This is normally where I would summarize the plot of the film. I could tell you that this is the story of three friends in a woodland cabin who must fight monsters spawned by the wife of one of them. But that would be misleading. What the story is really about is two, sometimes three, guys sitting around and drinking beer. Later they switch to whiskey. And then there’s this one dude who puts a cockroach in the other dude’s sandwich…
As I’m hoping you will have realized from the above, this is no ordinary movie. In his excellent They Came From Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema, Caelum Vatnsdal argues that Things holds the title of Worst Canadian Horror Film Ever Made, and it’s really, really hard to believe that there could possibly be another contender. Badfilm connoisseurs, this release is manna from Heaven. This is a film that would embarrass Ed Wood. Tommy Wiseau would weep with despair over the future of cinema. Doris Wishman would beg to take over the camera and sound duties, just so such a thing could never happen again. I could go on.
And maybe I will. Again according to Vatnsdal, the film’s budget was north of $30,000. Let’s think about that for a minute. That’s thirty grand in 1989 dollars, so considerably more than Paranormal Activity’s $15,000. Things is surely the first movie to make me wonder where all that money went. In terms of production values, Paranormal Activity is Avatar by comparison. Things is shot mostly in Super-8 (the film stock, not the camcorder format), using a camera that can’t get more than a few feet away from the cast, creating a claustrophobic effect that has nothing to do with artistic intent. The acting is hopeless, the post-sync hilarious, the gore amateurish, and the writing no doubt on trial in The Hague. Picture the stoner/hoser characters of your choice making a movie. What you have just imagined is a bit like this. Only this is worse. And to top things off, you have porn star Amber Lynn playing a news anchor (named “Amber Lynn”) who has nothing to do with anything, and is very visibly reading cue cards in her few brief scenes if irrelevant news delivery. Joy!
It must, therefore, be experienced. And so we come to my star rating. You will note that the overall rating in no way reflects the quality of film, sound, picture, and so on. It would, however, be wrong and unfair to dismiss this release with a one-star rating. Intervision knows exactly what kind of film this is. The release of this obscurity is, in fact, a very good thing, and a real service to fans of the psychotronic. So yes, this is a terrible, terrible, terrible film. This is not just the Worst Canadian Horror Film; it is one of those rare disasters that is in the running for Worst Film Ever. And so the release is a fine one.
The transfer is fine. The source material is appalling. The colours are washed out, the picture is soft and grainy, the exterior night shots (mercifully rare) are nothing but murk with an unidentifiable light source waving around, and so on. This is a move that would look like junk on VHS, and not because of the format. But the transfer is to to the experience, and the aspect ratio is the original 1.33:1 fullscreen.
And more of the delightful appallingness here. From sub-Casio synth score to muddy-sounding dialogue, the movie is a lo-fi, lo-def disaster on such a scale that it becomes endearing.
Audio Commentaries: You know a movie is special when one of the commentators of a round table announces to the other that he doesn’t think he can sit through the whole movie. Such is the case with the Cinefamily viewing party track, which, though raucous, makes a number of telling observations (rightfully pointing out, for instance, that even the credits are hysterical). The other track reunites director/co-writer/producer Andrew Jordan, co-writer/producer/star Barry J. Gillis, co-stars Doug Bunston and Jan W. Pachul and Victoria Elizabeth Turnbull (Gillis’s daughter, I gather), and is pretty much what you would expect. Let’s say that it doesn’t seem like the boys were stretching much in the characters they played. In and around much braying laughter, though, there are some tidbits to learn (such as the the woman who has the opening nude scene was a prostitute they hired for that bit).
20th Anniversary Cast and Crew Reunion: (16:21) Somehow, the fact that this is hosted by a bad ventriloquist (!) for what looks like Public Access TV is entirely appropriate.
Testimonials: (21:51) Five of them, ranging from film website hosts to the makers of Hobo with a Shotgun to Tobe Hooper (looking a little bemused and finding a way to be very nice after being exposed to the trailer at a Con).
Behind the Scenes with Amber Lynn: (10:36) Rarely has behind-the-scenes footage so completely conformed to exactly what you suspected. See, among other things, Lynn told not to worry about memorizing the lines and just read the cards. (Forehead slap!)
Vintage Barry J. Gillis TV Appearance: (5:37) He promotes the movie for a local Cape Breton newscast. Klassik!
Evil Island Investor Reel: (2:26) Watch and tremble to think what might have been.
An unforgettable experience. And that’s both a promise and a warning.