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The 2010 Vendetta Movie Marathon, Part 3

Part 9: Conan the Boobarian!
Sunday, 05:38-DEATHSTALKER

All right! Mid 80’s Sword and sorcery! With a huge barbarian with incredibly well-maintained feathered hairdo! Badly made-up Goblin extras! Gratuitous nudity within four minutes of the get-go! Huzzah!

I blinked.

Man, this is a long fight scene.

I blinked again.

Wait, the naked chick has a different haircut all of a sudden…

I blinked once more.

The fight is still going on… hang on, we’re indoors now! Is this the same fight scene? Who’s that guy who looks like Mark Hamil? Why is there a guy in a recycled Gammorean Guard costume?

I checked my watch. Forty-five minutes of the film had passed.

The wall had been officially hit. Somehow, huge chunks of this movie were nothing more than a colourful slideshow, the dialogue meaningless, the plot reduced to nothing more than a montage of swordfights and bared breasts. I tried to re-focus, but it was pointless. By the time the credits rolled and the lights came up I only gained two things from the flick.

1) The main Bad Guy was the spitting image of Campbell Cooley. (My remark on returning to the stalls of “I loved you in that movie” got the sort of response that indicated he’d been getting ribbed about it for the last 90 minutes.)


2) I was probably going to own this movie, if only to find out what happened.

It’s now two weeks after the show, and yes, I have a copy of DEATHSTALKER. I could watch it to recap I properly, but as I’m already doing that with THE HUMAN TORNADO, I thinking “Nah, fuck it.”. Besides, this review has taken a fortnight so far, and I’ve only just hit breakfast. Hunt it down, if you want to… the DVD is cheap as shit and there’s a bunch of sequels.

Running Themes? Yeah, I’ll pass.

Interlude 2: Sunday, 07:00-BREAKFAST!

I headed back to the stalls when the lights came up to collect both my senses and whatever junk I’d dropped during the night. Most of the Crew were up and about, although Al was blissfully asleep on his beanbag. In my sleep-deprived state, I went to sit on a brown beanbag nearby. The “Beanbag” turned out to be Johnny Hall’s head, encased in a sleeping bag. Luckily for his, I’m not only a lightweight, but due to Barbarian-induced disorientation, I missed.

Before breakfast, I splashed out on one of the last remaining Tenth Anniversary T-shirts. Ant had sold them last year when I was flat broke, but luckily there was one left in my size. The front of the shirt lists every single flick screened in both Auckland and Wellington. It’s a real trip down memory lane, doubly so when I spotted SPOOKED, which I consider the “Lost Marathon Flick”. Seriously, I’ve never seen a copy in DVD store, not even in the bargain bin.

We adjourned across the road the Café Whare Kai once more. While I was going to take advantage of the express Bacon & Egg Bap they were offering , the smell of the Sausage Sizzle dragged me out of the line before I hit the counter. I contemplated heading back for a second this year, although in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t. That single banger-in-bread was enough to keep me going for the rest of the show.

I also played waiter, ferrying Al’s breakfast back to the theatre. (Fortunately he was one of those weird, hippy types who ordered muesli.) When I returned he was still using the break as an extended nap, so I was forced to stash his cereal under a seat. I assume he didn’t end up sleeping face down in a bowl of Light and Tasty.

With all the technical issues in the booth, the usual reel of weirdness was MIA during the break. We chilled out, got our heads back together, and in my case, collected cans of V that had been cruelly abandoned by their owners. Sue me, I knew I’d need them once the recapping began.

With several films not able to be played with the jury-rigged sound during the night, Ant was now booking on-the-fly. He announced we’d get our last two premieres back-to-back, followed by something from the archives. Worked for me!

Part 10: Why Should You See This Film? No Reason.
Sunday, 08:00-RUBBER

I’ve heard the term “Sleeper” bandied around a lot. A Sleeper film! Sleeper hit of the summer! I know what it means, but after seeing RUBBER, I now have a new definition of the term.

Because RUBBER was not just the sleeper hit of the 2010 Marathon, but arguably the sleeper hit of ALL the Marathons I’ve attended. It was a film I’d heard nothing about, and I wasn’t alone. The title got cheered by exactly two people in the theatre, those two being Steve and Andrew. The premise is inventive and original as hell, while being beautifully simple as well. It’s a plot that you think couldn’t possibly sustain a feature-length flick, and while the running time is short, it keeps throwing curves at you to never stretch the concept.

