Sunday, July 10, 2011

DVD Review: THINGS (1989)

THINGS (1989)
Release Date: July 12th 2011
Region Code: Region 0 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 85 mins
Video: 1.33:1 Fullframe
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
Director: Andrew Jordan
Cast: Barry J. Gillis, Amber Lynn, Bruce Roach, Doug Bunston
Tagline: Things, a Movie that Defines What Cult Really is...

That must be some strong weed up in Canada and it must have been particularly potent in the late 1980's when director Andrew Jordan and writer/actor Barry J. Gillis got together and filmed the shot-on-Super 8mm horror flick THINGS. This film is the kind of mind-numbing epic that stoner gore-hounds dream up while smokin' weed, eatin' shrooms and drinkin' some Molsens after watching Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD (1981) at 2am on a Saturday night. Most metalheads would likely forget these nutty bong dreams by the crack of dawn but not these two, no way, instead they created Canada's first SOV horror film, and were still gawking at it 22 years later in bewildering awe.

This nightmarish slice of Canuxploitation begins with, what else, a nightmare as dreamt by Doug (Doug Bunston) involving a naked woman wearing a devil's mask whom he asks to bare his child. She then offers him a bassinet with a hideous creature inside and he awakens screaming. Turns out Doug and his wife Susan (Patricia Sadler) are having difficulty conceiving a child to the point that they submit to the strange experimentation of Dr. Lucas. The procedure is a success and his wife is now pregnant with child though bed ridden with a debilitating sickness, the stress is getting to the father to be, thus the aforementioned child birthing nightmares. Now we're introduced to two Canadian hosers, Doug's brother Don (Barry J. Gillis, WICKED WORLD) and his beardy friend Fred (Bruce Roach, SPIRIT OF THE SEASON) whom arrive at Doug's secluded house for some brewskies. Doug doesn't answer the door so the two let themselves in and dig into some beers and eats from the fridge. Don discovers a book and a tape recorder in the freezer, yeah, you heard right - in the freezer. Don't ask why, just know that it's awesome. The book is a memoir of sorts by infamous occultist Aliester Crowley. As Don pages through the book he observes "oh, the diagrams are SO sick" which we of course never see. The recorder contains a cassette of weird low-end  chanting or incantations, Fred jokingly exclaims "turn it off, I think I'm being possessed, arrrggghhh", it's a clear reference to EVIL DEAD but it's quickly forgotten and never revisited. Doug comes outta nowhere and joins the dudes for some beers and cheese sandwiches. This is the major jumping off point in the film and I have a theory that either the American cheese slices or bread contained mold spores that drive the trio out of their minds (or maybe it's the insect they stuck in Don's sandwich, those bastards). Everything that happens from here I think could be attributed to a bad acid trip of hallucinatory insanity ending in one of them killing the others. I'm sure that's over thinking this film but see for yourself and let me know what you think.

Later that night Doug's ailing wife calls out in pain from the next room and Doug enters just as a toothy creature or "thing" crawls out of her abdomen, very much like ALIEN (1979), killing her. Doug's expressions and howls of pain during and after the birthing of the "thing" are unintentionally hilarious (par for the course so far), it's not helped by the poorly post-sync'd dialogue which really adds to the film's surrealistic disconnect. Soon more of these "things" appear and the family dog bites it in the shower, then Fred up and vanishes without a trace. Don suggests he's been whisked away to "the 3rd, 4th and 5th dimension" while Doug offers spontaneous combustion, or maybe he just couldn't get any more time off from work to film his scenes, who knows. The remaining two take on the insectoids armed with a flashlight, a mallet, chainsaw, a power drill and some seriously, awesomely bad dialogue and frightful acting. It's pure SOV insanity, it's all rather incomprehensible and felt to me like what watching a horror film through the eyes of someone with a diminished mental capacity might be like, it's weird and just don't make no sense.

There's also some intercut footage of porn star Amber Lynn (EVILS OF THE NIGHT) appearing as a TV news anchor reporting on copyright issues pertaining to George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), a weird procedure involving Dr. Lucas's life-prolonging experiments and a missing person's case involving a Fred and Doug who may or may not be the film's protagonists. What passes as a TV newsroom in this film is pretty fantastic, quite a sight. Speaking of Dr. Lucas there's some odd cuts to his private practice where he busy ripping the eyes and tongues from patients, and amputating a hand with a paper-cutter, most of the film's gore comes from these brief sequences.

Not surprisingly the acting in the film is pretty  gawd awful, stilted, weirdly delivered, and again, not helped at all by the post-sync'd ADR or the just plain bad dialogue. You know there's a problem when the best performance comes from a fully clothed porn star. Barry J. Gillis's line delivery is awesome though, it's like Doug McKenzie's retarded brother, fun times. Visually the films is a surreal mess of fuzzy red and blue lighting, low-budget creepiness, and cheapie gore effects. The pacing is like a never ending nightmare. It has an that odd dream logic to it, not too dissimilar to SLEDGEHAMMER (1983), a fucked-up nightmare where you find yourself in a weird places but can't recall how you got there or what's the Hell is happening, it's very much like that. The film ends with a title card proclaiming "You Have Just Experienced THINGS.", indeed, you watched it, you can't unwatch it. Now go forth and infect others with the video-sickness that is THINGS.

