Dec 31, 2013

SHITTY FLICKS: SHARK

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis. 

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.


Japan Cinema Association presents Shark, a movie as riveting and unique as its title. As the credits wash across the screen in rippling water font, director Zac Reeder reminds to us that, yes, this movie has to do with water. The credits end with an ominous warning that this film is inspired by a true story, meaning that at one time, somewhere, someone was bitten by a shark.

The movie opens with our lead character, a Stellen Skarsgard look-alike man whom we can call Bland Professor. BP is barely reacting to a flat tire that will damningly prevent him from fishing with one of his students. After he informs Student via a phone conversation dripping with odd sexual tension, (male) Student descends to the "river" anyway, which appears to be no more than a man-made hole to collect rainwater and sewer run-off, to do some serious fly fishing.

As Student wades in the water, my heart breaks out in palpitations as a way-too-thick shark fin, white and leaning to one side, cuts through the water. The student is splashed with water, which is supposed to simulate an attack, I guess.

Meanwhile, Bland Professor forces his son, who looks 30 but isn't old enough to drive, to fix the flat tire all the while standing uncomfortably close to him. Son bitterly performs this task, letting us, the intrigued audience, know that him and dad don’t really get along.

Later, in his classroom, Bland Professor lectures boringly on the ocean, as the audio for this film is simultaneously recorded in someone's washing machine.

The entire budget for the film was spent on a "realistic"
shark fin, which was later lost and replaced with
this old lawnmower blade.

Bland Professor then descends to the river where his student was killed and deduces that the attack was caused by "a mountain lion…in the water." Many other things are said, and many other things are impossible to decipher.

Some time later, we find ourselves in an institutional-looking room, with two guys sitting, talking, and monitoring things, whose job it seems is to sit around, talk, and monitor things.

A warning siren goes off, and one of them leaves, interrupting their audibly incoherent conversation of:

GUY # 1: Beerrmmmhh...buhh...gates...

GUY # 2: Himmmmmm...berrmennn...feeehh...

GUY # 1: HA HA HA! Farrrmmmm...

Guy # 1 gets in the water outside of the white room to fix a gate, and guess what? Instantly eaten like the last clam at a clam-lover's free all-you-can-eat buffet of clams.

But enough of that scene.

Drunken Man, sitting by the water, sees a shark fin. He quickly runs into a bar and shouts, drunkenly, "I just saw a shark! I swear!" And then he's verbally berated for roughly three hours. Drunk Man leaves to be dumb, drunk, and unbelieved.

Meanwhile, Bland Professor is seriously having a hard time dealing with the death of Student, what with his constant sobbing and pounding of flat surfaces. Later, he hooks up with Town Cop to debate Town Cop's idea that Student was actually killed by a shark, and not a mountain lion. Bland Professor scoffs, insinuating a boy killed in a river was more plausibly attacked by a mountain lion than by a man-eating predator that lives in water.

Also, it should be noted that after Bland Professor realizes that it WAS a shark that killed Student, his knowledge of shark breeds that are capable of traveling up-river becomes immaculately in-depth later when trying to convince other people.

Bland Professor wanders around town, throws stones, and does some serious thinking. He comes across Drunken Man who saw the shark, claiming that the "huge shark" that swam by him must've been "at least ten feet" which is unmiraculously average for a great white. And just when you think you can't take any more excitement, we cut to fat men on water skis.

One of these fat men falls victim to thrashing bubbles and quick stock footage shots of sharks, resulting in just one of the few very bland deaths in the film. In fact, Shark holds the all-time record for having the most uninteresting and unviolent shark attacks ever dedicated to celluloid, and also the worst quality digital video and the worst audio sound scape in existence. Seriously, that douche bag who cried about Britney Spears on Youtube had better equipment than these windowlickers.

Bland Professor grows bitter over his inability to stop these attacks, forcing him to deal with flash backs involving a giant black shadow of a father, telling him that he has to go away. Does this inner conflict of the missing father add to the story in any significant way?

Do you see the correlation?

Shadow man?

Sharks?

No. At least I don’t. And even if you had heard of this movie, I’m betting you wouldn’t, either.

The long-lost father subplot is not at all important, or necessary. And don't worry, this will be the only time the filmmakers attempt to give any character any sort of development, for shadow man is never seen again.
"Say, Hank...you ever think about...other men?"

Another attack takes place on the river. A nearby cop takes aim and shoots at the shark during the day...while another nearby cop in a patrol car reacts to the gunshot with a quick head-turn...at night.

In a terrible ending to reign supreme in the kingdom of all terrible endings, Bland Professor, Town Cop, and Drunken Guy throw a jug of gasoline into the water, wait for the shark to swim past it, and then they shoot it and blow the shark up.

What's funny (in the angering way that these assholes actually have a movie in distribution) is when the gasoline jug is floating on top of the water, it's very clear that the jug is empty, and when the shark blows up, the explosion rockets shark bits at the screen with all the legitimacy of a sequence from The Sims. It's one of the fakest explosions I've ever seen in a film.

Also, this is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

And I've seen Van Helsing.

Dec 23, 2013

CREEPY CHRISTMAS

Here's the thing: Modern-day Christmas is pretty weird already. It's a conglomeration of legends involving everything from a supernatural home invader with flying pack animals to a talking snowman. So when it comes time to make holiday decorations, the line between festive and nightmarish is razor thin. That's how we wound up with ... 



Text and images from Cracked.

See the rest.

Dec 22, 2013

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

 

In my youth, I would stare over and over at the horrifying pictures in two books that my parents happened to own: The first was A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, which featured ghastly photos of Vincent Price and Lon Chaney Jr./Sr. in their lurid make-ups, and the other, surprisingly, was an illustrated edition of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. For those familiar with the story, in which an old curmudgeon is visited by four ghosts one Christmas Eve night, yes, the tale does lend itself to some frightful imagery particularly when it comes to the final ghost of the night but you might still find yourself taken aback when seeing the visual representations of this story brought to life by artist Roberto Innocenti. Even in the more "normal" acts of the story, illustrations of everyday people the children especially look just a little bit off.

