Feature 87 – Antibirth (2016)

or “The Psychedelic Conception of LSDizzle”

Featuring: Natasha “‘Orange Is the New Black’” Lyonne , Chloë “American Psycho” Sevigny , Meg “Psycho II” Tilly

Director & Writer: Danny “Oddsac” Perez

Origin: Canada | USA

Review_____

“I’m not pregnant, I’m infected!”

Hey kids. It’s September 30th. Somebody wake up Billy Joe Armstrong, cuz he apparently can’t figure out how to set a fucking alarm clock. Speaking of kids…

Children. Uggh. I’ve never been a fan. My DNA has been requested more than once to contribute to the spawning of an Anubis Junior, but such a nightmare never occurred because I convinced the women in question that not only would having my child be a poor idea (family history of mental illness, alcoholism, diabetes, and general assholeness) , but ANY intentions for reproduction would only lead to a lifetime of regret for all involved. I’ve seen it happen. Too many times. From would-be dads who bail as soon as the first sonogram image proves they were wrong that their lady “just ate too much chili” to mothers on the verge of becoming the next Andrea Yates (one of which I literally had to talk down over the phone while at work, I shit you not), the idea of having children unnerves me. Almost as badly as the idea of a Rush Limbaugh Speedo calendar or Uwe Boll making a movie crapdaptation of Eternal Darkness. In the darkest depths of this hypothetical Hell, it would star Jenny McCarthy as Alexandra, Casper Van Dien as Pious Augustus, and Paulie Shore as the voices of each of the Elder Gods. Uggh, I just gave myself mental indigestion.

As I was saying, I hate the concept of babies and everything to do with them. So much so that I used to wear a t-shirt in high school of a fetus on a coat hanger that said “PRO DEATH” across the chest. Some mistook it as a plea for negative attention, others incorrectly interpreted it as an extremely anti pro-choice statement (it was not), while in the end all it was meant to be was exactly what it looked like: a public illustration of my advocating for the violent physical termination of parasites. Do you know what the difference is between a tapeworm and a fetus? Most people don’t keep the tapeworm after it’s been removed and raise it as their own. Poor tapeworms. Somebody should start a petition to establish a publicly funded tapeworm adoption agency. But not me. I’d rather bisect my own tongue with a piece of notebook paper than try to convince people to sign a petition.

In addition to the whole conception concept, Antibirth also addresses another mostly female-centric nightmare – date rape drugs. No sooner does our feature set sail, then it immediately crashes upon the jagged rocks of discomfort as our intoxicated leading lady Lou (Natasha Lyonne), who’s suddenly having issues maintaining consciousness, is led away from a raucous midnight warehouse barrel fire rave by the living, breathing definition of a “skeezoid” with blatantly bad intentions. Her friend Sadie (Chloë Sevigny) sees this and makes the bare minimum effort to assist her protagonist pal, but is ultimately dissuaded by her presumed beau Gabriel (Mark Webber) to just ignore the implied peril and get back to indulging in their drunken merriment. Ladies, be sure to properly vet your rape prevention buddies before engaging in a public night of mind altering activities, and even then, be sure to travel in a consortium of three or more friends if possible in case of outside interference. Oh, and be sure to pack an Xacto knife or shiv of some kind too. If there’s one thing that terrifies a guy with his dick hanging out, it’s sharp objects!

Antibirth throws us face first into the figurative wall with its tale, so let’s take a quick sidebar and let me introduce you to Lou, based on what we observe throughout the runtime. She wants more out of her aimless life, but due to her downward spiral of self-esteem these moments of clarity are always quickly obscured with another haze of bong exhaust, or drowned in an amber sea of Old Milwaukee and painkillers. As for her personality, the best I can boil her down to on a relatable level is thus: Lou is that “live out loud” tomboy type that has more male friends than female. She prefers to be direct and avoid the false face backstabbery and bullshit of the stereotype woman. It could have something to do with her dad being dead and all.

Lou’s the friend who asks her best male amigo to go get her tampons and offers to suck his dick in payment. As said friend though, you never call her out on cashing it in (despite getting blue balls every time she does it) because you know she was just joking, yet you still buy her the cotton ponies because you knew you were gonna end up doing it either way. She talks about how one night the planets will align and conditions will be just right for the two of you to swap fluids in a tangle of sexual kismet that you’ve been building toward for years. Chances are she’s just stringing you along because she thinks she needs to keep you interested in a self-professed loser like herself, and she feels genuinely bad at times since she knows said metaphorical celestial construct will never come to pass. Lou’s the kind of friend that masochists fall in love with despite knowing they’ll never have her because, well, I guess that’s part of being a masochist, right? She’s a Super Bowl of self-abuse, but you can’t help picking her back up every time she falls on her ass…

Well, if said “you” is me, anyway. Maybe the you “you” reading this hasn’t ever had a friend like that before. Anyway, now’s not the time to delve into the sinkholes of my personal memory lane. We’ve got a movie to review, you Sonoma bitch!

