me interested in seeing Taxidermia is the rumor that the film is an allegory of Hungary’s history. Not knowing enough about Hungarian history to connect the dots, I read this spoiler-filled breakdown on IMDb that does a great job of making sense of the hot mess. I’m still not sure after a little education that the film had to be so fucking disgusting, though. I can only come to the conclusion that the writer/director György Pálfi is filled to the brim with self-loathing. It’s strange, because I’ve read his other film, Hukkle, is charming as fuck.

Of course it is important to watch films from other countries, to experience world views different from ours, to help us relate culturally to people whose lives are completely different from our own. But, dear lord please, don’t make this your Hungarian selection. I’ll go back to the drawing board and hopefully find something a little more palatable. Taxidermia should only be watched on a dare.


Mad Cowgirl (2006)

It’s very rare that I sit down to write about a movie and have absolutely no idea where to start. Sometimes a good lead-in escapes me, but that’s usually nothing a few minutes of thumb-twiddling can’t sort out. But with Gregory Hatanaka’s Mad Cowgirl nothing comes easy, especially not the task of writing about it. The movie fell into my lap as so many others have; a random recommendation that I decided deserved a chance probably on its title alone. What I encountered was an experience far more strange than I was ever prepared for.

The Mad Cowgirl contemplates beef.

The Mad Cowgirl contemplates beef.

The film is very fragmented, frenetic and above all weird. The action centers around Therese (Sarah Lassez), a beautiful young meat inspector who can’t seem to get enough beef in her life. Despite the ever-present news reports of tainted beef imported from Canada she devours the stuff morning, noon and night; it’s the one constant in her life. She suffers from a never-ending string of failed and/or strained relationships, especially with the men in her life, all of whom treat her with pretty blatant disregard, desperation or contempt. We don’t know what happened really between her and her ex-husband, but he doesn’t seem quite willing to let her go. She is currently sexually involved with a local televangelist played by Walter Koenig of Star Trek fame, but not far into the film he rebuffs her gruffly over the telephone. Her brother, with whom she has an incestuous relationship, runs a meat-packing plant and has been selling tainted beef – some of which he gifted her way. Is the tainted beef the cause behind a brain disorder that she may or may not be dying from?

Walter Koenig as the eternally sexy televangelist

Walter Koenig as the eternally sexy televangelist

Written down, it all seems like it is kind of straight-forward, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We get mere clips of Therese’s life as it happens; there is no narrative thread holding any of it together other than Therese herself. Some of what we see are tortured memories, others are acts of desperation: making love to the television set while her ex-lover preacher flame expounds on God’s glory; gnawing on a nearly-raw steak prepared for her by a new friend acquired in the Catholic church, and finally in the last act assuming the role of The Girl with the Thunderbolt Kick, a kung-fu favorite of hers in which the titular Girl must slay the Ten Tigers of Kwangtung.

Who could blame a girl?

Who could blame a girl?

To be honest, Mad Cowgirl is kind of a difficult film to appreciate. Watching it for the third or fourth time, I remain mostly mystified at what exactly Hatanaka aims to prove. That being said, I still really enjoy this movie and find it rather a shame there aren’t more people to whom I can recommend it. This certainly isn’t the movie for you if you’re interested in a clear plot line with an unambiguous resolution. I will say at the very least the film is definitely thought-provoking, and perhaps makes more sense when the weird ride is over and you’ve had some time to mull it over.

Anyone hungry for a bit o' beef? What's your favorite cut?

Anyone hungry for a bit o’ beef? What’s your favorite cut?

What I think Hatanaka may be trying to convey is just how difficult life is for a typical American woman. Therese is obviously a very confused woman, and with society expecting her to switch between roles as it sees fit, how could she not be? She must be a good daughter, ex-wife, sister, lover and patient all at once. She must be chaste one moment and insatiably horny the next, a point made most obvious by her sexual relationship with her brother. As Therese loses her grip on reality, she forgets when each role is appropriate. Sure Mad Cow Disease provides an easy scapegoat for Therese’s mental deterioration (and obviously a poke at the ills of consumerism), but social pressure seems like a pretty likely candidate in explaining her descent into madness.

