The Horror

Posted on January 6, 2011


In highschool my friends and I enjoyed watching movies (how rare!).  For a time I hosted a movie night in my suburban basement; I charged a dollar and screened “weird” movies.  Sometimes girls came.  It was great.  Later on I would find myself in a basement watching horror movies, and I watched them only to hang out with my friends, not for the cinematic spectacle, because the truth is…  99% of horror movies are a) not scary and b) utterly terrible.  It’s a film genre unlike any other – really unlike any genre in any medium – in that the very worst films are often viewed with great fondness, as though their crappiness is a real virtue.  You would never find people extolling the virtues of a comedy that isn’t funny, or a drama that is just boring, but for whatever reason horror movies seem to be different.  To some extent it’s a case of the worse the better.

And so everyone who watches horror movies, and this inevitably leads to watching bad horror movies, keeps a rolling inventory of the worst horror movies they’ve ever seen.  Sometimes people will square off trying to top each other with The Worst movie, and these debates can rage for some time.  They are usually amusing.  This can lead one to actively seeking out terrible movies, just to say that you’ve seen them, and because beyond a certain point bad movies (or truly bad anything) are pretty funny.  So it was with my pals.  An exciting Saturday evening would consist of us renting anything from the local video stores, provided it looked awful and shoddily made.  What fun.  My pals were not terribly successful with women at that time.  I was a huge player, obviously.

After a time, though, all searching for The Worst Film Ever ended, due not to fatigue, but to success.  Yes, we stumbled upon a movie named Things.  I will try to do it some small justice, but you can visit here and follow the links in the Wikipedia page here for more information (the first link is a fairly accurate description, but undersells the terribleness of the thing significantly).  Here is the poster.

The hair. The horror. The hair.

So right now you’re thinking “yeah sure, it’s probably pretty bad, but man! XXX is worse!”.  No it’s not.  You’re wrong.  Things is the ne plus ultra of awfulness.  The apex of utter failure.  It’s incredulously bad.  The “plot” is so stupid as to defy description.  I don’t want to erode my IQ by watching it again, so I’m going to go from long lost memory here.  The story amounts to something like a couple of beer swilling hosers discover a plot to impregnate a woman with ant like creatures and then have to escape a house and get away and who cares.  Standard fare.  But the execution is so staggeringly incompetent that you can’t help but admire it.  To whit:  all of the dialogue is overdubbed.  And overdubbed so poorly that no matter what is being said you will laugh.  The lines themselves are so hamfisted and badly written that you couldn’t imagine writing anything more irrelevant or inane if your life depended on it.  The acting is unconscionable, but so much so that it feels like you’re not watching a movie.  It’s not so-bad-it’s-good.  It’s so-bad-it’s-frightening.  For real.  Because you can tell, after a short time, that this is the work of some kind of fractured auteur, someone who has poured their heart and soul into this enterprise, who has likely sacrificed a great deal, who is totally committed and who still couldn’t put together a watchable 30 second sequence, let alone a feature film.  And yet he did make a feature film.  In the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges this thing came to be, completed, and even distributed such that my friends and I could come upon it in a video store years later and have our impressionable minds thoroughly blown.

Here are some discursive thoughts…

More weird details:  the film features porno star(?) Amber Lynn, in a desperate play (on the part of the film makers) for either respectability or titillation.  I imagine that her salary probably ate up half of the film’s budget, and even at that she doesn’t even appear naked, to my recollection.  Not that I was disappointed, mind, just surprised.  Her part is that of a news anchor in some low rent locale, presumably because she wouldn’t actually come to the suburbs of Toronto to join the crew.  Here’s a little sample of her work (SFW), with an introduction to the jittery man behind the masterpiece, Mr. Barry J. Gillis:

More weird details 2:  at one point the audio for the film completely cuts out.  For TEN MINUTES.  For real.  How did this make the final cut?  Who knows!  Was it an artistic choice?  It may very well have been.

More weird details 3:  Amber Lynn’s Wikipedia entry features this bizarre sentence:

She (Lynn) is the sister of the late porn actor Buck Adams, who died from heart failure in 2008. The pair were forced to admit that they were siblings after discovering that they had been booked to perform a sex scene together in the mid 1980s.

Emphasis added.  Why is it that Wikipedia consistently only hints at the best stories?  Under what circumstances would two porno actors keep their sibling status a secret?  I could understand if only one of them were… but both?  Take a moment and really imagine this scene.  Terrible tans.  Worse fake breasts.  Coke-addled minds.  The hot sun beating down.  They both receive calls from their agents simultaneously.

“(Bucky/Amber) baby, it’s (Jerry/Ricky).  Look, I’ve got a great part for you here, with Seduction Productions.  It’s a nice set-up, something a little upscale, in a library I think, or at least a place with some nice bookshelves.  Real books on them.  A fireplace too, this could be big.  Corey Flame is going to direct and my (cousin/boyfriend) is doing the soundtrack.”

