Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Thrifting: Goodwill masterpiece reminding me there is still beauty in the world

Greetings spiders and bots! I know I've been away for a while and you've probably been worried sick not getting the signal to crawl the site or whatever happens that brings you here. I can explain:
So Ive spent the last several months trying to find a rock to firmly wedge myself under so I wouldn't have to see the horror unfolding around me, but all the rocks I tried already had rather territorial centipedes and earwigs living under them. No rock, so I had to make do with staying inside with all the screens off and the curtains drawn. But I had to come out eventually when I ran out of provisions.
So I waited for when I thought it was safe and the horror had given over to ennui and I emerged and realized it's really fucking bright out. But I was able to go buy soymilk without someone grabbing my collar and demanding to know which political party I'm affiliated with. That I'd be seen purchasing soymilk probably spared them the trouble... but also didn't result in a bottle being smashed over my head in the parking lot, so there is still respect in the world! The world isn't that much different than it was when I left it. There aren't as many trashcan fires as I expected, nor as many battle-wounded with filthy rags dressing their injuries huddled in the burned out wreckage of shelled buildings. Not a single lam resistance fighter trying to catch rats for stew.  Not here anyway.
Turning the screens on after having them off for so long made me realize: damn, these things are fucking bright too. Things there have mostly returned to a strange version of normal. The kind of normal you might expect if an alien race launched a hostile takeover and then tried to run our society with the two goals of glorifying their regime and doing so without any of the enslaved noticing. So pretty much back to normal.
Venturing out I decided to see what's going on at my local (or not so local) Goodwill. Maybe the ragged dejected masses have assembled there to fight over scraps of cloth and anything metal they can melt down to make buck shot? Nope. Everyone at Goodwill was behaving more or less normally as well. It was nice to relax and focus my hopelessness on looking at all the stuff everyone doesn't want anymore and ponder all the expense that went into creating it so it could end up here... and then wonder how much exponentially more of it went to a landfill instead. See, I'll find a way to feel miserable somehow, dammit.
And then I went to the framed art section and momentarily lost my ability to feel bitter and hopeless. As I've mentioned before, I love art. I'm not too discerning, I can find beauty in most creative endeavors, no matter how minimalistic, manufactured, or how much they seem to stretch the definition of art. I have a place in my heart for thrift store art in particular. It can be awful to semi-decent, I just somehow get emotionally entangled with paintings average people make and then donate. There's a story there behind every one of these paintings and sculptures, maybe not a very long story, but a story-- like they just thought they'd try their hand at painting, found it to not be their jam, but couldn't hate the misshapen fruit of their labor enough to throw it away, so they brought it to Goodwill. Maybe they made it and gave it to someone who ultimately rejected it, but also couldn't bring themselves to toss it, because this person went to the trouble to make it for them. So they donated it thinking, maybe someone out there has awful enough taste to truly love this ugly thing the way I just can't.
And here I am. I'm that guy with that awful taste, and I'd buy every one of these things if I could afford to. My collection is small, but one day I hope to rival the Museum of Bad Art, perhaps even being ejected from a thrift store after getting into a fistfight with one of their buyers over the same framed drawing by a ten-year-old of the family dog. This is my dream, folks. This is how I'll know I've 'made it.'
The thing about bad art is why is it considered bad? Why is good art considered good? Why are certain people like Da Vinci and Picasso considered "greats" and "masters"? Is their work really that good, and if so, why? Academic consensus? I neither have nor desire a print of the Mona Lisa and I think any given Heavy Metal magazine cover artist is infinitely more technically and aesthetically skilled than any of the most well known Renaissance painters. But maybe I'm the only one and everyone I know hides their prints when I come over... so I won't steal them since I don't have any. I want to get away from using my own art preference as a measuring stick here since I don't have money to set any sort of standard anyway, so let me ask how many artists were the most renowned painters up against for that title? There had to be some competition, but how steep? Were there bad art collections in antiquity? Was there low priced decent art?
I see everyone (the people with money who can set the standard) fussing over these dull pictures referred to as masterpieces that are pretty much equal to if not surpassed in "good"ness by most of the inventory of an art fair. So did this happen only because these art fair contributors went to museums and studied the masters really really hard, or are art supplies just cheaper and more accessible now so there are so many masters no one fucking notices? I guess what I'm getting at... wait, what am I getting at... Oh yeah, it's stupid bad art by celebrated artists is good because they did it, while bad art by no one in particular is still bad. I guess. I know, I know, I'm the first one to ever point out that realization and reporters are going to be beating down my door to get a sound byte from me now. I'll try not to let the fame and my highly demanded expertise in the art world go to my head.
Since you're wondering by now when this story is going to actually go anywhere, here's the thing that stopped me in my tracks and momentarily renewed my zest for life:

