#17, NOVEMBER 2004




by Stefan Jaworzyn

I have absolutely no control over what happens to me any more. Sometimes I go out, but mostly I just sit on the sofa watching stuff on TV. Sometimes films - well, I guess a lot of films really, but also a lot of other shit that just seems to manifest itself before me. It doesn't matter. All I know is there's a direct correspondence between my beer gut growing and my brain shrinking. I can't imagine things are going to change in the foreseeable future (whatever that is – if I'd been able to foresee the future I might have taken steps to avoid ending up a slob on a sofa). But when I think about it, my life's probably better than yours anyway, so fuck it.

You know what? I really hate faceless killers who hack people up just because they're psychos. Hey, I'm a fucking psycho, but I don't wander around in the dark with a machete. (Though my wife did buy me a sword for my last birthday, a gift which still bemuses me.) So imagine, if you will, my apoplectic outrage when finding myself spluttering drunk in front a movie about a faceless serial killer hacking people up on a shitty island with only a lighthouse on it. Even worse, the killer wears shiny white pointy toe shoes! He's supposed to be the most dangerous man alive (maybe ever) and he wears shiny white pointy toe shoes. My, how fucking sinister. Lighthouse may be the worst, most pointless serial killer film of all time – worse than, oh, My Bloody Valentine, worse than The Prowler, worse than Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, worse than Don't Go in the House…It's worse because it's totally lacking in any narrative drive, any remotely interesting characters, any intelligence evident in its conception or execution. The other movies were made twenty odd years ago and seem like quaint period pieces (though I'd rather have a steamroller run over my balls than watch them again), Lighthouse is 'brand new' and, oh, I'm feeling poorly just thinking about it. Back to the white pointy toe shoe wearer. Why is he doing it? Who cares! Not the makers of this movie! He collects heads. Well, good for him! When you finally see the turd, he looks like a cross between Bela Lugosi and Christian Bale – or maybe Tony Hadley (with goofy teeth). I have to say I honestly believe there is not one moment of this film that transcends the utterly contemptible.

I give up on a lot of films these days: it's a newfound mark of maturity that I am capable of understanding I'm having my intelligence insulted. Did I give up on Bride of Re-Animator? Apparently not, though the merciful Lord knows not why I persevered. Time has not been kind to the majority of '80s horror movies. There's something rank about them: cheesiness maybe, a certain smugness? An over eagerness to play to the 'gore and yucks' market? I can identify it the moment I see it: at the time it proved extremely problematic for me, causing me to agonise endlessly about the meaning of it all (as anyone who read Shock Xpress might remember) - now it mostly makes me turn them off (I didn't have the sense then, believing every film must be watched to the last second of the end credits, preferably while making copious notes). God, what use, what use? Anyway, Bride of Re-Animator basically grinds to a leaden halt whenever Jeffrey Combs is off-screen. Sure it's stupid and gory, but that's not enough – I can't say it hasn't stood the test of time because I didn't like it the first time round (I loved Re-Animator, which now looks almost as dated, though its cast is far better and it plays more like a 'real' movie than one specifically created for the mentally retarded). Some of the effects are mildly entertaining, and the overwrought (that is, bad) acting is at first endearing, but it pushes the over-the-top factor so far, never knowing when to call a halt, that it's ultimately mild-numbingly tedious.

Thief, also known as Violent Streets, was Michael Mann's first theatrical feature (though his previous TV movie The Jericho Mile was released cinematically in Europe I believe), and was co-produced by Jerry 'Fucking' Bruckheimer…It sets the tone for pretty much all Mann's subsequent work, both thematically (rugged individualist takes on seemingly overwhelming odds) and stylistically (slick cinematography, stylised violence, electronic score) – and, in common with The Keep and Manhunter it's edited by Dov Hoenig, somewhat of a genius in marrying film to music, especially in Mann's strange, jumpy shoot-outs. Thief is a reasonably good example of neon noir, maybe even the first: Mann's predilection for glossy, high-tech visuals looks slightly dated now, but he pioneered that look (and let's not forget the hand of Mr Bruckheimer). Having said that, Thief often drags (there's an excruciating episode in an adoption agency) and contains much needless exposition. But its longeurs are outweighed by its attractions: the opening burglary, with a giant safe being drilled, is shot like pornography; the police are disgustingly sleazy and corrupt; the closing showdown/shootout with its wild guitar solo – c/o Edgar Froese I presume – nods to Peckinpah. James Caan is close to his Sonny Corleone best: barely restrained, bug-eyed, ranting and raving -- the scene in the diner where he tells Tuesday Weld 'what it's all about' is a show-stopper – and his climactic meltdown is a classic of deadbeat nihilism. Beware: the TV prints are atrocious.

