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Entries in Terrifyingly Hilarious (2)

Tuesday
Apr262011

Terrifyingly Hilarious - The Gimp Under the Stairs 

"See Daddy hates Roach because he got out of the cellar and into the walls…and now Daddy can't find him." - Alice

I grew up next to a funeral home. And after seeing this movie I never looked at my neighbors the same way again. 

 

A brother and sister live in incest in a creepy old mansion/funeral home filled with booby traps, a man-eating rottweiler, a cache of gold, and a bunch of mutilated boys locked in the cellar.

Why this has yet to become a reality show I have no idea.

Wes Craven's little-seen, but still incredible, classic "The People Under the Stairs" features Brandon Adams reprising the role he played in "The Mighty Ducks" and "Mighty Ducks 2." This time instead of playing championship pee-wee hockey, Jesse (who we learn is called Fool in the hood) is off on a whole new adventure when Ving Rhames convinces him that the only way to pay for his dying mother's cancer surgery is to rob their stupidly rich, very deliberately Reagan-esque landlords (who are both clear proxies for Ronald and Nancy Reagan). Funny how a decade later the idea of poor people not being able to afford adequate healthcare is still relevant…but I digress.

 

Doesn't seem all that Fool-ish right? Well it doesn't until they actually break into said house and discover it's not just built to keep black people out, but also to keep mutilated, cannibalistic white people in. Turns out the landlords (who are called Daddy and Mommy respectively, despite being actually brother and sister…eew) are crazier than a carousel of cat shit and have been kidnapping children for years. Of course kids don't take too kindly to being snatched from their parents and abused (presumably sexually…Daddy is kind of a freak) and when they inevitably misbehave Daddy and Mommy are left with no choice but to mutilate them and lock them in the cellar (as you do).

But what happens if one of the kids escapes? Well, that brings us to Roach. At some point Roach got out of the cellar and now makes his home in the abnormally thick walls of the funeral home. Daddy wants him back in the cellar. And Mommy worries about where Roach might be going to the bathroom.

 

So what's a crazed Ronald Reagan stand in to do?

 

Put on a "Pulp Fiction"-style gimp/bondage suit and blast the walls at random with your SPAS-12 shotgun. I wonder if there's a Modern Warfare achievement for that?

 

I think what makes this scene work for me is that it's so incredibly random and unexpected. It's scary because you seriously begin to wonder about Daddy's mindstate and what kind of shit Fool as found himself knee-deep in. But yet…the dude is also wearing a gimp suit. I'm sure being chased by a crazy proto-Tea Partier with a shotgun is frightening as hell in any context, but isn't it just a little easier to handle if the guy is in a gimp suit?

 

 

I've heard that Craven himself admits that this film is an allegory for Reaganomics. The parallels are pretty clear – poor people (black and white) getting the shaft, overpriced healthcare, wealth that isn't trickling down, and I'm told that Ronald and Nancy were actually prone to calling each other "Mommy" and "Daddy."

Once you understand this the politcal message of "The People Under the Stairs" becomes abundantly clear: Strange men in gimp suits are carrying shotguns and coming for your children. And there's nothing you can do about it…nothing. 

Thursday
Apr212011

Terrifyingly Hilarious – The Johnny Five Beatdown

You'd think a PG rated sci-fi, family comedy staring a wisecracking robot and perhaps the only performance of a white actor in Indianface (way to bridge the racial gap Fisher Stevens) would be pretty safe, wholesome viewing.

You, my friend, would be wrong…oh so tragically wrong.

In addition to setting Indian culture back 500 years, cramming about 1000 robot one-liners into every scene, and featuring a snazzy 80s synth jazz score, "Short Circuit 2" was also a diatribe on the dangers of the big city. This was the late 80s, back when you were just as likely to get murdered in NYC as find a great slice of pizza. And at its core this movie is really about maintaining a sense of self, even when surrounded by nothing but negative influences, as Johnny Five's well-meaning naiveté collides head on with the murkier elements of the big city. He's got a choice – he can cave in and let the city destroy him, or he can wise up, get smart and learn to navigate the pitfalls and dangers while still remaining the same, lovable (if not slightly annoying) Johnny.

If you think about it, it's actually a pretty great message: The world will destroy you if you let it, but, like Johnny, it's important to never let go of that special, caring part of you that just wants to read books at breakneck speed, hang out with your white-Indian friends, and generally have a synth-jazzy good time.

It warms my heart…

Many of the scenes in this regard are handled pretty light-heartedly. Johnny thwarts some would-be robbers while quoting "The Honeymooners," he uses his deus ex machina radio device (that can literally control ANYTHING electronic) to play music, he even joins a Latino gang, whose modus operandi is kicking various things (including your balls) into outer space!

But then, right at the end of the second act, shit gets real. Waaaaay too real. Johnny is assaulted by the movie's three villains and mercilessly beaten within an inch of his life with a fire axe and crowbar. And not in any kind of amusing way: He gets the kind of beating that would make Rodney King and Alex Murphy think they got off easy.

 

And he BLEEDS! As if seeing a loveable, kind-hearted robot get the shit kicked out of him isn't effed up enough, the FX people in this movie decided it would be cool if Johnny had red battery fluid. The result? When Johnny gets hit you get a nice "blood" splatter to go along with it.  Outside of "Neon Genesis Evangelion" I don't think I've ever seen a robot bleed before and I have to say it's easy some of the freakiest, most disturbing material ever put to celluloid. They tried to lighten things up toward the end of the scene by having Johnny use his god antenna to rescue himself using model planes – the very definition of too little, too late.

The dangerous ol' big city shoves it's dick up in Johnny – HARD! – on this one. On the upside Johnny gets a brand new body in the end. A body made of solid gold that is probably worth hundreds of thousands of 1980s dollars. I can only assume there was never a Short Circuit 3 because Johnny probably eventually rolled his foolish, 24 karat ass right into the heart of gangland, caught another fire axe/crowbar special, and was smelted down into about 8532 custom grillz.

      

 

…R.I.P Johnny "Number 5" Five. 

 

 

And in case that scene has left you rattled (which I know it always does for me) you can cheer yourself up by reciting the Los Locos chant (preferably in your office; in front of your boss)!