Written by Barry J. Gillis and Andrew Jordan
Directed by Andrew Jordan
Run Time: 83 minutes
25 Words or Less:
You’ll never be the same after "Things". Canada’s first direct-to-video horror movie!
"I’ve lived with the dead in New York City, but this is ridiculous!"
|Don Drake (Barry J. Gillis)
Don, played by director Barry Gillis himself, guzzles beer like a champ while trying to survive a house infested with “Things”. Is there enough booze to survive? Will Don find a way out of this nightmare? Read on and find out!
|Doug Drake (Doug Bunston)
After entering a Faustian deal with Dr. Lucas to help his wife conceive a child, Doug accidentally brings forth a horde of, well, “Things” that wreak havok for the weekend.
|Fred Horten (Bruce Roach)
Fred drinks a bunch of beer, disappears into the “fifth dimension”, then magically reappears with a chainsaw to wreak bloody revenge on the “Things”…but is it enough to save them?
|Dr. Lucas (Jan Pachul)
His experimental fertilization methods create horrible rubber monsters that eat everything in sight…will he escape or will he fall prey to his own demonic creations?
|Reporter (Amber Lynn)
Amber Lynn (yes, that Amber Lynn…kids, ask your father) plays a reporter that pops in and out of the movie with semi-random news “updates” that sometimes actually have something to do with the plot.
Before we jump into this fantastically bizarre film, I want to give you a little background as to how it ended up on this site in the first place. You see, a long time ago when I lived in Minneapolis, and being a somewhat introverted nerd, I spent most of my time watching movies…bad movies. And in the case of "Things": we’re talking really, really bad movies. Actually, calling this movie "bad" necessitates some sort of scale with "Good" and "Bad" at each extreme with which a movie can be compared and judged. "Things" can’t be measured in any meaningful way. It simply, maybe existentially, is what it is: "Things".
Like I was saying, countless Friday and Saturday nights were spent watching crappy movies with my father (and eating nachos…num num). Fortunately for us, (and equally unfortunately for whatever dim hopes of a social life I had), my father lived within walking distance of the local drug store which one happy day started renting videos. Yes, videos…not DVD’s. You remember those, don’t you? As the weeks went by, people would return the videos to the store and the under-paid clerks, consisting of stoned high-school students, would haphazardly toss the returned movies onto any random shelf without any regard for categorization.
Alas, after 2 weeks of general rental churn, lazy shelving by the employees, and an overall state of malaise in the video department, any hopes that we could find any given movie where it was supposed to be rapidly faded to nil. In fact, the store management seemed to reach the same conclusion and rid themselves of the shelves and category signs altogether. In a bout of hopeless resignation, the video department adopted a new categorization scheme: simply toss all movies into 2 gigantic metal bins and let the strong survive.
This lack of any type of sorting system whatsoever resulted in the popular movies bubbling their way up to the top of the bins and the less popular fare drifting downwards through the heap to linger in obscurity. Ironically, this lack of organization actually worked in our favor because, naturally, my father and I were out specifically to rent the worst movies, so finding them was a simple matter of digging digging digging past the popular movies and into the dark moldering regions at the bottom where the hidden jewels lay in silence waiting to be discovered.
We quickly found that physically digging through hundreds of video tapes is easier said than done. But, as necessity is the mother of invention, we quickly evolved a system for holding back the piles of mediocre movies like Moses holding back the Red Sea. We also learned that a few minutes of digging would yield prizes along the lines of Pod People, Seed People, C.H.U.D., Leprechauns in Space, and so on, but if we persevered and dug further, then the true rewards could be achieved.
Yes, one fateful evening after feverishly digging deeper than I’d ever had before, I stuck my arm into the quagmire of plastic covers and pulled forth a tattered box labeled "Things". It seemed promising enough, we paid our $1 (yes…one dollar rentals) and home we went.
With the nachos laying smoldering on our plates, I eagerly pushed the tape into the VCR, clicked the Play button and….neither one of us managed to say a single word during the first 15 minutes We were dumbstruck, mesmerized, stunned. What the hell IS this???!!! we thought simultaneously as we looked into each other’s blank face.
