Ah, Thanksgiving. Gathering with family, eating lots of great tasting food, listening to the grownups argue election results while all the cousins sat at the little kids table, wondering when we would get bumped up to the big leagues, (We were saps, the little kid’s table was way more fun. Lesson learned.), and – oddly enough – gorilla movies. I have no idea what it was all about but channel 9 in New York City would play gorilla movies on Thanksgiving. Mostly King Kong movies: the original King Kong, Son of Kong, King Kong vs. Godzilla, and either Mighty Joe Young or King Kong Escapes!. Because nothing says Thanksgiving more than giant . . . Nah, I don’t get it either. Years later, there is a new tradition: the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey day Spectacular, a celebration of cinematic gobblers. Maybe it’s the tryptophan talking but somehow a huge meal and a soft couch makes the worst movie worth watching – plus, I’m too ill to get up and change the channel. Here are 10 gorey delights that will, at the very least, inspire you to make your own movies. It’s easy.* * It’s totally not easy. 10. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977). Patton Oswalt is one of the funniest stand-up comedians to walk the earth and he does a killer routine on his Werewolves and Lollipops album riffing on this film. I am sure 98% of the people listening assumed he had just totally pulled the premise of the film out of his hindquarters but no, it actually exists. It’s the only film made by one-hit wonder George Barry, by which I mean I can only wonder how many hits he took on a bong to come up with this idea. A demon weeps tears of blood that fall on a bed and cause it to come to life every 10 years so it can eat people. I am dubious of the scientific accuracy of this process but nevertheless, this is what happens. The film was forgotten for 27 years. Not ignored. Forgotten. I mean, the director forgot he had made it. You, conversely, will never get it out of your head, even if you take up drinking hard liquor and randomly taking pills from strangers, which I recommend if you plan on watching this. Here’s my favorite scene from the film: An actor makes some interesting choices in portraying a man who has his hands reduced to skeletons. Where most actors would try for screaming, crying, shock or, I don’t know, some evidence that they have not been replaced with a wax mannequin, this guy underplays it. Wow. Just wow.
9. Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki (1991). Ok, so your nephew has been diagnosed with ADD and is on medication. Tell him to skip the pills and empty 3 or 4 Pixy Stix into the little rugrat, then give him a red crayon and tell him to storyboard a movie. You will almost certainly get something very much resembling Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki. Based on one of the crazier mangas out there, this insane Hong Kong movie is about a charismatic pretty boy with a grudge and super kung fu skills who is sent to a maximum security prison ruled over by gangs of equally super-powered baddies. It’s 90 minutes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s Black Knight sequence, simultaneously stomach churningly gross and side-splittingly inept. Heads explode, jaws are torn from faces, guts are used as garrottes, a giant foam rubber hulk is dropped into a ground beef dispenser . . . It’s utter madness. Nothing about this film makes sense. One of the jail bosses is obviously a woman pretending to be a guy. You wait for the payoff to this obvious plot point but it never comes! Any randomly chosen 10 minutes has at least one scene that will liven up any of your video party tapes. Maybe two. Available in a variety of dubbed versions, some of which add to the hysteria. “Stop or I will get nasty!”, Riki tells the bad guys in one version after he has disemboweled a fat guy with one punch. I spent the next 5 minutes cleaning coffee off of my keyboard.
8. Deadly Prey (1987). Not since the Star Destroyer glided across the screen and changed my life have I been so amazed by a movie. Why is this gem a secret? Where are the Deadly Prey T-shirts? (Answer: right here. I must be late to this party.) The filmmakers took the basic premise of First Blood and added it to the plot of The Most Dangerous Game. You’ve never seen a movie based on The Most Dangerous Game if, as I am assuming, you are an alien sent to earth to destroy us, unaware of our customs and film tropes. So the bad guys kidnap a Vietnam vet and oil him up and set him loose with nothing but a mullet and a pair of jorts and then they go to hunt them down. But things go wrong and he instead has gay sex with them. Not really, though it sure seems to be setting that up! Instead he does that Rambo thing where he hides in a pile of leaves and hopes that someone will randomly decide to start poking around piles of leaves and, by lucky happenstance, pick that particular pile of leaves so he can jump out and go “Oogidy boogidy!” before he snaps that person’s neck. Seldom has a film failed on every level. The acting will have you laughing so hard that people will think you’re choking on a chicken bone and they will perform the Heimlich maneuver on you which, after a big meal, will not end well. Twenty-five years later, the filmmakers made a sequel with the surviving members of the original cast. God bless them. Here, watch some highlights and tell me you can’t wait to see the rest. I dare you.
