Episode 103 [Rerun] – Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007)

or “Sex and the City 3: Blood On the Backroads”

Featuring: Kurt “Escape From New York” Russell , Rosario “Clerks II” Dawson , Zoë “Game of Death (2011)” Bell

Director & Writer: Quentin “Inglourious Basterds” Tarantino

Origin: USA

Also Known As: Death Proof

Review_____

“I’m afraid you’re gonna have to start gettin’ scared immediately.”

Intro: As mentioned in my Planet Terror rerun review, Grindhouse hits the big 1-0 this year, so what better time to exhume the remains of a pair of my old pontifications from the rubble of the old site (I should really get around to having that cleaned up) and see whether or not this double-feature retained its luster after the last decade? The answer: there is no better time…unless we’re talking about last month on the anniversary of Grindhouse‘s actual release date. But, what has been done cannot be undone, and what was not done is being done now. Got it? Me neither. Anyway, heeeeere’s Death Poof!

I mean, “proof”… here’s Death Proof

Original Review:
Quentin Tarantino comes in with the second feature of Grindhouse and, unlike Planet Terror‘s demolition derby of start-to-finish action and gore, Death Proof makes you earn that privilege by sitting through a lot of characterization and dialogue first. In other words, it’s a Tarantino movie. I’ve never had a problem with Quentin’s movies, I just hate the man himself because he’s a spazzy little pissant that should never be allowed to do interviews or step foot in the general public. But, if I was going to be slowly driven insane by listening to actors spew lines of vulgarity and pop culture references at each other until it pulled a Chinese Water Torture on my frontal lobe, I’d want it to be written by QT…or Kevin Smith.

Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) is, well, a former stuntman, in case you didn’t catch that part of his name. Mike used to do a lot of “falling off horses” stand-in work in the old days of TV westerns before falling back on car crash stunts when he ran out of actors to look like. But, in this modern day of Hollywood penny pinching bullshit like computer graphics imaging, jobs are scarce for guys like Mike. With all this free time on his hands, Mike’s got plenty of opportunities to find new ways to keep himself entertained. Whereas most normal guys would simply work on their porn collection or take up a hobby like pyrography, Mike instead discovered his new fetish: killing women!

Mike’s technique of choice isn’t anything as simple as stabbing, shooting or strangulation, though. Instead, he likes to involve them in violent car wrecks the likes of which no one could ever possibly walk away from. This way, said meticulously plotted slaughters can never really be seen as anything more than one guy’s unfortunate string of car wrecks. Would-be accusations of stuff like “premeditated murder” are immediately followed by stuff like “no concrete evidence”, so Mike gets away with little more than a brief stint in a hospital room for a broken bone or two, which is all in a day’s work for a stuntman anyway. But how does SM pull off such a thing without getting himself an early ride to the grave in the process? Turns out that stuntmen can super reinforce a car in a way that guarantees the driver will not be killed should the car be otherwise destroyed. This method is called…wait for it… “death proofing”.

That’s right kids, we have ourselves a title.

So, we have our antagonist. Now, where will we find him some victims? Enter Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), Kim (Tracie Thoms), Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Zoe (real life stuntwoman Zoe Bell as herself!) – four friends looking for fun. Ab, Kim and Lee are all on break from their current jobs on the set of the latest Lindsey Lohan tripe, which gives them time to hang out with their pal Zoe who’s in town visiting from New Zealand. Seems that while she’s here, Zoe plans to live out a longtime goal of riding on the hood of a car (a game she calls “ship’s mast”) that’s the exact make and model of her panty-peeler fantasy ride from the cult classic carsploitation movie Vanishing Point – a white 1970 Dodge Challenger.

As luck would have it, such a car is being offered for sale by one of the yokels in the Tennessee area where the ladies are residing! After Ab sweet talks the car’s slack-jawed stereotype into letting the gals take a test drive (which includes a terrifying allusion to leaving Lee, cheerleader costume and all, behind so Billy-Bob can “get to know her”), the remaining trio of ladies take the Challenger out for a spin. Too bad for the babes that what starts off as a dream come true for Zoe turns into a car chase nightmare when who else but our homicidal hombre Mike, out of the hospital and behind the wheel of his newly proofed Chevy Nova, is back on the prowl to grind more fresh lady flesh under his Goodyears. What follows is one of the greatest car chase finales since The Road Warrior.

As mentioned before, the movie’s a bit talky. Since Grindhouse is over 3 hours long, people are going to be begging for any opportunity to hit the restroom and empty their Pampers. My best recommendation would be to drain the reservoirs during the first 20 minutes of so of Death Proof. If you love Tarantino’s writing you might want to ignore what I just said, but if you’re not the type who absolutely must see half an hour or so of characters being established only to have all of that effort flushed in the long run, heed my words. I could live with seeing everything before the first car accident scene trimmed down considerably, then leaving the last half of the movie as is, to be honest. But, like everything else on this website, that’s just my opinion. Despite the innately inessential opening act, the latter half of the flick makes sitting through the first half so worth the effort.

Kurt Russell looks like he had as much fun playing the weathered Stuntman Mike as Tarantino probably had directing the whole movie (despite its lack of his infamous inclusion of n-word carpet bombing the script). The man-who-was-Snake runs the range from funny to creepy to charming to pathetic and he does it all with a wink and a smile. His performance is nothing if not a blast to watch… sorry, “blast” was the best word I could come up with when typing this.

The cast of gals are all having a lot of fun here too and it shows. Zoe Bell should definitely mix in more actual acting roles with her stunt work (FYI: she was Uma Thurman’s double for the Kill Bill movies) and she looks like she’s genuinely having a pisser of a time riding that hood. Tracie Thoms is the definition of “crazy bitch” as she hoots, hollers and curses her way through the last 30 minutes of the movie and makes me wish I was cool enough to hang out with her. And Rosario Dawson? I’ve fallen in love with her all over again since the first time she made me do so in Clerks II. She’s cool, she’s sweet, she’s hot, she’s adorable, she’s a FUCKING COMIC GEEK and, when it gets down to it, she’s a hellacious bruiser! Her best moment? Wait till about two seconds after “The End” pops up on the screen and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

As with Planet Terror, everybody else on the credits scroll did their job and that’s about all I can say about that. Eli Roth (who directed the Thanksgiving trailer I’ll be mentioning later) and Tarantino himself have small roles too – Quentin as a friendly bartender and Roth as a patron at said bar trying to get his ovarian target for the night drunk enough to go home with her. Can’t say I blame him though, as I can only imagine the looks he gets when he tells chicks, “Yeah, I’m the guy who made Hostel! Wanna go back to my place and shit on my chest?”.

Aside from the two or three hundred movie references Tarantino drops throughout the dialogue (you’d think he was making a commission on DVD sales from these things…), I’m sorry to say that I’m not a follower of car chase flicks, so many of the tribute pieces were probably lost on me. For instance, if my mother-in-law hadn’t pointed out that the chrome duck hood ornament on Mike’s car was an homage to one used in the movie Convoy, I would’ve just seen a stupid chrome rubber duck. The one thing that I did pick up on (at least I think so…) was a scene where Stuntman Mike plows through a roadside movie marquee advertising a double feature for Scary Movie 4 and a Wolf Creek sequel. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m gonna say that this is a little tribute to Wes Craven’s now classic use of a torn Jaws poster in the original The Hills Have Eyes as a way to say that the latter was a superior scare flick in comparison to the former. Did Tarantino use this to say that the double feature in Grindhouse is superior to an imaginary double feature of these other non-existent movies, or am I just reading too much into it? More importantly, do you care? Me neither.

As far as the Grindhouse gimmick goes, Tarantino shies away from the liberal use of film scratches and superficial burns that Rodriguez leaned on for Planet Terror, opting instead for other loving faux faults like audio hiccups and a couple of frames missing from the reel that cause cars to suddenly disappear, small pieces of conversation to be left out and people to magically teleport from one place to another. He also does a great bit with the opening credits, in which the title card for the movie’s original fake original title of “Quentin Tarantino’s Thunder Bolt” is clipped out for a generic looking still of the alternate title (that of course being “Death Proof”) printed in white on a base black background. That was a definite favorite moment for me. This movie’s “Missing Reel” moment is a lap dance scene that I couldn’t care less about missing to be honest, so if this was never shot and doesn’t make it into the DVD, I won’t mind.