Well, we finished the movie, returned it the next day, and watched as the clerk carelessly tossed it back into the movie bin…I swear, I can almost remember "Things" mysteriously sinking to the bottom before my very eyes…it was an evil movie: mankind was not ready for it.
A few weeks later we wanted to show "Things" to some friends of ours in the spirit of "You have to see it to believe it". However, much to our dismay, we could NOT find "Things" no matter how deeply we dug in the movie bins. We even asked the manager to look it up on the computer and, I kid you not!, they couldn’t find it on the computer. It’s as if it never existed. In fact, I gave up on ever finding it again. I’m really not making this up.It was weird…did "Things" return to the underworld from which it came?
Thinking back, sure the (cough) manager probably just banged a couple of random keys on the computer before telling me "nope…can’t find it". Customer service was never a high priority over there…but it’s a funny story and it adds to the legend behind our first time watching it.
Anyway, fast forward 25+ years to a boring night in front of YouTube digging around old movie trailers when one of them caught my eye…"Wait a minute…it can’t be…can it?!" I thought to myself as memories flooded back. It WAS "Things" from way back when, so the movie did exist, and now I even have the director’s name to boot. Unfortunately for me, a movie like this isn’t mass marketed upon its release (for obvious reasons), so my efforts to obtain a copy led nowhere. Drat.
Enter long-time Monster Shack member Guts3D, who managed to scrounge this movie up on eBay….and even sent me a copy! I don’t know how you did it, but: Huzzah, my good man! My journey is complete.
Now, on to the review.
I want to point out that the acton in this movie has 2 speeds: Either nothing is happening at all or it’s full-blown chaos. During the slow bits, I’ll sometimes simply jot down the on-screen "action" in bullet form rather than try and interpret what’s happening…there just isn’t enough material to work with…it can be quite a slog to get through it.
I will also note that old-school porn actress Amber Lynn provides "news flashes" from time to time…I guess in an misguided effort to give the film some sort of "realism". You can judge for yourself. (She rarely looks at the camera as she reads the headlines, and appears rather unsure as to just what the hell she’s doing there in the first place. To be sure, it is truly a bizarre casting decision…and how in the world did Gillis convince her to appear in the film?)
Furthermore, the film’s entire dialog is dubbed in post-production (the master audio was destroyed in an accident), so the quality of syncronization between lips and dialog varies wildly from scene to scene. After a while you grow accustomed to the mess and just roll with it. For all you Zen practitioners out there, just bend like a bamboo tree, don’t try to stand firm like an oak: "Things" will mow you down. I suppose I gave up trying to make sense of this story after about 2 minutes (I’m not joking!) and decided to curl my brain up into the fetal position and let "Things" wash over me in all of its madness.
The movie starts with a neck-wrenching cut to a shabby basement lit by a single bare bulb. (Establishing shots? We don’t need no stinking establishing shots!) A woman, wearing a devil’s mask of all things, strips down while a middle-aged guy named Doug repeats over and over, "I want you to have my baby…I want you to have my baby. " (According to the commentary, this woman was a prostitute director Barry Gillis talked into stripping for the movie free of charge.)
At this point, I’m 50 seconds in to the movie and I already have no idea what the hell is going on. To the movie’s credit however, I confess that this opening scene does grab one’s attention.
After taking off all of her clothes, but still masked in her plastic devil mask, the still unidentified woman reaches into the shower stall and retrieves a cradle. "I’ve already had your baby," she says as a green claw bursts forth from the blankets…The Horror!
I want you to have my baby!
Oh, wait a minute.
Doug wakes up on the sofa: it was a nightmare dream sequence. It’s never too early to include one of those in a movie, eh? After waking up and stumbling into the kitchen, Doug brings a couple of pills to his pregnant wife Susan, who writhes in pain on the bed. "Thanks," she says in a flat, wooden voice, "I feel like I’m going to die." Now, that was convincing.
