Wednesday, October 13, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day13: Vintage Troublemaker - THINGS

If I had given it just a little more thought, today's post would have been about Jason Voorhees. Instead, it's about a real horror of a movie.

Today’s post concerns some serious subject matter. Something that I love dearly, yet may present a very real threat to all of humanity. Something that I have a boundless enthusiasm for but that could well destroy society as we know it. What could the topic possibly be? Vampires? No, these pale dandies would explode into dust at the mere mention of today’s subject. Zombies? Not even close. The imminent zombie apocalypse seems like small potatoes when compared with the mind-crumbling madness of the movie known as:
Let’s start at the beginning.

I am a huge horror movie fan. Back in the day, I would buy just about any cheap-o VHS copy of anything that looked like it might be a horror flick in the hopes of finding one of those rare gems that nobody has ever heard of . Whether it was amazingly awesome or astoundingly awful; I love sharing that kind of stuff with people. I pretty much abandoned the practice once digital video cameras became commonplace. Now pretty much any schmuck can make a movie, so spectacularly shitty movies that make you wonder how they ever came to be are much more readily available than they once were. They just aren’t special anymore.

Towards the end of the 90’s, though, my tape habit was in full swing. Blockbuster Video was a good source for cheap VHS since they would sell overstock on rental titles and mark them down relatively quickly. They would also occasionally pull older titles and sell them. This is where you would find those gems I was speaking of.

I don’t remember what year it was, but I was in the Blockbuster on Pleasant Hill Road – the one that used to be in front of the Kroger. Now neither one of them is there. I had picked a couple of titles up to rent and was making my usual pass by the used tapes. I was about to go on to the checkout counter when one video - all by itself on an otherwise empty bottom shelf – caught my eye. The cover looked like somebody had literally taped a bunch of unrelated photographs together and then photocopied the result (but not in a cool, David Fincher kind of way. More of a fourth-grade art project kind of way.) There was a guy with a fairly impressive mullet wielding a drill with an enormous bit, some sort of odd ant-like creature and porn actress (I think “star” is too strong a term, although “actress” probably is, too. Maybe “porn individual” would be best.) Amber Lynn. All of this against an awful primer-gray checkerboard background, with the title – THINGS – in bold, red lettering across the front.

Between the mullet and the presence of a porn actress (because you know there would be bare titties involved) I was in. I grabbed the tape and, unbeknownst to me at the time, changed my life forever.

I’m pretty sure I was living with Beth and TB when I obtained my favorite movie of all time. They were really great to watch awful movies with. Darth Pete lived there, too, but I don’t remember him being there for as many of the viewings. Maybe he had a more active social life.

I like to switch to a bullet-point format when a subject is too grand for my humble descriptive abilities, so I’m going to do that now to give you a basic idea of the greatness that is THINGS:

  • THINGS was created and executed by two Canadian geniuses – Andrew Jordan and Barry J. Gillis. Few other names appear in the credits.
  • THINGS features the rocking music of the obscure band Stryc-9, notably their smash-hit Tailspin.
  • THINGS includes scenes with multiple camera angles that feature lighting that not only does not match up, but is entirely different colors.
  • THINGS has the most interestingly produced ADR of any movie I have ever watched.
  • One scene in THINGS shows one of the protagonists storing his jacket in the refrigerator, where he finds a tape recorder with Sumerian chants recorded on the tape in it.
  • The loudest sound effect in all of THINGS is of paper towels being used and then thrown away in the kitchen.
  • Porn actress Amber Lynn is not a bit naked for even one second in THINGS. She is an anchor for a major local news station that apparently is run out of somebody’s basement.
  • THINGS does, however, feature a full-frontal shot of a lady with a very respectable 70’s “afro-style” bush. To open the movie, no less.
  • The titular THINGS appear to be almost entirely immobile, probably due to the fact that they would fall apart if they had to do more than wiggle ever so slightly.
  • The stars of THINGS (Jordan and Gillis) are very, very Canadian. Like, McKenzie brothers Canadian.
  • The entire last half of THINGS makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but that’s okay because
  • The first half of THINGS doesn’t make any fucking sense, either. And I absolutely love it for that.