For you trivia hounds out there, Stuntman Mike got into the stuntman biz through his brother, Stuntman Bob. If that helps you win ‘Jeopardy’ someday, you owe me 20%!

All in all, I meant what I said and I said what I meant: I recommend Grindhouse 100%. And now, for the “coming attractions”…

I’m going to talk about two of Grindhouse’s fake trailers here and the other two in my review for Planet Terror, so if you haven’t checked that out yet, do so when you’re done here.

The first trailer (which is actually the third trailer shown throughout the length of the double feature) is Don’t. In a hilarious lampooning of the infamous “Don’t [Action to be Disparaged Goes Here]” movie titles US release companies gave European releases in the States during the sleazy ‘70s, Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright previews a fake movie for us about people trapped in a haunted house, including the director’s frequent collaborators Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Pushing the joke all the way, the trailer is entirely narration (by Will Arnett) with none of the actors getting off any actual lines, a trick used by said US releasing companies 30 years ago when they didn’t want potential audience members to know that the European movies being released under these new pseudonyms were cast with actors of heavy accents, worried it would turn people off. Much like Shaun of the Dead, this trailer’s literally brilliant and uses the underlying humor of its source material to full comedy effect. If I were the kind of guy who rated trailers, this would be a five star all the way!

Our final trailer is from Cabin Fever horror wunderkind Eli Roth, who brings us a parody of ‘70s and ‘80s holiday gimmick slasher movies called Thanksgiving that seems to be equal parts Halloween and My Bloody Valentine homage humor. The trailer goes for total shock factor, dick slapping everybody with graphically implied sex scenes and over-the-top gore. To put it in terms of audience reaction, everybody in the theater was laughing for Don’t, then groaning and gasping as loud and painfully as possible for Thanksgiving. Severed heads aplenty here, along with Cinemax level softcore scenes of chicks giving out blow jobs like they were Christian propaganda fliers, a disturbing scene of a topless cheerleader on a trampoline getting a very sharp alternative to a Tampax shoved up her birth canal, and a baffling final scene of someone cooked and stuff like a giant turkey before a very brief glimpse of what looks like Roth himself being sodomized at a dinner table…what the fuck?! Roth has shown he likes shock value over “artistic vision” and I’d definitely watch Thanksgiving as a feature, just to say I sat through it without blinking…because I’m a desensitized sociopath. Though I can appreciate some fairly done graphic violence and sex, the actual urge to see something like this isn’t as inspiring as I think the man was trying to do. 3 out of 5.

Xtro: Okay, for starters allow me to redact my pissing and moaning about Tarantino being a spaz, as it’s hypothesized that the mad genius of genre tropes and snappy dialogue may well have Asperger’s or at least fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I’m not saying he needs to be pitied as a result, I’m just over being annoyed by his manic mannerisms and “too much cocaine in his coffee” personality. Considering the mental demolition derby I’ve been involved in in recent years myself, that would also make me a bit of a hypocrite. And remember kids, it’s not hip to be a hypocrite… just ignore the difference in spelling there. My PSA is still viable, G.I. Jerkoff.

Unlike Planet Terror, Death Proof‘s special effects skew more traditional to the grindhouse theme, opting for what at least looks like 100% practical magic (housewife witchery not included) rather than dicking with digital deceptions. This ain’t no Fast and Furious fuckery, fanboys! This is a straight up traditional car-on-car bump n’ grind! And what did R. Kelly teach us before he was trapped in his closet and pissing on teenage girls? There ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little bump n’ grind. Or, if you too were raised on Mad Max movies (like moi) or those classic off-the-radar car flicks of the ’70s, the old way is the only way. It’s an art form that, depressingly, has fallen victim to technology and breaks my heart…well, except for Mad Max: Fury Road, because I pray George Miller my soul to keep.

Tarantino also made Death Proof with what you’d imagine to be an anorexic budget, as its 2 hour run time takes place in fewer locations than an agoraphobic’s weekly routine. So much of it happens in a honky-tonk bar or a diner or on back roads or just in the cars themselves that it has to be Quentin’s most minimalist shoot outside of Reservoir Dogs and The Hateful Eight. This doesn’t keep the man from shooting it all beautifully with his usual “100 different angles” style though, and even for someone who hasn’t spent so much as 5 minutes in a film class, it brings a tear to my eye and a jealousy to my heart. Speaking of jealousy, I imagine that most of the obscure movie posters and paraphernalia that decorates the sets belong to Tarantino himself, which no doubt saved a fair amount of pressure on the prop budget…unless he was smart and used said budget to buy a bunch of cool shit he himself didn’t already have, then just pocketed everything when the job was done.

The cast is fantastic, the direction and cinematography are beautiful (moreso if you’re a foot fetishist like QT, far less so if you’re a podophobic like my mother-in-law), if you’re a fan of Tarantino’s usual heavily scripted free-flowing dialogue by characters who would all kick your ass at Trivial Pursuit you’ll be happy to know it’s all there, the soundtrack is pitch perfect (because it’s gods damned Quentin Tarantino, so of fucking course it is), and the stunts are so eye blisteringly stellar that the team deserves a friggin’ constellation named after them! It’s almost a perfect movie. But…

The biggest problem I first had with DP (huh huh huh) was watching it directly after having sat through the 100+ minutes of Planet Terror. Even if I weren’t a lightweight when it comes to theatrical marathons (I’ve only watched two movies back-to-back in a theater twice), following up a zombie slaughtering action-comedy with a “talkie” that takes the better part of an hour before it sheds any blood? It’s a rough transition. I wouldn’t blame anyone who walked out, fell asleep in their seat, or passed on paying for a ticket altogether. Even as its own entity, I still have a major issue with the movie’s structure: it sandblasts my ass to introduce and flesh out a cast of characters just to kill them off halfway through the movie and introduce a second cast of would-be victims after. Why? Because the only person we follow throughout the flick is Stuntman Mike, but he’s less a main character than a catalyst! He’s the antagonist, fine, but we get no inclination of his motivation beyond that he’s a former fall guy who really hates women for… some… reason. Want to excuse this as part of the bad movie gimmick? No. If you’re giving us snappy dialogue delivered by talented actors but leaving out important background details about the only constant character in the movie, that’s flying like a lead zeppelin full of mud sharks.

My other gripe is the inconsistency of the grindhouse mimicry. The gimmick shit comes on heavy in the first few minutes with intentionally awkward cuts, audio skips, and that great title card change paving the way (pun intended). The grimy grainy motif carries on throughout the first half, but then the second half starts on an incredibly clean black & white scene (of which QT is keen) for reasons unseen. The colors come back on after the new apples of Mike’s evil eye are introduced, but the crisp look continues on until the finale. It’s an absolute orgasm for the oculars, especially now being able to see the grand 20 minute vroom vroom chase in 1080p, but why drop the titular shtick?! Punch my ticket and tickle my pickle.

And if you’re wondering if Tarantino’s penchant for excessively over-salting his scripts with a Lt. Col. Killgore level carpet-bombing of the n-word (and no, that’s not short for “napalm”), then yes. Not Samuel L. Jackson levels, granted, but Tracie Thoms does utter enough “niggas” to give Jeff Sessions a semi. So, if hearing said term churns your aural sensibilities, your ears will not be spared here.

While my reunion with Planet Terror reminded me just how much fun it is to watch, seeing Death Proof again bore me an all new respect for it. Despite my criticisms, I do appreciate the ass off of it! It’s not Quentin Tarantino’s best (in fact, he’s called it his worst), but it’s only one shelf below top shelf, and that makes it money in my book.

With that, kiddies, it’s time to say goodbye. Join us next episode when we get a visit from a certain team of super powered people who “guard” humanity from evil…

Moral of the Story: Bars offer all manner of pleasantries outside of booze. Alcohol is simply the lubricant for social interaction… unless you’re me, in which case alcohol is the legal anesthetic through which my body pisses off my brain by becoming completely unresponsive to any and all commands.