It’s beautifully shot, well-acted and has been beaten with the Quirky Stick to within an inch of its life. I referred to it as an “oddly compelling little film”, one that keeps you riveted to the screen in it’s own quiet, measured way. In short, it’s a film that probably won’t get the attention or audience it deserves. When some people hear the ploy synopsis, they’ll dismiss it as “Arthouse”… typical Film Festival fodder that would bore the average multiplex punter.

Which would be a goddamn shame. And it’s the reason I’m not recapping the flick in detail, to keep a sense of mystery. I’ll just give it the briefest summary ever.

A tyre digs its way out of the desert sand… and all hell quietly breaks loose.

Intrigued yet?

I hope so. Go see it.

Car Crashes?: They’ll never get the upholstery clean…
Denigration of Women?: Not really. DETONATION of…
Tough Guys With Crazy Eyes?: Tough guys, yes. My own eyes were too tired to know more than that.
The Hunter Becomes the Hunted?: Uh-huh!
Big Twist Ending?: The film almost twists itself into a Mobieus Strip.
Jungle Fever?: Desert Heat.

CARDIO?: Most people moved pretty deliberately, but you’d probably need to learn desert survival techniques.
DOUBLE-TAP?: No need, really. Once is enough in this flick.
CHECK THE BACK SEAT?: I’d check every part of any car in the county.

Skeeters’ Summary: Well, that was different. And different is good! Four for Four on the premieres!

The last premiere beckoned. With just two minutes between films, I retreated to my beanbag with what I thought were the last of my Candy Bar-sourced Wine Gums. (As it turned out, the ACTUAL last of them were still in my bag, happily adhering themselves to the frames of my sunglasses. There’s still traces visible today. With this being the last new flick, I was mentally chanting two words.

“Troublemaker Films! Troublemaker Films! Troublemaker Films!”

The movie started. It wasn’t from Troublemaker Films.

Fuck it. I was really hoping it was MACHETE.

Part 11: Did Squidly Diddly go Into Porn?
Sunday 09:20-MONSTERS

Once this flick started, my lack-of-badass-Danny-Trejo disappointment vanished after a rock-‘em, sock-‘em opening. MONSTERS is set in the unspecified future, after a crashed space probe populates a huge chunk of North America with alien creatures. We get some good glimpses of them in them in the pre-credits sequence, as the military burn a tiny chunk of the annual Defence Budget in quick time. I was pumped. A good old-fashioned monster flick, with some beautifully-realised special effects! Bring it on!

And then we headed to Mexico and met our leads. They talked. And talked and drank. And talked some more. And partied. And travelled. And talked.

Oh, no. A familiar sinking feeling was coming over me. I’d seen this phenomena before.

You see, back in the early part of the decade, I used to review B-Movies on my badly-coded Geocities site. And the type of flick I used to watch was often cheap-ass direct-to-DVD monster flicks. (Invariably made by Nu Image Films and quite often featuring Casper van Diem or Corbin Bernsen in some role or other.) Like MONSTERS, most had one-word titles that summed them up VERY literally. (OCTOPUS, SPIDERS, SUPERCROC, etc.) These films were all pretty formulaic, and all dealt with their micro-budget the same way. A quick glimpse of the titular creature at the start of the flick, another halfway through, and then they’d go all-out to blow the CGI budget in the finale.

But those were low-budget affairs, right? This movie was beautiful, and the monsters themselves (Gargantuan land-based squids) were amazing to look at. They were seamlessly integrated into the film, while still having an ethereal sense unreality to highlight their alien nature. (Fuck me, who gave this part of the recap to a Film School graduate?) Surely this wasn’t one of those cheapies?

Suffice it to say, I was blown away when Doug told me the estimated budget later. FIFTEEN THOUSAND U.S? The Asylum spends more than that when they make their mockbusters. (And that being said, will they make a lower-budget remake of this one? CREATURES, perhaps?)

Admittedly, the director himself has indicated that the $15K figure is an under-estimation. It’s still been made for what the average flick starring George Clooney would spend on hair products. And they made damn sure that every dollar they spent is right there on screen.

It’s just not there often enough for a movie called MONSTERS. Forty-five minutes passed between the first glimpse of the creatures and their next appearance. And then there’s a long gap before the last few minutes provide the money shots. (An appropriate turn of phrase, as a we get to witness aliens making the Beast With Two Backs and a Fuckload of Tentacles. It’s probably the best-shot sex scene of the night, and thankfully doesn’t feature Rudy Ray Moore’s butt.)

