One of the unfortunate realities of being a movie buff, especially a bad movie buff, is running into–or better yet, stepping in–“films” like those listed below. I’m not talking about bad movies here, but rather pointless, irrelevant and nonsensical ones, movies about which I can’t bring myself to write a full review. Sure, PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE, DEATH CURSE OF TARTU, QUEEN KONG, BLOOD FREAK and SHARKNADO are profoundly rotten movies, but all have something to recommend (even if that something is unintentional laughter).
The following 15 titles contain nothing of worth, being the absolute lowest of the low. They were, are and always will be the dregs.
In alphabetical order they are…
A CERTAIN SACRIFICE (1985)
Madonna’s mega-success in the mid-eighties had a most unfortunate side-effect: this beyond-horrible little film, filmed very early on in her career, was dug up and released on video.
An especially insufferable hour-long product of the No-Wave film scene, A CERTAIN SACRIFICE has Madonna falling in love with a punk rocker (Jeremy “Who?” Pattnosh) and getting raped by a psychotic Nam vet, who winds up disemboweled by Maddie’s friends in some kind of punk black mass. That, at least, covers the rare portions of this muddily lensed, pieced-together abomination that actually make sense!
A COCKWORK ORANGE (1999)
Porno take-offs on popular movies abound in the adult movie world, and some are even enjoyable (such as GUMS and EDWARD PENISHANDS). This one, however, a shot on video porn-ized take on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, is simply dreadful. It’s been said that Stanley Kubrick initially wanted to make CLOCKWORK a porno film, and you know the old cliché about being careful about what you wish for…
Director “Muff Daddy” has his principals run around in the white PJs of the earlier film, using words like “droog” and affecting patently fake British accents. In another nod to the original, the whole thing is shot through fisheye lenses from oft-bizarre angles (such as the bottom of a reclining guy’s feet looking up). There’s even a half-assed attempt at aping CLOCKWORK’S notorious break-in sequence: here the woman answers the door naked, having been interrupted in the midst of fucking, and ends up in a three-way while selections from Beethoven’s Ninth play on the soundtrack.
THE DARK PLANET (1989)
Those who thought Frank Miller’s fumbled attempt at filming THE SPIRIT was the worst movie ever directed by a comic book artist should see THE DARK PLANET–or better yet, don’t! Conceived and directed by comic book legend Richard Corben, it’s a no-budget sci fi epic involving interstellar cavemen, shape-shifting claymation critters and a guy getting seduced by a sexy robot.
The Corben-designed VHS/DVD cover art is mighty striking, picturing a bizarre tentacled creature hovering over a mass of skeletons and dead bodies. As it turns out, that artwork is the best thing about this incoherent and thoroughly amateurish loaf. The whole thing is so tacky there’s really no point going into particulars: it would take me all day to detail THE DARK PLANET’S innumerable faults, and it simply doesn’t warrant the attention.
Apparently a remake of the seventies-era Ramsay Brothers classic DARWAZA, this Bollywood horror turkey is marked by overly frantic action, consistently out-of-focus photography, and flashing lightning intercuts every few minutes. There may also be a story in there somewhere–good luck finding it!
A halfhearted jump on the cult movie bandwagon, and a film that actually played the L.A. midnight movie circuit in the early nineties. A deadening account of a punk rocker who sells his soul to the devil (with predictable results), HELLBENT is packed with poorly staged violence, forced quirkiness and instantly forgettable punk tunes.
The attempt here was apparently to channel the spirit of Ed Wood, which is never a good idea. Wood, let’s remember, actually tried to make quality films, which at least partially explains the enduring fascination of PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE, GLEN OR GLENDA et al. With HELLBENT, alas, all we’re left with is a terminally uninvolving, skuzzily shot something-or-other that really doesn’t appear to want to be viewed.
JO JO AT THE GATE OF LIONS (1992)
This film might seem out of place here, as it’s infinitely better visualized and more artful than most of the shot-on-video slop on this list. Yet pretty though JO JO’s black-and-white cinematography may be, the film doesn’t contain a single resonant image.
Jo Jo, an insufferably pretentious L.A. artist type (not unlike the film itself), has relationships with two equally boring guys and hears strange voices. Beyond that I really can’t describe this film…not that there’s a whole lot to describe. I demand that something happen in the movies I watch, a requirement JO JO AT THE GATE OF LIONS doesn’t fulfill.
LIFETIME CONTRACT (1986)
A 55-minute evangelical screed about a geeky teen contacted by a guardian angle and an emissary of the Devil, each with a “special interest” in the twerp. God himself also turns up, in the form of a sweet old guy wandering through a featureless white landscape, while Satan is portrayed as a cackling sleaze. The latter infiltrates the minds of the protagonist’s teachers, inspiring them to teach sinful subjects like human sexuality and (gasp) alternative lifestyles! Not to worry, though, as the confused hero finds salvation through a pubescent Bible study group whom the satanic emissary (quite accurately) brands “geeks and nerds.”
As expected, the film is hopelessly inept in every department. Particularly embarrassing are the scenes depicting “normal” eighties-era high school life, with twelfth-rate pubescent performers saying things like “gag me to the max” and “I’m into apathy.” Emphatically addressing the camera, the protagonist asks: “Do you go to school with people like this?” Speaking as one who was a teenager back in 1986, I’ll answer that with a big Nope!