Screenshots_____

“I’m so glad I cut an emergency hole in all of my pants so I can plug up any unexpected leakage issues! Why doesn’t everybody do this?!”


“And then the monster was all like, ‘FIRE BAD!’ and shit. Hahahaha.”


“Bitch, does this look like an Appletini? If I wanted a margarita, I would’ve asked you to get me a margarita!”


Eli Roth wasn’t quite prepared for the vitriolic text he received from Keanu Reeves following the critical response to Knock Knock.


Cousin It spends yet another Saturday night dressed in drag and picking up strange men in bars, despite promising the rest of the Addams that it would never happen again after that weekend he spent locked up in Roman Polanski’s basement.


Special cameo by Eddie Izzard!


I wonder if he got that scar from eating pussy… or “pineapple” if we’re being censored.


In case you forgot you were watching a Quentin Tarantino movie. Oh well, it could be worse. At least his fetish isn’t school girls showing live eels up their butts or octogenarians shitting on Precious Moments Figurines!


If this were made in Japan, that would just be an indicator that she’s incredibly horny.


Beauford misread Jake’s comment and leaned in for a kiss that, sadly, would never come to pass. He and his broken heart resigned from the department shortly after to avoid the uncomfortable awkwardness between them that resulted, and spent the rest of his years married to Martha, dreaming of what could have been.


“Damn it, guys, I told you not to let Jenny have second and third helpings of chili for breakfast! I’m stuck back here with her for the next hour and it already smells like the ladies room at White Castle!”


A rare still from the long lost Michael Myers parody porn, “Hallowiener: Is That a Butcher Knife in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?”. The producers were advised not to distribute it as a Betamax exclusive, but they insisted it was the wave of the future. But, as this ad proves, sometimes it takes more than sex to sell.


We’ve all been the odd one out when it came to 3 people riding in a 2 seater and you weren’t fast enough to call “shotgun”.


Despite his wealth and fame, Kurt Russell refuses to pay drive-in prices, opting instead to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from his neighbor’s roof.


“Well, it looks like Boss Hogg didn’t take too kindly to those Duke Boys leaving an upper decker in his private moonshine still, so it was up to Roscoe to put Bo and Luke on ice. And all this just hours before the annual Hazzard County ‘Wings & Wangs’ barbecue and penis measuring festival!”


Hey ladies, are your pants registered with Airbnb by any chance? Because I’d like to live in ’em for a few days while I’m in town! *rimshot*


“And THIS is for Overboard! You ruined my trust in men for years with what you did to Goldie Hawn, you sick freak!”

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Anubis will return next time in
“In Soviet Russia, Copyright Laws Infringe You!”

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

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

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Episode 100 – The Fall of the Louse of Usher (2002)

or “Love. Love Will Tear Us Apart Again”

Featuring: James “Black Milk” Johnston , Eliza “Boudica Bites Back” Russell , Marie Findley

Writer & Director: Ken “Tommy” Russell

Also Known As: The Fall of the Louse of Usher: a Gothic Tale for the 21st Century ; Ken Russell’s The Fall of the Louse of Usher

Origin: UK

Review_____

“Even if you come in here sane, no way you’re gonna get out of here anything but crazy!”

Guten tag, schmutz-kinder! Today marks the annual event known to wrestling fans as Wrestlemania. On a larf, I thought it would be fun to do a roundtable of reviews for Ken Russell movies. What does Ken Russell have to do with professional wrestling? Nothing. At least not that I know of. No, the theme for this gathering exists for no other reason than because it lends itself to the ‘table’s puntacular title!

Yep. That's the kinda shit I do. And thanks to my fellow cinemasochists for taking this journey with me! Though never a big Ken Russell fan, I have seen a few of his better known flicks. I thought Altered States was a fun acid trip through pseudo scientific madness, Tommy was an enjoyably dark and unique musical experience, and Lair of the White Worm is still one of my favorite flicks to come out of the UK and the definite catalyst for my bizarre attraction to serpentine women who want to eat me alive. Despite the creep-ass little goblin from the cover of the Gothic VHS being burned into my memory from childhood, I never got around to renting it. From what Ragnarok has to say in his review, it sounds like I didn’t miss much. Too bad that copy of The Devils I sent him was rerouted back to me via USPS, otherwise he could’ve reviewed that instead. Stupid lack of proper postage!

Before I get started, I’m throwing out the disclaimer that this review is going to be a rush job, so apologies if it lacks the polish (or Polish) of other episodes. I’ve been entangled on the battlefield of the mind in a war with the Overfiend for possession of my soul and just recently managed to lock the beast away in the Crystal of Zoloft, putting me at odds with my own predetermined due date. As such, I’ve filled my gut tank with several cans of Tear Ass energy drink from Dollar Embargo to give me the fuel I need and, as an odd side effect, the ability to taste color! I can confirm that, yes, purple is indeed a fruit. The only flavor they had on-shelf was the nebulous “Citrus X”. Unlike Chemical X, which turns inanimate objects into Powerpuffs, the only thing Citrus X transforms is the odor of your urine. My piss bucket smells like it’s full of orange peels swimming in battery acid. I’m not 100% sure my kidneys aren’t going to explode by the time we get to the moral of this story. Oh well. Sallying forthwith!

In the twilight of his career, Kenny Russell wasn’t much for movie making. He stuck with weird short subject shit for the most part, while my pick for this Celluloid Zeroes collaboration is the final feature length flick the freaky fiend filmed before punching his ticket to the Underworld in 2011. And when I say “filmed”, I don’t mean it literally, because The Fall of the Louse of Usher was shot entirely via camcorder!

Yes indeed my flowers and weeds, the technology your parents used to have to rely on when they wanted to make their own sex tapes (back when they were actual tapes) is the medium through which Uncle Ken chose to tell this backyard gothic rock opera of his. And I gotta say, upon discovering this, my immediate concerns were that I had been bamboozled and this wasn’t the same Ken Russell I was looking for. Learning that its legitimacy is legitimate however, I felt like I was watching home movies of someone’s grandpa in the final days of a fatal cancer diagnosis. Without mincing words, you just can’t shake that awful feeling of pity for seeing someone brought so low. Even if just done as a simple pet project to have fun with his friends and neighbors (which it was), it still feels so beneath what the man had done with his prestigious (or at least semi-prestigious) career that it’s… well… pathetic. If they’d kept it as a private joke to share with each other and bring out for summer barbecue viewings, that’d be one thing. But to put it out on a DVD and demand people pay to see it? By Roger Daltrey’s tasseled togs, are you fucking yankin’ my crank?! Clearly not, otherwise I’d have nothing to rag on here! Well, aside from the extension cord I use for a belt.


Roger Daltrey – Innovator of the “glue huge strands of cooked spaghetti to your sleeves” look.

Okay, enough puttin' off the lovin'. Let's rinse off our genitals, put on my Lou Bega mixtape of bone medleys, and bang this bitch out like Sean Michaels (the porn actor, not the wrestler)! Let's just hope we don't let loose any two-cheek squeaks (or squeakquels) while we're at it.

The setting for our story in simply “Orange County, USA” according to our opening. Okay, so is it the Orange County with the arguing family of motorcycle builders, the one with Mischa Barton, or one of the half-dozen other fucking Orange Counties in the damn country!? Though it’s later revealed that our setting is the West Coast edition, that tiny tidbit of info would’ve been nice to know beforehand. As Baphomet would say, “Bah”.

Roderick Usher (James Johnston, who doubles as the movie’s composer) is a goth rock musician 20 years behind the curve. Lead guitarist and singer/whiner (and occasional whisper rapper) of a heretofore unnamed band (might I suggest “The Poegues”?), he’s arrested for the suspected murder of his wife/maracas player, Annabelle Lee (Emma Millions), to whom everyone likes to attach the preface descriptor of “Sweet”. Not so sweet when she’s found walled up in the Usher house with half her face missing and her pet mini-pincher chewing through her guts! Since her rocker widower is clearly off his rocker at the time of his capture, barely coherent and ranting about his innocence, rather than going to prison Roddy’s instead carted off to the local loony bin. Here he’s put under the care of the demented Dr. Calahari (Ken Russell) and his sex bomb assistant, Nurse ABC Smith (Marie Findley).