7. Contamination (1980). Luigi Cozzi seems like a fun guy to talk to and I have to admire anyone with the cojones to take the original Godzilla, wiggle some color gels in front of it, splice in some new music and stock footage, and release it on an unsuspecting public. I admire that kind of chutzpah. His movies are terrible but memorably so. Italian cinema in the 1980s had its finger on the pulse of audience appeal, which is to say that within two weeks of a film hitting it big they would be hard at work on a cheap rip-off. Luigi saw Star Wars and bam – Starcrash! He saw Conan the Barbarian and pow – Hercules! He saw Alien and splat – Contamination! But that wasn’t enough so one title change for America later and shazam – Alien Contamination! We open with a ship full of coffee that turns out to have a bunch of green eggs bearing a striking resemblance to the ones in Alien, only these explode for no reason whatsoever, which causes people’s bodies to also explode, for much the same reason. Luigi Cozzi really loves the exploding body footage; the camera lovingly lingers on each spray from the not terribly well hidden air compressor and it certainly is up there among the muckiest movies in recent memory. Turns out the eggs are from Mars. How did eggs from Mars get on a ship full of coffee? It’s because the giant cyclops monster from Mars wants to take over the world! How did the giant cyclops monster from Mars get here? Shut up, that’s how! Okay, it has something to do with a manned space mission to the red planet but it’s easy to doze off during the interminable non-action scenes. The cyclops monster, by the way, blows. The animatronics reportedly did not work so Luigi Cozzi does the best he can with edits and angles but if there was any film that really needed to stick the landing it was this one. Still, you have to love the Italians. A rip off of Alien with a title originally intended for a rip off of The China Syndrome that includes sequences meant to emulate a Bond film . . . ah, the eighties.
. 6. Helldriver (2010). The last 10 years have seen a glorious new genre in cinema excess, the Japanese ultra gore film. Though the most popular have been of recent vintage (such as The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police), the origins probably go back to the eighties when an unrelated series of virtually plotless torture flicks were released under the umbrella title Guinea Pig. The films were terrible but the effects were good enough to fool Charlie Sheen, who promptly went to the police thinking he had been given a snuff film. The newer films eschew any realism for pure gory insanity and plots that are simultaneously simplistic and confusing. At their best they can be 90 minutes of jaw-dropping WTF but Helldriver shows the dangers of telling a story in a universe that has no rules. It’s a 3-ring circus of over the top effects with the ultimate result that the viewer cannot fully care what happens. Look, this is a film that takes 45 minutes to even get to the credits! When you see a car that is actually made of zombies, you can usually assume you have reached the climax of a film but Helldriver still has a long way to go. One can admire these efforts for their sheer imagination and refusal to allow a low budget to stand in the way of shooting pretty much anything they damn well want but the results are necessarily sloppy. A good party tape in that you can leave for 10 minutes, return and you will be no less confused than if you had stayed and taken notes.
5. Lady Terminator (1989). I suspect there’s a rich vein of cinematic gold waiting to be mined from the works of Indonesian genre films. I base this on admittedly little evidence but what I’ve seen gives me hope. Unlike the European knock-off artists who took ideas and ripped them off with the goal of making them look as close to the original source as possible, our Indonesian friends filtered it through their own cultural weirdness, resulting in stuff that seems familiar and alien all at once; thus, Lady Terminator. A sea witch who kills men by way of a strategically placed snake in her hoo-hah is tricked into losing said snake to some guy. She curses him by saying she will do terrible things to his granddaughter, because, I don’t know, I guess she’s something of a procrastinator. Flash forward to the present and an attractive woman who is no lady but sure is an anthropologist (Actual line of dialogue: “I’m not a lady! I’m an anthropologist!”) gets possessed by the snake through some pretty cheesy animation. And then it’s Lady Terminator time as she goes in search of the granddaughter, killing a bunch of men every few minutes in pretty much the worst way imaginable (until Christopher G. Moore wrote Knob Goblins). Half the movie is about Indonesian myth and at about the 40-minute mark, someone on the production team looked at the title on the script and said “Hey! This has ‘Terminator’ in the title!”, so they rip off Terminator scenes left and right. The scene where the lady terminator takes out a police headquarters is better than the original because she is pretty easy on the eyes and she seems to have a magic assault rifle that never needs loading. Where do I get one of those? When she is “destroyed” by a car explosion you just sit there waiting to see how they pull off the “Oh no, she’s back as a stop motion skeleton!” bit . . . well, she’s more of a charred zombie with laser eyes. It works better than you’d think. From the same lunatic who gave us Mystics in Bali, which makes Lady Terminator look like Love Finds Andy Hardy in comparison. Every video store used to have a copy but though it is hard to find now, it’s totally worth it.
