Saturday, March 22, 2014

I Spit On Your Film

I normally am Mr. Let's Have Some Fun With This Movie, recounting some life events and having some giggles at the expense of the movie. Being that person is a part of watching crap movies; if you can't laugh at yourself, you can't really laugh at much else. And I like pointing fun at the goofiness/lameness/weirdness of the movies I watch.

Most people who have been invested in watching crappy and weird and gross movies will ultimately run across movies that are outside their limits of taste. Some people will draw a line with animal death in something like Cannibal Holocaust. Others freak out over concepts as outrageous as The Human Centipede. Certain people hate watching more realistic brutality exhibited in films like Salo or Men Behind The Sun. Then you have the momentary thrill seekers who test their skills against puke-inducing videos like "Two Girls, One Cup."

I've watched all of these, and while I felt a lot of it was unnecessary, nothing freaked me out or grossed me out. I am sure I have explained in the past that, since my formative years of movie watching, I seek a film, or films, that can do one or more of the following things: Be so gross that I vomit, or be so frightening that I wet my pants, or be so offensive that I cannot bring myself to watch any further. To be honest, I've seen movies so stupid and boring that I've done most of these things, but I mark that up to brain damage. Not the same thing.

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a film that sounded like a great chance to push the envelope of one or more of my goals mentioned above. The cover stated that it had been banned for 13 years, and that it had been turned over to New York police as a "snuff" film. There is even a warning that the film is not for the faint of heart or those easily shocked. Comments referenced the fact the film boasted the longest and most brutal rape scene ever committed to film. (Let me make this clear: I'm not a rape film fan. Oddly enough, there are people out there like that, but I'll reference that later in the review.)

They All Must Die! is the title, and based on what the comments and synopsis told me, it sounded like a perfect fit. Some cheap, sleazy bit of trash to kick me in the mental balls and walk away laughing.

Let me get the story out of the way. I do mean STORY as there is no plot that I can piece together.

White woman moves into the Bed-Stuy neighborhood to write about life through the eyes and lives of black working men. As she is moving in, 3 black youths begin verbally attacking her with insults and racial slurs. One guy decides he is going to hit on her and makes his move. He is told by the woman that she isn't interested as she is there to work. His friends rag on him for bombing, and he hints that he is gonna get what he wants.

The woman's landlord is an obsessed fan of her writing and figures that it is the perfect time to win her over. He is so confident that he kicks his wife/girlfriend out of the building so he can devote all of his time to winning over the white writer. Of course, the writer turns him down.

Our 3 youths whip themselves into a frenzy in which they decide that they are going to teach the white woman a lesson. They terrorize her until the landlord leads her away from the youths and attempts to calm her down. When she goes back to her apartment, she finds the youths are waiting for her. She is then abused, doped up, beaten and gang raped for roughly 30 to 40 minutes. After the 3 guys tire of her, she drags herself into the bathtub and attempts to clean herself.

We see her stalk and kill all three of her attackers in a very short series of scenes. Lo and behold, it was all a fantasy as we are brought back to the woman, beaten and bloodied, still in the bathtub. She crawls out and attempts to get to her phone to call for help, but her injuries are such that she collapses.

In comes her landlord. She begs him to call for help. Instead, he takes advantage of her condition and satisfies himself sexually in her mouth. He then ties her up in his apartment while he discourses on how important he will be now that he has a white woman of his own. 

Yeah, that's it. 

For those of you who find the story vile, I suggest you hang around for the rest of the review. For those of you who find the story enticing and a turn on, by all means rush out and buy your own copy and do whatever it is that people who like this stuff do while watching it because I'm sure nothing I am about to say will have any impact.

What little history that can be found on this film does offer some insight into what you see. Apparently the director, Sean Weathers, watched the much-hyped I Spit On Your Grave and figured he could outdo the rape scene in both length and brutality. Congratulations, Mr. Weathers, you certain did that. To make the scene more authentic, he supposedly kept the lead female and the 3 lead males from meeting until shooting the first scene. One guess what that first scene was. Yup, the seemingly never-ending rape scene. I can't imagine what that first day must have been like, but the shock and horror on the woman's face certainly doesn't look faked. I'm impressed she returned for the rest of the scenes. That is, if the stories about the film can be believed.

