The Horrors of Creepshow III  

Saturday, June 02, 2007

We thought we were done with this blog. We haven't kept up with it, as you can clearly see. This isn't because we've stopped watching bad movies by any stretch of the imagination. Why, just recently we've watched "Black Christmas" and "Da Hip Hop Witch," both of which were incredibly awful. Especially "Da Hip Hop Witch;" watching Eminem and Ja Rule try to act may in fact be a war crime.

But by this point, we figured the Movies Schmovies blog was dead. We surrendered, recognizing that we simply can't keep up with the geyser of runny celluloid shit that spews forth constantly from Hollywood and associated moviemaking communities. Why Uwe Boll alone puts out more shit than we could possibly stand to stomach. It would take something truly monumentally awful to get us to carry the corpse of this blog out to the Pet Sematary and allow it to resurrect into an evil homicidal killing website.

Enter "Creepshow III." Oh my dear sweet Jesus, "Creepshow III." We watched the first "Creepshow" a few years back, and we endured its crappy, campy tirade of Stephen King-penned EC Comics-inspired horror vignettes. It wasn't particularly horrible, it wasn't particularly funny, and it wasn't particularly concerned with which one we were supposed to think it was. And yet, "Creepshow III" made us long for Stephen King's comparatively subtle and moving performance as an alien plant-infested hick.

There's a certain logic which usually goes into these horror vignette movies. Usually there's some kind of framing sequence that ties the movie together (however loosely), and several short stories which include some kind of ironic twist, humorous observation, or moral message. The creators of "Creepshow III," out of ignorance, malice, or Dadaist aesthetic, have decided to chuck that logic for something far more gut-wrenchingly terrible.

The film opens with one of the worst title sequences we've ever seen, as the 'camera' spins around over a cartoony, completely static drawing of some vaguely odd gypsy. After far too much of this, we cut to a short even-more-poorly-drawn Flash-animated cartoon, clearly intending to follow from the first film's tradition of animated framing sequences. The amazingly intricate plot features a hooded midget of some sort opening a hot dog stand where the hot dogs are made with--get this--real dog. Bum-bum-bum!

And that's the high point of the film. The next vignette opens on a 30-years-young Alice, dressed in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform, talking on a cellular phone as she walks home. Along the way, she calls a pudgy 25-year-old man "nerd" and throws his ball away, complains about teachers, and checks out hot guys. If this were any normal horror vignette, the twist or moral message would revolve around her vanity, her shallowness, or her constant use of the cellular phone. The phone would try to kill her, or she'd get calls from someone who's dead, or maybe she'd turn into a pudgy nerd as per the nerd's revenge.

But this is not a normal horror vignette.

Schoolgirl Woman walks into her house, where her judgmental family is gathered around, calling her too fat, calling her too thin, making fun of her diet, and telling her to wash her hands. So, at this point, if this were a normal horror vignette, the twist or moral would involve personal hygiene, with the girls' hands somehow becoming disgusting or out of control, or it might involve weight loss or weight gain, a la "Thinner" and "Say Cheese and Die II" respectively.

Sadly, there's nothing normal about this film.

Schoolwoman's Dad, who is apparently the world's dumbest detective, is fiddling with a "universal remote." Meanwhile, Schoolgrannie expresses an exasperated wish that she had been adopted. If this were a normal horror vignette, Dad's "universal remote" would turn out to actually control the universe, a la "Click," and we'd find that either Schoolgrannie or the universe changes in response to it. Finally, the film demonstrates a modicum of logic. Hope springs eternal.

So, dad hits some button, the world goes weird, and the family disappears. Alice looks around for them, yells at them for their sudden practical joke, exits, and returns. Suddenly, the previous scene plays over again, with Schoolgrannie walking in and receiving lame criticism from her family...but this time, they're black! Schoolgrannie has stayed the same, though, so it's kind of like a reversal of "Webster," where an apparently affluent black family has adopted an older white woman who dresses like a child. We also see that Alice has developed some sort of boils on her left hand.

