THINGS: What Do You Want From “Bad”?

Bad film appreciation is a deceptively difficult subject.  Some would argue that no critical criteria could apply to such a pursuit: after all, the audience is knowingly and willingly chasing something that that is bad by sitting down to one of these cinematic defectives.  Thus, why should it make any difference if you watch an Ed Wood, Jr. movie or a Michael Bay movie in search of your badness fix?  It’s all bad so what’s the difference?

The truth is that a set of critical criteria does apply in bad film appreciation.  A good “bad movie” should deliver the kind of otherworldly thrills that you just can’t get from something that works the way it is designed to.  Ask anyone who has ever seen Petey Wheatstraw or Massacre Mafia Style: films like these represent the upper-echelon of bad cinema, hitting you hard from frame one and never stopping.  Their scripts/direction/performances aren’t anywhere near what any sane person would consider acceptable but they go off in their own magical, beguilingly insane direction, throwing something demented at you every minute they’re onscreen.  If you lived on Bizarro World, films like these would be the defining masterworks of cinema.

It would be nice to say Things delivers that giddy rush of good-badness but unfortunately, it does not.  The hard-to-decipher plot suggests an accidentally surrealistic version of a monster movie.  Goofball, beer-guzzling pals Don (co-writer/producer Barry J. Gillis) and Fred (Bruce Roach) go out to visit Doug (Doug Bunston), brother of Don, at his rural abode.  Unfortunately, it’s a bad time for Doug – his wife Susan (Patricia Sadler) has taken an experimental facility procedure devised by the nefarious Dr. Lucas (Jan W. Pachul) and she’s rather ill.

The trio discover exactly what ill means when a barrage of dachshund-sized ants erupt from her stomach and infiltrate the house.  The little beasties are out for blood and the trio experiences periods of fighting them off interspersed with longer periods of aimless chatter and wandering around rooms with flashlights.  As this tale ambles its way toward an obligatory shock finale, it is intercut with shot-on-video interludes of porn star Amber Lynn reading badly from off-center cue cards as a newswoman who reports on horror fan interests and (occasionally) the travails of our heroes.

Things seems to have a lot going for it if taken from a bad-film appreciation perspective: it was made by horror fanatics/metalheads/first time filmmakers, it was shot on 8mm, the story makes no sense, the humor is as terrible as the effects, all the dialogue was post-dubbed and the acting is the worst part of all.  Along the way, you get the occasional memorably awful moment, like the non-sequitur of a monologue where Don responds to the death of Susan by relating the plot of a horror novel he once read.

Unfortunately, moments that transcendently bad only pop up a few times in Things.  It falls short of bad-film classic status because Gillis and his conspirator, director/co-writer/co-producer Andrew London, are as uninspired as they are bad at what they do.  They’ve got the work ethic – a 90 minute 8mm film is damned ambitious – but they lack the kind of deliriously crazy ideas or ambition that would help them attain good-bad status.  Even worse, they lack the most basic understanding of how a story is told and this makes the ineptitude on display numbing instead of amusing.  The end result just drags along in a pitiful  and dull manner, wearing you down as it goes along.  You could condense Things down to a 5 minute highlights reel and have a winner – but watching the full length version is a punishment.

In short, Things is the kind of film that forces you to define your relationship with bad cinema.  Your Humble Reviewer believes that if you love schlock, you should demand as much from it – on its own level – as you demand from “proper” filmmaking.  It should be filled with a passion for storytelling, off-the-wall ideas and  poverty-row ingenuity.  Things has none of the above.  It just sits there, blank-eyed and dead-brained, for over 90 minutes.  In fairness to its fans, you won’t forget it after you see it – and it’s easy to imagine an ironic hipster cult rising up around it, filled with the same people who passionately defend the badness of The Room or Hobo With A Shotgun.  That said, a bad movie should meet you halfway with its insanity – and Things is its own hermetically sealed world of pain.

THINGS (1989) Trailer from Intervision Picture Corp. on Vimeo.

17 Replies to “THINGS: What Do You Want From “Bad”?”

  1. Your summation of what makes “bad cinema” good is spot-on! Too bad Things couldn’t live up to the expectations, but that is often the case.

    1. Thanks, Aaron. The sad thing about bad film appreciation is so many people never get past the “ha ha, look at that crappy movie” stage.

  2. I really like your take on what makes ‘bad movies’ good, but calling out ‘ironic hipsters’ for liking a ‘bad’ movie that was made before bad was cool, just doesn’t really make sense to me. For the record, i really hate the whole ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ apology from people who watch schlocky films. I just like what I like, and if I like it, then it’s just plain good. Great website, btw.

    1. Well, bad has always been cool in certain quarters. The “ironic hipster cult” comment is merely an observation on the current trend for instant cult movies. The best bad movies slowly build a cult over time – and there’s a tendency today to create a overnight following around movies that simply aren’t interesting enough to justify repeat viewings. THE ROOM is probably the best example of this.

      Thanks for reading – and the “like what you like” philosophy is a good one. Don’t let the hipsters steal it from you. Those guys are jerks.

  3. You say, and I quote, “and it’s easy to imag­ine an ironic hip­ster cult ris­ing up around it, filled with the same peo­ple who pas­sion­ately defend the bad­ness of The Room or Hobo With A Shotgun.”

    I haven’t seen THE ROOM yet… but dude… if you’re not liking HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN and you are writing for a site entitled Schlockmania, there’s something wrong with the picture here, lol… (and your head) Maybe you should be writing for Cosmopolitan Magazine…

    Hipster Cult Rising, lol??? THINGS was released in 1989 on VHS dude… And I will assure you that back then… As well as now… People have never risen up and liked THINGS because it was some kind of hip thing to do…

    I highly doubt that people love HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, THINGS, or THE ROOM because it’s the “HIPSTER THING TO DO.” (I keep hearing about THE ROOM, and aside from seeing some clips, I really must see this movie soon)

    I believe that you have a few issues going on in your head that you should get worked out really soon, lol…

    Some movies affect people in different ways as well… Just because you don’t like a movie, doesn’t mean that everyone else who does, is just faking it!!! (because it is the hipster thing to do) In all honesty… How many people have you ever met in your life who actually lie about the movies they truly like and dislike???? (HOW MANY DID YOU SAY???)

    This hipster nonsense you are talking about doesn’t even make sense??? As I say… You assume that because you are not into a movie, that others are just into it because it’s the in thing to do. This is a terrible observation on your part. (AND A REALLY BIG INSECURITY THAT YOU HAVE AS WELL WITH YOURSELF)

    I could care a less if you like THINGS, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, or THE ROOM, but to knock others who do makes you look like a KNOB in my opinion… It also shows that you are insecure with yourself in some way…

    I know THINGS, and I know THINGS well… People who do not like the movie don’t go around saying they like it and try to win friends by saying that they are a THINGS-ite and are into the movie because it is the HIP THING TO DO!!!

    In all honesty, you should go out and make a feature film yourself Donald… Because it’s easy to imag­ine an ironic hip­ster cult ris­ing up around your DAYS OF SCHLOCK feature film, (that will never make it out of the development stage) Donald, filled with the same peo­ple who pas­sion­ately defend the bad­ness of THE ROOM, THINGS or HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN…lol

    Anyway, other than your hipster nonsense, and trying to suggest that people jump on movie bandwagons because they think it is the hipster thing to do…

    I liked your review even though you disliked our movie…

    Why???

    Because you are entitled to your opinion, and the fans of movies that you dislike are entitled to theirs…

    And I am sure that the kind of fans who enjoy THINGS, and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN would not want to be labeled the way that you are labeling them…

    I still find it difficult to believe that you are not into HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN… Is this site truly Schlockmania… ???? I’m having trouble digesting your jab at that movie… ????

    Tough To believe!!!

    Barry J. Gillis
    Edmonton, Canada

  4. I just noticed your comment above Donald… (COMMENT #4)

    Remember: Each to their own.

    I haven’t seen THE ROOM, but whether I will like it or not when I do see it… and/or if I was to watch it over and over… Who are you to judge that???

    And, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is an INSTANT CLASSIC… For many people… (including me) But, who are you to judge???

    Whether a movie takes years and years, or whether it happens instantly because of publicity, marketing,etc,etc… Does it make a difference???

    Yes, it is wonderful when a movie takes years, and years like a fine wine to become a classic… But, why can it not happen instantly???

    You may not understand why a movie has a cult following because maybe the movie does nothing for you… But what about the movies that you like??? There will be people that say the same thing about some of the movies you view over and over…

    Anyway,

    This is actually ridiculous,

    Adios,

    Barry J. Gillis

  5. And, P.S. Your review was well written Donald.. Another reason that I did like your review… (Other than the hipster comment, it is a well written review, and how you truly feel about THINGS)

    Very well thought out as well, even though you didn’t like the movie…

    Take Care,

    Barry J.

  6. There’s a town I know where the hipsters go
    It’s Bedrock!
    Twist! Twist!
    Bedrock is gonna roll with all it’s might
    In Bedrock!
    Twist! Twist!

  7. I forgot to give credit regarding who sang the song in my above post. It should be credited to Mr. Fred Flintstone.

  8. I’m in a better mood today than I was yesterday when I read your hipster comment… I just felt compelled to defend the fans that really do care about certain movies, such as ours and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN… I also have a strong feeling that before you even put THINGS into your DVD player, that you had a bias feeling towards the movie… I recall when Intervision first revealed the artwork that there was a comment on some forum or something somewhere that rang HIPSTER about the poster… And I have a strong feeling that it may have been you who wrote it… Possibly you are depriving yourself from liking movies that you would otherwise like if you were not holding steadfast to your beliefs… Personally, I don’t care if millions of people like a movie Donald, or whether only a few people know about the movie… I like what I like and I am not influenced one way or the other… Also… It is often difficult to be really into some movement and then all of a sudden it becomes really popular… This often does turn off the die hards… Whether it be music, their favorite author, etc, etc… So, I do understand where you are coming from but I really suspect that it is hurting your decision to like a really great movie like HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN which is made by genre fans… THINGS also has a tendancy to play on peoples minds for some reason, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself watching the movie again sometime…lol… Anyway all the best…

    1. Sorry, but I don’t do any commenting on forums these days – and I didn’t go into viewing THINGS with any sort of malice. I’m just coming from a different point of view.

      That said, I respect your right to have your own opinion and I’ll continue to welcome your comments. On that note, the DVD review for THINGS goes up tomorrow. If you want to chime in there, feel free to do so.

  9. Hey Barry, I’ll be watching your movie for the first time this week. It’s the VHS version that I bought from the evil hipsters over at Mondo 😉

    1. Haha, no wonder you took such offense to the mention of hipsters. Don’t worry, hipsters are welcome here. They will have to put up with some criticism from time to time, though.

  10. We love the evil hipsters over at Mondo Brian…lol…:) If watching THINGS and HOBO WITH. A SHOTGUN is a hip thing to do… That’s not a bad thing either…lol,lol…

  11. I really like the vibe at the Alamo Drafthouse. I always have a great time there. Hipsters or not, they’re good people celebrating the movies we love. I went into Hobo a skeptic and it totally won me over, especially on the second viewing.

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