Thank the Blessed Mary for satellite and cable – we get to watch hundreds of films we wouldn't rent from a video store for a penny a week because – well, why do we do it? It's a debate I seem to get into more and more these days. Garbage appears before me and I consume it. I wouldn't waste 90 minutes listening to music I hate, so why do I inflict celluloid smegma on myself? Here's a prime example…
      Picasso Trigger is one of a few movies directed by Andy Sidaris. Luckily, I haven't seen most of them, though I used to own Seven on video (in my 'collect anything starring William Smith' days – don't ask…). It was a piece of shit, Smith makes Steven Seagal look like Orson Welles (he kind of does size-wise these days anyway, come to think of it), and Sidaris is a Z-movie hack, the kind of director whose movies make watching exploitation films unbearable. I found Picasso Trigger literally unwatchable – after two nights I got about halfway through before giving up. Sidaris likes girls, guns and hulking muscle-bound blockheads – his movies look like they ought to be porn films, and might be slightly more enjoyable if they were. This, apparently a sequel to Hard Ticket to Hawaii, frequently possesses neither rhyme nor reason, though it might possibly make sense if you've seen the other film (I wouldn't put money on it). It features a David Koresh-looking twat called Ortiz who wants revenge, a dopey Texan, some sort of dick on a boat (the title character is killed in the first reel, unless it was faked and he re-emerged after I expired), a hideous creep with long greasy hair and a pony tail, and two outrageously sexy blonde cops ('It's a shame we gotta waste a couple of good-looking broads,' says an astute killer) not chosen for acting abilities:
     'Who do you think would want us dead?'
     'Could be any number of people.'
     'You don't think they cracked my cover, do you?'
     'No, impossible, the Federal government wouldn't allow that to happen to you.'
     In many scenes the actors just stand around looking stupid, like slack-jawed amateurs awaiting direction that never comes. Sickening '80s fashions (and much big hair) abound, there's a nauseating, cheapo synth soundtrack (similar to that of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) punctuating the silences as the assembled imbeciles try to remember their lines, and the majority of the actresses look like lingerie models you'd probably rather see engaged in unspeakable acts with a football team and a couple of donkeys. Unacceptable garbage, even to a middle-aged drunk.

Most crummy sci-fi and horror films from the '50s and '60s have a champion, at least one hapless buffoon who was left in the cinema as a kid with a K. Gordon Murray triple bill or whose uncle dosed him with LSD and forced him to watch The Giant Claw. Well, as far as I can figure, Journey to the Seventh Planet is loved by no one (Bill Warren said something along the lines of 'you know you're onto a loser when John Agar is the best thing about it'). A 1962 absurdity from genius Sid Pink, also responsible for such notable items as Reptilicus and Angry Red Planet, Journey to the Seventh Planet is a purely torturous experience. It's a story of an expedition to Uranus (ahem), which turns out to be inhabited by a giant brain with an eyeball in the middle. The giant brain manipulates the astronauts' thoughts, causing beautiful blondes to appear (what else?). Finally, amidst a barrage of staggering special effects, the brain is defeated. Most of the cast is Danish (it was made in Denmark) and the dubbing (one of the astronauts is supposed to be Irish!) is so peculiar they must have done it themselves, possibly under hypnosis. Lines are delivered at a snail's pace with strange pauses in the middle of sentences, making every scene an eternal torment (no one seems to have a clue what they're talking about either), and the cast wander about like they're drugged convicts awaiting execution. Pink's effects were deemed so crude and useless they were mostly substituted by scenes from previous AIP movies, rendering many scenes even more stupid and meaningless than they (presumably) already were. I brought the kids in for the last ten minutes and they were suitably awed. The biggest bummer for me was my lousy video (taped about 15 years ago) had the vocals removed from the end credits theme song. Yes, it had a theme song! It's out (in widescreen) on a DVD double bill with Invisible Invaders (not an ideal pairing but both star John Agar) and we've all doubtless wasted ten dollars on worse.

