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.

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Sledgehammer

Year: 1983   Company: I & I Productions   Runtime: 84′
Director: David A. Prior   Writers: David A. Prior   Videography: Salim Kimaz
Music: Philip G. Slate   Cast: Ted Prior, Linda McGill, John Eastman, Janine Scheer, Tim Aguilar, Sandy Brooke
Disc company: Intervision Pictures Corp.   Video: 480i / 4:3    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: None   Disc: DVD9   Release Date: 05/10/2011   Reviewed from a screener provided by Intervision Pictures Corp.  Available for preorder at Amazon.com.

Well that was unexpected.  Intervision didn’t do much to impress this reviewer with their initial DVD releases, a double helping of Jess Franco snoozers whose covers offered more in the way of genuine entertainment value than the films themselves, but this is more like it.  Sledgehammer isn’t so much an artifact from another time as from another universe – an ugly and unintelligible mess of cheap thrills and cheaper drama from the early days of the straight to video shot-on-tape explosion.  I dig it.

Writer / director David A. Prior, who would go on to direct a good deal more (like 1987′s inimitable Aerobicide), modeled Sledgehammer after the popular and profitable Friday the 13th franchise, and it shows.  The meager story concerns a group of purported young people who head out for a weekend of drunken fun in a rural location with an ominous history and are subsequently dispatched by a supernatural masked maniac armed with the eponymous sledgehammer.  In its basics Sledgehammer is strictly a by-the-books slasher, but its oddball trappings keep it from being so easily quantifiable as that.

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Paula-Paula

a.k.a. Paula-Paula: una experiencia audiovisual de Jess Franco inspirada en Jekyll y Hyde de R.L. Stevenson
Year: 2010   Company: CineBinario Films   Runtime: 66′
Director: Jess Franco   Writer: Jess Franco   Cinematography: Jess Franco   Music: Friedrich Gulda (posthumous)
Cast: Carmen Montes, Paula Davis, Lina Romay and some guy in a sweater who goes unnamed
Disc company: Intervision Picture Corp   Video: NTSC 16:9 1.85:1    Audio: Dolby Digitlal 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: English    Disc: DVD5 (Region 0)   Release Date: 02/08/2011   Product link: Amazon.com
Reviewed from a screener provided by Intervision Picture Corp and CAV Distribution

Jess Franco is back, for better or for worse, and his budget is smaller than ever.  This shot-on-video effort, not even a year old as of this writing, sees the director working on what may be the smallest scale of his career, with all of the… ehem… action taking place in a handful of confined apartment rooms.  What’s it all about?  I’ll let the back of the DVD case do the talking:

An exotic dancer named Paula has been murdered.  Her lover Paula is the prime suspect.  But in a nightmare world of passion and perversion, could abstract desire be the greatest crime of all?

Helpful, eh?  Though the opening credits make a point to list Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde as an inspiration for the story, there really isn’t much of one to inspire.  The film opens with a detective (cult film personality Lina Romay in a very brief appearance) interrogating a disturbed young Paula (Carmen Montes, Killer Barbys vs. Dracula) after the death of her exotic dancer lover, also named Paula (Paula Davis).  The scene accomplishes little beyond letting us know that Paula the first has tried killing Paula the second a few times, and its end spells the same for the film’s negligible narrative aspirations.

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