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
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.
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.
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
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.
Anubis will return next time in
“Guess Who’s Dying at Dinner”
Featuring: Kelli Jensen ; Nathaniel Ketcham ; Chris “Surviving the Rush” Peters
Director: Tommy “They Must Eat” Brunswick
Writer: Todd “The Remake” Brunswick
Sequel: Jingles the Clown
In the greatest piece of fast food news since they brought back cheesy tots, for Valentine’s Day Israeli Burger Kings offered “adult” meals that came with free sex toys, upgrading from happy meals to happy ending meals!… yes, I know that’s McDonald’s, but suspend your disbelief for the sake of the joke, okay? Though I don’t expect this to be a thing at BKs in our neck of the planet anytime soon (despite the rapist-in-chief being in office), it wouldn’t surprise me if Carl’s Jr. took their dirt-bag exploitation business model in a similar direction by offering a free bottle of their famous Budweiser cheese-flavored lube and a mini-fleshlight/pocket vibrator with every purchase of a Double Bacon 3-Way Burger value meal.
Get it? “3-Way Burger”? Cuz it’s sex. Get it? Yeah. Softcore commercials of Hustler rejects jamming garbage-even-by-fast-food-standards burgers in their mouths while stuffing bacon cheese fries up their o-rings (and that ‘o’ doesn’t stand for “onion”). Of course, that last part is always cut from the ads, as they’re only meant for Andy “Jerks off in the special sauce” Puzder’s private collection.
With that out of the way, it’s time to put on your rainbow wig, refill your squirting flower and lace-up your over-sized novelty footwear!
Before we delve too deeply into today’s quicksand cinema, I’m sad to report that The Tomb’s beloved feline elder, Merlin “Don’t call me Murray” Cow, has written the final page of his life story. Living to the ripe old age of 16, he was too good and pure (and stupid) for this world, and will take his place in the pet pantheon of the great beyond. However, as Mrs. Forrester once historically proclaimed, the only balm that truly soothes an aching blood pump is a skin-peelingly bad movie! If that’s true, then boy howdy is Mr. Jingles just the hypodermic full of morphine I need right now.
Today’s Zodiacal feature is probably the no-est no-budget backyard bad movie I’ve seen since Addicted to Murder or pretty much any movie released by Brimstone Productions in the ’90s. Don’t feel bad if your crap movie education doesn’t include a course in Brimstone, because not only are they obscure as fuck (and for good reason), but you’re better off not losing anymore hours of your life than you’re already losing reading these reviews. Maybe I’ll break out my old VHS tapes and write an e-book.
Back to the Jingling (which is what the sequel should’ve been called), the length is a merciful 74 minutes, 7 of which could’ve been further shaved from the opening and closing credits. You know what’s not a great way to start your movie? Almost 4 minutes of big orange names fading in and out of a black background while some slow, generic rock song plays over it. No doubt performed by the director’s cousin’s Stryper cover band, probably recorded the morning after they were yet again eliminated in the first round of another “Battle of the Bands” competition at The Chug & Piss & Chug Again Pub.
When we find our way to the other side of this debilitating limbo of an intro, it feels like we walked into the theater a few minutes late. A twenty-something actress (Kelli Jensen, whose only other IMDB credit is an episode of ‘Nash Bridges’) trying to convince the audience that she’s a 12 year old girl (by putting her hair in pigtails and wearing little girl pajamas) named Angie Randall hides in her bedroom closet while a murderous maniac in clown makeup named Mr. Jingles (Dr. Rudolph Hatfield, because he didn’t go to evil clown medical school to not be addressed by his honorific) kills her parents with a pair of hatchets. Dad (David Cunningham) has already been dealt with by the time we walk in on the situation and, if Mr. J’s taunting of Angie minutes later is to be believed, the greasepainted spiller of gore put a fatal hatchet wound in daddy’s ass! Icky. Jingles is NOT to be believed, however, as when Pops pops back up later in a last breath effort to protect his daughter, the seat of his acid wash jeans remains fully intact and without so much as a Chipotle stain, let alone the promised superfluous additional ass crack.
So, not only is our eponymous antagonist a murderer, but worse he’s also a liar. Well that’s just great. Given such a poor role model it’s no wonder the youth today are such a mess what with their underwear on the outside and their “emorgies” (emoji orgies) and the Twix-ing. Just thinking about it makes my lumbago act up! Somebody get me my Dr. Johnny Walker’s Patented Magical Miracle Tonic!
Though we missed Mr. Randall’s initial injuring, we do show up just in time to see his wife (Karen Turner) get her own innards eviscerated! Well, not really. Technically her sweater gets sliced open and we watch as the pile of butcher shop pig guts she was storing in there for some reason spill out onto the floor.
(Weird. I always thought the large intestines were attached to things. Human biology be damned!)
While hidden deeper in the closet than the dad on ‘The Brady Bunch’, Angie soaks her unmentionables like they were one of those diapers they pour the blue liquid into in the commercials. I’m guessing she had a lot of asparagus that day too, as Mr. J can smell it from across the room, declaring her a bad girl for pissing her panties. Now I just wish I were watching the original Last House on the Left, because as much as watching Krug and friends torment the girls makes my soul want to vomit all over the entirety of existence, at least I wouldn’t be watching Mr. Jingles. Existential dilemma…
(Strange how neither her pajama bottoms nor underwear absorbed that. Maybe they were made of that water repellent fabric that only looks like cotton.)
As I was saying before being so rudely interrupted by myself, the now cornered Angie opts for flight over fight and makes a break for freedom, easily slipping by her pursuer only to trip over mom’s corpse. Her resultant screaming alerts a pair of plain clothes detectives sitting outside in their car (stakeouting because, as we find out, Jinglypuff has been busy on this particular street as of late), which I find odd since J’s louder shouting as he taunted Angie throughout the house wasn’t enough to catch their attention. The cries of distress prompt the pair to spring into action (good thing Coily the Spring Sprite wasn’t there to fuck things up) and fire a few new breathing holes into Jingles with their prop guns that don’t have muzzle flash when fired, and whose shots were just blatantly made with dollar store pop guns. Angie is saved, preceded by the odd random sound of sleigh bells as circus boy attempts to tell her something that will no doubt result in a major pseudo twist/reveal before the finale. Whoopee. And I don’t mean cushions.
