Featuring: Alexandra “Boy Meets Girl” Turshen , Keenan “First Person” Henson , Caitlin “‘Continuum’” Cromwell
Writer & Director: Bradley “Clearly wrote his own IMDB biography” Stryker
The Evil Dead Bride and your humble narrator were perusing the alcohol offerings at NileMart the other day when we discovered that, not long after the re-emergence (and re-disappearance) of Crystal Pepsi, fellow transparent ’90s punchline drink Zima is now also back on the market. My long standing theory that the latter is just a fermented form of the former? Confirmed.
Pop culture footnote beverage humor aside, after finally conquering the world’s Russia problem with my last review (The Guardians), it’s time to live up to my promises, play a game of ketchup (“catsup” if you’re nasty) and get the circus train back on its tracks. Well, not the whole circus. It’s more like I’m about to abandon an overbooked clown car on a railroad crossing, let the 7:06 bullet from Tarker’s Mill do the dirty work for me, then all I’ve gotta do is report on the aftermath.
In the interest of transparency, I admit that I’m taking some liberties when it comes to Land of Smiles being a killer clown flick, especially when it comes to the whole “painted horrors” technicality, but if the oozing cold sore on America’s dick can give ethics the tiny middle finger by appointing government positions to his defective offspring and filling his cabinet with the highest bidders, I can bend the rules of the Republic of Tombistan. Though the movie’s antagonists conceal their faces under the visage of sinister jesters, they do so with rubber masks, possibly purchased from the clearance bin of a Spirit Halloween pop-up store. It’s not like the world’s lacking in movies out in the nebulous “there” that center on actual grease-painted murderous mirth makers, I just thought I could use a little change of subgenre scenery. It’s not as if I signed any kind of contract (at least not one that falls under the jurisdiction of any mortal justice system) saying I can’t, so just make like a shed uterine lining and go with the flow, Joe!
The basis for Smiles is nothing new. It’s about backpacking Americans whose vacation to a beautiful country they’ve never been to before leads to the reveal of a seamy underbelly that threatens to swallow them whole in its gaping maw of stranger danger, inducing increased paranoia in any members of its audience who already didn’t need any more reasons to never take a vacation beyond pitching tents and making s’mores in their own backyard. See Wolf Creek, Turistas, A Perfect Getaway, Eli Roth’s Hostel flicks and, of course, The Hangover Part II. I would’ve included The Ruins on that list, but that’s supernatural horror and thus does not fall under the “people from other countries are the real monsters” xenophobia gimmick.
Our vulnerable young travelers begging to never be heard from again are lifelong friends and overly confident American college students Abby (Aleandra Turshen) and Penny (Krista Donargo). Having planned a trip to Thailand together for the longest time (oh, oh, oh, for the longest time), Abby earns her BFF of 19 years’ ire when she backs out of their girls only vacation to stay near her boyfriend Brad (Brandon Nagle), who more than likely didn’t like the idea of his girlfriend being half-way across the globe and possibly getting peanut sauce licked off her ass by some beefcake with jungle herpes.
In a moment that can only be scripted (and poorly at that), Ab’s sacrifice of Pen’s friendship blows up in her face almost instantaneously when her attempt to surprise Brad with a candlelit cupcake (birthday/anniversary?) leads to her walking in on Brad in the middle of a Skinemax bump n’ hump session with Lacy (Charisse Bellante) – a random blonde who comes off just as “trashy party girl who’s upset she never got to be in a Girls Gone Wild DVD” in her sex making as her name would suggest. To any Lacys out there who take offense to that, I’m sorry, but maybe your parents shouldn’t have named you after a style of lingerie trim.
Blinded by confusion and rage, Abby unleashes a few shots of Cowboy Mike’s Extra Bold Red Hot Ricochet Pepper Spray upon the ocular orbs of the indignant fornicators, apologizing at first before revoking said formality and storming out in justified rage. If you think pepper spray’s a little intense, these two are just lucky Abby’s probably too young to remember the whole Lorena Bobbitt episode. However, as is all too common the case, the cupcake is the true victim of the break up. Poor thing’s probably going to be swallowed up by the foster system like so many little lost souls before it. If you would, say a little prayer for the cupcake’s well being tonight while you’re taking your pre-bedtime dump, won’t you?
Of course Abby couldn't have made this discovery before Penny’s departure, so now she’ll play some ketchup of her own and do the first leg of their itinerary solo. No idea why she couldn’t have just traveled ahead and met Nickel immediately, but then we wouldn’t have a movie. Why? Because Dime gets kidnapped. Not ready to cancel your plane tickets to Thailand yet? Well, the people who take her are dressed in those aforementioned clown masks. Calling the airline now to see if you can get a refund? I thought so. Besides, why travel when you can spend summer break crashed on your couch in your underthings (or, if you’re like myself, au natural) with the AC cranked to “Absolute Zero” as you eat can after can of overstuffed ravioli and play your favorite video games? I’m currently working through Saint’s Row IV right now. Did you know you can dress up your character in a MechaGodzilla costume?! It’s true taint-tingling terrificness!
Anyway, Abby isn’t aware of her sister-from-another-mister’s peril, so she simply does the tourist thing for a bit as intended. Her only communications from Quarter involve random pics without any accompanying messages to explain them, which our heroine chalks up to her still having rump rash about the whole “I’d rather spend summer break with the boyfriend that you’ve repeatedly informed me is a heaping piece of pooper pie than go to on a tropical dream vacation with my oldest, dearest friend” drama. Along her travels, she meets a pair of fellow out-of-towners in Ben (Keenan Henson) and Jewel (Caitlyn Cromwell/Stryker, the writer-director’s wife), who approach her under the most suspicious of methods when Ben steals her backpack. He returns it to her right after though, calking it up to a lesson that she should keep on her toes lest she be destitute (given that she’s already Pennyless *rimshot*) and giving bareback Around the Worlds to American businessmen by Tuesday.
A bit douchey, but in that “big brother tough love” sorta way, Abby accepts the advice as well as the offer to tag along with the couple. Their reason for being in Thailand is so Brad can traverse the whole of Southern Asia, shooting a wanna-be VICE style vid about the things backpackers experience while trekking through third world countries. I think. I don’t really know what his point is, because it all just looks like a tourism video to sell Thai travel packages to college kids back in the states. They also fraternize with a fellow outsider named Dale (writer-director Brad Stryker), an Aussie guy there for the nightlife, the pretty scenery, and to bang as many random prostitutes dressed in “sexy (career here)” Halloween costumes as his down under can afford. I’d advise him to make sure the females he’s bedding are actual females, given that it’s Thailand and all, but somehow Dale seems like the type of guy that wouldn’t really care either way once his Foster’s and Cialis cocktail kicked in.
And for anyone protesting that Foster’s isn’t what actual Australians drink, it’s okay. Stryker was born in fucking Oregon, so he’s about as not an actual Australian as a white person can get. His put-on accent (as in “put-on like Kris Kross’ pants – incorrectly”) will support me on that.
When Abby does finally get the confirmation video that Half-Dollar has been Taken-ed, the young lady’s clown cloaked absconders have two simple demands – (1) Do NOT tell anyone about the crime and (2) continue on with the plans to rock n’ roll all night and party every day. If Abs can ignore the anxiety of her best friend’s peril and embrace the drunken American party girl stereotype inside her that she came to Thailand to rediscover in the first place, then they’ll release their abductee and the girls can be reunited. That’s…weird. Have I been lied to my entire life and the point of kidnappings isn’t to demand ransoms, but rather force people to live the Miller High Life?! Because as much as I love some of the people in my life, I wouldn’t be willing to drink excessively of such bottled piss swill for the return of some of them.
Fortunately, it turns out that this isn’t so much the case. When Absinthe breaks the first rule of fight club and talks about fight club with B&J, Ben (last name “Dover”?) introduces her to the world of Southern Asia’s newest craze – staged abductions! Seems that there’s a whole subgenre of today’s Generation Meme culture dedicated to setting up false kidnappings for the sake of “reminding people how to have fun”, then posting the reaction videos online when the victim is told it was all for funsies. Just psychologically scarring, emotionally terrorizing, friendship shattering funsies. Fucking people and their fucking reaction videos. It was funny for about 5 minutes in the wake of the “2 Girls 1 Cup” epidemic, but I never wanna see another one of those stupid things again. Unless it involves the kind of reaction George Clooney had when he found Brad Pitt hiding in his closet. Now THAT’s a multi-million views moment!
(Today’s lesson: don’t come out of the closet to Worst Batman)
Additionally, what the frosted fucks does that ambiguous “reminding people how to have fun” description mean? In this case, “people” refers to adults and “have fun” refers to intoxicating ones self to the point of long term brain damage because your friends apparently only like you when you're making as asshole out of yourself in public, throwing up $60 in margaritas, and blacking out so you can put yourself at risk of being sexually assaulted by any horny festering pustule excuse for a human being that happens to be passing by. Given the length of that explanation, you can see the need for the “TL;DR” version provided.
And so we’re left with the mystery of whether this is a legitimate criminal situation by a Thai maniac clowning with their prey, or if it’s all just a really shitty scheme by Hay Penny to make Abby abandon the maturity of adulthood and “loosen up”. Which is just a dickhead way of Sixpence (who’s none the richer… *rimshot*) saying that she fundamentally intends to drag her friend down so she herself doesn’t need to be alone in her terror of growing up and assuming responsibilities that she’s not ready for. Could she have opted for a less vindictive, “Reverse Jigsaw” method? Maybe. But that would kill Stryker’s entire effort to make something he likely mistook as being “visionary”.
Not only does what could have been a decent little flick foil itself in the finish with a fumbled finale, but Stryker opted to be the seventy-thousandth indie movie director to think they’re the one who’s going to breathe unasked for life into the fetid, deflated lungs of the “found footage” movie, completely ignoring the Do Not Resuscitate notice the subgenre has hanging around its neck. And it’s not even some semi-reasonable bullshit like the Paranormal Activity security cam footage concept, it’s just yet another instance of the characters shooting their own videos of the proceedings, likely until they all die, never putting the camera down no matter how much immediate peril they’re put in. Once they’re dead, all of this “found footage” then gets spliced (I guess “merged” would be the modern digital version?) by some unknown editor who cobbles together a single project whose final cut just happens to be very movie-like, both in structure and length, and includes numerous clearly not found helicopter shots and professionally framed footage of the landscapes. Sounds like mister first-time feature couldn’t play it casual and stick with his own theme. I guess you can’t “make the environment a character” without pricey aerial establishing shots, eh?
Land of Smiles makes some attempt at explaining itself in the finish, but does about as well as a stoner trying to explain to their probation officer that their eyes are red because they “just have bad hay fever”. It even comes with a lazy, forced Shyamalanian pseudo-twist hanging off of its ass, metaphorically wrapping the whole thing up in a way that’s equivalent to actually wrapping a broken toaster with soiled newspapers, not unlike those I put around Bastet’s litter box so she won’t track her shit grit into my bed during one of her 2am “u up?” booty calls. I haven’t been this aggravated about such a fucking stupid, pointless, shoved-in-dry, “for the sake of getting one over on the audience” Chubby Checker conclusion since The Bone Collector (aka “That there Bone Crusher” to quote a private joke). It’s not even the whole ending, either! If you circumcised Styrker’s failed attempt at being cutesy with his end credits sequence, it would’ve been a perfectly fine ending to a mediocre thriller. As is, though, you may audibly boo it the same way I did. Try not to wake up your downstairs neighbor when you do so the same way I did, otherwise you too will have very awkward mailbox interactions for the next few days also…
All of that nonsense aside (if you can put the last minute alteration of the entirety of the movie’s story “aside”), Stryker’s other major effort goes into the “ugly behind the beauty” theme he seems to believe he himself created. In case the fact that you’re watching a HORROR movie titled Land of Smiles is too subtle for you, the guy includes numerous shots of beautiful locales populated by beautiful people having beautiful good times with beautiful beautiful party party yadda yadda blah blah inter-cut with moments of our protagonists freaking out (again and again and again) and vids of Penny maybe-or-maybe not being tortured. It’s juxtaposition overload! It’s the hallmark of a film school student who doesn’t respect their audience’s intelligence/awareness, so they spend too much time hitting us over the head with it to make sure we get the point. Though, as we all know, no one will ever truly get the deep introspective point of Mr. Stryker’s art because, well, he’s a creator while we the audience are simply refuse in his path to brilliance.
Except for those who leave 8+ star reviews on IMDB. Clearly they “get it”…
In case you require more evidence of my claim (like the police insisted on that time I accused my aforementioned downstairs neighbor of shitting on my doormat), observe the name of Stryker's self-production company as Exhibit D –
That’s not a ‘shop job, kids. He actually calls it “Stryke-Force Films”. A guy who wants us to take his very serious horror movie very seriously sticks a name like that onto the opening. For Francis Ford Fuckula’s sake, this is not a hoax, not a dream, not an imaginary tale. This is for real. He’s Tommy Wiseau without the charming Ed Wood-ian naivete. I can only hope that whichever family members he conned into putting up the money for this vacation-turned-movie are the “more money than brains” type, otherwise I fell sorry for them.
But, despite all of this fresh personal contempt I’ve discovered for one Bradley Stryker, Land of Smiles isn’t a terrible movie. It’s better-than-bad without quite reaching the lofty levels of “good” as established by Log (*from BLAMMO!™). It at least makes an effort to do something uncommon if not new (even going so far as name dropping The Game as the in-continuity inspiration for the fake kidnapping business), and the cast (excluding Stryker’s needlessly Australian Dale that is) does a well enough job conveying their fear to keep playing along while Ben urges the girls on. Whether his motivations are as altruistic for Penny as he claims them to be, or he just wants to finish his video project like the girls have growing suspicions of is never entirely clear, which works in the flick’s favor. Oh, and if you close your eyes, there are times you’d swear Keenan Henson’s lines were being delivered by a manic Vince Vaughn. It’s neither a pro nor a con, really, unless you’re Isla Fisher’s character from Wedding Crashers, in which case it’ll probably create a babbling brook down your thigh.
I have a titanium firm “no toilet sex” rule, but ever since that movie she gets an exclusive pass. Well, her and Barbara “Megan Halsey” Crampton, but she’s of an unlimited classification all her own. Don’t ask me the acts I would do for that woman, lest ye have a cast iron constitution or have long lost your soul to the dark horrors of the internet.
Oh, back on topic, as much as I hate The Blair Witch Project for its piss poor “let’s just say ‘fuck’ a lot because we can’t ad lib to save our thrice damned lives” improvised dialogue, it was at least more realistic than a lot of the supposedly “real footage” exchanges in Land of Smiles. Blame the actors for not being able to make it believable or blame Stryker for a clunky script, but either way it doesn’t help sell the lie that we’re meant to get lost in. In spite of my gripes about this, the crap ending, and a shooting style too schizo to settle on whether it’s trying to be a traditional movie or a vacation video, the movie is still oddly watchable! Weird, right?! I know! I’m as shocked to type it as you are to read it! So, yeah, there are way worse ways to wear out your eyeballs for an hour or two and if that’s enough of an endorsement for you to seek LoS out, have at it, friends.
Whether Brad (the director, not the cheating boyfriend…though Stryker could very well be the type who needs a woman to tell him he has a big dick to perform) can parlay his first feature into a career win in the long run or not, only time will tell. Whether the sparks of potential are enough to feed a flame of success, at least he can fall back on his extensive work as a bit part player in TV shows and direct-to-DVD movies. It may not make him a household name, but at least it pays the bills!… I presume.
My role as the grand marshal of this parade of fools continues next time (and four or so times again after that) with a movie that’s, well, less a movie than a digital version of a lost Hippolytus de Marsiliis torture method. While you look that name up, I’m gonna casually slip away via the escape hatch I had installed under my desk… CIAO!
“I never understood how these stupid horoscopes work. What does my having been born in the first week of November have to do with not being compatible with someone born in mid-June?! I call bullshit… So, what does mine say?
I understand that this guy’s probably doing the clown thing to work out some deeply depressing personal issues, but you may not want to do the “limp flower as a metaphor for my erectile dysfunction” bit around the ladies.
“Shit! That’s the fourth iPhone I’ve lost to the porcelain Sarlak pit this year! There goes the rest of my savings.”
Sarah and Elaine’s attempt to resurrect the “Girls Gone Wild” series with all of the drinking and partying minus the nudity and “lesbian stuff” proved grossly unsuccessful.
“Why do you need such a big backpack?”
“So I can sleep inside it at night while hanging it from a tree to avoid bears!”
“I keep telling ya, love, even if there were sharks this far inland, they wouldn’t come after ya! Just because you’re on your period doesn’t mean you’re ‘bikini chum’!”
