APRIL 25, 2011
Quite some time ago, the esteemed Simon Barrett more or less forced me to borrow Fungicide, a film from the same team (read: one guy, Dave Wascavage, with his wife Mary assisting) who made Suburban Sasquatch, a film we found quite delightful in its terribleness. But I think I can only accept such nonsense from someone once, as I didn’t find Fungicide to be very amusing at all – after a while, horrendous, borderline “fake” CGI and actors who can’t act (including the husband/wife pair) just doesn’t seem funny anymore.
The main difference is that Sasquatch at least seemed to be sort of serious, but here I got the impression that they were intentionally making a bad movie, which only works if you have the resources and money to pull it off. They would have been better off trying to play it straight, which would have actually made it funnier. Instead, they go for extreme goofiness at all times, with paper mache heads on corpses, a mushroom driving a car (and picking up a hooker, also played by Mary in a scene that initially confused me as I wasn’t aware it was supposed to be a different character), and other flat out nonsense.
All of this in addition to the negative budget cheapness I was expecting, and then some. While Sasquatch at least had the whole town at its disposal, Fungicide takes place in one ill-suited house, which is all the more painful when you take into account that it’s supposed to be some remote bed and breakfast, but it’s just someone’s suburban house. When the owner takes the guests on a nature walk, they’re just wandering down the street, with Mary haphazardly pointing at things that her husband didn’t even bother cutting away to. See, even in a movie that you’re not supposed to take seriously, there still has to be a commitment to legitimately making a movie. Look at Airplane, which is quite possibly the least serious movie ever made – they still have things like establishing shots, continuity, proper framing, etc. I should be able to detect the difference between things that are supposed to be jokes and things that are just sloppy mistakes, but that is impossible here.
But even ignoring all of that, it was the presentation that really did this one in. I’ve seen a couple movies that had some strange framing errors, like a sudden scope shot of a moon when the movie was 1.85:1, but that’s easy enough to understand – they stole the shot from another movie and didn’t bother to re-frame it. Fine. But what the fuck is going on here? Scope shots, 1.85 shots, full frame shots, window-framed shots (some with a black border, others with a white), and even... actually I don’t know what the hell this is supposed to be:
Ah yes, the rare .5:1 ratio with the white windowboxing option! Plus just about every scene has shots that are digitally zoomed in, or recycled shots (often just flipped – thrill as an old lady changes which hand she’s using to write with as she circles classified ads in an upside down newspaper). 90% of the presentation errors are wholly inexplicable to a viewer, and no one bothers to explain them on either of the commentary tracks. The movie is just plain impenetrable.
And it’s a shame, because he could have made a really fun movie if he took the approach of say, The Killer Shrews and made the movie straight and with at least a little bit of genuine production value. I have to admit, killer mushrooms is a new concept, and I liked that they came in all shapes and sizes – there are little tiny ones (spores, I guess), medium sized ones that crawl through the toilet or bite at ankles, and then of course the human sized ones, which even have arms so they can engage in endless hand to hand combat. But I just found it impossible to enjoy on any level, because the insane presentation and total ignorance of how to properly pull off a spoof of monster movies just kept me at bay.
There were fleeting moments that made me chuckle, however. The site of the mushroom driving was fairly sublime, and I can’t totally hate a movie where a hero suggests eating the villain in order to stop it. But the key moment for me, which I actually applauded, was when one of the protagonists suddenly decides to sacrifice himself via spontaneous combustion, taking a bunch of the mushrooms along with him. No, that’s not a mistake – he actually just DECIDES to spontaneously explode. And the icing on the cake are the other heroes, who just sort of watch him do it without any sort of reaction at all, and then continue their conversation, as if nothing of importance (or insane batshittedness) had just occurred. But, you know, it’s the equivalent of eating a bowl of Lucky Charms that only has one marshmallow - it sure tastes good when you find it, but it wasn’t worth the effort.
At least they are aware of the movie’s badness on the commentary track. I almost feared turning it on, because I was afraid they would be of the impression that they did a good job here, but they spend most of the time mocking it and one another (Mary seems particularly down on it, bless her). However, both it and the typo-ridden “text commentary” from Wascavage, in which he discusses the special effects (though not what he used to make them – he left a comment on my Sasquatch review saying it WASN’T After Effects, but didn’t reveal his actual application) neglect to even mention the movie’s bizarre framing aesthetic, let alone explain it. Also, there are THREE Daves in the cast, which makes it a bit confusing which one they are referring to (try using last names, maybe?). Not that it really matters much, as one of them points out on the audio track, “No one will be listening to this in a few years”. Yup, just me.
I will give Wascavage credit for one thing – he’s not trying to scam anyone out of their hard earned dollars. You can buy the movie for 7 bucks on his site (plus 3 for shipping), which isn’t a hell of a lot more than the cost of a DVD-R, case, and label. Some of these indie guys try to bilk you out of 20 bucks for a movie of about equal worth, so at least he’s offering it at a fair price. But for my money - or Simon’s, I guess - Suburban Sasquatch (available for the same cost) is a far better way to enjoy some silly, no-budget monster action.
What say you?