MASSACRE UP NORTH (2001)
Very nearly the quintessence of no-budget slasher moviemaking, a Canadian SOV-er with an amateur cast that appears to be comprised of the writer-director’s friends and family. It’s about a kid whose face is messed up, so he goes on a killing spree that continues well into adulthood. Lotsa tacky gore FX ensue: one dude gets a drill through his head and another gets offed with a nail gun. Etcetera.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (1998)
George Romero’s immortal NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has been subjected to all manner of bastardization over the years, from a colorized version to the many unauthorized sequels and remakes that continue to proliferate. Yet the most appalling desecration was perpetrated by the film’s own co-writer John Russo, who has for decades been using NOTLD to bolster his reputation while turning out a slew of crappy shot-on-video horror flicks–and with this heavily retooled 30th Anniversary Edition, featuring newly shot footage inserted into the original film, actually turned Romero’s classic into one of those shitty SOV flicks.
The poor quality black-and-white video utilized for the reshot bits does NOT match the film stock of NOTLD, which is further cheapened by an astoundingly shitty synthesizer score–and don’t even get me started on that awful, awful ending with that poorly played priest. An abomination pure and simple.
THE PRODIGAL PLANET (1983)
The fourth and most excruciating of the infamous Mark IV end-of-the-world evangelical quartet, a snail paced 128-minute slog through an alleged post-apocalyptic landscape. The rapture, you see, already occurred in the previous flicks, so in this one the protagonists stumble through sparse backwoods locations that all look the same, occasionally confronted by rubber skeletons or people wrapped in cloaks.
The whole thing is unbelievably cheap and amateurish from start to finish, complete with a pathetic capper that depicts a black-out by showing a wide shot of New York City at night…with all the lights still on!
THE ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS (1992)
If you’ve ever had yearning to watch a bunch of rich middle aged novelists play old rock tunes than this video documentary is for you! It relates the story of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band headlined by Stephen King and several other equally overpaid writers, and their debut performance at an Anaheim, CA nightclub.
Yes, it’s every bit as exciting as it sounds, though also downright painful in spots: the sight of King warbling “Sea of Love” or the final scene of the group solemnly reciting the lyrics to “Louis, Louie” in an effort to “fight censorship” (because that tune was once the subject of an FBI investigation) will come in handy should you ever need to induce vomiting.
ROCK & ROLL COWBOYS (1987)
An especially pointless and incoherent Australian entry in the cult movie craze of the eighties, which gave us LIQUID SKY and REPO MAN. ROCK ‘N ROLL COWBOYS, about a shitty rock band galvanized by an extraterrestrial synthesizer, obviously isn’t in the same league–and yet in its sheer incompetence the film does exert an odd, almost surreal fascination. Check out this dialogue exchange, taken verbatim from the flick:
Gal: “There’s something wrong with Ricky!”
Guy: “Now what?”
Gal: “Well do something about it!”
Guy (to Ricky): “Shit man, what happened?”
Ricky: “Rock and roll!”
Notice how everyone appears to be carrying on their own private conversation, never directly replying to one another. The entire movie is like this, possessing a peculiarly one-sided mode of communication from which the audience is completely shut out.
A Cannon Films production of Oscar Wilde’s SALOME, marked by Nazi décor and the delectable Italian-American supermodel Jo Champa in the title role. What could possibly go wrong? Pretty much everything, as it turns out! Note how the film essentially disappeared after its disastrous premiere at the ‘86 Cannes Film Festival; it seems that even Cannon’s notoriously tone-deaf honchos knew they had a stink bomb on their hands! Artistically the film is far from the Ken Russell-esque camp-fest I was anticipating, being shockingly bland and dreary throughout. As for Ms. Champa (making her film debut), she’s quite lovely but evidently can’t act a lick.
TALE OF TWO SISTERS (1989)
Fact: nothing is more annoying than forced surrealism! Take this script-less David Lynch wannabe, the unfortunate debut of THE DARK BACKWARD’S Adam Rifkin. It stars Valerie Breiman and Claudia Christian as two sisters conversing on the deck of a swank Hollywood Hills house. Intercut with their improvised (read: dull as shit) chatter are a clown who gets his face smashed in and a beachfront funeral where Claudia discusses her preference for hardboiled eggs while cradling a mannequin’s torso.
Also featured are flashbacks shot through distorted lenses, a cat’s POV and severed heads washing up on a beach, all set to voice-over poetry composed and read by Charlie Sheen (yes, that Charlie Sheen). Sample: “One never expects it from me or you/as the jester mocks his piercing cue/be careful, we smell an erection.” It may not be Shakespeare, but such verse definitely fits in well with dialogue like “I feel like a little harmless frog whose lily pad was snatched out from under it!”
THE TRIAL OF JEFFREY DAHMER (1992)
A documentary compilation taken from the 1992 trial of everybody’s favorite cannibalistic-necrophiliac-mass murderer, running a full two hours and packaged for public consumption by Magnum Video.
Consisting of lengthy passages from the actual courtroom video, this raggedy hodgepodge is choppy and confusingly edited; it’s nearly impossible to pick out any relevant evidence from the snippets of testimony we hear, and there’s nothing in the way of text or narration to fill us in on what’s happening. Even potentially diverting elements like the sister of one of Dahmer’s victims freaking out in the courtroom or the eerily passive, emotionless stance assumed by Dahmer throughout are rendered staid and uninteresting by the haphazard construction. I believe Magnum Video would have been justified in demanding a refund from whoever perpetrated this mess, which true to form doesn’t end so much as cut off during a post-trial press conference.
You get the idea. The truly unfortunate thing is that these 15 films are but a microscopic figment of a nearly infinite stretch of cinematic sludge. It’s an unfortunate fact, I’m afraid, that for every gem, or even so-bad-it’s-good movie one comes across, you’ll have to wade through quite a few films like those outlined above.