Lucky Number Sleven years later (or “seven” if you just want to sandbag my terrible joke), Angie’s lack of pigtails and shapeless bedtime attire denote that she’s all grown up now. And just in time to be discharged from the mental health facility (which is clearly just someone’s living room) she’s been kept in since the death of her parents.
She’s released to the care of her Aunt Helen (Nicole Majdali) with whom she moves in, along with our heroine’s clear lack of significant possessions. Also living with her are her cousins Heidi (Jessica Hall) and Dylan (Nathaniel Ketcham). Heidi’s your typical unremarkable “business casual” girl who is in her early-twenties, while Dylan is your stereotypical Hot Topic high schooler (despite looking to be hovering around 25) and looks like he’d be better suited to play Renton in a musical version of Trainspotting. At least he wears a Goblin shirt for the entirety of his screen time, so that’s one thing not to be disgusted by. It turns out that he’s also enamored with the Mr. Jingles legend and keeps a binder of his collection of newspaper clippings (I’m assuming, since they never show what’s in the damn binder!). He leaves it out in the open too, where Angie immediately discovers it not even five minutes after moving in. Intentional or idiotic? You decide!
Dyl Pickle’s girlfriend and fellow mall goth emo stoner punkish is Melanie (Heather Doba), who decks herself out as a wanna-be member of The Craft. She’s so dark and brooding that when we first meet her she’s smoking weed and giggling profusely about being “The Pretzel Queen”. With the help of their doobie buddies, Chris (Doug Kolbicz) and Curtis (Brian Zoner… which can’t be his real name), the couple plan to ruin Angie’s big welcome home birthday party later by attempting a convoluted Mr. Jingles themed knock-off of the already convoluted sequence from Halloween where Myers, for no other reason than adding some extra theatrical zing to his murder spree, dug up and dragged a quarter-ton headstone around with him… I hate that movie sometimes.
When the quartet head to the local boneyard to dig up Jingles’ tombstone, they find Mel’s dad Bill (Chris Peters – one of the only actors in the cast with a picture in their IMDB profile), who we’ll remember as one of the cops who saved pigtails Angie in the opening. Along with him is Bill’s then-partner-turned-mayor Baines (Tom Reeser) and the cemetery caretaker (Michael Pilson), who called them upon the discovery of a dead body on his God’s acre. The corpse in question is a nameless stranger (John Anton – another actor with an IMDB head shot!) who was dispatched earlier while drunkenly yelling at his mom or dad’s grave, bitching at them for leaving him nothing but unpaid bills and “an alcoholic gene”. His immediate massacre was heralded by a familiar sound byte of sleigh bells before his hand was hatcheted off, screaming all the while like a proverbial girl. The caretaker, who I’ll call “Carl” for the rest of the review, shouts rampant angry accusations at Baines, blaming him for inciting the initial Mr. Jingles murders and also for the new mass killings to come on this, the Sleventh anniversary of the madman’s violent ventilation. But wasn’t he turned into Swiss cheese in a rainbow wig? If he’s dead, how could he possibly be responsible for this nameless dead extra? Surely you, dear reader, underestimate the power of half-assed screenwriting!
After chewing out Baines, Carl takes Bill back to his creepy little apartment for a friendly plot drop over a cup of General Foods International Coffee. According to his story, Jingles was wrongfully accused (starring Leslie Nielsen and Kelly LeBrock!) fifteen years ago when, on her birthday, a freshly four Angie was almost abducted by a bad bad man in their neighborhood. Children’s party clown Mr. Jingles actually saved Angie from the bastard, but her family and neighbors thought her hero was actually her kidnapper and proceeded to beat the Samaritan within that inch of life people always like to refer to. How can you measure someone’s life, either by length of time or quality of physical being, using inches? Shouldn’t you say that he was “near-fatally beaten” and leave it at that? Meh. Pardon my semantics. Not to be confused with my mutant ticks that killed all those seamen.
(Semantics. Seamen ticks. Laugh.)
Though the real Freddy
Keurig Krueger copycat was later captured in the act of trying to nab another brat, Jingles was still jailed for his non-crime to cover up the fact that his gang assault was one big illegal beatdown that would’ve landed everyone involved behind bars themselves. During his time in the big house, Jing-a-ling took up the popular horror movie hobby of occult studies between sessions of being beaten and raped by the guards and his fellow inmates. After 3 years he managed to escape, leaving his little black magic handbook behind in his cell, allowing Carl (who worked at the facility at the time) to snag it for his personal collection. Over the next 4 years (at least if the movie’s muddled timeline is to be believed) Jingles exacted his revenge on the guilty families before finally being stopped that fateful night by Bill and his stupid prop pop gun. But, if Carl’s to be believed, our dollar store Pennywise, with his dying breath, uttered some manner of incantation that made his body a flophouse for residents from the lake of fire. For whatever reason (movie magic is often oddly [i.e. conveniently] loose with the details), said Satanic slumlord of his own biological apartment complex has now returned, Slevin years after his seeming demise and coincidentally coinciding with Angie’s release from the loony bin. Following his long period of unemployment he’s ready to get back to work, confusing his victims with his out-of-season sleigh bells before shoving hatchets into their faces.
Despite being the protagonista of the production, Angie’s part of the movie is the least entertaining, hence why I’ve made a zilch level effort in talking about it till now. It’s just girl talk garbage scenes of Angie, Heidi and Heidi’s friends planning the “Welcome Back to Normalcy and Happy 19th Birthday!” festivities. Oh, and Aunt Helen gets called out of town for important business reasons we’re supposed to ignore. Why? Without her around, the girls can invite boys over against their legal guardian’s instructions! Scandal!
At one point, Heidi just stands in front of the bathroom mirror eye fucking her own amateur porn chesticles for several minutes while letting the shower run (thus WASTING HOT WATER!) as Angie drifts off to sleep in the adjoining room and has a nightmare about Mr. J. Once we get past the detours, our destination leads to the “party”, where the girls and a handful of “band guys” they’re all squishy over sit around smoking weed and trying to get Angie (at her behest) a piece of Rusty (Jacob Baily), the townie Frank Booth – in that he’ll fuck anything that moves. With a name like “Rusty”, and given his infamous promiscuity, I’d bet anything that his circulatory system is swimming with more STDs than Kid Rock’s nut chum. When he walks out on Angie during foreplay (10 minutes of tongue wrestling is about 8 minutes too much) because she has the ill-timed hallucination of her stalker’s face that every PTSD female has in any horror or thriller movie, you have to figure she’s better off not spending the last few moments of her life being invade by Rusty’s penile plagues.
