After a bumpy start with a few bottom-rung Franco films, the folks at Severin offshoot label InterVision Picture Corp. hit onto a novel marketing hook: they turned their focus to the weird straight-to-video horror films that proliferated like venereal diseases during the 1980’s. Their disc for Sledgehammer got this new approach off to a good start and they continue to develop upon it with this new disc of Things. The end result’s value will vary depending on your point of view but they’ve expended a decent amount of effort to assemble a fairly involved package for this set.
The transfer is as good as can be expected for a movie that was shot on 8mm and edited via old-school video editing technology. Detail and colors (usually red or blue via lighting) have a faint, smeary look. That said, it’s not fair to expect better given the source material – and the bootleg-ish look enhances the film’s rancid fever-dream vibe. As for the sound, you can hear every bit of the awkward dubbing and outsider-music soundtrack clearly.
There’s also plentiful extras for this obscurity. Firstly, two commentary tracks are offered. The first comes from the privately-pressed edition of Things made by filmmakers Andrew Jordan and Barry Gillis. Said track includes Jordan and Gillis plus co-stars Doug Bunston and Jan Pachul. Like the film it plays alongside, this track is a chaotic shambles that never does what it’s supposed to do. No one involved seemed to understand what a commentary track entails, as precious little trivia is offered about the film and they drunkenly ramble over it about their reactions to what is on screen.
Even worse, Gillis made the mistake of allowing his daughter to sit in on the track. She hangs in there for about 40 minutes before abruptly departing and spends most of that time loudly repeating the same two or three complaints about the film. When she’s not complaining, she insults the other participants of the track. As a result, the portion of the track she dominates is a real trial to listen to.
Simply put, this track is a disaster but it has a certain amount of worth for Things aficionados because it confirms what they already suspected: the people who made this film are as eccentric in regular life as they are when making movies. You won’t learn much about the how and why of the film but you’ll get a fly-on-the-wall perspective of their personalities. That said, a little goes a long way here.
The second commentary track was recorded for this disc and features three of the people who run the Cinefamily repertory theater in Los Angeles. It’s a better track, with the group interpreting the film as they go along and making some interesting comments about its outsider-art qualities (one person perceptively describes Things as an “all filler, no killer” proposition early on). The film’s isn’t mesmerizing as they try to make it seem but they do offer a solid primer on how to approach the film from a schlock perspective.
Another key supplement here is a retrospective video featurette with Jordan, Gillis, Bunston and Pachul. This piece was also carried over from the private-press DVD. For reasons unknown to any sensible person, said reunion is hosted by a less-than-skilled ventriloquist who cracks the occasional bad joke with his dummy (it also features Gillis’s daughter again but she’s less annoying here). The participants do a better job of discussing their film here and viewers will walk away with the feeling that the crew behind Things is essentially the Canadian counterpart to the filmmakers in American Movie.
Elsewhere, the extras include an original trailer for Things, a promo trailer for unproduced follow-up called Hell Island and some behind-the-scenes footage of the shoot for the film’s Amber Lynn scenes. However, the biggest of the remaining extras is a series of video testimonials for Things that was assembled for this disc. Sadly, the quality of these segments are hit and miss: Canuxploitation’s Paul Corupe describes his history in the film an interesting, dryly humorous way but Hobo With A Shotgun filmmakers Jason Eisener and Rob Cotterill have little to say beyond a basic “wow, this is weird” premise. That said, a bit where Tobe Hooper is shown the trailer at a horror convention and struggles to find nice things to say to the filmmakers is priceless.
All in all, this disc offers is an ambitious and involved package for a film that no one ever imagined would get such an in-depth treatment. Your interest level will depend on how fond you are of Things itself but there’s no denying it’s a generously-loaded special edition.