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Things (1993)

Directed by Dennis Devine, Eugene James, Jay Woelfel
Vista Street Entertainment VHS

During the first three minutes of Things, a man named Jack sleeps with two different women in one depressing motel room. Then Jack leaves for work. Jack’s wife shows up at the motel. Only one woman is there now. She’s topless. Jack’s wife ties the topless woman to a chair. Jack’s wife says:

“I will tell you two stories. When I’m finished, you get to review them. Your fate — shall we say — will depend entirely on those reviews.”

What??

This Things is not the Things that you think it is. In 1989, Barry Gillis renewed the world’s faith in Canada with a new form of upside down subconsciousness known as Things. That movie remains a benchmark in discombobulated madness. This Things — the one shot on a camcorder in North Hollywood around 1992 — is not like that Things. It is not a benchmark in anything. But it is a smutty soap opera anthology with zero brains, one ass tattoo, and two foam-latex beastoids who rearrange people’s faces. This is just another way of saying that this movie is great.

In “The Box,” some prostitutes arrive at a new base of operations — a “motel” with bedsheets for walls. The mayor, Mayor Black, is not happy about this. So he puts a knife through the landlord’s hand, then opens something that looks like your Nana’s sewing box. There’s a lil’ mutant inside. Mayor Black brings the box to the brothel and warns, “I don’t pay for sin!” From there, the beast mutilates prostitutes while other prostitutes walk around in lingerie, have sex, look in the refrigerator, and talk about politics. One of the ladies is named Sherri LaRue and she hates someone named Tulip. Mayor Black reveals that he is safe from the monster’s rage because he wears a hat. In his words, “It’s trained not to attack people who wear hats!” Just another Tuesday at a brothel in the San Fernando Valley.

We check in with Jack’s wife and her captive. They’re still in the motel room.

Next up is “Thing In A Jar,” which contains a “thing” but no jar. Leon wakes his wife in the middle of the night to have sex. She doesn’t want to have sex. He says, “Goddamn it, Julia! All you gotta do all day is eat, shit, and fuck!” Then Leon removes Julia’s eyes with an X-Acto blade. BUT IT WAS ALL A DREAM! Leon catches Julia talking on the phone to her friend, Beth. Leon doesn’t like this. He says, “You cunt! You bitch!” Then he smashes Julia’s teeth on a doorknob. BUT IT WAS ALL A DREAM AGAIN! This happens a few more times. Eventually, a double-cross leads to dismemberment, sex, and a ceramic clown head that summons a melting demon from limbo.

Things is the best kind of barren filmmaking. Compiled by no-budget pals Dennis Devine (Fatal Images), Eugene James (Devine’s producer), and Jay Woelfel (Beyond Dream’s Door), the movie feels like it was made by people who were in a hurry. The deadline was approaching, but they also had to think about their kid’s softball game, great Aunt Helen’s surprise birthday party, and a leftover half-burrito in the fridge that needed to be eaten before it spoiled. In other words, the whole movie plays as if the filmmakers’s minds were somewhere else. That opens things up. Anything goes.

That’s probably why this movie contains fade-outs in the middle of sentences, cricket sound effects that drown out the dialogue, and sudden edits that create stupefying black holes. Things doesn’t behave like Blood Cult, a shot-on-video movie that’s trying to compete with the pros. But it’s not as coked-out or brain-liquifying as Droid. This movie falls somewhere between professional competency and mindless lunacy, like a couple of episodes of Tales From The Crypt that were reworked by an 87-year-old who is an habitual glue-sniffer. Things is sleazy, nonsensical, and fun. The stories might drag a little, but there’s always something to pull us back in. Like eggs that have eyeballs instead of yolks.

If you’re still not convinced that you need to watch Things, the end credits say:

“You have been watching THINGS

Copywright 1993″

I wrest my case.