Not a good sign of things to come… pun intended.

Not just another bimbo in a medical fetish costume, ABC (Already Been Chewed?) is one of those wonderfully empowered ladies who uses her sexuality to manipulate others into getting what she wants, the endgame of which is often something fatal for those seduced by her charms. Also, as everyone is keen to point out, “She’s a great piece of ass”. Pretty much what you’d expect from a Russell girl.

They’re similar to “Bond girls”, only way more likely to be emotionally damaged and way more likely to have some manner of underlying disfigurement that will make you paranoid of any woman who hits on you during last call. Not unlike how Basket Case taught women to never talk up any guy at a bar carrying a picnic basket.


Hellooooooo Nurse!

Russell's oddball headshrinker has a penchant for wearing a variety of headpieces, which may or may not be the writer/director/producer/editor/cinematographer/actor's unsubtle pun to the audience that he himself is a “man of many hats”. Or, it could just be a sign that he had a bunch of goofy hats lying around in his home prop box that he thought would make for a running gag funny only to him. Either or. Said fetishizer of up top props also puts on a “hard to pinpoint but I'm pretty confident it's meant to be German because ABC keeps referring to him as 'Herr doktor'” accent that sounds exactly like the frantic urine lab doctor from the English dub of Dominion: Tank Police. And if you don’t know what that is, your life is a little less happy than it should be. Fix that. Soon. Or be forever denied existence as a complete person. Tank Police. Feel the power that we’ve got. We’ll give it our best shot.

No sooner is Rod tossed into his new cell then he starts in on the standard issue sexually deviant hallucinations that every lead of a Ken Russell movie suffers from. In this case, our hero envisions an orgy of blow up dolls that includes an inflatable dinosaur for added “Da fuq?!” factor. As he writhes, physically in his straight jacket and emotionally in his madness, ABC looks on intrigued. Speaking of our Nightingale on Elm Street, her role at the hospital is seemingly as Calahari’s personal caretaker more so than as his assistant. Much of their screen time together is spent with ABC feeding him, cleaning out his ears, and constantly checking the old fart’s vitals while they discuss the Usher case. Mayhaps the demented doc is a hypochondriac and needs frequent reassurance that he’s in stable health? Could it be that he’s due for a mandatory physical by the Department of Health? Then again, it may just be a thinly-veiled metaphor about how nurses tend to do all the work as doctors sit around getting fat off their fancy college degrees and trying their best to distinguish between a patient’s sphincter and a hole in the ground… which should probably raise some concerns from everyone given that doctors’ offices generally don’t include holes in their floors.

While DC and ABC try to unravel the mystery of Annabelle’s death (and whether it has anything to do with Roderick’s sister/violinist Madeline Usher [Ken’s wife Eliza Russell]) With a bona fide celebrity in their midst, Cal wants ‘Rick to perform for the institution’s patients-and-staff mixer, leaving it up to ABC to do the convincing. When her lusty demeanor isn’t enough to persuade the disturbed music maker, she confines him to a makeshift torture bed (that looks to be a beach chair with a blanket tossed over it) as a swinging pendulum butcher knife gradually descends back and forth above his pelvis. Though the protag laughs off her threat, citing an erectile deficiency, he’s not so sure of himself when XYZ reveals that she gave him Viagra. At the mere mention of her boner juice roofie job, Lil’ Rod (sounds like a personal problem) springs to life and Mr. Usher gives in to his caretaker’s demands. Good thing my doc’s accompanying CRN isn’t that hardcore. Being the world’s worst diabetic, she’d have had me paying dues to the Eunuchs Union Local 37 before you could say “THIS IS A MEDICAL EXAMINATION! STOP EATING THAT CHEESECAKE!”.

During the crazy people social soiree, Roderick is encouraged by Dr. C to get every available appendage he can up Nurse Smith’s very short uniform skirt. Hey, getting turned down by trim doesn’t mean you can’t encourage your fellow phallus holder to have a try! Bro code… or some horseshit. Anyway, Mr. Usher is then accosted by a pair of his fellow inmates that are heavy on a hippie astrology kick, asking him if he’s into “Ass-trology”, which I assure you that I certainly am. They allude to Miss ABC’s past interactions with a group called “The West Side Boys” which, from their intonations, presumably refers to some fucked up tribulations. More specifically, the ones spelled G-A-N-G-R-A-P-E.

No, not “gan grape” you nards! I meant “gang rape”. She had her flower forcibly plucked by a vulgar group of ne’er-do-wells with more testosterone than social grace. At least as far as I can infer. The later reveal that her entire erotic demeanor is made up of literal artificial bits and pieces (including that “great piece of ass!”) to disguise whatever shapeless horror she really is, postulates clearly that her outer self is a deceptive shell to hide the fragile truth beneath. Some obvious symbolism for Uncle Ken to waterboard us with. It’s an interesting visual representation, but is smashed so hard into our faces that it’s like being talked down to by a tech support rep that makes you wanna reach through the phone and elbow them in the throat.

I don’t do great with “message movies”. Unless they involve people getting run over en masse.

While Nursey Poo and The Rod explore their blossoming relationship, Dr. C uses the astrologist gals (one of whom is your typical old gypsy lady, while the other is a minstrel mummy… let that sink in) in an effort to Ouija up the soul of the slain Annabelle Lee and get the story of her demise straight from the victim’s protoplasmic mouth. Unable to establish a direct connection to the lass, they do manage to summon OSIRIS(!!!) instead, who speaks to them through the sacred vessel of… a Big Mouth Billy Bass.

Okay. This part got me. A surprise kidney punch of happiness I wasn't prepared for that left me on the floor with upturned lips ever so slightly trembling. This leads to a riddle that leads to a vibrating slinky version of those “weasel chasing a ball” toys that finally leads to the gypsy character divining that the question to the answer “The reveal of Annabelle Lee's true killer” is “What's the secret of her bones?”. Man, trying to force gags into a ‘Jeopardy!’ shaped mold requires mental gymnastics that my caffeine fueled cortex can’t fucking handle right now. This leads to Calahari sending his masked henchman Igor to retrieve Ann’s pearlies from her gravesite.

Taking a break from all story progress, Dr. Cal takes a scenic route scene to gloat to Roderick about his prized experiment – having hypnotized (via several props acquired from a Spencer’s Gifts clearance sale) a previous patient/guinea pig named Ernest Valdemar (Peter Mastin) in the midst of the man’s death throes, allowing Ernie’s mind to continue living indefinitely and communicating through a voice amplification box despite the death of the rest of his body… except for the part about how his jaw and eyes are still functional, and the other part about how THE BRAIN CANNOT SURVIVE WITHOUT BLOOD FLOW OR OXYGEN. Unfortunately, despite Mr. V’s predicament being an interesting piece about a person buried alive in the grave of his own corpse for 7 months, this bit of sidetrack has zilch to do with Rod’s tale and only serves as a *wink*wink*nudge*nudge* to EAP readers that reeks of time filler.


Sick Destro cosplay, bro!

Speaking of filler, the next segment takes the same theme, makes like a looter with a new TV and runs with it. Calahari has a therapy session with a woman hidden behind a mask who has some weird psycho-sexual fear of garden gnomes. Through his mania-delving analysis, the doc helps her realize she's actually famed femme fatale female wrestler, Beulah Von Birmingham (Sandra Scott)! Her revelation is interrupted when a masked prostitute named Mary (Mrs. Russell again) inserts herself into the scenario, declaring herself a birthday present to Roderick from his big sister… while ironically being played by the same woman who plays his big sister. Beulah recognizes her as one of her wrestling rivals though, and the pair have a no holds barred hardcore brawl for supremacy! It degrades into the two just dry humping each other before the silliness subsides prematurely with the pair escaping over a wall via convenient step ladder, to the chagrin of Calahari who planned to imprison the pair in his crazy house. Again, fun random bit of wackiness, but also again, entirely disconnected from having anything to do with advancing the damn story!

