Things (1989)

Things

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Don and his friend Fred head out to a remote cabin in the woods to visit Don’s brother Doug, and his pregnant sister-in-law, Susan. The trip starts off being predictably uneventful, but unbeknownst to Don and Fred all is not right in the little cabin in the woods. Desperate for assistance to help them to conceive a child, Doug has been sending his wife to a suspicious doctor who’s been performing mysterious experimental procedures on her. Naturally everything comes to a head while Don and Fred are visiting and Susan ends up giving birth to…. something dangerously inhuman. Now it’s up to the three surviving men to figure out what’s going on and find a way to survive the night, lest they lose their lives to the evil of the Things.

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Today, purveyors of truly terrible movies will often point to film’s like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, James Nguyen’s Birdemic, or even classics like Manos: The Hands of Fate, as the go-to gold standards of “terrible” cinema. But to those discerning connoisseurs, may I humbly submit for their re-consideration the heaping pile of cellulose that is Canada’s Things from 1989. Because while all four of those films can be considered absolutely dreadful, Things seems to transcend to a new level of awfulness. Because at least when it comes to the former three, you can actually clearly see what’s happening on screen and hear what people are saying. The same can not always be said when it comes to Things.

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Quick question: Are you the type of person who likes to know what’s going on in the films you watch? Well, too friggin’ bad, because any kind of technical competency is basically a non-existent pipe dream when it comes to Things. Not only are the lighting and quality of the film stock so bad that it’s often hard to see what’s happening, but the editing is so janky that you’re going to be constantly questioning what it is you’re looking at. At one point Fred just up and explodes in a smattering of blood, which sounds like a super cool thing you’d want to see in a horror movie. But then you remember this is a cheap independent film that was only made for about 40k, so instead of Fred exploding in a fountain of blood and beer, what you get instead is a shot of Fred and then a quick cut to Doug as he slowly gets covered in blood that looks like someone just dripped some watered down ketchup on his shirt. Which I’m sure isn’t too far off from what they really did. Point is, Fred is suddenly just gone and you missed it without even realizing you missed it until a couple of seconds later when it’s explained to you that you missed it. Proving that this is a movie that you can’t risk blinking during, or else you’ll never know what the frig just happened.

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Of course, if you’re thinking something as integral as say, the plot, will help you fill in those many missing blanks, well you’re basically going to be SOL there too. The film does an absolutely horrible job of explaining what’s going on. I mean, I just watched it, and I’m still baffled by most of it. The movie opens by suggesting that there’s some kind of supernatural occurrences at play, first with a dream sequence, and then later by pulling an Evil Dead plot point out of their ass by producing a tape recorder (which Don discovered in the freezer, and no, it’s never explained why it was in the freezer) and the tape within the player has some unknown language playing on it. But later the film switches gears and brings up the nefarious doctor and his evil experiments. Experiments we get to see, by the way, but while they’re pretty gruesome and evil, they don’t appear as though they have any connection to the occult or demons, or whatever the hell those things are that end up tormenting everyone. They sort of look like large, mutated ants. So I don’t know what’s going on there. Maybe it actually was the doctor, and he managed to somehow summon the only known demon with a murderous insect kink. I don’t know. I guess you just get to pick your own reasoning.

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And in the rare instance that the movie does try to explain anything, they still manage to bungle it. I mean, when Fred just up and disappears in a sudden spurt of ketchup glory, the movie explains his sudden departure with a quick throwaway line about spontaneous human combustion. Okay, for starters, your body suddenly exploding is not what that term is referring to. You’re thinking about fire. And second, FRED COMES BACK! How the hell did he spontaneously combust and then show up again in the third act? I mean, what the hell, movie? I’d ask what’s going on, but by that point I was fairly certain the movie no longer knew and the script was just flying by the seat of it’s pants. Which, from what I’ve read, isn’t really too far off from what happened.

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Welcome back, Fred. You look…. well, like shit, actually.

