The Film– Doug and Susan Drake have been trying- and failing- to have a child. One night, Doug dreams a woman wearing a Devil mask seduces him, promising the child Susan can’t deliver. After some sexy business in the basement shower stall, the woman hands Doug a crib with his child. Let’s just say it’s not human…
Doug awakens from his nightmare, and goes to check on Susan. She hasn’t felt so hot ever since her visit with Dr. Lucas, the local madman who’s been experimenting on (what I think are) zombies. He’s trying an experimental procedure that he guarantees will give the couple the child they want.
Wanting to hang out and drink with his brother (who’s apparently been into some weird shit recently), Doug’s brother Don, and his friend, Fred, head out to the couple’s secluded backwoods house for the weekend. Upon arrival, the two find Doug MIA, and decide to start the drinking without him. Well, they accidentally find a book from Aleister Crowley, as well as a tape player, in the freezer. Because that’s always a great place to store moisture-sensitive objects.
Fred immediately compares this to “that movie, the weird one with all those weird things? Like the tape recorder in the basement” that he can’t seem to remember the name of. Gee, I wonder if it’s FUCKING EVIL DEAD (and with that we get the first of many horror references. Yippie!) Anyways, they play the recording, which does nothing but blast shitty synth music. Well goddamn, that was uneventful.
Doug returns home, and after bitching nonstop for what seems like hours, finally settles in with his brother and Fred. He’s a pretty fucked up guy, and after putting dead bugs in Don’s food, begins produce an “I will probably kill you both tonight” vibe. Disgruntled as ever, he heads to check on his wife, whose condition is getting increasingly worse.
Well, Dr. Lucas’s experiment worked, only not quite the way Doug was wanting. Susan bursts open, and a flood of “Things” storm out of her. Whatever they are, they look like ants crossed with the tumor monsters from The Abomination (another badass Super 8 gore film). Despite the growing infestation of Things, and, you know, an exploded corpse in the bedroom, the three guys just go back to drinking. Yeahhhhh….
Suddenly, something happens to Fred. I would tell you if I knew, but honestly I have no clue. He’s fine one minute, then blood splashes all over Doug, and he’s gone. Don blames it on spontaneous combustion, but Doug seems to think he was pulled into the mouse hole in the wall (when did mice start arming their homes with goddamn landmines?). But either way it doesn’t matter, because the two decide it’s time to ignore the Things, corpse, and sudden geyser of death that just erupted, and get back to drinking again.
The party finally comes to a halt when the fuses blow, forcing the brothers to venture into the basement. Preparing for whatever monsters might be down there (ahh, now you finally seem to notice the bobcat sized creatures scampering around your house?) the two use the bathroom (in possibly the most drawn out and surreal scene of the entire movie), collect their weapons, and head downstairs.
In the basement things are starting to look bad. There are Things everywhere, and when one attacks Doug, Don sorta kinda misses it and smashes his bother in the head with a mini-sledge. Oops. After fixing the fuses (I think?), Don drags his bother back upstairs- where another Thing is waiting for them…
With Doug’s condition getting worse (like he actually cares at all), Don gets a power drill and goes John Rambo on the little monsters. But things take a turn for the “I have no damn clue what’s happening” when Fred shows up with an electric chainsaw and begins dicing up Things left and right. After a total massacre of the carnivorous ants, the combatants realize it’s pretty much useless to fight the creatures, because there’s an almost unlimited number of Things in the house.
Eventually the Things take control of the house again, devouring everyone except Don. Just when all hope seems lost, Dr. Lucas shows up to check on Susan. After describing the scene as “Brutal! Ghastly! Horrible!”, the doctor pins the blame on Don, since the Things have suddenly disappeared… Did Don really massacre the entire house? Or are the Things still out there, waiting to attack?
I’m really going to try to give an accurate review for Things, but just a heads up, it’s going to be hard. Super 8 films are almost in a category of their own- mainly due to the cheap effects, shitty quality, overdubbing, and general armature-ness. In short, Super 8 gore films (Things, The Abomination, Weasels Rip My Flesh, Mad Mutilator, Darkness, ect) are almost a separate entity from even the shittiest of the horror sub-genres (such as SOV), and this review if from the standpoint of a really big, yet cynical, fan. You have been warned.
Things is one of those “so bad it’s good” movies thrown around here and there, but not as much as, say, 555 or Black Devil Doll from Hell (which is, in fact, so bad it’s just goddamn terrible). However unlike those films, its VHS release is a mystery to almost every tape collector I’ve talked to in America. Maybe it’s because Things was only put out on VHS in its homeland, Canada, but info on that original release is pretty tricky to come by. I’ve only seen one picture of the tape. A DVD was released by the filmmakers in the late 2000’s, which is how most people know of it today. Now that Intervision has released this steaming little turd, people like me can finally experience it for what it’s cracked up to be- an insane, pointless gorefest.
So you remember that plot I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that’s not really important. In fact, half of the plot points in the film are overridden by later events. There’s no sense of mortality, structure, or even sanity (who the hell pours whiskey on someone else’s head as a joke after two people have been reduced to chunks of man meat?)- making Things seem like a series of ridiculous and gruesome segments strung together. And that’s where it gets its charm.
