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Things

Year: 1989   Company: Left Field Productions   Runtime: 84′
Director: Andrew Jordan, Barry J. Gillis   Writers: Andrew Jones, Barry J. Gillis   Cinematography: Dan Riggs
Music: Stryk-9, Familiar Strangers, Jack Procher, Barry J. Gillis   Cast: Barry J. Gillis, Amber Lynn, Bruce Roach,
Doug Bunston, Jan W. Pachul, Patricia Sadler, Gordon Lucas, Bruce Hamilton, Daryn Gillis, Jessica Stewarte
Disc company: Intervision Pictures Corp.   Video: 480i / 4:3    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: None   Disc: DVD9   Release Date: 07/12/2011   Reviewed from a screener provided by Intervision Pictures Corp.  Available for purchase at Amazon.com

Motivated by the uptick in straight-to-video productions originating from the United States and itching to honor their favorite horror directors with a gruesome tale of their own, a handful of Canadians with no discernible talent for production, writing, special effects, direction or performance scrounged together a budget and some Super 8mm shooting equipment and went to work.  The end result, released directly to rental VHS in 1989, was Things, 84 minutes of graphic violence and unbridled stupidity that feels more like an acid trip interrupting a drunken stupor than a film.  To say that Things is dreadful is to understate its case to a degree that borders on the criminal, and while it may not be the worst film yet produced on this Earth it certainly earns points for trying.

So.  What is Things about?  I honestly haven’t the faintest idea.  Though purported to have been written (the stilted line readings would seem to bear this out) there is absolutely no story to speak of here.  Things is, instead, a collection of continuity-defying sequences that amount to precisely nothing in the end.  For instance, the film’s only name attraction, porn star Amber Lynn in one of her few non-sex roles, is limited to a handful of abysmal newsroom scenes (photographed in 16mm on a tiny set, with Amber reading all of her lines in the most obvious manner possible) that have little, if any, connection to the rest of the material.  In this regard the title seems most appropriate – this isn’t a film about anything, it’s a film about Things.

The loose collection of events that passes for a narrative begins in a basement, where a man leers at a scantily dressed young woman in an oversized Devil mask.  “I… want… you… to… have… my… baby…” he says.  In response she strips, except for the mask, as the handheld camera ogles her obsessively.  “I can’t have your baby,” she says – “I already have!”  A baby basket is produced, its contents obscured by a blanket.  The man fawns over the basket, smiling, until a bloody claw erupts from the ‘neath the blanket and shatters the strange, but otherwise tranquil, scene.  The man screams, and suddenly finds himself lying on a couch.  It was all a dream.

  
  

From that weirdly juicy hook Things devolves into a buddy story between Don (co-writer and co-director Barry J. Gillis) and Fred, who are on a road trip to visit Don’s older brother Doug – who, though the film neglects to tell us for a while, happens to be the same man seen in the opening scene.  Don, his mullet and Fred arrive at the home of Doug and his wife late in the evening, after which nothing proceeds to happen for quite some time.  Don and Fred drink some beer, turn on some lights and talk about Doug’s home decor.  Doug appears just in time for something to happen – his artificially impregnated wife births some kind of crabby alien-faced ant thing and dies.  Doug is horrified, at least at first.  Fred disappears, the lights go out, and Don needs to go to the bathroom.

Meanwhile, there are monsters – more of those weird crabby alien-faced ant things that Doug’s wife gave birth to.  Doug and Don hunt for a flashlight so that they can head into the darkened bathroom, search the room at intolerable length, and eventually break into the monster-filled basement to change the fuses for the lights to the house.  Somewhere along the way Doug is killed, partly because Don accidentally smashes his head with a hammer and partly because he’s attacked by one of the things, as does Fred, who randomly reappears, angry and armed with an electric chainsaw, only to be eaten.  Don barfs.  “I’m really pissed now!” shouts Fred’s mostly-devoured disembodied head.

And so it goes, until a bad ’80s power ballad sends Don fleeing from the thing-infested house in search of an ending.  Does he find one?  Are the things destroyed?  Who the hell is this world-famous Doctor Lucas, who randomly shows up in a plaid shirt after Amber Lynn reports about him on the news?  I’ll never tell…

I generally have at least some sympathy for those enterprising independents who plow full speed ahead with their filmmaking dreams in spite of an obvious dearth of skill or talent, but Things is a hard sell even by my typically abysmal standards for such.  There are amusing bits here and there, mostly to do with the bottom barrel post dubbing and occasional cultural idiosyncrasies (“Ew, the blood is dripping like maple syrup!”), but it’s all but lost in the disorienting mush that surrounds it.  Rarely do I lower myself to this level of critical appraisal, but after sitting through Things‘ hour and a half of meaningless and unforgiving red-hued dementia I have to admit – I just didn’t like it.

  
  

Things makes its way to domestic DVD in all of its stupid be-mulleted glory courtesy of Intervision Picture Corp., best known around these parts for their special edition of the absurd shot-on-video shocker Sledgehammer.  Intervision has made quite a name for itself in giving deluxe treatment to the undeserving ephemera of yesteryear, and they’ve done another fine job here – Things fans will be pleased.

Predominantly photographed in Super 8mm and mastered on tape, Things makes for an underwhelming but source-accurate presentation on DVD.  The interlaced 4:3 image presents the film just as it would have appeared on tape over twenty years ago, in all of its ghosty noise-ridden glory.  Colors are smeary but vibrant, with detail appearing appropriately weak throughout.  Anyone expecting anything else from Things is not of sound mind.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio faithfully replicates the inconsistent original mix, from muffled live-recorded sound effects to crisp overlayed music tracks and everywhere in between.  Aside from the lack of subtitles (SDH or otherwise) I’ve no complaints.

Supplements are judiciously stacked.  For my money the best thing on the disc is the original trailer for the film, which accurately suggests the madness of the feature itself without being so indigestible.  Fans will appreciate the rest.  Things is accompanied by an “Audio Viewing Party” with the Cinefamily and a feature commentary track with co-writers and directors Barry Gillis and Andrew Jordan.  Next up are a selection of Testimonials on Things, which include brief video spots with Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com, Hobo With a Shotgun director Jason Eisener and producer Rob Cotterill, Joseph Ziemba and Dan Budnik of Bleeding Skull, Things-ite Joey Izzo, and a reaction to the Things trailer by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper.  Things 20th Anniversary Cast and Crew Reunion pits the inconsiderable talents of Gillis, Jordan and company against a ventriloquists’ dummy and a female co-host in a basement studio.  Vintage Barry J. Gillis TV Appearances offers an amusing glimpse at Things‘ local media campaign, while Behind the Scenes with Amber Lynn shows the actress at work in the cramped newsroom set.  An investor reel for the as yet unmade Evil Island and additional trailers for Sledgehammer, The Burning Moon and The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer round out the extras.

Credit need go where credit is deserved, and Intervision have done an admirable job (I dig the menu designs especially) in bringing Things to US audiences.  Unfortunately the film didn’t impress itself upon me in my viewing at all – I’d just as soon have done my taxes again instead.  Still, fans of Things need not be dissuaded.  This disc is tops.

in conclusion
Film: Meh   Video: As good a it gets   Audio: As good as it gets   Supplements: Considerable
Harrumphs: No subtitles.
Packaging: Standard issue white DVD case.
Final Words: Intervision have put together quite a release with Things, and its a pity the film couldn’t live up to it.  Fans will want to indulge, but I can’t recommend to much of anyone else.

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