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Friday, July 8, 2011

THINGS -- DVD review by porfle

While one review hails THINGS (1989) as "a movie that defines what 'cult' really is", you'd be quite accurate in saying that this low-budget, straight-to-VHS Canadian gorefest also defines what "100% brain-rotting crap" really is. 

There's no denying that this is one of the worst excuses for a movie ever made.  It's one of those films whose status as either "so bad it's good" or "totally unwatchable dreck" depends entirely upon the charity of the viewer.  That said, though, if you catch it in the right mood--as the film's many fans apparently did--you can have an awful lot of fun watching it.

Shot on Super-8mm by high-school pals Andrew Jordan (co-writer, director) and Barry J. Gillis (co-producer, co-writer, star), THINGS is the story of a man named Doug Drake (Doug Bunston) who seeks medical help when he and his wife Susan are unable to conceive a child.  Unfortunately, Dr. Lucas (Jan W. Pachul) turns out to be a giggling, sadistic psycho who takes time out from torturing people in his dungeon of horror (the torture scenes are amateurish-looking but extreme) to impregnate Susan with a monster fetus.

Later, Doug's brother Don (Gillis) and his friend Fred (Bruce Roach) drop by Doug's secluded cabin in the backwoods of Toronto for an exciting evening of drinking beer and watching TV.  Suddenly, Susan gives birth to a creature that looks like a cross between a chest-burster from ALIEN and a giant cootie.  The thing begins to multiply at an alarming rate until the house is crawling with them, plunging Don, Fred, and Doug into a nightmare of insect insanity and gratuitous gore. 

While all of this sounds exciting, it isn't, and the most interesting thing about the film is the bizarre and illogical behavior of its main characters.  After Susan's horrific death (during which actress Patricia Sadler is unable to suppress a smile whenever she's on camera), Doug's initial grief quickly gives way to lighthearted prankishness and an overall "who cares" attitude, in addition to a concern that his nice shirt has been ruined by Susan's gushing blood.  Don interrupts the somber mood with a gruesome campfire story at the kitchen table, while Fred wonders what kind of cool TV shows are on. 

Characters appear and disappear seemingly at random--we don't even know Doug is in the house with Don and Fred until there's a sudden closeup of his butt, after which he disappears again.  The total lack of basic storytelling skills forces us to decipher what's going on in almost every scene, even down to figuring out whether we're supposed to find certain drawn-out sequences funny, suspenseful, or scary.

There seem to be several deliberate attempts at comedy throughout the story, but the serious and funny elements are so equally stupid that it's hard to tell.  I laughed out loud when the dog got killed, and I don't even know why.  Other scenes are equally amusing for unknown reasons, such as the part where Doug and Don are searching the bathroom for bug-monsters and find one perched on the toilet, and then each of them insists on using the bathroom anyway. 

Much of the running time is padded with shots of them wandering around the house with their flashlights, trading goofy dialogue and doing things that don't make sense.  When they finally go down into the basement to change out some fuses, a sudden bug attack results in Don bludgeoning Doug with a club.  More excitement ensues when Fred finds an electric chainsaw and goes commando against the critters while Don wields a power drill as though he were building the world's most insane birdhouse.  The film's most hilarious moment ("I'm still alive!") is followed by a surprise visit from none other than the gleefully insane Dr. Lucas, after which things just go totally whacko until the film abruptly ends. 

THINGS supposedly cost around $40,000 to make, but I can't imagine it costing any more than forty dollars.  A sizable chunk of the budget ($2,500) went to 80s porn goddess Amber Lynn, who consented to appear as a TV news reporter making intermittent appearances throughout the film.  Reading her lines cold from a cue card held way off to the side, Amber doesn't come off too good here.  This is irrelevant, though, since her presence is mainly an excuse to use sexy pictures of her in the advertising.  The film's only nudity comes in the first scene, in which a woman (a real-life hooker who appeared under the condition that her face not be shown) strips naked while wearing a devil mask that makes her resemble a deranged Ed Wood.

The DVD from InterVision is in full-screen with 2.0 sound.  Extras include two commentaries, trailers, Barry J. Gillis TV appearances promoting the film, a cast and crew 20th anniversary reunion, a ten-minute behind-the-scenes look at Amber Lynn filming her scenes, and testimonials for the film including comments by Tobe Hooper (TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE) and Jason Eisener (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN).  After the closing credits crawl there's more candid footage of Amber Lynn and some outtakes.

The first commentary, an audio viewing party with the Cinefamily, is fun, but the cast and crew commentary is a wonderfully raucous affair during which Gillis' daughter, Victoria Elizabeth Turnbull (who also appears in the anniversary segment), mercilessly mocks the film while a growing air of inebriation seems to prevail.

With camerawork and editing that seem to have been performed by blind people and dubbing that might've been done from across the street--not to mention some of the most delightfully atrocious acting of all time--you might think that THINGS was made by people who have never seen a movie before.  As things grow more bizarre and nonsensical, however, the film begins to look more like something made by aliens who have never seen human beings before.

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Barry J. Gillis said...

Excellent Review... Enjoyable and

porfle said...

Thanks, Barry! I appreciate that coming from you.