Below are just a few scans of the eerie creations found below in the 1990 edition of the book, published by Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, Ing./Creative Editions Inc.







Dec 19, 2013

MUSIC FOR FILM: RAVENOUS

Except to a cineaste, the musical score might be one of the most important aspects of film that is consistently taken for granted. Tasked with both complementing the action on-screen as well as manipulating your emotions, film scoring is essential to creating an effective tone and generating the appropriate response from its audience, whether that response is fear, melancholy, excitement, or jubilation. Regardless of the actual film’s quality – whether great or ghastly – the score is the only component of the film that will live on in perpetuity in a separate form. Some of these scores stand head and shoulders above others and deserve to be recognized. This is one of them. 


Ravenous is an interesting first choice for what I hope to be a reoccurring column, because its score flies in the face of perhaps the oldest and still ongoing of debates: Does a musical score exist only to serve the images flashing on the screen, or should this same musical score also serve its own function and be just as effective, entertaining, and well-constructed, while playing independently of that image? Meaning, the scores for films like There Will Be Blood and Sinister are incredible in the way that they make the on-screen images ten times more effective…but can you listen to them independent of their respective films and still find them to be just as effective? And should it even matter if they simply don’t work on their own, given they were never supposed to be anything other than a companion to their film?

Ravenous seems to be gunning for the latter – that this film score exists only to serve this story of soldiers falling victim to a maniacal cannibal in the dead of winter during the mid-1800s. The Mexican-American War is in full swing, and soldiers are stationed at Fort Spencer to be on hand should their services be required. They spend their days getting high, writing music, or screaming in rivers, and seem to be risking death via total boredom until a stranger named Colqhoun arrives near dead from exposure. Once cared for, warmed, and given proper nourishment (heh), he rattles off his terrifying tale of being trapped in the woods and being forced to rely on cannibalism to survive. Everyone hearing the tale seems to instantly believe the stranger except Boyd (Guy Pearce), who finds the stranger to be more than a little suspicious.

Then a bunch of dudes get eaten!

(For a more in-depth breakdown/examination of Ravenous, read its Unsung Horrors entry. Sadly, its director, Antonia Bird, left us this year.)


The score by composer Michael Nyman and singer/songwriter/record producer Damon Albarn is wonderfully eclectic and quirky, as well as traditional and fucking eerie. Nyman has been composing for over forty years, though his name might not sound familiar outside of cult-like film-score devotees. He rarely scores anything outright “Hollywood” and opts to work in more classical environments. So it’s only natural he would bring with him less traditional ideas – and it’s those unusual ideas that begin the official soundtrack release.

(Note that I’ll only be highlighting the tracks I consider to stand out from the rest.)

“Hail Columbia,” the first track, is based on a pre-existing arrangement, but one that Nyman re-orchestrated specifically for Foster's Social Orchestra. This is important to mention because this orchestra is comprised of non-musicians, meaning the music as played sounds mostly sure-footed, but shaky and awkward. It certainly doesn’t sound polished. This odd approach was also used for “Welcome to Fort Spencer,” probably the least confident and most shakily recorded track in the batch. It literally sounds as if a group of musicians two weeks into their instruments are assembling and playing in a group for the first time. You might wonder why one would bother with such an approach – why purposely include awkward or even terrible sounding music? Because there’s no better way than painting the military as clumsy and primitive; and the inhabitants of Fort Spencer fare even worse.  This track, filled with horn squeaks and screechy strings, make these men seem like miscreants, degenerates, and completely unrefined. Rather than having the men themselves do and act in a manner that screams “idiot,” instead let the music do that for them. “Noises Off” is the final track to take this approach – all the usual out-of-tune notes are in attendance, but also seems to have been recorded at far slower than was intended, making it seem even less confident.

If “Hail Columbia” was the first of a three-part series featuring unsure players, “Stranger in the Window” would be the first of several tracks to drop the altogether dopy and amusing sound and instead go for one ominous and foreboding. The music up to this point has been either goofy or non-threatening. “Stranger in the Window” plays as Colqhoun makes his first appearance – right off you should know there’s something not right about him.


“Boyd’s Journey” and “Colqhoun’s Story” have been credited to Albarn without question. Here, and in some of his other contributions, the musician incorporates found audio, recordings from scratched vinyl records, and vintage field recordings into his original compositions. The latter track repeats one measure of what seems to be an old jaunty tune that likely sounded much more jolly in its original incarnation. Here, though, it provides the syncopation on which Albarn builds his ideas – none of them jolly. I love music that starts small with a simple pattern and builds, and continues to build, adding more instrumentation and ideas until it seems unrecognizable from when it first begin. “Colqhoun’s Story” delivers this in spades.

“Wendigo Myth” is one lone voice performing a Native American vocalization. I personally know nothing about this track or its lineage, but I’d love to know how it was captured. Was a vocalist brought in to record in a studio? Was it recorded in the field? The sound quality isn’t quite 100%, as it’s slightly echoey and tinny. I prefer to think this was recorded in the wild, but maybe because that’s the more interesting and romantic option. [Update: IMDB confirms: Milton 'Quiltman' Sahme's chant was recorded by Damon Albarn in Quiltman's living room on the reservation. Albarn was referred to Quiltman by Joseph Runningfox.]