Wait a sec… Whoa. That’s a bit weird, isn’t it? I establish this review on the basis of its creator’s surname being a pun on the word “wrestle”, and ultimately there’s a scene of female wrestlers doing just that. The hypothesis of my subconscious being an astral projected time traveler while I sleep gains more and more traction. Nanoo fucking nannoo.

When Igor returns with the disinterred dentures of a dozen or so Ushers buried in the same boneyard (or, purchased from a gumball machine outside the corner deli as the case more likely is), Annabelle’s rise from the collection and hint at Poe’s short story ‘The Murders at the Rue Morgue’ as being the key to unlocking what really happened to her. Cal deciphers this as meaning Rod’s wife was actually murdered by a gorilla, but before he can question this logic further he’s called away to Valdemar’s room, where his pet zombie finally gives up the ghost. As if that weren’t enough to upset the bloated old goat, the institute’s previous staff, which the doctor had apparently imprisoned in the asylum’s basement for challenging his “revolutionary methods”, have somehow escaped (or at least the two members we’re ever privy to) and are wilding throughout the building in pursuit of revenge! Less the “pee in the communal coffee pot at work” type and more the “Carrie White on prom night” version.

Roddy, herr doktor, the old gypsy (now wearing a tea cozy on her head) and the blackface mummy lady escape the hospital with all limbs intact, returning to the Usher Estate. Once there, ‘Ricky discovers beloved sister Madeline dead at her own hand on what looks to be a teenage girl’s bed, amid some topless statues in the yard. Seems the “fake news” media reported that her brother had died in the sanitarium riot and the resultant grief with which she was overtaken pushed her to Romeo & Juliet herself, leaving behind a recorded confession (played for them by a crimson faced gorilla) that she was the one who prematurely punched Sweet Annabelle Lee’s mortality ticket! In the thralls of his own heartbreak, little brother Usher demands Death take him too, to which Dr. C relinquishes with an injection of something lethal. The duo are laid in state in their yard, surrounded by potted flowers probably taken from the dumpster behind the WalMart Garden Center.

With 15 minutes left in the movie, the aforementioned gorilla gather the remaining trio of guests in the siblings’ old childhood playhouse to view a VHS tape (played in a microwave for laughs). The vid is a further confession by Mad Maddie, telling of how she used Gory (the gorilla) to kill Annabelle with an obedience chip that the family had planted in the hulking simian’s brain after the poor brute was rescued from an abusive trainer. Thanks to an off-brand Playstation 2 controller, Mads maliciously manipulated the monkey into murdering her only rival for her dear brother’s dingus. From here it’s all about wrapping shit up, as Calahari is captured and returned to the asylum to undergo treatment, Nurse ABC is fine (except for an unexplained hand crushing incident in the end), Roderick and Madeline’s souls descend to hell on a righteous deflating bouncy castle, and their son and daughter prepare to move back into their family home with Gory now that everyone else has been driven away… I’m not going to explain anything from that last sentence, as I’ll leave it up to your own minds to fill in the blanks that, well, we’re never given anyway.


Unless Russell’s next of kin have some 2-4-5 Trioxin laying around, I’m pretty sure this is the end.

And there it is: Ken Russell’s final feature, The Fall of the Louse of Usher. Though greatly hampered by its poor choice of medium and “let’s just use what we’ve got lying around our houses!” budget, there’s actually a lot of entertainment to be had. The sound quality isn’t great, sometimes even bordering on horrible as it makes certain scenes almost completely auditorially illegible, with the worst being a stair well exchange that’s nothing but shouty echoes. Speaking of noise, one of my least liked parts of this cacophony of crazy are the awful little music videos that Rod and Mad made for their band, not the least bothersome of which involves the siblings being all “anguished high school goth kids” (well into their thirties/forties) with each other in a cemetery, dragging numerous visual aids about their incest relationship across our faces where, like the scrotum intimation I’m trying to make here, none were needed.

The cast is actually pretty solid for a buncha no-names. Not everyone, mind you, but our top-of-the-credits trio – Johnston, Findley & Mr. Russell – all make this a much more pleasant pill to swallow. Their characters are entertaining if not always interesting and their performances are appropriately campy without going overboard. Broken heart throb Roderick is well lost in the forest of confusion and desperate to find his way out; Nurse ABC carries a sensuality, charm and foreboding smile reminiscent of Cassandra Peterson’s beloved Elvira or a mash-up of Rocky Horror’s Columbia & Magenta; and Doc Calahari is a kooky crackpot who’s really a lot of fun to watch when you warm up to him, even in spite of Russell’s absurd German-ish accent, which grows on you if your ears don’t revolt against you first.

If you’re a Poe nerd, or have a Poe nerd in your life, you’ll enjoy picking out Louse‘s varied variety of references to the godfather of goth’s library of extensive materials. Some are obvious, some are a bit more obscure, and still others I’m sure I missed entirely because I’m barely acquainted with the chronically depressed fiveheaded oddball’s greatest hits, let alone his deep cut ditties. If what I’ve heard was true, Louse of Usher is a much better homage to Eddie Allan’s efforts than 2012’s The Raven, so again, consider it for the Poephile in your presence. And don’t you worry John Cusack, I’ll be kicking down your door sooner or later with crackling criticisms to burn your nose hair by!

The “gothic tale for the 21st century” has great potential that peeks out from behind its discounted Halloween seasonal mall shop props and modified tool shed sets, and with a little bit of script tampering and an injection of capital, I think, sans hyperbole, that TFotLoU could have easily been another Rocky Horror! Hell, with a Kickstarter campaign and some talented hands, it could still be. It’s as likely as Hulk Hogan playing the dad in a(nother) remake of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but it’s fun to think of what could have been. Speaking of what could have been…

Hey! I finally made it to episode 100! It only took me… gimme a sec here…

Three and a half years. Shit. That’s an average of 2-3 reviews per month. Double shit. Billy Bass Osiris damn me and whatever wacky fantasy scenario I’m using today to stunt double for my real life personal hindrances. Oh well. I’ve got a pot of chili and a copy of Cannibal Killer Clowns on Dope calling my name with their siren song, so let’s hurry this up and just say it’s a case of quality over quantity.

Moral of the Story: If you ever want to get out of a mental institute alive, never question the sanity of the staff.

On the topic of superior quality, go treat yourself to some more RussellMania from our fellow Zeroes!



Checkpoint Telstar summons The Devils

Cinemasochist Apocalypse goes all Gothic

Micro-Brewed Reviews experiments with Altered States

The Terrible Claw Reviews excavates The Lair of the White Worm

Web of the Big Damn Spider courts The Boy Friend

Screenshots_____


I envision a lawsuit by the Estate of Edgar Allan Poe against the Estate of Ken Russell as presided over by the Estate of Judge Wopner here, in ‘The Dead Peoples’ Court’.


See, shit like that is why you’ll never get me within a mile of a LASIK office!


“I have to say, when my wife said she’d gotten me that reverse-gangbang I’d always wanted for my birthday, I wasn’t expecting… well… this. Oh well, let’s make the best of it, girls!”


Yes, kids, Ken Russell as a literal dick nose.


Scary Movie prop mask purchased from Marlon Wayans’ “Fund the next A Haunted House sequel” yard sale.


The New Slash Co. Mark 12 collection of knives! They’ll cut through shoe leather, a soda can and a full-sized rhinoceros, and STILL sever a human head like it were a ripe tomato without a single sharpening! I’d buy that for a dollar!


What? You’ve never been to a white trash Eyes Wide Shut party before?


My sex shed is way nicer than theirs!


“With the Psychic Readers Network, you can get in touch with the Egyptian gods for advice on life, love, and lucky lottery numbers for just $2.99 per minute! Call me NOW!”


Saint Polident – the Patron Saint of Denture Cleansers and veteran of the 100 Years Crusade against the kingdom of the Cavity Creeps.


And this is why I never trust elderly women in lingerie who ask me if I want to “smell their flower”.