Reading up on the flick since the marathon, I have to applaud the film-makers for an amazingly polished flick. Unfortunately, it was a flick that could never live up to it’s title or premise. And a flick that joins THE RUINS in my mental Recycle Bin as one that really did nothing for me.

Running Themes?: Some might have been in there, but by now, a fortnight after the show, nothing really springs to mind.

Skeeters’ Summary: Well-made, but ultimately hollow, walk-and-talk flick. With monsters.

Part 12: House of 1,000 Nutzoids

After a final break, we headed back for the final push. With just four hours to run, squeezing in three more flicks was looking unlikely. Unless one was an hour-long missing-reel quickie and no other calamity ensued. Unbeknownst to me, right about this time, Ant was rushing to the Emergency Ward, his son having managed to pull a heavy weight onto his head at home. He was back before the end of the show, as the kid had avoid giving himself any major injuries. (Which is par for the course with kids… they’re amazingly resilient at times.)

Personal dramas aside, there was no disasters pending in this flick. If you don’t count the writing, acting and special effects. Yep, we’re in low-budget regional horror territory! This flick had the typical grindhouse look, halfway between “weathered” and “snuff flick”. Right off the bat we were introduced to some fairly average actors, playing the most remarkable collection of characters we’d seen all night. You see, the flick is set in a private mental institution, and whoever bashed out the script decided he needed to include the entire Collectors Set of Clichéd Loonies.

So, cue the Gigantic Lobotomy Patient With the Mental Age of Eight. The Korean War Vet Who’s Still Thinks He’s In Country. The Weepy Woman Who Thinks a Doll is Her Baby. A Generically Cackling Old Harpy Old. An Annoying Redhead Who’s Only Character Trait is Tormenting the Other Loony’s And Annoying The Piss Out of Me. The Former Judge With Anger Issues. And the Mis-Treated Women With the Major Case of Nymphomamia.. Nympomay.. Nymmymmn… Damn, it HOT NIGHTS ON CAMPUS, now you’ve got me doing it!

There’s also Sadistic Head Nurse and Doctor Whoops, I Appear to Have an Axe in My Torso! (That’ll teach you to turn your back on Judge Angrypants, doc.)

With Doctor Axe-Back removed from the cast list within five minutes, care of the assorted wackjobs falls to Sadistic Head Nurse and Sweet and Innocent Assistant Nurse, who’s just arrived to join the staff. There’s the usual outbreak of long-winded exposition, in which discouraged from staying by Sadistic Nurse and outright told to get to steppin’ by Overacting Crazy Old Lady. (In our second case of Pantomime Crone-ing of the night. Seriously, how many actresses HAVE been influenced by Spike Milligan’s BADJELLY THE WITCH ?)

We crank up the gore factor as someone the proceeds to perform a tongue-ectomy on Granny Buzzkill. Ooh, maybe this is some sort of TEN LITTLE (INSANE) INDIANS thing we’re watching? Oddly enough, Granny No-Tongue survives the ordeal and even gets some more quasi-dialogue later. Is it too late to make Inaudible Dialogue a running theme? (Let’s face it, with the start of RAPPIN’, the hilariously muffled telephone calls in WALK THE DARK STREET and the blown speaker, it definitely featured fairly regularly.)

Meanwhile, the producer throw some nudity at us, in the form of Constantly Disrobing Nympho Lady. She tries to seduce half the cast, usually by treating us to the least appealing set of Lady-Lumps revealed all night. When a telephone repairman show up, you could almost hear the porno sax player unsnapping the catches on his case. Of course, being a five-alarm nutbar, Nympholady doesn’t let the telephone tech get in more than a few cheap gropes before she dispatches him rather messily. (Or does she? No seriously, that part’s a little ambiguous, doubly so after twenty-some hours of brain abuse.)

But that’s the type of movie it is. A little talking, some less-than-arousing nudity, and some graphic, if not overly-convincing violence. It throws in a twist we all saw coming, then has the balls to re-use the same twist and somehow make it surprising. Most of the characters, while undeniably being people you’d never want to hang out with, still have their quirks and charms that make them fun to watch. With the glaring exception of Redhead Asshole Kid. He really DID make me want to commit Felony Tongue Removal.

The flick ended with a mass murder in which pretty much every major character got a blood-soaked close-up. It was here I launched my only semi-public gag, which was only caught by the people in the row behind me. As the camera lingered on the red paint-streaked body of The Sarge, who was by far my favourite character, I silently saluted. The folks behind me seemed to appreciate it. I contemplated a more public “DISSS-MISS!”, but the moment passed quickly.