Following “Trek to the Cave,” “He was Licking Me” will easily get under your skin. A more straightforward composition (by which composer I’m not sure), it’s likely the most brooding track. It’s something Wojciech Kilar would have composed for his take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  “The Cave” seems to be full on Albarn, utilizing repeating musical stings, unsure drum beats, a Glockenspiel (of all things), and something very non-instrumental also sounding off in the background. Soon these sounds fade into an elongated string punctuated every so often by a single piano key. It transforms very quickly from something unusual (while the soldiers are still outside the cave) to something incredibly suspenseful (after they enter), and into a full-on sprint (once Colqhoun enacts his savage plan). Running over seven minutes, “The Cave” transforms and mutates more than any other track, especially at 4:15 when those drums mercilessly kick in. It then becomes a whole other beast entirely. “The Cave,” to me, sums up Ravenous’ entire soundtrack: It’s a bevy of different ideas that one would think could never work, but somehow all comes together and provides something special and unforgettable.

“Run” is the only track which can boast that it sees to fruition the film’s sudden tonal shift from utter terror to (temporary) hillbilly humor. It’s at this moment when Colqhoun flicks his fingers at one of the surviving soldiers (not many are alive at this point) and tells him, simply, to run. Had this scene been scored by something terrifying filled with screeching strings, Colqhoun’s cat-and-mouse games would have seemed disturbing and psychotic. But instead, mixed with hillbilly hooting and fiddle, it actually becomes a little hilarious, and we realize that, for Colqhoun, this is nothing but a good time.


I love a good track that gets the adrenaline pumping, and “Let’s Go Kill That Bastard” kills it. The pounding drums and fiddle remain consistent, but the other instruments come and go, so the song is constantly changing its sound. If there were any track I would listen to on repeat, it’s this one (and I have).

“The Pit” at times seems like it should belong in a Disney film, not in an extremely bloody gore-fest black comedy about cannibals. Harps, swelling strings, and female ululations will make you wonder if Boyd, following his crushing plummet from the cliff, is actually dreaming. He’s not, though. Instead, he’s eating Neil McDonough.

If Ravenous were to have a “theme,” I suppose it would be “Manifest Destiny.” This track manages to encapsulate all the music we’ve heard – and well as the different interpretive approaches – while creating a new musical composition. Like in the earlier track I praised, the track starts off simply and then builds and builds.

“Saveoursoulissa” is the longest track – as well as the eeriest –in this whole thing: repeating discordant notes on a scratchy record, pounding drums, warbling electronic noises, moaning vocalizations. And that’s just the first two minutes. This track goes on for a staggering 8:43, and never sounds like anything other than a nightmare. If you’re a horror writer, play this track in the background during your next writing session. Your imagination will end up places you never thought you’d go.


“End Titles” is a reprise rendition of “Boyd’s Journey,” which is fitting, being that since Boyd is currently pinned to Colqhoun in a bear trap and is slowly bleeding to death, he’s about to begin a new journey: either to death, or to his rebirth, as he ponders Colqhoun’s final words: “If you die first, I’m definitely going to eat you. But the question is…if I die first, are you going to eat me?”

So…having said all of that, what’s the verdict for Ravenous? Is it something only to be appreciated alongside the film, or can it be enjoyed solo? The answer is: both. At least it is for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen Ravenous countless times and count it among one of my favorites, so some images that certain portions of score are married to are fresh in my head. Yeah, I might skip the Foster's Social Orchestra tracks, but the rest of this stuff is bloody good.

Dec 18, 2013

FIVE MONTHS OF PEACE


"The winters can be fantastically cruel. And the basic idea is to cope with the very costly damage and depreciation which can occur. And this consists mainly of running the boiler, heating different parts of the hotel on a daily, rotating basis, repair damage as it occurs, and doing repairs so that the elements can't get a foothold. Physically, it's not a very demanding job. The only thing that can get a bit trying up here during the winter is, uh, a tremendous sense of isolation...for some people, solitude and isolation can, of itself become a problem."

If we don't, remember me.

Dec 17, 2013

M SHOW FAN CLUB

When I was 9 years old I had a favorite TV series. It had human actors and actors in animal suits and funny and educational clips in between. I don’t want to name it because it was a really good show and this story is not at all a fault of the show. I will just call it “The M Show.”

The M Show was running for years and I had been watching it for as long as I can remember. I always sat down, straight after school with my older sister Scarlett and my best friend Brandi, who lived next door.

It was our ritual, every day the three of us sat together – with sweets, if our moms allowed it, or else with apples or grapes – and in the breaks of the show we talked and gossiped about all those important issues in our lives.

Then, I remember it was a warm summer Friday, Scarlett found a prize competition in one of her girl magazines. It asked questions about the show and first prize was a travel with your parents to Disney World. But even better, everybody who sent in the correct answers would become a member of The M Show Club, a fan club for the show. The same day, after watching the M Show, the three of us huddled together on the couch to answer the quiz.

The questions were very hard; they asked details about old episodes of the show. Without Scarlett, Brandi and I would never have managed to answer all the questions.

Scarlett begged our mom for stamps and envelopes and we filled the three envelopes each with a paper with our names and contact details and the answers to the questions. Scarlett even told us to vary our answers slightly so that we wouldn’t be called out for cheating.

The letters were sent off and every day we all rushed to the mailbox to get our The M Show Club badges. When the first snow began to fall we stopped checking the mailbox. Brandi was still passionate about the show and watched it every day, but Scarlett lost interest. When Scarlett stopped watching I too began to skip the show. Brandi still came over, but she was the only one watching. I sat next to her while working my way through Scarlett’s old girl magazines.

It was early spring. I remember there were tulips in our garden and my mom reprimanded me for plucking two to decorate the kitchen table. But right after her lecture she handed me a small square letter with my name printed on it. The back said “Welcome to The M Show Fan Club.”

There was not much in the envelope – only a short leaflet that welcomed me to the club and a small ID card with my name on it, a big logo of the show and in black letters “The M Show Fan Club,” and in the line below, in big black letters, the word “Member.”