“I don’t get it. I ask you what a ‘lemon party’ is and now you’re recording me watching a video? You’re so weird.”
“I hope you’re at least not being cheap and paid extra for a reach around, Greg.”
“Welcome to ‘Clowning Around’ with your host, Zippo VonLaughsalot. This week’s contestant is Janet, and she’ll be playing ‘What’s Crawling On My Leg?’ for her chance at a $25 Best Buy gift card!”
“I know it’s tradition to swallow the worm when drinking a bottle of Mezcal, but that thing last night… it had a face… a human face! I swear it looked at me and mouthed my name before… before… oh god, what have I done?!”
Oh jeez. I hooked up with her at last call a month ago and the bitch gave me crabs. Let’s just go before she… DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH HER! GAH! RUN!
It’s sad to know I will never be as happy as she is right now. Let’s not ruin it and tell her that every stray cat in the neighborhood makes that place their litter box.
Uh-oh! Looks like some tourists discovered their hotel’s hidden toilet cameras!
I’m not the most culturally educated man-jackal, but I can’t imagine it’s very sanitary of Thailand letting elephants just leave piles of number two in their human restrooms.
Laugh all you like, but lonely weirdos pay $200 a night just to watch her sleep on a webcam site!
“You know what I hate? Stupid assholes in goofy rubber clown masks that sneak up on people to try and scare them… Damn it, there’s one right behind me, isn’t there?”
“Wow! These Gushers fruit snacks really are bursting with fruit flavor!”
This is why I stopped going to the local beer garden during carnival season.
And this is why I started going to the local strip club during carnival season!
Anubis will return in
“The Inbred Clown Posse”
Featuring: Anton “Minnesota” Pampushnyy , Sanjar “Tale of a Pink Hare” Madi , Alina “‘Kukhnya’” Lanina
Director: Sarik “American Heist” Andreasyan
Writer: Andrey Gavrilov
I can’t be the only person who talks to their toilet like it’s their BDSM slave when I take a piss, right? I mean, everybody must do that once in a while, right? Yeah. It’s fine. Perfectly normal. Speaking of piss, today’s movie comes to us from the barren wastes of the “former” Soviet Union! Yes, the home of our 45th puppet president’s string pulling maestro, Rootin’ Tootin’ Vlad Putin, and his harem of hookers whose off-time is spent as gold gushing fountain statues in his pee pee palace. Having now gotten that out of my system (and taken the mandatory double shake to excise any errant droplets), I promise to give the urinal cake a break and cease and desist with the bladder chatter. Now, take my talons (I promise I washed ’em first) as we trek into a world of blatant flimflam personas the likes of which haven’t been seen since the halcyon days of the Turkish superhero craze!
Before we leave the shallows, braving our way through the looking glass and into the deep end of this plagiarism pool, heed these words – I’m kicking my anti-spoiler rule dickside for this episode. Even if the proverbial shit weren’t making a beeline toward the nearest ceiling fan in today’s political climate, I’m of moderate confidence that The Guardians won’t be seeing a commercial release in the states anytime soon. Especially if Marvel and their iron fist overlords in the House of Mouse catch a whiff of its fetid wind wafting anywhere near these shores! As such, the gloves are not only off, but have been put away with the winter attire for the immediate future as I prepare to prematurely spoil this Moscow moo juice under the burning hot lamp of scrutiny!
I don’t know why I sound like Darkwing Duck with all the yammering today, but let’s just roll with the excellence of elocution and see where the current takes us.
Oh, and the only subtitles I could find for this second-hand superhero showing seem to have been directly translated through Babel Fish, so if I misspell any names or it seems like I just cobbled together some plot points that have nothing to do with the actual story, just know that I did my best. For you. As I always do. For you. Know that I would die if I had to. For you.
Remember how the paragon of patriotism, Captain America, was born of a secret US government project to create Nazi punching super soldiers for World War II? Well, it turns out that the USSR were also big fans of secret super soldier experiments (look up Stalin’s efforts to create a race of ape men, for one), including a Cold War program called “Patriot” that resulted in successfully super-sizing a quartet of otherwise average test subjects into meta-human misfits! Under the supervision of the big brained Professor Victor Golbonov (dunno the actor, because fuck you IMDB, Wikipedia, and the entire stupid Russian language) said Soviet supers were Ler (Sebestien Sisak), Khan (Sanzhar Madiyev), Ursus (Anton Pampushnyy), and Xenia (Alina Lanina). Dr. VicHead’s professional rival, Professor August Kuratov (Stanislav Shirin), helped himself to the Patriot research in a bid to make a suped-up guinea pig power posse of his own, having failed at a Kremlin sponsored project previously assigned to him. Office politics as usual. It starts with stealing Debbie’s egg salad sandwich out of the office fridge and always ends with treasonous acts punishable by death.
Kuratov’s hidden trials in genetic tinkering only resulted in numerous human atrocities though, as his test subjects all died horribly. When the higher-ups discovered said mad sciencing, their intervention resulted in the villain pulling the old “self-destruct” play, Michael Baying all evidence of his work into oblivion. But, despite his supposed super genius level brain, Dr. K’s time management skills were clearly shit tier, as he didn’t leave himself enough time to also escape the blast! Bruce Banner-ing himself all to fuck worked out well for the psychotic physicist though (as it always does in these comic book type situations) since he not only survived the explosion, but was also transformed into a muscle-bound goliath that would make even the ‘roidiest roster members of the World Bodybuilding Federation look like pre-Captain America Steve Rogers in comparison!
For heartburn that makes your chest feel like Hiroshima, use new Nuclear Strength TUMS!
Empowering himself with abilities beyond those of mortal men, Dr. K disappeared faster than a Quaker at a key party, leaving the Commies to believe he’d perished in the lab-splosion. In the 30(ish) years since, as if his new freakish (and foam-rubberish) physique weren’t enough, Kuratov has also since succeeded in accomplishing his previous failed attempt to invent a high-tech harness (part of his original “Module-1” project) that now allows him to control any machinery within his area of influence, turning him into the living, breathing, bulging embodiment of Maximum Overdrive! Because of this (and because I refuse to type out “Kuratov” another two dozen fucking times), I’m sticking him with the moniker of Dr. MO. Doc decides to reintroduce himself to the ruling body of modern day Russia by using his newfound exoskeleton rig to take control of some fancy pants military drones that are basically robot spiders/crabs that shoot missiles and have massive Gatlings mounted on top. Even though the military intelligentsia was only using the arachno-tanks to blow up used cars left over from Crazy Ivan’s Stalin’s Day mega-sale, you have to imagine big bad Vlad will still be putin the baddest of bad moods when he finds out about this! *rimshot*
♫ He’s just a war machine. And the tanks won’t work for nobody but him. ♫
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Say, in the way the hook for “Ice Ice Baby” sounds an awful lot like the baseline from “Under Pressure”? Well, let's break it down. Like a vandal. Word to your mother. Licky boom boom. Anyway, for starters we're given a group of four test subjects imbued with fantastic super powers and a doctor seemingly doomed in a self-induced science ‘splosion motivated by his jealousy of a fellow practitioner of man-made magics. Connecting the dots yet, Pee Wee? La la la la? Connect the dots? La la la la? I can almost guarantee you that this movie was originally called The Fantastik Fourski until Fant4stic was such a global failure that the producers (likely the Russian mob) insisted the title be changed to The Guardians to pull an Asylum and try to cash-in on a similarly titled Hollywood franchise. I’m referring to Guardians of the Galaxy of course, just in case someone out there thought I was alluding to that Rise of the the Guardians where Santa Claus teams up with Jack Frost and the Easter Bunny to remind us of the magic of friendship while also fighting The Jersey Devil or some such bullshit.
Now, about those super powers. Ler has mastery over rocks. As such, I’m going to refer to him by the Western friendly name of Rocky, because rocks. His power doesn’t extend to stone constructs like walls or sidewalks though, just loose chunks of masonry and stone. He can throw these bits of debris at people with his Airbender-ish ability, or he can create an armored shell with them to protect himself (except for his head, so he could easily be taken out by any halfway-decent Call of Duty player), create minor seismic shock waves in his immediate vicinity, or just punch people hard. His appearance will likely not hold up in court as “an unintentional coincidence” that he happens to look a lot like a de-powered (and re-bearded) Ben Grimm wearing that weird craggy exo-suit Reed created for him that one time.
(Still better than Fant4stic.)
Khan can move at super speed, so I’m just gonna take the laziest tack and call him “Speedy”. When he sprints about, it creates a puff of black smoke that’s one *BAMF* short of his own legal battle. One with a certain fuzzy blue elf on the X-Men payroll. To further sink himself into the Tar Pit of Creative Absentia, Speedy also makes it a point to dress very similar to The Winter Soldier, and I won’t accept the “well, they are both Cold War super agents for Russia…” defense, because you know that’s a lie and I refuse to be an enabler in your denial! In addition to his speed and pilfered fashion sense, Speedy’s final resource is a pair of massive crescent shaped blades that can cut full-size pickup trucks in half, but not people because fuck it, you fill in the Mad Libs on this one!
Get the new Ninja Night Strike Khan figure with grappling hook action (and easily broken sword accessories) at your local K-Mart today!
Ursus is a scientist who transforms into a bestial monster and struggles to retain every semblance of his humanity so as not to give in to his primal side completely. Cue Wolverine and The Hulk doing Craig Ferguson’s cheeky “Remind you of anyone?” gag. Rather than transforming into an atomic ogre though, Urs instead turns into ManBearPig, hold the bacon. His new Westernized name will be Barry, cuz it sounds like “beary”… cuz he’s not entirely a bear, he’s just beary… Anyway, if you’re expecting Barry to have a scene where he tells a concerned woman about how terrified he is of losing control and hurting the ones he loves (or at least is required to team up with for the extent of the movie), well, you’re right. But at least by not seeing said scene in a theater you’ll be able to fast forward through it!
Post Cereals may have gone a bit far with their “edgy” reboot of Golden Crisp mascot, Sugar Bear.
The final piece of our trademark violating Matryoshka doll comes in the shapely shape of Xenia. On top (Onatopp?) of being a solitary vowel removed from a certain warrior princess, Xen shamelessly swipes her super-powered prowess from none other than Fantastic Four founder Susan Storm. Able to turn herself (and her clothes too, I guess) invisible, Xenia’s Xeroxing doesn’t stop there, as she’s also an Aryan wet dream like Miss Storm, what with her blonde hair and blue eyes. The only real difference is that Xenia clearly has extensive martial arts training, which will come in handy given that her power only activates when she’s covered in water… So, she’s the ultimate agent of espionage if Putin ever needs someone to spy on Sea World, but beyond that her power’s about as useful as Invisible Boy’s from Mystery Men. I was going to take the easy way out and call her “Sue”, but since she can turn transparent I decided to dig deeper and name her “Maura” after Jeffrey Tambor’s titular role in Amazon’s show ‘Transparent’.
After the cancellation of Patriot (you know, budget cuts to black ops) and the “death” of Dr. MO, the Phenomenal Phour just kinda went their separate ways and spent the next however many years each doing their own thing, neither aging so much as a day thanks to a Highlander/Wolverine side effect of their literal empowerment. Rocky lives alone in an abandoned monastery, having lost all of his loved ones to the fickle finger of the Grim One via old age. Speedy became a vigilante assassin fighting a Kazakhstan crime syndicate… I mean, I guess that’s what his dispatching of a posse of suit wearing attackers driving pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns is alluding to, given that it’s never explained. Were I to RiffTrax this bitch, I’d dust off the out-of-date Borat voice and proclaim “My liiiife!” each time one of these Yakuzakhstanians were cut down.
Barry Banner-Howlett has been researching his condition to see if he can’t whip up a way to exorcise his onikuma, or at least rein it in and teach it how to drive one of those little Shriners cars. I love the ballet. To do so unhindered by the outside world, he’s been Kaczynski-ing (and not the guy from ‘The Office’, that’s Krasinski) himself in an isolated cabin in the woods. Whether said domicile is built atop a secret subterranean base whose occupants are tasked with making human sacrifices to protect the planet from the wrath of the Elder Gods is unconfirmed, but as such, not entirely ruled out! Also, as the always ambiguous “she” said, that last bit was a mouthful! As for Maura, she’s ironically embraced her freakish weirdo ability to turn invisible by making a public spectacle of herself, comfortably settling into the quasi-celebrity life as the headliner for a diving show. What’s a diving show? Well, she dives from a tall platform into a pool of water, turns translucent like a ’90s novelty action figure activated by warm water, then emerges to be covered by a rain of golden confetti as she turns visible again. Yep. That’s it. I really hope there were some openers leading up to this, like Elmer Fudd diving into a glass of water or a PETA enraging diving horse act a la Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, otherwise I question the merit of constructing (or at least refurbishing) an entire theater venue just for her 3 minute see-through exhibition!
Following Dr. MO’s opening spider-drone jacking gambit, the military’s muckety mucks decide the only way to stop the villain is to get the proverbial band back together. Right, because somehow perfectly functional ballistics not controlled by an operating system (guns, mortars, etc.) are entirely out of the question. Anyway, put in charge of gathering the wayward science experiments is Major Elena Larina (Valeriya
Sharknado Shkirando), who’s the movie’s Nick Fury by way of a young Brigitte Nielsen (post-Sylvester Stallone but pre-Flava Flav). On the plus side, no one can say something trite about how Major Larina “broke through the glass ceiling”, because women have been putting their army boots into asses of all genders in the Russian military since forever, as they always should have. Stupid sexist US military and their history of insecure leaders engaging in misogynist practices because they’re afraid “frail girls” will show them up making our country look bad!
Her OKCupid profile pic is much hotter than any of those posted by higher-ups from the US military.
Though the government hadn’t been tracking the foursome in any way since the disbanding of Patriot (not even Total Recall nasal beacons? Bullshit!), thanks to some light interneting MAJOR Larina and her team are able to suss them all out with little effort and in even less time, with the public figure of the quartet being the last confronted. While the boys are easily convinced to join the fray, Maura chooses to trade blows with Speedy first, destroying a perfectly good glass coffee table before saying yes! Now what is she supposed to pay male prostitutes to defecate on while she rubs herself to climax at night?!
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to dedicate that last vulgar joke as my contribution to the ongoing fight for gender equality. Thank you.
As per the name of the movie, the team is dubbed “The Guardians”. Given the title of the state-sponsored project that created them, you’d think they’d go with “The Patriots”, but I guess even Mother Russia isn’t willing to risk legal fisticuffs with the NFL’s brigade of elite attorneys! Whatever the case, a rose by any other name would still royally fuck their first mission sideways, as the heroes are sent to take down Dr. MO’s “hidden amid the ruins of an old warehouse” headquarters, only to be soundly trounced by the bad man’s army of robo-clone soldiers. Jobbers they may be, you have to hand it to them, because unlike another certain army of genetic doppelgangers, at least these guys managed to do their devilish duties without embarrassing themselves!
Speaking of embarrassments, Speedy falls to a simple tranquilizer dart, Barry might as well be half-dolphin since he’s dispatched with ease by a fucking net, and Maura’s visual camouflage, despite the mission taking place during a convenient light rain, proves to be completely useless since all of the cybernetically inclined soldiers have friggin’ thermal vision! You know what? Forget about that Invisible Boy comparison I made earlier, because at least Invisible Boy couldn’t be detected by electronic devices, thus making Maura LESS useful!
(Kel Mitchell is excited to get his first compliment since Good Burger.)
Rocky is the only one not felled by underlings, though he does go fist-to-granite with Dr. MO in a short-lived exchange. Despite his rubble armor and rock tossing abilities, the bearded bruiser is battered, beaten, and bettered by the bald bad boy, who breaks the brave brick house's back Bane style. **GASP** Thank you, thesaurus.com!
Also as seen in The Dark Knight Rises, Rocky’s severed spinal column is no match for superhero determination, and he sleeps off the injury back at home base. The other three are held captive by MO, who tries to convince them to join him in his as-yet-undefined plan to rule and/or destroy the world. Just like every such “we’re not so different, you and I” meeting of protagonists and antagonist, this one ends with the deacon of doom walking away rejected, much like myself every time I asked McDonald’s to combine my order of 2 Jalapeno Doubles into one big one to save on empty bun calories. Rather than burning down his rejectors’ place of business though, MO just leaves them locked up at his place while he goes off to conquer Moscow… and hopefully burn down every fucking McDonald’s in the city!
With an army of tanks and choppers stolen from a military facility on the way to the capital, Dr. MO rolls over The First Throne with mild-to-non-existent resistance outside of some abandoned automotive fodder (for the tanks to look cool and take selfies while rolling over) and b-roll footage of people rioting… of which I’m not entirely sure is supposed to be indicative of proletariat rebels fighting the caravan of self-propelled death dealers or the clone soldiers attacking what minute military machines are trying to stymie them, given that the humanoids in question are wearing ski masks similar to those worn by the bad guys. Either or, it looks like modern day Russia drops their pants and grabs their ankles faster than even 1940s France did at their lubiest!