This scene plays out once more, when Dad finds the "subtitles" button and turns the family Hispanic. Hilarity! Also, in a plot that continues to be unexplained, Schoolgrannie's hand has further mutated. Some more remote fiddling causes her to run outside, with the mutation spreading to her right leg, and she chases after an effeminate fop of a professor, who doesn't seem to notice her. She enters the professor's house, marvels at the fact that he's getting married, and proceeds to stuff her face with potato chips and a chunk of wedding cake, apparently oblivious to the fact that her hand, leg, and face have taken on the appearance of Pizza the Hutt.

In case you're keeping track, the story has so far addressed her desire to be adopted (as her family changes around her, but remains the same set of judgmental pricks), her constant contact with friends (by leaving her alone in the universe for a minute or two, and by having people ignore her existence), her diet (by having her inexplicably stuff her face), and her vanity (by having her mutate into the Toxic Crusader). What the creators have apparently forgotten, in this mad dash through Alice's vices, is that you really need to just focus on one sin per film, or at least explain what the flying bloody hell is going on. A minor error, to be sure.

So after a pointless scene with a delivery boy, Alice eventually steps through a door in the Professor's house, which leads to a room filled with blinding white light. While it would have made more sense at this point for her to meet the Architect, instead she ends up stepping back into her house, totally cured of her hideous boils. Dad is about to give up on the remote control, but decides to press just one more button. Sadly, it's not the "End this movie" button.

And Alice completes her transmogrification into...I don't know, some kind of melting leper? All I know is that her hammy family is horrified, Alice hobbles outside, and dad grabs his gun from the wicker basket on the stairs, oblivious to the creature's cries of "no, it's me, Alice!" Worst. Detective. Ever.

Alice runs into the Professor, who talks with her about how cool the remote is. Detective Dumbass waves his gun in a totally ineffective manner and tells Professor McFlamey to move away from his elderly blob-daughter. Alice pleads to be turned back into herself, but the Professor makes some cryptic remark about how she already is normal, which we think is supposed to obliquely reference the whole vanity/shallowness thing from before. That much, however, is anything but clear. Detective Dad threatens to shoot, but the Professor stands up and explains that it wasn't a hideous girl-shaped melting monster-blob, but a cute and harmless little white rabbit. "What's its name?" asks the family. "Alice," replies the Professor. "That's a pretty name," says Momtard. Then you turn the page and find a preview of the next Goosebumps book.

I wish. So if you're paying attention, and by God we hope you aren't, they ditched even the most basic semblance of a moralistic plot and went with some sort of half-assed Alice in Wonderland motif, which really doesn't tie anything up at all. As it turns out, the 'twist' in "Creepshow III" is going to be "nothing makes any fucking sense."

Our next piece, which we have deemed "Radio DaDa" tells the tale of a down-on-his-luck security guard, and his diversions: Alcohol, whores and We find our protagonist* upon his return to his rundown flop house, for all appearances, during the busy mid-afternoon hooker run, as the below-health-standards halls are teeming with the apartment's other residents: a pimp and his prostitutes. After receiving an awkward advance from the fugliest chud of a prostitute in the building, our security guard friend retires to his apartment, a surprisingly well-appointed pad completely free of the dingy graffiti and somehow dingier streetwalkers that the apartment's lobby held in spades.

Once inside the apartment, we are offered a study in contrast: A portrait of the artist as an alcoholic, if you will. The Martha Stewart brand drapes show a feminine side, while the empties left laying on the kitchen counters offer a more realistic image of mid-30s, loser security guard. After a few drinks, it's time for some radio! But wouldn't you know, his 1950s radio chooses this very day to stop functioning. Desperate to know the Top 8 and 8, our intrepid hero seeks out the aid of three babbling indigents who seem to run some sort of street corner pawn shop. Intense negotiations follow, which is no small feat, as the tradesmen speak a dialect of English infused with the language of the howler monkey. They agree on $10 for a fancy 1970s transistor model, despite the fact that Walgreens could offer similar prices for a new radio; but this is of little concern to the security guard who tosses a dollar bill at the three indigents and walks off with the radio, leaving the salesmen to reenact the opening scene of "2001: A Space Odyssey".