Back to that whole prank thing the potheads were putting together, Dyldo and Mel go back home to pretend sex and leave it up to the C-Boyz to acquire Jingles’ headstone. The fuckoes fail their task when you-know-who literally materializes from nowhere in his new demonic form (i.e. under a rubber mask and wearing demon dentures) and wrecks them both, smacking one in the face with the other’s dick… well, a dildo that we’re supposed to believe is a dick, except that it’s fully erect and has the little “for heightened realism” rubber ballsack front portion still attached…
The murderer's marker in question is hilariously fake too, as it's set aside from the rest of the cemetery stones and much smaller and cleaner than the others despite having been there under little-to-no tree coverage for the last Slevin years. Although Jingles' real name is never mentioned (he's solely referred to by his stage moniker), his stone lists his name as “David Hess”, which explains his perving predilection for Angie's soiled drawers. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't murderers' bodies cremated after they die? I mean, sure, Friday the 13th Part V could have been lying to me about that (which it clearly was, given Jason’s non-cremated body returning in Part VI), but even if Jingles’ body was left for worm food instead, wouldn’t it have been in an unmarked grave to prevent vandalism and/or body snatching? Uggh, this review is going on longer than this movie deserves and making my brain burn way more calories than it should be.
Back at Carl’s place, after spending 10 minutes of runtime convincing Bill that they need to defeat Jingles with an enchanted ceremonial blade (that was probably purchased for $19.99 on one of those 3am knife-o-mercials), the clown shows up at Carl’s door without any explanation of how he knew where to find him and jams his fist through the torso of the only enjoyable member of the entire cast, making the middle finger he flips the camera all the more painfully pertinent.
(Take that people who paid money to watch this camcorder crap pile!)
Our painted predator then proceeds to beat Bill down with the dull sides of his hatchets…thus solidifying that the former law enforcer is now guaranteed to show up again during the finale, bruised but brave, to make the save because Jingleberries forgot how his baby axes work. Maybe he should get a pair of “this side toward victim” stickers for future reference.
From here on out, it’s just a matter of upping the bodycount as much as possible before the curtain call. Mel dresses like Mr. J to scare the uppity party guests devoid of feces, only to be predictably taken out by the real thing, stabbed in the back with the dildo that’s supposed to be her dead friend’s still very erect dismembered member. This leads to Heidi and her boyfriend going into the backyard to investigate, only to be killed themselves. The rest of the group (Dylan included) are all killed off as well, leaving Angie alone to experience Jing Jong-un’s Happy Birthday to Me inspired “corpses positioned sitting around a table” set piece. The two seem poised for their final confrontation, but instead we cut to Mayor Baines and a pair of patrol piggies busting onto the scene, discovering Angie alone among the dead (great name for my next Sex Golem album) and wielding a familiar pair of hatchets. Twist ending that doesn’t make any sense because it was impossible for Angie to be in two places at the same as much as she would have to have been to be the movie’s surprise killer? Nice try, Todd, but nobody’s stupid enough to fall for it. Especially not the guy who sussed the plot twist of The Village just ten minutes into the movie!
Immediately dropping its false finish, as Angie is being led away for the suspected slaughter of her peers and dickhead Baines postulates she’ll spend the rest of her life in the dangerous criminals wing of the mental ward, Bill (toldja so) appears from the darkness and cold cocks the attending female officer (Hitchcocked by directress Tommy Brunswick). He makes off with Angie so the pair can seek to end the menace of The Jingler in the sequel while said unholy roller gives himself two last victims in Baines and the male officer. They made a sequel to this bowel obstruction?! Yep. When your first movie is made for the cost of a rented camcorder, a boom mic, some blank VHS tapes, and enough Red Vines and Mountain Dew to keep your cast happy, you just knew the Brunswicks would be back to make a follow-up as soon as their income taxes cleared!
Oh, and about that big reveal of the thing Jingles tried to tell pigtails Angie before he was shot? Well, according to the nightmare she has before things go to shit, he said “I’ll see you later”…yep, that’s it. A meta joke about the trite cliches of mass produced movie scripts, or just another lead zeppelin attempt at unironically engaging in said cliches? I’ll leave you to figure that out for yourself, as I now need to grab a nap thanks to the narcolepsy that watching Mr. Jingles has struck me with.
…Or, as the imp in the red pajamas keeps telling me as it pokes my ribs with its pitchfork, I need to finish this review. In the name of Dan Kester’s stained man girdle, sometimes I really regret signing my name to that ominous looking scroll in my own blood. Uggh.
Maybe it’s the chronic depression talking, but this movie wasn’t even “so bad it’s funny” fare. It was just pathetic. Bland. Boring. Incapable of eliciting any emotional response from its audience beyond a lot of yawns and watch checking. Funny must have had an order of protection placed against Jingles’ jokes, because there wasn’t a chuckle to be had from any of them. Even Killjoy had a better gag writer than Mr. J, and I harbor a non-racially motivated HATRED for Killjoy!
Mr. Jingles is so stagnantly written and acted and just made that it’s not even worth doing a proper breakdown of. How it found any kind of distribution, even with one of those generically made “look at the evil painting of the monster on the cover!” DVD covers that were so big in the early 2000s, is less stupefying and more sad. Sad that some shithead at Lions Gate agreed to put it out, and I hope whomever it was that signed the contract in question has since exiled themselves to a tiny underground cell to live out whatever remains of their shameful existence, wallowing in their own filth.
There are no actors in this movie. It was not written by someone who deserves to call himself a writer, nor directed by someone who deserves to pretend she’s a director. This is not a movie. What we have here are just…lies. Fucking lies.