While I really like the idea of the film being about a woman’s difficulties in today’s society, for all I know I may be barking up the wrong tree. The movie leaves virtually everything up to its audience’s interpretation. I’m not really sure how else to describe it other than ‘Batshit Arty,” which I don’t think is a widely accepted genre term… yet. If you’re more interested in attempting to solve a puzzle that may not be solvable, you should check this movie out. I still dig it after multiple viewings. I am glad it exists and glad to live in a world where movies like this have been made; I can only hope that more Batshit Arty gets made in the future!


Fear No Evil (1981)

There are terrible horror movies, and then there are terrible horror movies. Surely ‘so bad it’s good’ is a phrase you’ve heard uttered before in reference to a terrible horror movie that does nothing right, but still manages to keep its audience engaged and entertained. Then there are the terrible horror movies, the ones that are just so incredibly poorly made and make no sense, but in this really terrible, irritating way. Unfortunately Day 29’s selection of 31 Days of Horror, Frank LaLoggia’s Fear No Evil, falls into the latter category.FearNoEvilposter

Part of the problem with this movie is there is just absolutely way too much going on, so synopsizing it isn’t going to be easy. Basically, a couple living in small-town upstate New York (LaLoggia obviously has a preferred setting) give birth to Lucifer (or Andrew). It just so happens that two of three archangels reside in the same small town. The eldest angel (Mikhail or Margaret, depending on who you are) tries to convince the local Priest she needs help slaying the monster, but the Priest is still pissed off at her because her brother killed the last incarnation of Lucifer, and that was murder! All the while, Lucifer has really neat hair, gets straight A’s, and makes out with boys in the shower at the local high school. Everyone there listens to really awesome New Wave.

When blood explodes all over the place from an unknown origin while your kid is getting baptized, maybe he is Lucifer.

When blood explodes all over the place from an unknown origin while your kid is getting baptized, maybe he is Lucifer.

Mikhail/Margaret fails to convince the priest he should postpone the church’s annual free performance of the Passion play, even though she is certain some terrible evil is about to take over the town. That same night Andrew/Lucifer somehow raises the dead from this dilapidated castle place where the old Lucifer ran a company and killed a bunch of the workers or something and now they’re all zombies and they’re going to do Lucifer/Andrew’s bidding. I really hoped at this point the zombie horde was going to overtake the peaceful parishioners at the Passion play and the movie would end in a crescendo of zombie vs. churchgoer mayhem, but instead in the end Lucifer just ends up being a glam-rock version of Dracula, swooping his cape and sacrificing women at altars and stuff.

Lucifer likes birthday cake and tidy hair cuts.

Lucifer likes birthday cake and tidy hair cuts.

Holy moly, this movie just makes one mistake after another. Where do I even start? I guess its worst offense is that it has no idea what kind of movie it actually wants to be. Is it a zombie movie? A vampire movie? A religious movie? A teen slasher flick? A family drama? The movie is none of these, but aspires to be all of them. The film can’t even manage to hold a tone for an entire scene. Not only that, scenes seem to end prematurely; just when you think there’s going to be an interesting confrontation, we cut to a different movie entirely. There is no cohesion from one moment to the next. If you played a ‘what the hell’ drinking game while watching this movie, you wouldn’t get through it without downing a few bottles of liquor.

Never a good sign when Lucifer's eyes turn yellow and he's sweaty...

Never a good sign when Lucifer’s eyes turn yellow and he’s sweaty…

I’m not even sure if it’s worth getting into the lack of character development here. Put it simply, there is none. Lucifer’s parents hate each-other, and the dad is convinced it’s because his child is evil incarnate. He is right, of course, but he and Lucifer’s mom never actually have a conversation about it. They get into a fight over Lucifer’s birthday cake and she gets brain damage as a result well before they can actually discuss repairing their marriage. Then there’s the slew of high school kids we come into contact with. Most high school movies have a range of stereotypical characters, and Fear No Evil is no different, but here even having most of the high school scenes is pointless and irrelevant to what I think is supposed to be the main plot. I haven’t decided if the weirdest high school scene is where Lucifer possesses the gym teacher into dodgeballing a boy to death, or the part where Lucifer is taunted in the gym’s shower by a couple of bullies and ends up making out with one of them in front of everyone.



