Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Review of Creepshow III (a.k.a. Creepshow 3)

Back in July, when I finally finished writing my epic post wherein I ranked all the King movies from worst to best, the whole endeavor was thrown ever-so-slightly out of whack because of the simple fact that I'd never gotten around to watching Creepshow III.  So, naturally, I invented a time-traveling policeman from the future and claimed that my failure to watch this particular film -- despite having seen other non-King "King movies" like The Mangler Reborn and Children of the Corn 96: The Syruping and the like -- was almost certainly due to her chrono-intervention.  I now replicate those comments for your intellectual betterment:

DISCLAIMER:  I have never actually seen this movie.  So is it fair for me to put it at the absolute bottom of the list?  Well, no.  However, since I've seen every other piece of shit fauxquel and ripoff "based" on King's work, I assume that there can only be one reason why I keep forgetting to watch this one:

Obviously, I am receiving subliminal messages from Captain Tansy Valanjean, a rogue time agent in the year 4976 who has determined that the point in time when everything went wrong (and the events which
brought will bring about The Dark Age 2.0 were set in motion) is inextricably related to my having viewed a film called Creepshow III.  Defying her superior officers and the orders of the Chrono-Court, she has decided to try and save the future.

So, like, that means this has GOT to deserve to be at the bottom of the list.  Seriously, do you think Captain Valanjean would risk her neck with the C.C. if it wasn't important?

Yeah, me neither.

Of course, what she doesn't know is that I'm going to watch it anyways, sooner or later.  Let the future fend for itself; I've got to see it so that I know how bad this movie is.

It's debatable as to whether it ought to be included on the list at all, not because I've never seen it -- other than a rogue time agent from the year 4976, nobody (including me) gives a shit about THAT -- but because it has nothing to do with Stephen King's work, and is therefore not actually a Stephen King movie.  I won't argue that that isn't the case, because it demonstrably is.  So: why include it?

The short answer is this: because I feel like it.  The longer answer is this: because I feel like it, and also because while it might not have anything at all to do with Stephen King's work, it is a legally sanctioned continuation of a film series begun by King.  If nothing else, it -- and the various other similar fauxquels and ripoffs which will fill out most of this list's nether reaches -- will give me something to snark at.
 
Ridiculous, I know; but I am a simple sort, and really, that's about all it takes to amuse me.

And today, I stand before you (digitally) with the following declaration: be damned to ye, Captain Tansy Valanjean!  Let the future fall, yea, verily for I now have seeneth the piece of moose fece that is Creepshow III (or, as it is alternatively spelled in the end credits for reasons that escape me, Creepshow 3)!  Balls to you, Tansy!  Balls, I say!

Joke's on me, though, 'cause in order for this to be the case, I had to actually watch the fucking thing.




And if you think I'm not going to share that misery with you, think again, my friend!  I've just consigned the future to some sort of obscure death, so I see no need to spare you.


Let's start by re-emphasizing something vital: this movie was in no way based on anything written by Stephen King.  No sir, this is prime SKINO (Stephen King In Name Only) right here.  It was the product of what I can only assume to be some sort of legal woes experienced by George A. Romero at some point during the last decade.  That is pure speculation on my part, and may not represent the truth in any way, so don't take it as anything other than that.

I have not researched the matter to any meaningful degree; my research consisted of typing a few keywords into Google and then seeing what it turned up; I clicked to roughly page 10, though, which may as well be sailing to the end of the world as far as most Google searches are concerned.  I didn't turn up a heck of a lot.  Keep that in mind.

However, let's deal with the facts we have at hand.  

