My friends are hardened bad movie veterans, but this is the response I got on Facebook last night after subjecting them to this:
“Things” is monumentally bad. I could keep rolling out big words that mean the same thing, but simply put this movie is right down at the very very bottom of the cinematic pile. “Manos: The Hands Of Fate” is Bergman compared to this. “The Room” is a gem of acting and editing. “Monster-A-Go-Go” is…actually, that might be the closest comparison in terms of quality.
We’ve seen some of the worst movies ever made here at the ISCFC. “The Pit”, “The Last Seven”, “Demon Cop”, “After Last Season”, and “The Zombinator”, among many others; but “Things” beats them all. I heard of it thanks to Red Letter Media doing a section on it a while back, and their description of the entire cast and crew being drunk at every stage of the filmmaking process is about as close as I can get to figuring out just why this movie turned out the way it did.
Okay, the plot recap is going to be fun. Let’s see if we can nail it! Firstly, there’s a guy called Doug, whose extremely ill wife has been unable to conceive. So he goes into his cellar where he asks a woman wearing a demon mask to have his baby – his desperation for a child is sadly never explained. So she removes all her clothes and tells him “I’ve already had your baby”, showing him something in a bassinet that attacks him, causing him to scream and…wake himself up! This was possibly a dream, although it’s genuinely almost impossible to tell. You may also come to ponder which one of the couple is infertile, as the movie isn’t sure either.
Then there’s two other guys called Fred and Don. Don is Doug’s brother, and the two men are off to visit him at his rather remote home, apparently a 9 mile hike from the nearest human civilization. After what must have been an extremely expensive taxi journey, they just walk in, and rather than try and find him in the normal-sized house, decide to start drinking his beer and aimlessly looking through his cupboards to see what stuff he’s got. They find a tape recorder in the freezer which plays all sorts of slowed-down-voice style sound effects (a reference to “The Evil Dead”) and discover that Doug’s TV can apparently pick up all manner of illegal and “snuff” TV signals (“Videodrome”, maybe?) So they sit around for what seems like several lifetimes, having a very poorly ADR’ed conversation, until Doug wanders out of the bedroom he’s been in this entire time and makes sandwiches for everyone. Oh, and then his wife dies and a bunch of giant ant-looking things emerge from her stomach, plus around now Fred disappears for about half an hour, having been apparently beamed into another dimension.
If you’re wondering why I slipped the “wife dying” part out so casually, it’s because the movie treats it like that too. A few minutes after her death, thanks to giant bugs crawling out of her, the guys are back drinking, laughing, telling stories and arguing in the kitchen – leaving the only reasonable conclusion that this was edited by a maniac. Then the rest of the movie is two guys (the two change during the course of the movie) either drinking or trying to kill the super-ants. The doctor who did experiments on Doug’s wife pops up towards the end, and manages to keep a cheeky grin on his face throughout his scenes, even though he’s in a house full of corpses and mangled animal remains. Oh, Doug accidentally brains Don with a hammer at one point, to the extent a pool of blood forms round him, but after a few minutes of being dead he’s fine again.
By the way, I wanted to point out the house isn’t locked and the people could leave at any time. They say it’s bear infested country, but I’d take my chances compared to…whatever the hell it is the bugs are supposed to represent. Hell, or something, probably.
Okay, there’s a rough precis of the plot. I don’t want to spoil too much of it for you, as despite what my two friends above said, movies this far off the scale ought to be watched, if only to make all the other movies you’ve ever seen a little better. Everything that could possibly be done wrong, is. The lighting is rubbish and doesn’t match itself (so people in the same kitchen will look different, depending on the shot); and the sound! Judging by the little behind the scenes snippet after the end of the credits, they recorded live sound, but were clearly unhappy with the background noise or something, as aside from a couple of brief outdoor scenes, everything is ADR’ed. Did no-one check any of their footage until they’d finished filming? Of course, we can add music to that, seemingly put in at random – a 5 second snippet of metal will be used in between two separate playings of the same song, for instance. It makes you feel on edge, and annoyed, and there’s no reason for it.
Let’s talk porn! Amber Lynn, who was a big deal in “the jizz biz” at the time, is in this movie as a news reporter who the film cuts to every now and again to give us nonsensical “news” stories. You know, the sort of news reporter who stands in front of a few broken TVs and old computers because that’s what the director thinks looks news-y. Her cue cards were way off to the right, leading her to constantly glance off in that direction and giving us all the impression she was doing this at gunpoint, and it may safely be said she’s not very good at it. She also has a guy she throws to for a report, and he’s just sat in an armchair in front of a plain wall.
Why? Why did they make a film so thoroughly bad? There’s little segments where they try to, I think, insert some humour, but it feels like the jokes of an indifferent guard leading a condemned man to the gallows. When you’ve seen them check the ceiling with a flashlight AGAIN, or heard your third meaningless monologue from Don, who bear in mind wrote the script so he has no excuse, you’ll begin to think that nothing could have been made this bad by accident. Is it a test of patience? An attempt, “Hobgoblins” style, to make it onto “Mystery Science Theater 3000”? I have absolutely no idea, but I think the suggestion that any of them knew what they were doing is to do this magnificent piece of garbage a disservice.
At the end of my second viewing of “Things”, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s close to, if not right at, the worst movie ever. It feels like someone managed to record a nightmare straight from someone’s brain, but then replaced all the monsters with crappy plastic ants, and all the people with ugly Canadians who can’t act. But no! Even that doesn’t do it justice. Considering we’re pushing 1200 words now, I’m rendered speechless, unable to fathom any of it. Is it possible they bought a thousand beers, locked themselves in a house for a week and made this movie? That’s about as good an explanation as I can summon. Perhaps it’s the cast that treat the plot as an afterthought, that they’d filmed themselves drinking, the evening getting angrier and the fun getting thinner, until they suddenly decided to grab the ant props from the car and make a horror movie, just leaving the home movie drinking footage in.
I’m sorry, dear reader, I feel I’ve let you down. I’m further away from understanding this epically puzzling movie. Still, there’s a limited edition with two commentaries on it (!) so by the time I’ve seen it two more times, I might have some answers for you. If you’re in the mood, track this down and watch it. Okay, there’s a roughly 75% chance you’ll want to kill me afterwards, but you’ll have seen “Things”, and your life will never be the same.