Then there is Julie/Gabrielle, another high school kid whose boyfriend was the poor kid that got dodgeballed to death, right after they got engaged. She’s confused and sad and also an archangel and has dreams about fucking Lucifer. Did Lucifer kill her boyfriend specifically because he knew she was an angel? Or was it because he liked her like a human boy likes a human girl? No sense in pondering a question to which there’s no answer, I suppose. But she goes and hangs out with the creepy old lady/Mikhail/Margaret and they get their hands on a glowing staff in hopes of slaying Lucifer before his zombies can kill everyone in town, or something.

I'm sorry, when did Lucifer turn into a vampire?

I’m sorry, when did Lucifer turn into a vampire?

If you’ve ever eaten a burrito bowl at Chipotle, you’ll know what I mean when I say Fear No Evil is missing the guacamole: there is no cohesive element to keep all the fragments glued together; there’s an errant grain of rice everywhere you look. LaLoggia really likes the look of seemingly every movie he’s ever seen and tries to incorporate it all in one film with absolutely disastrous results. It is easy to see the roots of Lady in White here, especially in the first fifteen minutes of the film, which is dripping with sentimentality and nostalgia. But then he must have gone to a new wave concert in the middle of filming and decided Talking Heads, Ramones, Richard Hell & The Voidoids among other great bands should be included in this film about angels hunting Lucifer on earth.

Last but not least, there’s the whole Lucifer thing. I don’t know what kind of Lucifer LaLoggia grew up with, but I never got my Lucifer mixed up with Count Dracula. By the end of the film, Lucifer/Andrew is a cape-swooping glam-rock vampire, which sounds amazing, and probably would be in any other movie, but here it is just like… WHERE THE FUCK DID THIS COME FROM? It just does not make any damn sense no matter how you slice it.

I didn't even mention the really shitty special effects. Look at the shitty special effects. And crying Lucifer.

I didn’t even mention the really shitty special effects. Look at the shitty special effects. And crying Lucifer.

While this movie may seem like it has all the perfect elements for a so-bad-it’s-good joke-a-thon, it’s missing the most important thing: watchability. This movie is just so absolutely dreadful, frustrating and exhausting to watch, I can’t imagine anyone having fun with it. It’s not often I insist in the middle of a movie we pause it and venture out into the world for ice cream, because only ice cream can make it tolerable, but that is exactly what happened with Fear No Evil. It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the ice cream did not help improve my feelings towards this piece of garbage. All that being said, though, I think there is a very, very small audience of folks who would want to spend the time to watch this movie. If you have the sort of tolerance for a legitimately terrible, horrible, irredeemable movies and this blog post has poked your curiosity, it might be worth your time, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Bats (1999)

In honor of today’s Blood Moon, the 8th day of 31 Days of Horror is dedicated to the movie Bats, a film of which the original title was, well, duh, Blood Moon. It’s also pretty much the perfect follow-up to Kingdom of the Spidersbecause it’s almost the exact same movie, only made a few decades later and with a stronger female lead. Well that and Lou Diamond Phillips is no Bill Shatner (sorry, Lou).

Lou Diamond Phillips has no time for "Bats"

Lou Diamond Phillips has no time for “Bats”

Dr. Sheila Casper is the best bat expert around. She’s so good in fact the CDC has located her in a remote cave somewhere in Arizona, nearly scaring the crap out of her assistant Jimmy (Leon, or better known as the guy that played Jesus in Madonna’s Like a Prayer video) by landing their helicopter by his work station. It must be pretty serious if the CDC is willing to search out Sheila in such a remote location, but all they really tell her is they have a bat-mergency and they need her help in Gallup, Texas immediately!