You’ll notice that’s a fairly skimpy write-up. Am I trying to protect the plot elements to make you hunt down the flick?

Nah. Actually, it’s simply that I’ve been writing this recap for two weeks and most of the flick is kind of a blur. But it was fun in it’s own twisted little way, and it lived up to it’s title. In fact, far from looking in it, no-one even mentioned they HAD a basement until the last five minutes, setting up one of the more ludicrous twists of the night.

And it’s a better-made “DON’T” flick than “DON’T GO IN THE WOODS”. By a long, long way.

Car Crashes?: Nope.
Denigration of Women?: Lots
Tough Guys With Crazy Eyes?: All of them. And half the women.
The Hunter Becomes the Hunted?: The Judge becomes the Executioner at one point.
Big Twist Ending?: The lunatics really ARE running the asylum!
Jungle Fever?: EVERYTHING Fever.

CARDIO?: The finale involved people walking up the same set of stairs about fifty times, so yes.
DOUBLE-TAP?: Double Hack good enough for you?
CHECK THE BACK SEAT?: If you like, but DON’T LOOK.. oh, you know? Good.

Skeeters’ Summary: I’m guessing it would make a fun Halloween party flick if you’ve had a few beers before.

Post-flick, I checked my watch. Heading toward half-twelve. Time was now seriously against us.

I got back to my beanbag, figuring I’d finish out the show in the front row for a change. I was doing pretty well, having sailed through tiredness and into an oddly comfortable zone where even my stomach had stopped bitching about a lack of decent food. Ant let us know we were about to watch a film starring an actor the Marathon had somehow managed to overlook so far. One Charles Bronson. And incredibly, the title didn’t involve the words “Wish” or “Death” in any combination, despite being directed by one Michael Winner.

Part 13-Don’t Fuck With Chuck, Part 2
Sunday, 12:40-ish-THE MECHANIC

Having seen this movie, I can now make a bold statement.

Fuck the DEATH WISH series. In the ear. THIS is the definitive Charles Bronson movie. It’s a fantastic piece of 70’s action, starring big Chuck B as one of the more bad-ass middle-age men you’ll ever meet. He’s a “Mechanic”, for which you can substitute “Hitman” if you’re not familiar with mob parlance. Jan-Michael Vincent co-stars as his protégée, a ballsy decision on Chucks part as he just whacked the kids father.

As you can probably guess, that particular plot point means the shit is almost destined to hit the fan before the end of the flick.

And hit it, it does.

I’m loathe to write too much about this flick, and it’s not just the backache and the thought of spellchecking a 17,000+ word document that makes me say that. It needs to be seen cold, like I did. It’s a terrific flick, with some beautifully 70’s car chases, great stunts (The Motorcycle Leap of Death was my favourite, despite the huge, sustained cheering for the “Holy Crap, Now THAT’S One Hell of a Cliff” Car Wreck.) and an ending that deserved a standing ovation. Too bad none of us has the energy left to do so.

Just see it sometime. You’ll thank me for it.

Car Crashes?:
Second and third best ones of the night.
Denigration of Women?: Not that I recall.
Tough Guys With Crazy Eyes?: Bronson: Tough Guy with Old Man Eyes.
The Hunter Becomes the Hunted?: I’m taking the Fifth.
Big Twist Ending?: See above.
Jungle Fever?: Nahh…

CARDIO?: Scuba-diving looks tiring.
DOUBLE-TAP?: Good Mechanics only need one shot.
CHECK THE BACK SEAT?: I sure would if I was either of those guys.

Skeeters’ Summary: Ant later told us he’d been unable to get BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. I think this was a more than worthy substitute. Great flick.

Ant hit the stage afterwards and dropped a bombshell.

We were done.

The Aftermath
Sunday 14:20-ish: Go Get Some Sleep, People!

It was over for another year. With only 40 minutes or so left, we had no chance of getting movie fourteen going. Game over, man! Game over!

Ant’s final film was apparently a last-second brain-breaker, brought in to replace what would have been our second John Carpenter finale in five years. He’s determined to play it in 2011 and therefore wouldn’t even tell us what it was. Ooh, twelve months to make wildly inaccurate guesses on the forum!

