Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Twisted Issues (1988)

Directed by:
Charles Pinion

Here's one you may have missed the first time around. I know I sure did. Made in the Gainesville, Florida area with a VHS camcorder, this is an attempt at an experimental, artsy horror comedy with the lowest budget imaginable. It's amateurish as hell, but it's also a strangely fascinating time capsule into the skateboarder / slacker youth culture of the late 80s. The suburban punk teens featured here are out on the streets at all hours of the night. They aimlessly skate around, constantly drink beer and smoke weed, listen to punk music and go to parties when they aren't loafing around watching television. Throughout we see brief clips of all kinds of things: news footage, commercials, movie clips (including John Waters' Polyester) and other things the filmmakers didn't pay for the rights to, all edited into the action. There are images of Hitler, Ronald Reagan, Fidel Castro, Jesse Jackson, the Pope and other famous people weaved in. There's war footage, bombs exploding, missiles dropping, televangelists and cartoons. There's even the famous egg cooking "This is your brain on drugs" commercial. What does it all mean? Hard to tell. I'm not even sure the filmmakers themselves could tell you, but with its absurd plot, terrible acting and attempts to emulate underground cinema techniques with zero money - it's pretty interesting to watch. It's sort of like a no budget music video version of Kids on a baaaad acid trip.





A guy named Charles (played by the director either sans credit or using a fake name) sits around in his room all day watching television. He chops up sprouts with hedge clippers. When his girlfriend (Lisa Soto) informs him "I hate sprouts" he chops into her, too. Meanwhile, two obnoxious couples are driving around in their car at night. They drink, smoke, curse and decide to brighten up their evening by harassing and throwing beer cans at pedestrians. They find a kid named Paul (Paul Soto) out skating and decide to pick on him. After Paul uses his karate moves on the guys they decide to run him over and leave his corpse on the sidewalk. A mad doctor and his female assistant pick up the body and take it back to their garage. After deciding against giving necrophilia a try and turning him into a casserole, the duo opt to bring him back to life instead while scenes inside a slaughterhouse flash on the screen. Paul is eventually revived as a cut rate mummy with a few bandages over his face. He impales the doctor with a wooden stake (which strangely turns into a steel pole when they show his body again), attaches his skateboard to his foot with a drill and slaps on a fencing mask before hitting the streets to hunt down the hit-and-run-drivers.







Some of Paul's little adventure is strangely being watched by Charles on TV. Charles' girlfriend, who didn't die from the previous clipper attack, bandages her head and acts like nothing happened. A friend named Steve (co-writer Stephen L. Antczak) stops by and Charles sends him away to get some beer before his girlfriend strangles him with a phone cord. Paul shows up to poke out of the eyeballs of one of the guys who killed him, impales a girl with a sword and cuts off a leg while someone's trying to ride away on a skateboard. Steve stops by a 7-11 but they won't sell to him without an ID and he instead encounters some glowing thing in an alleyway that gives him hallucinogenic pills. Four guys go to some man's apartment, read bible verses, talk about raspberry soda and are killed. Things conclude with Paul, now wearing a knight's helmet and a Gumby shirt, showing up at Charles' house with a machine gun and blasting into people who refuse to die despite being filled with lead and even shot in between the eyes.







Clearly not taking place in reality (which the ending alludes to), this is filled with bizarre, surreal, bloody and seemingly random occurrences edited like a frantic music video. Stylistically, some of this actually works quite nicely. It's far more ambitious than most shot-on-video flicks from the 80s, though it gets a little tedious and repetitive after about an hour. No one in this cast will ever pass as a legit actor in a million years, but there's something refreshing about flashing back to a time where people were allowed to have bad hair, bad skin and bad teeth, and could run around in public wearing tattered t-shirts and jeans without anyone paying them any mind. Despite the actors lacking talent, they seem way more honest and authentic than the plastic, chiseled, plucked, bleached and self-absorbed characters who populate horror flicks these days. It's often lit with blue or red lighting and is so low-budget they even use a flashlight to light some scenes.

One of the film's very best attributes is its soundtrack; non-stop, mostly-punk tunes contributed by Gainesville-area bands most people have probably never heard of. Names like Doldrums, Hellwitch, Mutley Chix, Officer Friendly, Just Demigods, Cindy Brady's Lisp, D-Block, Slaves of Christ, Young Pioneers, Psychic Violents, Twisted Sterility, Smegmas, Bill Perry Orchestra. Raging Pusbags, Black Potato Society, Yucky Spit, The Reverend Beck's Revue and Dangers and Benefits aren't ringing my bell, but the songs are frequently great. Several of the bands perform in the film and supposedly some of the actors are members of these bands.





Twisted Issues was never mass distributed. Before the internet, many regional low-budget filmmakers had to turn to genre publications to advertise their films. Issues was sold via mail order; ads were run in Slaughterhouse Magazine and perhaps a few other zines. A cassette soundtrack was also distributed. It's now available on DVD at the director's website. Pinion also made We Await (1995), Red Spirit Lake (1996) and has recently completed American Mummy (2012).

★★

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