Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.
Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or
improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if
you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can
be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.
When I was talking about Curse of the Cannibal Confederates some
years ago I could hardly suspect that film to be its director's Tony
Malanowski's more commercial (aka containing zombies) remake of his
earth-shattering first movie, Night of Horror.
Fortunately, Stephen Thrower's wonderful book "Nightmare USA" cured me of my
ignorance, and now, finally, the time has come to for me to take a look at
So, there's this guy, sitting with his back to the camera in the bar of his
hobby cellar until another guy arrives, who will sometimes turn his face far
enough in the direction of the camera that we will be able to see it in profile.
They begin to mumble to each other, half of their dialogue impenetrable, the
other half unfortunately not - there's something about guy one being in a band.
Or something. We are allowed to experience the dullness and emptiness of their
lives for quite a while, until guy number one begins to tell his friend a true
story (which a block o' text appearing before the movie promised to be
entertaining; you can never trust those darn lying text blocks). Some months
ago, following the death of his dad (stepdad?), guy number one packed his
half-brother and two girls into a caravan, drove around in it and drove around
in it and drove around in it until he fell in love with one of the girls - named
Colleen - for the terrible things she did to a Poe poem. Then they drove around
some more. Days and days of real-time driving later, Colleen saw the ghost of a
dead confederate soldier.
After some more talking and driving, our heroes decided to hold a séance to
conjure him and a few dead friends up. The dead soldier then proceeded to
slowly, oh so slowly, mumble-snarl through a long and pointless story my at this
point in the proceedings mushy brain wasn't able to comprehend anymore. I'm sure
it was terribly important though, important enough to warrant a lot of
documentary footage from a US Civil War re-enactment, something that's probably
supposed to be a country rock ballad, and some more mumbling, all commented on
by an off-monologue by cellar guy number one.
Umm, where was I? Oh, right, the friends dug out the skull of the soldiers
commanding officer and we're back in the cellar. The end.
As my inability to concentrate on anything about Night of Horror's
(and seldom has a film had a more fitting title) plot or "plot" suggests, the
film is one of those strange and peculiar examples of the art of filmmaking that
completely defies anything, be it basic human decency, the rules of filmmaking
or human comprehension, and aims for a very different part of a viewer's brain
than more grounded movies do. It's mostly the part of the mind that is
hypnotised by static shots of human backs and profiles and/or complete darkness,
caravans driving-driving-driving, and the half-comprehensible mumbling from the
off of lopsided sentences of great dramatic importance to their author.
In other words, if you are looking for anything resembling a movie as the
larger part of humanity (yes, even those people who watched Hot Tub Time
Machine) understands it, you are not just in the wrong place, you are on
the wrong planet, possibly the wrong dimension and should try your luck
If, on the other hand, you always thought that - say - Manos, the Hand of
Fate is a mighty fine example of non-conservative filmmaking, you might
probably get something out of Night of Horror, although I can't promise
it'll be more than a brain aneurysm.
There's something utterly, freakishly compelling about a movie like this that
can't be called a "bad movie" anymore, because it has left simple concepts like
"badness" or "being a movie" far behind in the process of becoming something
different, possibly an attempt at changing its viewer's brain chemistry than
Some people probably would call Malanowski's direction inept and his artistic
goals dubious at best and would then begin to do a point-and-laugh take-down of
his movie, but that would mean ignoring the film's insistent strangeness, the
droning, empty feeling watching it for more than five minutes creates in one's
brain (quite like the droning and empty delivery of the actors) or the shock of
excitement one feels when Malanowski manages to shoot a frame in an even
slightly conventional or logical manner. It would also deny the hypnotic power
of Night of Horror's emptiness, very much akin to the power of a
certain abyss one should not gaze into for too long, just with more US Civil War
Although the film is (if one wants to follow boring facts) just a technically
very badly done film made by a small handful of inexperienced people, there is
something profoundly different about it, as if these people had in fact conjured
up something from a place "normal" filmmaking can't reach, a fleeting feeling of
transcendental emptiness that has more to do with Beckett than with "bad
movies". I'm not saying that Malanowski and friends intended that feeling to be
in their movie, nor am I saying that it is there if you aren't susceptible to
it, I'm just saying that I felt and saw it in the movie, its objective existence
or non-existence be damned.
As it stands, I'm a little in awe of Night of Horror as a movie
fearlessly exploring places neither narrative nor experimental filmmaking
usually even attempt to touch, with nothing but the conviction that everything
in filmmaking - be it comprehensible dialogue, be it the visibility of actors'
faces - is absolutely optional; nothing is true, everything is allowed.