It’s probably gonna take me Slevin years to forget this friggin’ dick wrinkle excuse for a feature even exists, and that’s provided I never fall so far down the stairway of my own self worth that I opt to review its sequel first. But then, such is the suffering of the cinemasochist. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. I’m already dead…
Too dramatic? I should’ve been an actor. Speaking of, there is one worthwhile piece of this movie I can get behind besides Dylan’s Goblin t-shirt – Michael Pilson. Mike is the only person in the cast who actually made an effort to act, and boy does he go over the fucking moon. His aggressively angry, shouty style of thespianism made me wish he was the center of the flick, because he was the only star shining in this otherwise pitch black sky. So at least there’s that. Thank you Mr. Pilson.
On that note, cue the end credits. You can call me Doug, cuz I’m outta heeeeeeeeeere.
I call bullshit! That should say “A Tommy Brunswick VIDEO”, because there’s no way this movie was shot on film!
First, “Station Wagons” is two words. Also, the other name sounds like an obtuse way of saying “palm full of jizz”.
A 20 year-old blond wearing pigtails and pretending she’s much younger? That’s usually something you only find in those movies that are preceded by an “All models appearing in this video are 18 years or older” disclaimer.
How the rest of the world sees our new Cheeto-in-Chief.
I never knew Juggalo scrapbookers existed until now.
“Hello? Nintendo Power Line? I was wondering if you had any tips to help me with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Throw it in my toilet, then burn the house down? Got it!”
“Come on, guys. I found out where the neighborhood boys hide their stash of Playboys! We’ll steal ’em all and replace them with my mom’s old Playgirls!”
Every hetero guy’s worst nightmare: when your girlfriend/wife gets her hair done and asks you how it looks.
Set props provided by whatever was left over after the Brunswicks’ last garage sale.
Hey! It’s the movie’s only fan! (And the look on that guy’s face is probably very similar to yours having read this.)
“It’s not gay, man, it’s a prostate massager! Prostate massage is a perfectly natural and healthy way for men to enhance sexual stimulation! Don’t be such a judgmental puritan!”
Folks, never buy your girlfriend lingerie from the “Day After Valentine’s Day Discount Bin” at WalMart. It won’t work out for either of you.
And here we have a failed prototype design for unused Thundercats character Jestro. I’m not sure the story behind it, but it’s easy to see why the show’s creators passed on using him.
Anubis will return next time in
“Guess Who’s Dying at Dinner”
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: Manu “Arrow” Bennett , Marci “Days of Our Lives” Miller , Malcolm “A Clockwork Orange” McDowell
Director: GJ “Virtually Heroes” Echternkamp
Writers: GJ “Frank and Cindy” Echternkamp & Matt “Virtually Heroes” Yamashita
Remake of:Death Race 2000
Also Known As:Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050
“Your review of Death Race 2050 was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read… thanks for making my night!”
So,we’re only two weeks into the new year and already David Blaine has shot himself in the mouth and Martin “Shcrotin” Shkreli has gotten a face full of doggy dung. Don’t do it, 2017. Don’t tease me like this. After all the bullshit that 2016 pulled, you’re gonna have to give me a LOT more than this to wash off the stink of your predecessor’s legacy! Now, if you were to have Blaine and Criss Angel kill each other off in some form of magician blood feud a la The Prestige and have Shkreli choke to death on a log of piping hot canine crap straight from the pooch’s poop chute, you’d score a fair bucket of cred with both myself and many others. But you’re on super double secret probation until at least mid-April, so keep your nose clean.
Speaking of 2016, despite the murder spree we all witnessed over the length of the last calendar, you know who survived the celebrity serial killer year-that-was? Roger Corman! The spiritual successor of Ed Wood hasn’t directed a flick in over 25 years, but that sure as shit hasn’t stopped the master of the minuscule budget from keeping the bad movie spawning beds bubbling atop his “Producer” chair throne. Much as my opinion of the man’s work ebbs and flows with the shifting of the sands, I will not deny that Cor-Man is the friggin’ Jack LaLanne of schlock. My all time favorite of his features? Without hesitation – Death Race 2000.
If you don’t know that which DR2K is about, it better be because you’re younger than the carton of cottage cheese long thought lost in the dark recesses of my fridge. Why haven’t I thrown it out yet? By the time I found it, I was too afraid to open it, let alone lay my hands upon it. Know what’s in there? Me neither. Let’s keep it that way. Back on topic, DR2K is a 1975 flick that plays like a live-action “Speed Racer” cartoon if it came with an ‘R’ rating and revolved around turning pedestrians into street meat. It was Cannonball Run meets Rollerball. So it was Rollerball Run, I guess. Also, it was already remade in 2008 as just Death Race, as some kind of edgy gay prison sex action-drama art house film starring Jason Statham and Tyrese Gibson also executive produced by Roger Corman. It had two sequels, with a third currently in production as of this review. Samuel L. Jackson that’s a lot of spin-offs for a movie that’s never had an actual sequel! Good on Mr. HardCorman for beating every last cent out of that dead horse. At least it’s his own and he’s not just Michael Bay-ing off of someone else’s work. Speaking of deceased equines, let’s saddle up this thoroughbred and see if it’s riding majestically into the sunset or shuffling off to the Elmer’s plant.
Oh yeah, so (not my) president Pissler and his turd reich are on their way into the White House soon, and though I had another movie in mind to mark the end of civilization as we know it, DR2050 dropped itself face first into my lap instead, and the timing was just too perfect not to unzip. As such, if you were shivering with antici………..pation for this as much as I was, well, urine luck!
For those who have already seen Death Race 2000, you can pretty much Choose Your Own Adventure the next few paragraphs and turn to “Page 32”. For those new to the game, continue on to “Page 7”.
30 or so years in the future, the USA is a much different landscape. Well, it’ll probably be like looking in a mirror 4 or so years in the future from where we are now, but let’s all try to escape reality for a few minutes together and focus on the flick. Corporations have hijacked the land of milk and honey and turned it into Occupy Wall Street’s worst night terror, going so overboard as to rename the nation The United Corporations of America. This “re-branding” includes the replacement of the stars on the flag with dollar signs. Like the most constipated man in history would say, I shit you not. The states have been divided among the most elite of the 1% and also re-branded with new monikers to reflect their new owners, and in some cases strip mined of every available resource straight into hellholes that only extras from a Mad Max movie would be fit to survive in. Sitting atop this smoldering shit heap is the Chairman (Malcolm McDowell), whose goofy haircut, bold faced lies and constant disregard for the welfare of his citizens in favor of bilking every last cent out of their pockets make him an obvious parody of a certain baby-handed megalomaniac obsessed with swimming in gold, and I don’t mean the way Scrooge McDuck does.