Looks familiar somehow, huh? That's because it is an attempt at reproducing The Loneliness of Autumn by Leonid Afremov, who's work is among my favorite. This painting doesn't quite achieve what the original did. BUT don't think I'm calling this painting bad. Someone else might, but I won't because I actually think it's pretty good, and let me tell you why: I couldn't stop looking at it. It's like someone who's really attractive, or the way the sunlight covers certain surfaces at certain times of the day that makes them look like you're seeing a color that's never existed before until just that moment. I could even try to make some technical arguments for why it's factually, objectively, academically good, like the way your eye is drawn down the path and the way the reflections behave in accordance with their light sources, but I don't need to because I'm not necessarily trying to convince anyone else this is good, except maybe the person who painted it and ultimately orphaned it at Goodwill.
The painting is signed with TE. I have no idea who that is, or the story behind this painting. So I'll make up my own:
TE's a teenager in high school who saw Afremov's work on one of it's cycles through Pinterest or Instigrahm or whatever the kids are doing these days. He was so inspired by the artist's lively brush strokes, his vibrant use of color as lighting... The way he can make something so true, detailed and lifelike by depicting it in such an unreal and undetailed way. Afremov's style looks amazing... and deceptively easy, effortless like there are no rules and he just put paint all over a canvass and it made a picture instead of meticulously and rigidly trying to make it look like something. The second part turned out to be a vast underestimate of the time and thought that actually goes into the application of this style. So when our artist chose one of Afremov's works for an art class project, he discovered it's more than a flurry of square brush strokes dipped in whatever colors happened to be on the pallet. And just how many brush strokes Afremov's paintings are comprised of. And you see the student's brush strokes change to try and capture the activity of the light in the reflections on the path instead of flat square blobs in the trees he'd started with. There's a clear learning curve present in this work. A processing, an adaptation from expectation to reality. Ultimately though, there was a deadline for the work to be turned in by, and so the painting looks a little unfinished, like maybe TE just needed to be finished with it. Maybe TE discovered that painting wasn't really for him, something that ended up being less fun and more work than anticipated. So when he got the work back graded, he donated it, didn't even think it was good enough to give his parents, and never let them see it. Maybe he felt like he'd failed because it wasn't like he envisioned. But it doesn't have to be what was envisioned to have worth.
Of course this probably isn't remotely close to the story behind the painting. Maybe it was a young single mother who was moved by Afremov's work and became inspired to paint. Maybe this one was a first attempt she donated as she's progressed past this level, or has developed her own style she thinks is merely an attempt at his, but is really unique to her.
Who knows. But TE, if you're out there and you're not a spider or bot and you're reading this, I hope, if you enjoy painting, that you are still doing it. I've had this painting hung on my wall for a couple months now, and I still stop and stare at it because it's beautiful.
Price of masterpiece:  $2.99.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cinematic Pieces of Sheets Part 4: Sorority Babes in the Dance-A-Thon of Death & Zombie Rampage

Holy shit this is the longest, most punctuated drawn-out a-thon ever. Watching these movies... I had to take a step back, take some time for myself to examine my life and figure out what the hell I've let happen here. But I've got to persevere. Onward! So, here I am again, trying to piece together from my inebriated scrawlings what exactly I watched last night. I was not looking forward to this one: Sorority Babes in the Dance-A-Thon of Death. The title alone was off-putting as I couldn't help conjuring images of shit with A-Go-Go in the title. Groan. Turns out it was a non-issue as there was no dance-a-thon in the entire film. Whew! Dodged a bullet!

So what was it like? Wow... that's 70 minutes I'll never get back. The beginning was unimaginably dull. So dull in fact it made me nostalgically long for Goblin. Yeah. At least Goblin had stuff happening in it, albeit the confused mess that it was. So plot: Girl goes to antique store and old woman sells her a crystal ball that turns out to be incarcerating a demon the girl then accidentally releases at a party séance. The kids at the party spend the night being possessed, killed by, and running from the demon, meanwhile the owners of the antique store try to hunt down the crystal ball and put an end to the mayhem.

What can I say, it's got the same cast and same set of problems as the other Sheets movies, except this one is really fucking boring. I kind of liked the song during the credit roll, though. It's kind of plain, but in a fair and just universe I could see Hocico taking it and doing something quite dashing with it. And they used that one freaking song that's been driving me nuts! I still haven't identified it, and it's been used it in every single one of his movies that I've seen so far. It's going to drive me crazy!

Dance-A-Thon gets better during the last fifteen minutes or so. While the rest of the film was washed out and kind of phoned-in looking with bored, dead-on shots and nary a dramatic angle to be found, the camera work and lighting suddenly become quite decent. It's like everyone realized they were almost done with the freaking thing, and this caused them to suddenly get so happy they started having fun and enjoying what they were doing. If you're going to bother with this one, seriously, skip the first forty minutes.  

Also watch the credits. You get the special thanks to Jesus Christ and all that, but then there's a special “Rot in Hell” section in which he lists those who've done him wrong, among whom is a priest who apparently didn't like his art and some distribution companies who shared this sentiment.

Just how many people accused them of making porn?

Anyhoo... The last stop on our drunken bad movie marathon: Zombie Rampage-- Director's Cut.  I don't know if there's another cut out there. Either way this is supposedly the pinnacle of Todd Sheets' career. This is it. Of the 40 freakin' movies this guy's unleashed on humanity, this is the one he's apparently most known for, according to the places on the internet that I checked. [citation needed]

This opens with a fight scene between two rival gangs, and don't bother thinking I got the names. The fight scene was decent, choreographed, well executed. I was not expecting it, and I was pleasantly surprised. The cops come to break it up, and for a moment I thought they actually got a squad car and maybe even a real cop to extra in their movie. When the same shot of the cop exiting his car was repeated, I realized they did get a real cop! He was there to break up the filming, presumably.