“Wow, great!  Who’s my co-star?”

“You know (Amber Lynn / Buck Adams)?”

“Noooooo!!”

Back to the main point.

A little bit of research (by my more motivated pal Godo) revealed the existence of a true Canadian outsider artist, who had and has escaped the limelight (outside of a dedicated fringe following) almost completely.  I understand why, but still.  Ladies and gentlemen meet Barry J. Gillis.  After Things Gillis went on to create the movie Wicked World.  Here is the trailer.  EXTREMELY NSFW.  Also not safe for the squeamish.  I warned you.  It’s not nice.  Think twice…

My friend tracked down a terrible VHS copy and we watched it on tenterhooks.  And?  It was terrible!  Unbelievably so.  Not quite as bad as Things, but still, incredibly awful.  And violent.  Misanthropic.  Almost sociopathic, but not quite.  See, here is the work of a man trying to convince the world that he’s a really bad dude.  A monster.  But he’s not.  He’s trying too hard to freak us out, and it’s given him away utterly.  Here is a man in some not insignificant pain, trying to work it out in the only way he knows how (creatures, blood, guns, women in trouble).  He writes poetry too, and I tracked some down.  Here, check it out:

So wonderful is the woman I shall forever adore,

So lovely is she, this one woman I love,

However, it continues to evolve the more the more,

I would love to marry her, and release a white dove,

Oh, such charm and personality to match,

She is so unmindful of these facts,

However, one of these days, I shall catch,

For now, I’ll think of her, and relax,

You see, the poetry of the moment,

Just always seems to have its way,

For a moment, it takes away the torment,

It helps me to say, what I want to say,

Such a beautiful never ending dream,

Unlike anything I’ve ever known, or ever seen

What person out there hasn’t pined after someone who is unmindful of that fact?  One who has never lived at all.  He actually published a book.  Buy it.  It appears to be an anthology featuring tales from the likes of Shelley, Poe, Conan Doyle, and Gillis.

I suppose this is what fascinates me so much about the guy, the obvious fact that he is operating as an artist (and a prolific one at that, which I can’t but respect), not just some guy with a bucket of fake blood and too much time on his hands.  And I should be very clear here, I’m not making fun or putting the dude down here.  Hell no.  I might not like all of what he does but I really like that he does it at all.  He’s an endlessly fascinating subject, made all the more so by the fact that his online presence seems to at least admit of some getting-the-joke.  He comments on things making fun of him.  He’s very nice and respectful.  He volunteers for interviews, and seems generally well meaning and friendly.

At one point he was soliciting for enrolment in his very own film school.  He had hatched a scheme to finance his latest project by getting chumps to pay him in order to work for him, and get real experience.  The tuition?  A mere $5,000.   ??  If I were rich I would have paid happily and gone along for the crazy ride.  Alas.  He ultimately shelved the idea, after lowering the price even.  Ungrateful public.

Now he is working on a brand new movie called The Killing Games.  A trailer for this one was briefly available on YouTube, but appears to be gone now.  A shame.  It’s insane looking.

And finally, I discovered that BJG has also released an album called American Justice.  Feel the cover art.

Take that, modern day imperialists

And there’s a video for the hit single Road To Sadness.  Again, I’m not poking fun, exactly, but it’s so bizarre that it deserves mentioning.  Here’s the setup.  A beach scene.  And this bikini-clad, heartbreaking trollop shows up…

Driving on the road to sadness. In the wrong lane.

Meet Katey Carfagnini, actress.  After some moments of anticipation-building silence (featuring the camera pointlessly ogling her), she says to the camera “You and I are finished.  But I’ll always love you”.  Ouch!  And so it begins.  Our man is pictured wearing evil clown makeup, singing out his heartache in a black room.  This is intercut with Katey and Barry sitting on the beach, dancing, chilling out.  She wears only a bathing suit.  He is fully clothed.  The camera pores over her every curve relentlessly.  It’s unsettling.  Here, watch for yourself:

Eventually Evil Clown Barry starts to cry and his makeup comes off, revealing his true self.  Katey cradles a small dog.  Katey caresses a pole.  Katey looks over her shoulder.  Then Katey blows a farewell kiss at the camera, and Barry walks off down the road (to sadness).  2:26 to 2:44 is particularly good.

Well friends, there you have it:  a woefully incomplete introduction to a true Canadian original.  I can’t recommend Things to you highly enough, you really should buy it.  And just ask yourself, what if you put together a film, or an album, or a book, or anything that legions of people said was not only bad, no, but literally the worst thing of its kind on earth?  Would you persevere or would the experience be so devastating as to paralyze you and extinguish any creative fire still burning within you?  Say what you want, but you have to admire the guy for his relentless pursuit of whatever it is that he’s pursuing.  I don’t know if it’s courage or compulsion that keeps him going, but either way I tip my hat.

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Posted in: The Obscure