With the advancement of medical technology, mankind has managed to eliminate life-threatening diseases like cancer, while also giving the people an Extended Play in the game of life, with most living into the triple digits like it’s no big deal. The resultant unexpected population explosion (remember, guys like the Chairman don’t listen to any science that doesn’t bump up their profit margin) left the nation with an immediate need to relocate their excess citizenry. But, since the UCA grabbed the other nations of the world by their pussies with nuclear rape hands, the remainder of the planet’s kinda unlivable. Hence, violent competitions were established where the participants murder the peasantry en masse for the entertainment of said peasantry smart enough to stay home and watch instead. On that note, cue the theme music as we present you with Death Race: a cross-country rally style automotive conflict whose drivers (and their navigators/co-pilots) do their damnedest to turn every person along the path into meat bag versions of the Incredible Crash Dummies. You know, the characters from that weird ’90s cartoon/toy line, not that weird ’90s band/reason I uncontrollably punch people who hum as hard as I can in the face… with a knife.
Not everybody in the UCA is down with an entertainment industry based on a “re-envisioning” of the Roman Colosseum days. Said like-minded individuals have become a like-minded institution of rebels working toward the common goal of “waking up the sheeple” (I hate young people) and uniting the common folk against their corporate oppressors. How? By stopping the Death Race! How? By killing the drivers! These inept understudies from an off-Broadway musical version of Beyond Thunderdome are lead by an ex government Head of Programming-turned-revolutionary hard-ass named Alexis, who’s played by the former starlet of TNT’s ”Witchblade” TV series – Yancy Butler! Oh, nobody remembers ”Witchblade”? Well, fist my ass.
NOT WITH THAT!
And now, your Death Race racer roster!
Frankenstein (Manu Bennett) – Dressed up like a leather daddy wearing a lava golem mask that may or may not be made from re-purposed tire rubber, this four time winner of Death Races past is a manly man budget version of Tom Hardy and the franchise hero of the coast-to-coast abattoir. Bearing the title of Mary Shelley’s most memorable monster (Victor, not his patchwork zombie “son”), he’s survived his fair share of fender benders thanks to the advanced cyber-prosthesis that have left him a mechanical man. Query: though this explains the Frankenstein name, was his name always Frankenstein, even before he became a walking quilt of flesh and circuitry? Enquiring minds are mildly curious! His co-pilot Annie (Marci Miller) is our main man’s mandatory love interest, so try not to be surprised when their elementary school playground name calling and verbal sparring turns into a begrudging union of souls. Finally, am I the only one who looks at Frankie’s car and can’t stop seeing the TMNT Footski toy?
Jed Perfectus (Burt Grinstead) – The self-proclaimed apex of manliness and a nonstop testosterone factory, Perfectus is the test tube baby byproduct of a genetic engineering experiment tasked with making the ultimate male. He’s determined to defeat Frankenstein (to the point of obsession) and prove himself the new hero that the Death Race fans deserve. A blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan asshole, this personification of the Übermensch would have Hitler creaming his pants so hard you’d think he’d just poured bottles of Coffee-Mate down both pockets. All that aggressive man juice pumping through his brain makes Jed a bit of a psycho though, so when he strips down to his golden Rocky Horror skivvies and his mole-covered pecs get to flexing, prepare for some of the old ultra-violence. Though the gay jokes are frequent and expected, in spite of them, Jed’s fractured mental state is actually an interesting study in the dangers of toxic masculinity. Unlike the prior picture’s antagonist, Machine Gun Joe, Jed opts for a spear gun over a Tommy Gun. Given the whole “insecure man” angle, I’m sure that’s not just a Freudian slip on the peel of a Freudian banana. Wakka wakka!
Tammy (Anessa Ramsey) – Also known by the nom de carnage of “Tammy the Terrorist”, I’m pretty sure this mid-western religious nut heralded by the stink of brimstone and burnt rubber is named after the infamous Tammy Faye-Bakker. Then again, her lack of comically heavy makeup could indicate otherwise. Whatever the case, Tammy here bears no small resemblance to an out-of-work Jaime Pressly. She’s dressed to the nines in her eye-blisteringly “’MERICA!” outfit that approximates a grown-up version of something you’d see at one of those creepy Dallas prostitot beauty pageants that I’m pretty sure are just massive bait traps for pedophiles. Her white trash Barbarella fashion senselessness aside, Tammy’s defining trait is that she’s the leader of a religious extremist group (i.e. suicide bombers) who worship dead celebrities from the past, so expect numerous name drops along the lines of James Dean, David Bowie, Elvis Presley and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In case it wasn’t blatant enough for you (or you just weren’t paying attention), she represents the ridiculous forms that celebrity worship can take and the dangers that faith can lead to in the wrong hands.
Minerva Jefferson (Folake Olowofoyeku) – The obvious foil for Miss Tammy, Minerva is a hard-nosed hip hop harlot draped in bad girl bling who’s made a career out of calling for the killing of white people. Not “Whitey” or “The Man” in particular, mind you, but Caucasians as a whole. And no, not Caucasian ass-a-holes specifically, hyuk hyuk. Though I’m a member of the “rap is crap” mentality, as a self-hating honky I probably relate more to Minerva’s motivations than any of the other drivers’. Her car (the Whitey Whacker) has a pair of external speakers that are supposedly so loud they can make peoples’ heads explode, but I’m not sure that’s how sound waves work. Minerva’s latest hit single is in honor of her enrollment in the competition and it’s no surprise that it’s just her chanting “Drive! Drive! Kill! Kill!” to a generic backing track. It’s all a flagrant rip-off of a Homer Is B.I.G. track, anyway.