A scene from Annie Sprinkle’s long-since-banned educational video for elementary school children on how bees pollinate flowers.


My attempts at bringing my own Frankensteinian meatloaf man to life didn’t go as I had hoped… at least he made for some delicious leftovers!


The only surviving still from a proposed 1992 reboot of Planet of the Apes that, I think we can all agree, would have probably been too awesomely reprehensible for this world anyway.


Alright! The Better Homes and Gardens annual “DIY Funerary Displays on a Budget” issue is out! They printed my article in this one!


In 1997, Nintendo introduced the first “rumble” function for video game controllers, causing them to vibrate as a form of sensory feedback for players to help increase their immersion in the games. 20 years after the introduction of vibrating controllers, females now make up nearly 50% of video gamers. Coincidence? My eye.

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Anubis will return next time in
“Guess Who’s Dying at Dinner”

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

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

Episode 23 – Cthulhu (2007)

or “Even Death May Die”

Featuring: Jason “Act of Valor” Cottle , Scott “Milk” Green , Tori “Beverly Hills 90210” Spelling

Director:  Dan Gildark

Writers: Dan Gildark , Grant Cogswell , Douglas Light , Jason Cottle

Origin:  USA

Review_____

“Don’t let those salty bitches get their hands on it!”

I like H.P. Lovecraft. I can’t say I “love” him, not just because it’d be a cheese-ass pun even for me, but also because I’m not much of a book person and have only read a handful of the man’s work. Hey, my cup already overfloweth with movies and comics and video games, with a side helping of pro-wrestling and cartoons and TV shows. Don’t judge me. Anyway, as with all great writers, Lovey turned his personal demons into memorable stories for people cool enough to seek them out to enjoy long after his passing. When I was in high school, I got clued in to his coolness after discovering Re-Animator… which I discovered after unearthing an issue of the 1991 comic adaptation in a bargain bin. Hunting down a collection of the original “Herbert West – Reanimator” short stories, I realized that I wasn’t the type of 15 year-old who could appreciate deep tales of extremely descriptive horror that took 3 pages to explain the terror a character felt from ascending a dark staircase. As you can probably guess, Poe didn’t exactly instill me with fear boners either, giving me more fear yawns instead. Meh.

After adulthood set in, I gave the ghoulish tales of Herbie West another go-round and, despite still suffering from fear impotency, I REALLY appreciated the man’s knack for setting a mood. Though never a ‘Craft nerd myself, I did take a shine to the man’s eldritch nightmare Cthulhu well before he was co-opted by anti-pop culture. The idea of a giant eternal humanoid dragon star god with the head of an octopus was just the kinda crazy shit I horrified my art teachers with while growing up. You can imagine my intrigue when Cthulhu came onto my radar…and the immediate black hole that imploded my guts when I also read the name “Tori Spelling” attached to it. But, lucky for you, black holes in our guts is little more than a bad bag of Taco Bell waffle tacos to we Death Gods. So, I crapped that reality-collapser into the Bowl of Eternal Torment, underwent several hours of hypnotherapy to repress my gag reflex enough that seeing Tori Spelling wouldn’t invoke violent upheaval in my nervous system, sat down with my notebook bound in human flesh, an ink well filled with the blood of a mermaid, a quill made from a cockatrice feather and set about my dark task.

…oh, and don’t get too impressed about the cockatrice. I kinda pulled a Corman and just glued a bunch of emu feathers to a taxidermied iguana. It’s actually pretty sad to look at and I don’t know why I brought it up. Sorry.

Despite its title, the movie’s actually based on the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, which has little to do with the Elder God Cthulhu beyond a passing mention or two. The original narration is really about introducing readers to another section of the Lovecraftian pantheon of abominations – Dagon, and his order of man-fish followers/offspring known as the Deep Ones. In that respect, Cthulhu sticks to its source material fairly well, keeping the name-dropping of He Whose Face Makes Japanese Schoolgirls Squirm minimal, even then not until much later on. I’m assuming the titular adjustment is to cash in on the recognition of the Cthulhu name. Nightmare nomenclature notwithstanding, the hero of our tale is Russell Marsh (Jason Cottle), a gay (in the literal sense) Seattle based English professor who we meet as he’s woken from his slumber by an unfortunate phone call – his mother has passed away. The best comfort his club conquest from the night before can muster from Russ’s bed is a half-hearted “That sucks.” before hitting our milksop protagonist up for an Andrew Jackson… by which I mean $20 and not some kinky sexual maneuver…though there could very well be something called an “Andrew Jackson” and I’m just not up to par on my perversion lingo…not to be confused with Perversion Bingo, which is a fun game you can play with your friends where you go to ExtremeTube.com and watch random clips while marking off a Bingo card filled with various sexual acts until someone wins…or until everyone has to go to separate rooms to whack their wank meats. Where was I? Oh yeah, I’m guessing this thing between Russell and Club Kid (literally what the guy’s credited as) isn’t one of those relationships that will lead to these two not being allowed to file their taxes jointly.

Like most gay men in movies, Russell grew up in a small town of “traditional moral values”, so when he was outed as being a fancier of phalli, his final years at home basically consisted of being the object of homophobic ridicule from everybody. Has the sleepy coastal Oregon burg of Rivermouth socially evolved in the years since Russ’ retreat? The eerie exchange our hero has with a pair of skinheads in a pickup truck on his way there may prove otherwise…or, it could signal something FAR more unsettling than repressed hate mongers. Either way, I was starting to get PTSD flashbacks of Birdemic before the pickup conflict, what with the camera riding along in Russell’s back seat and the conveyance of seemingly innocuous radio news programming during a scene I feared would go on well beyond its welcome. So, thank you pickup truck. You may have saved me from an anxiety attack that could have ended with a lot of dead orphans.

Speaking of traumatic flashbacks, Russell immediately starts having some of his own upon his arrival. Nothing straightforward though, just flashes of enough to keep the audience guessing. I understand it from a movie standpoint, but really, who only thinks back to quick cuts of their past?! If I think back to the time I saw my dog hit by a car when I was 8, or my heartbreakingly awkward first time (or seven) getting laid, I don’t just remember brief nigh-hallucinatory glimpses, I relive ALL the horror and shame! Anyway, momentary lapses of sanity aside, Russell’s homecoming isn’t improved by strange nightmares of becoming his father or waking up in a cold sweat to bizarre onyx totems covered in runic carvings clenched in his fist. THIS is why I stopped drinking. The problem with becoming his father, you ask? Unlike most sons who would rather not become a chartered accountant or championship arm wrestling truck driver like their own dear papas, Russell’s dad (Dennis Kleinsmith) is some kinda new aged “reverend” (*cough*cult leader*cough) who dresses in purple robes (at least they’re gay pride friendly) and wants Russell to give him a grandchild. Sorry old man, I don’t know what sex ed film they showed you back in 1950s high school (actually, thanks to RiffTrax and “MST3K” shorts, we do), but gay people don’t work that way. They can’t just reproduce by budding. They’re not sponges!

Russet Potato’s visit isn’t all bad, though. His sister Dannie (Cara Buono) clearly misses him, and despite also wanting her brother to spawn a niece/nephew for her, she obviously still loves him. He also reconnects with his boyhood friend Mike (Scott Green), who’s grown into a tow truck driving divorcee since last they frolicked along the cliff sides and capered in the ocean’s salty froth. Speaking of salty froth…uhm, never mind. We’ll wait till the kids go to bed before discussing private matters. While in town, Russell also makes time to visit his aunt, who’s been relegated to a nut house for alleged dementia. Their sit down doesn’t last long, but includes curious portents of Russell’s mom dying of less-than-natural causes, and something of huge importance she left behind for him at the house. It’d be too easy for the movie gods to just let her spill ALL the beans, so Auntie has what could be a mini-stroke and starts mumbling some gibberish that sounds like ancient Aramaic as written by a college linguistics drop out on Quaaludes and Jim Beam. ALSO why I stopped drinking…and taking Quaaludes…and sniffing glue.