Now we turn to the film itself. It looks to be shot on shitty video which almost gives it an uncomfortable aura of being shot as it happened. The in-your-face style enhances the feeling being an invisible leering pervert who is following these characters around and getting off on the misery. You are made to feel as if you are as much a participant as the thugs themselves. Unless you have a seriously bent sex drive, you will feel beyond soiled after watching this movie. It has been nearly 2 years since I watched this and I still cannot scrub this stain of a film from my memory. Again, congratulations, Mr. Weathers.

If you look up some reviews of this film, you will find a few that suggest the woman in the movie is arrogant and just as racially insensitive as our trio of abusers. I have no idea what movie they saw, unless there are various versions of this thing. She is firm but polite enough when the one guy hits on her. She is also polite enough when the landlord makes a fool of himself when he reveals his obsession with her. The only transgression she is guilty of comes while she is having a private phone conversation with her mother (which we are aware of only because her landlord has sneaked into her apartment to spy on her). She tells her worried mother that she isn't going to let a few "spooks" keep her from writing her book. Sure, not the nicest thing to say, but it isn't like she's Paula Deen or, maybe, HITLER! And it definitely is not justification for what she has done to her.

What we are left with is a film that goes to extremes to present the black male characters as self-serving brutes who feel entitled to do what they wish to this woman simply because she is white and she has moved into their neighborhood. Honestly, the film provides no other possible motivation. Their "fragile" egos require them to ignore the woman's desire to be left alone to write so they can exercise their manliness. Even the landlord kicks out the only other woman in his life when she attempts to be a voice of rational thought and reason. The men in the film take advantage of this woman in every possible instance and way.

Oh, but she gets her revenge, right? No. As I stated, the revenge sequence only takes place in her mind. To be honest, that part of the film seems to almost be an afterthought, added simply as a nod to I Spit On Your Grave maybe. The film would actually be better served if that segment was left out. It adds nothing. It provides no comfort or closure. It is a pointless distraction, and takes away from the overall sense of intense brutality that the director supposedly wanted to create. Not that I'm supporting this film as art, but it is just a narrative issue.

I could easily just walk away from this movie, as I have presented it so far, and shrug it off as a nasty bit of pointlessness about black men and their obsession with white women. Unfortunately, for me, the director did something else with this film that is the reason it nags and troubles me to this day. 

At various points throughout the film, usually during the violation sequences, you might notice a flash on the screen, almost like a bad edit. I should be so lucky. If you pause the movie and advance frame by frame (most DVD players can do this, so don't think I did some high-end technical work here), you will find that these "flashes" are actually single frame images of lynchings. You heard me correctly. Crystal clear black-and-white images of dead black men, beaten/hanged/burned, surrounded by grinning and laughing whites. Real images from heaven knows when, but brutal and sickening.

What are we to make of this? Is it there to imply that their attacks on this woman are justified? Are these random thoughts "flashing" through her head? Is it meant as some grand political statement? WHAT THE FUCK DOES THIS MEAN? I even sent an email to Mr. Weathers asking him to explain this. I heard nothing. So I'm left with a vile film that now has a subtext that I am unsure what to make of.

Now, if the director was a white guy, I could easily write this whole nightmare off as racist trash. Sean Weathers is African-American, which brings a whole new level of WTF? to this movie. The entire film presents the black men as little more than animals who have no motivation other than to destroy and mark their territory. Weave in the images of lynchings and then I have to wonder what we are to make of it in relationship to the rest of the film.

They All Must Die! is a truly disturbing film on most levels. When I decided to write this review, I told myself that I would watch it again. The thing sat in front of my TV for days. I put it into my player a few times. Honestly, the thought of watching the film again sickened me. I ultimately could not bring myself to do it. I have no desire to ever watch this thing again. Once was enough. I doubt I will ever forget it, though I wish I could. It did not offend me enough that I could not finish it, but it did offend and sicken me enough that I never want to experience it again.

If you chose to watch this movie after reading this review, you are on your own. I hope nothing I wrote here sounded in any way as encouragement.