For whatever reason, Sheila and Jimmy go with the CDC guy, where Sheriff Emmett Kimsey (Lou Diamond Phillips) introduced them to some bloody, mangled corpses; seems some freak bats ripped out their throats! But no bat Sheila has ever heard of would do such a thing, they eat things like fruits and nuts, why would they suddenly become

Sheila's all like "why would you mess with mother nature, bro?"

Sheila’s all like “why would you mess with mother nature, bro?”

interested in humans for food? Something tells me the creepy, government-funded Dr. McCabe (Bob Gunton) has some idea as to what’s going on, but dude is tight-lipped until the terror continues to spread. Finally, McCabe is strong-armed into revealing his little secret: seems he’s been doing some experimenting with a pair of flying foxes, futzing around with nature and making them super-intelligent omnivores!

Incredulous, disgusted, and armed-to-the-teeth, Sheila, Jimmy, Kimsey and some other poor suckers set out to fight the evil bastards. Unfortunately, the fight isn’t going to be that easy. Not only has Dr. McCabe got some way of controlling the bats, the military has been called in to bomb the shit out of every cave within a 50-mile radius of Gallup. Jimmy and Sheila know what a disaster that would be; and fuck, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that bats can just fucking fly away, but whatever. Anyway now it’s a race against the moonlight and the bombers to freeze out the bats with their own cockamamie plot.

Waist-deep in Guano!

Waist-deep in Guano!

For as dumb of a movie as it is, Bats is actually thoroughly enjoyable, though for completely different reasons than Kingdom of the Spiders. While a pretty big part of Kingdom was all about the attractive, available Rack Hansen and what woman he’d woo next, there is not a single romantic thread throughout Bats. Sure there is a bit of sexual tension between Sheila and both Jimmy and Kimsey, but no one bones; they’re too busy kicking bat ass! For the most part, the characters are kind of likable, except for McCabe, who you’re obviously supposed to hate.

Another big difference between these two flicks is that no one actually seems to mind that a woman is knowledgeable about the situation at hand; everyone actually listens to what she has to say. That is, of course, except the military; they need a different sort of convincing! And that is perhaps the

McCabe is a nasty old dude with secrets and stuff.

McCabe is a nasty old dude with secrets and stuff.

biggest difference between Bats and Kingdom of the Spiders; the plot here is just a tad more sophisticated, throwing the big bad government into the mix for a whole new layer of who’s-to-blame. In the end it isn’t science vs. nature, or science vs. god, it’s actually science vs. science; the type of science where we learn and appreciate what mother nature has to offer (Sheila) and the type we manipulate to our own advantage without entirely understanding the consequences (McCabe).

Though all of that sounds sort of heavy, it isn’t presented that way. Bats is fully aware that it is meant to entertain you, and that it does. Certainly it’s not the greatest movie I’ve ever seen,

That bat is scary looking, right?

That bat is scary looking, right?

and there were definitely moments when I looked over at Q, eye in half-roll mode, wondering if we were going to keep the disc after it was over. This happened a lot in the first 20 minutes, when everyone said the word “bats” over and over and over again. If one were to have a drink every time someone says “bats,” you’d be on the floor well before the halfway mark. It is also fully aware that the bats special effects are totally awesome! Those fuckers look like miniature flying gargoyles; they’re nasty and even kind of scary, while being funny and goofy at the same time. If you come across a copy, give it a try; it’s at least worth an hour and a half of your time. Also, Lou Diamond Phillips!


The Visitor (1979)

VisitorPosterDo you like The Exorcist & The Omen, or any of their sequels? What about Rosemary’s Baby? What about every other sci-fi horror movie from the 1970’s? If you answered yes to any of these, then why waste your time re-watching any of them when you could just watch The Visitor, a dazzling blend of everything you’ve already seen before, with a weird scientological, blonde Jesus twist! That’s what we did for day 6 of 31 Days of Horror. I think I don’t regret it.