Like any horror movie worth its salty froth (not yet…), Cthulhu has a crazy old town drunk to drop some necessary background for our protagonist. His name is Zadok (best He-Man villain name for a non He-Man villain character ever) and he’s an alcoholic old sailor who approaches Russell in a bar about the small onyx (“SLAM! SLAM!”) obelisk/butt plug our hero woke up next to in his hotel room, linking it to the whispered local legends of the human sacrificing fish-men cult of Dagon. Zadok’s tutoring in Lovecraftian horrors isn’t free though: he requires Russell to buy him a bottle of Wild Turkey and a sixer of Miller High Life before meeting him later to discuss the itinerary further. Shit, this movie’s turning into a fetch quest from an RPG. So, while at the liquor store acquiring their special Zadok’s Friday Night Combo, Russ Meyers is slipped a note by Julia (Amy Minderhout) the register girl (who doesn’t look old enough to drink, let alone work in a liquor store) telling him not to talk with ‘Dok. He does anyway, but comes back to girlie girl later demanding to know what the fuck she knows about what’s going on in this town. She just ends up cluing him in on her little brother Kellan, who went missing several years earlier and telling Russell he’s the only one who can save him.

Now, you might think this glass bottom boat tour is getting a little overbooked in the plot department, and reading it out as I type this, I’d be with you on the concerns of all the extra weight sinking the ship straight down to Davy Jones’ locker (or any of the Monkees, really). Hell, we haven’t even gotten to Tori Spelling using her homosexuality neutralizing Dagon roofies to rape Russell (which I just did, so now I don’t need to mention it anymore) or the whole “waking Dagon to end the world of men” plot! The funny thing is that none of this felt as cumbersome to watch as it does writing it out. It says a lot about Dan Gildark that he can stuff this much story into the movie while making it all move along as smoothly as it does within its 100 minute running time. It’s the hallmark of a guy who knows what he wants to put into what could be his only chance to make a movie, and has figured out how to make ALL of it edible. He took the elements of a four course meal, and rather than risk over serving his dinner guests to the point of making them sick (*cough*TheHobbitTrilogy*cough*), he ran everything through a grinder and fit everything into one well packed sausage. NOT a gay euphemism, by the way, though I appreciate anyone who knows me well enough to think that’s what I was going for.

As I’ve noted before, my moratorium on spoilers is 5 years, which makes Cthulhu ripe for ruining. If you’d rather avoid further plot putrefaction, I would suggest skipping down a few paragraphs to the one that starts with “WAY back in 2001”. Otherwise, I will be skinning this fish monster and baring its guts for all, so you’re welcome to stay and watch if that’s the type of thing that salts your froth!

Russell’s talk with Zadok results in drunken rantings of an island off the Rivermouth coast that housed the ruins of an ancient city. The townspeople would gather together in the mansions along the hillside (one of which Russell’s family home) to perform rituals, while making human sacrifices of their children in the boathouses to the horrors that lived on the island so that their nets would always be filled to the gills. Heh, fish humor. Zads name- drops Shoggoths (big monster Lovecraftian amoeba introduced in “In the Mountains of Madness”) and talks about how they came in droves from the sea and dragged the children of Rivermouth back into the brine. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what the old boozehound said. He spews a lot of incoherent drunken nonsense, but that’s what I could piece together. When half your family is made up of lifelong alcoholics, you get a lot of practice deciphering drunk-speak.

Dannie introduces Russ to her buddy Susan (Tori Spelling) who starts hitting on him from the word “homo”, inviting him back to her place under the premise that her hubby Ralph has a book about artifacts that has info on Russ’s mysterious stone trinket. Once there, Susan wastes no time in trying to seduce Russ into putting a baby in her belly, citing Ralph’s jizz factory no longer being in service thanks to a work site accident involving an exposed rebar. I just threw up a little. When Ralph’s pleading of “Susan needs your swimmers” falls on deaf/gay ears, the couple instead drug Mr. Marsh, allowing Susan to strip him down and milk the reproduction juice out of him with her ham wallet. Pretty sure that’s how Ms. Spelling ended up getting pregnant in real life too. Not to worry though folks, this is so low budget a production they couldn’t afford to pay the woman to go topless. That’s a horror that will, praise Isis, remain unknown…unless you saw that creepy pic her real-life husband “accidentally” posted to Twitter with her swollen mom boobs flopped out behind her son’s head. In which case get in touch with me and I’ll forward you the meeting times for our support group. The awfulness I come across when researching for these reviews. Blart.

With the book thing a bust, Russell just kinda ignores the whole “I was raped by the ugliest girl from 90210” plot and hits up the local library archives to do some sleuthing. He doesn’t find a lot about the stone, but he does come across a lot of old newspaper articles covering people gone missing around Rivermouth. I guess the American Library Association is immune to the corrupting influence of the Deep Ones? Anyway, Russ enlists Mike’s help in investigating the cult’s sacrificial boathouses, where he runs into some weird supernatural shit and old guys in robes before escaping to a random nearby house. Here he finds Kellan, conveniently enough, as he stares at a snowy TV screen like a latter day Carol Anne Freeling. When asked why he’s there, the boy tells Russell that he lives in the basement of the house with others while they await the coming of Cthulhu (finally, our movie has a title…an HOUR in!). The kid then leads our man into said basement, where he finds a network of tunnels that are inhabited by weird humanoid fish mutant babies! Running in terror like most anyone would (except maybe a hungry weird humanoid walrus), Russ escapes to the surface, emerging from a hole covered by a manhole with an elaborate carving of Cthulhu on it, the likes of which you can find on any number of cheap arts & crafts jewelry, as sold in any number of stores on Etsy.

Russell retreats back to Mike’s apartment, where they have a heated exchange about Mike ditching him (thanks to a nosy sheriff) that escalates into a full-on spat about Mike’s lack of jelly for the PB&J Russ is making, ending in our hero calling him “a very bad host” before storming off. I know it doesn’t sound like much an in insult, but a gay man telling you you’re a bad host is like someone calling you a limp dick piece of shit who should save your family years of shame by just slitting your throat right now! All in all though, I gotta say that this scene is a brilliant piece of inspired madness that leaves you wondering what the fuck it was you just watched. Speaking of, I suggest you watch it at THIS LINK, post haste! You know, when I get around to posting it on YouTube…

The next morning, our gents intend to go look for Kellan, referring to him as “the blind boy” for no apparent reason (also what he’s referred to by in the credits). They don’t have to look far though, because upon exiting Mike’s apartment they find the lad waiting for them. Yay! That was easy! Except that he’s tied to Mike’s porch with a huge exit wound in his forehead. Boo. This isn’t gonna be easy to explain to the small town law enforcement. Small town law enforcement in movies don’t have a very good track record when it comes to gays and/or liberals “finding” dead bodies. See, to them a gay man “finding” a dead child translates to “raping and murdering”. And to add to the sting, Russell gets taken away in front of a whole group of townsfolk at his mother’s estate auction, immediately after losing a bid-off for her house to some unspeaking guy dressed like a government spook who just drives away without saying a word after. After getting the “small town hospitality” treatment from the Sheriff, Russell wakes up in a jail cell straight out of the Inquisition to the sounds of rioting outside. We don’t actually see the rioting, but the first rules of low budget horror and Lovecraft adaptations are both the same – less is more.

Russ makes his way out of confinement only to be drugged in an alley by Ralph and Susan (whom he NEVER confronted after being raped of his baby seeds), who seem to make some effort to drag him into a nearby doorway, only for our hero to regain his druthers and run away. For anyone still confused with what’s happening here, Russ heads to his mother’s home and finds a videotape she left him in which she pretty much explains everything about the fish people and his family’s connection to the cult directly…and proves that his dad doesn’t know shit about camcorders and how to record over VHS tapes when a message of his own is included right after Mom’s, then cuts off mid message. Oh old people, so casually racist and ignorant of modern technology no matter what their species. Equal parts cute and pathetic, really.