  1. The movie was produced by Taurus Entertainment Company, which has been producing and distributing low-rent horror exploitation films since 1987.  They specialize in movies like Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go to College.
  2. In 2005, they were able to produce and release Day of the Dead 2: Contagium, a purported sequel to George A. Romero's Day of the Dead.  If the plot summary I just read on IMDb is to be believed (and if we can assign any import to the use of the word "contagium" in the title, as opposed to "contagion"), it sounds as if the filmmakers actually intended the movie not as a sequel, but -- and this is so ballsy it almost makes you appreciate the whole endeavor -- as a prequel to, and explanation for the events of, the original Night of the Living Dead!  Bearing that in mind, there is simply no way this movie gets made or (especially) released unless the filmmakers had the rights to do it, and where could they have gotten them except from Romero himself?  Might've been indirect, but the genesis of those rights HAD to be Romero.  (By the way, Taurus was also the company behind the 2008 "remake" of Day of the Dead, which attracted actual filmmakers and actors to it, instead of near-amateurs as is more typical of Taurus films.)
  3. Combine this knowledge with the knowledge that they could not have released something billed as Creepshow III -- or Creepshow 3, even -- without the legal right to do so.  Since we know they already possessed the rights to one Romero property, it stands to reason that their rights to the Creepshow brand must have come from the same place.

The leap, of course, is assuming financial distress on Romero's part, but how else can a transaction like the sale of Day of the Dead and Creepshow to a company like Taurus be explained?  I am tempted to assume that this must have been part of Romero's efforts to finance Land of the Dead, his long-awaited fourth film in the Dead series, which (coincidentally or not) was also released in 2005, a few months before Taurus released Day of the Dead 2: Contagium.

[UPDATE:  I still haven't learned anything concrete, but the thought did finally occur to me that whereas Stephen King and George Romero are the most prominent people associated with Creepshow, they are by no means the only people who could have controlled the rights to the movie, and therefore have been able to sell them away at some point.  This could also have comer producer Richard P. Rubinstein, whom, it is worth noting, also produced the original Day of the Dead.  Salah M. Hassanein was an executive producer on both; perhaps he played some role as well.]

I'm sure it's something that is simultaneously more complicated and less interesting than that, but it's difficult for me to not speculate.  It's like walking down the street and seeing a bum wearing a fur coat: you know there's a story, and you assume it must involve distress of some sort, but it's also just as likely that he found it at the landfill.

And if the Hollywood film-rights landfill is where Taurus picked up the legal ability to produce a Creepshow film, then the Hollywood landfill is where the whole thing ended up quality-wise, too.  There is nothing good in this movie.  There are things in this movie that manage to not suck as much as the rest of the movie sucks, but that is the best thing I will say for it.  Example: the structure is moderately intriguing, in that the various stories connect to one another.  They don't connect in ingenious or interesting ways; instead, it is clear that the writers simply saw Pulp Fiction or some similar movie, and said to themselves, "Huh, that's cool," and then tried to replicate the technique.  I will give them credit for being able to spot something cool when they see it.  Not every film viewer has that ability.  However, these did nothing notable with the idea.  It's like a money recognizing that a hammer is a tool and then smacking something with it; give him credit for the mental leap involved in recognizing a tool for what it is, but no credit for the wielding of the tool itself.

Good lord.  I don't have the energy for this tonight.  Watching the movie took my energy away.  In a rare peek into the making of the sausage here at the Truth Inside The Lie studios, I shall now reveal that I'm going to bugger off and find something more enriching to do.  I'll pick the review up again tomorrow -- or maybe the next day -- and give you a plot summary, some choice screencaps (which I still have to go harvest, hence, perhaps, my reluctance to continue this tonight), and more witty observations.

*****

Annnnnnnnnnd we're back.  I've refreshed my palate by watching new episodes of Boardwalk Empire and Homeland, both of which were freakin' awesome.  Great shows.  GREAT shows, which is why I am disinclined to give mediocre shows like Haven a pass; they don't deserve one in an era where television can produce a scene like the one between Claire Danes and Damien "Dreamcatcher" Lewis that was in the episode of Homeland I just watched.  Nope, not in this life, folks.  You want that, go find another blog where they look more kindly on bullshit.

Speaking of bullshit, let's get back to shoveling some of it.  Creepshow III is bullshit through and through, and yet I have no doubt that out there, there are people who are more than willing to cut it some slack.  For example, I got online after finishing it and posted in one of the several Stephen King groups I'm a member of on Facebook.  I didn't expect someone to disagree with my opinion on it quite so quickly:




Apologies for the crude redactions; I'm not terribly skilled with Paint, sadly.