I see there’s a version of The “How Did They Manage to Get That Footage?!” News Channel in Russia too.
It’s explained later that Major Lena’s commanding officer, General Dolgov (Vyacheslav Razbegaev, who looks like a sperm bank half-and-half of Rick Hoffman and George Eads), ordered the city evacuated and told the army not to bother coming to work as part of the tried and true Kent Brockman Stratagem. His reward? A broken neck. A not-so-subtle warning to the audience straight from the State Department of Loyalty and Obedience, I’m sure.
With the city conquered, Dr. MO orders his mechanical minions to push over Ostaniko Tower and drive it across town so he can erect it on top of Federation Tower (which looks kinda like Stark/Avengers Tower) and finally prove to himself (and everybody else) that his ex-wife was wrong and he DOESN’T have a minuscule member! This ostentatious obelisk of overcompensation is more than that, though, as its true intention is to act as the antennae for Module-2: Electric Boogalooski. With his massive steel pecker tricked out with technical ExtenZe, Dr. MO’s master plan will be to tap into the wealth of abandoned satellites orbiting the planet. Getting The Spice Channel unscrambled (the dream of every ’90s teen) wouldn’t hurt either! Sonja Fury’s team thinks the mechanical man’s target is one of those decommissioned Star Wars whirligigs that Old Man Reagan was always mumbling on about between his wife/mother wiping the drool off his chin, so he can nuke anybody he wants from space. The real reason is of a much larger scale though – Dr. MO will use all of the satellites to beam his technopathy to every device on the planet!
Does anyone know how to say “overcompensating” in Russian?
Now, as frostbitingly cool as that may sound, in practice it’s impractical. Just like the logistical nightmare that comes with the concept of any omniscient deity figure, that level of sensory feedback would make MO’s head explode faster than the guy from the Scanners GIF. As such, I would’ve been very happy to see said scenario play out, if for no other reason than to give us one of those classic “villain defeated by his own hubris” finales! Don’t inflate your hopes though, lads and ladies, because I’ll tell you right now that that’s not what we get. The lesson? Never anticipate what’s in the box, because you’ll only be disappointed when the Belladonna Magic Hand/Pocket Pussy you wanted turns out to be a subpoena from the divorce lawyer your spouse left you for.
Back to our so-called saviors, Professor Golbonov comes out of his own decades of hiding to help the government with Rocky’s recovery, shooting him up with MacGuffin brand Mystery Fix-All Science Juice. Well, at least it’s more believable than Bruce Wayne’s deus ex recovery was. And it looks to be blue-raspberry flavored Fix-All too! Yum! With Golbond’s assistance, Major Larina and her personal special forces group uncover the locale of the imprisoned heroes and recover them with zero resistance since Dr. MO has prioritized all of his resources to overthrowing Moscow and, well, there’s only so much time left to this shit show and there’s still a lot of shit left to fit! Taking their Guardians back to base, Major ‘Rina allows the professor to stay behind and study MO’s cloning machines with the intention of finding out how to shut his army down. A good idea, except there’s no security left behind in case Golbond gets into trouble, which he’s destined to do when a certain nemesis returns to the lab and murders him. There’s a good chance that the actor playing Golby was too frail to do any type of stunt work either, because rather than ring his collar as he did the general, Dr. MO opts for bug bombing the room and gasses the geezer to death. Or maybe it’s just so he could return in a proposed sequel where the gas has mutated him and he menaces his former team of test subjects as SHIN GOLBONOV!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Major plays therapist to her team and listens to Rocky gripe about watching his grandchildren die of old age, Barry groan on about the ever present fear he’ll lose his humanity, and Speedy mourn the dead brother that taught him how to be a swordsman and for whom he regrets never getting the chance to best in battle. You know, samurai honor and shit. I thought Russians would’ve just said, “Grow the fuck up and fight the enemy because feelings are for baby children!”, but I guess I need to download an update for my stereotypes app because Larina listens like the big sister that Horus always needed me to be.
“What’s some Dr. Freud gonna do for me at $100 an hour that Dr. McGillicudy can’t do for me at $20 a bottle?”
In addition to registering their emotional issues at the baggage check, each 25% of the quartet is given some tech-based upgrades to their arsenal in the hopes that they don’t get their comic book asses handed to them in less time than it takes to heat up one of my Kid’s Cuisine Cretaceous Period Accurate Dinosaur Shaped Chicken Nuggets Microwaveable Meals! Maura gets a skintight suit that not only lifts and shapes her pushin’ cushion, but finally makes her useful by allowing her to turn invisible at will without the need for a sacrifice to Tlaloc or a lukewarm bucket of Wonder Twin, refreshing as a nice glass of Zan may be. Speedy’s new threads allow him to move even faster and (maybe) fly short distances while also providing him enough protection to cocktail block any more of those tasty tranq darts. Rocky gets a personal magnetic field generator that gives him the ability to string together some rocks for use as a whip that looks unsurprisingly like it was snatched from Whiplash’s locker during filming for Iron Man 2. Last, Barry is bestowed a big techno backpack that transforms into a Gatling gun or can be worn on his back as an auto-targeting sentry when he engages his new Final Evolution (he just turns into a full-on bear… not the gay kind, so don’t get excited), officially making him a Pokemon now! Just wait until Maura sneaks into an enemy barracks, shouts “Go, Ursaring!”, throws down that familiar red and white sphere and unleashes Barry to turn the place into a bacchanal of blood and guts! If only.
Freshly outfitted for their final throw down with the monster-faced megalomaniac, the gang gets notice that they’ve only got so much time to see their mission through and dismantle MO’s makeshift Tower of Techno Babel (see what I did there?) before the military goes for the legitimate nuclear option and a-bomb Moscow so completely that its uninhabitability will give Chernobyl a Napoleon complex! Funny enough, nobody bothers to address the MASSIVE sinkhole in the street of this plan – THE BAD GUY CAN CONTROL ANYTHING WITH AN OPERATING SYSTEM! You know what’s included on that list? GUIDED MISSILES! They’d be better off dropping a few leftover Nagasaki Knocker-Overers from some hot air balloons! But, then we wouldn’t get the manufactured tension of watching Dr. MO do exactly what we all knew was going to happen not 15 minutes later. I’m getting suspicious that “Sarik Andreasyan” is just a Russian anagram for “Michael Bay”…
Damn it, Anagram Solver, you’re not even trying anymore.
The big Act 3 siege is pretty paint-by-numbers, seeing the flaccid foursome establish a frontal assault on Moscow, thinning the ranks of cyber-clone bad guys. The fact that our heroes were outsmarted by these Ruble Store lackeys in the first place is all the more pathetic when you realize that said hench-borgs’ targeting mechanisms are absolute shite, as they cant lay a single slug into an 8ft tall humanoid bear monster, an old guy with an electric rope, or a woman whose sole defense during one scene is slowly scooting away from them backwards on her ass while out in the open! In relation to that, it looks like they also lost their Predator vision, as Maura’s now able to evade their gaze. And don’t tell me her suit masks her heat signature, because her head and arms are still fully exposed! Given all this, my earlier allusion to them as superior to Imperial stormtroopers from a galaxy far far away seems less legit now. If the Russian military consisted of furry bug-eyed midgets armed with slingshots and pointed sticks, these hybrid toasters with glaucoma wouldn’t have made it past the Moscow city limits!
Once they’ve made their way through Dr. MO’s relatively diminutive ranks of mediocre mecha-marauders, for no other reason than goofy forced dramatics’ sake, the Guardians are then forced to do a tightrope act 30 stories up across a suspiciously random pipe connected to MO’s ultimate ham radio receiver. Of course they’re fired upon by more enemies, but the baddies’ continued inability to line up a single shot (maybe they have too many eyes) once more proves they’re destined for the minion unemployment line once this is over, since not a solitary bullet connects with its target. Thanks to Speedy’s speediness and prowess with preemptively ending peoples’ lives, the evil-doers are dispatched and the protagoni can carry on to the Tower of Final Showdown.
Inside the villain’s DIY high-rise, the next order of business is shorting out MO’s defensive bubble so the army’s missile attack (WHICH WILL NOT WORK!) can hit their mark. With no better ideas on how to do so, Maura throws herself at the shield’s power source, grabbing it with her bare hands and disrupting the conduit. Her effort to sacrifice herself for the greater good (and get out of paying her long standing student loans from her ill-advised 3 year quest for an associates degree in Liberal Arts) is foiled though, when Barry wrestles her away from the Wreckx-N-Effect levels of rump shaking feedback, saving her life. One of the Visually-Obscured Female’s undiscovered abilities must be a thick layer of rubber serving as her epidermis too, because despite double-fisting a pair of Tesla Coils for a good 8 seconds (get out of here, Luke Perry!), she doesn’t have so much as a singed eyebrow, let alone hands that you could mistake for The Colonel’s extra-extra-crispy Original Recipe. Speaking of, Colonel (whoever is playing you this week), I’m still waiting to see that Family Sized Bucket-O-Skin value meal we talked about (which you refused to call “The Gein”) make an appearance on the menu of my local KFC. If you don’t want to find out what your children taste like drenched in your own Georgia Gold BBQ sauce, make it happen.
With the path for the nukes now cleared (EVEN THOUGH THERE’S NO CHANCE OF THEM WORKING!), we can get to the big movie ending brawl where, despite outnumbering their foe 4-to-1, the Guardians still get their asses atomically spanked by Russian Abobo. It goes about as well as the turtles v. Shredder finale from the TMNT reboot (of which I’m sure this scene was flagrantly “influenced”), ending with our champions forced to retreat with their tails between their legs, defeated for the second time! The aforementioned inefficacious ballistics are launched in and are as effective as an old man’s member in the “Before” part of a Viagra commercial. Dr. MO sends them careening into the atmosphere, where they prematurely expend their payloads without giving the bad man so much as a cramp in his pinkie finger, EXACTLY AS EVERYONE BUT THE FUCKING MILITARY LEADERS KNEW THEY WOULDN’T!
Looks like the world’s doomed now, right? Not so fast, because even Russia wouldn’t end a super hero movie on a sad note! They’re not Zach Snyder, after all! Rather than allowing the Binary Whisperer to turn the planet into his personal Technogarchy, the Guardians have one last deus ex machina to pull out of their collective ass: a titanous sphere of pure demolishing satisfaction created by their sheer force of will (or by combining their biological energy a la the Spirit Bomb in the Dragonball Z universe, perhaps?) as projected through Rocky directly at MO’s sexually allegorical spire, imploding the structure and sending their enemy falling to the Earth with a Wile E. Coyote look on his face in a moment that’s only missing the “YAAAAAHOO-HOO-HOOEY!” sound byte and resultant dust cloud upon MO’s impact.
Even with the mastermind man-monster’s body never found, everybody chalks this outing up as a win. Though the Guardians will be going their separate ways, the celluloid piracy of The Avengers continues as they all agree to reunite, should MAJOR Larina and the Russian military need them to interject on the nation’s behalf again in the future. The only thing missing is someone declaring “Guardians Gather!” as they each strike their freeze frame win pose. And if this ending weren’t already rancid with sequel bait that no one’s biting on, Faux Fury adds to the pile when she drops the news that a fifth member of the Patriot program has been discovered. No doubt it’s the (yet another) blond woman we see take down a pair of her elite special ops handlers Black Widow style during the end credits bonus scene. I’ve got 100 rubles that says that’s a follow-up flick that won’t see tetromino one fall from the multi-chromatic minarets of Saint Basil’s. Shit-ass Russian rap track ending theme music, play us out.
…or not, because I couldn’t find said track on YouTube. As a consolation, here’s the opening theme, as sung by Adele’s non-union Russian equivalent!
When I was 20 or so, I wrote a fanfic that combined the Phantasm, Evil Dead, Re-Animator, Friday the 13th, Tremors, Crow, and a binge of other franchises into one reality. I called it “Copyright Infringement” and it never made it past the college rule pages of my Biology 101 notebook. The Guardians isn’t nearly as prosecute-able, but then my story was never seen by anyone else, let alone made into a big budget (for Russia) wide release (for Russia) “intended to be the black market knock-off track suit parallel of a massive pop culture phenomenon” franchise. Remember that ‘Seinfeld’ episode where Elaine tried to replace an $8000 Russian sable hat with a shoddy nutria (i.e. South American river rat) simulacrum? Guess which chapeau The Guardians is in this analogy. If you said the sable hat, you’re wrong, unless you’re presuming that the movie’s budget was also $8000, which is entirely understandable given the eye bruising CGI effects. Barry’s character model looks like something pulled from an old A-PIX Entertainment production laptop the producer’s cousin bought in a storage unit auction. For those who are curious, The Guardians is actually reported to have had a budget equal to around 5 million US dollars, which is about what I’m guessing SyFy gave to the The Asylum to make the first 3 Sharknados.
Much like Batman V. Superman, everyone who wanted to see it did so on opening weekend, making it the Czar of the Russian box office. Also like BVS, once the general public learned of how unimpressive it was, ticket sales immediately dropped off and it was quickly dethroned by, I don’t know, let’s say a blatant off-market clone of James Bond called Double Zero Nine: Sky is Falling. And with that, there really isn’t much else for me to comment on beyond what’s already been said. In the NINE pages this recap-bitch slap has taken to relay, I pretty much covered what needed covering. Much like my groinal batch at the beach. That, and I don’t feel like putting any more effort into this review. The time is gone. The review is over. Thought I’d something more to say…
Wait! I do! Did you know that the Hamburglar’s name is “Hamilton B. Urglar”?! Fucking weird, right? Okay, now I’m out of shit to say. Later, gator inflaters!
Moral of the Story: When stealing tropes, be careful not to take enough to hang yourself.
How the ‘Gomer Pyle: USMC’ series finale was originally meant to end. Shazam indeed.
How Vlad Putin sees himself when he’s posing for all those shirtless photo ops.
“I was the World Series of Juggling Grand Champion for 5 years running until they discovered I was using my special powers and stripped me of my accolades. The higher the heights of your hubris, the harder the fall, I suppose.”
How are those swords even supposed to be remotely effective?! It seems Khan would have to struggle just not to stab himself in the face with those things!
Due to the language barrier, there were some misunderstandings when donald trump originally requested “beautiful women and golden showers” during his earliest visits to Russia.
Remember that period in the ’90s where everybody and their grandparents were getting those goofy tribal tattoos? Nothing says “short sighted cultural appropriation” like white people and permanent ink!
“And… I have no idea what I’m supposed to be looking at. How does Tony Stark manage to do this in every Marvel movie!?”
Auger? Mighty mechanic of the heroic Earth Corps? Why didn’t anyone tell me that Russia have their own live-action Inhumanoids movie!?
Following the devastation of their population by a certain sand hating Jedi, a contingent of Tusken Raiders relocated from Tatooine to Russia, where they thrived under the country’s harsh conditions.
“The casting director said they were looking for a character that was a lazy combination of Charles Xavier, Trevor Bruttenholm, and Ernie the Keebler Elf, so here I am!”
“Look, Greg, I know it was a mistake and you didn’t mean to eat Shaun’s leftover Chicken McNuggets, but you have to be my big strong boy and take responsibility by telling him. Do it for me? Please?”
You’re telling me that a military capable of creating giant spider drone tanks is still using CRT monitors?! Is this secretly a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode?!
This is what happens when you leave the designing of your superhero team’s elite tactical combat uniforms to a crew of adult nerds that still suffer from wet dreams.
The sad picture of any man in a midlife crisis who watched the Indiana Jones trilogy (yes, I said trilogy) one weekend and thought putting on a fedora and mastering the bullwhip would be a one-way ticket to College Girls’ Panties-opolis.
Smokey says, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires… and if you don’t, now I can prevent you from starting them. Permanently!”
Maybe she worked her way up the military ladder through hard work and determination. ♫ Maybe it’s Maybelline! ♫
Gah! After years of portents, Stephen Colbert was right – Bears ARE the number one threat to mankind! And they’re armed to the teeth like fucking Dino Riders!
See, that’s why you never want to break the glass dome on a Spencer’s Gifts Plasma Ball. 30 city blocks were vaporized and all because these guys wanted to make one of those “What Would Happen?” YouTube videos.
