Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cinemapocalypse!

Hey! So last night was Cinemapocalypse at the Grand Illusion. That will require some explanation.

First: the Grand Illusion is the oldest independent movie theater in Seattle. It's a tiny little place with a tiny little screen where you can go and see obscure movies in the company of other people who like to go see obscure movies in a awesome theater. Paste Magazine named it one of the seven best movie houses in the country a couple of months ago. If the movie industry wants to survive, I advise it to take advantage of the fact that seeing movies on a big screen with other people is just a more fun experience than watching one on a two-inch screen on your laptop.

Next: "Cinemapocalypse" is a little traveling road show brought to us by the good people at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, which is also on that Paste Magazine list I mentioned earlier. It's a great theater, not just because they serve delicious food while you watch a movie, but because it shows terrific movies. And two of the programmers are doing some sort of West Coast tour with obscure movies. They've been to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and now it's Seattle's turn!

I have to emphasize here that these were real 35mm prints being projected on a movie screen. That's fun. And the audience reacted appropriately with horror or laughs as the situation called for. It wasn't just a movie, it was a movie experience. And a fun one!

We went to Friday's show, which was a triple feature of Vice Squad, Night Warning, and Tourist Trap. Starting at 10:00 pm. Yikes!

Vice Squad

Wings Hauser stars as the villainous pimp Ramrod in a punishingly ugly movie. The last reel was especially punishing, because I think they had the volume up a couple of notches. The gunshots were extremely loud and actually hurt my ears. If it was a directorial decision, it was a really smart one. Although traditionally I think you want viewers covering their eyes, not their ears.

Some people might be interested to note that former original MTV VJ (and current Sirius XM DJ) Nina Blackwood is a junkie whore. In the movie, I mean. I'm sure the real Ms. Blackwood is a lovely person. She gets killed early on in a brutal and ugly scene. I was more excited to see Pepe Serna, dressed almost exactly like he is as "Reno" in Buckaroo Banzai. At the end of the movie, when he's all bloodied up, he looks just like Reno! Incidentally, I checked out Mr. Serna's IMDB resume, and I'm surprised to learn that he's been in other things I've seen. He was a voice on "The PJs!" Also, he's in two upcoming movies where his character name is "Reno", but they do not appear to be Buckaroo Banzai sequels. Important note for Blue Blaze Irregulars there.

There are some aspects of this movie that made me question its authenticity. For one thing, I thought it was weird that the police code for "hooker in the hospital" is "Code two and a half". What's with the half? Did they run out of integers? Also, when Nina Blackwood flatlines, the doctor just shrugs and covers her with a sheet. C'mon, pal, at least try to resuscitate her!

Next up: Night Warning

Do you know who Susan Tyrrell is? She's been in a million movies, including The Forbidden Zone, Tapeheads, Cry-Baby -- look, just see for yourself. She's the star of Night Warning, which is also called "Momma's Boy," "The Evil Protege," "Thrilled to Death," "Nightmare Maker," and "Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker". Note that there are no butchers anywhere in this movie, although one character does bring a couple of baked goods over.

Anyway, Susan Tyrrell has been in mostly crazy cult movies, although she does have an Academy Award Nomination to her name. According to the Drafthouse guys, Susan denies having any memory whatsoever of making this movie. Which is a shame, because her incredible unhinged performance in the last half is, um, incredible. I probably could have made that sentence flow a little better, but I stand by it: it's so good, it deserves two incredibles, because she was doing things I really didn't believe.

The plot is fairly standard at its base: crazy aunt kills her sister and her husband so she can raise the baby herself, but it turns out she was really the mother all along and she's got an unhealthy attachment to the kid. And then she kills a bunch of people. But two things made the episode stand out. First, of course, was Tyrrell's performance. This was a hardened cult-film audience, and they recoiled in horror a couple of times. It's like you can't show a middle-aged woman licking milk off her teenage son's neck without making people go "Eeeeurgh!"

Before I continue, I just wanted to mention that the entire audience was made up of "The Beardo" from the cartoon "Mission Hill". Trust me, this is a perfect reference.

The other thing that makes this movie weird is the homophobic cop played by Bo Svenson, another veteran actor who apparently has no memory whatsoever of making the movie. His character's theory is that the first murder is committed by the son, not the mother, because the mother's story doesn't hold up. She claims she was defending herself from a rapist, but the guy turns out to be gay, and in a committed relationship with the son's basketball coach. So the cop decides that the kid must be gay too (because he grew up without a father, and what other evidence do you need?) and actively berates the other cop for doing actual police work like "looking into the time the kid's parents died due to a cut brake line" and "asking the kid's girlfriend if he has sex with her". Oh! the girlfriend is a young Julia Duffy, and I have to say, if I'd known as a young Newhart fan that there was a movie with extended shots of Julia Duffy's breasts, I would have seen this movie much, much earlier.

Let's see, what else... well, there's an eighteen-year-old Bill Paxton doing a great job as a jerk. I miss Jerk-ass Bill Paxton. And the entire plot is pretty much fed by everyone's tendency to knock at a house's door and then stroll right in. Personally, if I had a freshly-killed dead body in the kitchen, I think I'd consider locking the door. That might just be me.

After this movie was Tourist Trap, which is one of Rhias's favorite obscure horror movies. But it was 2:00 am and we were tired. Plus, Rhias had just had surgery two days earlier (she's doing well, thanks for asking!) so we staggered home.

...

Hmm. This entry doesn't really have a tie-in for movie novelizations, does it? Sorry about that. I promise to write up "Black Gestapo" soon. It'ss simultaneously a movie I can't believe they made and a novelization I can't believe exists!

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