There's also a serial killer about, but I had a feeling, which turned out to be correct, that he was just sort of an aside who they'd forget about and maybe make do something at the end because they suddenly remembered him.

The trouble starts when one of the gangs' leaders decides to try and raise all the dead members to build an army of zombies to settle the gang war. He even got a double his money back guarantee on the efficacy of the book! I like the idea that the instructions to raise the dead are available in a book, a paperback book that's been in distribution for who knows how long, but long enough it's even ended up in a used bookstore... and no one's tried to do it until now. This lowly criminal is apparently going to premier the technique.

So they raise the dead, and surprise! It goes wrong and the zombies obey no one and start killing everyone. Now we've got people dying three or four times before they finally have their screen death, and more groping through indistinct white animal matter. So the gangsters run into a bar where earlier we saw ta tas (with pasties), but they weren't really ta tas we wanted to see (sorry lady). In the bar girls are crying about it being the apocalypse with someone in the background who apparently missed out on the news dutifully wiping down tables.  

 That guy has the best work ethic I've ever seen! I mean, it's the apocalypse, but this guy's still on the clock, and his shift isn't over until 2.

Maybe it's the dark, maybe it's the tracking lines and grainy picture, but some of the zombies look pretty good, which is probably why they're a staple of no-budget horror: they're easy to make look good.  

I was a bit confused about what season it was supposed to be set during. The dead raising scene in the graveyard looked pretty summery with leaves on the trees and such... but then later we're shown an exterior of a house with at least a foot of snow on the ground.

Behold the tree and it's foliage!

And later that day:  Winter

Aaaaand I found where all that spliced in footage from Goblin came from. I forgot to mention it in my post about that movie-- because I forgot it happened--- because I was drunk, ---but there was this scene at the end of Goblin where all of a sudden fucking zombies were attacking, and characters I'd never seen before were defending against the attack. The movie up to that point hadn't had anything at all to do with zombies, but I was too sloshed to be confused by it. I just accepted, and immediately forgot it.

… Until I saw this and it all came slamming back to me. This! This was in that other thing!

The thing about these movies seems to be that Todd Sheets is worried about them not being long enough, and he really shouldn't be. They're plenty long. Too long really. But his insecurity about his, *ahem*, film length has resulted in seemingly unrelated extra footage being added in after he's finished a project just to pad the running time. I swear at least one of these movies I saw was nothing but cobbled together bits of stuff he'd shot.

The serial killer eventually comes back and ends up with the survivors until he just can't go another minute without stabbing a guy and gets himself shot. Everyone gets picked off as their barricades are breached until they're down to 4 survivors in an elevator shaft. 

From an earlier scene, so you don't think my DVD skipped.
Wait, is that a real elevator shaft they're playing around in? Anyway, they go in the elevator shaft and... one girl gets out on the street--? I tried to follow the progression from elevator shaft to street and figure out what supposedly went down during the cut. I even rewound it a couple times, and there was just no accounting for the other people. They went in... but only the girl comes out. And how'd she get out of the building? One minute elevator shaft, next girl on street screaming and surrounded by zombies being stared down by a gurning mime??? 

 This leaves me with far more questions than answers.

Bonus: there was a boom mic!  Overall, I can see why this is his most acclaimed project.  It was the most coherent (minus the mime), the most audible, the most visible, the most movie-like of his films.

There's more in Todd Sheets' filmography, but I'm stopping here for now since these are all the ones I have and I'm not really sure how far I want to pursue and spend on watching more of them.  

In conclusion one might ask:  Why am I being mean to these movies? What's the point of taking the piss from these things?  What'd they ever do to me anyways?

Well, I've been kind of wondering why they exist.  That they've been created and have made it to market where people can buy and watch them...  It's as anomalous as finding a retarded bird with half a wing having made it to adulthood in the wild:  by all logic it shouldn't have happened.  I keep thinking about cheap crap from China. Things that merely look like can openers and portable game consoles and battery chargers, but don’t actually do anything aside from take your money and punish you for being cheap, or worse... detonate when you try to use them. And there is so much of it out there. How much of the things manufactured are actually just garbage? Please don’t send me links to infographics.  I have a feeling, but I really don’t want to know the actual scope.

It's hard to feel okay making that kind of comparison to someone's artistic endeavor and expression. It doesn't seem fair, and art is one of my sacred cows. But I kind of want to ask, why didn’t you demand more from yourself? And if that wasn’t enough and this was simply done because you enjoyed it-- fair enough--but why did you offer it up as a product for sale and distribution if you yourself don’t even respect it?
He knows what he's done.