I understand there are different kicks for different folks. As long as you don't drag me into your playhouse against my will, you can do whatever you want to and with yourself. And I'm not the kind of person to call someone out over opinions that are utterly subjective, because, as my dad used to say, "Opinions are like assholes: Everyone has one, and they usually stink."

However (you knew that was coming), while doing some research on this film, I ran across a review for They All Must Die! by a person identified as Hiccup who writes for Bring Out the GIMP (Girls In Merciless Peril). Apparently a site that is dedicated to films in which woman are imperiled and/or brutalized. That's fine. But towards the end of the review, there was a paragraph that...well, here, let me just quote it for you:

"In summary I'm amazed this movie actually got made when it did. Its definitely the most politically incorrect movie made in the last 20 years which is why there was very little distribution of it. The forced stripping scene and rape were spot on with excellent acting, humiliation and nudity. One thing I didn't like is the director tried to make Wendy appear as a real rape victim with blood, bruises, matted hair and whatnot which made her less attractive to look at."

The bold type is mine, but it is a direct copy and paste, misspellings and all. 

I look at that sentence and cannot wrap my head around the mind that could put something like that together. A victim of a long, savage beating and rape who isn't attractive to look at when it is over? What does this person want, that Wendy should walk away with her hair perfectly teased with full makeup and slut pumps and an ass-hugging tight skirt?

If the writer of this abomination is a guy, I feel shame that I am of the same gender. If it is a woman (and I can't believe that it is), she is not human. I'll admit to be being one seriously twisted mister, but this begs the title "sick fuck". Yeah, yeah, live and let live. Just don't expect me not to find some people to be a bit frightening.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Remembering A Night To Dismember

Everyone has their own quirks when it comes to what they tend to prefer and/or how they go about exposing themselves to crap movies. (Yeah, okay, "exposing themselves" probably isn't the best term to use, but you understand what I'm saying, hopefully.) Some folks like insane/inane writing. Others enjoy giggling when the set wobbles or when makeup effects look like they were done by narcoleptic kindergartners. Certain fans like to explore one genre/director/actor/whatever fully before moving on to another.

In the world of crap movies and crap movie fandom, there are few hard and fast rules. Other than "If you enjoy it, it's all good!", I can't really think of one. Of course, you will always have people tell you that you have to see certain movies or learn about this or that director if you want to experience crap movies to the fullest. While this is far from the truth, there are, umm, milestones, if you will, in the world of crapdom. Plan 9 From Outer Space is usually one of the films most fans cut their teeth on, and the rest of Ed Wood, Jr's works will usually follow. Then you have films like Blood Freak or filmmakers like Jerry Warren and Roger Corman who tend to filter in as crap movie fans move up the ranks of The Brotherhood Of The Weird.

Another of those milestones would be Doris Wishman and/or most of her films. I will admit to being late to the Wishman party. Though I knew of her since my college days, I had never seen any of her movies. Until a couple of years ago, that is.

For those who don't know about Doris Wishman, I'll do a brief biography. She got her start in film after the death of her husband as a way not to spend time focusing on her loss. Knowing virtually nothing about film-making, she jumped in to the growing market of nudist camp films. She worked that genre until it wasn't marketable and switched over to "roughies", films that sported not only a fair amount of nudity but also some violence well seasoned with humiliation and sexual frustration. Ms. Wishman later dabbled in action/crime films as well as a couple of hardcore sex films that she distanced herself from due to her discomfort with the genre.

This brings us to the film to be discussed today. Wishman was always mindful of trends in film. In the late 70s and through the 80s, gory films filled with slashers and other killers were filling theaters and drive-ins. In an effort to stay where the money was, she set out to make her own gore movie, though I believe she preferred to think of it as more of a psychological horror film with blood.

That film was A Night To Dismember.

Let's see if we can summarize: The film is narrated by a cop who investigated the whole massacre we witness. Apparently, a whole family self-destructs on a single day, with sisters killing each other and randomly falling on hatchets (yes, you read that correctly), as well as a husband who finds his wife butchered but ultimately admits to hiring someone to kill her. He commits suicide in his jail cell. Oddly enough, we don't see the father of the two girls who pulled the murder/accidental suicide die but supposedly he died as well. 