ABE (voiced by D.C. Douglas) – The fifth and final perforator of pedestrian entrails in this endeavor is even less human than Jed! That’s because this driver is actually the K.I.T.T. of the movie, minus Mr. Feeny’s voice or Mitch Buchannon’s ass in its face. The AI’s creator/co-pilot/girlfriend is Dr. Von
Creamer (Helen Loris)… wait… “girlfriend”? Yep. Though we’re given no background on the self-driving murder machine’s origins, going by Creamy’s frequent usage of its passenger pleasure functions, I’m gonna go with the safe bet that the doctor’s obsession with creating the ultimate vibrator got so out-of-hand that she couldn’t keep it a secret from whoever supplied her research grant, so she just said it was a Death Race car and ended up here. Interestingly enough, ABE (the meaning of whose acronym is also ignored) presents us with the ages old “What’s the meaning of life?” query as applied to an AI. Curiouser and curiouser.
And that’s as deep as I’m gonna delve into this gumball rally of gore. For returning audiences wondering where the flick’s endgame lies, it’s both familiar and new. Not soul crushingly new like New Coke, but more “better than we feared” new like the New Mutants. Also, no, that certain beloved pun-based explosive device (you know the one) does not make a return, despite it fitting this flicks goofy-as-fuck tone. A tad sad, but that’s just the way it is. At least we got this guy, so it’s not like we’re left empty handed!
Find someone who loves you the way this guy loves his giant fiberglass wiener.
So there you have it – Death Race 2050. I’m not gonna lie to you (or am I?), but upon my first viewing of it, I was the kid on Cthulhumas morning who was anticipating a severed head awaiting me under the burning tree of madness, only to find a basket of graphically soiled hobo underwear instead. I was hoping for a movie more akin to Death Race 2000 – a lower budget think piece disguised as a campy celebration of the normalization of violence. What I got was a slightly higher budgeted version of Death Racers with much the same eye violatingly miserable digital effects, written by people to whom the word “subtlety” seems to have a “that which shall not be named” air to it. An embodiment of every vulgarity Echternkamp and Yamashita recoiled at during their formative years, and have since become straight phobias. An offense equal to shitting into their respective grandmothers’ mouths.
Upon my second viewing though, I had one of those RARE changes of heart. Having suffered the shit tier special effects once and watching it with my expectational loins properly girded, I was able to ignore the visual garbage fire and really enjoy the extreme lengths to which Brand Echt and Holy ‘Shita didn’t just put their plans out there for us to see, but fired them into our faces via figurative bazooka. Their revulsion of subtlety works in their favor! It gives the whole movie a boost of Idiocracy style absurdity with a hot beef injection of Troma type energy, blatant sociopolitical subject matter, and tongues so firmly in-cheek that they’re seeing daylight. And in today’s climate? Being released mere days before Pissler’s inauguration? You couldn’t have picked a better time to release a movie like this if you had a DeLorean with a souped-up Mr. Coffee strapped to it. It’s one of those movies whose dialogue is endlessly quotable too, so if you hate flicks that focus on snappy-like-a-mousetrap exchanges and one-liners over more realistic speak, take your bland ass elsewhere.
Speaking of great lines, they’re nothing without proper delivery, which is where our cast comes in. And what a cast they are! All of the racers feel fleshed out, with their own defining moments and personal conflicts. The political participants and co-pilots (except Annie of course) have less dimensions than the characters in Megan Fox’s filmography, but the main cast tow the film fine on their own. The lines feel so natural coming out of their mouths that you almost feel like the characters themselves were tailored for the actors. It’s not high drama Oscar stuff. We’re not seeing the next generation of Streeps and DiCaprios here, but for what the roles required, I don’t think we could’ve gotten better than this batch of relative nobodies. That might sound like faint praise, but coming from someone who’d rather cuddle David Carradine’s bloated corpse in a closet for a night than watch The Departed again, consider it my official approval. Officially.
No matter how much I can indulge in everything else though, none of this helps wipe away the stain of DR2050‘s hideous coat of shit colored digital paint. It hangs heavy over the whole thing like a big brown cloud blotting out the sun. I hate the person who invented computer generated cars. And computer generated explosions. And computer generated gore. Fuck he/she/them with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire and soaked in ghost pepper sauce. I blame The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but then I tend to blame Tokyo Drift for most of the problems in my life. Every time I stub my toe or get a paper cut, you can usually hear me shouting “TOKYO DRIFT!” at the top of my lungs. ‘Struth.
In case It wasn’t obvious, I’m recommending this movie for those readers looking to have a laugh with a VERY liberal lean. Just go in expecting Syfy Original “quality” computer effects and you’re less likely to be as mortified as I was at first. If you’re looking for more serious car combat, watch Death Race instead (or again), or just let Fury Road blow your mind for the 20th time. Either way, I’ve had my say, so here’s to hoping it made your day. Later, taters!
“What’s new, pussycat? Whoooooa oh oooooooh!”
“Prop Corn”? What, they couldn’t afford the real stuff? I’m not saying it had to be a case of that fancy Redenbacher bastard’s stuff, but nobody could just pony up for a few bags of generic store brand popcorn?!
In the future, people will be able to splice their genes with other species, Moreau style. Amanda here has just started her transition into a Lepus-American, and we at The Tomb wish her all the best!
Sadly, it’s not whether the black and Asian characters will be killed off, but which one will die first. Sorry, minorities.
“Oh no, darling. This isn’t an oral exam camera. Turn around and think warm thoughts!”
Our hero looks like the gimp from an intergalactic Ilsa movie.
Frankenstein and his car pose for their action figure box art.
From an alternate reality in which Michael Jackson lived well into his 80s and became not just the king of pop, but the king of the world.
NOT the type of face you want to wake up to! Or step out of the shower to! Or… come home to… or… you know what, no one should ever have to see that face… ever.
“How’s our repeal of The Constitution coming along? What do you mean ‘What are we going to replace it with’? No we don’t have anything to replace it with! That didn’t stop us from repealing Obamacare or Social Services, why should it stop us now?!”
“They actually think the audience is going to believe these painted dollar store swimming goggles are VR glasses! Ha ha ha ha ha!”
Presenting Mister & Missus Carl’s Jr. 2017!
“You see these sunglasses? They cost more than your car! Why? What’s so great about them? I DON’T FUCKING KNOW! IT DOESN’T MATTER! They cost more than any other pair of sunglasses, so that makes them (and by proxy ME) better!”
When your shadowcast’s Riff Raff calls in sick and Rocky has to pull double duty.
Gah! I’m being haunted by the ghost of Liberace!