Anubis will return in
“We Turn Your Frowns Upside Down”
Featuring: Brittany “Pitch Perfect” Snow , Jeffrey “Re-Animator” Combs , Sasha “Swallow My Children” Grey
Director: David “A Love Affair of Sorts” Guy Levy
Writer: Steffen “Primal” Schlachtenhaufen
Hello, kids! Your humble narrator here, once again. My apologies for my absence these last few weeks. I wasn’t intentionally being enticingly elusive, I just lost all of my fingers after a “business agreement” with Robert Durant kinda fell through, and have been awaiting their regeneration. They’re still not 100%, but I’ve got enough stubbage to bang out a few words for today’s overdue review!
Also, no matter how hard you try, you’re now unable to read this without imagining my creepy little malformed digits clacking away at my keyboard. Take it, you slut. Take it all! Take it to your GRAVE!
Now then, back when “The New Adventures of Old Anubis” here started up, it got off on the right foot (the left one, if you’re Christy Brown) with The Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation, a repugnantly poor zombie sequel with an upsettingly long title starring personal favorites Andrew Divoff and, the reason The Tomb exists in the first place, Jeffrey Combs! Unfortunate to say, it was a decidedly drab performance by the career Herbert West, which may have had some small part in why I’ve only reviewed one other Combs movie since – Beyond Re-Animator. Though the lesser of the beloved trilogy, BRA was a better-than-average entry in the SIP (Scientists In Prison) sub-subgenre and an exponentially better outing for Combs than what we wound up with for TNotLD3DR. Then again, you can transplant the blame for that one to whomever cast such a master of scenery chewing for a barely-better-than-background-character role, should you feel so inclined to.
Today’s movie is a return to form for Mr. Combs, so I’m happy to start off our next 100 episodes with a heavy dosage of Jeff Monster Dos (Jeff Monster Uno being Jeff Goldblum) in the dinner party game to end all dinner party games! Or we could just get a pizza, order The Bye Bye Man on pay-per-view and stay in tonight. Would you rather? Too bad, cuz this review’s happening with you or without you.
Still here? Cool. Embrace your life of servitude. Our protagonista Iris (Brittany Snow) is one of those unfortunate “had so much potential and was going to college to do great things, but was forced to drop out and return home to take care of a sick family member by getting a low paying job she’s tragically overqualified for” dramatic heroines that we all root for out of a deep sense of pity or, worse, sympathy. The ailed family member in Iris’ case is her younger brother Raleigh (Logan Miller) whose leukemia is a total buzzkiller, man! I’m talkin’ Bring Down City, dudes, population Iris! Totally bogus, she-brosef! When their parents died in a car crash, she literally became her brother’s keeper. While Iris may accept her burden like a leading character would, Rals is less than happy about being a big dumb cancer-riddled shackle around big sister’s ankle, so he sits around all day feeling sorry for her while mocking her inability to speak with a French accent. Given that she pronounces “monsieur” as “man-sewer” like she’s one of the wild and wonderful Whites of West Virginia, I have to question the legitimacy of the movie’s claim that she was on the road to any kind of “greatness” beyond assistant manager of an under-performing Cracker Barrel. C’est la cinéma.
With medical bills mounting and the government dominated by elephant worshiping mutants genetically predisposed to refusing affordable healthcare for people in need, Raleigh’s grave illness is looking more and more deserving of that descriptor as time ticks away. Fortunately for the siblings, this is a movie! And since it’s a movie, the highly unlikely prospect of finding a bone marrow donor for Raleigh and covering the cost of the transplant operation is offered to Iris by the lad’s oncologist, Dr. Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.)! Well, not Dr. B exactly, but he does introduce her to an incredibly wealthy philanthropist type guy named Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) who offers her the self-same salvation.
Hold up. Shepard Lambrick? Shepherd? Lamb? What the fuck is that about?! I hate whimsical naming tropes. Blart.
Shep invites our gal to a dinner party he’s hosting and promises to solve all of Raleigh’s problems if she participates in and wins a no doubt left intentionally ambiguous “party game” with his other guests. Barden vouches for the eccentric, evil emanating gent’s offer, revealing that the mustachioed mystery man’s charitable foundation opened the very same drive thru window of McOpportunity for him some years back when he too was in dire need of help. That might explain why Doc doesn’t seem to give a shit that Sheppy Warbucks has been building a mountain of discarded peanut shells on the fainting couch in his office for the extent of this exchange. Had Ed McMahon ever come through with that giant check he was always promising me, I’d have let him sit naked on my couch during the hottest day of the year and shuck all the legumes he wanted wherever he wanted!
Not entirely sure that she isn’t being set up to play one of the titular tuchi in an “ass to ass” show for a roomful of guys in business suits a la Requiem for a Dream (still a less disturbing scene than watching Marlon Wayans rape stuffed animals in A Haunted House), Iris needs some time to think about the offer. When she goes home and gets the GTFOut callback from TGIFridays about the hostess job she was hoping to land, she’s left with little option but to toss her metaphorical hat into Mr. Lambrick’s dinner party ring. She tells Ral that she’s going out for the night to blow off some stream with her friends, rather than doing the smart thing and explaining the situation to him.
Any time you’re invited to an affluent stranger’s dinner party (the closest to which I’ll ever experience being GJ Echternkamp inviting me to lunch after reading my review for Death Race 2050), you should leave behind every piece of information you can with as many people as you can, as your first presumption should be that said affluent stranger intends to either kill and eat you (not necessarily in that order) or, best case scenario, that their friends are going to hunt you across a private island like some sort of game. A dangerous game, if you will. Perhaps, dare I say, the most dangerous game?
Our embattled heroine is chauffeured to the event, which she's told is not held in the Lambs’ personal home, but in a mansion the family uses solely for this special annual dining event… Sorry to keep harping on the inevitable danger we can all see waiting for Iris like Shin Godzilla on the horizon, but sometimes my mind takes its cue from my Jethro Tull “Thick as a Brick” cassette – it has 1 track. Ready for a 100cc injection of irony? The 8-track version of “Thick as a Brick” too only has said singular track. Think about it.
At the party, Iris (and the viewer, vicariously) is introduced to the other 7 attendees. We don’t learn much about each, so I’ll just give you the quick role call. We have Lucas (Enver Gjokaj), Cal (Eddie “CRABMAN!” Steeples, who still has the same rebellious mane he did in ‘My Name is Earl’), Peter (Rob Wells), Linda (June Squibb… no relation to the man who invented the squib), Travis (Charlie Hofheimer), Amy (Sasha Grey), and Conway (John Heard… what? What has John heard?). Each was recruited for tonight from one corner of the country or another, with Iris as the only local talent. Given that Doc was a past winner though, maybe that’s good luck? You know how competitive people are about their superstitions, after all. Still, that does come off as convenient…
Once their meal gets underway, the reason for the dinner (and our title) becomes immediately obvious when Iris declares herself a vegetarian and apologizes for having to decline the flesh heavy entree. Shep in turn offers her $10k to bypass her dietary morals and choke down her steak and foie gras in front of everyone. Naturally (and literally), she bites and earns herself a handy five figures to stomach rich people food that doesn’t consist of live snails or monkey brains! Nice. Next on ‘Deal or Ordeal’, recovering alcoholic Conway cashes in his 16 year chip for a decanter of “the finest Scotch money can buy” and a $50k payday of his own. Shit, I’d down a gallon of Tenafly Viper and a chaser of Shaq’s sweaty sneaker full of horse piss for $50k! I also have zero shame.
So, as far as asshole rich people in movies go, our antagonist has established himself as the Ted DiBiase type: offering the less fortunate what he considers a pittance to shit away their dignity for his amusement. Ladies and gents, welcome to the game that’s a sadist’s paradise – Would You Rather.
With the pre-show over and everyone sufficiently intrigued/terrified, the guests are offered an out before things go any further. Looks like they all assume that they’re just going to be paid to eat and drink things they normally wouldn’t be into though, so no one takes the Get Out of Guantanamo Free card. When Shep’s hired goon Bevans (Jonny Coyne) rolls in a DIY shock therapy machine, the now imbibed Conway indignantly tries to take his $50k and run, only to be met with a bullet in the face from the former MI5 spook-turned-Caucasian Random Task (hopefully without all that “Christmas Eve gang rape and torture” nastiness)! Yes, kids, when someone who’s clearly a sadist says you’re allowed to leave the situation before things get “serious”, you run for that glowing red EXIT sign as fast as your feet will carry you before Million Dollar Man Jigsaw changes his mind!
In addition to Bev, Lambrick also introduces his son Donald Jr., I mean Julius (Robin Lord Taylor) to the group. As you’d anticipate, Jules is your typical fucking rich kid snot rag who clearly carries daddy’s mean streak in his DNA, minus the false face of eminence and empathy that pops portrays to the plebians. The wormy shit’s last name would be better pronounced “Lame-prick”, and if you didn’t wanna punch the young Oswald Cobblepot in the face with a bedpan bad enough before seeing this movie, you’ll wanna shove Domon Kasshu’s burning finger through his face by the end of it.
Round 1 (FIGHT!) involves the guests zapping each other with the “enhanced interrogation” electroshocker, as two players per turn get their heads wired. Each person is offered the opportunity to rattle their own fillings or give the person to their right a taste of the Carrie Fisher Treatment. It’s like the “take a penny, leave a penny” tray at the liquor store, only with a higher risk of heart attack and self-defecation. Though most of the remaining 7 play nice and opt to take Ben Franklin’s Kite Ride themselves, Amy keeps it 100 and buzzes old lady Linda’s wig faster than Electro on uppers. Clearly someone’s grandma was a bit heavy handed with the wooden spoon while she was growing up and now has a case of Grandmasogyny. You can’t watch this part of the game without thinking about the family therapy episode of ‘The Simpsons’…
With no fatalities (aside from Conway getting a case of .45 caliber gray matter splatter in the pre-show), the Surviving Seven all go on to Round 2. Then again, Round 1 clearly wasn’t meant to eliminate anyone, so much as it was just a way to prod (No pun intended? No, pun intended!) everyone into disclosing who the Samaritans are and who the Jeff Varners/human skidmarks are (*whisper* it’s Amy). During their between-rounds timeout, the gang try to work out an escape plan. While they ponder how best to jump Bevans and his back-up lackeys, they make sure to let Amy know that her bitch-ass is on her own. Much as I echo the sentiment, that’s the kind of thing someone who’s shown themselves to be self-centered to a violent extent is just going to use later to further smother their conscience and fuel their “fuck the rest of you” mentality. Good luck with that.
Round 2 ramps shit up a few levels, graduating to “Would you rather stab so-and-so in the leg with an icepick or cane the ever loving nougat out of Travis”, who made the mistake of talking back to Orange Julius during his intermission “mock the poor people” pep talk. Trav offers himself up as the sacrificial lamb so no one has to risk taking a poke in the femoral artery and bleed to death. Some people opt to look their personal gift horse in the mouth and, rather than just let Travis die, take a chance with stabbing their neighbor instead. Not unlike the way I stab myself in the thigh with the old steak knife I keep next to my keyboard whenever I start zoning out while typing reviews.
Without going into too many specifics, the round ends with 2 victims, which is way more than any of the Stalkers in The Running Man were able to rack up. The remaining players attempt their coup (oddly devoid of background music) before Round 3, only to fail. One contestant tries some saber rattling with an actual saber, but his revenge is cut short by the gun that Shepard keeps on himself for just such as occasion. While the others are forced to return to the table, Iris escapes into the house’s basement, only to be snatched mere inches from freedom by none other than Julius Seize-Her *rimshot*. The living embodiment of a garbage bag full of used tissues attempts to rape our heroine, only to get a first hand taste of girl power as Iris beats the fluid out of the little douche bag and leaves him lying. Doc Barden (whose guilty conscience forces him to try and rescue Iris) appears intending to assist in her liberation, but his best efforts just make him the modern day Dick Halloran when his big ol’ PHD brain proves no match for Bevans’ peacemaker, mere seconds later. You can’t help but hear Groundskeeper Willy uttering “Ach, I’m bad at this!” from the ether.
Bev retrieves our leading lady, with Summer’s Eve being the one who gets punished for his uncouth behaviors. Nothing in a cool “gets his dick shot off” manner, though. The rat faced Pat Bateman wanna-be is just sent to his room and basically grounded from watching the rest of the game. Boo hoo.
Would You Rather Round 3 kicks off with the extant contestants not too happy that Iris gets to return to the game despite her near-successful dash for freedom. To be fair, running away is akin to a forfeit, but since she’s the Atlas upon whose shoulders our tale is told, their host turns a blind-eye to any repercussions. Then again, if you consider it, maybe adding Iris back into the game is her comeuppance? Whatever your opinion, the clash’s 3rd quarter is, as Shep calls it, “the known vs. the unknown”. Its gimmick revolves around a series of “punishment cards” issued randomly to each player via nondescript envelopes. Before opening their individual fates, they’re given a choice between gambling on what torment the card holds for them or spending 2 minutes held face down in a cask of H2O by Bevans. Given their host’s upper crustiness, I would imagine it’s VOSS or Volvic or at least Evian in there. Whatever its origin, as you may remember from grade school science, water is not a substance that humans can breathe.
Again, to avoid ruining the outcome of the scene for you I’m just going to tell you what the anonymous tortures consist of. One card entitles its holder to one free FULL dental extraction. Another requires its recipient to hold a lit quarter stick in their hand to completion. A third card forces its owner to slit open one of their eyeballs with a razor blade (at least they get to choose which one, so… that’s fair… right?). The final card, well… I’ll get to that. Now, though we may have shed our gills millions of years ago in the evolutionary march to now, scienticians have told us for ages that the average human can hold their breath for 2-3 minutes with relative ease. So, provided you don’t have a stroke, why wouldn’t anyone opt for the barrel instead of the card? Unless they’ve got “kid on christmas” syndrome and not knowing what’s in the envelope will make them go into seizures. Or you’re horrified of water because someone or someones very near and dear to you drown… which happened to one of the final four. Said player clearly doesn’t want that, so they opt for their card – FOUR minutes of face time with the supposed source of all life (and its fair share of death). Given such a “coincidence”, I have to wonder how true Lambrick’s claim was that these cards were issued completely at random. Hell, given the entire barrel concept I’d say its a safe bet that this entire round was targeting that self same player. Hmmm.
With two more eliminations courtesy of round 3, the game goes into its 4th and final showdown between our last two survivors. A coin toss to decide who goes first sees Iris win (like you didn't know she'd make it to the end) and she's presented with the following scenario: she and her opponent are both allowed to leave, pockets none the richer but both allowed to live, or she has one shot with a dueling pistol to kill the person across the table from her, in which case she stands the victor atop the bodies of her enemies and Raleigh gets an expansion on the figurative ranch house that is his life.
Now, here’s the fun part. If you’re adequately intrigued by this premise and want to keep your brain virginal so as to experience its finale for yourself sans spoilage, you have two choices to continue your adventure – allow me to pop your cherry and continue reading, or close this window immediately and read no further until you’ve watched Would You Rather, returning later instead. Make your choice now before reading further!
Iris' opposition offers up the sob story that brought them here in a last ditch effort to make us care about them, but Iris is even less interested than we are and puts them down before their guilt trip gambit can get past “I have 3 sisters”. Arrangements are made for Ral's operation, a donor was already found beforehand so the transplanted marrow will be on a plane to the US in less than a day, and on top of all that, Iris will be given enough money to take care of things for both of them while also getting the chance to go back and finish her education. She mutters out a mandatory “thank you” to her captor/savior and is taken home. Hooray! The Day is won! At a terrible cost of her humanity and likely any semblance of non-PTSD ravaged sleep for the rest of her life, granted, but at least it all worked out in the end!
…Until she gets home and discovers that Ralo pilled himself straight into deceasedhood while she was out.
There are only two real ways WYR should have ended for me. I would’ve accepted a happy ending (which I always do, ladies) had the final scene been a montage of Raleigh going through the surgery while Iris sat alone in a hospital waiting room until he comes out in the clear and the pair share a brother and sister moment of triumph, only to have a Psycho-ish final shot where the camera pans slowly in to Iris’ face, freezing on her eye, finally saturating into a grainy black & white while a sound byte of her screaming from earlier plays over it. Or, the ending we got, despite my telegraphing it as soon as we got the shot of little bro feeling guilty over his sister having to make special plans to have something as simple as dinner with her friends while probably worrying about him being home alone the whole time. My suspicions were proven as soon as the last few minutes of the movie focused on Iris checking on her “sleeping” brother before showering and getting some manner of rest only to discover Ral’s state when she goes to wake him the following morning. Hey, sometimes being right about the surprise awaiting you is even more satisfying than getting something out of left field just for the sake of an audience swerve.
