October Horrorshow: Things

Things 1989 VHS boxIn doing research for this year’s Horrorshow, I’ve found that many flicks featured on SOV horror lists on the tubes are not, in fact, shot on videotape. Usually, they are movies that were made for the home video market, never intended for theatrical release, but were shot on cheap film stock. Such is the case with Things, the 1989 flick from producers and writers Barry J. Gillis and Andrew Jordan, with direction by Jordan. It was transferred to video for release, but was shot for the most part on super 8.

I can’t mince words. Things is a contender for worst movie ever made. Everything about the film is the lowest of low rent. Color, lighting, dialogue, plot, acting, special effects, music — it all lives in the darkest, deepest levels of incompetence. Yet, it is not a film hostile to viewers. It has a charm that’s lacking in something like Birdemic. This is an inept film made by earnest filmmakers. While it is bad, it is also worth appreciating the hard work from those involved. They gave us something to be laughed at and mocked, yes, but the enjoyment of a bad movie is not all schadenfreude.

The film follows three men, in what was probably Andrew Jordan’s apartment at the time of filming, as they drink lots of beer, wander around the house a bit, and occasionally fight off the be-teethed things of the title. Where did the things come from? Doug (Doug Bunston) and his wife, Susan (Patricia Sadler) have been trying for a baby, and enlist the services of Dr. Lucas (Jan W. Pachul). Rather than deliver a healthy baby, the things claw their way out of her abdomen and go on a tear through the home.

Susan is killed during the birth, but that doesn’t seem to bother Doug too much. His brother, Don (Barry J. Gillis) and Don’s friend, Fred (Bruce Roach), have come by to do some drinking. Like a good host, Doug provides food and drink, and everyone kind of lazes their way through the parts of the flick that aren’t all blood and gore.

The majority of the dialogue is re-recorded, and Jordan didn’t seem concerned if it matched what the actors were actually saying during filming. Much of it has the feel of improvisation, or an internal dialogue where a person is describing what they are doing. It also sounds like it was recorded on a portable cassette deck. No expenses spared.

Speaking of, cast and crew for Things are all anonymous first-timers in the film biz, except for a local TV news lady played by porn star Amber Lynn. Jordan and Gillis booked an hour of her time, sat her in front of a bank of TV screens, and had her read random news reports off of cue cards. These vignettes are scattered all throughout the film, but bear no relation to the plot until near the end. Also, raising this film’s shitty bona fides, the cue cards were placed well away from the camera, redirecting Lynn’s gaze away as she read. Still, these are the most professional sequences of the film.

She doesn’t bare any breasts, however. There wasn’t money enough in the budget for that. When it comes to nudity, Jordan and Gillis went out and found a hooker (no joke), put a devil mask on her, and got some full frontal for the opening scene.

In many ways, Things plays like a couple of teenagers having fun with the family super 8, then gathering around to watch and make up dialogue during a party. It has that level of coherence and sophistication. It’s also likely to be one of the more unique films a viewer is likely to see. It evokes supreme incredulousness, and thus supreme curiosity. Who made this? How did they make it? Why did they make it? Did they ever suffer doubts as they were making it?

It’s outrageous, it’s crude, and it’s unforgettable. Should Missile Test ever start ranking films based on objective quality alone, it would no doubt sink to the bottom of the list. That’s not how we do things, here. I was quite entertained by this dog. Things, and I reserve every right to someday come to my senses, makes it into the top half of the Watchability Index, displacing I Am Legend at #129. Never has a film of such poor quality soared so high. I consider it required viewing for the shitty movie fan.

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