The beginning of The Visitor happens somewhere else. I’m not sure if we’re on another planet, or in another dimension, or what, but blonde Jesus is telling a bunch of bald kids about the evil Sateen, who impregnated a bunch of women so his demon seed can spread through the cosmos. During this serious lecture, in walks Jerzy (John Huston – yes, that one) signaling to blonde Jesus they’ve found the latest demon seed. It’s time to rally the bald kids and send them to Earth in search of an eight-year-old girl named Katy, a creepy, southern-drawled version of Linda Blair who uses her telekinetic powers to rig basketball games and stuff.

Katy’s mom Barbara is having an intense relationship with the owner of the interested basketball team, Raymond (Lance Henriksen). He’s trying his damndest to get her to marry him, but she won’t because she knows there’s something wrong with Katy and doesn’t want to give birth to another creepy little shithead monster thing. Of course it turns out Raymond isn’t actually in love with Katy, he is part of a satanic cabal interested in populating the world with more of Sateen’s mutant seed. If Jerzy and his band of baldies can’t steal away with Katy in time, the whole universe will feel the ripples of that evil tidal wave!

This movie is like, whoa, all over the place; it is excitingly schizophrenic in that way. It is a bit like The Sentinel or The Manitou; there’s so much going on and it’s all crazy weird conspiracy shit tinged with religion and mythology. But all of its freneticism does not work in its favor; the movie is a tangled mess of tropes and what seems like possibly a weird religious agenda. The confusion results in a muddled and incoherent plot. Of course, none of that matters to a person like me: I still loved watching it; I had to know what the hell was going to happen next, even though (or perhaps especially because) I knew whatever it was wasn’t going to make any sense and was going to be delivered with questionable dialog!

The best part about movies like The Visitor isn’t on the screen at all; it’s wondering how a film like this ever got off the ground in the first place. What compelled the writer to sit down and come up with this story? Who financed it? Why? What about the actors; what are they thinking when they deliver these terrible lines? And specific to The Visitor, how the hell did they get people like John Huston and Sam Peckinpah (yeah, he acts in this too, by the way) to be in this movie? The whole thing is just so gloriously bizarre you have to love it. Though it is obviously a pastiche of a million movies that come before it, it automatically sets itself apart from every one of those by its sheer what-the-fuckness.

Should you see The Visitor? Well, that clearly depends on what type of person you are. If you’re the kinda guy or gal that only likes “Good” movies, then, uh, NO, you should not see The Visitor. However, if you’re reading my blog right now that probably is some indication that you’re at least a little bit interested in the weirder fringes of cinema, and in that case then I direct you to watch The Visitor as soon as possible, and to get on your knees and thank the fine folks at Drafthouse Films for resurrecting this nearly-forgotten shitsterpiece.


Best Worst Movie (2009)

bestworstmovie_posterImagine this: you’re a little boy with big Hollywood dreams. A great opportunity comes along, and you’re offered the starring role in a horror movie. You make the film and can’t wait to see it. You sit down to watch it and… oh my god! It’s the most dreadful thing you’ve ever seen! What do you do? Well, I suppose when you grow up, you own the shit out of it and make a documentary about it! At least that’s what Michael Stephenson, star of the 1990 horror film Troll 2did.

You don’t have to have seen Troll 2 to enjoy this documentary, but it certainly helps. It is essential, though, that you at least have some curiosity about the idea of the so-bad-it’s-good corners of the film world. This documentary isn’t just about the experience of making Troll 2, it’s also about the fallout of acting in such a film. Perhaps most interestingly, though, Best Worst Movie is about the film’s rise (fall?) to cult classic status.