Cue opening credits, overlaid on top of a driving sequence. Joy. After the credits, we see Don (Doug’s younger brother) and his buddy Fred, being dropped off at Doug’s house for a visit.
Whoa! I think I snapped my neck with this cut to Amber Lynn!
“Hi and welcome to TV9 News. I’m Amber Lynn. We’re your hosts for today’s broadcast following top news stories of the day. We will speak briefly with the leader of the Soviet Union concerning topics of the George Bush administration and the threat of nuclear war. In Manhattan, an oil slick caused a truck to crash into a hydro-pole (?) today. Inside sources say the residents of the upper East side may be without electricity for up to 3 hours.”
Wow, these New Flash jump cuts are brutal!
Well, ok, back with Don and Fred. After walking for hours (it’s now pitch dark out!) Don and Fred reach Doug’s house in the (cough) Grizzly Flats, California. (Even though the film was made in Canada, they wanted to have the action take place in an American town in order to appeal to a larger market.) Standing on the front porch, they start pounding on the door: Doug doesn’t answer. Undeterred, Don and Fred let themselves inside and after a brief unsuccessful search for Doug, they stroll into the kitchen and start looking for beers. In the freezer (!?), Don finds a tape recorder and a spooky looking book: "Horror of a Thousand Brutal Cuts".
Things commonly found in a freezer
Don pushes the play button on the tape recorder while he browses through the mysterious tome. (Which he now says was written by Aleister Crowley…huh?!)
The tape is a recording of demonic voices and weird groans. Fred laughs.
"How’d that movie start that you always talk about..you know…that weird one with all those…weird things?" Don asks in an obvious tip-o’-the-hat to "Evil Dead".
More beer drinking…Don removes his coat and puts it into the freezer (?!)…is that a Canadian thing or something? Whatever.
With no warning Doug bursts into the kitchen in a fit of rage and angrily snatches the recorder out of Don’s hands. Barking at Don and Fred to keep the noise down because of Susan, Doug exits the scene as abruptly as he entered.
OK, more sitting around:
- Don sits at the table and drinks beer while Fred looks through the cabinets.
- "Just looking for a cockroach snack," Fred jests. Ho ho.
- "This place is a joke," Don sneers as Fred plays with a plastic fish hanging on the wall.
- After drinking more beer, they decide to turn on the TV and watch snuff films on the the underground Texas cable stations.
Cut to Amber:
“A medical discovery by the world renowned Dr. Lucas, of Grizzly Flats. Scientists and surgeons alike are very excited. Dr. Lucas has discovered that if the human brain is exposed to ultra-violet light, a human’s life span will double. Scientists all over the world are very happy with the discovery, and if…”
And if? And if…what??
Oh well, cutting off Amber in mid-sentence we join the Texas torture show in progress: A man and a woman torturing a bloody guy bound to a chair. (For those of you interested in such things, the male torturer is played by the same actor who portrays Dr. Lucas later in the film. Go figure.) This scene is silly and bloody, but, sheesh, it’s awfully vicious…what itch was the director trying to scratch by adding all this into the story? Well, after tearing out his tongue, cutting off his hand with a paper cutter (!), pulling out his eyes, and finally decapitating him, the "show" ends and we rejoin the main story. That was, uh, interesting.
Let me share this scintillating scene with you…no, really. I insist:
- "This place is boring," Fred complains before spotting the original Salvador Dali "Devil’s Daughter" painting on the wall. "How’d Doug get ahold of if?" he muses.
- Fred turns on a light while Don drinks beer.
- Don continues drinking as Fred lights a match and burns his finger.
- "That particular painting, if I’m not mistaken, was given to him from the Queen of England," Don comments between gulps of beer.
- Don gets more beer, turns on the TV and watches "Ground-Hogs Day Massacre" with Fred. ("This beer tastes like cow shit!", Don complains)
- Don waters his beer down with tap water…"That’s better!"
- Angry at Don for not bringing any food with him, Doug makes a bunch of sandwiches with 6-month old bread.
- When Don’s not looking, Doug slips a cockroach into his sandwich.