Brandi got her envelope the same day. She was glowing with happiness. Scarlett was jealous at first, but two days later she got her envelope too.

From then on, every Friday, each of us received a leaflet about the show with photos and anecdotes and background information on the characters. Occasionally the leaflets also called on the club members to promote the show and to watch out for “The M Show Tour.”

Either way, it worked: We loved the show afterwards. I think from that day on, after I proudly stuffed the membership card in my bag, I didn’t miss a single episode.

Then, in mid-June, we all got two leaflets. The first was the usual one with facts and photos. But the second was an ad:

“The tour bus is in town – this is your chance to become an ‘Elite Member’!”

The bus was coming the next Sunday to our town. We were all allowed to go. We were beyond excited.

The leaflet didn’t have much information and that was before we had a computer at home. The tour bus would arrive at 1pm and the main characters of the show would be there to welcome everybody and play games with us. Those that participated in at least four games would be upgraded to “Elite Member”-status and receive a new, golden membership card.

Those nine days of waiting for “The M Show Tour” were some of the longest in my life. Brandi and Scarlett and I planned every day how we would take photos with each of the characters and then play games with them. I secretly dreamed of beating Scarlett at the “knowledge game,” where our knowledge about the show would be tested.

On Saturday Scarlett went to a birthday-sleepover at one of her friends’ houses. The parents were supposed to bring Scarlett back by 12 on Sunday.

Around 12:30 Brandi came running to our house. She knocked on the back door, like she always did, and I let her in. Brandi was beyond excited; her mom had volunteered to accompany the three of us and she wanted to go early so that we wouldn’t miss anything.

My mom called the house of Scarlett’s friend, but they didn’t pick up their phone. She said that Scarlett would be home soon – early enough to go on time.

At 12:45 Brandi’s mother came over to ask for us. She said that we would have to leave so that the queues wouldn’t be too long. My mom said we should wait for Scarlett, but Brandi threw a tantrum; she was scared that she wouldn’t be able to hug all the characters if we came late.

Brandi’s mom decided to drive. I wanted to come along – but my mother said that she would drive Scarlett and me. I felt like I was being punished for Scarlett’s being late. I begged. I cried.

Nothing helped; Brandi went alone.

Her friends’ parents dropped Scarlett off at 13:40. I was mad at her, but my mom said if I made a scene we wouldn’t go at all. I relented.

We arrived around twenty minutes later at the big parking lot where the bus was scheduled to stop. We saw the crowds from the distance, parked the car and walked over.

I asked my mom where the characters of the show were; she said that they were just behind the crowd.

They all held the “The M Show Tour” flyers, but it looked as if the crowd were mostly parents. They stood in a half-circle towards the edge of the parking lot. Some of them looked concerned, but most of them were laughing and talking.

My mom spotted Brandi’s mother at the other end of the half-circle; we walked over to her. Brandi’s mother was one of the worried ones.

She told us that the bus had been there, together with all the animal figures from “The M Show.” They had a large bus with the “The M Show” logo and they handed out sweets.

One of the animal figures had explained to the parents that they had built a set outside of town where we all could make our own short film with the characters of the show. They said they would drive everybody there.

They took the children first. They were all so excited that few parents objected. Still, three or four parents came along and that calmed the rest. The next bus was supposed to arrive within a few minutes, to bring everyone to the set.

When I heard that I was excited like never before.

I ran to the street to look around so I could be the first on the bus. Scarlett followed me.

I didn’t see the worried expression when Brandi’s mother talked to mine.

I didn’t understand why the police came not even an hour later.

In Monday’s episode of “The M Show” one of the characters came on stage and told us to call our parents to watch the show. Our mom was already sitting with Scarlett and me.

The character said that “The M Show” didn’t have a fan club.

That week Brandi’s parents cried a lot. I was still sure that Brandi was okay, I thought she just had so much fun that she didn’t want to come back.

She must have had a lot of fun; she never came back.

Brandi’s mother cried even more, that Friday, when the small parcel arrived.

There was a new “The M Show Fan Club” membership card for Brandi. It was golden and said “Elite Member” in big, bold letters.

The parcel also contained a video. It was only a minute long; a minute of Brandi at the set of “The M Show.” She was wearing the same dress as when she came over to our house that Sunday morning.

On the video she Brandi smiling; an actor in a big animal suit stood next to her, silently.

“Hi mom, I really like it here,” said Brandi. “I really wish you could be here.” Then she laughed.
“I’m sorry the others were late. I’m sure they would have loved it too.”


Story source unknown.

Dec 16, 2013

UNKNOWN ENTITY

I received the following information and image from Ken Pfeifer. It was forwarded to Ken by one of his readers...then sent to me so it could be published:
Nov. 2012 - I was working the night shift on an x-ray crew at a material gas plant. This was around 3 am and there was only four of us in the plant at the time. I took this picture after seeing something swaying side to side out of the corner of my eye. I was in the basket of a man lift coming down when I took the picture. By the time I unhooked my harness to get out of the basket the creature was gone. The police were called and walked premises. The officer told me there were 26 UFO sighting calls throughout that night. If you zoom in you can see the silhouettes of eyes and elongated mouth. I have no doubt of what I believed I seen that night. The other person that saw it with me took off running for the truck.



Story and images source.

Dec 15, 2013

TEOS RECOMMENDS: THE RESURRECTIONIST

 

Lovers of the icky and depraved might want to take note of The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Spencer Black, an astounding (and first) novel by New Jersey native E.B. Hudspeth. A story about an anatomist named Spencer Black who, after growing frustrated with his inability to educate the modern world about natural deformities, plummets down a rabbit hole of animal experimentation - later becoming human experimentation - in an effort to create his own brand of mutation.

