Re: A good bad movie now and then...

from: Giuseppe Andrews

So it's 2002 or so, and I'm watching this movie, "Cabin Fever." I know about it, because magazines like Fangoria and websites like Creature Corner have pimped it for months. I know the name of the director, Eli Roth, because he did a DVD commentary for Troma's "Bloodsucking Freaks" years ago. It's like my own Internet-based fan commentary for "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (use a search engine that won't rat you out to the feds if you wish to find it), except his is entertaining. So I finally get to see this movie, and I laugh my ass off at it. The movie is funny. It's slap-dash and has no idea where it's going, but it's really fucking funny. Plus, the gore is completely over the top, and completely unexpected for a mainstream release. Plus, it has this weirdo from "Detroit Rock City" playing a local cop. This weirdo, it turns out, is played by Giuseppe Andrews. Andrews, it turns out, is the director of several ultra-low-budget, shot-on-videotape movies, all of them featuring residents of a California trailer park. And that's all I know. Months pass. I pick up the third DVD in Troma's TromaDance series. The TromaDance film festival occurs every year in Park City, Utah, at the same time as the now bloated, hardly-independent Sundance Film Festival. TromaDance is one of several off-shoot fests that flood the city once a year, but it's the only one (to my knowledge) that charges no entry fee for its competing filmmakers, has no VIPs for celebrity guests (everyone stands in line), and has free admission. The first two DVD's in the series were fun. The third one is a little dry, but it features a masterpiece by Mr. Andrews, a little half-hour gem called "Dribble." In "Dribble," an old, racist white man complains - a lot - that he was once a basketball superstar, but is now a bum with no future. His rage has made him a drunk and a pervert, and he wants to kill every black person he sees. (It doesn't help that his insane mother once raped him with a black dildo.) One night, a black man in a referee's uniform - possibly a figment of the weirdo's imagination - enters his home and kisses the old man's ass, offering a gram of methamphetamine if he'll coach a basketball team of "retarded and drug-addicted tiny tots." There is a brief beacon of hope, but it all comes crashing down, and the old man vows revenge. Plus, there's an even older man who offers to shake his dick around for twenty bucks. The dialogue is some of the funniest shit you'll ever hear, particularly when the actors read weird essays their characters have written. (The referee's long tirade is a favorite: "This is to my ex-wife. She fucked my gardener!") Andrews follwed up "Dribble" with a bona fide masterpiece, the epic, feature-length "Trailer Town." This one's even harder to explain, except that the old man and the referee from "Dribble" have this great scene where they do filithy stand-up routines for their own amusement. It's like the ultimate in-joke between you and your best friend, with an audience laugh track behind it. You'd think these movies - shot on cheap, handheld video, full of jump cuts and scored with what sounds like a Casio and a four-track - would be tedioius, boring, and unwatchable. The trick, though, is that these movies are so out of left-field, and so different from anything you've ever seen, that they're absolutely addictive. I've done my best not to wear myself out on these movies, but theyr'e too powerful to resist. They even inspired my brother, Eric, to make his own epics. Andrews went with Troma, even though he's appeared in big movies like "Detroit Rock City" and "Independence Day." It was a wise move. A company like Troma will get behind something this weird, and will give it the respect and admiration it deserves. That company thrives on this kind of weird shit, and they've survived for damn near thirty years. A lesser company would have insisted the movies be cut to ribbons, or would have advertised them to the same audience that buys "Girls Gone Wild" videos instead of actual porn. (Troma even had the wherewithal to compare Andrews's actors to Andy Warhol's ensemble.) I've shown these movies to people who ordinarily would be watching the latest "American Pie" sequel, and they think Andrews is funny as hell. These are regular, ordinary, mainstream moviegoers, whose only affiliation with cult films is that they know me. But "Dribble" and "Trailer Town" affected them in ways that even a new "Toxic Avenger" sequel wouldn't. This is important, to me, for two reasons: 1.) Prior to these movies, Troma's most notorious shot-on-video titles were the notorious "Redneck Zombies" (not exactly the high point of American comedy; it's fun, but it's really, really stupid and relies on a lot of lame jokes), and the two "Killer Nerd" movies (better than "Redneck Zombies," but at times tedious; only a crazy fuck like me would call "Bride of Killer Nerd" a masterpiece). Up until a few years ago, if your movie was shot on video, it had zero chance of distribution. Recently, you could get a digital movie released, if it looked enough like a "real" movie. The Andrews movies break this mold: they're cheap, they're gritty, and they look like your home movies, but they're way more entertaining than anything else Troma has released, be it on film or video, in the last twenty years. So, finally, for low-budget moviemakers, video has truly "arrived," complete with its first mega-cult figure. (Yes, I am aware of the Mike Figgis movie "Timecode," which is shot on video in real time. I'm also aware that "Timecode" isn't as good as "Trailer Town.") 2.) Andrews's movies are so weird, so captivating, that, on occasion, some folks may even turn off the usual shit, and continue to try something new now and then. Like "Bubba Ho-Tep," it's the kind of movie that a lot of people will see, mostly from positive word of mouth. I may be entirely wrong. Maybe I just really, really like these movies, and that' s about the size of it. I'm not sure. I can at least tell you why I like them, and why I think you should seek them out. First of all, damn near every line will elicit a gut-crunching laugh from anyone with a sense of humor. The silent comedy scenes are equally funny. It's not Chaplin, but it's still kickass. Secondly, there's no way this shit can't be real. These people are actors, but only for Andrews's camera. I have no idea what their lives are like outside of these movies, and I don't want to know for a long time. I prefer to be under the spell of the films themselves for a while. (This may be why Andrews hasn't recorded an audio commentary for any of these movies. Something else is going on, but I don't want to hear about it for a few years. I hope that makes sense.) If you're into cult movies, you'll more than likely take to these movies pretty easily. If you don't swing that way, you'll probably laugh anyway. Now, let's see if this thing posts properly...



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