Though we are told that the whole Kent family was wiped out in one day, one brother, Adam, who lives in the same town, is seemingly unaware of the death of his brothers and survives so he can pick up his daughter from the state asylum. Yup, Vicki Kent is being released after being locked up for 5 years for the brutal murder of 2 random teenage boys. Gotta love the legal system.

Vicki is the only cast member worth noting as she is played by Samantha Fox. Not the super cute 80s pop star. This Fox is the star of many porn titles. Why she chose this film to do a "legit" role is a story I would love to know. But I digress.

Mary and Bill are Vicki's siblings, and they aren't happy to have their crazy sister back home. Both of them set about trying to snap her fragile grasp on reality. Mostly it is Billy dressing up and tormenting Vicki while Mary walks around being a bitch who rants in Doris Wishman's voice.

Magically, another Kent brother, Sebastian, appears only to upset Vicki. He and his family are killed by an "unknown" person who just happened to be in their car when they pile in to go somewhere. Don't ask how they didn't see this person sitting next the the aunt. Seriously, just don't.

We are then treated to what appears to be another person playing Mary, who has a dream that her whole family attempts to kill her. Most likely as a sacrifice to appease the God Of Bad Acting, but we may never know as her family is suddenly being killed, one by one.

I will avoid giving away the ending. Not because it is any real surprise, but I don't want to ruin your jaw smacking the floor when you are faced with the immense nonsensical resolution and the aftermath.

The film is available for viewing on Youtube. I recommend that format, unless you care to plunk down $60 for the DVD release, which is out of print. I took the dive simply because I wanted to hear Doris Wishman's only DVD commentary.

What you will get for your time is story elements that don't match up, characters who change clothes/hairstyles/faces from one room to another, sounds effects (dogs barking, squirting blood and a head being squished) done (poorly) by someone's mouth, voices dubbed in by both Doris Wishman and the narrator (they each do voices for multiple characters) and lots of shots of Wishman's apartment for interiors. The movie only runs roughly 69 minutes. I have no excuse for falling asleep every time during 3 different attempts to watch this movie. I'll go with the excuse that my brain short circuited and put me asleep to prevent damage.   

Dismember is a film that many people point to as a sterling example of film-making ineptitude and/or as an over-the-top display of Doris Wishman's personal style. While both attitudes have merit, there are some facts you should be aware of while tackling this cinema buffet of weirdness.

Doris Wishman created her promo to sell the film before it was finished. This was done to presell the  feature to build up funds to complete the film. The trailer is available on Youtube, and the story presented in the trailer sounds moderately interesting, if you can get past the weird guy describing the movie with his face uncomfortably close to the camera.

With presales in place, Wishman then had an obligation to deliver the film to the buyers. Sadly, the lab processing her film went bankrupt, and a disgruntled employee destroyed a number of negatives and prints held in the lab. She lost at least 50 to 60 percent of her entire shot footage for Dismember. Ms. Wishman could have just thrown up her hands and stiffed the buyers who fronted her the money, but as quirky as her movies may have been, she had always maintained a sterling reputation in the business as a person who paid her debts and backed up her promises. Over the better part of a year, she cobbled together a movie from what footage she had, outtakes, bits from her earlier films and a few additional scenes she could afford to shoot. This resulted in a radical change in the storyline and the addition of the narrator to attempt to make sense of what she pieced together.

Did it work? Oh, HELL no. Just watch the first 10 minutes of the film, and you can see that it is confusing and hilarious in that you are laughing at, not with, the film. Your head will hurt from trying to keep up with the changing sets and characters. Your ears will not believe the post-production dubbing and orally generated sound effects.

All that being said, you still have to admire Doris Wishman for doing what she could when Fate decided to take a massive crap in her lap. On top of that, she created a piece of work that endures as a milestone of crap film-making that will frighten non-fans and delight those who enjoy watching a movie self-destruct faster than a house of cards being built by someone with Parkinson's.

Doris Wishman is no longer with us. Thank the deity of your choice that we still have her films. Bless you, Ms. Wishman.