I also thrive on “sad” finishes. When The Mist wrapped up, I laughed and cheered, clapping as Tom Jane crumbled into a heap of overwhelming, impotent horror. I love downer endings! The Empire Strikes Back was my favorite Star War. Not just because I find the standard issue “Hollywood ending” impractical for as many times as we’ve seen any and every conflict, no matter the scale, wrapped up with a last minute feel good resolution just in time for the end credits, but because I’m a callous prick who likes to see imaginary people suffer horrible losses. And sometimes real people… when the situation calls for it… or I’m just feeling sadistic… or when I can’t sleep… or when I sleep too much…
As a general statement, I’m not a big fan of what the faux-conservative types have long since labeled the “torture porn” subgenre. Clearly not due to some bullshit ethical quandary, given half the tirades I’ve thrown out here over the years. I didn’t mind Hostel, and I’m not against people enjoying movies whose main selling point is graphic violence. Hell, vulgar displays of blood and guts and meat and bones are always welcome in The Tomb! As sad as it may be to say, though, I’ve been doing this (i.e. criticizing “bad movies”) for almost 20 years. With extended gaps in between and having lost 90% of my material from before 2013, sure, but that’s still a LONG time in which I’ve seen a LOT of movies. Mutilating people for fun should be but a single bloodsoaked piece of your plot, not the whole thing. This is where Would You Rather becomes torture porn done right! It’s not just a group of masked sadists causing physical violence on wayward vacationers for kicks, it’s subjecting the characters and audience to psychological torments too. The fact that it doesn’t go to comical excesses the way something like a Troma movie would, and treats even potentially goofy things with a serious tone that makes it way more effective.
I do have a qualm or two with Shep’s excuse that he does all of this under the auspice that it’s for his guests’ “own good” to unveil each player’s “true character”. Just like Jigsaw always said his games were about “making the victims struggle to appreciate their lives and earn the right to keep living”, it’s all bullshit. Both guys are clearly just getting off on making people torture themselves and each other, so don’t pretend it’s some kind of higher level existential crap. They’re violent psychos with too much time and too many resources on their hands that could be making the world a better place, but instead choose to be self-indulgent assholes who can get away with murder, so they do. Repeatedly. Deal with it.
The setup for Shep’s game feels more than a little absurd, even beyond the whole “Iris just happens to live in the same general area, while everyone else was flown in from around the country”. And if you’re asking yourself “Why wouldn’t someone who survived the game have told the cops about all this?!”, that’s an easy one – since the winner is the only one to survive, and their entire motivation for going through with it was to live the rest of their life on the Lambrick Foundation’s tab, why would they go to the authorities? “But why didn’t the doctor just go to the cops when he decided to help Iris?!” you say? Why? So, provided he survives long enough to make it to trial, he can then spend a chunk of his life in prison for being an accessory (and get shower shivved by someone on the inside on Shepard’s behalf) while Lambrick’s money and standing within society gets him off? Sure, he was killed anyway, but chalk it up to the illusion that too many gun owners buy into the fantasy that they’re invincible… until someone else with a gun kills them… or someone without a gun just takes their gun from them and kills them.
I think my biggest logic fart with today’s flick is covering up all of the “unsuccessful” contestants. There’s no mention of how long the Lambs have been shepherding unknowing victims for their slaughter, but it’s been at least twice. Now, if the previous game included the same number of players, that’s 7 victims from each dinner, for a total of 14 people. Among those 14 people, you have to imagine than no less than, let’s say 4 of them must’ve told someone where they were going and what they were doing. Especially given that they were flown in from sea to shining sea. How has the game gone on this long, even if it’s only the second time, without any major red flags being raised over at least 14 missing people?! Given that those 14 people were brought to the house all expenses paid, there must be some kind of figurative paper trail to lead the authorities back to the fucking Lambrick Foundation! I enjoy your your concept in a style befitting of that one kid from Prince of Space (in other words, “Very much!”), and the story plays out entertainingly enough (especially that nod to The Shining with Doc), but the devil’s in the details Steffen Schlachtenhaufen (gesundheit!), so maybe fill in some of those plot holes next time for a smoother ride.
And this isn’t ‘MST3K’, so don’t tell me I should “really just relax” either!
Finally, the cast. Brittany Snow is a serviceable leading lady, at least in a movie where the focus is spread throughout a dozen or so people sitting around a table for most of the runtime. Not sure if she could have carried a more centrally focused flick, but that’s nothing to do with Would You Rather. On the opposite end of the lady spectrum, Sasha Grey makes a GREAT high-riding bitch! Then again, if you’d seen her dominating other women in as much of her, uhm, “other roles” as I have, you wouldn’t be surprised. On the other side of the chromosomal line, Robin “Lord” Taylor is as good a loathsome shit shucker as Grey is a massive cunt. The duo would’ve made a great couple, simply because seeing someone as attractive as her on his arm would’ve just made the audience want to feed him to an industrial lawnmower all the more!
I was a little disappointed that John Heard wasn’t around longer, especially since his character would’ve been drunk for the extent of the proceedings. Oh well, despite his short screen time, it was still better here than what he gave us in Sharknado. Speaking of letdowns, Eddie Steeples. Man, I had hopes to see something special out of the guy. He’s a solid comedy guy, so I was hoping to see how far he could stretch his legs with a dramatic role. Then again, the role didn’t exactly give him much to run with, so go piss up a rope with all that “no small parts” crap, Stanislavski! Everybody else in the movie? Fine. With the exception of Rob Wells’ slight resemblance to Danny McBride (who’s in Alien: Covenant – what the fuck?!), I doubt I’d recognize any one them in another movie ever again. There is always the possibility one of them could be involved in some crazy shit like that Ryan Jenkins “stuffed his dead wife’s naked body into a suitcase he then left in a dumpster” stuff, but I’d imagine not.
As for Combs? The reason we’re all here today? I thought he was amazing. The star of the show. He brought his overacting gloves to the set and a big appetite for that aforementioned scenery! He makes what could have been a throwaway evil rich guy into a memorable bastard who treats the entire game as an amusing but perfectly normal get together. He has a weird respect for the game and seems personally invested in the others’ actions, studying them and eager for the next surprise. He takes joy in it, but keeps a moderate air of dignity for the most part, keeping a firm hold on the reins as he leads the confused, frightened, angry guests through the challenges. He full on loses his cool during one scene and Combs’ voice cracks, but it adds a smidge of realism to the moment, much the same way that Veronica Carwright’s legit delivery during Alien‘s chestburster reveal helps lend it credence. I’m not recommending that JC’s act is going to wow everyone, but for my tastes, I really enjoyed it.
Much as I’d like to see a continuation of the Lambricks’ lethal luncheons, after 5 years I’m pretty sure we’re not getting a sequel. Then again, it was 41 years between Two-Thousand Maniacs and 2001 Maniacs, so as improbable as it is, nothing is impossible! Except that live-action Attack of the Super Monsters movie I keep bugging Senor Spielbergo to direct. That’s pretty impossible. Your lawyers can only protect you from my script for so long, Steven!
If a Would You Rather follow-up isn’t on the table, you know what should be? A board game and/or card game! See what I did there? Because of the table and the games that are played on tables? Yep. Anyway, if nothing else, WYR is screaming for a Kickstarter project to make such a thing happen!… wait, those may be the screams from my basement where I… left the TV on? Never mind!
That’s the tale of “When Anubis Watched Would You Rather”. It’s a nice solid step to start our journey through the next 100 episodes, which is sure to bring us sights, sounds, and stupid shit the likes of, well, what you generally expect from movies around here. You should give it a watch if you like seeing people suffer, you’re a fan of Pitch Perfect – Home Alone crossover fanfic, or you’re like me and worship at the alter of a JC whose hands you can really put your faith in. Combs be with you, brothers and sisters and everyone in-between.
Finally today, despite all of that Kylie Jenner commercial retardation, my stance as a proud Pepsi drinker was only reinforced recently, as it was revealed that President Nacho Cheez Dick Sneeze has a button in the oval office specifically for calling a butler to serve him his favorite beverage: Coca-Cola. Yep. Just imagine he and the rest of white trash Mount Rushmore (palin, nugent, and… uhm… “rock”) in a helicopter gunning down the hibernating Coca-Pola’ Bears this christmas. I think I just gave Hallmark their top-selling holiday offering in the southern and midwestern US markets for 2017!
IFC Films – Buying back the indie cred our channel lost by putting out movies that no one in your family has ever heard of!
“I don’t care what the commercial said, just because pizza’s on a bagel does NOT mean you can eat pizza anytime!”
Maybe Jason Chaffetz was right. Maybe if Raleigh hadn’t spent all of his allowance on that PSP, he could’ve afforded to pay for an anti-Leukemia health plan! You know, cuz all it takes to prevent Cancer is $100 in GameStop trade-in credit…
“That’s just Norman. Don’t mind him, he’s just feeding peanuts to his imaginary baby elephant again. He doesn’t bite. The elephant I’m not so sure of.”
Brittany Snow is disappointed to discover that plans for the ‘Nurse Jackie’ prequel series she’d audition for have been scrapped.
Looks like he just asked her out for a drink sometime and she replied with “I don’t date… uhm… jazz people.”
Spoiler for Trainspotting 2 – Spud and Sick Boy one made a co-donation at the local sperm bank, and their grown up son comes looking for his two dads!
Disappointed that her blind date isn’t as interested in her as he is in their waitress, Iris begins playing footsie with herself.
“Come on, Fluffy! Do your trick! Show everyone your talent! He eats his steak with a knife and fork. It’s so cute. Usually he does it, but he might be too excited with everyone else here. Fluffy! DO THE TRICK!”
“So then Bill Bixby says, ‘You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry’ and starts hulking out like this as he turns into Lou Ferrigno! Grrrr!”
Someone implied the group should say Grace before dinner, not realizing that Shepard is a militant atheist. Shortly after this he started throwing mashed potatoes at them, screaming “Where’s your god now?!” and everyone agreed that Thanksgiving was ruined yet again.
Peter McCallister is briefly concerned that he left son Kevin home alone again, only to remember that Kevin was beaten to death by the Wet Bandits and disposed of in a river 10 years ago.
Ever since discovering Primer, Terrance has been trying to create his own time machine. Just tell him how good it looks and how smart he is, then walk away.
That’s what happens when you’re sitting across from Sasha Grey at a table and ask her if she was “any good” during her adult film days. Like two golf balls being sucked through a garden hose…
When your host tells you they run their home under “Singapore Rules”, DON’T leave your gum under the dinner table!
My grandma gives me the same look every time I try to explain how to access the on-screen guide via her cable remote. Hopefully no one tells her about DVR or I may just push her down her basement stairs.
People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes,something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can’t rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.
You know you had a hellish night out when you shower the morning after, look down, start seeing red randomly circling the drain and have no idea where it’s coming from.
Anubis will return next time in
“Dicks Don’t Get Wet”
Featuring: Michael “The Video Dead” St. Michaels , Sky “Don Verdean” Elobar , Elizabeth “‘Eastbound & Down’” De Razzo
Director: Jim “ABCs of Death” Hosking
Writers: Toby “ABCs of Death” Harvard & Jim “ABCs of Death” Hosking
As I sit here, eating room temperature Dollar Embargo brand clam chowder hobo style (well, my spoon is plastic rather than metal, so “sub-hobo style” then), the looming presence of the anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre reminds me of lost loves. In this case, my most recent (and likely final) failed foray into matters of the heart dropkicks her way to the forefront of my fractured psyche. We fell for each other hard and fast. After the first week she was deep into “I’ve never known anyone like you. I need you like oxygen” territory and we were exchanging ‘L’ words. Hers was “lederhosen” and mine was “lemon curry”. But, only five weeks after that vindictive little pervert Cupid nailed us with a heart-shaped nuke, we were overcome by the fallout. She broke up with me because her other boyfriend “accidentally” impregnated her, so she needed to focus on making an impromptu family with him and his other girlfriend, whom other boyfriend wanted her to “convince” that the best thing for them would be to join together as a trio. But we’ve all been there before, right? “Tale as old as time” and all that.
Anyway, rather than linger any longer on the “loved and lost” debate in the face of this Hallmark hollowday, I’ve instead paired up with my cinemasochist brother from the Hawkeye State (in that it’s the state with the lamest super power and nobody likes it?) to play a round of bad movie Russian roulette! From his secret list of six flicks (five farts and one favorite), random.org chose for me The Greasy Strangler.
Well, it could’ve been worse. I was one chamber away from the bullet of malaise known as Atlas Shrugged. Uggh. Ayn Rand is spending the rest of eternity getting her blood drained by razortooth leeches hanging on every inch of her body for writing that bullshit. Every inch. Anyway, let’s get greasy, disco people!
Oh, and if you’re anything like me (in which case, my sympathies) and were hoping this would be a US remake of The Oily Maniac, I fear that itch will have to remain unscratched…for now.
In keeping with the spirit of the holiday (or its symbolism if nothing else), today’s movie is about love. The love between a cheesy old cornball and a hootie tootie disco cutie. The love between a single parent and their child. The love between an aging disco historian and the music that shaped his life. The love between a pig-nosed weirdo and his rented shoes. The love between a man-beast and his penchant for strangling people…while drenched in grease. The Greasy Strangler is packed so tight with love, watching it will make you feel like you’re being crushed under a roomful of heart-shaped Whitman sampler boxes!
Damn. That was such a whopper of a metaphor. It was less a metaphor and more like a metaphive!
Shut up. You laughed. Liar.
Produced in part by hobbit-for-life Elijah Wood (who pulled similar duties on A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Cooties, in case you didn’t know), our tale takes place in Los Angeles. The City of Angels in the Outfield. The land of nasty redheads and bums on their knees that Randy Newman declared his passion for so, well, passionately. It’s here that tourists and everyday fans of walking tours can take part in Big Ronnie’s Disco Tour – a trudge through the down-trodden avenues and alleyways of abandoned buildings where the biggest names of the industry may or may not have done some things of interest. Just don’t inquire about the tour’s promise of free drinks, because you won’t like the result. Unless you tend to spend a lot of your lunch hours engaging in contradictory exchanges at the Argument Clinic, in which case inquire away!
The eponymous patriarch of the tour is geriatric retiree of the disco scene, Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels), who claims to have once had a backroom bang session with a pair of Korean twins and a certain celebrity whose name rhymes with Jichael Mackson. There was milky cum everywhere. And yes, before you ask in a distressed voice signifying your revulsion, that is an important detail I could not omit. Co-hosting the tour (in a matching uniform of pink shorts, pink sweater, gray knee-high socks and white sneakers) is Ronnie’s son Big Brayden (Sky Elobar), for whom the adjective “big” clearly wasn’t earned due to his personality. An awkward, balding, unkempt milksop of a human being, Brayden manages to catch the hungry eyes of an odd little lady named Janet (Elizabeth De Razzo) during one such tour. The pair fall fairly quickly for each other, testing the audiences’ gastrointestinal fortitude with a series of uncomfortable scenes of intimacy. You’ve been warned.
Ronnie doesn’t take the pairing well, frequently debasing his boy to others (mostly over Bray’s tendency to shit on seemingly everything) and inserting himself into the lovebirds’ interactions in an attempt to nip their budding romance in said bud. It’s never made clear if it’s because Ron sees Janet as a threat to the odd love-hate relationship he shares with Bray or if the old man’s just jealous that his hideous offspring is getting more action than his own hideous self has had since Bill Clinton was using Monica’s ham wallet as a humidor.
Note: I didn’t use the descriptive “ham” because of a thinly veiled referral to Miss Lewinsky having any perceive resemblance to a member of the porcine family. I used it because ham is both pink and greasy, much like a lady’s rude parts (as long as you’re doing it right, anyway), so please keep any and all aggressive projections of your personal assumptions of me to things that don’t wrongly accuse me of chauvinism. Even my less-than-friendly exes would laugh you out of the room over such accusations.
Speaking of pigs, the rest of this oddball ensemble is made up of Brayden’s pig-nosed (literally) pal Oinker (Joe David Walters, who looks like the result of a drunken night of genetic engineering between Jon Benjamin and Wallace Shawn), Ronnie’s longtime discotheque brother Big Paul (Gil Gex) who’s blind and runs an automated car wash, the wonderfully weird detective Jodie (who’s what I would expect Hunter S. Thompson to become after a few years in the Black Lodge) and a small selection of victims to serve as fodder for the titular wringer of necks. Speaking of, whom is this murderer with such a clear disregard for his own personal hygiene? From whence came this inhuman atrocity that stalks the streets while a coating of congealed Crisco conceals (not really) his visage from his victims? What evil lurks in the heart that beats beneath the monster’s slimy, sludgy, rancid raiments? Why does he take it upon himself to comedically maim and menace his victims in hyper-violent manners like a modern age Toxic Avenger? Shit! Now there’s a crossover I’d sacrifice a finger for! Anyway, as much as I’d like to address there queries for you, I’m afraid you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself!
But should you? Let’s discuss.
