Directed by Andrew Jordan and made for roughly $40,000.00 in 1989, the 8mm cinematic oddity that is Things, the first Canadian straight to video horror film, begins with a mind boggling scene in which a man named Doug (Doug Bunston) heads into his basement where he sees a woman in a devil mask. He tells her he wants her to have his baby, she undresses but keeps the mask on, and then tells him that she already has. At this point she hands him a bassinette with a clawed infant inside, and it's looking for a moment like we might be heading into Rosemary's Baby territory - but we're not. It's all a horrible dream, he realizes this as he wakes up on the couch, after which he heads into the kitchen and searches the cupboards before heading into the bedroom to check on his wife, Susan (Patricia Sadler), who is ill. He gives her some painkillers and they work almost immediately
Cue the opening credits, video generated titles over top of footage of trains for some reason, possibly to give us the illusion that we're driving in a car. Shortly after the credits, we see a car arrive at a remote house in the woods - two men hop out, Don (Barry J. Gillis, who also wrote and produced) and Fred (Bruce Roach) - who have shown up to hang out with Doug, who we soon learn is Don's brother. They let themselves in but Doug is nowhere to be seen so they amuse themselves by drinking all of his beer, rummaging through his stuff, putting Don's coat in the freezer and listening to a tape that they find lying around. They assume that since Doug isn't here that he must be `wasted out of his mind' and they look through a book called The Horror Of One Thousand Ugly Cuts. None of this is making much sense, right? Right. That's not going to change any time soon, but stick with it.
Don and Fred talk about Aleister Crowley and movies that they've seen and then Doug eventually shows up and turns off the tape, irritated that his two pals are going to wake up Susan. Don and Fred decide to kill some time by looking for cockroaches to eat and drink yet more beer while looking for The Bestiality Network on Doug's TV, which for some reason gets channels from other dimensions. From here we cut to a scene in which Dr. Lucas (Jan W. Pachul) and an assistant pull out a guy's eyeball and then cut off his head. This doesn't last long and before you know it we're back at Doug's house where Don finds a Salvador Dali painting and burns himself with a match while Fred sits on the couch with a dog. Don waters down his beer for some reason, the dog leaves and he and Fred watch a movie called The Ground Hog's Day Massacre for a few minutes before channel surfing in search of porn.
Doug is unhappy that they ate his food, all he has left is a loaf of bread with which he makes some cheese sandwiches. Doug kills a bug and puts it in Don's sandwich and then he farts, after which Don eats the sandwich and gets a mosquito bite. Susan, in the other room, starts to scream and the guys arrive just in time to see her guts erupt and bugs emerge from her stomach. At this point, Doug realizes he has some explaining to do and he lets the guys know that he and Susan couldn't have a baby so they went to Dr. Lucas for help impregnating her - something has obviously gone wrong with that procedure and now killer bugs are running around the house. Don isn't all that impressed and so he quite logically tells them about a gory sci-fi novel he once read. The guys debate leaving but figure since there are rattlesnakes and bears outside that they'd best spend the night - and then the lights go out.
Fred vanishes - into the third, fourth and fifth dimensions we're told - and Don complains about having to live among the dead, but those bugs are still in the house and if they want to survive the night, they're going to need a flashlight, a chainsaw and a power drill. They'll also need some whiskey and some paper cups because they drank all the beer - but what if Don has to take a `wicked piss' and there are bugs in the toilet? What if Don pours whiskey on Doug's head? What is Doug inexplicably chokes himself and then needs to change his shirt? Well, we don't want to spoil the suspense now, do we?
Keep in mind that as all of this is playing out adult film superstar Amber Lynn is periodically popping up on camera as a newscaster named Amber Lynn, updating us on things like the leader of the Soviet Union not being particularly impressed with George Bush, an oil spill in Manhattan, George A. Romero's annoyance at unauthorized versions of Night Of The Living Dead, the murder of some guys in Brooklyn by a gang of bikers, and the case of Don and Fred, who have evidently been missing for fifteen days now? Oh, and she also lets us know about an important medical discovery in which scientists have figured out that by exposing the human brain to ultra violet light they can double our lifespan.
Truly the bottom of the cinematic barrel, Things is so bad, so completely and horribly inept and so amazingly awful that it becomes an experience all its own. A fascinating time capsule of mullets, eighties porn stars, papier-mâché monsters, nonsensical dialogue, atrocious acting and horrible camera work that stands as a sort of bad movie endurance test the likes of which only the most ardent of bad movie fans will find themselves able to finish, let alone appreciate.
With that said, once you take that first hit, get that first rush, like a cheap drug you'll find yourself going back for more. Upon repeat viewings you start to notice weird little details, everything from random farting to curtains made out of a blue tarp to the fact that for some reason the guys keep a book in the freezer. These help to ease some of the pain as you can sort of distract yourself from the story, or lack thereof, by looking for quirky details.
Horribly directed in that the film spends more time focusing on the guys hanging out in the kitchen and drinking beer and making sandwiches than on the subplot involving Susan's inexplicable monster birth, the film is somehow compelling in spite of itself, a true treasure trove of trash and a veritable secret stash of rampant stupidity best enjoyed drunk or high.
The performances are amazing - Amber Lynn is so obviously reading off of cue cards that she delivers no emotion whatsoever, standing there like a poofy haired blonde robot in a blue prom dress looking very much like the fish out of water that she is. Doug Bunston, as Doug, has some sort of bi-polarism going on in that he switches back and forth from sad to angry to happy and back again completely at random, his emotional whirlwind evidently not related to the plot at all. Bruce Roach, as Fred, sort of stumbles through the film by the grace of his mighty beard, not quite sure what to do with himself though seemingly quite happy when the dog jumps on the couch with him, as if he now has a purpose. Jan Pachul cackles his way with sinister zealousness as the mad doctor crammed into the storyline but doesn't really seem to know what's going on either.