See what I mean, though?  No matter how shitty a piece of shit is, somebody out there likes it.  There are probably people who love it, even, but so far I've not stumbled across any of them.  They are out there, though; I've got no doubt of it.

We were all raised on the belief that there is no such thing as a wrong opinion.  That, in and of itself, is a wrong opinion.  Truth is not subjective; truth merely is.  And the truth is that some movies are demonstrably inferior to others; some are demonstrably inferior to MANY others, and Creepshow III is one of those.  There is simply no argument to be made that it is good; the only metric that could be used in order to produce that sort of a measurement would be a metric that did not actually function, and therefore produced false data.

Put another way, if you think Creepshow III is a good movie, you are wrong.  You don't know what the phrase "good movie" actually means.  You are, in terms of your taste in movies, like one of those people who has the eating disorder referred to as pica, which produces in people a desire to eat things that aren't actually food, such as sofa cushions, or sand, or pencils, or chalk.  I am not making this up; it is an actual condition, and to the people who suffer from it, it must seem perfectly reasonable to want to have a nice dinner of galoshes and battery acid.

Those people are to be pitied and helped, and not necessarily in that order; they are fucking crazy.

Similarly, if you think something like Creepshow III -- or The Mangler Reborn, for another example from the Stephen King world -- is a good movie, then you simply cannot be trusted.  Not as far as opinions on movies go.

Now, before I wind myself up like a top and go spinning off into an anti-Mick Garris rant -- which would be truly misplaced here -- let me settle myself down for a moment.  Calmness; happiness; "Clair de Lune" and Jessica Chastain and ginger ale and nine hours of sleep.  Ahhh...

Okay, better now.




Back to Creepshow III.

This movie was directed by the tag-team "directing" duo of James Dudelson and Ana Clavell, who should be allowed to direct movies in the way that a pederast should be allowed to work at a Toys 'R' Us: not for even one second.  I suppose Dudelson and Calvell represent the American dream in some way, in that even the talentless can occasionally achieve -- through hard work, or possibly blackmail, or a crossroads bargain with the devil -- their dreams of making movies.  I believe in America; however, I also believe that some dreams -- such as Charles Manson's various dreams -- ought to go unrealized, and if one encounters dreamers of that nature in the process of fulfilling their dreams, perhaps one would not be wrong to try and prevent it in some way.




I heard some of Charlie's music once.  Hell, The Beach Boys recorded one of his songs; so did Guns 'N Roses.  He's not a particularly good songwriter, but he's twice as good a songwriter as Dudelson and Clavell are filmmakers.  Minimum.  And for better or for worse -- (hint: it was for worse) -- Charlie seems to have been able at least to attract interesting people to work with him.  What can Dudelson and Clavell claim?  Elwood Carlisle.

At least Manson had some style.  I'd never suggest that he ought to be released so as to continue his maleficent work ... so why should I be satisfied that Dudelson and Clavell have been permitted to continue theirs?

Ah, jeez, it's just depressing.

Anyways, let's end this shit-show with a "plot" summary.

The film begins with an opening credits sequence that whips and pans around that illustration which adorns the DVD box pictured above.  Is this supposed to simulate animation in some way?  Was there simply no better idea for a title sequence, yet some vaguely-formed idea that a mere white-letters-on-black-background sequence would be insufficient?  Whatever the genesis, the result is annoying and off-putting and wholly unsuccessful.

We then transition to a brief animated sequence in which a kid kills a dog, which he later uses as stock for his burgeoning hot-dog business.  Get it?  The hot dogs are made out of real dogs!  This is all depicted via some of the crudest animation I have ever seen.  Computer animation of some sort, and it is so crude that it makes Aqua Teen Hunger Force look like Fantasia.



 
Appalling.  I assume that the animation is designed to link this movie to the other movies, both of which featured brief animated sequences.

