Monday, March 4, 2013

Films 8 - Low Budget Nitemares

Yesssss time to review some more films. I've been watching scores of shitty movies recently, and now you will benefit from that.

For some reason, ever since I was a kid, I've always loved the look of those homemade VHS releases you would find at mom-and-pop video stores. What you might call 'low-budget,' I would call 'minimalist.' I've never been one to fault someone's art because they didn't invest enough money in it. BUT, despite my love of the older stuff, public access TV has reopened my eyes to the world of shitty NEW cinema. Apparently, lots of oddball one-man projects are getting made in the West Michigan area these days...

So...

'Weasels Rip My Flesh' - 1979
Usually, you expect a horror film shot by a 16 year old on 8mm to be horrible. And, while Nathan Schiff's work gets written off as 'z-grade' a lot of times, there's quite a bit of cinematic merit in this flick. I mean, it's not just some bizarro outsider project that's weird because it was made by weird people. There's something else going on here. Dude know how to work with his 90 dollar (!) budget, and the score is fucking terrifying. Plus, considering what I've heard about his third film 'Vermillion Eyes' (un-findable ANYWHERE, if you have this please GET AT ME) homeboy was more about David Lynch than Ed Wood. Yes, the acting is bad, but it's his friends so what do you expect? The first thing I noticed was that the writer/producer/director/etc DIDN'T act in his own movie, which is a rarity, and seems pretty mature for a 16-year-old filmmaker. Yes, it's about some kids who dump nuclear waste on a weasel and make it radioactive, but that's beside the point. I liked it.

'Tales from the Quadead Zone' - 1987
The first of two films by Chester Novell Turner I watched this week. Call me uncultured, but I love a movie that just breaks the hour mark. That's the sign of a responsible low-budget filmmaker. Somehow this 'Tales from the Crypt'-styled flick ended up being only 62 minutes, but that's fine by me. Like I said before, I won't fault anybody for not having enough money to make a flashy picture. Obviously, if you do that, then you have to discredit awesome things like 'Eraserhead.' This dude VERY obviously shot the whole film on a cheap VHS camera and--get this--scored it with one of those cheap Casio keyboards. No, it doesn't just sound like that, it clearly IS that. I should basically be able to tell you that this movie features a fat redneck guy murdering his family so he can eat their sandwiches, and a guy who takes revenge on his dead brother by dressing him up like a clown and burying him in the basement. Yep, it's demented. But you can tell this isn't just some vanity thing...dude spent a LOT of time on the editing, and there are quite a few genius shots...plus, Chester doesn't attempt anything he knows he's unable to do, which makes this a REALLY good example of minimalist filmmaking, in my opinion.

'Black Devil Doll from Hell' - 1984
I'm glad I watched this after 'Quadead,' because I would've written off Mr. Turner had I seen his debut flick first. It's definitely not as good as 'Quadead,' but I wouldn't say it's the 'worst horror movie of all time' like a lot of people seem to think. No, it's just as low-budget as his sophomore film...his grasp on filmmaking isn't as good though. If anything, the soundtrack is better...he had some weird dude write an intro song, and somewhere in there is a ballad sung by (I can only assume) Mr. Turner himself...and damn, homeboy can sing! This one is much more 'blaxploitation' than 'Quadead,' and is pretty pornographic...I mean, it's a chick getting raped by an evil doll, basically. Still, it's pretty good, and probably better in a group setting for the sake of riffing on it. Some DVD company should be putting out both of Chester's films by October of this year...til then, they're both free on Youtube.

'Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees' - 1994
I read about this film years ago, then forgot the name and could never find it. Cool factoids: First film translated into code and uploaded to the internet. First indie film edited on a non-linear system. William S. Burroughs makes a guest appearance. NONE of those things make this film any cooler, because you COULDN'T make it any cooler. Featuring a totally non-linear story about a computer programmer getting hypnotized by his bees and trying to reach the land of the dead...or something like that...this is truly one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. No kidding. The cheesy old-school computer editing makes the whole thing even creepier and weirder, and the fact that this guy apparently dropped off the face of the earth after making this film add to the mystery. Even though it's entirely narrated by the director (one Mr. David Blair) in his deadpan voice, it's totally not boring even for a second. Really. Fucking. Weird. If you like Lynch, Jodorowsky, Cronenberg, etc you NEED to see this. It is just as weird, surreal, and experimental, but in a completely different way. Also...I've not found confirmation, but I'd be willing to bet that the dudes who made that bizarro Adult Swim series 'Xavier: Renegade Angel' loved the shit outta this movie...very similar vibe.

'Th3 Bas3m3nt' - 2009
This is one of those odd things I found on late night public access. Gotta love it when you can't find ANYTHING on the internet about a film. Completely self-made (and funded, I'm sure) by a guy named Chris Penney outta Grand Rapids, MI. The feeling I got watching this was that some soccer mom and her husband made this on their weekends, and that seems fairly accurate. It's like they wanted to make 'The Ring' or something, but didn't really have a proper grasp on what's scary or what's emotional or anything like that. Honestly, I'm not even sure of the plot...it's one of those movies where you have to actually try and figure out what the person was trying to say...not in an artistic way...just in general. I think it's about two families with an eerily similar history or something. Regardless, it's pretty goddamn weird in that 'The Room' kinda way. Definitely a couple 'laugh til ya cry' moments. I'm gonna write Dogbyte Films, who put this thing out, and see if I can't get a copy on DVD.

'Smells Like Community Spirit' - 200?
Another public access find. Dunno why I sat through this...other than it was locally made....I guess it was entertaining and killed a couple hours. Reminded me of those Troma movies where they just try to do a straight comedy, but it's not quite funny or interesting enough. You know the type of films...faceless jam band scores to emphasize the 'goofiness' of the flick. It's about a guy who buys a bowling alley in a small town to 'get away from things,' but then a corporate Walmart-esque store is going to move in and ruin everything, so he joins up with some other local business owners to fight 'em. I can always appreciate that type of message. Some sub-par acting, but whatev. The 'wild card'-type guy wears a shirt for each day of the week, which was funny.

'GR 30K' - 2010
Public access find. Perhaps only interesting if you're from the West Michigan area, this is an apocalyptic vision of Grand Rapids in the year 30,000. Okay. First of all, that's obviously wayyyyyy too far in the future for what happens, but whatever. First thing I could tell is that this dude (Dan Falicki apparently) was really into 'Sin City,' which is okay, since that's one of the more creative flicks that came out in the past 10 years. Or 20 or however long it's been. It's set up like that movie...a few different stories that don't really intersect...some long, some short. Notorious billionaire dickhead Dick DeVos is parodied at great length, which is why I said it might only be interesting to people from this area. It is an enjoyable film in its own right, and especially funny if you've ever been to GR. My only complaint is that it was like 2 and a half hours...wayyyyyyy too long for a homemade movie shot entirely on green screen. Oh well. This Falicki dude is quite a talented filmmaker.

...more to come, as soon as I get through some of these titles on my list...namely 'FART - The Movie' which promises to be quite awful. In the meantime, I'm sure you can find some VHS absurdities over at Bleeding Skull.

3 comments:

Pisa Peetza said...

A friend of mine and I put up the song from "Black Devil Doll From Hell". He meticulously pieced it together and I fixed the sound as much as I could. You're right, he really CAN sing! Its called "I Am Not Just a Playboy" and its by Andrew D. Durden:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpDpWJ73N4E

Bizarro Jerry said...

Ha, excellent! I will be playing this next time I put together an Obscuro! radio program.

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