- Hilarity ensues when Don eats the contaminated sandwich.
and so on, and so on. Good grief, let’s get on with it already!
After slurping their beers for a seeming eternity, Doug takes leave of the others and goes to the bedroom to check on Susan. Doug staggers back in shock: a monster that looks like a cross between an oversized ant and an angler fish has ripped its way out of Susan’s womb. Don and Fred, peering over Doug’s shoulder, study the gory scene in disgust.
"Come back to the living room and I’ll tell you about it," Doug says as he calmly turns and exits the bloody bedroom. Wow, that Doug sure is one cool cucumber.
Meanwhile, the creature has crawled away and kills the dog in the hallway. Nobody hears the dog’s loud yelps as it’s being devoured. I guess those hallway walls are pretty well insulated.
And…..break for the news:
“George Romero, director of such hits as "Dawn of the Dead" and "Creepshow", is once again taking his copyright case to the Supreme Court of the United States. Pirates continue to distribute thousands of copies of "Night of the Living Dead" while Romero continues to state his case in the courts.”
With that crucial update out of the way, sheesh, we return once again to the kitchen where Doug explains that the child isn’t his. (No shit?)
"Dr. Lucas found a way to artificially impregnate her….but something went wrong!"
"I’ll say!" Fred laughs. (I laughed too, I must admit.)
Keeping in the spirit of this movie’s long proud tradition of non sequiturs, Don breaks out with a strange tale:
"I read a story once about something weird like this, it was a sci-fi novel about a couple of teenagers who had nothing better to do one summer then kill the neighborhood boy named Harold. Along with everybody else in the Scottish town, they all thought he was weird, in his ways. A few times he was observed near the lake shore eating raw fish that he’d caught on his fishing rod.
When he was young they all bothered him because he was as thin as a toothpick. As he got older, they laughed at him because he was fatter than a fridge.
One of the boys took a hammer to Harold’s head…the claw of the hammer! The other slashed his stomach open with a machete.
Harold died from blows to the head. But it wasn’t until the machete slashed him opened that he smiled. The first time the boys had ever seen him smile.
At that instant…out of the flames of hell, a large serpent like beast burst out of Harold’s bloody stomach and devoured both killers! And proceeded to consume everyone else in the town that it set its eyes upon. It had a hunger that couldn’t be satisfied until it ate every torso in the town."
Doug, upset by the fact that his wife was recently gutted by an demonic monster from the pits of Hell, snaps at Don to shut up with his stupid stories.
"I was only trying to ease the tension," Don says in a pained voice.
When Fred suggests that they contact the authorities, Don points out that it’s hopeless since the phones are down and there’s no way they "can’t make it through those woods." (Uh, what woods?) With a minimum of discussion, they finally decide to make the 9 mile trek to Dr. Lucas’s house the next day. "Fuck! Gimme a beer," Doug concludes.
Suddenly….the lights go out. Doug reassures them that it’s probably just a blown fuse, but then…
Whoa! What the…?! Cut to the news again:
“Fourteen days have passed since Brooklyn residents Don Drake and Fred Lewis were last seen alive. Police are investigating a tip from a New Jersey woman who says she saw them murdered by a gang of bikers and dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. At the moment it is only speculation. More details will follow soon.”
So, um, they’ve been missing for 14 days? I’m starting to suspect these news flashes were filmed based on a different script.
Now, in an absolutely legendary jump cut, we leave Amber and return to Doug’s kitchen only to discover that Fred has disappeared into the "third, fourth and fifth dimension!"
Yes folks, Fred simply disappeared…"into a mouse hole". (Dear reader, I promise you, I’m not making any of this up.)
"I think I know what happened," says Don, "It must have been spontaneous combustion…I read about this crap!"
More weirdness commences:
- Don takes off his shirt and wipes off the blood with a bunch of paper towels. Just where the blood came from is never explained.
- Despite the fact that Don is covered in blood and Fred has, literally, disappeared, Don and Doug decide to sit around the kitchen table and drink whiskey.
- Doug starts to lose it, so Don pours a cup of whiskey over his head.
