Written by: Barry J. Gillis, Andrew Jordan
Directed by: Andrew Jordan
Starring: Barry J. Gillis, Amber Lynn, and Bruce Roach
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“The blood is dripping like maple syrup!”
If you’re the type of person who scours the ends of the earth in search of the best of the worst that’s crusting at the bottom of the barrel, prepare to schedule a trip to Canada. Twenty years ago, some of my neighbors to the north decided to assault video store shelves with a bizarre cinematic abomination called Things. More of a psychedelic tour-de-force than an actual film, this one stretches the limits of senselessness while also somehow remaining compellingly watchable.
Whatever plot can be gleaned from Things goes as such: a guy named Doug (Doug Bunston) longs to become a father (and even has surreal dreams about it), but can’t. So he subjects his wife Susan to some experiments and invites his brother (Barry J. Gillis) and his buddy (Bruce Roach) over to his cabin. The experiments are successful in impregnating Susan; however, the bad news is that she’s been knocked up with some demon seed and strange creatures claw their way out of her womb to terrorize the cabin. And for some reason, porn star Amber Lynn plays a news reporter who updates on these and other unrelated events.
Things is perhaps best described as The Evil Dead if it were re-imagined by David Cronenberg but directed by Herschel Gordon Lewis. A total acid trip of mullets, porn ‘staches, beer-swilling, gore, and nonsense, Things is spectacularly hallucinogenic. Plot is merely incidental and sometimes seemingly forgotten by the characters, who spend most of the time getting loaded, marveling over television reception (“they get the bestiality channel up here!”), and discussing art history (these are some remarkably erudite Canadian everymen in this respect). At times, you wonder if these guys even remember there are vicious creatures roaming about and tearing the place apart. The film itself seemingly gets bored of hanging out with these guys, which possibly explains the non-sequitur sequences that intrude upon the “narrative”; at one point, Lynn updates us on a presumably fictional trial wherein George Romero has sued people for bootlegging Night of the Living Dead (huh?).
The nigh-incomprehensible plot is accompanied by a disheveled aesthetic; shot on both 8mm and 16mm, Things proves to be quite murky and low-rent, a completely amateur affair where you’re shocked by how often things are actually kept in frame. Somehow, the disjointed lighting proves to be quite stylish and gives the film a hypnotic, dreary quality. Editing is elliptical and jarring, as we often move from one scene to the next without any real logic; I’d say it’s like walking around in a nightmare, but even that doesn’t do it justice--it’s more like thrashing about in an intense night terror. The sound is similarly shoddy, as the obvious and incongruent post-dubbing compounds the poorness of the non-acting on display. Two house bands and a bunch of random individuals (including Gillis and Jordan) collaborate on the score, which is comprised of catchy rock songs and spooky piano hooks. That everyone involved proves themselves to be better musicians than film-makers says a lot.
But damn it all, Things dares to be so alarmingly bad and with such aplomb that it works. The various gross-out gags are astoundingly sick, as viscera and puke are splattered about in grotesque displays. Speaking of grotesque, the interactions between characters are unreal; thanks to the unbelievable dialogue and the even more confounding deliveries, you will be witness to some of the funniest moments you’ll ever see in a bad movie. A house-call from a visiting doctor begets one of the most painfully awkward scenes I’ve ever seen; it’s so bad that even the actors can’t keep a straight face. You’ll life, you’ll cry, and you might even hurl once you’ve staggered through the film’s various sledgehammer blows of inanity.
The demented minds behind Things seemingly predicted the film’s cult status: just before the credits roll, a super-title proclaims “You’ve just experienced Things.” If you’re like me, you’ll only be able to nod in aghast approval of that fact. This is not a movie you simply watch; indeed, it is quite an experience. Crap like this only appeals to a certain crowd, and if you don’t count yourself among that crowd, Things will prove to be one of the worst movies you’ve ever seen. It fails to exhibit the basic qualities of even mediocre film-making; in fact, it often feels like everyone involved set out to take a chainsaw to such qualities and shred the very notion of film itself. That’s likely giving them too much credit, but, hey, it serves as a good warning.
Indeed, only brave souls need to tread lightly into this sensationally perverse, weird evisceration of logic and coherence. It probably comes as no surprise that such an atrocity has spawned quite a cult following, and it’s apparently large enough to have validated not one, but two fine DVD releases. The latest comes from Intervision, and their disc’s presentation can be described as “good enough”; given the rough nature of the film itself, it’s likely it’ll never look or sound much better than it does here. A robust set of extra features await, though. Several Things pundits, from Paul Corupe at Canuxploitation to Hobo With a Shotgun director Jason Eisener profess their love for the film, while the guys at Bleeding Skull give their own humorous take. The most interesting “testimonial” comes from Tobe Hooper, who is shown the trailer and we watch his reaction unfold--“far out” is his response, and he seems genuinely fascinated. Self-professed “Thingite” also Joey Izzo recounts his experience with discovering a VHS copy of the flick and his scheme to acquire the film from the video store who wouldn’t sell it to him (I have a feeling many horror fans will identify with his thrill at owning such a rarity).
Even more special features abound in the form of a 20th anniversary cast and crew reunion where Gillis and company recount just how this all came to be. They also claim that Things is indeed meant to be a post-modern musing on film-making, so maybe I wasn’t giving everyone too much credit up there. Beyond this, you’ll also get some behind the scenes footage with Lynn, though a lot of it amounts to the crew milling about; there’s some vintage TV appearances by Gillis, which is funny because of the straight-laced interviewer’s reaction to the madness. An investor promo reel for another Gillis project, Evil Island, is tacked on and offers you (yes, you!) the chance to contact him if you’re interested in funding it. To top everything off, there’s two audio commentaries: one features Gillis, Jordan, Bunston, and Pachul, while the other has the Cinefamily behind the mic watching the film as fans. Basically, an almost unfathomable 4+ hours of Things-related goodness awaits you. That’s almost more inconceivable than the film itself--if you manage to come across something more nuts than Things this year, I’ll be impressed. But I’ll be more impressed if you can tell me just what the hell is going on in this epically crappy journey through insanity. Buy it!
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