For the price you kind of know what to expect. If you pay a dollar for a can opener you can expect it not to open cans and the knob thing that you turn to fall off. If you buy 500 full-length movies you've never heard of for $20 bucks, you can expect a bit of a treasure hunt. But you feel somewhat justified shitting on it when the creator themselves proudly denounces their product as “trash.” Calling it trashy and admitting up front the amount of effort that was put in on the surface looks like a sort of apologetic disclaimer to warn the audience what they’re in for, shrugging off criticism before anyone has the chance so if anyone bothers after the fact you can just shrug and say, “Yeah? And...?” You have defensively just been invited to hate it. If you criticize it, you're the one that doesn't get it. Duh! It’s supposed to be awful! Expect nothing and you’ll never be disappointed. Proudly brand yourself as incompetent and no one is allowed to be disappointed because you've delivered exactly what you promised. And at least people are talking about you.
This looks almost like a designed form of capitulation in which a certain measure of success was out of reach, so here's some crap they shot with an VHS camcorder.
Except he is successful. He has an IMDB page. There are people he's never met who know who he is. You can Google his name and get a motherfucking autofill by the 8th letter. He's done what he wanted, what he loved, and he's shared it with the world. He didn't give up. And that cast that was in every freaking shitty movie he made... that's a group of friends man. They had to have had fun working on these projects with him and helping him realize his vision, or they wouldn't have done it over and over again and offer themselves up as an easy target for the ultra-serious stick-up-their-assed, snarky pretentious assholes ...and people who need something to criticize... like me, you know, for CONTENT.
Inexpensive, high quality recording devices and free professional editing software weren't ubiquitous, and YouTube wasn't a thing when these movies were made, so large-scale free distribution wasn't available in the way it is now. If you wanted to make something and share it beyond a small circle and maybe find your way into bigger and better things, you needed a distributer, and I'm speculating Sheets and his crew saw very little of the money his movies actually made. I get that making a movie isn't an easy task. It's hard fucking work and a zillion things can go wrong, and these kinds of movies are a testament to that. Given what he's accomplished despite all this, I should be asking him for life advice. I should be following in his footsteps because all the things I wish I had and think of as markers of true success: a network of friends, fans and genuine supporters of creative pursuits... he has.  
Finding what's wrong with his films is easy. They're like a tacky gag gift, accomplishing the opposite of their goal, which causes them to paradoxically... accomplish their original goal. I guess this insults the sensibilities of the serious because it shows, going back to the cheap can opener, that you don't have to be good at what you do to prosper from it.  You can give consensus and generally accepted practices the finger and still make it alright.  All the more unfair when the prosperity is derived from flouting your failure and disdain like honoured decorations while many who are truly talented and skilled are criticized for not being talented and skilled enough when trying to adhere to tradition and technique. To be able to shill a product simply because of how bad it is, refusing to participate in the collective striving toward perfection and instead proudly holding aloft your turd and shouting, “It's SHIT! Who wants some?” and have people actually buy into it... I can see how some who've tried and failed might feel cosmically slighted somehow. Maybe they're just bitter that they didn't think of being the first to say "fuck it" before it was cool, and if they try to do it now, not only are they admitting their work is garbage-- and possibly failing to meet that new low standard-- but they'd risk looking like poser-sellout-copycats too, just trying to be trendy and make a buck.  So they're just mediocre.  Not the best, not the worst.  Not remarkable in any way.
Though I don't quite want to celebrate what Todd Sheets has done and that he's been able to do it against fairly reasonable standards, I might be better off if I apply the lesson in my own life and see what I can make with and learn from it.
If my review has intrigued you and you just have to see for yourself how bad these movies are, you can find them in the Bloody Nightmares 100 Movie Pack along with many other terrible no-budget horror movies and some not so terrible ones.
And Mr. Todd Sheets, if you read this for some reason, please, for the love of all that is holy and sacred, tell me what that goddamned music is from.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thrifting: Oversized clothespin, a rock, and a mobile obscenity

On my way to the thrift store I stopped by Target and seized the opportunity to flip off one of the “Flush Target” semis. Compared to the eight foot tall Fuck You emblazoned on the side of the thing, my gesture of pulling up beside him and extending a middle finger seems demure and polite. And never mind the notion of not spreading more hate around... If I'd noticed it from across the street and had no reason to go there, I would have gone out of my way to do the same thing. Though that would have been unlikely as these things are camouflaged to look like Target delivery trucks... presumably so they can park there and not immediately get noticed by staff and vanquished by police. I mean, I almost didn't see it and it was parked right in front of me.

Man, the thrift store was a bit of a fire trap today if I'm to be frank. They had shit piled up obstructing aisles, turning the place into a sort of maze so you had to find a way around to the shelves against the wall, essentially cornering yourself once you got back there. “Cluttered” is a good adjective. This seems to happen this time of year with people's spring cleaning. They gather up all the junk they've been picking up from second-hand stores and garage sales over the last few years and donate it in one or two massive SUV-loads. Then while they're there, they take the discount coupon they just earned and leave with as much as, if not more than they just dumped off.

On my quest to find the strangest and ugliest all I came up with today was a giant clothespin. 

Kinda disappointing, I know. But really, who doesn't love oversized and miniaturized common objects? It's actually completely functional and fairly useful. 

I'mma use it to close bags of chips!  Which may be what it was intended for.

And I found a rock for .50. 

I love rocks. Can't get enough of 'em. They're all over my house. Inside, not out, because someone might steal them or something. Why would they do that? I haven't the foggiest. It's just one of those irrational fears like alligators coming up the toilet or a bee getting inside.

Price of combined items with tax: $1.07.