He takes the ill-gotten gains back home only a few decades late to hear anything interesting on the radio. But, contrary to fine reputation of street side, hobo-run pawn shops, this radio does not work. He's about to throw the device out the window, when the device glows "Tommyknockers" green and emits woman's voice commanding him not to. Like most mid-30s schlubs with a job that pays just enough to live slightly better than his neighbors, but not enough to buy a TV, he does pretty much everything talk radio tells him and keeps the radio.

The radio continues to command him, now addressing him by name, telling him to clean his apartment, dry himself with a towel after showering and not use too much mayonnaise on his sandwich. Soon, the radio is giving him, believe it or not, financial advice (stirring horror, I know), encouraging him to purchase tech stocks and "always diversify". It's like the John Tesh show with sexual overtones.

Throughout all this, of course, the security guard reacts completely nonchalant, School Granny would be proud, as he reacts as if this sort of thing happens all the time, which if you drink as much as he did, might just be the case. Maybe this is why he owns a radio and not a TV, I mean thinking a radio is talking to you is one thing, but having Barney Rubbel talking to you while showing you his cock crosses a line.

A note to potential horror directors, conveying emotions to the audience is important. So perhaps when something creepy happens like, ooh, I don't know, a radio fucking speaking to you by name, you help the audience feel the fear by having the actor express an emotion different from that of picking broccoli from his teeth. But lets face it, chugly fud would do pretty much anything a woman tells him. It's a very Freudian flick, kind of like "My Mother, The Radio."

At this point, we, the audience, can only assume that the impending horror the radio is setting him up for is the burst of the tech bubble, risking the lucrative retirement that part-time security guarding affords one. But this fear is alleviated when the radio reveals her ultimate plan for financial success: the pimp next door keeps $500,000 in a cigar box in the attic of the abandoned building next door. Sound stupid? Not half as stupid as watching the security guard complain about how a fire escape ladder look unsafe, only to willingly climb it after the radio calls him a puss. Or the radio commanding him to kill squirrels on sight (a command which, fortunately, is no more a command than an aborted plot point, and is never addressed again).

Well he finds the money and now he's set for a future of tech stocks and bonds, right? Hell, he's got the kind of money where he could buy a bossy BetaMax. From there, a WebTV wife is the next logical step. But the radio has other plans: Now it's time to start killing anyone who looks at him. But, you know, murder has this strange way of drawing the attention of the police. In this case, however, a sorry attempt to tie vignettes together brings Deputy Dumbass from the first story back into the picture, and, being a clueless motherfucker, the murders remain unsolved. Maybe by the fourth or fifth vignettes, he'll be able to track down a fucking clue.

So money in hand and murders remaining woefully unsolved, it's time to hit the road. But the security guard stops listening to the radio just long enough to allow the scary looking prostitute from his building to run away with him, final proof that any woman can tell him to do anything. So where do a fugly chud, a chugly fud and their talking radio go to hide? Apparently not very far, as the prostitute has to make, requiring a stop in the middle of nowhere. But it's the final stop as the slow as molasses plot suddenly accelerates to ridiculous speed: The radio commands the security guard to kill the prostitute, but seeing a slightly higher likelihood of loosing his virginity to the hooker than to the radio, security man takes a tire iron to his radio/stockbroker. Meanwhile, the prostitute retrieves a gun from the car and shoots the security guard in an attempt to steal his money. But this is thwarted by the pimp, who shoots the prostitute, and rides off into the sunset with the two most valuable items he could find: a box containing $500,000 in cash, and his fly boombox that is now telling him to diversify.

Elvis Costello said it best: "Radio is a sad salvation".

Well that should haunt your dreams for now. And if that doesn't, try this on for size: Parts III, IV and Jesus Christ, V are coming tomorrow.

*I question the role of protagonist, as no one in this film really seems a hero any more than a person the camera simply chooses to follow.

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