- They drink more, pull hairs out of each others arms, and venture to the toilet.
After this bizarre break from the "action", Don and Doug decide to go into the basement to find the fuse box so they can get the lights turned back on. But first, in a long, pointless sequence (pointless even for "Things"…and that should tell you something!), Doug searches the bathroom for monsters as Don watches from the hallway…As Yoda would say, "Exciting cinema, this is not."
- They search in the hall.
- Don takes Doug’s flashlight; Doug gets mad. Don shoves Doug against the wall.
- In the bathroom, a monster magically appears on the seat: Don flushes it down the toilet.
Too their horror, Doug and Don discover that the basement is infested with Things, which will make finding the fuse box a virtual suicide mission. Undeterred, the brothers bravely take a few steps into the darkness, but a Thing immediately jumps on Doug’s back. Don steps up with a hammer and tries to smash the alien attacker but clobbers Doug instead. "Gotta get some bandages on you, you heavy thug!" Don says as he struggles to lift his injured brother off the floor.
Apparently remembering why he came down into the basement in the first place, Don tosses Doug back onto the floor and continues with the thrilling Fuse Changing scene. "Better watch myself, I’m not very good at electricity things," Don mumbles while fiddling around in the fuse box, "Luckily those other creatures are sleeping over there." Uh, yeah, boy it sure is.
With the fuse changed, Don finds the strength to drag Doug back up to the kitchen. ("Man! I wish I had a midget for a brother! You’re fucking heavy!" Don complains, which is pretty ballsy given the fact that he clobbered him!)
Back upstairs, Doug slowly comes around, and shakily pours himself another paper cup of whiskey. Tossing all the tenets of continuity out the window, a monster pops out of nowhere and bites off Doug’s hand. (A quick tap of the DVD pause button reveals the director’s hand holding the monster and pushing it towards Doug from off screen. I love it.)
A Thing gets a helping hand, while Doug loses his
With his usual élan, Don takes charge of the situation and decides there’s only one thing to do: cauterize the stump of Doug’s hand with a flaming roll of wrapping paper.
"It’s OK, I learned this up at camp", Don reassures.
"Get me the morphine…it’s in the basement in the toolbox!" Doug groans before fainting.
"You’re dead! Doug, you’re dead!", Don agonizes, "No way I’m going to let the creatures eat you alive!"
And no, that doesn’t make any sense, even for this movie.
More madness ensues:
- Don finds an electric drill from somewhere and starts going ape-shit on the monsters.
- He stumbles upon the dog’s remains and pukes his guts out. (In contrast, when Don saw Susan’s shredded body in an earlier scene he just went back to the kitchen and drank more beer.)
- Drilling monsters.
- Drilling monsters.
- I assume these scenes were the last to be filmed because, wow, Don sure is ripping through loads of those crazy monster puppets.
Anyhoo, Don eventually collapses on the sofa, whether from boredom, exhaustion, or lack of beer, I can’t tell.
And…now for another News Flash:
“A New Jersey woman who gave police the tip earlier on in the day has been deemed psychologically insane by the staff at St. Mary’s Hospital in New York. There is still a chance that after being declared missing for 14 days, Don Drake and Fred Lewis may still be alive.”
After the "news", we rejoin our story in progress.
Why look…Fred has returned from his inter-dimensional journey and is screaming like a madman while crazily waving a chainsaw through the air. (Where in the hell did he come from?!) Don, jaded after the evening’s mayhem, shows little to no emotion at this shocking turn of events. Either that, or he was feeling a little pooped-out after tearing up all the monster puppets in the last scene.
Inspired by Fred’s surprise reappearance, Don snaps out of his torpor and snatches a golf club from…who knows where; these guys really don’t look like the "golfing type" if you know what I mean. Well, with blood, guts, and goo flying in every direction, Don fails to notice a Thing sneaking up on him before it’s too late. The creature leaps (i.e., someone throws it at him from off camera) and starts clawing its way up Don’s stomach towards his neck. The suspense of this scene is somewhat diluted when Don starts laughing because the monster is tickling him. Yes, you read that correctly.