Presented as a fact-based account or dossier, Hudspeth fills in the reader on Black's history, his rise to fame and infamy, his increasing madness, and his mysterious disappearance. Accompanying this narrative is a book within the book, The Codex Extinct Animalia, Dr. Black's personally penned and self-described "Gray's Anatomy" for animal mutations. Page after page features beautiful illustrations of mythical creatures of which you're already like aware: the chimera, the minotaur, and even the mermaid. Each creature has pages and pages dedicated to their anatomical breakdown, and their every layer is sketched with artistic and scientific precision: the skeletal system, the muscular system, the epidermis, and the "final" presentation.

The first part of The Resurrectionist is less than a hundred pages, but an awful lot of gruesome details and events are packed into them. It ably paints a portrait of a man suffering from madness and delusions of grandeur over a specific time period, spurred by the untimely deaths of his children and the scientific community's constant dismissal of his theories and ideas. The text is comprised of historical accounts, snippets of correspondence, "reviews" of his work by his colleagues, and cleverly vintage advertisements in support of Dr. Black's later colorful career.


I am drawn to creations such as these that skew as closely to reality as possible while still being a work of complete fiction. Likely the same reason why I'm attracted to films of the found-footage/fake documentary format, or those likely bogus ghost-hunting shows that every network seems to have these days, I want to be fooled. Occasionally I want to realize what I've been reading or watching has made me take a step back to determine if it's possibly real. Even within the text of The Resurrectionist, Dr. Black is painted as a man clearly losing his grip with reality. By the end of Part One, you're ready to see the man committed and removed from society entirely. But then when you begin Part Two - The Codex Extinct Animalia - and you see him approaching these mythical beasts with a scientific and analytical mind, and you see all the fancy Latin terminology he's using to label each and every single appendage, you can't help but think, "Shit, maybe this guy wasn't so craze-balls."

That's when you know you've got a good book open in front of you.

To reiterate in complete amazement, this is E.B. Hudspeth's first book. I can't wait for the next.

Get.

Dec 11, 2013

TWO GUYS, ONE QUIP: ROBO VAMPIRE

A joint effort between The End of Summer and Exploitation Movie Review, “Two Guys, One Quip” is a venture to honor the cheesiest, oddest, and most unheralded crop of films we can stand. Some films can be tackled solo and some cannot. Some films are so excruciatingly unusual that multiple parties are needed to catch every single solitary weirdity. "Two Guys, One Quip" is a free-for-all, back-and-forth, "I'm-just-gonna-say-whatever" approach to double-teaming an easy target in the unsexiest way possible. You will find nothing close to actual, legitimate film discussion, but instead sarcasm and douche-bag superiority flying fast and furious. Profanity will be immense, constant, and unyielding. No on-screen target is safe. No incompetence will pass by unmocked. And no punches will be at all pulled. Some films are asking for it. These are some of them.



 

The End of Summer (TEOS): Legend has it that the feature film Robo Vampire was created when two unfinished films were face-smashed together with all the finesse and caring of a Philadelphia sports fan. Hearing that, one might think Unfinished Movie # 1 was a Robocop rip-off while Unfinished Movie # 2 was a vampire flick. But you'd be wrong. That's actually all part of that first unfinished flick. Edited into that mess with little-to-no technique is a random and quite boringly normal film about good guys trying to take down some drug dealers.

Though the final film is credited to Joe Livingstone, the film in actuality was _____ed by Godfrey Ho, mastermind behind the wonderful garbage that is Undefeatable. So, the question remains: Did Ho direct and abandon the robot/vampire film, or the boring drug dealers film, or was he responsible for neither until some dude showed up with a trunk of negatives and said "make something from this garbage"?

Quite honestly I have no idea – hence my ambiguous blank space – but it doesn't really matter, now does it? Robo Vampire exists. It's a thing. Just like Honey Boo Boo or Obamacare.

Exploitation Movie Review (EMR): The first thing that is apparent about this movie is that the production value is, as you would probably expect, pretty poor and looks like it was made on a budget of “money I managed to find in the change tray of a vending machine.”

TEOS: It shows, although it tries to start off with immense excitement. Robo Vampire begins in Unfinished Movie # 1, where a bunch of soldiers are forcing some drug dealers at gunpoint to march. They come upon coffins filled with snakes and immediately become terrified. I would be too, if an unseen film crew-member were hidden inside those coffins and obviously throwing snakes at me.

EMR: When the soldiers get spooked by the snakes in the coffins, they react in a pretty unreasonable way that betrays their undoubtedly high standard of training: by shooting the shit out of the snakes, which explode in a way that makes me think they were packed with TNT or something, so that’s pretty weird.

TEOS: Before someone can make a "watch out for snakes!" joke, turns out snakes aren't the only scary thing in those coffins, but also vampires. Chinese vampires.

Now before you send me a meme of a black kid saying “That’s racist,” let me clarify that I specified the ethnicity of these vampires for one simple reason: In Chinese mythology, vampires hop. They do not run, walk, or sprint. And that's not just Robo Vampire mythology, but honest-to-gosh established Chinese mythology.

EMR: Yep. They totally hop.

TEOS: Fucking China.

EMR: Also, I’m not so sure these army guys are professionals, because there’s a quick, off-setting shot of one of them wearing hi-top Converse and I don’t think any army would be so quick to dispense with those cumbersome, regulation boots in favour of the comfort and style of some Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

TEOS: The vampire kills off the American soldiers and the remaining drug dealers flee in joy. And this is all pre-title sequence, baby.

EMR: The pre-credits sequence made me feel like I was having a stroke, but it completely sets up the tone of the movie, so I’ll give it a pass.

For his birthday, Billy’s father bought him
a fucking Chinese vampire.

TEOS: I really like this next sequence, because in one simple sentence, the entire film is summed up, and if you were out buying SnoCaps or something during this part, you’d have no fucking idea what was happening during the rest of the film. So, at an ominous drug dealers meeting, Head Drug Dealer is super pissed off at Head Anti-Drug Agent, who I think is named Tom, so he's going to be hiring a Taoist to "train the vampires to deal with him."

"Training vampires." And we're not even five minutes in. I mean…that’s fucking fantastic.

EMR: This head drug dealer guy asks his men to contact headquarters and get them to find a new way to smuggle in the heroin. As a solution to their problem, it’s such a nonchalant request, put to them in an overly casual way. I can’t help but think this is a logistics operation like UPS or DHL and there’s a customer services department set up that specifically deals with this kind of shit:

“What’s that? Border patrol stopped the boat and took the entire shipment? Ok, well have you thought about packing the drugs in your asshole...? Not a problem, thanks for calling Drug Shipment Solutions and have a nice day.”

It’s not the request that bothers me, it’s the way that logic apparently works in this guy’s mind, like a kid who thinks that you’d buy a new dog from ‘the dog store.’

Also, I’m pretty sure that these men thought the life of a drug dealer would be like the montage from Scarface and not this black magic crap. These poor bastards are probably wondering where their lives went so wrong and when “Push It To The Limit” is gonna kick in instead of the impending “yumma-yumma-yumma-yumma-yahmma” Vampire incantation bullshit.

TEOS: So, color me ignorant in the ways of Chinese culture, but, tell me if this makes sense: At the drug stash house, two guys with Chinese faces and non-Chinese names are doing stuff with the drugs, and Ken lights incense, bows, and says "Bless our drugs." Did we learn this in world history and just completely forget about it?

EMR: I hear that this totally works and nothing bad ever happens ever if you do this. Plus, in the setup for this scene, you get two racial stereotypes for the price of one, because Ken is clumsy and nervous and speaks like a black maid circa 1890.

TEOS: That’s true. Tony, likewise, bows to the dozen vampires that are there in some sort of comatose state and says, "Thank you, vampires," so, drug dealers or not, at least they’re genial.

EMR: While Tony is busying himself with a severely undercooked chicken, Ken is dicking about and treating this whole situation like it’s a Halloween lawn display. He starts to light some lamps and Tony warns him that if he starts a fire, the vampires will wake up, but Ken disregards this advice because this is a totally reasonable time not to believe in the mythology.

TEOS: And then, don’t you know it? Ken burns his cock with the cigarette that's sticking out of a vampire's mouth and screams, and all the vampires wake up. It’s not a fire exactly, but Ken’s balls would beg to differ, so…

EMR: Ok, fair enough. Perhaps he was right not to believe that the fire would wake them up, and Tony has been an irresponsible asshole for not warning his buddy that screaming cock burn can also disturb the vampires from their slumber, but these motherfuckers need better health and safety regulations in this work place.

"...Thomas!"

TEOS: But it’s all good, yo. The dusty vampires are punched around until the aforementioned Taoist enters and takes care of shit by reapplying the binding spells to the front of the vampires' faces and they go back into their slumber thing. Then he says, "Let me take a look of those drugs." He does the dip-n-lick and determines the drugs are actually rice powder, not heroin. So now they need to figure out at what point they got fucked. (This may or may not ever be resolved.)

EMR: I’m going to say it; I didn’t understand a single fucking thing that happened in that scene… Later, main drug dealer guy goes to a meeting at the harbour with some other undisclosed drug guys who seem to be just chilling out on a boat and tells them they’re not in the “drug smuggling business” anymore, but in the “body smuggling business” (along with their chain of pet stores called ‘The Dog Shop’). I don’t know if this drastic change of direction is going to fuck up their 401K, but they don’t seem too phased by this change and go back to just standing around the boat from before and looking suspicious.

In the next scene, it’s clear that Drug Solutions PLC have come up with a revolutionary idea for smuggling drugs, because this chick is cutting open a dead cow/pig/horse/whatever, stashing the drugs inside the body of the animal, and sewing it back up. This would have been the most ingenious scene of the entire film if it hadn’t done me the disservice of ruining The Empire Strikes Back for the rest of my life.

“And I thought these drugs smelled like rice…on the outside.”

TEOS: White guys show up and, for whatever reason, act as if they're not scared of vampires, even going so far as to laugh at this whole affair. (I mean, come on. I know white people are arrogant, but, be fucking scared of vampires. They will eat you.) For added protection (and hilarity), the white dudes wear garlic around their necks (and make them look like really nonplussed tourists fresh off a seventeen-hour plane ride).

EMR: One of these white guys seems to have had a seamstress knock together an adult size jumper that looks like the one he bought his 2-year-old son for Christmas. It’s fabulously inappropriate for a black magic meet-up and casts serious aspersions over this dude’s mental state. I’m hoping he’s not developmentally disabled or anything like in that movie Jack.

In addition to the snakes in the vampire’s coffin, someone’s thrown a gerbil in there as well. I did some research and I don’t think it’s for good luck or anything. Looks pretty cute, though. For the remainder of this scene, I was mostly worrying about the gerbil.

TEOS: As the main vampire is waking up, a ghost woman crashes the party and she begins a diatribe so long-winded and complicated that at one point the Taoist slowly turns away from her and looks right into the camera as if to say, "This is fucking brutal, isn't it?"

 “Does anyone have a mouth gun?”

EMR: I’m still really fuckin’ worried about that gerbil.

TEOS: He’s fine, dude. He was adopted by a rather famous Hollywood actor…

Oh, so, turns out this vampire the Taoist was about to awaken was this chick's once-husband, so she totes takes this all kinds of personal. Her monologue about it is so long that it's actually still happening long after you'll have peaced off to bed, gotten up, gone to work, repeated this for fifty more years, retired, caught a fish, lost a fish, and then died. Plus fifty more years.

The good thing about this unending ghost monologue is that her shirt is see-through, so enjoy those tits, boys.

EMR: Originally I thought the tits would throw me off and make me miss some of the key plot points in this movie, and that was the last thing I wanted to happen. However, I can happily report that the tits are subtly displayed so as to not detract from the intensity of the drama.

At one point during Ghost Tits’ monologue, the Taoist explains that she and the Vampire guy could never have been together, because he is from the East and she is from the West. This made me think that the only way they could ever reconcile their differences in the eyes of the stuffy, autocratic society was through the medium of modern street dance like in Footloose or Save The Last Dance. As much as you and I want that to happen, it isn’t to be. The closest you’ll get is a fight scene where the Taoist’s shoes create sparks, which I’m choosing to believe is an allegory for sexual tension.

TEOS: While that is a bummer, we DID get tits and shoe sparks, after all.

The Taoist finally awakens the vampire husband (human name Peter) and commands him to fight Ghost Tits. He does, and I'm pretty sure he's wearing a gorilla mask. Lots of hopping and kung-fu happens and I swear – no bullshit – the scene concludes with one of the white guys suggesting the ghost and the vampire get married.

Hey, this movie is kind of like Big Trouble in Little China, only it's fucking terrible.

EMR: I have to concur. Watching this movie is like rubbing your face in myxomotosis.


TEOS: While trying to smuggle out some drugs, the dealers run afoul of some soldiers, who actually do a good job of taking most of them out. The Taoist calls on his army of the loyal hopping undead to assist. The vampires use mouth smoke and sleeve sparks to dispatch these soldiers with ease – one of them being Tom, that main anti-drug agent the bad guys were way worried about. (RIP Tom!)

EMR: My favourite moment of this scene was when the Taoist visibly remembers that he’s some kind of wizard in charge of a shit load of vampires. Things could have gotten awkward back there if he’d been taken into custody and then realised that he’s a master of the dark arts.

TEOS: Yeah, it’s kind of like lying on your couch and being super hungry before remembering you have that leftover quesadilla from Applebee’s in the fridge and – bonus! – you love to eat that shit cold.

EMR: Also, the fact that the head vampire with the gorilla mask can shoot fireworks from the sleeves of his robe proves that this is the least racially sensitive movie since anything produced in Berlin between 1939 and 1945.

TEOS: I especially like this next sequence, too. Let’s just say I wish all aspects of life were this fucking cut-and-dry. At the hospital, other military personnel receive the news that Tom is dead. Without missing a beat, and with nary a look of mourning, one man turns to another and says, "Since Tom is dead, I want to make use of his body to make an android-like robot."

"All right."

EMR: One of these guys, who’s apparently this other guy’s commanding officer, despite the fact that he looks about 25 years his junior, tells this other army dude that the most important thing for him to remember is “that this project needs to be carried out in the strictest confidence, so don’t you worry about the moral and philosophical implications of your actions – just make sure no one knows what’s going on because, to be frank, this idea of yours to turn Tom into a robot is nothing short of fucking insane and I’m trying to bang Stephanie from Maintenance and if she finds out about this shit, she won’t even fucking look at me again without wanting to cry.”

Not all of that is verbatim.

TEOS: I’d hope not. Who’d want to willingly bang a chick who LOOKS like a chick that works in Maintenance?

So, literally that same day, the experiment is complete and Tom has become Robo-Tom. (Welcome back, Tom!)  Off he goes, without a single fucking word spoken to him about who he is, what he's become, or what his mission is. It just immediately cuts to the next scene and he's man-handling a bunch of dudes. Looks like this whole android-like robot idea is really paying off!

EMR: I can barely cope with this turn of events.  

"We have the technology. We can rebuild him.
But I want my retarded niece to supervise."

TEOS: At an attempted nearby drug smuggle, Robo-Tom shows up and begins pumping lead into a vampire, but the blood-sucker throws in the towel and vanishes into a puff of smoke. Robo-Tom continues to fire rounds at the empty ground anyway because he’s self-destructive and a little depressed.

Meanwhile, in Unfinished Movie # 2, an anti-drug agent has been kidnapped and the hero of THIS story, Bill, is tasked with rescuing her. You'll soon agree that Unfinished Movie # 2 is boring as sin, and frankly – when compared to the completely gonzo Unfinished Movie # 1 – isn't even worth analyzing.

EMR: I thought about delving a little bit more into the plot of Unfinished Movie # 2, but then I realised that I was transmogrifying into a Kafka-esque nightmare that my family and friends no longer recognise.

I can’t even make heads or tails of this bullshit, so I’ll just say what I see. These henchmen start shooting up a church (seriously, don’t even ask me how this came to be because it’s literally happening right now, as I’m writing. I’ve got the movie in front of me and it’s worse than a Motley Crue video) and there’s this nun who’s apparently a DEA agent in disguise or something. She’s immediately overpowered and threatened with unrequested drug dealer dick. Whilst being given a dose of exposition by the henchmen, this chick looks like she’s coping with the intensity of the situation by pretending to shower. Some other shit happens. It’s fucking stupid.

TEOS: Don’t worry, because we’re back in Unfinished Movie # 1, where Robo-Tom clomps his big stupid metal feet around a beach and then fights some vampires. Then the drug dealers blow him the fuck up with a rocket launcher. Seriously, if your eyes work, first you'll see a pile of metal eviscerated by an explosion, but then after a quick cut, he's merely on fire. And then after another quick cut, Robo-Tom is suddenly, befuddlingly, back in the lab being worked on by his scientist creators because he's pretty dead. (RIP Tom!) I'm not sure how he even got there, but the point is: Nothing can keep Robo-Tom down.

