Monday, 4 April 2016

Things (1989)

This review is for the Intervision DVD.


Remember the old days when Plan 9 from Outer Space was considered the worst film ever made? These days it seems that milestone is being passed on an almost daily basis. We've had Manos: The Hands of Fate, Troll 2, The Room and more recently, the nil-budget, monster-movie exploitation of Birdemic: Shock and Terror. The appetite for shit is apparently still very healthy in an age of masturbatory, Spandex and cape-wearing explodavision.

I wasn't sure how to review Things, so I thought I'd try a method I had already used for Demons in My Head and pretty much list everything that happens in a low-rent, stream-of-consciousness type way. This seems to work well with these "what the fuck is happening" type films and to be honest I wasn't too bothered with plot spoilers in a film as notoriously disjointed as Things. So, let's get started...

Picture the following with 8-bit midi-synth and some nasty Casio-style backbeat playing in the background... well, when I say playing, it's more like start, stop, start, louder, rewind, stop, ff, stop, quieter, start. You get the idea.

A nuclear bomb goes off and we get the title screen. A man, Doug, asks a devil-masked woman to have his baby... but wait, the baby has already been born and bites his hand! Doug then wakes up... it was all a dream! He gets up and moves into the kitchen for some pills for his girlfriend. A door closes on its own. The title screen is displayed again along with the some disjointed credits...wait...freeze-frame...Amber Lynn is in this? Then she appears in all her hair-lacquered-within-an-inch-of-its-life, shoulder-padded glory as a newsreader with the name Amber Lynn! This is like some weird parallel universe where instead of being a world famous porn star she became a Fox News anchor with no idea of what her dialogue is, let along the camera! Two men (we'll call them Beardy and Mullet) knock at at Doug's door and get no answer. They let themselves in and pull a book and tape deck from the freezer... yes, the freezer. Beardy then describes the plot of the Evil Dead whilst they play the tape. Mullet then takes off his jacket and puts it in the freezer, because... well, just because. Doug appears, shouts, turns the tape off and disappears again. Beardy searches the kitchen cupboards, turns some taps on and off, and then flicks a plastic fish for no reason whatsoever. Amber Lynn is back! Then a shot of a man and a woman poking another man's decomposing hand. Then it just gets weird.

That's the first ten minutes or so and at this point I have to give up with my "stream-of-conciousness" idea as I'm spending to much time typing and not enough watching. So back to the standard review format.

There's a Robert Heinlein story called "And He Built a Crooked House" about a house built in an unfolded tesseract configuration which then collapses in on itself, becoming a weird quantum-mechanical, architectural conundrum. A house where you can climb the stairs only to find yourself at the bottom again and where you can walk into the kitchen and end up in the bedroom. Things is a little like that - you have entered a very strange dimension where even Rod Serling would fear to tread.

So we have some fun practical effects (I've seen much worse - I'm looking at you Cannibal Terror). The sound is all over the place with variable levels (just wait until you hear the paper-towels!), muffling, background hiss and some of the worst ADR outside of Hong Kong. The editing, and I use the word extremely loosely, is insane and completely incoherent. There is no shot composition at all and the picture quality is really, really bad - fuzzy, out of focus, blurry, pick an adjective. Then we come to the lighting! We have lighting, then no lighting, then red lighting, then yellow, then none, all within a single scene. Plot wise, so many things happen which have absolutely no bearing on the plot, character development or anything at all - they just happen! I'm sure there must be a plot in there somewhere, but I'm buggered if I can find it. The performances are bad but not the worst I've seen. In fact the doctor is up there with Torgo from Manos as one of my most favourite ever characters.

If there's one phrase that sums up Things it's "shit happens". It's almost like the director took the title a little too literally and took a big bucket full of "Things", threw them against a wall and filmed what stuck... and also what fell off into a gloopy mess on the floor.

I know all this makes the film sound terrible - and it is, it really is - but you can tell the film-makers really love horror and Things has a lot of heart. One to watch with friends and a large quantity of beer.

A masterpiece of incompetence.

Amber Lynn... why?

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