Value of getting to demonstrate to a fear-mongering bigot exactly what I thought of him: I'm not sure. Would I actually pay actual money to do that? I haven't so far. I've never even thought of it. This could possibly be a lucrative entrepreneurial undertaking, and merits further looking into, running the numbers, creating business models and having t-shirts and merch made up... For someone else. I'll flip him off for free, but I'm too lazy to make a business out of it.  But seriously, fuck that guy and the big ugly truck he rode in on.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Thrifting: Majestic Moss Deer Thing

My quest to find the ugliest, strangest, most befuddling item for sale in the thrift store has landed me this thing. That's right, for the low, low price of $3.50 (it was $5, but I talked them down), I am now the proud owner of whatever the hell this thing is. Seriously, what is it? It's made of foam and covered in moss that won't stop falling off everywhere. And I hope using my washing machine as scale was helpful, but in case it wasn't, this thing measures 17” high X 17” long. It's huge. Way bigger than necessary... for whatever it's meant to achieve. You know, since I don't know what's it's actually for, I guess I really can't say it's too big for the job. For all I know it's horribly undersized for the task.

I'm not even sure what animal it's supposed to represent. I'll hazard it's a ruminant of some kind, even go so far as to specify a type of deer since the tail's too short to be a horse's. There's two holes in the head where presumably antlers are meant to be inserted, but those antlers were not with the item at the shop, and so it's impossible for me to definitively ID this animal. And yeah, the antlers were missing and they still priced it at $5!

My god though, doesn't that thing look magnificent! Even with it's hideously deformed limbs distended out of proportion (not an effect of the camera lens) it looks ready to fucking own any mantle or display cabinet you adorn with it. Maybe the protuberances missing from it's head are actually twin unicorn horns and it's actually the type of mythical beast of legend 12 year old girls fill notebooks with.

I tried looking this thing up because I was curious what it originally retailed for (I'mma ballpark $12.99), but according to the internet either my search terms suck or this thing doesn't exist. So I'm on my own to figure it out. I'm going to guess, being that it's made of foam and covered in moss, that it's intended as a sort of scaffold for polyester flowers and/or vines for making your own floral arrangements. So while you're poking things into it you can channel the artificial nature your connection with actual nature has slowly been replaced with. Now you can meditate by anointing your very own polystyrene power animal with manufactured flora.

It just so happens I have a bit of manufactured flora laying around. Let's give it a go:

Sticking things to it was zen and all. Though to be honest, I'm not really sure this has helped me achieve inner peace, or outer peace, or made me feel any better about children starving in Africa or Angry Bad Hair Man being taken seriously as a candidate for political office of any kind. I did get moss everywhere though. Seriously, you look at it wrong and it drops pieces of itself like it's a defense mechanism. So I can look forward to even more zen when I clean it up.

What am I going to do with it now? Well, since it came pretty jam-packed with dust and I can only expect it to gather more, I think putting it away and bringing it out for special occasions is the way to go. Or I can donate it back to the thrift store I got it from. I'm sure they miss it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cinematic Pieces of Sheets Part 3: Prehistoric Bimbos in Armageddon City, Nightmare Asylum, and Dominion

Prehistoric Bimbos in Armageddon City

This is the sequel to Bimbos B.C. so the first ten freakin' minutes were devoted to a recap and included such intriguing scenes from the first movie as the women standing there staring at a stream. It's purpose was probably to add to the running time, but it mostly served to remind us how bad the first movie was-- especially since I was watching it not drunk yet. The Prehistoric Bimbos song was a lot worse than I remembered. Everything was a lot worse than I remembered. But after the song fades out, and then abruptly starts again, and the thing gets underway I realized I was in for a different experience this time around. For starters we get a duct work robot! Like the one from Lost In Space. And people in big fly costumes!!! Whoever was doing the special effects seems to have had access to a much better stocked garage full of junk.

See?!?  Robot!!!

Things immediately got confusing when the Bimbos viciously attacked and killed the big fly-things, completely unprovoked from what I could tell. The Fly monsters were seriously just minding their own damned business, farming and hoeing some crops in a little garden, and BAM! They're getting slaughtered.

Awesome fly monster

It seemed unfair, and I was really sad because I really liked those guys. It reminded me of any given episode of Ultraman where as soon as the monster appears everyone's attacking it-- just because it's a monster, not because it's necessarily done anything.

The last thing awesome fly monsters see after vicious, unprovoked attack.

So the plot concerns a robot cop called Nemesis who finds and revives Salacious Thatch (the villain from the first movie who's name I managed to care enough to catch this time, and who’s also taken the time to grow an actual beard). Now the Bimbos have to stop them, or they have to destroy the Bimbos, or vice versa, or all of the above. Thatch has a cyborg arm with a claw, and some hobo's robots have been stolen and are being used by the bad guys for EVIL. They may have actually incorporated a legit hobo into the cast-- I’m not sure. The Bimbos go to Armageddon City, possibly to get the guy's robots back, possibly for some other reason that escaped my attention. The Sheets juice had begun to kick in by this point and my notes say things such as, “Boring.... boring... don't know what's happening...”

The Bimbos get captured and are forced to mine with re-bar and hammers and Thatch hatches an evil plan to turn them into “Cyber Chicks.” Meanwhile, Todd's character is wandering around lost on the other side of the fourth wall and accidentally finds himself in the 'wrong movie' because someone on his team bought a bodacious Alien mask that they just fucking had to use somewhere. And so the running joke with him lost and trying to find his movie continues to pop up from time to time, concluding with him finding the clacker-- a clue as to the direction the production had traveled. It could have been kind of funny if it had been delivered a little more smoothly. I sort of wished I could yell “cut” and make him do it again. Or just give him a hug. Not sure which.