I once ate a rancid can of alphabet soup on a dare, and the resultant game of gastric Scrabble I played in the toilet afterward spelled out something like that.
Anubis will return next time in
“How Gurdy Got His Groove Back”
Because what else could we end this on?
Featuring: Jesse “John Tucker Must Die” Metcalfe , Jessica “iZombie” Harmon , Dennis “The Unit” Haysbert
Director: Pat “Degrassi: the Next Generation” Williams
Writers: Tim “Dead Rising: Watchtower” Carter & Michael “Catwoman” Ferris
Sequel to: Dead Rising: Watchtower
Welcome back, boils and ghouls. ‘Tis I, your humble narrator, thriving on the mundane and bleeding mediocrity as always. The Master of Mating Magnetism himself… keeping in mind that magnets both attract and repel… props to the Sonic commercial I stole that punchline from. Anyway, if I sound a bit disappointed today, it’s because I fell for one of those click bait articles about “SHOCKING CELEBRITY SUICIDES!” that uses a picture of Johnathan Taylor Thomas in the link. I clicked through all 200 pages of that fucking site and JTT wasn’t among them! From now on, I’m checking IMDB before getting my hopes up about forgotten ’90s quasi-celebs murdering themselves. Speaking of shat upon expectations, there were two things I was very much looking forward to experiencing last week: Burger King’s newest lifespan eroder, the Mac & Cheetos, and Crackle’s new original zombie-a-go-go, Dead Rising: Endgame. Of the two, one was moderately satisfying and the other was monstrously disappointing. Here’s a hint about which is which: the following review is for the shit show. Spoilers.
In case you missed my review for last year’s Dead Rising: Watchtower (Episode 47, as seen here), here’s a quick refresher for the sequel. It’s based on the Dead Rising video game series. Each installment of which centers around a different male main character stuck in the middle of a zombie outbreak and forced to survive with an armory of do-it-yourself weapons that combine everyday objects like a sledgehammer and a fire ax, a broadsword and motor oil, a vacuum cleaner and buzz saw blades, and so on and so forth. Watchtower opted not to adapt any of these games, and instead introduced us to a new protagonist named Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe). Chase is an investigative reporter (cuz reporters are always chasing stories… get it?… do you get it?… you get it.) for an online-only news outlet that covers all the stories the “lamestream media” won’t, due to the whims of their corporate overlords and being on the short leash of their Wall Street masters and blah blah occupy blah blah blah.
Chase uncovered a conspiracy (as reporters in movies are oft to do), killed some zombies, “Point A? Meet Point B.”, nothing was resolved (gotta set it up for the sequel after all!), roll the credits. If you didn’t watch it and are one of those spoiler-phobic types, you might wanna end your experience here and return the unused portion of this review for a full refund. Being a sequel, major plot points from the previous picture need to be touched upon, and like a doctor giving you a physical, I wanna make said touching as non-awkward for you as possible. Your body is a magical, disgusting pile of nerves that react to stimulation in an aroused fashion independent of your brain sometimes. Don’t be embarrassed. It happens to everyone… please stop masturbating.
Still here? Okay. Let’s continue with the Ballad of Chase Carter… not to be confused with “The Ballad of Chasey Lane”, which is a Bloodhound Gang song that has nothing to do with zombies and everything to do with analingus.
When we last left our venturesome muckraker, he had made a deal with one of the big TV news outlets to provide them with an exclusive story about the behind-the-scenes of a recent undead outbreak, including how it may have actually been caused by Phenotrans – the pharmaceutical company that produces the zombieism sytmying drug Zombrex™ and NOT a Phoenix based social group for trans people with dyslexia. It had something to do with bitten people being implanted with microchips that would track their vitals and release Zombrex™ into their systems as needed to prevent them from turning. Sinister Army man General Lyons (Dennis Haysbert) wanted to weaponize the chips (or something. I don’t remember a whole lot from the first movie, to be fair) and instead used a portion of them to turn their users into the living dead, taking advantage of the resultant panic to manipulate things to his favor somehow… maybe… I don’t know. The end result was the eponymous program “Watchtower”, which instituted mandatory chipping for millions of otherwise uninfected civilians.
As we join our journalistic joy-boy Chase, he has indeed parlayed himself a well paying gig as a World War Z correspondent for UBN (let’s say “Universal Broadcast News”?). While sticking his nose into every hole he can find (dirty dirty dirty) to try and uncover evidence of Lyons’ wrong doings, he’s also trying to track down his former producer Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy) who went missing at the end of Watchtower. It’s been a pair of calendars since the big outbreak, and despite East Mission City being voted Zombie Digest‘s “Biggest Necropolis of 2016”, the streets aren’t exactly teeming with bite bags. Another unfortunate instance of a low-budget movie bragging about having a 10 inch pocket monster when all they’re packing is a 2 inch pelvic thumb. Denoting your shortcomings beforehand is better than trying to excuse your lies after the fact. Admission over apologizing, people.
Despite his efforts, Chase is story-blocked by his bosses, who don’t need the hassle of a Phenotrans lawsuit or a government sanctioned mass execution to bring down their executive cocaine lunch highs. To continue down his checklist of “movie reporter tropes”, Chase ignores the demands of those-in-charge and continues to meddle in the matters of General Lyons, the Scooby-Doo to his Old Man Withers. Monotoned Army guy’s big scheme continues to revolve around those damn Big Brother chips, only this time he plans to insta-kill a few million people instead of just turning them into ghouls. With just 24 hours to put the ki-bosh on this “Afterlife” contingency, Double C and his elite Channel 6 News Team strike out to bring down Iran Contra II before it turns into September 11th IV. Said crew includes such movie caricatures as “sassy computer hacker girlfriend who owes the hero her life” (Maria Avgeropoulos), “tough talking cool guy that supplies the group with guns, who we first meet playing the video game the movie’s based on before he answers the door in his underwear and a robe” (Patrick Sabongui), “experienced news person who uses their connections to try and take down the evil corporation with the Power of the Press” (Jessica Harmon), “corporate whisteblower who will either turn on the heroes to save their own ass or die proving their dedication to doing what’s right” (Ian Tracey) and “character from the hero’s past who shows up to save them in the nick of time”. You know, all those old “seen it before” chestnuts.