Seeing as how Troll 2 is one of the most perplexing films ever made, it is pretty cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at the thing. Incredibly, its reason for being is even more strange than one could have imagined. The director, Claudio Fragasso, co-wrote the film with his girlfriend, Rossella Drudi. Apparently, Drudi’s motivation for making the goblins of Nilbog evil herbivores was her own distaste for all of her friends turning vegetarian. Who would have guessed? That, of course, is just one stitch of weirdness in the fabric of bizarre that makes up this film. Add to the mix the fact that Fragasso  believed he knew the ins and outs of what it meant to be an American teenager, despite constant pleas from the actors to change some of his most awkwardly-written lines. And how about the guy who played the kooky store owner; turns out he’d walked on set right after stepping out of the mental institution. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Many of the film’s actors, after watching it for the first time, wanted to put the film behind them. Perhaps more than anyone else, Connie Young (who plays Holly, Joshua’s older sister in the film) was embarrassed beyond belief at being in such a film. Of course, they didn’t think it’d be so hard to shake off a film that, surely, no one would see. But then comes the cult thing. Suddenly, people start recognizing the actors. Ms. Young wanted desperately to deny it, but others, most notably George Hardy (Mr. Waits, Joshua’s father, and a dentist by profession) wore it like a badge of honor, telling his patients: “I was in the worst movie ever made,” and even acting out scenes from the film at midnight showings, horror conventions, and even in his own office. So what if your fifteen minutes of fame comes more than a decade after your film is made?

Less amused by the film’s newly-acquired cult status is Fragasso. After attending a viewing, the guy is just baffled: why is the audience laughing?, he seems to ask himself. And this, I think, is the key to what makes a bad movie a good movie; it’s all in the intention behind it. Fragasso and Drudi believed they were going to scare people with Troll 2. They believed in the film they were making. They were passionate about it. And that, above all else, I think is what makes a bad movie cult-able. This, of course, is nothing new; I’ve said this before and lord knows I will say it again. This is also probably why I’ve never understood the attraction to the Troma world; those movies were made to be bad. That’s not the same thing. Not by a long shot.

Best Worst Movie is just great. I love how willing the people involved with the film are to engage Stephenson and even the cult film audiences at the theatrical showings of Troll 2. Watching a film go from something its actors reject to something they (reluctantly) embrace is truly a cool thing. If you’re into cult movies, you must see this! Chances are, though, you probably already have.


The Boogey Man (1980)

Every movie needs a shot like this.

Every movie needs a shot like this.

The first time I watched The Boogey Man, I’d never heard of its director, Ulli Lommel. A few years later I watched Strangers in Paradise and thought it was stupidly amazing. I wanted more Ulli Lommel, so I decided to revisit The Boogey Man.

Unfortunately, the two are nothing alike, except maybe that they’re both batshit crazy weird. That worked for Strangers in Paradise, which I think benefits from being a whacked-out mess. The Boogey Man, on the other hand, is just a terribly ill-conceived horror film that only succeeds at confusing its audience.

After having seen the movie twice, I still can’t really tell you what it’s about, but I’m going to try anyway.

Lacey's husband's idea of therapy: broken mirrors!

Lacey’s husband’s idea of therapy: broken mirrors!

Lacey and Jake suffer abuse at the hands of their drunken mother and her drunken boyfriend. Lacey gets the biggest knife she can from the kitchen to cut the rope with which her brother’s been tied to the bedpost. Then Jake takes the knife and murders the hell out of that boyfriend. Then he never talks again. Then years later mirrors break and an evil is unleashed and people start dying again. Lacey’s asshole husband doesn’t care that she’s emotionally disturbed and makes her keep a broken mirror in the kitchen, especially after Jake decides to paint all the other mirrors black.

It’s not really until looking at the description of this film that I realize the point of the mirror thing: Lacey apparently witnessed the murder through the mirror’s reflection and when the evil boyfriend died his

Not only is Jake a mute, he's also really into choking people.

Not only is Jake a mute, he’s also really into choking people.

spirit was caught in a mirror. So clearly that means mirrors everywhere harbor his evil spirit?

Yeah, dudes, I don’t know about this one. It’s confusing, arduous to get through and has little payoff. I spent most of its 82 minutes scratching my head, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. I will say that some of the shots are strangely amusing, like the knife bobbing up and down in the hallway, or the young boy whose head gets caught in a slammed window, but these oddly-shot moments don’t add up to a worthwhile movie. Still, something in me doesn’t want to give up on Lommel yet. I don’t want to believe that Strangers in Paradise was an anomaly. I want to believe instead that this is the anomaly. I’m almost certainly going to be disappointed…


Strangers in Paradise (1984)

Hitler demands Sage's aide in controlling the masses.

Hitler demands Sage’s aide in controlling the masses.