We cut next to the first segment, "Alice," in which a petulant schoolgirl -- who is played by Stephanie Pettee, an actor who has a mere two credits to her resume and who seems to have left the business (can't imagine why...) -- comes home fro school.  She's on her phone, complaining to a friend about how much she hates her neighborhood; then, she gets home and finds her family sitting around being annoying.  Her brother -- who looks about 37 (no joke) but seems to be playing a grade-schooler -- is sitting in the floor playing a video game; her father is dinking about with a new universal remote he bought from a street vendor.  Meanwhile, her grandmother complains about how skinny Alice is.  "She's too skinny," says grandma, who is supposedly the dean at a college, "she'll never get a husband; she has ... no ... ass."  Hilarity from the brother ensues.  "What is so funny about not having an ass?!?" grandma asks incredulously.




By this time, Alice's father has figured out how to use the remote.  He uses it, and the entire family disappears, except Alice, who walks outside to see if she can figure out what's going on.  She can't.  She walks back and finds that her family is now composed of black people.  Her dad was messing with the color controls; did I forget to mention that?  Well, he was.  Next, he fiddles with the language controls, and everyone turns Mexican.

Alice, who in the meantime has inexplicably been developing sores all over her body (and seemingly is unaware of them), panics and ends up in the home of the Professor, a nearby neighbor.  She eats the top of the Professor's wedding cake, and gets interrupted by the mailman.  Uh ... okay.

Eventually, Alice ends up normal again, only for her father to make one last click of the remote, and Alice turns into a monster.  Alice's family is understandably distressed, although whether they are upset more by their dear Alice being a monster, or by the shoddy makeup, I cannot say.


Nice job grabbing your grandma's boob there, Junior...


 
The Professor shows up and tells her that this is what she's like on the inside.  I guess this is supposed to be, like, a moral or something, but Alice hasn't really done anything to indicate she is a monster; she seems pretty normal to me, especially given the shitty neighborhood she lives in, which looks rather like the Universal backlot.

The Professor turns Alice into a rabbit, which also seems to make everyone forget that she ever existed.  End segment one.

Segment two: "The Radio."  Jerry, a security guard of some sort, gets home from a hard day's work.  He lives in an apartment building on a street that looks suspiciously like another area of the Universal backlot.  I'm starting to think this movie might have been filmed at Universal, where the standards have fallen quite badly.

Jerry is accosted by a resident pimp, who also accosts a hooker he spies exiting the building.  She's not one of his, and Leon the pimp wants to know if she has a permit to work in his building.  Presumably she doesn't, but we never find out for sure.

Anyways, Jerry goes to his apartment and relaxes, and tries to listen to his radio, except it's broken, so he can't.  He hits the street, and finds a street vendor -- which is apparently code for "drunk homeless bum" -- selling a couple.  One is $5 and has an antenna; the other has no antenna, and is $10.  The reason for the price discrepancy is that the cheaper one is the smaller of the two.  Makes sense, I guess.  The bum is played by the aforementioned Elwood Carlisle, who is easily one of the most grating on-screen personalities I have ever encountered.  My assumption was that he must have been somebody's Alzheimer's-ridden uncle, or perhaps a real bum who Dudelson and Clavell kidnapped and parked on set for several days.  Instead, he seems to have been some sort of novelty "actor," who began his "career" in his seventies and achieved a tiny measure of fame, presumably thanks to how terrible he is and how genuinely insane he seems.  He was notable enough, though, that he appeared on The Tonight Show and was interviewed by Jay Leno, which is something, I guess.  It's more than I've ever managed, that's for sure.

Carlisle sucks, though.  He shouts "YAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!" a lot, which is either a quirk of his, or perhaps a gambit on the part of Dudelson and Clavell to give this film an annoying catchphrase to measure up with the oft-repeated "Hey, lady!  Thanks for the ride!" from Creepshow 2.  How else to explain it?




In the behind-the-scenes documentary, you get some amazing shots -- and I mean that sincerely -- of Clavell trying to get Carlisle to understand a line of dialogue: "Those things'll kill you!"  He doesn't quite get it, and Dudelson has to step in to save the day.  Elsewhere, when asked if he has seen the other Creepshows, he thinks the interviewer says "peepshows."



