Recently I’ve been kind of interested in canuxploitation movies, which, for those who don’t know, are Canadian horror/sci-fi/WTF movies, usually from the 70s and 80s when the Canadian government was investing heavily trying to develop an internationally respected Canadian film industry. A lot of film-makers – including sometimes young, creative type likes David Cronenberg, perhaps the most succesful of all directors to come out of canuxploitation – were able to get money from the government and investors looking for tax havens and just make weird, crazy movies.
In my internet explorations of the genre, I came across people talking and writing about Things, a cheap 1989 horror film made in Toronto (or Scarborough, to be exact) by some crazy film students. Actually, to say this movie was made cheaply is an understatement, even though the internet says they had a budget of over 35,000. I would guess most of that budget went towards buying drugs.
Luckily, I knew that living in Toronto next to a video rental place like Eyesore Cinema and not far from Suspect Video, I would almost definitely be able to find this film, and I was right. Eyesore had a copy of the recent Intervision DVD of it. So I rented it and brought it over to my buddy Kevin’s place to watch. And despite my absolute bewilderment, I fell in love with this movie. However, to call Things a ‘movie’ might be misleading; it’s more like if two weird dudes on acid decided to actually film a feature length movie using 80s camcorders, and then somehow convinced someone to actually release it as if it were a ‘real’ straight-to-VHS movie.
The essential ‘plot’ of Things is that this guy can’t get his wife pregnant, so they go to a doctor who performs experiments on her that impregnate her with bug-like ‘things’ that then come out and kill people. What actually ends up happening is that this happens, and then the guy and his friend end up just hanging around their house on the lookout for the things, eating cheese sandwiches, talking about whatever. Then I don’t even know. Somebody screwed up with the footage or something because things just stop making sense completely as far as I can tell. And yet the movie keeps going.
Things is, by any standard appreciation of film, a terrible movie. But it’s the kind of terrible movie that has a sort of artfulness too it. Watching it, I felt like it was kind of the film equivalent of the weird music a lot of Canadians make in their bedrooms and you then hear on Weird Canada. It has a homey, innocent, almost childish charm. Hobo With A Shotgun director Jason Eisener said that the scenes where the guys are just chilling in the house eating cheese sandwiches remind him of young guys drinking beers and hanging out in houses in Nova Scotia, where both Eisener and Things actor/writer/producer Barry J. Gillis spent their formative years. Having spent my first year of university in Halifax, I know what he means and it’s true. Things has that kind of ‘Canadian bros chilling and having fun’ vibe.
If your tolerance for ‘weird’ is low, you will have no interest in sitting through one second of Things. However, if you love the weird, the homey, the WTF – this is a Holy Grail of a movie. Grab some friends, drink some beers, make some (vegan) cheese sandwiches, and watch Things at 3 AM. Your mind will be blown wide open.