Several years ago during a last-minute purge before moving for the 3rd time in as many years, I threw out about 75 videocassettes. No discretion, all of them right in the trash. At the time, it felt wonderful; I wouldn’t have to haul these relics anywhere ever again! Looking back though, I definitely regret this decision. Who knows what treasures I trashed that day? The feeling stings all the more after watching Strangers in Paradise, a musical gem from the 1980’s that has neither dvd release nor Wikipedia entry.

The mastermind behind this opus is Ulli Lommel, a German dude who worked with both Andy Warhol and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. With credentials like that, I’m sure you can imagine this

The punk rockers are taking over the neighborhood!

The punk rockers are taking over the neighborhood!

thing is pretty batshit. Lommel stars as Jonathan Sage, a psychic-like guy who can not only read your thoughts, but control and change them. Knowing he could be used as a powerful tool used for mind control of the masses, none other than Adolf Hitler demands Sage work for him. Sage is disgusted by Hitler’s rule and backs out the only way he knows how: cryogenic freezing. Sage goes into the deep, cold sleep hoping the world in which he wakes will be enlightened, happy and free.

Unfortunately for Sage, he’s thawed out to a different kind of fascism: small-town America, where the plot of suburban parents to eradicate sexual deviance and punk rock from their

Sage's eyes will mesmerize...

Sage’s eyes will mesmerize…

children’s lives has thus far failed. The American parents are betting their last buck that Sage can use his mind control to save their children from radicalism and debauchery.

Sure, the plot is wacky, but the musical numbers are even wackier. They’re prevalent throughout the whole film and they are a sight to behold; I spent most of this movie staring wide-eyed at the screen in disbelief and excitement. I’ve never seen anything quite like this, and while I can’t exactly say it’s capital-‘G’ good, I can definitely say it’s worth your time! I’m really glad I watched it and I’ll happily watch it again.


The Boxer’s Omen (1983)

The battle between good and evil will always serve us with endless fodder for movie plots. The good news is, movies based on this never-ending battle can vary immensely from run-of-the-mill to straight-up batshit crazy. The Boxer’s Omen, a Hong Kong production from the 80’s, thankfully falls into the latter category, and can easily be filed under one of the most disgusting movies I have ever seen in my entire life.

Psychedelic rainbow halo, duh.

Psychedelic rainbow halo, duh.

At this point in my movie-watching career, I really should not be surprised at the insanity Asian cinema produces. Movies like House, Mystics in Bali and Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion serve as a very small sampling of this phenomenon, and even though I have seen them all, and they are all unforgettable in their own way, I was still awed by The Boxer’s Omen.

A glimpse of the den of evil.

A glimpse of the den of evil.

I will try to sum up the plot as succinctly as I possibly can: a Hong Kong boxer is permanently disabled by a corrupt Thai boxer, and asks his brother to seek revenge against him. Meanwhile, the able-bodied brother is approached by the spirit of a buddhist monk, who is apparently his psychic twin or something like that. He is sought by the monk to defeat the powers of evil who are preventing him from achieving enlightenment (or something?). The only way evil can be defeated is if the young man quickly becomes a buddhist monk in order to face evil head to head.

Brains, it's what's for dinner.

Brains, it’s what’s for dinner.

Whatever. The important thing is, we get to see lots of animated, fuzzy animal-like things, regurgitation, painted folks, bubbling skin, vomiting, crocodiles, skulls, brains and the like. It’s the gooiest, slimiest, most viscous movie ever. It gives me the skeevies just thinking about it! I gagged a minimum of twelve times while watching it.



Films like The Boxer’s Omen are why I will give almost any movie a shot; there’s just no way of knowing what you’re missing unless you give it all a chance. There is a whole, wide world of unbelievable shit out there, just waiting to make your jaw drop (or almost make you throw up). Movies can be forgettable, trendy tripe or they can leave an indelible impression on you. I think I can safely say I will never, ever forget The Boxer’s Omen.

Don't mess with this lady.

Don’t mess with this lady…

Don't mess with this guy.

…or this guy.


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