Todd Sheets:  lost in his own movie

At this point things are kinda messy. Bimbos are fighting, new characters are appearing without introduction... or are they old characters with an off-screen costume change? Seriously, the scientist lost her lab coat and glasses between shots somewhere and I thought they'd introduced a completely new person. The bad guys are dancing and laughing maniacally, which sounds a bit like they're having a contest of trying to cough something up. Everyone keeps ending up in different spots... robots are wandering around... The music really doesn't help signal scene changes, or match the pace of the action, so I don't even have the audio cues to help me follow what's happening, and I'm pretty tipsy by this point, so I could’ve used all the help I could get. Remember people! When you make a terrible movie, people watching are going to be drunk. Just... keep that in mind.

The bad guys start fighting each other for control and chase each other in the most cautious car chase ever filmed, with speeds approaching all of twenty miles per hour. The cars... stop working for some reason... and the bad guys bail and hop on coincidentally available bicycles to continue the chase. They slap at each other, and one of the bikes has a basket and the whole time the recently returned/reprogrammed robot pursues on a scooter.

The bikes fuck out somehow and now they're on skateboards. Maybe I was just feeling drunkenly generous, getting into the whole spirit of the thing, but I thought the scene was pretty funny.

Prehistoric Bimbos in Armageddon City was a lot more self-aware than Bimbos B.C. Sometimes the humor works, sometimes it doesn't. The effort to take the film seriously was wisely redirected toward production, and I think it made for a better bad movie. I recommend this one.

Next we started watching Nightmare Asylum.

It had a lot of the same “production challenges” of Sheets' other movies, but it was a bit more competent. The sets were really cool, and the lighting was better. Those two elements together, along with... we'll say “sampled” score music from public domain B movies, really created a nice, twisted atmosphere. I dug the look of this movie. The lines were repetitive, but there was a good effort on the part of the cast to really live their roles.

I didn't get very far into this one because I ended up turning it off, not because it wasn't good, but because of this torture scene where they were pounding nails into people's hands and shit like that. I'm all for people making what they want, it's fake, whatever, no one's actually being harmed. But personally, I don't watch that shit, or if I do, there better be a good reason for it. So there you go: it was effective at what it was trying to do, which was presumably get to it's audience. Otherwise, I liked enough of the movie where I would have continued watching if it hadn't headed toward torture porn territory.

So, having failed to get that one under my belt, I had to rifle through the collections for another Sheet-y masterpiece. Here we are: Dominion.

The opening of this vampire flick was fairly impressive considering what I'd gotten used to by this point. You got a setting in the olden times where people had candles and writing desks, a little girl has her dead brother vampire floating and clawing at her window trying to get her to let him in. You could hear it! The set was lit! With dramatic lighting! Holy shit! The kids are audibly delivering lines from an edited script rather than redundantly stumbling over improvised dialogue. I was so impressed I'm going to overlook that the little girl was pretending to write in her journal by wiggling her pencil several inches above the paper. You got vampires living in the sewers, detectives looking at exsanguinated bodies, a group of kids that just want to rock 'n' roll, and the geriatric sister of that long un-dead little boy from that first stunningly film-like scene. What do they all want? Fuck if I know, I was plowed!

Really though, we're decades into the future now, we got a new cop on the force (so hot, by the way), and he's apparently so promising all his accolades are repeated nearly word for word by him and another character in his introducing scene. The old sister wants to find her brother... for reasons. And the teenage girl character, Beth (there, I got another one!) really wants to go to a concert to see... who else? Todd Sheets' band Enochian Key of course! But her hyper-religious step(?)-mother forbids it because she thinks the music is Satanic. I will not soon forget the scene of the girl yelling at her parents, “They sing AGAINST Satan, not for him!and then several scenes later the band is shown demonstrating their religious convictions by accepting the vampires' proposition to join their ranks. Does this mean the whole time my parents were right, or knew something I didn't about heavy metal? See, now I'm going to wonder.

The detectives have a driving scene that's so long and pointless even the music gets bored an bails on it.

The teenage girl meets and becomes smitten with one of the vampires. I don't remember if this was part of a greater plan, or like all hundred + year old vampires he had a thing for chicks in highschool. Actually, what's the deal with that? Even in Interview the vampiress Louis falls for is physically a child. Living that long I guess you just become jaded and give up on doing what's right and just do what you want because, ultimately, what's the difference? Or is it that they're EVIL and so taking advantage of a rebellious, fairly willing adolescent is about the least bad they've found themselves capable of?

Anyway. So they go for a really fucking long carriage ride and he utters some of he worst dialogue ever written:

After the vampire shushes the girl's incessant heart-dumping, he says, “Enjoy the night, the beautiful night. We'll soon be at the concert with all those crazy rockers. Enjoy the quiet while you can.” I'm no teenage girl, but if I was, and an older guy started talking like that, I'd be thinking, I hope he shuts up when our clothes come off. But again, disclaimer: I'm not a teenage girl. Sorry if I've disappointed any of you Bots, Spiders and Micro-Taskers who only stopped here long enough to make a fraction of a cent, but I mean you can still pretend if you want to while you're reading this. I can even be blond with a birth name of Stephanie!