Oh yeah, remember that riot I mentioned before? Turns out it’s time for the spawn of Dagon to return to the sea, which includes murdering as many norms as possible in the process…for some reason? It’s not entirely clear what’s happening here. There’s a bunch of naked people setting fires and people with sub-machine guns interlaced with public domain footage of actual riots. All that really matters is Russell and Mike are making an exodus out of town on the next train to Get The Fuck Outta Dodge. By “train”, I mean Mike’s tow truck. They stop by dear old Daddy Marsh’s place to pick up Dannie, still oblivious to the fact that she’s PART OF THE CULT, and end up captured. Russell’s introduced to the “children” Susan turned his swimmers into (which we don’t actually see, under the aforementioned “less is more” rule), before he’s pegged by the gathering of sushi sapiens to ascend and replace Papa as the new Leader Bean (“Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah LEADER!”). The price for his promotion? The sacrifice of the man he loves. One of the most important things that can make or break a movie is its ending, and this is the proverbial nail that Cthulhu hits squarely on the head for me. While his dad restrains Mike, Russell hauls back with the jagged onyx totem, screams and…hello end credits. Does he kill Mike? Does he kill his father? Does he kill himself? Does he get a monster leg cramp and just roll around on the ground screaming in pain for 5 minutes? Nobody knows because it’s left up to us. Speaking of the end credits, they run over a song called “White Daisy Passing” by some guy named Rocky Votolato. Not the kinda music I listen to normally: it’s a simple twangy, folk-songy ballad about sleeping on the bottom of the ocean that really fits the tone of the movie. I won’t link to a vid, cuz you really need to see the end of Cthulhu to put it into the right context. That said, go watch Cthulhu!

Before I go any further, I gotta make one stupid joke that only people who watched that Kanye West episode of South Park a few years ago will get – so, now that it’s revealed Russell’s a gay merman, you could say he really loves fish sticks! I know it’s violently shoehorned in there (that’s what SHE said!), but there was no humanly way possible to review this movie without making that reference somewhere.

WAY back in 2001, the undisputed (and if you dispute it I will pinch a Greenland shaped bruise into your neck) grandmaster of Lovecraft adaptations, Stuart Gordon, teamed up with his frequent collaborator in Lovecraft crafting (and the 1979 TV adaptation of “Bleacher Bums”), Dennis Paoli, to make Dagon – their adaptation of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” (which you can read at this link if you feel so inclined). I’ll get around to reviewing it here eventually, but for those of you who have already supped upon its chalice of greatness, if Dagon and The Cake Eater had a gay son who went to film school and mortgaged his house to fund a movie for Sundance (i.e. no money for monster makeup), it’d be Cthulhu>.

As with any no-budgeter, you’ve gotta temper your expectations going into it. If you can pull off a good story, some halfway decent camera work, and some talented storytelling, you don’t need high-grade effects and big names to hook your audience…fish pun not intended. The story of a gay man returning to his bigoted hometown is perfect for the paranoid anxiety of a Lovecraft tale. You don’t have to be gay to sympathize with Russell’s plight, and if gay men make you uncomfortable, well just consider that adding to the discomfort of the atmosphere! The minimal-to-non-existent gore and effects are fine because, I’ll say it again, less is more here. A few brief flashes of mutant fish-babies and the rest can be taken care of with the horrified reactions of the characters. Speaking of, the acting’s not great, with the exceptions of Cara Buono and Jason Cottle. Buono (whose actually done a lot of TV work on more than a few respectable dramas) makes Dannie a loving sister figure who manages to be a cultist without resorting to the too obvious “Join us! Join us!” tropes. Cottle’s well cast as our lead, since he’s the best actor of the bunch. He’s nothing fantastic when Russell’s being laid back or scared, but the guy knows how to crank the intensity when Russell’s got his angry face on. Somebody call Dick Wolf and get this guy a guest spot on whatever one of those “Law & Order” shows is still on the air! That being said, we still have to deal with some pretty limp fish performances from much of the rest of the cast, which includes Scott Green. I understand Mike’s supposed to be that “simple small town guy” persona, but listening to Green’s line delivery hurts. And I know “love conquers all”, but a college English professor falling for an inbred tow truck driver who constantly mumbles like a goober 9 cans deeps into a case of Labatt’s feels irritatingly sitcomish.

Overall, I gotta hand it to Dan Gildark and Grant Cogswell for cobbling together a great piece of movie that’s not without its warts, but shines despite them. It’s sad to see that neither has added any further film credits to their resume in the years since Cthulhu was spawned. Maybe they felt their story was told. Maybe their dream had been realized. Maybe they walked off into the sunset. Or maybe they got some negative feedback they couldn’t handle. Maybe they bankrupted themselves into a financial quagmire from which there was no rescue. Whatever their epilogues, I hope they’re happy with their final product, because I’m definitely a fan.

On a final note, I’m pretty sure my TV’s haunted by a homophobic ghost, cuz the audio went all schizo on me during BOTH viewings of the movie when the inevitable sex scene (there’s your salty froth!) between Russell and Mike came up (salty froth!). By the way, if you thought that was a spoiler (a salty, frothy spoiler!), you obviously know nothing about indie movies – it’s all gay cowboys and pudding. And that’s my quota for “South Park” references today, kids! I am outta here! Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Moral of the Story: Don’t ask Tori Spelling where all the sea lions are. Better yet, don’t talk to Tori Spelling at all. She just wants your swimmers, and that fishy smell isn’t poor hygiene. At least she’s well cast. I mean, she already looks like something out of an H.P. Lovecraft fever dream!

 

Screenshots_____

“Just look at it out there. Fish of all shapes and sizes are having sex and shitting everywhere. It’s like a huge orgy in a giant unflushed toilet. My GOD the ocean is a horrible, disgusting place! Magnificent.”


Justin Bieber from 5 years in the future has come back to our time to convince his current self to kill himself now and spare them both the years of heartbreak after Usher ends their relationship.


“Hey faggot! You got any Grey Poupon… your dick?! Cuz, you know, it sounds like I’m saying ‘grey poop on your dick’, referring to your homosexuality while also referencing a popular mustard commercial from the ’80s!… But seriously, do you?!”


“Shaun, you’ve got red on you.”


The Rivermouth High School football team, sponsored entirely by an “educational grant” from Gorton’s Frozen Seafood.


No joke to be made here (unless you wanna come up with your own reference to The Accused). I just wanted to point out that I fucking LOVE that the Attack From Mars pinball machine is making a cameo! I used to play the shit out of that machine! YEAH!


“I love you too Aunt Ruth, but can you please let me go? You smell like pea soup, soiled diapers, and cheap vitamins. I may throw up on you if you don’t stop right now.”


“Hey guys. This is my friend Tori Spelling. She’d really appreciate it if one of you would have sex with her. She can pay.”


“So, my dad was really rich and famous… but he’s dead now… which means I inherited a lot of money… I mean a LOT of money! That being said… ya wanna go fuck in the mens’ room?”
“I keep telling you, no! I know you’re my sister’s friend, but if you don’t leave me alone, I’m going to call the police!”


And finally, this is where EVERY man ends his night after a conversation with Tori Spelling.


What?! She had to work a children’s party today and didn’t realize she was out of white greasepaint. What was she supposed to do, skip out on a paying job? Give Bonko the Clown a break. She did the best she could.


I find it hard to believe there’s such a thing as a “beloved” garbageman. I mean, the closest I’ve ever seen was Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, and he still wasn’t even close to being “beloved”.


“I don’t care if you don’t know what ‘Memorex’ is, Billy. Just do what I tell you. This recreation is gonna skyrocket my YouTube page to a million views!”


Well, it’s still better than the official It’s Alive remake. You gotta give it that.


“Finally, my own bridge! And that guy sold it to me for such a bargain! Once I put up the toll booths, I’ll make double my investment back in no time! Things are finally coming up Russell!”


And this is a New York City subway train simulator. It gives people in small towns a taste of the big city life. At the top of every hour a pair of women have a very shrill conversation in Chinese while a homeless guy stands on top begging for change and pisses all over everybody. It’s VERY realistic!


I’d ask what’s going on in that toilet or what the big oily stain on the bed is from, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t like the answer to either.


If I’m ever involved with a movie production of some kind, I insist that I be credited for “Asskicking”!

Anubis will return next time in
“Criminalize It”

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