The 'eagerly anticipated' Queen of the Damned, not really a sequel to the not actually that bad Interview with the Vampire, ended up a posthumous 'tribute' to barely-out-of-teens dead pop singer Aaliyah – well, it's a fucking good job it's a tribute to someone, because as anything else it's an excrescence. Director Michael Rymer has managed to add another lousy vampire movie to the ever-growing pantheon of modern bloodsucker tat. I don't like resorting to this lazy trick, but I'm going to quote my incoherent notes verbatim:
      "Stoopid that this should be a 15 when it seems pitched at 12 year old Kerrang fans… No gore. Very coy. Poor visual effects. Bad acting. Bad goth fashions. Bad everything! Some mildly amusing homo-eroticism but because the actors are sucking voids, nothing really comes across. Funniest thing is the wankiness of the 'goth' vampire lifestyle (I remember going to see some shit at the Prince Charles Cinema when Steve Jones' vampire book came out – there were these losers w/ filed down teeth & stuff – some time later I wrote a bad review of Coppola's terrible Dracula for The Dark Side and the mag was deluged with hate mail, presumably from the same sad clowns who wake up to a tape of 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' and shed a little tear). Shock use of Deftones 'Change in the House of Flies'! Aaliyah cannot fucking act or deliver one line ('I like for you to keel her') but what the hell, she looks great. Stoopid Death Valley rock festival scene. Much use of nu metal acts. It all means nothing. The wonderful Lena Olin shows up. Something about a conflict of vampires, but this kind of shit was handled way better in Blade. Good disintegration of Akasha, but so what? By this time who cares? Stuart Townsend is like a low-rent Michael des Barres…Piffle happy ending where Lestat finds happiness w/ his sexy goth babe, some kind of chosen one (?)."
      At which point I presumably dissolved into a weeping fit at wasting more of my already largely wasted life…

What's this? Have I moved since yesterday? I seem to be back in exactly the same place on the sofa, with the same booze and the same bag of pretzels to munch on. And it's another second-rate vampire movie sequel! Hot damn I'm a lucky guy. This one's Vampires: Los Muertos, a follow-up to John Carpenter's wonderful Vampires, which featured James Woods on a roll like we hadn't seen since, I dunno, Salvador maybe. This one, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, from whom I'd expected slightly more (don't ask me why) has a cast of less than zeros. Instead of James Woods we get – wait for it – Jon Bon Jovi! And blah blah blah, on it goes. A stupid old man with a beard appears and starts babbling about how the vampire hunters are going to deliver everyone from evil (they're in Mexico). The female 'good guy'/whatever, irritatingly played by Natasha Gregson Wagner as a screeching harridan resembling a low-rent Suzanne Vega, has been bitten but is taking some sort of HIV pills to remain non-vampiric (tasteful, eh?). A 'sexy' vampiress who looks like a crack whore is after her so she can, I dunno, take pills too? Walk in the daylight? Use a mirror when she shaves her minge? She projects less vampiric charisma than Aaliyah, if such a thing is possible. There's a rite which has to be performed by some sort of gimp, a winch that keeps screwing up, and a climax so anti-climatic you could be forgiven for thinking you hadn't seen it, though the end credits start rolling so you must have. It's a moving testament to the absolute worthlessness of Hollywood that such films are released. If I was casting the next one I'd get Mark Lanegan (fearless vampire hunter), Nick Oliveri (lunkhead), Eddie Vedder (vampire king) and Holly Valance (strumpet). I mean, come on, you'd pay to see that one…