But I digress.

There's death scenes where no one knows how to die convincingly. There's another long-ass pointless driving scene where the cops are all just... in the car driving somewhere and looking burdened. This one was interspliced with scenes from the concert.... which must have meant that's where they were headed! To stop the vampires! It's all coming back to me... Another foggy bit of that night recovered! Hooray! Still never figured out where the mystery cake came from, though. But who cares, 'cause cake!

The icing on this deformed piece of cinematic work is the end, which is the tacked on second half of the vampire story from Madhouse. It's a scene with a different, but similar detective, and some of the same actresses who played vampires in both movies. Like, was it kinda supposed to be the same detective, or was it supposed to be some random dude who's there to demonstrate the vampire problem isn't solved yet and there still might be a sequel? If they're actually trying to fool us, it makes me a little worried about what might have happened to the old detective. Like, did he die or get sick or something before they could shoot the last scene? So they just stuck in the detective goes home to his bachelor pad and gets vampired scene with a completely different actor from another fucking movie? If that's the case, hopefully he couldn't make the shoot and they had to improvise, or the footage accidentally got recorded over and he said, “fuck you, I'm not doing it again,” 'cause that wouldn't be so heavy.

I just didn't know about this one. It could have been worse, I guess. It could have been Goblin.

I'm not done yet.  There are more of these things.  So... so many more.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cinematic Pieces of Sheets (Part 2): Bimbos B.C. and Madhouse

The next movie in my Todd Sheets-A-Thon is Bimbos BC. I think I was still clinging to chronology, otherwise I would have watched one of the other 2 Sheets movies that were on the same disk as Goblin. I actually had to change disks to get to this one.

This time I came prepared with alcohol, or “Sheets juice” as I decided to call it.

This one opens with a woman dressed in homemade cave-wear being stalked through a forest by a really big sock puppet. A struggle ensues and the puppet-bird-costume thing bites her and runs off, apparently satiated by the chunk of rubber skin it pulled off her. At least the blood is red...ish in this one.

This begat the credit interspliced scene of women walking through a field donned in period costumes which included rawhide, no wait..., my mistake-- brown fabric cut in strips to simulate rawhide draped and fastened across whatever street clothes they thought they could get away with without committing an anachronism. My friend who would be enduring this wreck along with me immediately noticed a wrist watch and a highway with traffic in the background. And a metal fence. The question was posed: Just how much imagination are we going to have to bring to this movie?”

Now, I like to give credit where due, and also admit when I'm wrong, so I have to say, as the movie progressed we discovered we'd been mistaken about the setting. Turns out this is a post-apocalyptic movie set in the future. So bluejeans with glued on strips of hide from a skinned teddy bear are acceptable, and technology such as wrist watches and automobiles were in absolutely no violation of the movies time-line whatsoever. You see, with B.C. being in the title and all, it's understandable how we could have jumped to conclusions. Sorry movie, I had you wrong. But don't worry, we would still have to bring plenty of imagination to this thing.

Due to its disjointedness and a little more “Sheets juice” than I had intended, the plot was a challenge to keep up with. Or to slow my pace enough to avoid leaving it behind. Or something. We're after the apocalypse where scientists (those conniving villains!) had unleashed some toxin or disease or something that made people turn into prehistoric monsters and zombies. I don't know why the women were walking through a field for so long, nor do I remember at what point they found their injured comrade, but somehow they end up in at their base. I don't know what this building was supposed to be, but it for all the world bore the appearance of a closed for the season elementary school. We're introduced to a no-longer-evil-scientist who's atoning for causing the destruction of civilization and the death of billions of people by helping the Bimbos and providing exposition. Here we learn that the woman who'd endured the shitty bird costume attack would rot from the inside out if the Bimbos didn't journey to Armageddon City (yes, really) where The Evil Scientists had gone into hiding in a subterranean, fortified, luxurious bunker (which, as we'd soon learn, was apparently located in the library at the other end of the same closed for the season elementary school that the Bimbos were holed up).

Our villain, who's name I forgot because who the fuck cares, couldn't have been asked to grow an actual villainous beard, so they colored one on him. I'm not kidding. They drew a fucking bad-guy beard on his face with magic marker. 

The screenshot doesn't do his luxurious Crayola marker beard justice.  Trust me, it's stunning.

And of course, Todd Sheets is there playing one of the lackeys. The head lackey, though. I don't know what the villains want exactly... something about armor with exposed groins so the acid rain will eat away at people's genitals as a means of population control? I was a little wobbly by this point.

It's also important to note that even with all of civilization and infrastructure wiped out by the apocalypse, and despite the danger posed by all those murderous mutants wandering around, someone still found the time and means to make sure all the lawns were mowed. And the trains were still running it seemed, as we discovered when one scenes dialogue was completely drowned out by a long locomotive whistle. Like, why didn't they wait for the thing to pass and then do the scene? How much longer could that have possibly taken? Or just shoot somewhere else maybe if there were just too many trains and whistles to get the scene in? I don't know, not my artistic vision.