 
This man is a wreck of humanity.  Why he was permitted to be in movies, even low-rent exploitation garbage like this, is a mystery to me.  He's like that one dude on American Idol who was so awful that he actually got a hit single out of the deal.  Remember that guy?  What's was that guy's name?  Beats me, and thankfully, I don't actually care.  You shouldn't, either; nor should you care about Elwood Carlisle, who sucked, and will keep on sucking as long as movies like this one remain viewable.




Anyways, back to our story.  Jerry buys the $5 radio, which soon begins speaking to him and telling him to do things.  And by "things," I mean counseling him to put less mayonnaise on his sandwich, on account of how it makes his stomach hurt if he puts too much.  Thanks, radio!




Later, as Jerry is -- presumably -- standing outside his job, guarding whatever it is he's guarding, the radio recommends that he diversify.  In the investment sense.  Let's pause, though, for a moment, and ask ourselves what kind of business this is that Jerry is guarding:

This looks a lot like the top of a parking tower to me.  At Universal's backlot, perhaps?  It sure as hell don't look like no kind of business, or an office, or anything else.  However, the street number is 4250, which is the street number of my own job, and that gives me the creeps.  This was far and away the scariest moment of the movie for me.




Back to the story: a douche drives up, parks in a handicap spot, gets out and can be overheard pitching a reality television show in which home invasions are staged and families have the crap beaten out of them, unknowing that it's all a put-on.  Is that meant to be satire?  Sorry, guys, but it don't float; even reality television isn't as morally bankrupt as barrel-bottom productions like Creepshow III and Day of the Dead 2: Contagium, so that's a swing and a miss.  Did I mention that the douche is played by director James Dudelson?


one part vinegar, one part water


Excellent casting!

The radio later tells Jerry where to find a box full of money, so he goes and takes it, but as he's returning home a junkie who lives in the same building spots him with it.  The junkie tries to break into his apartment and steal it, so Jerry kills him, and then kills the junkie's junkie girlfriend.  Later, he is questions by a detective, who turns out to be Alice's father from the first segment!  How cool is that?!?  Wow, crossovers are awesome!

Jerry is approached by Eva, the incredibly skanky hooker, who wants to leave town with him on account of how she's afraid her pimp is going to kill her; he thinks she stole his money.


Bryant will give you $25; not a penny more.  Don't try to kiss him, either.


Jerry, who has seemed repulsed by Eva so far, inexplicably agrees to let her come with him.  His radio can't believe it either; it tells him Eva is going to just kill him the first chance she gets, so Jerry smashes the radio to bits.  Sensible.  Eva kills Jerry the first chance she gets.  (This happens at some place where Jerry has pulled over to let Eva pee.  I have no idea what sort of place this is supposed to be; again, it looks suspiciously like the Universal backlot.)




But, surprise!  Eva herself is then killed, by Leon, who has been following her all this time.  Turns out that Leon bought the $10 radio, which has been telling him what to do.  It wants him to diversify.  Would you believe me if I told you that it speaks to him in the same voice Jerry was hearing, except in ghetto dialect?  Believe it, 'cause it's true.  "Don't even fuck with commodities!" the radio cautions Leon, who seems convinced.




Wow.

Segment three: "Call Girl."

Remember that rogue hoe that Leon had to accost earlier?  Well, turns out this segment is about her!  Holy moly, this movie is like Pulp Fiction or something, the way it all fits together!  (*eyeroll*)

Turns out her name is Rachael, and she's not just a call girl, oh no, she's a serial killer, too!  She gets a call from a lonely guy, goes over to his house (which is in the same neighborhood where poor Alice hated living), and kills him.  Except it turns out he's a vampire, so he actually kills her!




Wawh-wawh!

Segment four: "The Professor's Wife."  In which a couple of former students go to visit the Professor.  We first see him at his job at the college.



 
He's accosted by the Dean, who has stopped worrying about her granddaughter Alice's skinny ass and is instead worrying about when, exactly, the Professor's work is going to be done.  Seems the University has been sinking money into his program for twenty years and has no idea what it is he's actually working on.  Which seems plausible, really; there's a lot of need for increased oversight in university science programs.