If your mom & pop gave you a video camera for graduation, you too could make TV EYE Video Magazine. You wouldn't need to know much about music, or even where to point the camera. Man's Ruin was hip when they did the first one, so it's pretty much devoted to stuff on that erstwhile label. Kozik himself looks weary and is far from dynamic on-screen, the bands all say pretty much the same thing (barely coherently in many cases – and none but a fool would need to know that everyone on the face of the earth is influenced by Black Sabbath – I mean, we're talking the likes of Matt Pike and Greg Anderson here, so, like, duh…). Anyway, the interviews hover around the tedious, the live clips are either diabolical or uninspiring and the whole thing is a major let-down. (For what it's worth, bands on the first volume are QOTSA, Nebula, High on Fire, Unida, Goatsnake, Drunk Horse & Lost Goat, with a couple of minutes of Dale Crover – and, yes, it does sound very tempting). The second volume, which seems like a second best on first glance, is actually better, though the interview segments are even worse ('Inconceivable,' you might mutter). There's a fantastic live clip of Mudhoney, with Steve Turner letting rip like you wish Ron Asheton would in the 'new' Stooges, The Heads are solid, J Mascis is J Mascis and I haven't bothered watching the rest yet. Borrow it from someone.

Hangmen, now here's a bizarre stinker…It's an early entry from Danish auteur J. Christian Ingvordsen, who specialises in ultra-violent pap with titles like Absolute Aggression, Search and Destroy and Covert Action (those are real titles). What's even better is he also acts in, produces and writes his films. I was switching between this (on an ancient, drop-out ridden video destined to become landfill) and a live show by The Mars Volta on MTV2, having attempted (and rapidly given up on) Evil Altar and Tougher Than Leather – the latter I'll deal with another day, the former I threw in the bin. Hangmen actually kept me semi-attentive, mainly out of curiosity as to why I'd ever archived it. (I admit to liberal use of the fast-forward control towards the end.) It was originally subject to over five minutes of censor cuts in the UK, and I vaguely recalled watching it with Dave Kerekes, both of us marvelling at its displays of outrageous violence and rampant weapons fetishism. Well, it's just another unspeakable '80s Z-movie, with the ubiquitous tinny synth soundtrack, lousy acting and bad hair. In fact, it's worse than average due to abysmal sound synchronisation – some scenes are completely lacking background sound, and the dialogue frequently fails to match lip movements. Ugh. But The Mars Volta actually kind of kicked ass -- more than I would have imagined from their first video – in a kind of peak-excess Mahavishnu Orchestra way. Meanwhile, in Hangmen, people are mown down indiscriminately, bodies pumped full of bullets, twitching around madly on the ground. The awful synth track bleats on and on. Jake La Motta's in it (a real recommendation…) and, in her first film, Sandra Bullock, sporting poor '80s fashions and ditto hair. More gloating slow-motion shots of dying bodies, more close-ups of big guns – in some shots the camera actually follows the guns, lovingly caressing them – similar to the way pornography is shot, though it's a sad motherfucker who'd rather watch this than I Don't Mind If You Put It In My Bottom Part 43. Jesus, I've never seen so many close-ups of guns. What sort of freak made this? At the end one of the characters (maybe even the one played by J. Christian) says, 'Looks like we ran out of people to kill.' Thank god for that.

And god, what a load of shit I've been watching. Or rather, chosen to write about. But who wants to hear about the good stuff? Not me! I did make about ten pages of notes on Pearl Jam's Live at the Garden DVD – maybe next time (I'll just tempt you with an excerpt: "funny version of 'Sonic Reducer' with some cunt from the Buzzcocks who looks like a wino from Piccadilly Circus. Hard to imagine (pun intended) how PJ would see this cretin as 'punk'. Steve Diggle comes on for (of all things!) 'Baba O'Reilly' – he looks like a piece of shit: Danny Baker or I don't know who, ugh. Don't think his guitar is even plugged in! Me & my pal used to call him 'The Mongoloid' – he still looks it.")
      Anyway, maybe it's time I changed my viewing habits. There's a programme on Channel 4 tonight called Making Babies: The Gay Way – sounds like the ideal place to start.