Oh wait, this would be a perfect time for another strange News Flash:
“Don Drake and Fred Lewis were surprised to find out today that they were being sought after in a nationwide manhunt after they were reported missing 14 days ago. They checked into a hotel in Dallas and an off-duty security guard noticed the two checking out and was quickly told off by the two who said they were travelling across the United States to visit a relative…So much for privacy in the good old U. S. of A.”
Back in the bedroom, Don discovers that the monsters have eaten Susan "to the skull", whatever that means. Let’s just say Susan’s not going to be winning any beauty queen pageants anytime soon. Don bravely pushes Fred into the bedroom first so that he can go nuts with his chainsaw. Unfortunately for Fred, one of the cleverer creatures bites through the chainsaw’s power cable thus rendering it harmless. With the chainsaw disabled, Fred is quickly overcome and devoured, leaving only a talking skull pleading for help: "Take me to the hospital…they can rebuild me there…"
Based on the film’s rapid descent into silliness I’m guessing the filmmakers were all pretty drunk by now. I sure wish I was.
Stop the presses! Another news flash:
“At the present time, residents refuse to leave their homes. We will have up-to-date reports every hour, on the hour.”
Sorry folks, my head hurts, I gotta go Bullet Mode:
- Out of nowhere, Dr. Lucas shows up for a "social visit" and to check up on Susan.
- Don accosts him in the hallway shouting, "There’s hundreds of creatures around this Hell hole! All because of you!"
- Don leads Lucas through the house to see the carnage.
- With blood everywhere but, strangely, no monsters to be seen, Lucas blames Don for killing everyone. (Don suggests that the Things ate the others and crawled away: Lucas doesn’t buy it.)
- Before Lucas can call the cops, Don shoves him into the bathroom, which for some reason always houses a Thing or two ready to eat somebody.
- "Creatures with no souls are devouring me!" Lucas screams.
- "I’ve lived with the dead in New York City, but this is ridiculous!" says Don as he grabs a golf club and shoves Lucas’s remains down the toilet.
With time, money, and probably beer running short at this point, the director pulls a "dream scene" to wrap things up:
- Don runs madly from the house into the woods, but why couldn’t he do that earlier?
- After running through the wilds for a while, Don manages to flag down a passing hiker who offers to take him to the local doctor…yes,…Dr. Lucas…mwu ha ha!
- But wait, it was a all dream!
- Don awakens, still at the house, and is suddenly fighting a bloody Dr. Lucas who has come back from the grave, er, toilet.
No, wait – that was a dream too…Great.
Don collapses on the floor in an exhausted heap. "I’ll be ok, I’ll be ok" he murmurs as a Thing slowly makes its way toward him….and…fade to black.
Wow. That was something else, all right…
Dennis Grisbeck (April 2013)
Is “Things” a total waste of time? Absolutely not.
Some of the scenes were quite surreal, even spooky, in a weird way (emphasis on “weird”)…whether that was intentional or not is another matter.
The earnestness of Gillis and the others is certainly genuine, even if their raucous behaviour gets to be over the top at times. Regardless, I applaud any amateur that actually gets off his/her butt and makes a movie – regardless of the overall quality. (Well, this movie certainly pushes the limits of my patience at times, but still, Kudos!)
For what it’s worth, the music is provided by “Stryk-9″, “Familiar Strangers”, and Jack Procher and ranges from catchy crappy Casio keyboard melodies to semi-generic 80’s rock ballads; in fact I have the damn theme song stuck in my head as I write this. Ugh.
However, it probably will be an experience you won’t want to repeat too often.
Special Monster Shack tip: I recommend that you check out the audio commentary if you have the time. Gillis and the others got together for a 20-year reunion party which resulted in them getting drunk, watching the “Things” together and recording their comments. It’s racous and inchoherent most of the time, but there is some interesting background info about the movie as they descend into drunkeness. (In fact, a couple of the cast members got so fed up with the drunken antics that they took off half way through the movie and never came back…good stuff!)
As usual, here’s the trailer: