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.