Writer and director Andrew Jorden apparently didn’t let anyone other than actor, and fellow writer, Barry J Gillis, look at his handwritten script. For whatever reason, he wanted his cast to be completely unprepared for their job and apparently didn’t even allow any kind of rehearsal. Improvisation was the name of the game on this set, and boy howdy, does it show. The script and dialogue for this thing is just an absolute hysterical mess. Characters act completely bonkers, utter nonsensical nonsense, and wildly contradict themselves, sometimes in the same sentence. That’s how we end up with five minute long scenes of Don and Doug playing juvenile pranks on one another while each of them are trying to use the bathroom, all just minutes after Fred blew up (allegedly) and Susan was just eaten by a demon. Or how about when the brothers go into the basement to change a fuse and Doug gets attacked by one of the Things, only for Don to immediately criticize his brother’s weight? The film is basically a magnificent catastrophe of ill timed brotherly jabs, contradictions and incompetence. It’s truly fabulous. So while I wouldn’t normally endorse not giving a script to your cast, on the bright side that does mean we get glorious lines such as, “Next time I bring you with me, I’m leaving you at home,” and “Cute little bloody dog!” So in the end, it wasn’t a total loss.

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If you’re hoping the audio will end up being even only slightly better, think again. If the filmmakers didn’t have a proper script to work with, then they sure as hell didn’t have any proper sound equipment to work with either. Most of the scenes they filmed contained a lot of crew and background noise. As a result, they were forced to re-dub all of the dialogue in the cabin. Remember that thing I mentioned about no rehearsals? Well, looks like that was the go-to method for the audio re-recording too. Not only do the lines not match up to the lip movement, but you’ll often also get completely mishmashed lines, or instances where characters are talking and there’s no voice whatsoever. Meaning you end up with instances where a character will clearly be screaming their bloody head off, but instead they’ll either sound like they’re throwing up, or they’ll remain completely silent with no sound whatsoever. But that particular issue also seems to be a problem with the audio in general. Songs and background music seemingly cut in and out with no rhyme or reason, and oftentimes the sound will just cut out entirely and the film will just go eerily silent, before the audio kicks back in and simple things like ambient noise return. So if you happen to watch Things and you notice the sound suddenly just completely drop out, don’t worry. It’s not your equipment or your WiFi. That is 100% the film’s fault.

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By this point the only thing left to talk about is the acting, but if you’re somehow still holding out hope that that will be in any way redeemable, then all I can say is you clearly haven’t been paying attention. People may make fun of Wiseau’s overacting, and Alan Bagh’s wooden performance as Rod in Birdemic, but when held up to Things, Bagh and Wiseau look like classically trained Shakespearean actors by comparison. People are constantly either under-reacting, or overreacting, assuming of course that they even attempt a reaction at all. Most of the time everyone just sounds bored out of their minds. And that’s even after they went through the trouble of re-dubbing the lines. It’s like no one put in any effort into it at all.

Wait. No. Scratch that. There was at least one actor that felt like they actually tried to emote, and that was Amber Lynn as the reporter who pops in and out of the film sporadically to give random news reports. Lynn is probably best known for appearing in Playboy and Hustler, and at the time she only had a minimal amount of roles in films that weren’t “adult” in nature, and yet even considering that, she still did a better job than any of the main characters. Sure, she had the benefit of being able to read all of her lines off a cue-card, a fact the film continually reminds you of thanks to her frequently being forced to look towards the left. But hey, you know what, at least she actually looks and sounds like a local news reporter (from the 80’s) . Which means she achieved a level of believability that no one else in this film managed to do. So for that, I thank you Miss Lynn, even if I still don’t know what the purpose of your role was.

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I’ll say this about Things, it’s a very aptly titled movie. People say some things, people fight some things, something happens, and all you can think about while you’re watching the movie is all of the other things you could be watching instead. From the story, to the audio, to the video, and to the acting, it’s just a glorious disaster of a film. There were times when it did something so stupid and random that it made me laugh out loud, and there were others where it did something so bad that it made me want to turn it off. It’s really the type of film so bad that it must be seen to truly be believed. So if you’re a fan of terrible cinema and need something to watch that you can make fun of for your watch party, then consider Things. You will love to hate it.

Things is available on a variety of streaming services.

Things is also available on DVD.

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Michi

2 thoughts on “Things (1989)

    1. Oh, no, I wouldn’t suggest anyone subject themselves to this one unless they’re truly interested in REALLY bad movies. I probably wouldn’t have watched it if I’d known what I was getting into. It’s my occasional punishment for not looking up films before I watch them.

      Too bad I didn’t realize until after I’d already seen it that Rifftrax had just recently released their own version, which means I could have potentially laughed my way through the film instead of cringe-crying.

      Liked by 1 person

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