For the last four years, Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson has hosted a late-night horror movie celebration called Terror Tuesday and if you are a lover of horror, both esoterically brilliantly and obscurely awful, this night was invented just for you. The Terror Tuesday Report will dissect the movie shown as well as provide a barometer for the audience's reaction; as many of these films demand to be seen with an audience, this proves a vital component to the evening.
This week's film: Boardinghouse, directed by John Wintergate, 1989
This is easily one of the craziest films of the series so far. Not since Devil Fetus have I been so thoroughly confused by the events unfolding on screen before me. And while Devil Fetus could fall back on the fact that it was in another language, Boardinghouse has not the benefit of lost-in-translation excuses for its incomprehensible end result. First of all, the writer/director/star/perpetrator of this abomination made the bold choice of shooting the film on a camcorder. Yeah, he considered legitimate film cameras to be cliché and instead shot this film using his Aunt Ethyl's camcorder; surely having to tape over his own ballet recital to do so. It was originally intended as a comedy but the studio insisted, after the fact, that it be a horror film.
That demand lead to the patchiest films ever created. This thing could easily give you whiplash with its erratic leaps from one scene to another. And when I say scene, what I mean is that we catch fleeting glimpses of characters who may or may not be engaged in some activity or other before there is a fade out. Seriously, it was like the razor-wielding monkey from Phenomena edited this thing. The editing is so bad that, more than once, flashes of scenes clearly meant to cut entirely crop up like subliminal messages...except the only message that will creep into your subconscious will be how bad the film is.
One would hope that at least the horror elements would be redeeming, but then one would be very, very disappointed. All the deaths are the end result of slow, awkward positioning of sharp kitchen utensils on which the vapid beauties fall. Having to watch the elaborate, but incredibly dull setup for each one results in not one single satisfying death. There is also a dream sequence where stage hands are literally standing just out of frame holding Wal-Mart Halloween decorations aloft and shaking them about to create...atmosphere? But despite it's dubious status as a horror film, the horror stuff is not the reason to watch this film.
Nor is the exposition machine a reason to watch Boardinghouse. When I typically refer to an exposition machine, I am referring to any character or on-screen text that fills us in on the framework of the plot so that we know what's going on without being forced to glean anything from context clues. In Boardinghouse, the exposition machine really is a machine! It is an ancient computer screen that scrolls text across the screen outlining the various owners of the cursed house and how they met their premature ends. But the sound the text makes as it graces the screen is about the most ear-piercing shriek I have ever heard. And, as if the filmmakers were completely unaware of the blood pouring from the ears of the audience, these sequences are torturously long.
All that being said, and with full awareness of the abysmal quality of the film, Boardinghouse is unstoppably entertaining. My sides were sore from doubling over in laughter at the expense of the movie. There are so many lines of dialogue and inexplicable jump cuts to elevate the unmitigated crap to highly enjoyable crap. The ending is some ol' bullshit, but again incessantly hilarious. Once the killer is revealed, and by revealed I mean once the film states what we all figured out by frame one, she is magically transported to a Bonnie Tyler video from whence all her remaining lines are spoken while the rest of the characters remain in the real world. Zack warned us just how insane this film was but I still don't feel I was adequately prepared for the explosion of ineptitude on the screen. Let me just say that any film that makes Troll 2 seem like it has a cohesive story structure is something special.
The crowd tonight was interesting. Intermixed with the Terror Tuesday regulars there was an inordinate number of college kids. With classes wrapping, a number of UT students are staying on campus for the summer and somehow word spread across the quad about Boardinghouse. I have to say the crowd was pitch perfect for this film. As I looked around, students who have never attended the event before were crying with laughter and casting dumbfounded glances at their buddies. This was one of the more enthusiastic crowds this year.