Endgame follows much the same path that Watchtower did in regards to its influence from the games, only this time around the Zombie-Go-Round the marauding rejects from a Mad Max movie are replaced with a scurrilous gang of heroin handling (which is never reasoned why) mercenaries, the wacky interview segments with Dead Rising hero Frank West are dropped in favor of a much less wacky deus ex machina cameo by Dead Rising 2 protagonist Chuck Greene (Victor Webster), the creative engineering of mash-up weapons (all of which look too silly for a serious toned tale) feels tacked on now rather than a fun nod to fans of the games, and the previous flick’s “boss battle” finale is dropped in favor of a pair of dramatic stand-offs – one about two guys waiting for lab test results and the other over a computer virus’ upload progression bar… As the constipated old man said to his Depends, “I shit you not”.
By the time it was over, my faith in Dead Rising as a movie series had expired. Were you here, you would’ve heard the last gasps of hope leave my body via an audible sigh. It was as if the ghost of my own enjoyment had been exorcised by an ordained priest from the Church of Mediocrity. Though some would praise Endgame‘s eschewing of its comedic roots in favor of a more dire tone, I say thee nay. If I wanted my made-for-TV ghoulocausts to be low-budget bowls of freezer-burnt vanilla ice cream, I wouldn’t have relieved myself all over Rise of the Zombies way back in episode 6! No, I want my Dead Rising ice cream to be filled with sprinkles and gummi worms and little chocolate zombies, damn it! I said it when Michael Bay prison sexed the Ninja Turtles and I’ll say it again – if you’re just going to ignore 90% of the source material and do your own “in name only” thing, spare the fans your lazy cash-in and just call it something else! Then again, when one of your writers was responsible for the crime against geek humanity that is Catwoman, I should’ve known what I was setting myself up for, right? No. That’s victim blaming, you asshole. Fuck you.
On the good side of things, Billy Zane himself shows up for a payday as a not-quite-mad-but-definitely-morally-spotty scientist! Not-so-good? His role has him onscreen for all of 5-10 minutes and lacks the Zane zaniness of something like his turn in Demon Knight that I was hoping to get when I saw him mentioned in the opening creds. On a less lackluster positive note, though, I have to admit that what action pieces we get are generally better put together than what we got in Watchtower. Chief among them for me being a Chase chase (wakka wakka!) sequence where he tries to escape the dead menace amid a series of escalators and an interestingly shot fight between the hero and some zombos in an operating room that shoots for what I can only describe as “tethered filming”.
So, all said and done, Endgame isn’t all bad. Generic, sure, but not a totally wasted 90 minutes of wear and tear on the eyeballs. It doesn’t leave me looking forward to the purported TV series that Crackle has in the works, but as a stand alone zombie movie, I’ve seen worse. Far worse. Skin-peelingly bad “I’d rather jam toothpicks under my toe nails than watch another minute of this” worse. Toe suckingly terrible stuff, folks. Seriously.
As previously noted, the biggest problem with the movie is making it 100% serious while still keeping the “Dead Rising” moniker. It’s tantamount to taking a charismatic, over-the-top madman like Jesse Ventura and casting him as a cookie-cutter, potatoes-without-the-meat, bland as raw tofu, good guy. How do you make an intergalactic space cop played by one of professional wrestling’s greatest a-holes a walking, talking sleeping pill? Abraxas. How do you suck all of the fun out of Dead Rising‘s wholesale zombie murdering and DIY death dealers? Endgame.
Hey, I wonder why they named the first movie after Lyons’ plan (“Watchtower”), but didn’t do the same with the sequel? “Afterlife” would’ve made for a better title, especially given that this clearly isn’t the series’ “endgame”, what with the TV show planned. Just junk food for thought.
Since it’s a Crackle exclusive, if you want to check out Endgame (or Watchtower for that matter) you can do so for free on the Crackle app for your phone, tablet, gaming console, or TV streaming device of choice. Of course, you’ll have to sit through a shitload of commercials for that privilege, but nothing is truly free… unless you download it from a torrent site. Technology, you sex us so good!
Oh, and despite not making Mac & Cheetos wretched fried tripe, BK isn’t off the hook! One time they sold me onion rings and didn’t give me the designated sauce that goes with it. Onion rings without onion ring sauce is as much a crime as a Dead Rising sequel without Rob Riggle’s Frank West. And I was told this was the land of liberty. Oh the unabashed verisimilitude. Not cool, guys. Not cool.
Those sadists in the Jackass crew have run out of wacky ideas and are just straight up mutilating themselves now.
I see someone never figured out how to turn the on-screen display off on their camera…
“Damn, baby! You looked a hell of a lot better last night when I had my Jack Daniels goggles on!”
She’s Selena Gomez-ing.
Dennis Haysbert parodying the McConaughey Lincoln commercials? You’re a few years late to the party, Allstate.
Hey, movie. You’re not endearing me to you any more so by showing me what I could be playing instead of watching you. Stop it.
“You mind if we stop by my dealer’s place real quick on the way to the airport? I’ve been itching for a fucking hit since lunch and I just can’t drive straight when I’m, well, straight! Oh, and can you give me a 5 star rating on Uber? It hasn’t been a good week.”
“Thanks for meeting me in secret… here in this public place… out in the open… during the day… You’ve never done corporate espionage work before, have you?”
A human pinata! THAT’s what I want for my birthday next year!
“My custom weapons are NOT stupid looking and cumbersome! They’re friggin’ AWESOME! You’re gonna owe me so many Mac & Cheetos when you see how right I am and these save your dumb life!”
For those cold footed husband-to-be out there hoping the zombie apocalypse will be a good enough reason to cancel your marriage? She will find you. And eat you.
“What are you two doing?! Do you have a permit to film here?! Fuck off before I call the cops!”
“So you’re not going with a crazy, over-the-top tone with this one? You just want me to play my role straight? Okay… you have until my bank clears the check, then I’m out of here.”
Hey kids, remember Hackers? Remember how cool it is to watch a fucking progress bar for 10 minutes?! Have we got a movie for you!
“Chuck? I know your cameo is completely superfluous and all, but could you have at least worn your bright yellow motocross jacket so the gamers could have had some kind of fan service?!”
Anubis will return next time in
“What Do You Call 8 Teens At Crystal Lake?”