The only one in the entire movie who seems to be investing any of himself in the actual performance is Barry J. Gillis, possibly because he wrote the script and so he, more so than the other performers, should at least have a basic idea of what exactly is happening in the movie. Barry's very obviously giving his all here, cruising through the dark house in his bright blue sweater drilling his way through weird looking ant monsters and hacking things up with a chainsaw but also taking the time out for a few random soliloquies, the best example being his sci-fi novel speech delivered in an ever so timely fashion right after Susan's death. Why it's there other than to give Gillis a reason to yammer on as if he were in some sort of high school drama production is anyone's guess, but the guy gives it his all.
Truly awful in every sense, it's rewarding on all the wrong levels and for all the wrong reasons but in an era of manufactured cult film and big budget Grindhouse homage it really does stand up as the real deal. Things is a filmic oddity like no other that simply cannot be topped in terms of brain killing stupidity and it's blatant disregard for reason, logic, cohesion, narrative or structure of any kind.
Things was shot on 8mm so it's bound to look a bit rough in spots, which it does on this DVD, presented in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio. Thankfully, the disc is authored well and so there aren't really any problems in terms of compression artifacts and the like. Print damage is present throughout, and color reproduction is... odd (it always has been with this movie) but the transfer on this disc is perfectly watchable.
The only audio option for the movie is an English language 2.0 Mono track, no alternate language options are provided nor are there any subtitles. As to how the mix sounds, well, Things sounds as weird as it looks so expect a few fluctuations in the levels in terms of the score and some screaming hitting the red in the mix here and there. It can be distracting, but it should be - this is obviously faithful to the source material.
Extras are plentiful, starting with the first of two commentaries which features director Andrew Jordan, and stars Barry J. Gillis, Jan W. Pachul, Doug Bunston and a woman who has never seen the movie before who notes that the guys are perverts for making a girl strip for no reason in the opening scene. Carried over from the original DVD release, this is a wholly bizarre conversation about the making of the movie that more or less covers all the bases you'd expect it to including how Amber Lynn came on board (and why she doesn't get naked in the movie), how some of the effects were done and just what they were thinking while they were making this movie. Given that the first words out of Barry's mouth when this commentary starts is `Of course we have to have beer, it's Things!' you'll understand if it goes off topic sometimes - which it does.
A second commentary, `Audio Viewing Party With The Cinefamily' is included. Contributors to this track include film historian David Chien, Tom Fitzgerald, Bret Berg and a guy named Adrian whose last name I couldn't make out. This track is done with a sense of humor and it is a pretty funny listen, but it also manages to offer up some interesting critical insight into what makes this movie the monstrosity that it is and they offer up some interesting thoughts on the soundtrack and the way that sound is used in the movie. They note that the opening scene is actually fairly disturbing if you're not ready for it (and probably the most effectively scary part of the entire movie) but also poke an understandable amount of holes in the film as well. For the most part though, this is pretty good natured and enjoyable, you can tell there's an affection behind the ribbing.
From there, check out the all new `Testimonials On Things' which is a collection of interviews with a few different people - Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com speaks about what makes Things special and how he came across it while Jason Eisener and Rob Cotterill of Hobo With A Shotgun fame discuss their admiration for Gillis, a fellow Halifax native, and talk under their own Things style lighting in a kitchen about their thoughts on the movie. Gillis shows Tobe Hooper the trailer for Things during a Rue Morgue Festival Of Fear appearance and Hooper looks suitable confused while in another clip Bleeding Skull contributors Joseph A. Ziemba and Dan Budnik seemingly enter the third, fourth and fifth dimensions themselves as they chime in on the film while self proclaimed Things-Ite Joey Izzo discusses how he basically stole the rental tape from his local video store so that he could own the film and how he has since shown it to people many times to help spread its legacy.
Carried over from the previous Things DVD are some great Vintage Barry J. Gillis TV Appearances culled from a few different East Coast Canadian news casts of the late eighties, the best of which features Gillis situated in front of a Christmas tree discussing how horrifying the film is. Also carried over from the previous DVD release is the Things 20th Anniversary Cast And Crew Reunion featurette which is footage from some sort of odd public access show in which Gillis, Jordan and a few others hang out with a guy in a tie-dye shirt, a guy with a ventriloquist dummy, and a dog and talk about the movie and its checkered past. Barry also feeds the dog pizza.
Rounding out the extras are a trailer for Things, a trailer/investor reel for an unfinished project called Evil Island, and the awesome Amber Lynn Behind The Scenes footage in which the adult film superstar stands around for ten minutes or so and tries to be friendly but mostly seems confused as to what she's actually doing in the movie. There are also bonus trailers for Sledgehammer, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer and Burning Moon. Once (or more likely IF) you make it through the movie, a few deleted scenes not advertised on the packaging totaling just over ten minutes appear including more Amber Lynn footage and more kitchen sitting and beer drinking.
Not carried over from the original DVD are a few oddball bits and pieces like the Things Party Version subtitle track, the Blood And Guts video by Phycus, the still gallery, and the weird bedroom review of Things that looked like it was shot on a webcam.
The Final Word:
Rarely do ineptitude and ambition collide with such mind numbingly bizarre results. Truly a film that needs to be seen to be believed, Things really is as much of an unintentionally hilarious mind-@#@# as its reputation would have you believe and Intervision Picture Corp. are to be commended for helping to bring this one to the masses.