EMR: The fuck is this shit? Has he been built by the People’s Army Of Dumb Fuck Island? Is that even a place? I doubt that’s even a place. I don’t know. Look, basically he’s a shit cyborg. One of the scientists rebuilding Robo-Tom says that the damage isn’t that serious, but being on fire and exploding is pretty fucking serious. Imagine if your microwave oven did the same thing.

“Oh my fuck! The kitchen’s on fire!”

“Yeah, it’s cool. I just need to change the fuse.”


TEOS: Well, the good news is fixing Robo-Tom is just as easy as fixing a microwave. They tinker with him a bit and then he's good to go and back out in the field. (Welcome back, Tom!)

But then we end up back in Unfinished Movie # 2, and I gotta say, man, I just don't fucking care about anything going on here. The attempt to make something "serious" with this movie is so badly juxtaposed against the other completely insane story that these random diversions feel like hitting a brick wall. Knowing there are robot cops and hopping vampires in the other reel makes sitting through these portions feel like Chinese water torture, which, ironically, is actually a plot device utilized in Unfinished Movie # 2. It’s a pity it didn’t know it could have used itself as torture.

EMR: Yeah, the water torture scene is pretty brutal, if only because the henchman who’s in charge of administering the torture tells the woman being tortured that soon she’ll be begging them to finish her off, which, for an instant, made me think that maybe there was an unfinished soft-core porn movie being mashed in with these other two movies as well. Some of those DEA agents from a while ago are going to try and save her, but I really don’t give a fuck, because it’s like this shit’s happening on a different channel entirely.

TEOS: You might’ve been on the right track re: porn. We’re back to Unfinished Movie # 1/Robo-Tom, and I actually hear porn music…

EMR: Oh, ok! Maybe there IS another unfinished movie coming into play, here…

“Come in me, bro.”

TEOS: Ghost Tits seductively beckons to Peter, her gorilla-faced vampire husband, to come take her in the throes of passion. And he does.

EMR: Awwhhh shiiiiit…I say that, but this scene’s as sexually appealing to me as smashing bowling balls into buckets of medical waste.

TEOS: That is until Robo-Tom shows up to totally cock-block Peter.

EMR: That motherFUCKER! It’s inexcusable, cybernetic organism or not. However, it does add some credence to my theory that all cock blockers are designed and built in a government lab…but fuck this movie. How DARE it try and teach me things.

TEOS: At this point, there is absolutely nothing in Robo Vampire that makes any sense, because the ghost begs Robo-Tom to let their sex happen before he kills them so their love may be consummated. Robo-Tom, having a flashback to his pre-robot days (and good luck being able to see a single fucking thing during this too-dark sequence) when HE almost had sex but then didn't, declines that request.

EMR: This is…just…so bad.

TEOS: I know. And to make matters worse…we're back to Unfinished Movie # 2 again. (Fast-forward!)

EMR: Yeah, I’m not even going to try and pass comment on Unfinished Movie # 2. I honestly tried to make sense of this turd, but an error message flashed up on my monitor suggesting that a more profitable use of my time would be for me to kill my wife and cut off my own penis, so I thought it best not to continue watching it.

TEOS: I’d watch that if that were a movie. Is that weird?

Whoa, Unfinished Movie # 1 is getting pretty hardcore. The drug dealers are pleading to “get rid of that robo warrior!"

EMR: It’s a valiant effort to get this fucking thing back on track, I have to admit.

Terror.

TEOS: "Drop your weapons in fifteen seconds!" Robo-Tom, who is suddenly there, oddly demands to the drug dealers. He then begins counting down from fifteen (kind of a generous amount of time to allow them to comply). Thankfully no one complies and Robo-Tom shoots them all with his perpetually loaded shotgun. The vampires come out in full force, ready to smack him around and up to the tops of buildings, but Robo-Tom dispatches all of them and then chases down Peter into the heart of the city, where their final confrontation unfolds on the brightly lit streets of China City.

EMR: The lead-in to this scene starts with a tasteful close-up of Robo-Tom’s dick.

TEOS: Well, he needs that when nailing the maid from The Jetsons.

So, I think we’re coming to the end here. Robo-Tom chases Peter over a bridge; Peter hops awkwardly away from him as Robo-Tom follows slowly behind, his awful "loud metal" footsteps sounding more like Keds against a kickball. And in the confrontation no one was waiting for, the ghost woman and the Taoist end up duking it out. Tits happen, along with some blood, and then she claws his face, which kills him.

EMR: That’s actually the second time in this movie that a female character chooses to end a villain’s life by scratching his face. If it happens more than once, then it’s science, right?

TEOS: I’m pretty sure that’s the rule.

Robo-Tom and Peter end up back in a den of other vampires and Robo-Tom literally begins kicking them until they spit out chop suey and expire. Other vampires start hopping around him in circles and laughing in vampire glee, but then he just kills them all, because he's a robot and they're not. Then he sets Peter on fire and he totally wins.

EMR: Robo-Tom stands amidst the carnage for a moment, silently and awkwardly considering the full gravitas of the bullshit of which he has been a part. Then the title card kicks in and you immediately feel like you’ve wasted a thousand years of your life.

This movie is worse than your own mother telling you that she doesn’t love you anymore. There are Christian Aid workers who would kill themselves even if they were watching this movie from behind a protective shield, in another country, in the past. This film throws up more unanswered questions than the Kennedy assassination and makes as much sense as an eggplant with a dick. Basically, it kind of upset me.

TEOS: If it makes you feel any better, the gerbil sends his regards.

Dec 10, 2013

DEMENTIA

"Come with me into the tormented, haunted, half-lit night of the insane. This is my world. Let me lead you into it. Let me take you into the mind of a woman who is mad. You may not recognize some things in this world, and the faces will look strange to you. For this is a place where there is no love, no hope...in the pulsing, throbbing world of the insane mind, where only nightmares are real..."