There were zombie attacks that were unnecessarily long and poorly choreographed with everyone just sort of running around and stepping around each other awkwardly to try and avoid actually hurting or tripping over each other, bad gore effects with more digging around in meat by-products, and probably an epic fight scene between the bad guy with the colored on beard and the Bimbos. I really don't remember. Then there was the end and the bad guy was dispatched (I think there was a kitchen-- either that or I was in the kitchen looking for more booze), and his lackeys were all happy and wanted to join the Bimbos, who insisted they weren't called Bimbos but Warriors or something.

And then cue credits and the Bimbos B.C. song by Todd's band, Enocian Key. I've neglected to mention the band, which is an inexcusable oversight seeing as how they provide the music for all his films--- well, all the music they haven't re-purposed from other b-movies, such as this one song that's in almost all his movies and I've heard somewhere before and can't place and it's driving me insane! 

It's not from The Lurkers, Demonic Toys, The Funhouse... I've seriously gone checking through the last several horror movies I've watched over the summer and I cannot fucking figure out where I've heard this originally, so if anyone recognizes it (yeah, right... like anyone reads this), please, for the love of god and all that's holy, tell me what it's from! Please. It's bugging the hell outta me!

Anyway, I really can't say anything too bad about Todd's band. If I were still really into heavy metal, I'd probably like it okay. They're no Judas Priest, but neither are... anyone other than Judas Priest I suppose... Anyway, they're not the most horrible thing ever. I mean, they're at least on par with Thor.

The music and low audio quality aren't the only things all of Sheets' movies have in common. I've come to recognize the same cast from film to film with some additions and some subtractions. Jenny Admire, Bobby Westrik, Mike Hellman, Veronica Orr, Charles Gooseman, Amber Westbrook, Tonia Monahan, etc... They're recurring participants who not only act in the films, but in many cases are credited with various production jobs, such as lighting, make-up, and “sound” as well. They must really have a lot of fun, which makes me feel kind of warm and fuzzy, which --being a strange and foreign feeling-- makes me feel as if I might throw up. But in a happy way!

We still had some time after our first feature. Sadly there was no more Sheets juice, but we still had plenty of imagination! Which was a damned good thing as I was starting to sober up.

So we decided to watch Madhouse, or Edgar Allan Poe's Madhouse. This is an anthology of four stories, and I still have no idea which story was supposed to be a Poe adaptation (due to my unfamiliarity with his work, not due to any mishandling by Sheets of the source material). The man himself, our humble director Mr. Sheets sits there holding a book and wearing a cape while he introduces each story, forgetting to actually name the title of first one which “has to do with vampires.” This was much better than the Goblin thing. There was decent lighting, sets, the performance from his group of regulars was a bit better. There was even fog! You still couldn't really hear shit, but you can't have everything. It was almost like a real bad movie. I was impressed.

Our second story is about a werewolf... again, much better, twist ending which was somewhat expected, but not badly pulled off. Short, sweet, not terrible.

And then our third story, Dead Things-- if I heard him state the title correctly, is about murderously territorial hillbillies. This one seems to have been filmed a few years earlier than the other two stories, contained a different cast, and was actually somewhat impressive. A group of people are hiking, and stubbornly insist they have to walk through this pissed-off redneck's property even though he's pointing a shotgun at them while his spaz devil-spawn son hops around and yells at the group and pokes at people with a stick. The kids in this, both on the hiker's side and the redneck's son put on a pretty good show, playing their characters with a good amount of passion and believability, delivering dialogue that sounds like stuff people actually say in a way that doesn't come off like they're just delivering lines. I'm guessing there wasn't a script for them to trip over and they were improvising. Two in particular, the boy playing a socially awkward compulsive liar and the boy playing the hillbilly's hyperactive son came off as very genuine. They singly put on the best fight/murder scene I've watched in any of these films. It, and the scene where the hillbilly catches and cuts a kid's leg off, was genuinely unsettling. The adults' acting doesn't fare quite as well, with them occasionally talking over each other and repeating themselves --which you could argue gives it more of a sense of realism, but they made a fair enough effort.

One thing that's interesting to note about this segment is it was shot in full daylight, which I think made it more effective. His other films fought with lighting issues, which didn't enhance either dread or terror, rather creating confusion which segued into disinterest. I like horror scenes that happen during the day because, in a way, it makes it so much more dreadful, proclaiming a simple message: you aren't even safe in the light-- because we aren't.

Inexplicably our host is abruptly swapped for a more homely and modestly dressed version of Elvira, which I guess is no version of Elvira, whose cauldron stirring is interrupted in order to introduce the final segment. Here we have more footage recorded some time before the rest of the film, again with different actors than the usual cast. This time they're in an abandoned (but again, well landscaped) town infested with zombies. They run around and get picked off. There's a decent shot where a kid in in a screened-in structure surrounded by zombies trying to figure out how to get in. My favorite part was when the last survivor climbs on top of some bridge structure as if she desperately needs to get to the other side, all the while it being plainly visible that it would have been much easier for her to have just walked under or around the thing. They just really wanted a magnificent attack/death scene on that bridge, dammit. What they made was a comically anti-climactic zombie attack scene where the zombie was plainly visible, jumps out as if it had been concealed. Nonetheless, the surprised reaction from the victim showed a good effort to work with what they had.

Madhouse was alright. I'd even recommend it to those who love awful movies.