One wonders how a film so stupefyingly bad got not just made by some Canadian stoners but at some point distributed on VHS and then 20+ years later gets a sweet DVD release stuffed with glorifying bonus content at a time when THE DECLINE OF THE WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS (1988) is still not on DVD. Okay, maybe that's bad example, or perhaps not, these would make a complimentary double feature actually, but you know what I mean. Well, it's thanks to the outsider cinema saviors at Intervision Picture Corp. These cats brought forth SLEDGEHAMMER from the VHS collector's crypt to DVD and are doing it again with THINGS. This gives me hope that in twenty years time that Intervision or some other future Criterion level purveyor of schlock cinema will give Thomas Berdinski's THE ITALIAN ZOMBIE MOVIE a sweet HD release.

DVD: Intervision's presents the film in it's original 4x3 fullframe aspect ratio in Dolby Digital mono with no subtitles. It looks like a cheapie late-80's film shot on Super 8 under what could generously be described as poor shooting conditions, there's shit lighting, crap sound and a real point n' shoot approach to cinematography. It's looks pretty abysmal, very flat, but it's not too shabby when put up against some other SOV titles. The dialogue and effects are post-synced with tons of awesome foley sound effects, it sounds pretty terrible but I do actually enjoy the sound design of the film, it's eerily effective, rudimentary but effective.

Like Intervision's SLEDGEHAMMER DVD before it this slice of outsider cinema is given a deluxe set of extras that may outshine the feature film. I have Criterion Collection titles on my shelves with less supplemental materials than what's crammed onto this disc. Two commentaries, one a drunken and lively commentary from Director Andrew Jordan and Stars Barry J. Gillis, Jan W. Reed and Doug Burston in which it's revealed that the naked woman in the devil mask at the start of the film is a prostitute they hired. There's also a audio viewing party commentary from The Cinefamily crew, fun stuff with some great insights into the film and other SOV titles and occasionally just silence as they are dumbfounded by what transpires onscreen. Four testimonials of the film from Tobe Hooper (LIFEFORCE), Jason Eisner and Rob Cotterill (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) who film their segment in the corner of a kitchen (very appropriate) with some THINGS-esque red lighting, creator Paul Corupe, Thing-ite Joey Izzo and two dudes from Bleeding Skull with some fun THINGS worthy effects and audio effects. There's a 20th Anniversary Cast and Crew Reunion which was recorded on a public access channel TV show apparently, very odd. A behind-the-scenes featurette featuring footage of pornstar Amber Lynn doing her anchor woman character from the film as she suffers through technical issues while she talks about the director of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, Fred Lincoln, in actuality it's Wes Craven. Lincoln actually plays "Weasel" in the film, and apparently was quite a prolific adult film director including a couple of FRIDAY THE 13th parodies, too. There's a collection of vintage TV appearances by Barry J. Gillis promoting the film on Canadian TV, at one point it is mentioned that the film cost $350,000 which made me choke on my beer a bit, in actuality I hear it's more around $30,000.  Also on the disc is the EVIL ISLAND investor reel made for $200 to attract investors that apparently never showed. The extras are finished off with some Intervision trailers including the forthcoming German SOV film THE BURNING MOON (1997) which looks splat-tastically brilliant, can't wait for that one.

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with director Andrew Jordan and stars Barry J. Gillis, Jan W. Pachul, and Doug Bunston
- Audio Viewing Party with the Cinefamily
- Testinmonials on THINGS: interviews with
Tobe Hooper (3:36) 4:3
Jason Eisener and Rob Cotterill (5:19) 16x9 creator Paul Corupe (6:39) 16x9
Bleeding Skull's Joseph A. Ziemba and Dun Budnik (2:15) 4x3
- THINGS-ite Joey Izzo (3:57) 4:3
- THINGS 20th Anniversary Cast and Crew Reunion (16:20) 4x3
- Behind the Scenes with Amber Lynn (10:36) 4x3
- Vintage Barry J. Gillis TV Appearances (5:47) 4x3
- THINGS trailer (2:57) 4x3
- EVIL ISLAND investor reel (2:06) 4x3

Verdict: Weird, fucked-up, and terrible but I say worth a watch - at least once. This was a chore to watch first time around but let me say, after watching the features I had a whole new appreciation for the film. That's what I love about the Intervision titles, they're not good films in the traditional sense, but they fall into that so-bad-it's-good category that's a whole other level of cinematic satisfaction. I can't tell you this belongs on your DVD shelf but if I came over to your house and saw Andrew Jordan's THINGS sitting there next to John Carpenter THE THINGS  I would definitely watch it with you and have a few beers and cheese sandwiches. It's a trash film, but y'know what, I once found a TDK recordable cassette with both ST. VITUS and PENTAGRAM's eponymous album's on it, it was in the trash outside my apartment and that shit was awesome. Up next from Intervision is the super-gore-tastic German SOV horror THE BURNING MOON and I can't wait. 
2 outta 5