Anyways, the students show up and are greeted by the news that the Professor is getting married.  He introduces his bride-to-be, then leaves to run an errand.  The woman seems a bit off, and way too perfect, so the students remember that the Professor once said that if he could build the perfect woman, she'd have an on/off switch.  They also recall that he used to play practical jokes on them all the time, and we are gifted with flashbacks to some of those jokes; these are surely among the most inept sequences ever put to film, and frankly, I don't want to talk about them any more than that.




The students put two and two together: the Professor has built a robot wife, and is now punking them.  So they do what any sensible people would do: they kill the "robot" and dismember her piece by piece, looking for the circuitry.  When one of them finds a conveniently-placed scrapbook and see that she was a mail-order bride form Moscow, they realize they're killed a human.  Wawh-wawh!  The blood and intestines didn't give it away; the scrapbook did.  Yeesh.




Soon, the Professor gets home, and a hiLARious sequence ensues: the students feverishly rush to hide all the body parts in various nooks and crannies -- the head in the oven, the torso in the refrigerator, and so forth -- while the Professor stands in one spot and hollers "John!  Charles!  Kathy!" over and over.  The style of the editing, the performance, and especially the musical score (which is abysmal) indicate the everyone involved in this obviously felt that they were were making the funniest thing anyone had seen since Annie Hall.




Let's pause for just a moment to consider actor Emmet McGuire, who plays the Professor.  McGuire is seemingly an amateur actor who has very few roles to his credit.  He sucks, which is par for the course in this movie; let's devote no further energy to thinking about that.  Instead, let's ponder a claim he makes while being interviewed for the behind-the-scenes documentary.

Asked if he has seen the other Creepshows, he says yes, and then expounds: "I have to say, in spite of the fact that the first one was written by Stephen King and the second one was written by George Romero, I think the third one, ours, is the best-written of the three."  He says this on camera, and seems sincere.  I honestly don't even know where to begin in terms of rebutting that; my snark has failed me.  I'll settle for merely posting a screencap of the excellent typo in the graphic that come onscreen moments later, which is a more succinct and effective indictment of these hacks than any I could manage:


Not 'shopped; actual screencap.

How glorious is that?

Final segment: "Haunted Dog."  In which an obnoxious doctor inadvertently causes a homeless man to choke to death on a rancid hot dog.  (Presumably from the same vendor as in the opening animated sequence, but really, who gives a shit?)  He then browbeats patients at the free clinic where he works (seemingly serving out some court order), in a style that suggests somebody involved with this had been watching a lot of House but incorrectly thought they could make it meaner and funnier.  The doctor is haunted by the ghost of the hot dog man, and later dies, either out of fear or from the incredible number of pills he has popped during the segment.




A final vignette in which we see that the Professor has somehow resurrected his bride -- possibly via voodoo, since he is seen asking Elwood Carlisle for a voodoo book earlier -- and they have gotten married.  She's falling to pieces, though, so you don't get the sense that things are going to go well from this point.




Cut to the hot dog vendor, who looks a little bit like a gypsy.  His face dissolves in the worst CGI you've seen since The Langoliers.  Possibly worse even than that.




Then, mercifully, it is all over.

As is this post, nearly.  I'm at something like 4800 words, which seems like a hell of a lot to have written about a piece of shit like Creepshow III.  At some point, I'd like to write a book about what movies like this one means to the King canon; what does it say that that movies like this one exist in the first place?  I don't think it says anything good, but for the most part, King is blameless, at least in the direct sense of things; he's the one being exploited, and if there's anything to be thankful for in the deal, it's that his name isn't used on Creepshow III anywhere.

Still, movies like this show up every two or three years, and they sucker suckers like me into buying them.  In my case, it's not out of a sense that they'll be good (I know better), but out of a desire for completion.  I tell myself that it's so I'll have them close at hand when the day arrives for me to write something about them, and hey, whattaya know?!?  In this case, that day finally arrived.

I had no fun watching the movie, but I had a lot of fun writing about how little fun I had watching it, so I guess that counts for something, right?

Finally, as for James Dudelson and Ana Clavell, I'd like to briefly address them personally, and I think Johnny Cash said it best:


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