The only two reasons to watch Things are its absurdity and gore (but some people will find the moustache Gillis is sporting reason enough on its own). The film is completely devoid of any, I mean ANY logical actions. These guys can’t even shit like normal people! What little bit of structure there is so ridiculous that you pretty much go along just to have something to justify what you’re watching. I think there are some zombies in this, and apparently you can die in a viscera-spewing explosion, yet return from the afterlife with an electric chainsaw in tow. Yeah, nah, that’s just stupid…
While the writing is to blame for a good bit of this, and believe me is atrocious (“I’ve got to hide your corpse! I don’t want them eating you ALIVE!”), the real culprit is the dubbing. Things was recorded without sound and overdubbed in post, which is really, really common for Super 8. In fact, Mad Mutilator only has a whopping 4 lines of dialog, and some spots in Things are very similar. The characters will talk about nonsense for what feels like hours, but when the monsters attack, there’s a 15 minute breaks in dialog (if you’re lucky you’ll get a scream track that just loops during the scene, but it’s mostly just the god awful music).
But what makes Things stand out from some of the other notable films like it? These guys didn’t even try to make this sound normal, much less good! It sound like two people with a soundboard and whoopee cushion just sat up a mic in the basement and began making funny voices, inter-spliced with how ever many sounds they could chuck into the mix. The results make for possibly the worst, most entraining dub track I’ve ever heard- and I’ve heard some pretty good ones (Zombie 90, anyone?)
But enough of that technical mumbo jumbo, if you’re watching Things, you know damn well it’s for the gore, which there’s plenty of. Fingers being ripped off, eyes yanked out, flesh peeled back, bellies bursting, and plenty of “Thing” chainsawing. The gruesome effects are pretty much standard game for the kind of film, but the “Things” are a goddamn joke. Most movies with a budget this low take into consideration the limitations they have. Gillis and Jordan seem to have not given a single fuck about these hindrances. The result? Incredibly threatening, menacing, disgusting, carnivorous… motionless, defenseless, petty monsters… Huh…
You know how when you played with figures as a kid? And when you pretended they were walking you animated them in that over exaggerated “left to right boing boing boing” stance? That’s kinda how these creatures look when they walk, only worse. This could be the only species of monsters I’ve ever seen that passively lay still and allow you to chop, drill, saw, and smash them to pieces. And these characters are terrified why?
It’s also worth nothing that porn goddess Amber Lynn has a cue-card reading cameo as a news reporter. These scenes barely have anything to do with the actual film, and it feels like her work was done because someone knew her and asked her to shoot maybe 10 minutes of footage (that’s randomly spliced into the film). With Things already being one of the weirdest pieces of trash out there, a cameo from Miss Lynn really steps up the already depraved game.
I could sit here and rip this movie apart all day, but in all honesty what do you expect? It’s not good, it’s not logical, not a single damn scene has any fragment of realism- but its shot on Super 8, which make every bit of this justified. Again, these films are NOT for everyone, and most are even worse than the notorious Shot on Video (SOV) movies (at least they had a fucking microphone to record the actual audio!), but they’re mindless fun.
While Things isn’t my favorite movie of its kind, it’s a cheap, nasty, rotten breath of fresh air from what’s being released by even the strongest Genre companies nowadays. If you know what you’re getting yourself into, it’s a tremendously fun experience (that’s really the best way to put it- an experience). If you’ve never seen anything like Things, A) you probably never will, and B) its worth checking out, but only if you’re willing to lose a significant amount of brain cells.
The Presentation– Washed out, muddy, grainy, and often you can’t tell if you’re looking at a character’s face or mutilated genitalia. But, again, what did you expect. There are some really cool scenes that use Argento-esque lighting, and the quality actually enhances how surreal this movie is (I’m dead serious when I say I’ve never seen a movie like Things, not even those other Super 8 movie I mentioned). Intervision has given Things a pretty good transfer. It’s not the best transfer I’ve seen, but it’s beyond watchable. And oddly enough, I don’t think Things would be half as weird of an experience if the picture was clearer. If that even makes any sense.
I’ve already mentioned how stupid/ amazing the dubbing is, but how does it sound? Well, it really does sound like these guys recorded in a basement, I wasn’t kidding- but the quality is actually not bad. The hokey dialog is very easy to hear, and the volume is kept in check on the 1,000,000 sound effects used. The only issues are when the music drowns out what characters are saying, or when the audio just stops (happens more than once people), but these were production issues and I can’t knock the transfer for those errors. EDIT: It turns out Things had an actual audio track recorded, but it was too noisy to be used and was forced to be re-recorded. Mr. Gillis informed me there is an additional cut scene included after the credits that has the original audio intact. And after watching it, I almost regret about bitching so hard about the dubbing…
Intervision has included a huge amount of extras. First, there’s several testimonials from people who have witnessed Things, including Tobe Hooper, the guys from Bleeding Skull, Jason Eisener and Rob Cotterill of Hobo with a Shotgun, and even a huge fan (which Gillis has dubbed Things-ites). Also included is footage from the 20 year cast reunion (probably recorded in the same basement as the sound mix all those years ago), but sadly Amber Lynn is not present. There is, however, a behind the scenes reel with the filmmakers and herself during the newsroom scenes. We also get two vintage film clips of Gillis talking about Things on what I assume are local news programs, an investor clip for Evil Island (which seriously needs to be made), and several trailers. I also love the disk design for Intervision titles, because they really embrace the VHS feel. The trailer to possibly one of the best SOV gore films ever, Burning Moon, is the first thing you see when you put the disk in. How awesome is that? This is the best selection of extras compiled by Intervision so far, and I can’t wait to see where this company is going in the coming years.