Greasy made me wonder if I’d blacked out at some point in my day and woke up during a very special episode of “Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories”. If Jared Hess directed a script co-authored by David Lynch and John Waters, this is a pretty solid approximation of what I imagine you’d get. There’s a hodgepodge of humor, humanity, horror and outright “What the fuck am I watching?!” we’re left to rifle through which will no doubt leave a lot of people put off or pissed off. Deep down in its bowels, it has a charm all its own for those who will enjoy it. However, at the same time it comes off as a deliberate endeavor to manufacture the next big midnight movie. The problem with such an undertaking is that movies aren’t made to be cult classics, they’re chosen. It’s comparable to issuing your own nickname or giving yourself a “World’s Greatest Tubthumper” mug: you just don’t do it!
Sound snobbish? Look at Plan 9 from Outer Space or The Room. Both are movies that were made with genuine efforts and affection, helmed by misguided gents who thought they were making masterpieces. These were movies that no one genuinely liked, they were only enjoyed ironically (something that used to be fun before hipsters ruined it for the rest of us) because they were so awful that they were amazing! If it’s something you and your amigos can vet by riffing the shit out of it like refugees from the Satellite of Love? If it’s the type of movie that qualifies for Deep 13 certification? That is how a cult movie is christened – with the waters of mockery. The Greasy Strangler? It’s unriffable. It’s a movie that wants you to make fun of it, but it’s too easy. There’s no challenge. It’s made to be bad, and that’s not good. It winks so much at the audience that you ask it 20 minutes in if it needs a hit off of your Visine®!
Making jokes at the expense of its visually jarring cast and their clothing that looks like it was fished from, not a Salvation Army, but the dumpster behind a Salvation Army, is tantamount to calling an obese person “fat” or an acne-riddled person “pizza face” or Hi-C Hitler “too mentally incapable to be trusted with chewing his own food, let alone being president”. It’s lazy. It’s the easy way out. It’s what the intended object of ridicule wants you to do so they can C.D. Bales your sorry ass in front of Daryl Hannah! It reminds of my least favorite RiffTrax – Birdemic; a movie so obviously made to be terrible that it’s barely worth making fun of. Lo and behold, the ‘Traxers themselves just released the writer-director-masochist’s latest repugnant rectal release through their own website! Maybe I’m just an asshole…no…I’m definitely an asshole. Nevertheless, count me out.
Where the hell was I driving this bus before taking a detour down Route “Ignore the Rambling Jackal-Headed Old Man”? Oh right, I was evaluating today’s feature. The direction and cinematography are unexpectedly…good. Going solely on its premise, I had prepared my peepers for a parade the likes of a herky-jerky Troma turkey. It happened to me when I first watched The Human Centipede and I was caught just as unawares here. Upon my mandatory second screening, I only enhanced my appreciation, so kudos to Mr. Hosking in that regard. The dialogue is heavily seasoned with quotable lines for fellow fiends to banter back and forth in verbal volleyball, most notably the running accusations between Ronnie and Brayden of each being a “bullshit artist”. I’d bet my collection of West Nile infected mosquitoes that those two words make up no less than 10% of the dialogue between them. I was okay with it (sometimes even entertained by it), but if you’re the type of person who’s not keen on scripts packed with premeditated quotables, prepare to be irked.
The premise of the movie loses steam right around the 50 minute mark (just about the point where the Strangler investigation picks up, strangely enough), but the introduction of the aforementioned Jodie to the proceedings was just the defibrillator that my dwindling interest needed to guide me the rest of the way to the credits and the end of the tunnel. One aspect that didn’t need a jolt in the jimmies for me was the soundtrack. We’re given a mish-mash of delightful tunes and noises that reminded me of the music you’d hear on off-brand NES cartridges half of the time, and just plain charming boondoggle tunes that you imagine a grown up Gene Belcher composing while ‘shrooming alone in his college dorm room on any given Friday night. My praise aside, I have no plans to pick up said soundtrack. I can’t enjoy it on its own, like I would with a Tarantino movie or TMNT II: the Secret of the Ooze. Greasy and its music exist in a symbiotic relationship from which neither can be removed, lest they both die on their own. If the Plover isn’t allowed to eat the crocodile’s scraps from its mouth, the Plover will starve and the crocodile will…get Gingivitis? I dunno. As Thoth once drunkenly slurred to me over a plate of seafood nachos at ChiChi’s, “Neither a zoologist nor a dentist be”.
As for the special effects, they’re solid. There are several instances of popped eyeballs that actually were quite impressive! My compliments to the digital effects team on that. Not so much for their “people being shot” bit, but even big money movies rarely manage to pull that one off without traditional squibs, so it’s not a big deal.
As much as I hate people using the term “revelation”, I’m going to endure some self-inflicted shame and say it now: Michael St. Michaels is a revelation. The best takeaway from The Greasy Strangler is Big Ronnie. Not just because of the lines he’s given, but the way this amazing man delivers them. His rantings remind me a bit of Raleigh Theodore Sakers’ soliloquies off of the Robbin’ the Hood album. Physically, MSM looks like a demented troll, which in and of itself contributes to the actor’s unique appeal, but the little vocal affects he applies to his words are fucking enchanting! He tells a dirty story with a silky growl of aplomb that puts a reading of Wordsworth’s Greatest Hits to shame. I don’t remember a damn thing about the man from his role in The Video Dead (which isn’t surprising since I remember almost nothing from it, having not seen it since high school), but by the bearded clam of Cleopatra did he make Big Ronnie his own. Sublime, you crazy old bastard. Sublime.
Oh yeah, speaking of genital manes, be prepared for a LOT of prosthetic peckers being prominently portrayed. And old man asses. Merkins too. Or, as I like to call them, “pubic zirconium”. So, if the sight of sagging white butt cheeks or weirdly shaped dicks ensconced in gnarled overgrowth gets your gross out gland activated, either skip this ride or bring your barf bag.
In closing, despite my apparent praise for the flick, I’m giving The Greasy Strangler a middling recommendation. A solitary viewing was enough for me, and the only real reason I would go back to it is to show it to others. Beyond that, I don’t really feel the need to sit through it again. Should you take this to heart and seek to experience the greasiness and strangling for yourself, allow this next piece of wisdom to guide you – as I told my Evil Dead Bride/Editor/Valentine while we watched it, don’t question anything in this movie because there are no answers. Trying to understand the gaping maw of chaos will only lead to an eternal void of madness for the mind.
With that, I bid you all adieu. Check out Ragnarok’s review for Oasis of the Dead by clicking this link right here (or the banner image up near the top), then be sure to get your cracks back here for our next episode. Till then, may all of your V-Days be endurable and your VDs be curable!
Hey! It’s the same house where the Lubbocks were murdered by that family of cannibals in the series finale of ”Just the Ten of Us’!
“And this door – where does it lead? Is anyone behind it? Maybe someone famous? Sadly, we’ll never know, as I lost the keys sometime ago and locksmiths are bullshit artists. Any questions? Keep in mind we’ve already explained that our outfits and entirely medical in nature and we won’t explain the matter further.”
Looking for an affordable actor to play an old woman, a van driving child abductor, or the Herman Stiles in your much-needed ‘Evening Shade’ reboot? Here’s your man!
And that, boys and girls, is why you don’t eat an entire bag of Sour Patch Kids in one mouthful.
“Check it out – my sweater matches this little breadstick! Speaking of little breadsticks, before we go any further with this date, I was wondering what your opinion on ‘sounding’ is…”
Despite his insistence that no one’s better at “the economy” than he, donald drumpf’s stimulus plan of flooding the market with his new “Trump Buck$” ultimately lead to a global depression.
Go behind the scenes with legendary actor Paul Giamatti as he prepares to star and direct in his next Emmy Award Winner-to-be this Sunday on ‘HBO First Look: Animal Farm’.
Alternate universe Andy Warhol celebrates his 105th birthday by reflecting on his fall into obscurity and rather boring post-celebrity life tomorrow night in an interview with Peabody Award winning journalist Chevy Chase on ’60 Minutes’.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know anyone named ‘Prince Albert’, nor anyone of regal birthright for that matter. Goodbye.”
Aw, poor guy just got his rejection letter from Disney about his script for Tron 3: the Dark Coder. I felt the same way when they refused my own scripts for Condorman Begins and The Black Cauldron Part 2 – Gurgi and the Cursed City of Gold .
Uh-oh, looks like Fido didn’t take to his new “All Vegan Tapioca and Creamed Corn Feast” canned food.
“Do you happen to have a pair of nail-clippers I could use? I lost mine in ’98 and just can’t bring myself to buy another pair, knowing that my old ones will just magically show up the moment I do. I would feel like such an idiot.”
Curly Sue’s later years weren’t really much to talk about. She tried to get a reality show off the ground, but after 75 different stations turned down the pilot, she gave up. She works as a Time-Life operator in Branson Missouri now.
Upset that the government is too busy concerning themselves with the Mexico border to address the true source of dangerous illegal immigrants, the Sons of North Dakota militia group take it upon themselves to protect their border from nefarious northerners… of which they’ve seen none.
Anubis will return next time in
“The Man Who Laughs (and Kills)”
Featuring: Georgia “Vampire Biker Babes” Chris , Joe “Experiment 7” Davison , Jack “Experiment 7” Amos
Director: Marcus “Rot” Koch
Writer: Joe “Experiment 7” Davison
You know what I hate? Ironing. You know what else I hate? Irony. Not all irony, just the kind that inconveniences me personally. Like when I’m taking bottles back to the store and their machine, which accepts brands sold exclusively by other stores, will NOT accept drink bottles of their own fucking in-house brands! Slanderman’s Amerika just started and already shit’s going to Hel in a knock-off Louis Vuitton. SAD.
I wish I could indulge in the blissful levels of cognitive dissonance that Cheeto Chiang Kai-shek’s supporters must live in to not only vote the fuck face into office, but continue to sing his praises after the litany of idiocy he continues to vomit from his ass day in and day out. Oh well, ignorance is bliss so I’ll forever be a pessimist. And pissed. And impossible to resist. But not a pacifist. Nor a partaker of the Eucharist. I prefer my flesh and blood consumption to be legitimate and not just some weak cheese metaphor for sipping wine and eating salt-free crackers. Speaking of flesh and blood, let’s review 100 Tears!
The heroes of our picture are Mark Webb (Joe Davidson) and Jen Stevenson (Georgia Chris). The duo are co-writers of made-up articles (you know, ones about “alternative facts”) for a grocery store checkout line tabloid rag called The Midnight Star. This may or may not be a reference to the newspaper Weird Al sang about in the track of the same name, but either way I’d like to clutch my heightened nerd awareness and continue with that line of thinking. It’s assuredly not to be confused with the band Midnight Star, who taught us all the dangers of parking on the dance floor. Thank you for your service, gentlemen. We salute you.
Unable to decide between the raising of the Titanic or the further adventures of Reptile Boy, the pair put their paying job on the back burner for a few days and turn their focus instead on trying to be real reporters by cracking the case of the infamous Teardrop Killer. According to the info provided to her by Jen’s sister in the FBI, Teardrop has iced in excess of 160 people up and down the East Coast over the course of the last 2 decades. Their only info about the monster? He leaves a bloody teardrop smeared at the scenes, hence the name… and that’s all they know?! A maniac violently dismembers people in the triple digits for TWENTY YEARS and all the fucking FBI have come up with is a sugar-free gum equivalent codename for him?! Herbert Hoover must be rolling in his muumuu and high heels!
As “only in the movies” luck would have it, that very night said slayer takes it upon himself to maul, maim and dismember an entire halfway house of fresh victims! What do we know that the FBI doesn’t? The killer is a big & tall guy dressed like a clown who wields a giant meat cleaver that he may have stumbled across in an abandoned slaughterhouse while looking for a place to get in out of the rain and slip in a quick gherkin jerkin’. After the facial devastation of an unfortunate gent in the basement, this Walter Paisley art expedition’s second project is a presumed ex-military dude (unless his dog tags are from Hot Topic and have pictures of Shrek on them) whose best haymakers don’t even faze the grease-painted assailant! Maybe G.I. Joey here got a dishonorable discharge because he throws punches like a Keebler elf? Gung-Ho he’s not.
(Bet you didn’t know the US Military subliminally advertised to gay children in the ’80s.)
The evisceration of a half-dozen people not withstanding, I have some quick thoughts about this killing spree. First, human anatomy. Did you know that you can kill a man instantly by jamming a meat clever into his taint? One whack and two seconds later you’ve got yourself a fresh carcass. It’s true! Speaking of truth, despite being told since childhood that seppuku resulted in literal hours of agony before the participant would finally give up the ghost (I had a good childhood), it turns out that was a lie. As one young female victim shows us, slicing someone’s stomach open also warrants an immediate need for a body bag. All the death without the wait! Additionally, despite what movies like American History X would lead us to believe, the human skull is not nearly as strong as you might think. As our killer clown demonstrates for us, a single stomp from a man’s foot (at least one encased in a comically oversized novelty shoe) causes an adult woman’s head to burst like a balloon full of crimson Karo syrup. No brains, no skull fragments, just a splatter of red goo. Slim Goodbody lied to us all! No wonder he always hid his head under that afro!
As for the halfway house itself, the kitchen seemingly double as a laundry room given the washing machines and coin-op detergent vendor stuffed in the corner. I can’t imagine that’s up to snuff per local health codes, given the risk of cross contamination between the food and shit like laundry soap and whatever microbial eldritch horrors might be living in the occupants’ bedsheets, towels and *dry heave* their skivvies… BLART! Additionally, what kind of halfway house has a big sign on its front door broadcasting that there’s an ATM on the premises? Aren’t those usually saved for corner shops and liquor stores? Unless of course it’s advertising the presence of a prostitute on the premises who offers ass-to-mouth. Yeah, that’s probably it.
Come morning, after Jen wakes up atop Mark (in their shared futon, because they’re also roommates and I guess they don’t have their own bedrooms?) and they have more wacky “fat guy and hot girl” sexual tension (including her offering to fuck him in the shower if he can do 100 sit-ups, followed by his farting in her face as he stands over her) before a hot tip about last night’s bloodbath prompts them to rush to the scene of the crime. They bribe a detective associate of theirs (Rod Grant) to let them take pics of the slaughter before the clean up crews come in to scrub the gore. Finding a terrified girl in hiding, our heroes rightly chastise the cops for not finding her themselves during their own sweep of the premises and learn from the lass that the killer in question was dressed like a clown. So, having been on the case of the Teardrop Killer for all of 15 hours, the pair have already learned more about the mofo than the FBI has in twenty years? Crow T. Robot.
J & M also learn from the attending pig that two other residents of the house are unaccounted for, prompting us to an as-yet-undetermined locale where Bloodthirsty Bozo is revealed to have nabbed the missing couple and taken them home to finish off like human doggy bags. But why? You’ve gotta imagine it’d be more effort than it’s worth to drag two live people across town just so you can kill them there shortly after. Why give yourself additional work to do disposing of them on top of getting them there rather than just adding them to the rest of the mutilated bodycount at the scene of the crime?! How has this putz successfully evaded the feds for this fucking long doing dipshit stuff like this?!
Following up on the clown gimmick, our intrepid off-brand Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson seek a lead at a nearby carnival, interviewing a foul-mouthed old bartender (whose shouting voice sounds oddly like Super Dave Osborne) named Ed (Jerry Allen) and a bite-size circus barker porn mag enthusiast named Draga (Norberto Santiago). Though both peg the pair as cops at first, once our protags ID themselves as tabloid writers hunting a lead the carnies are more than happy to accommodate. Right around here is when we focus our attention elsewhere in the neighborhood and are introduced to Christine (Raine Brown) – a thrift store Harley Quinn who professes an affinity for clowns and a violent dislike for those pesky “normies”, which is a term that Norm Petersen fanboys call themselves. Didn’t know such people existed? Sure they do! They converge for their own convention in Boston once a year, where they cosplay as the iconic alcoholic and occupy the stools of the local drinking establishments for a weekend long bar crawl, nursing beers and shouting “NORM!” every time one of them comes through the front door. No, seriously! Google it!
Oh, and since George Wendt almost never comes up in casual conversation, I’d like to take this chance to tell everyone that he played Dean Halsey in a production of Re-Animator: the Musical that The Evil Dead Bride and I attended some years ago when we still lived in the teeming, heaving mass of bodies and filth you call New York City. He was…okay. True story!