We instead settled for a leisurely DVD giveaway session. Ant dispensed with the usual Trivia contest, opting instead for a “Guess My Favourite Bit of the Flick” game. I could have won a couple of times, but Ant seemed to delight in only picking me out of the crowd when my guess wasn’t even in the ballpark. Ant also screened the winning Marathon Trailer, the ad-hoc speaker system preventing him from showing all the entries. (Although to be honest, I’m only about 50% sure that they were screened here and not before THE MECHANIC. The Marathon messes with your head.)

My trailer? It didn’t win. Surprise! Ant did promise to show the whole collection at the 2011 Marathon, so I have a whole year to practise my cringing.

Eventually, the prizes were handed out and Ant declared the festivities over. I made sure I had enough voice left to get the crowd to give Ant a huge round of applause. Frankly, he deserved it. Thirteen films on the bill, and for me, thirteen new experiences. Yep, the first Marathon since 2003’s eight-hour walk in the park in which I hadn’t seen ANY of the films before.

The audience had been superb, with 90% at least still around at the end of the day. There’d been no incidents of chip-rustling and very little shooshing of talkers. In fact, a few days afterwards, Ant remarked that the audience was almost “Too respectful”. Ooh, carte blanche to get busy with the public wisecracks next year!

In all seriousness, it really was remarkably quiet during even the cheesiest of flicks this year. Ant thinks it was to do with his nutzoid intro, but I have a different theory. I personally think that it was because the flicks were just too damn interesting this year.

Sure, RAPPIN’ was camper than the cast of CABERET on K-Road, but there was few gags that could have been levelled at it that would have been funnier than what was on-screen. DEATHSTALKER was probably prime riffing material, but its timeslot prevented a joke-fest. HOT NIGHTS ON CAMPUS’s reel goof meant it was baffling rather than boring and DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT was sick, twisted fun on a bun. They were all films you WANTED to watch, not goof off in.

And THE HUMAN TORNADO? It’s impossible to make jokes when your jaw is stuck to the auditorium floor.

Don’t worry, Ant. One of these years we’ll find the balance between “Cinema Snob” and “Rowdy Drunks”.

We cleaned up as quickly and efficiently as we could and headed out into the light. Andrew had planned on shooting a crowd scene for GHOST SHARK, so some of us headed across to the park over the road. Ten minutes of milling around later, he called off the shoot, which was probably a good idea. If the director can’t focus, I’m pretty sure the footage is going to be a little blurry, too.

I borrowed a cell phone and called home. By the time Dawn drove up, the Crew had dispersed, leaving only myself, and one other Marathon-eer on the steps of the Hollywood. Rappin’ Jesus and his equally long-haired friends had been hanging around too, but left shortly before Dawn arrived. Peace out, Tiny Messiah!

I headed home for my first solid meal all weekend. I was feeling pretty wide awake, but it turned out to be a cruel hoax my body was playing on me. This led directly to the creation of a brand-new Marathon Survival Tip.

Post-Marathon Rule #1: NO HOT DRINKS!

I learnt that by settling down in my Lay-Z-Boy with a cup of herbal tea. Luckily, I’d nearly finished it by the time I suddenly dropped off. Unluckily, the small amount remaining in my mug was still fairly warm as I poured it directly into my crotch.

Y’know, it’s amazing how wide awake you get after pouring hot tea onto your nutsack. I was able to stay up long enough to eat Halloween candy, (Just two groups of trick-or-treaters this year. One had even made an effort in their costumes! They got double Treats.) watch the World Series of Poker, and even started the Marathon Diary. (Which required a HELL of a lot of spellcheking the next day, of course.) I finally crashed out at midnight, some forty hours after Aiden got me out of bed on Saturday. Sleep is nice.

The Final Thoughts

A typically diverse line-up this year, with some strong new flicks and some VERY memorable oldies. Not as hard on the brain as 2009, but thankfully, not as hard on the body either. The real pain for me has been this recap, thanks to a lack of time, coupled with a doozy of a cold. (Aiden came down with one a few days after the show.. and when a two-year-old gets a cold, everyone on nose-wiping duty gets it, too.) Amazingly, making sense of THE HOLY MOUNTAIN was easier than doing the same to THE HUMAN TORNADO.

The war flick may have been in the wrong place, but we’ll pin the blame on the blown speaker. The gratuitous boob-shots were plentiful, the good films were VERY good and the promised Level Seven flick never showed it’s head. (But, OH how I hope Ant goes for it next year.)

A really solid show for both veterans and newbies alike. Roll on, 2011… right Vendetta Films?


Fingers crossed.

Oh, and Cherie. You owe me a dollar.



November 2011

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