bad movies

Before I get to typing: Holy smokes, but how about this Edward Snowden character? Check your six, bud. Thanks for the greatest week of national security news in the last few years.

Lets get to typing

Yes, lets! Yesterday, I dug The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on DVD out of a bargain bin at a Best Buy. And I bought it, naturally.

See, I rode my bike up to a sporting goods store to buy socks, and there’s a Best Buy right next door. Whenever I find myself within 100 yards of that Best Buy and having purchased some sort of material good – anything, gum, you name it — I always think to myself:

“While I’m here: Why not go to Best Buy and dig through the bargain bin for a movie?

“Treat yourself right.

“It’s been a long week.

“You’ve earned it.”

And usually I haven’t. It’s been just any other week, you understand. But it’s this kind of thinking that’s gained me copies of Beetlejuice and Enter the Dragon.

Now, it’s not like I don’t blow my disposable income on all sorts of dumb shit already. There’s this coffee shop a block from my office, for instance. It sells lattes for four dollars a pop. I drink about three of those joints a week.

But we’ve all got our vices. And I figure bargain-bin DVDs can be one of my harmless and legal ones. And besides, have you ever seen The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? It’s great, man. It’s, like, High King of the spaghetti westerns.

Terrible baboon

I watched a movie a few days ago called Shakma about this virtually indestructible baboon (named Shakma, natch) who is gifted super strength via a failed experiment and proceeds to murder the living shit out of a cast of medical school students in a spooky, empty building. Roddy McDowall’s in there; so is the actor who got shipwrecked with Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon. I forget the excuse that got them locked in that building with that god damned ape (edit: not an ape, baboons are primates) and I couldn’t tell you who made it out in the end.

Shakma is not an art film. I mean, maybe somebody really put some soul into this, into the filming of an angry baboon as it chases Roddy McDowall around an office park in the dark. But I doubt that. And the resulting mediocrity is okay.

It is for me, at least. I watched this mean-ass baboon tear up the screen for 85 minutes and it was like stepping halfway into a time machine. B movies, a lot of them terrible, were the evening’s entertainment for most junior high and a significant portion of high school. Dipping a toe back into this dumb genre is oddly comforting. It’s like I’m thirteen years old all over again, and I don’t have any bills to pay.

When I think of my blog these days I think of this

bugs

When I was eleven, I moved to a new town with my mom, sister and grandparents. A week later I started junior high at Benjamin Franklin Middle School.

It sucked. Junior high sucked. Are we all in agreement on this? I bet. Yes. Just when you thought you had shit all figured out in elementary school, just when you were hitting your stride, you found out that no, youngblood, you were wrong: you are lifted and dumped into a larger bowl of other awkward children, all in the throes of puberty, where a vicious social reorganization immediately takes place.

You now have a locker, the contents of which you are responsible for. What the hell do you put in a locker, how am I supposed to figure this out?

You have to shower after gym class, holy shit, I’m doughy and I’m only halfway there on the pubes.

You must affiliate with a camp, because it’s cold on the steppe at night when you’re alone. So I joined the chess club. This is not a strong camp in junior high.

And so for a few months at my new school, I ate lunch by myself the empty end of the table that was populated by kids who played Magic: The Gathering and half-assed it during cross country practice.

Though I never figured out what the hell Magic: The Gathering was all about, these kids became my friends, and I remember how I was eventually accepted into this fold of blissfully unaware nerds: I got an invite to a sleepover for a birthday party.

Neil only turns twelve once, dudes, and so Neil had a sleepover. And I was just so god damned psyched to be invited, man, though Neil didn’t know. And so we all stayed up into the early morning in his basement, playing video games and eating pizza and whatnot, and we watched a movie called Psycho Cop 2. I had never seen the original Psycho Cop. But we just skipped right over all of that backstory.

Psycho Cop was a mean S.O.B.

I don’t think I missed a lot of backstory. Psycho Cop 2 was about, you guessed it, a police officer that stalks and murders the living shit out of a bunch of Young Turk business types who are locked in their office building after hours (look back to the description of Shakma, you might notice a pattern here).

Still, as far as direct-to-video horror movies go, Psycho Cop 2 isn’t bad; it’s got plenty of humor, self-effacing delivery, one-liners and ass to compliment the requisite gore and violence. When you get all of these things together in one movie, it usually works out alright.

But I realized this only in hindsight. The first time I saw it there was nothing tongue-in-cheek about Psycho Cop 2. It was dangerous and scary. Renting such a film, at the dewy age of twelve, wasn’t a lock given that this kind of schlock – or decent schlock, anyway – was always rated R or NC-17, and sometimes the clerk at the video store was a dick, and so we treated these movies like they were contraband. We didn’t screw around with cigarettes and beer and recreational drug use, no; we watched horror movies.

In our town we had: three Box Office Videos; a Blockbuster; a small selection of tape rentals at the Wiseway on US 30 near Neil’s house; and Take One Video – Valparaiso’s own independent video store.

And that place was, oh man. The inside of Take One was moldy carpet, a lot of wood paneling, and lots of movies in disarray. There were some solid video game rentals, mostly NES. There was a dedicated porn room, sectioned off from the rest of the store by a bead curtain. And upstairs was all horror flicks. All terrible horror flicks. Rabid Grannies. Teenage Exorcist. Ice Cream Man. It was, just, great.

Good night sweet prince

Take One closed, suddenly, about halfway through high school, and friends’ older brothers who had clerk jobs there suddenly were flush with old video games and older pornography.

It wasn’t a casualty of the death of its business model. Personal entertainment increasingly being delivered through your internet connection is a more recent shift; and Take One was gone one day long before that shift began. Today, the building that housed it is a real estate office. But back in the nineties, it was something else entirely. If I could personify it, I think I’d say Take One was kind of like The Dude: It was the man for its time and place.

But we’ll have more of those. More shifts are coming. My grandfathers grew up sitting on the floor, listening to the radio. My dad grew up watching television The Andy Griffith Show on network television. I grew up watching stuff like CHUD. You should see my seven-year-old niece lock in on an episode of Jessie, and I’ve seen kids half her age summon video on smart phones like pros.

Which is all to say that we should just kill our TVs, just like terrible horror flicks taught me to, in a spray of corn-syrup blood. Summer is here! Let’s all stop watching television. Unless Shakma or Rabid Grannies is on, of course, because you should watch the hell out of that. Me and Neil would.

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  1. Peter Grant on


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