The aforementioned ambassador of the Skeeze Nebula is Warren (Max McCabe-Lokos), whom we later discover to be Gabriel’s henchman. Why would Gabriel need a henchman? Because he’s the local supplier of their small town’s citizens with pay-for-play poontang and illegal pharmaceuticals. He also may be holding a young woman hostage (it’s a shady shade of legal gray) for the purpose of harvesting her urine to sell to job seeking junkies. Even if you excuse his business practices as “providing services for people who are responsible for their poor decision making”, based on his simple merits as a human being, Gabe’s still a diarrhea Slush Puppie. And if you don’t know what a Slush Puppie is, memorial services for your childhood will be Thursday from 4PM to ‘?’.

Lou wakes up the next morning with no memory of what happened after Warren made off with her, but over the course of the following days one thing’s made very certain – she’s pregnant! She’s in denial about it for a while, but once her midsection starts to inflate like a meat balloon it’s clearly more than a heavy case of constipation. Given the rapid progression of said impregnation, there’s something way more complicated than the simple fetal fallout of a date rape at work in this lady’s womb. The question now isn’t just how that something got there, but who put it there, what it has to do with a strange woman (Meg Tilly) that’s seemingly stalking Lou, what its connection is to a ramshackle Chuck E. Cheese rip-off restaurant, and what exactly said something IS. The answer may surprise you!

Or maybe it won’t. If you’re into Area 51 “X-Files” type shit, I’m gonna guess it probably won’t.

Much like my last episode, The Neon Demon, there isn’t a lot in the way of horror going on in Antibirth. The dread comes from the discomforting voice in the back of your head that keeps telling you this is all leading to some nightmarish payoff, but the cause isn’t made clear until the finale, when the whole thing get thrown in our faces like a water balloon full of amniotic fluid. Unlike The Neon Demon though, Antibirth doesn’t give us the courtesy of some beautiful visuals and brain altering background tracks to keep us neck deep in the experience while we wait for the eventual menace to surface and resolve. Of the pair, oddly enough, it’s the one with a hardcore drug abuser as its main character that involves the less psychedelia. Yep. Despite Lou’s frequent pot smoking, booze drinking, and pill popping, there’s not a lot for the audience’s sensory apparati to indulge in outside of a little acid rock, a brief time lapse scene and some minor flashbacks to the night of her womb squatter’s immaculate conception.

The trippiest shit we get actually comes from whatever bizarro TV channel it is that Lou keeps her boob tube tuned to. Must be one of those weird ass “channels between the channels” digital air wave stations too, cuz our pregged-up protagonista’s trailer abode is so far out in the middle of nowhere that there’s no way a cable company is coming all the way out there to install service for her box! Though, I would gladly drive such a distance to service Natasha Lyonne’s box. There’s just something about her that makes my protruding Pineal stalk stand at attention. Not that I owe anyone an explanation as to whom or what pitches a tent in my celestial loincloth. If you’ve got a problem with it, you can blister your biscuits for all I care.

All in all, the movie’s cast is pretty good. Lyonne makes Lou oddly affable (and f-able) despite her flaws, but that may just be me hooking my wagon of personal life experiences to her hitch. Sevigny (who’s been superseded as the go-to Chloë by both Chloë Grace Moretz and Khloé Kardashian) make Sadie moderately interesting as both Lou’s co-conspirator and Gabe’s girlfriend, seeming genuinely ignorant that she’s using him for the free drugs. It keeps with the movie’s underlying message that everyone uses everyone else for their personal gains. That may make me a pessimist, if you must insist, but I tend to live in a sugar-free reality. My logic diabetes makes me allergic to naivety. And despite my cripplingly low self-esteem, I can’t seem to stop making this review about me. Let me go look in a mirror and remind myself why I’m not to be a topic of praise.

That’s better. Where was I? Oh yeah, the cast. Meg Tilly’s Lorna is motherly and warm, while also tin foil hat paranoid and always ready to cut a bitch. She’s like Kitty Forman with shellshock, thus making her my favorite character. Webber and Lokos are what you’d expect out of a small town wanna-be crime lord and his bruised second banana. Neither one is especially dynamic, but these aren’t exactly career making roles. I will give it to Webber though, he almost makes you feel bad for Gabriel when the guy points out to Sadie that she’s using him for drugs and he begrudgingly accepts it. One of those “I’m just a means to an end for you, but I’m a user too so fuck it, we’re good” exchanges. Kudos.

Though it’s become far more commercial in recent years than the Independent Film Channel it was created to be, IFC’s movie unit lives up to the “independent” part with Antibirth‘s super low budget feel, especially its limited number of scene locales. It’s sold as a horror movie, but looks and feels like a slice of life slacker picture. Downtrodden, lower class twenty-to-thirtysomethings just getting by and living lives without real purpose, just kinda dickin’ around until it’s their turn to feed the worms. Minuscule on production value, but in no need of a big price tag to warrant its existence. Take out the Mulder and Scully stuff and you’d be left with a Juno + Suburbia hybrid flick.

All in all, it’s an okay movie. Better remembered for its ending (which I’m not at liberty to divulge, given its infancy) and a scene that will make podophobics curl their toes in revulsion (trigger warning!), Antibirth is a fair feature to take in if you’re feeling nostalgic for the ’90s nihilistic punk pics sub-sub-genre, but still like a side of mild body horror and the unknown with your meal. It doesn’t make me chomp at the bit for another Danny Perez feature, but I may check one out if I get the odd pregnancy craving somewhere down the line.

Oh, and bonus points for the scene where Lou expounds the finer points of “Manimal” to Sadie! When’s that remake coming, NBC?!

With the sun setting on “Ladies Night!”, what will the striking of midnight and the dawning of the devil’s month have in store for The Tomb? Take my hand and let’s find out together…that’s not my hand…okay, you should just stop that now. I’m just not into you like that. You’ve made it awkward. I’m going to go now. Bye.

Moral of the Story: Don’t do drugs, kids. You could get addicted, overdose or worse, you might get pregnant!

Screenshots_____


“Get off me, man! If that dude juggling the chainsaws fucks up, I wanna see it!”


We all had the same reaction when we heard Trump was running for president. Now we’re just praying someone invents a working time machine before election day.


Having missed out on her chance to be a contestant on “The Swan”, Split Face Girl instead moves from Japan to Canada in the hopes that their superior healthcare system may be able to finally get her the care she needs.


Trust me, leaving your piss cups and a big jar of olives in the fridge together will only lead to comical mishaps. Also, who the fuck put the COMPLETELY EMPTY KETCHUP BOTTLE back in the fridge?! Assholes!


The rest of his shirt says “When you can sit around and shove fried excuses for chicken parts into your face and cut your lifespan in half”.


I don’t care HOW big your American flag is, you’re not fooling anyone! Only Canadians bowl with those weird little ski ball spheres, ya hosers!


Fearing the inevitable sleepless nights that come with parenthood, Lou tries to keep her future spawn high as hell in utero in the hopes that it’ll be a mellow baby.


“Not so tough now ARE ya, Sunny Jim! Somebody’s definitely getting a mouthful tonight, but it’s not gonna be me. I suggest you pretend you’re eating a Choco Taco if you wanna see the sunrise. On your knees!”


Think Wheaties is the breakfast of champions? Fuck no! Cold pizza and a Camel are where it’s at.


Just another prom night victim of an American “abstinence only” school district…


Much like baby alligators in the ’70s, it looks like one of those porcelain preemies managed to reach adulthood in the sewers and become a successful model for “Gorezone”! The American Dream is alive and well, (white) people!


Pepsi recently brought back their Crystal Pepsi product by popular demand, but they forgot to fix the “flesh melting” side effects that caused them to cease its production in the first place!


By the time Billy’s mom realized she’d purchased a voodoo birthday cake by accident, it was too late…


Speaking of accidental conceptions, this is what happens when Tinky Winky and Po get wasted on cough medicine and take turns face fucking one of those water gun carnival game heads. Pure, uncut nightmare powder.

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Anubis will return next time in
“Nepotism: HosebIVion”

Enjoy the review? Hate the review? Have a movie you’d like to see judged in The Tomb? Fill out the feedback form! Never has it been easier to make contact with a deitic being!

All materials found within this review are the intellectual properties and opinions of the original writer. The Tomb of Anubis claims no responsibility for the views expressed in this review, but we do lay a copyright claim on it beeyotch, so don’t steal from this shit or we’ll have to go all Farmer Vincent on your silly asses. © October 1st 2013 and beyond, not to be reproduced in any way without the express written consent of the reviewer and The Tomb of Anubis, or pain of a physical and legal nature will follow. Touch not lest ye be touched.

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Feature 77 – Preacher: “Pilot” (2016)

or “The Three People You Meet in Texas”

Featuring: Dominic “Agent Carter” Cooper , Joseph “Misfits” Gilgun , Ruth “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Negga

Directors: Evan “This Is the End” Goldberg , Seth “This Is the End” Rogen

Writers: Seth “The Green Hornet” Rogen , Evan “The Green Hornet” Goldberg , Sam “Breaking Bad” Catlin

Origin: USA

Review_____

”Sounds like the first verse of the worst country song ever written.”

I’m paranoid. In a good way. When I lay cheeks upon the porcelain seat, I check beforehand to make sure there’s more than two squares left on the tube and I peek the bowl to make sure no baby alligators or grinning ghoulies are waiting to make an appetizer out of my rump roast. I don’t wanna end up like that guy in Thailand whose excursion to the crapper resulted in a python trying to suck face with his trouser snake. For such occasions, always keep a machete in your magazine rack or just do what I’ve done and duct tape a meat cleaver to the handle of your plunger. Whether I need to waylay a wayward water moccasin or break-up a brown boa constrictor, I do not enter my wild kingdom unarmed. I am the T’Challa of the toilet room. Or, as we call it in The Tomb, the Elimination Chamber.

One thing my paranoia assures is that I go into any and every comic book movie or show with a gallon jug of trepidation. I have seen some of the greatest works of my generation reduced to smoldering ashes of regret and agony at the rape happy hands of studio executives that spun lengths of niche gold into panderous piles of mainstream straw that even the most starving of would-be consumer camels wouldn't give a second sniff, let alone ingest. Witnesses for the prosecution: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Constantine, and Fant4stic are the easiest targets off the top of my pointy ears, though I’m sure any fanboys/fangirls worth their weight in first appearances can rattle off another easy dozen within a blink of Scott Summers’ eyes. Such is the approach I’ve chosen to take with AMC’s second stab at four color fortune (following “The Walking Dead” of course), an adaptation Vertigo Comics’ (R-rated DC) long defunct series Preacher.

Running for 66 issues (not counting the side stories) over a 5 year stretch, the series was my introduction to Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, and Glen Fabry – a triumvirate of chaos aligned to create a perfect tapestry of entertainment. Ennis was the writer, Dillon was the illustrator, and Fabry painted the covers. Holy shit did he paint the ever lovin’ fuck outta those covers. By Ra’s balls. I wanted every one of those masterpieces on a poster or a t-shirt or painted on my car in high school. Here’s a taste.

I'm not going to delve into the finer points of the comic book or its many infamous tales of sexual debauchery, graphic violence, and hilarious heresy, so as to avoid ruining the reveal of whatever surprises the show might have in store for us. I'm also not going to butt vomit a whole buncha spoilers here since the fucking thing just aired less than two weeks ago! As with the “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” pilot, I also won’t be reviewing “Preacher” episode-by-episode. I’m just going to give my thoughts on the premiere, then maybe possibly think about giving consideration to the conceivably perchance reviewing of the first series as a whole, via this ass-a-hole. Got it? No? Good. Sally forth!

After 20 years of it being passed around as a potential feature film, a tv show turned out to be the easy answer to an adaptation. Garth Ennis himself thought it a better option than clown carring all of the comics’ major moments into a restrictive 2-3 hour runtime. There was a treatment by one John August (who wrote the Charlie’s Angels duece-ology and a lot of Timmy Burton’s movies since the turn of the century) being passed around Tinseltown that seemingly managed to do such a feat admirably, but to quote Ennis, “It taught me the lesson that it’s far too easy to overload this. If you do a straight adaptation, you are simply going to overload the story with grotesque characters and over-the-top bloodbath fight scenes. You’re going to create a whirling maelstrom that will simply bewilder a mainstream audience.” (From this interview)

The version we get is courtesy of longtime friends, creative collaborators, and self-professed super fans of the funnybooks, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, teaming up with writer Sam Catlin who made such magic for AMC with “Breaking Bad”. Ennis and Dillon gave their okays on the show and get producer creds too, so a modicum of my fears were allayed right off the bat. All aboard!

Annville is a small town in the big, big, morbidly obese state of Texas. How small? If you’ve heard the term “one horse town” to define the smallness of a small town before, consider this a half-horse town. Not in the way that a centaur is half horse, but in the way that a horse’s body might get caught in the glue grinder at an Elmer’s plant, leaving the unprocessed half to just *shlup* out onto the floor. Like that. Anyway, this small ass smallest of small town towns has a very small church that provides the locals with their weekly dose of religious guilt and condescension. This modest house of worship dedicated to the words of the Six-Packed Savior (a.k.a. Christ the Cruncher, a.k.a. The Saint of Sit-Ups, a.k.a. The Abvocate) is run by town preacher Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper). In case you’re curious (or just need confirmation that you’ve connected the dots properly), yes, Uncle Jesse is the man after which the series is named. Like most multimedia bearers of the cloth he’s grown weary of both his position (theological sex jokes here) and his congregation, and spends much of this hour long pilot (no commercials for me!) contemplating giving his invisible cloud boss his resignation. Will Jesse rediscover his lost light and earn back his wavering flock, or stroll into his next sermon with his middle fingers held high and his head adorned with a “Take this job and shove it!” trucker hat?

Father Custer picks up a pair of hitchhikers on the journey to his answer in the form of his wild and crazy guy ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) and an extremely Irish passer-by named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun). The individual tales of how these two wind up crossing the Preacher’s path are both bat-shit crazy, hyper-violent, and perfectly appropriate for the dark humor the series is establishing. Without burying the leads, I’ll let you in on this much: Tulip’s a student of The Anarchist’s Cookbook and fights dirtier than Mike Tyson (that ain’t shawarma!), while Cassidy’s intro involves an umbrella, a cow, and more ultra-violence in 10 minutes than a gang of droogs could get up to in an entire month of Saturday nights!

Oh, and in case what I've told you so far hasn't been enough to sink a few cenobite hooks into your interest gland, there's also a mysterious screaming force from outer space that spends the majority of this introductory episode causing globetrotting savagery as it detonates various religious figures (including the greatest “in name only” cameo reference to a certain celebrity “spiritualist”ever) like human-sized carnage balloons! If that doesn't cinch in the aforementioned barbs, then I apologize for whatever devastating trauma you were subjected to that left you the soulless husk you are today…

FUCKING CARNAGE BALLOONS!

Roge and ‘Berg do far more justice to this project than they did with the flaming bag of Fido feces that was Green Hornet movie. So, though I appreciate anyone going into the show themselves with the proverbial pinch of sodium like myself, don’t get your blood pressure all Systolic Super Saiyan (“It’s over 9000!”) fretting. Sure, if you were hoping for a straight up adaptation, you’re shit outta luck. But, after watching the pilot, I feel the show’s in good hands. Good, perverse, sadistic, happy ending giving hands. And I’m going along with it. Much like “The Walking Dead”, I have an inkling of what’s in store, but my intrigue is piqued by knowing that the only thing that’s sure about “Preacher” is that nothing is for sure.

In a fun bit of “Connect the Dots” Trivia, our three main cast are interestingly linked to each other via prior roles. Cooper plays Tony Stark’s absentee poppa Howard in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while Negga (what up, my Negga?) was a big part of “Agents of SHIELD” as Raina, a reoccurring villainess-turned-inhuman Shuna Sassi knock-off. The pair are also in the Warcraft movie, whose lore I know little-to-nothing aboot, so pardon my hairy ebon ass if my hype levels for said release are anemic as a vampire in a world where SkyNet wins… I think I just gave mental birth to a future Syfy Original. I should’ve terminated the pregnancy. Apologies.

Though Cooper doesn’t share a prior geek link with Gilgun, the exceedingly Irish sir’s resume does overlap in a career Venn diagram with Miss Negga, as they played Rudy Wade and Nikki respectively in the BBC X-Men-ish (or “Strangers-ish” if you’re Ultraverse nasty) tv series about super powered juvenile delinquents “Misfits”. The duo were never part of the show during the same series though, so this is their first time sharing the screen.

Speaking of the cast, are they any good? Yes. I like everybody. The main cast is great. I wasn’t sure about Cooper’s Custer, as the production stills didn’t thrill me on him looking the part, but I’m okay with it now. Same with Tulip being changed from a blonde white woman into the lovely Ethiopian equivalent of a grown up Clementine from Telltale’s The Walking Dead adventure games. A pleasant surprise. And Gilgun as Cassidy? Magic. Dark magic. Dark magic the likes of which would give John Constantine a toothache. Character-wise, I’m not big on the remodeling job done with Sheriff Root (W. Earl Brown) so far, as I liked him better as the stereotypical Texan hard-ass jerk-off of the books. I do like the inclusion of new character Emily (Lucy Griffiths), although her feelings for Jesse are irritatingly obvious despite her best efforts to hide them. I hope she’s meant for more than just to be the jealous would-be girlfriend now that Tulip’s back in town, but we’ll have to wait and see.

I’ll come back sometime after the first season to do a wrap-up of the whole she-bang, but right now I definitely recommend giving this show a shot. If you’re into supernatural, gritty-grimy-gory twisted dramedy type shit, “Preacher” should be square in your entertainment crosshairs. Bang bang.

Moral of the Story: Violence makes violence and Gods don’t hold grudges.

Screenshots_____

Including your ear holes. Jesus is big into the aural sex. Don’t worry about the ass thing though. You’re only expected to give butt stuff to him on Christmas.


“Did you ever notice that my name backwards is ‘god’?! Damn. That’s so weeeeeeeird. Pass the Funyuns, bro?”


If Jason Sudekis and Taylor Lautner (Remember him? Me neither. I had to look up his name for this joke.) had a baby, then abandoned it at the doorstep of a Protestant orphanage.


“It’s a new age of scholastic sports! In the Texas of the future, all high school athletics conflicts are settled by one-on-one battles between team representatives. This is the world of Charles Band’s Mascot Jox!”


Don’t chug your Triaminic like Cassidy, kids, or you’re just asking for a mess. There’s a reason the bottles come with that little plastic shot glass. Use as directed.


They’re writing out “SUCK IT, ALIEN QUEERS!”. Despite their ignorance and intolerance for extraterrestrial races, at least their spelling is accurate.


In an effort to bring in fans of the highly lauded and incredibly popular Walking Dead adventure games, AMC has added series star Clementine to the TV show’s next season.


“Could God Himself commit a sin so grave that even God won’t forgive?” That’s the exact face a pastor made when I asked him the same question. He then invited me back to his place to discuss it further over some sacramental wine and crackers that smelled strongly of chloroform. Did I go? Yes. Were his remains ever found? No.


Donald Trump has found his running mate – the Mayor of Texas!


Once again I need to remind our viewers that are chronic masturbators: if you can’t take a day off every week, then at least use some manner of fire retardant lubricant.

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Anubis will return next time in
“The Love Below”

Enjoy the review? Hate the review? Have a movie you’d like to see judged in The Tomb? Fill out the feedback form! Never has it been easier to make contact with a deitic being!

All materials found within this review are the intellectual properties and opinions of the original writer. The Tomb of Anubis claims no responsibility for the views expressed in this review, but we do lay a copyright claim on it beeyotch, so don’t steal from this shit or we’ll have to go all Farmer Vincent on your silly asses. © October 1st 2013 and beyond, not to be reproduced in any way without the express written consent of the reviewer and The Tomb of Anubis, or pain of a physical and legal nature will follow. Touch not lest ye be touched.

Feature 43 – Tales of the Black Freighter (2009)

or “It’s an Open Sore On a Putrid Shore”

Featuring the Voices of: Gerard “300” Butler , Siobahn “Feardotcom” Ellen , Jared “I Shot Andy Warhol” Harris

Directors: Daniel “Other” DelPurgatorio , Mike “1001 Nights” Smith

Writers: Zack “Sucker Punch” Snyder , Alex “Watchmen” Tse

Origin: USA

Also Known As: Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter

Review_____

“I knew again the stench of powder and men’s brains and war.”

What’s behind my advent calender of eldritch horror today? A cruise across the seas of blackest nightmares aboard the boat of blackest love. No, it’s not a vacation on the Black Sea aboard Disney Cruises’ new Mandingo Party Boat (sorry, still scrubbing the residue of Haunted House 2 off of my hands) in the middle of a black hole. Welcome to Tales of the Black Freighter.

Given that my prior episode was for a Marvel superhero feature, I thought I’d give longtime rivals DC a fair chance in the spotlight. Rather than double down on the tights & capes crowd, I opted for something a bit more unique and adult from the house that The World’s Finest built. And since Preacher isn’t a thing (yet), We3 never happened, Swamp Thing will probably never recover from those fucking live-action movies, and “Constantine”’s not animated, this is the adventure I choose. The Black Knight runs you through with his sword. The last thing you see is your internal organs spilling out of you as you try desperately to hold onto ’em like that guy in the meme who can’t hold all those limes. You died. Return to page 37.

Zack Snyder couldn’t find a spot for Gerard Butler on his Watchmen cast, so rather than leave his good friend (and then meal ticket) the Butt Butler alone and hungry in the cold, Snyd finagled him the lead voice job in Tales of the Black Freighter. The part doesn’t require him to oil up and jump around with other guys homoerotically grunting and screaming in manties, so already Butts is out of his element and spitting into the wind.

Originally a comic book-within-a-comic book (meta before meta was a thing), TotBF appeared in Alan Moore’s spectacular 1986 Watchmen maxi-series as a barely-subtle mirroring to the events in the Watchmen story proper about how some heroes are really just villains who think they’re the good guys. Everybody’s the hero of their own tale.

Oh yeah, spoilers. Check the expiration date though, kiddies: Black Freighter came out in 2009, so this milk is officially past the 5 year “Sell by” date. As such, curdle ahoy!

The tale takes place in the mis-romanticized age of pirates. I mean real pirates. The guys with the eye patches and the peg legs and the treasure maps and the scurvy, not the skinny Somalian guys on motorboats wearing track suits and wielding rusty uzis. Butler’s clunky reading skills give voice to a nameless ship captain (we’ll call him Skipper) with the grave misfortune of having his craft targeted by an infamous and unholy hell barge known the seven seas over as the Black Freighter. Not your everyday pirate schooner, the BF is a hulking ark from Satan’s own armada. Massive in its size and colossal in its evilness, it looms like a reaper’s shadow over all who encounter it. Forged of a mountain of bones and skulls, it’s painted in a blackness darker than a tar pit filled with coal mined from the deepest pits of Earth by the souls of history’s worst sinners during a total eclipse of the sun (and heart). We’re talking Wesley Snipes shades of black and “Jeffrey Dahmer having phone sex with Charles Manson” shades of darkness.

When we meet Skip, his boat’s been left in splinters and his crew litters the tide like a New Orleans cemetery post-Katrina. He washes up on the shores of a deserted island along with the remnants of both his ship and his men with the single-minded focus of what horrors the Black Freighter’s twisted monstrous occupants will unleash upon his beloved wife and daughters once it casts its cloak of pitch upon the harbor of their home, Jonestown. Skipper is determined to reach said docks ahead of the flagitious frigate in the hopes of saving his friends and loved ones from the looming doom. How will he accomplish this daunting odyssey? Therein lies the element that cements Black Freighter‘s place in the history of horrifying shit…

With nothing to saw down any of the trees on the isle, Skippy tries to assemble what he can of his former craft’s remains into a viable raft. Unable to cobble more than a ramshackle skeleton together, our wayward Robinson Crusoe takes this time to notice that the bodies of his former crew are starting to bloat, making them exceedingly buoyant…yep, he’s going to make a cadaver catamaran with his deceased mates as posthumous pontoons. He lashes them together with the scraps of their clothes, severing limbs and breaking bones to form them to his needs. It’s gloriously retch-inducing.

Setting out as the most death draped gondolier since Charon had to break out his ferry to take the citizens of Pompeii across the Styx, Skip struggles to stay alive as his brain bakes in the sun, drinking minimal amounts of salt water to stay hydrated and trying to eat raw seagulls he catches while they peck at his makeshift transport. It’s a gruesome cruise, the likes of which wouldn’t be seen again until 2013 when the Carnival Triumph became stranded in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the nightmarish conditions that would earn it the title of “The Skat Boat” a.k.a. “The Poop Cruise” a.k.a. “The Shit Ship” a.k.a “Bush/Cheney 2013”.

Amidst his rapidly deteriorating mental state (including casual chats with his former first mate Ridley [Jared Harris]’s corpse), Skip’s trip is interrupted by a shiver of sharks. The gang of great whites go all feeding frenzy on our hero’s raft, tearing body after body away as he tries to fend them off without getting eaten himself. One of the monsters gets caught up in his ropes and Skippy manages to kill it (like Olga Karlatos in Zombie), using it as his new ride for the remainder of the cruise home, bringing Ridley’s severed head with him. Comedy comes from tragedy, so at its heart, Tales of the Black Freighter is really a buddy comedy in disguise!

Arriving at the shores of his hometown, Skip notes the complete lack of turmoil and carnage he expected to be met with upon his return. Convinced that there’s no fucking way he could’ve gotten there ahead of the BF, he figures that the village had already been taken and his only concern now is to find out the fate of his family. He comes across a man and his date on their way to hump town alongside the road and presumes the guy must’ve turned traitor to save his own miserable ass from the bloodthirsty buccaneers. Skip grabs a rock and bashes the guy’s brains into paste before strangling the hussy, who deserves no less lethal a fate for letting such a miserable privateer into her private parts. Slipping into the suspiciously silent streets of the town, Skip finds his way to his home and finds his daughters asleep in their bed. Before he can rejoice about the revelation, a shadowed figure comes into the room. Sure that this must be a marauder, our hero leaps into action and dispatches the fiend permanently, violently beating his head into the floorboards. Cue the look of horror on his girls’ faces, followed by the agonizing realization of Skipper’s own visage when he discovers that the fiend he’s just murdered in cold blood (it could just be gazpacho…) is in fact…shit, if you couldn’t guess it by now, I’m gonna shove thumbtacks between your fingers and toes until you figure it out for yourself.

Shocked and appalled by what he’s done, Skippy escapes into the night, followed behind by a contingent of his non-ravaged neighbors who have since discovered the bodies he left along the road and are now wielding torches in search of mob justice. He finds his way to the docks and back into the aquatic purgatory from which he’d just freed himself, only to see the Black Freighter lurking nearby. Rather than warn his very angry peers, he instead swims to the ship, where a rope is lowered for him. He takes hold, climbs the side of the ship, and gives himself over to the horde of twisted atrocities that surround him. And now it all makes sense: ultimately, man is his own antagonist. As Nietzsche said in his second most quoted-to-the-point-of-cliche philosophical statement, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

When I originally read Watchmen, I remember skipping over some of the Black Freighter segments. For me, they broke the pacing of the main story and felt unnecessary. I didn’t need a story within a story explaining the theme of the first story to me. As such, when Watchmen delved into the dimension of sight AND sound, I wasn’t bothered by its being trimmed from the movie. I do appreciate Warner Bros going all out and giving it its own animated format and release though. I’m also happy that they kept it to a trim 30 minutes, because as a 90 minute feature (or even a 60 minute demi-feature), I fear it could’ve ended up a little unbalanced to the tune of more-filler-than-killer. As it stands? Fantastic. Well, aside from Butler’s line reading. Maybe he should’ve taken a couple of muscle relaxers (or skipped the Viagra) before recording, because his delivery was a little too stiff to ignore. Wakka-wakka.

The animation has that twisted, rough look to it like a cleaner version of an “Aeon Flux” episode without everyone looking quite so elongated. The writing is just fucking incredible and Butler’s got the perfect voice for it. Again, it’s just sad that he can’t read about 20% of the words without making them sound stiff and awkward. Alan Moore’s words resonate in the dark corners of your brain, and if you’ve never read any of the man’s work, get thee to a library. And if they don’t have any Alan Moore stuff? Burn it to its foundations, then shit in the basement. Don’t just ask them to order it, make a statement about how you shouldn’t have to!

Overall, TotBF invokes the same feelings in me as the segments of the original Heavy Metal did as this dark, very adult, well animated (but not too well animated), self-contained story. It really is a brilliant piece. And that closing song. Holy shit. “Pirate Jenny” by Nina Simone? The end credits for an animated zombie pirate gore story doesn’t seem like a great place for a blues song (beyond the obvious thematic connections, since the original rendition of PJ from ”The Threepenny Opera” was Alan Moore’s inspiration for the comic-within-a-comic to begin with), but when I think about the track later on, independent of the movie itself, it sends literal chills up my neck and gives me phantom goosebumps. I’ve never been haunted by a song before, but this one might as well be a pasty white Japanese girl in heavy goth eyeliner with long raggedy hair crawling on top of me while I sleep. If I say “Black Freighter” five times in the bathroom mirror with the lights off, Nina Simone will come out and go all Candyman on my hairy canis-sapien butthole.

Great, now I’ve gotta go smash my mirror and clear a few million bees out of my toilet before they fuck up the pipes and I have to spend my Cthulhumas bonus on hiring a plumber. Fuck. I’ll be back next time with…something. Until then, keep your taints clean, your streets mean, and always tip your cleaning staff or you might wind up with your fucking head on a stake!

Moral of the Story: “Whoever we are, wherever we reside, we exist on the whim of murderers.”

Screenshots_____

I see yet another person who doesn’t understand that the answer to “Is black-face okay?” is always “NOOOOOO”.


Lindsey Lohan earned her boating license and held a booze cruise in honor of the accomplishment. There were no survivors.


Guys, I know sometimes we do extreme things during times of severe sexual frustration, but trust me when I tell you this isn’t the answer. It’s just not worth the dick splinters. Nothing is.


In case you forgot this story was originally a part of Watchmen, here’s Skipper’s Rorshach sail… you’ll be seeing it many many times again to assure that, like 9/11, you never forgot.


Beachhead. Because there’s a head. And it’s on a beach. It’s a beach head on a beachhead. Because even in times of plague and horror, no one is safe from visual puns!


Shark attack! Quick, somebody get Lance Guest and Mario Van Peebles here so we can impale it on their schooner!


When your friends tell you you need to “get some head”, this isn’t what they mean, Skip.


That’s exactly what I look like every time I have to plunge my toilet.


The most metal fucking raft EVER! If Lemmy, Bruce Dickinson, and Rob Halford went on a fishing trip, they’d do so on THAT!


Yeah, I remember the first time I had sex with a woman on her period too. They tell you it’ll be alright… you’ll never be the same again.

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Anubis will return next time in
“Murder on 34th Street”

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