Christine will have a more important role in our tale later on, but for her first few scenes we just kinda watch her get dressed up, go to a bar, pick up some random perm-haired nerd who she convinces to go down on her in an alley (not even with an immunity to STDs and all of my taste buds burned off would I do such a thing to someone I’d just met in a bar) before slitting the chump’s throat and leaving him for a wino to stumble upon later while, she goes home to carve emo etchings on her abdomen for further jollies. Despite this portrayal, keep in mind that the majority of self-cutters aren’t interested in hurting others, just themselves. So if you should see someone with scars on their arms/legs/whatever, fear for them more so than for yourself. Anyway, yeah, now our movie has two killers. When they inevitably meet in the second or third act, do you think they’ll have a team-up or a face-off? Before we answer that…
While Mr. Webb and Miss Stevenson follow up on some other potential leads, Drags is confronted by the obese mirth murderer who threatens short legs’ tiny life until he trades Clowny his continued existence for a piece of paper containing the address of a woman named Tracy. When our would-be Woodward and Bernstein come back to check on half-pint, he spills the garbanzos on all the circustral shenanigans and gore-soaked goings-on. Roll that beautiful bean footage!
The clown’s name is Gurdy (not a great clown name…too close to “Turdy”) and he used to work with Draga at the same circus 20 or so years ago. At the time, two teenage girls named Roxie and Tracy ran away from home and joined said three ring mobile home as carnie groupies. Some ladies just love tiny hands and the overwhelming stench of month old boiled cabbage. I don’t get it either, but every relationship I’m in has to be inter-species, so I don’t judge what gets the blood flowing to your genitalia. Anyway, Roxie shacked up with sideshow strongman Ralphio, while Tracy indulged her fetish for balloon sex toys by sharing sheets with the Gurdler. Turned out that Roxie, despite getting the less nightmare inducing of the potential suitors, was still a cockblocking cunt that didn’t want Tracy being happy too. So, while Trace was getting her womb seltzered, Rox told ‘Phio that Gurds was actually raping her. You know what’s the only thing that makes the idea of being sexed by a clown worse? Being sexed by a clown against your will. The sound of his horn honking as it’s repeatedly mashed between your bodies…
Uggh, I just threw up. Not a little either. It looks like someone just dumped a gallon of Dollar Embargo vegetable soup and a sleeve of mashed up Saltines on my couch. Who wants to take bets on how long I can keep typing through the smell?
A social justice warrior for his time (not a bad thing, despite what tiny penised douche boys would tell you), Ralph didn’t take Roxie’s declaration well and laid a wall-to-wall walloping on Gurdy, stomping his ass like it was flaming bag of dogshit. And just like stomping said immolated brown paper IED, the strongman instantly regrets his actions, because Big Top Shakes responded by strangling Rox and jamming a tent stake through the back of big boy’s brain case. Citing the landmark case of Eye v. Eye, the rest of the circus folk “dealt with Gurdy for good” in a way whose specifics are never explained. Unless Gurds is a literal ghoul (which might explain why he doesn’t talk), I’m presuming “dealing with him” didn’t include killing him, as you might expect. Whatever the case, the painted madman has been cutting throats and gutting folks, following his old place of employment up and down the East Coast ever since. Draga says you could always “feel his presence” at the circus despite having never seen Gurdy in person since the incident. So, now big murderous old Gurdy has finally found Tracy, who he’s been searching for all this time…while slaughtering people for…no…real…reason.
I know it wasn’t easy to find caulrophiles back in the ’80s, but if someone had just shown Gurdy OkCupid or Craigslist or JuggaLove, he could’ve given up his desperate quest to find Tracy and a whole lot of nameless extras would still be alive today.
Speaking of dead extras, while all this has been playing out, Gurdles has been adding a whole lotta notches to the handle of his giant guillotine blade with a handle. His current crash pad is the basement of a local warehouse, and when the place’s realtor stops by with a pair of potential tenants, all three are turned into stew meat for a cannibal potluck. Not exactly smart given that the realtor’s secretary knows where the guy was when last he spoke to her, so when neither he nor the two other guys he took with him return, that’s an easy call to the police to send someone by to check the property out. She doesn’t and they don’t though, but a rent-a-cop instead finds the bloody remnants of the guy in his SUV later that night, which Gurdy just LEFT OUT IN FRONT OF THE WAREHOUSE. Again, HOW THE FUCK DID THIS GUY LEAVE THE FBI CHASING ITS OWN FUCKING TAIL FOR TWENTY YEARS?!
Gurdy’s decades long search for his lost love is all for naught though, as he finds her on the floor of her home with her throat slit! Who could’ve done such a thing? Yep, you guessed it, Christine is Tracy’s daughter and she just killed dear old mom. Rather than hanging the girl by her own intestinal tract for killing the woman he’s spent half a lifetime hunting, Gurd kidnaps Chris (seems she’s only good at killing people who don’t expect it), takes her back to his wretched basement apartment and reveals to her what we’ve all been expecting this whole time – she’s his daughter. Contrived as it is, it’s much better than the other possible outcome, which would’ve been Christine being his new groupie. Not only would that have likely resulted in an ipecac of a sex scene, but it also would’ve made zero fucking sense that a random civilian thrill killer would have known about Gurdy and been able to track him down when, again, the FBI (Fucking Bunch of Idiots) are all too busy giving themselves first-person colonoscopies.
Despite the initial horror of a big psycho clown materializing in her home mere moments after giving her own mom a botched second-chinectomy, Christine seems pretty nonplussed by her poppa’s sudden appearance. She also doesn’t seem all that confused as to why he’s a mute, nor does she question the validity of his claim, and instead just accepts the whole thing as legit. The pair have an instantaneous connection and waste no time getting to the daddy-daughter bonding stuff either, when a gaggle of convenient twenty-somethings out to rave the night away pick the absolute wrong seemingly abandoned warehouse to pass their tress…tress their pass? Whatever, Officer Leroy! (Sifl & Olly joke, so don’t feel bad if that one lost ya) Brandishing the massive slice n’ dicer and a sledgehammer between them, Gurds and Whey make quick work of the kids in their typical gory fashion. Naturally the prey are all too terrified to stop and realize they outnumber their attackers 5-to-1, or that Tweedledaughter shouldn’t be too hard to disarm while awkwardly wielding that big clumsy hammer around, but this world is generally populated by the kind of morons that always come to mind when you ponder just how the “so-and-so wouldn’t know the difference between their asshole and a hole in the ground” witticism gained so much traction.
In our flick’s big finale, Matt & Jen are clued in to the locale of our killers by FBI sister (based on the guard’s SUV discovery the night before) so they head out to investigate before the place is taken over by feds. On the way, they call in their local police squad pals (one of which just wants to bone Jen, not that I blame him) so they won’t be without some form of backup. Rather than wait for the 2 guys with the guns to show up (and it is just the two, since neither apparently thought it a good idea to call in the rest of the pig parade precinct to take down a SERIAL KILLER RESPONSIBLE FOR 200 OR SO MURDERS), our intrepid investigators search the basement of sins (that appears to be lit by some battery powered stick-up lights and a blacklight from Spencer’s Gifts) and end up face-to-painted face with Gurdy. A struggle ensues and Matt shows us that he’s never fired a gun in his life, shooting off a few rounds without so much as a scratch. All the sadder because Gurdy’s of sizable carriage. Have I mentioned that? That he’s fat? I did? How about old? Did I mention that he’s also old? I did. Okay. Just making sure.
Discount bin Crockett and Tubbs show up soon after, but in the interest of expediting these final 15 minutes, let’s leave it at this – the daddy-daughter duo are too much for the quartet. Despite the movie’s earlier exchange of the ex-military dude punching Evil Binky repeatedly in the face to no effect, Mike socks the lummox once in the mouth and fatty’s left reeling like friggin’ Glass Joe. His Tyson-like punches (less the boxer and more the frozen chicken products) notwithstanding, the illegitimate son of Louis C.K. ultimately takes a bullet in the mouth and sheds his mortal coil. The white cop gets his throat slit by Christine (who pretends to be poppa’s prisoner), the black cop (Kibwe Dorsey) gets his head lopped off by the novelty sized butchering implement, and Jen gets slashed up by Chris’ razor blade, has her spine tenderized twice via sledgehammer and finally has her face smashed into the floor multiple times before being left for dead…which she clearly isn’t, as her eyes are wide open and she’s still breathing and writhing around. Rookie mistake on daddy’s little monster’s part. Speaking of, Chris shoots her father in the head (cuz bitches be cray-cray, y’all!) before leaving the scene of the crime. She ends the flick Bill Bixbying down an empty backroad before bursting into 100 Tears‘ final splatter of hemoglobin when she’s street pizza-ed by…Jen. Do Greek women have adamantium skeletons by nature? I mean, even if she didn’t endure multiple concussions from having her face repeatedly bounced off of concrete, I’m pretty sure those SLEDGEHAMMER SHOTS DIRECTLY TO HER SPINE should’ve turned her into b-horror Ironside!
But, you know, movies. What are ya gonna do?
And that’s our movie. It’s truly an HG Lewis flick for the modern age (besides 2001 Maniacs, Blood Feast 2 and so forth). Not because it’s in any way revolutionary or controversial, just because its only real selling point is its graphic violence! It’s a gore whore’s goregasmic delight to behold. The red stuff and chunky inner bits are so prevalent that the movie was given an NC-17 rating for “extreme horror violence”. A badge of honor I’m sure those behind it are proud to display! As they should be. Said splatter showcase is one of the finest (if absurdest) bloodbaths to hit my screen since the last time I watched Evil Dead 2, which any fan of cinematic viscera will recognize as high praise. Give me practical effects for the win, Peter Marshall!
In contrast, 100 Tears‘ story is the whitest of white breads in terms of slasher fare. Think Wonder Bread dipped in a jar of Miracle Whip and fed to an albino polar bear. Whiter than the sheets the republican party wear on their weekend “retreats”. A man and a woman track down a serial killer with a gimmick? Meh. His gimmick is that he’s a clown? And he’s hunting down a figure from his past? Meh again. His murder weapon of choice is a massive meat cleaver? Okay, it’s not just another machete or power tool, so that’s fine. Sadly, making matters worse, this shoestring plot’s got more holes in it than the dozens of apple pies in Jason Biggs’ linen closet. When you’re telling us that the FBI have near-zero info on a serial killer responsible for the deaths of more than 160 people over a twenty year stretch, all of which just happened to be done along the coastal route of the same traveling circus every year over that period, it’s mentally comparable to getting a fucking sliver! It just sits there, stinging and infuriating me more and more as I gnaw at it unsuccessfully in impotent frustration.
Don’t read anything more into that last part, either! Those pills I ordered from Canada are for my liver and nothing else!
On top of that, we only ever get to see Gurdles either in full clown regalia or in the final stages of applying his makeup. Given as such, he must spend time without the greasepaint on if he has to paint himself up again. He has to have more duds in his wardrobe than just his work clothes too, otherwise that shit would’ve been reduced to tatters, cuffs and a collar after twenty years of constant usage! One would have to presume that Gurdy has a secret identity, right? A persona under which you would image he does odd jobs or something to contribute to his basic nutritional needs and travel budget? Or has he just been dumpster diving half-eaten corn dogs from the carnival’s midway trash cans, hence his constant “presence” since his disappearance that Draga refers to? And mayhaps he was just really good at hiding amid the trucks and trailers so no one ever caught him hitching a ride every time they pulled up stakes and moved on? If the devil is in the details, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this flick to any Satan worshipers…
Of which Satanists are not included, so stop being so egocentric with your ignorance to the workings of religions that aren’t your own.
The cast is every bit as amateurish as you’d expect from a homemade horror movie, with writer-star Joe Davison playing comedy relief and giving himself the best lines of the script. At least he delivers them better than I imagine most writers probably would. Georgia Chris and Raine Browne were okay. If nothing else, Raine wasn’t nearly as bad in her pseudo-Harley Quinn role as Margot Robbie was in her actual Harley Quinn role, so…there’s that. I guess. Santiago, sadly enough, seems to have been cast simply for his stature rather than his acting talent. The guy staggers over his lines as if he were a first timer, of which I’m relatively assured he was. If you told me he had even a week of acting classes, or Hel, even some high school drama club experience, I’d probably slap your mother for raising such a foul liar.
As for Amos’ portrayal of Gurdy? For starters, he didn’t have a single line to utter, so he’s off the hook there. His physical stuff was good though. His imposing size and massive cleaver did a lot of the work for him, but his use of the classic movie-killer head tilt was well done. On the downside, the way he’d fling Ol’ Chopper (my name for his cleaver) over his shoulder with a heavy cockiness to his mannerisms and a sneer on his lips just came off as silly bullshit. I’d ask for some leeway when it comes to the cast though, as I’m guessing that a number of these scenes were made under the Roger Corman “one and done” method, because if there were multiple takes and these were the best performances they opted to keep, that’s going to keep me up at night.
So goes today’s feature, 100 Tears. Come for the gory clown violence, stay for…more gory clown violence. If fake blood drenching the screen ain’t your thing, don’t bother tracking this one down, as that’s about all it has to offer. Can’t say a lot for Koch’s directing (especially the lack of fucking lighting in the last 15 minutes), but his special effects are worthy of a girthy upward pointing thumb! Good to see that’s where he’s spent most of his 20 year career.
Before we go, I’ve got one final bone to pick. During Draga’s first scene, things get jarringly goofy when Matt and Jen resort to chasing him on foot through a lightly wooded area. Fat guy awkwardly running after a midget? You betcha.
“Get in mah belly!”
It’s not the chase itself from which said bone protrudes however, but rather the accompanying music that gave me cause to pause. Why? Because it steals the opening to Gogol Bordello’s “I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again”, the 2nd track off of their 2005 album Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike! I only say “stolen” because there’s no credit accredited said band anywhere in the credits. In other words, well, it’s stolen. So here I am, making sure the lads from the Lower East Side get as much recognition for their work as, well, posting it here will give them.
You don’t wanna know where that finger’s been. Clowns are disgusting creatures by nature.
“You’re putting too much effort into the jokes actually being funny. We’re writing a sitcom about a fat guy (me) married to an attractive wife (you). Whether it’s funny or not, there’s no way one of the major networks won’t give us a 2 season deal!”
She thinks she’s on hold with the Suicide Prevention Hotline, but it’s actually one of those morning radio show prank calls.
“Heh heh. Just look at that bisection job! Damn, I’m good. Look out world, Gurdy’s coming for ya!”
If “The Truck Stop Massacre” isn’t already in production at Troma, I’ll be disappointed.
Portrait of a man who will never have sex with his hot female friend. Been there, done that, walked out of the sequel.
“Of course I’m a detective! Just look at my long coat, my taint-length tie and my dress shirt tucked into my high-waisted pants!”
Ladies, no matter how sexy it makes you feel, this is why you never go out in a skirt or dress without underwear. You never know when Aunt Flo is gonna make an unwanted visit.
“Alright, baby. Now I’m gonna show you how a real man… FUCK! YOU TOLD ME YOU’D ALREADY HAD THE SURGERY! GROSS!”
I hear they sold their original SCAT ride to a wealthy German Count.
I see somebody turned my worst Porta John experience into a logo. How fun.
“Sure, the internet may be filled with every kind of porn you can imagine, but you just can’t beat the feeling of a crinkled magazine between your fingers during ‘foreplay’. I guess I’m just a romantic!”
He’s the writer, the male lead AND he does his own stunts! Watch out Hollywood, because Joe Davison is a genuine triple threat!
“21 across – ’45th president of the United States’; 5 letters; begins with ‘P’. Any idea?”
And this, children, is why you never eat an entire package of Gushers fruit snacks at once.
“Try not to blow any of your lines on this take. We need to finish shooting this scene before the Olive Garden employees realize what we’re doing in here.”
On the drive home following Burning Man, Lisa realized that she had a lot of life choices to make that she just couldn’t put off anymore. She’d probably never be able to forget the things she saw that fateful weekend, but she preyed that somehow, somewhere down the line, she would one day be freed of those demons and learn to be human again.
Anubis will return next time in
“The Murderous Misadventures of the Crisco Kid”
Featuring: Reggie “Phantasm” Bannister , A. Michael “Phantasm” Baldwin , Bill “Phantasm” Thornbury & Angus “Phantasm” Scrimm in his final role
Director: David “Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too” Hartman
Writers: Don “Phantasm” Coscarelli & David “Channel 101” Hartman
Sequel to: Phantasm ; Phantasm II ; Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead ; Phantasm: OblIVion
You know those moments when you get your hype up so high that you’re oozing pre-hype, only to have the source of your oozing not just deny you said hype, but hit you in your hype zone with a hammer? Well, join the club. Uggh. Ra5ager is another one of those “I wanted to post this for Halloween, but had to hold off until November (I’m sorry, “NoVember”) because it’s too big a turkey to pardon” movies, like the Rocky Horror re-branding. Unlike the aforementioned botched effort to appeal to Willennials (what with their “gettin’ jiggy” and “big Willie” style), this irredeemable tank of cinematic septic sludge doesn’t even get the excuse of being a network exec’s cash-in fantasy.
