Friday, July 8, 2016

VHS Summer Week #2

Andrew Jordan

Often the real appeal of viewing shot-on-video movies is seeing passion emerge from people who are using limited resources and skill sets to produce something unlike anything produced from large studios. Making fun of the cheapness of the effects, stilted dialogue, or poor editing is easy, but if you put that aside for a moment, you can take in how gloriously bizarre some of these films can be when not reigned in by executives looking at marking data. Things competes with The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre (1974) for films that become gloriously unhinged by the time the credits rolls.

The plot of Things (insofar as it has one) is about a man named Doug (Doug Bunston) who, upset that his wife has not been able to have children, forces her to undergo an experimental treatment. Doug’s knucklehead brother, Don (Barry J. Gillis) and his friend, Fred (Bruce Roach) show up and proceed to drink beer, watch TV and occasionally deal with some ant monsters that Doug’s wife has been birthing in the bed room. Things descends into incoherence as the trio fend off the creatures, the mad doctor behind it all, and their own incompitence.

"Oh god, I smell delicious!"
The above plot description was only been compiled by me after several viewings. Things begins with a dream sequence involving a nude woman in a devil mask and only occasionally lets up on the weirdness so that the brothers can sit around and make comments while downing a few beers. The dialogue can be legitimately funny at times, but character actions are often frustratingly at odds with what is happening. Characters vanish and reappear without explanation, and no one seems terribly concerned about a house full of monsters until they descend into utter madness about it. Things moves beyond fever dream into something akin to drinking a case of cheap beer and washing it down with a bottle of cough medicine while waving a power drill around.

The majority of the film is confined to one house. The geography of the space is never defined, but there is something claustrophobic about the whole place. The monster effects are cheap and stiff, but Things isn’t afraid to pour on the gore by the third act, and what it lacks in finesse it makes up in volume. At a certain point the film stops trying to make narrative sense all together, and it can have an overwhelmingly numbing experience on the viewer. Like Science Crazed, (1991) this isn’t a film you watch so much as survive, and you will not be the same person when you arrive on the other side.

The new Energizer battery mascot is not working out.
Things was originally released on VHS back in 1989, and I can only imagine what the casual renter thought of it when they brought it home, assuming they made it past the opening dream sequence. Although shot on 8 and 16mm film, Things feels most at home in all its lo-fi glory creeping out of a cathode ray tube like some kind of Canadian Sadako there to slap the beer and bowl of poutine out your hands and drive you mad.

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