You cannot explain this movie to anybody. I have never seen anything like it, and I have seen A LOT of movies. It will literally change your life and the way you look at the world. I’ve shown THINGS to a lot of people. Reactions range from laughter to confusion to outright disgust. Sometimes all at once. Some people won’t finish it, and I don’t mean they leave the room; I mean they leave the house. Some of those I didn’t really hear from again. I love sharing.

I have been very nervous for quite some time now because my VHS copy of THINGS is starting to look pretty rough. I really don’t know how many more viewings it has left. If I lost my copy of THINGS I think it would break my fucking heart. And I couldn’t record it into the computer because for some insane reason THINGS is copy protected. Luckily for me, TB recently discovered the website, where they are selling “19th Anniversary Collector’s Editions” of THINGS. I pretty much suck at finding stuff online. I’ve been looking for traces of THINGS on the internet for years now, but the first time TB went looking, he found this.

Naturally, I ordered a copy as soon as I could. I can’t imagine that anybody would run a scam based around a movie that nobody I have met in my entire life has heard of (and believe me, THINGS get mentioned to everyone I meet), but that site seemed a little sketchy. Let’s just say I won’t be shocked if my copy never arrives. I also won’t be shocked if it does arrive, but in a folded over piece of paper with “THINGS” written on the DVD with black Sharpie. We’ll see how it turns out.

TB also found a THINGS fansite on Facebook. I immediately sent a request to become a fan, which initiated one of the weirder experiences of my life. Here are transcripts of my communiqués with a man who claims to be the talented and elusive Barry J. Gillis:

Barry (September 10 @ 9:41 am): We need to confirm that you are actually who you say that you are. What’s your phone number down in Georgia?
I’ll give you a quick call to confirm…
Barry J.

Me (September 11 @ 7:38 pm): (My number here) If I don’t answer please leave a message and I will get back to you. I am a huge fan of THINGS and have shown my near-dead VHS copy to as many people as possible over the last several years. I just ordered the DVD from the website. We are all stoked to see it.

Barry (September 13 @ 2:58 am): O.K… I’ll call you in the next couple of days… I had some nut posting lies and bullshit about me in the group, and he even had the gall to make a fake profile of me and posted stuff to make it look like I said it, using my picture from my profile, and I deleted him, reported him, etc, etc… And I have to be careful who I let in the group…
I will call you,
Barry J.

Me (September 13 @ 2:59 am): I understand and look forward to speaking to you.
(I received a text message from someone I assume to be Barry sometime in the next couple of days. I did not have texts set up in my service, so I didn’t want to encourage this costly form of communication. Keep in mind, I received no phone call.)

Barry (September 16 @ 11:25 pm): I called and your answering machine may have been full, I also texted and have heard nothing back…

Me (September 17 @ 4:50 am): I don’t have texts set up on my phone. I haven’t received any calls from unfamiliar numbers. Try me again whenever, but please do leave a message. I work 12 hour shifts overnight, so if I’m there or asleep I won’t be picking up.

Barry (September 19 @ 9:14 pm): Your answering machine didn’t “CLICK” in…
Let me know the best time to call… I’m up in the oil sands right now, I’ll call you next Wednesday or Thursday…
I’m working 12 hour shifts myself up here in the oil sands in Northern, Alberta, so I understand…

-end communication-

And that is the last I heard from ol’ Barry J. What all of this means, I can’t say. It does show, however, that Barry J. is in the same profession that I am in. That is just weird. As much as I love THINGS, I really can’t see the benefit in dealing with Barry J. As I reported to TB after that fifth message; the guy seems like kind of a fucking flake. TB is all gung-ho to fly him down for a THINGS film festival – which I would gladly support – but I’m just not willing to let any more loonies in my life after spending so many years getting them to go away. I told TB he could take up the Barry J. cause with my blessings.

In the meantime, I’m just going to hope that I get my DVD so I can throw a big THINGS party in the newly dried-out but still mostly-devastated Man Room.

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