Phantasm. Wow. In 1979, writer-director Don Coscarelli unleashed a new flavor in the field of fear when he introduced us to an old man and his balls. Now, in an Adam Sandler movie, that last bit would ravage the mind with horrifying images of a grandpa getting his testicles caught in his zipper, but in the world of Phantasm it’s horrifying for a whole different reason. When Angus Scrimm debuted as the now iconic Tall Man, a generation of horror fans pissed their collective pants. Five years before Freddy was giving teens fear-for-their-lives insomnia, this mammoth mortician was stalking his victims’ nightmares when he wasn’t prowling his mortuary workshop. Unlike other fear mongers, who would inject their terror through masks, He of Above Average Height relied on his everyday “twisted old man” visage, piercing stare and growling, bowel loosening voice to paralyze his enemies. And once they were paralyzed? That’s when he’d whip out his balls.
Said bloodthirsty spheres of steel became some of the most recognized death dealing utensils in horror. Flying through the air, they would chase down their victims, cutting them with their blades, boring into their skulls with power drill extensions, exploding through them at terminal velocities and even scorching them with death rays in later instances. So cool were these airborne murder toys that Anchor Bay release a Region 2 special edition DVD set of the first four flicks, contained in a big plastic replica ball case. My Evil Dead Bride begifted this little pocket universe of fantastic to me. Not only does this make me better than you, but it makes Her better than your significant other. Weep.
In addition to his vile volley of chrome cohorts, this tall glass of terror water (or “Flynt refreshment” as such libation would be known now) had under his wingspan a small army of small monsters. This cadre of diminutive demons were basically zombies that had been shrunken down in a giant food dehydrator then dressed up in robes. Basically Jerky Jawas. Despite the obvious opportunity for endless dwarf tossing jokes, the little beasties were always a source of hideous scares.
Over the course of the previous quartet of movies, Tally antagonized brothers Mike (Baldwin) and Jody (Thornbury) along with their guitar playing ice cream man amigo Reggie (Bannister) until 1998’s OblIVion, which ended on… a weird, Möbius strip type of endless looping…thing.
Though putting the series to bed on that note could’ve been acceptable (though confusing), after 37 years since its initial release we’re finally given the finale to the Phantasm legacy.
If you want a more detailed rundown of the individual movies and the labyrinth that is their cumulative narratives, don't look at me. I'm not Edward James Olmos and this isn't Stand and Deliver. Get your ass to
Mars Google! When you get back, we’ll talk about RaVager, which lives up to its nomenclature by doing just that to its lineage. See ya in 2 and 2, Chuck Woolery!
…[Pause for station identification]…
Groovy? Groovy. Let’s get this over with.
Originally conceived in 2008 as a web-only gaiden (aka an internet side-series) that would follow the further adventures of hair-curtain hero Reggie, this concept (and footage) was integrated into Coscarelli’s pre-existing RaVager plot plans circa the turn of the millennium regarding a final battle between our heroes and their nemesis amid the post-Apocalyptic ruins of a disease ravaged (*nudge*nudge*) Earth in which The Tall Man reigned over the crumbling remnants of humanity. I remember Bruce Campbell being included in these original plans, and was sad to eventually learn that he was no longer connected with the project. He would go on to make some magic with Mr. C in Bubba-Ho-Tep, but that’s another tale for another episode.
I’m not 100% on the extent of Dadtasm’s involvement during the final countdown to his brain child’s demise, but I do know that he passed the creative torch on to David Hartman to finish what he himself had started. Why? Well, my hypothesis is thus: Coscarelli was unwinding one day, watching Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too , when the radiation from a passing meteor bestowed temporary sentience and telekinesis upon a frying pan in his kitchen, providing the cookware with the momentary ability to throw itself at the back of his head, exacting revenge upon its owner for the many times he washed the poor thing with unforgiving Brill-O pads rather then letting it soak in soapy water first, then applying a soft sponge to remove the now loosened debris. Following said cortex rattling collision, Coscarelli returned to consciousness to see Hartman’s name on his TV screen. Feeling this to be a sign, he immediately got in touch with the man, ceding the reins to his purebred metaphorical horse and carrying out the prophecy laid before him.
But I’ve always had an “active imagination”. My parole officer’s been saying that ever since I was 15!
Whatever the case, RaVager returns the washed-up vendor of frozen treats Reggie to us after his altercation with Tally (pronounced like “Tall-E”) at the finale of OblIVion. Emerging in the middle of a desert wasteland with his vaunted double-double barrel shotgun, he discovers his beloved phallic compensater (and series mainstay), the jet black Plymouth Barracuda, not where he left it. Beginning his long self-narrated march down a barren highway in search of the nearest civilization (preferably prior to his death by dehydration), what should he come across, but that very same hot rod, now driven by its new owner (as per the “Finders Keepers” law), an even dumpier and less attractive loser than himself! There’s no explanation as to why the humanoid lung oyster would return to the scene of the crime, how he managed to find the ‘Cuda in the first place, or why he’d stop to pick up a thumb jockey in the middle of nowhere (clearly he’s never seen The Hitcher or heard ANY urban legend EVER), but whatever the reasons, the exchange ends with Reggie recovering his beloved whip and fat boy ending up in the middle of nowhere with nothing but his European-cut man briefs and a big silver sphere drilling into his face. Yep, as the poster for Phantasm II so joyfully declared “The Ball is Back!”
I love that movie. Oh Phantasm V, why can’t you be more like Phantasm II? D’oh.
Where the movie goes from here is, well, the very definition of a clusterfuck. Reggie jumps back and forth between scenarios where he’s driving across country in the “Ooooooo, Barra-Barracuuuuuda!” and being pursued by the occasional ball attack, suffering from dementia in a nursing home where he shares a room with a certain white-haired old man while being visited by Mike and Jody, or battling TM and his army of re-animated soldiers in a bloody red tinted “post-Skynet” world where he joins a group of revolutionaries that includes Mike, a woman named Jane (Dawn Cody) that Reg knows as “Dawn” in one of the other planes, and a pint-sized action hero named Chunk (Stephen Jutras) who’s your typical “I may not be tall enough to get on most carnival rides, but I can single-handed murder a dozen people with a knife!” breed of elite fighting dwarf that movies give us to up their action figure sales.
Though some viewers determined that these reality jumps are just Reggie having bizarre nightmares, in one of their nursing home scenes Mike tells Reggie about Membrane Theory (a.k.a. “M-theory”). Or at least boils it down into a small enough serving to make it edible for both Reg and we laymen in the audience. It’s basically a unifying concept that melds variances of superstring theory together to put out the possibility that our universe is just one of potentially thousands, and these other realities/dimensions are all bundled on top of each other in such a way that energy can pass between the weakened spots where their borders intersect. How does this apply to the movie? It’s never spelled out in big letters for us, but the presumption is that Reggie’s mind or “soul” (or whatever you want to refer to his consciousness as) plays illegal alien and passes between several of these dimensions, inhabiting alternate reality versions of himself (NONE of which have hair and ALL of which saw their careers apex behind the wheel of an ice cream truck) that spend their time fighting the Tall Man, running from him, or just rotting away in a hospital bed.
That’s about the extent to which I’m going to get into the story. Rather than settle on a single plot and map out the trip from point A to point B, we got this multi-reality excuse shoehorned in so Hartman didn’t need to settle on a single story. Even with said safety net setup below him, Hartman still churns out one majorly confused and overly complicated rigmarole of a fable. It’s the proverbial octopus trying to fingerbang a wood block – too many scenarios and nowhere to put ’em. What do you mean you’ve never heard of that proverb? There will be no free rides, no excuses. You already have two strikes against you: your name and your complexion. Because of those two strikes, there are some people in this world who will assume that you know less than you do. “The octopus trying to fingerbang a wood block” is the great equalizer!
Best of luck figuring that one out. Here’s a hint: it’s a callback to earlier in the review. 😉
I’d tell writer Hartman not to quit his day job, but since director Hartman is his day job, I’m going to request he quit both and do something for the betterment of humanity. Like drownee in a charity carnival dunk tank or jizz mopper at the local glory hole.
And what of our cast? Well, Reggie’s still the star of the show. Though his action hero stuff will never be believable, he’s still the best actor of the group. It makes sense why he became the series’s everyman comic relief focal point. Meanwhile, Baldwin and Thornbury seem to have become blander as their parts have become smaller. As for Scrimm? Oh man. Poor Angus. The dearly deceased inter-dimensional undertaker was on his last legs during shooting of his scenes, and it’s impossible not to notice. His face is heavily caked in makeup, his scenes are all smeared with digital haze to try and obscure his raVaged visage, his eyes look tired and the demon of time had long since withered away the Tall Man’s soul searing gaze. He has a handful of scenes with Reggie, where he cryptically refers to their roles in this grand scheme of things, but the poor guy couldn’t muster even an ounce of the terror he gave us in ’98, let alone in ’79. This isn’t how I wanted to remember Angus Scrimm, just like RaVager isn’t how I wanted to remember Phantasm. Uggh. Life is an unending march through the avenues and alleyways of suffering. Such is what happens when you let Pinhead plan your parade route. That guy’s such a prick. *rimshot*
Now, how about the visual effects? Unlike those car wrecks that people are always saying they can’t look away from (morbid fucks), RaVager is a car wreck you should look away from. Not just because doing so is insensitive to the victims, but because one of the drivers is Medusa and the other is Cthulhu, and if you make eye contact with either one, you’re fucked. By that convoluted metaphor, I mean to say that this movie is a visual mess. The digital format it was shot in makes it look like a crap-ass direct-to-video flick you’d find on the “New Releases” wall at Blockbuster 15 years ago. Back before NetFlix and RedBox ruined the video store experience and made the 13 membership cards in my wallet into useless plastic rectangles. You know what else looks like it’s a relic from the ’90s? The CG effects! Holy Helheim. As if I wasn’t having a hard enough time getting through this unadulterated gauntlet of shin-high spanking machines, I finally came across the point where my mind splintered. Not in the way that it physically broke into shards, but more in the way that Mrs. Menard’s eyeball was splintered in Zombie.
The CG is so hard to look at, I’d rather watch a baby put through a punch press. I understand budgetary constraints, but the stuff we get shafted with here was ugly 10 years ago, let alone by 2016 standards. The awkward attempts to splice these outdated digital effects with stock footage of riots and helicopters and skyscraper demolitions are heartbreaking. And it doesn’t stop there. Driving the splinter further into my cerebral cortex? During the climactic final conflict between our heroes and The Tall Man in his hellish home dimension, (a battle so poorly executed that I wish I could go on a three page tirade about it, spoilers be damned!) Mr. Scrimm is replaced by spliced footage of his younger self, awkwardly mugging his eyebrows up for the camera while not moving his lips at all (old test footage, perhaps?), excusing the piss poor paste job by having Tally speak to his opponents WITH HIS MIND… Really?! As if that wasn’t cheesy enough, said footage makes the man monster look flat, while everyone else in the scene clearly has that all important third dimension the bad guy lacks. I’m not a whore for high-grade graphics, I get that nothing will ever look as flawless as Jurassic Park did, but this garbage came close to shoving me into the malicious arms of an anxiety attack.
For Fenris’ sake, you know what RaVager reminds me of, now that I think about it? The way everything is so amateurish? The pitiably developed story? The lazy camera work? The cheap gore? It looks and feels like a fucking FAN FILM! It should’ve been titled Fantasm and sold as bootleg-only DVDs at dirt mall comic stores and hotel horror conventions! It would’ve been the perfect way to excuse Coscarelli not directing it, and it would’ve given the movie a Tower of Pisa level of leniency! I might have actually enjoyed it somewhat if that were how it had been presented! Son of a three-headed bitch! Leave it to me to pan some sliver of gold from a gurgling septic tank.
Why, why, WHY couldn’t David Hartman have been the Hartman killed by his crazy wife in 1998 (the year I’d swear these in-no-way-special effects came from) instead of Phil Hartman!? Phil Hartman brought us all so much joy and inspiration! “Newsradio” was one of my favorite sitcoms! David Hartman brings me nothing but disappointment. A disappointment that I’m sure extends to his family. There’s a Phil Hartman shaped hole in my soul that can never be filled, but there’s a David Hartman shaped hole in a New Jersey landfill that should be!
Okay, that’s a bit much. I shouldn’t be calling for someone’s head just because they exhumed a series better left dead, pissed all over it, then buried it upside down out of disrespect and built a pet shop on top of it. Maybe we should just have Rawhead Rex baptize D-Hart and let that be it. Truth be told, I’m not even a major mark for the Phantasm series. My dad was always a way bigger follower of it than I was. But even as a slightly-more-than-casual observer of the Misadventures of Bomb Pop Reggie and the Brothers Pearson, RaVager is the worst instance of someone disgracing a franchise beloved by others since that video I sent my ex-girlfriend, in which I gave her The Lord of the Rings trilogy DVDs a Cleveland Steamer. That’s what happens when you kidnap one of my Re-Animator t-shirts, EDNA!
I’m just kidding!…partly. Which part? Only the court documents know for sure.
I didn’t cry when I’d heard Angus Scrimm had died, but I cried after RaVager. Wait, did I say I “cried”? I meant I “fell face first down a twenty-story spiral staircase of cinemasochism that left me questioning if there was anything good or decent left in the world”. This abomination should never have happened. I was overcome by the urge to induce vomiting in an effort to evacuate this poison from my system. Sadly, there is no such thing as mental ipecac, so can somebody PLEASE do me a solid and Eternal Sunshine the shit out of me on this one? It can be my Cthulhumas gift for the year!
And there you have it, Phan-boys and Phan-girls. Gobble gobble in agony, because you’re Glenn/Abraham, David Hartman is Negan, and RaVager is Lucille. *SPLAT* I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I think we would’ve received a better movie if Syfy had bought the rights to it and tossed it in The Asylum’s food dish. Uggh, despite standing behind my statement, I feel so dirty for having made it. Look what you made me do, David fucking Hartman!
I’m gonna buck my usual credo and give you a spoiler as far as how one of the alternate realities ends – Reggie dies of some manner of degenerative disease. It’s appropriate too, since this movie doesn’t allow the series to go out with a bang or even peacefully in its sleep. Instead, it rots away with franchise cancer. R.I.P.
And Hartman? As Jon Stewart (the comedian, not the Green Lantern) once said, “You will always be judged by your worst elements”. Consider this your judgment. Welcome to the enemies list.
After-school rush hours get real nasty real quick. That’s why I had to get out of the mobile frozen treats business!
Hey, it’s 1990s Tall Man! And he brought Member Berries with him! Member the old Phantasm movies? Yeah, I member.
“There’s only room for one lovable loser on this cast, and it’s the one holding the gun! Hit the bricks!”
Yeah, this is a pretty accurate representation of how fans feel once RaVager is over.
“So… why the FUCK are we doing this stupid movie again?! Oh, right, the paychecks. Got it.”
“Sorry, old man, but I’m the only female character in this series who doesn’t have some repressed urge to want to bang her grandpa, so keep it your pants.”
Geraldo Rivera reveals to the world, “The Secrets of Charlton Heston’s Trunk”!
(It’s pretty much exactly what you expected)
Hold on a minute! In a previous movie we were shown that the balls are each powered by a human brain. What the fuck is in THAT thing?! Are there several thousand brains all working as a colony, or did Tall Man harvest GODZILLA’s brain!? Stupid stupid movie!
“Good news Reggie! I pulled a few strings and, despite that whole sorted “killed a hooker” thing, I got you into Heaven! Welcome aboard!”
Wow! That little boy’s Negan costume is AMAZING! Way to go, kiddo.
Tally tried to make his global takeover more marketable with limited edition Christmas themed murder balls. ‘Tis the season!
Wow, it finally happened. There’s finally a movie that makes me wish I was watching The Matrix Revolutions. You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to Hell!
See kids, this is why Uncle Anubis always tells you to never look directly at a masturbating T-1000. “Save your eyes; don’t look between its thighs!”
Phantasm finally turned into that Vigilante 8 movie adaptation I always wanted!
“Hey folks. Remember me? I was Rocky in Phantasm III. I have no clue why I was brought back to shoot a single scene for this movie, but here I am. Well… bye!”
“Made in America”, eh? You know what else shares that distinction? The KKK, nuclear weapons, and 3 Doors Down! But congrats, RaVager, for proving to us that America is capable of creating something even WORSE than the 2016 election.
Anubis will return next time in
“Homey Don’t Play That”
Featuring: Natasha “‘Orange Is the New Black’” Lyonne , Chloë “American Psycho” Sevigny , Meg “Psycho II” Tilly
Director & Writer: Danny “Oddsac” Perez
Origin: Canada | USA
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.
“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.
Anubis will return next time in