4. Rabid Grannies (1988). A Belgian horror film. Yeah. They’re aunts, not grannies, and they end up possessed by demons, not getting rabies. Am I being needlessly pedantic here? The filmmakers made this movie about demon possessed aunts, had the Belgian cast speak English phonetically, then had someone else dub it. This sounds like a plan but it really isn’t a very good plan. Just mouthing words phonetically will not give the dubber much to work with. If, by way of example, I wanted to say, “Look out, it’s a rabid granny! Oh sorry, that’s my aunt and she seems to be rabies free” in Belgian, I could go to Google Translate and print out the words and phonetically say “Je voudrais un four grillÃ© tracteur , serveur.” Not knowing how to put the correct emphasis on the right words, however, it would be awkward and dumb; all the more so because I have just discovered that there is not actually a language named “Belgian” and have instead ordered “an oven-broiled tractor” in French. At least Rabid Grannies has some some pretty nifty gore effects . . . which got edited out of the American release . . . which were then included as a special feature on the DVD, sort of a “Hey gang, look at how good the movie could have been!” extra. Sometimes this world is scarcely worth living in.
3. Forbidden World (1982). Roger Corman knew how to make them fast and cheap, and his movies were breeding grounds on which many a future creator cut their teeth. Roger was frugal . . . Oh, hell, he was cheap. He squeezed a quarter so hard you could hear the eagle scream. Working on these films was probably like movie bootcamp and you either delivered or went back to working as a truck driver. One of the young hungry talents he got for little more than 10 minutes at the craft service table was a fellow who could turn spray painted Big Mac containers into space ship walls and is currently putting the finishing touches on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3. This is yet another Alien rip-off but unlike Luigi Coazzi, Corman sets his in space, which requires a budget he was not willing to spend. The film makes up for that in reused sets, choppy edits, garish color, and a grating soundtrack, all of which are put to good effect in the German trailer.
There are two notable idea in this movie. One is an extended shower sequence between the two attractive female leads where the dialogue does much to advance the storyline while providing plenty of nudity. It’s ludicrously gratuitous but at least they keep the movie moving along. Secondly, the way they dispose of the mutating human absorbing monster – feeding it one character’s cancerous liver so that the creature gets super-duper cancer and dies a wet, gooshy death – is certainly unique. 2. Gothic & Lolita Psycho (2010). I mean, just look at that title. That right there is a thing of beauty. As long as it has beautiful Japanese women in gothic Lolita costumes acting like psychos, I feel this is time well spent. And indeed it does! Gore candy, in a pretty wrapper. I’m pretty sure whoever subtitled this trailer was either kidding or huffing Armor Alll from a paper bag but it’s probably on point.
1. Thanskilling 3 (2012). My friend Paul Cardullo recommended this to me, which is why I no longer take film recommendations from Paul Cardullo. I’m going to tell his beautiful, intelligent, but obviously all-too-willing-to-settle wife Shelley to get him the DVD of Saurians for Christmas. That ought to fix his little red wagon. In its defense, this movie was meant to be stupid and it succeeds. The DVD promises “Boobs in the first second” and sure enough, there’s porn star Wanda Lust in a pilgrim outfit, running from a turkey puppet. I have to feel bad for anyone named Wanda Lust, because, really, what possible career choices could they have? It’s not likely they will hire you as a 7th grade social studies teacher or bank teller when your name is Wanda Lust or Lance Thruster or Peter O’Tool. Anyway, this starts a series of motions that culminate 400 years later when a bunch of stupid teenagers are killed by the same turkey puppet. Boy is this dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. In the right frame of mind or under the influence of cooking sherry, you can enjoy its doofus charms. But then, my “friend” Paul says “And Thankskilling 3 is even better!” and I discover that somehow the filmmakers raised $100,000 on crowdfunding and made a movie crammed wall-to-wall with a veritable army of puppets. It’s an interminable mess that seems to run for 3 hours and the good ideas are buried in too much ambition. When you’re making a killer turkey puppet movie, less is more.