Hallucinations (1986)

As a fan of low-budget, over-the-top horror movies, I’m used to art I like being dismissed as frivolous, juvenile, and needlessly grotesque.  When it comes to an exquisitely styled wet nightmare from David Cronenberg or a tightly constructed splatstick comedy like Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, that kind of snooty dismissal of practical-gore horror as a lower artform can be infuriating.  I cannot summon that same defensive fervor for 1986’s no-budget horror comedy Hallucinations, though.  It is exactly the frivolous, juvenile grotesquerie that better funded, more thoughtful pictures in its genre get dismissed as outright.  Not for nothing, it’s also a delight.

In Hallucinations, amateur gorehounds The Polonia Brothers stage a series of barely-connected gross-out gags in their mother’s suburban home.  The gangly twin teens are best known for their surprisingly successful video store novelty Splatter Farm, but this unassuming follow-up gets their lizard-brain appeal across just fine.  The plot is a direct echo of the production’s circumstances: three teenage boys are left home alone while their mother’s at work and “hallucinate” various goblins, ghouls, and gore gags.  Sometimes, their nightmare vignettes are adorably low-tech, like when a spooky monk figure seems to have traveled back in time into the frame from Matt Farley’s Druid Trilogy.  Elsewhere, their low-fi effect is genuinely horrific in its gross-out juvenile spirit, as when one of the brothers mysteriously shits an entire dagger(!!!) while the camera fixates on the resulting blood & viscera that collects in his tighty-whities.  It’s alternatingly cute & gnarly with no sense of control or rhythm to that tonal pendulum, and most of its momentum is in the dread of anticipating where it’s going next.

I have no real context for how typical Hallucinations is to the Polonia Brothers oeuvre, as I have yet to see Splatter Farm or any of their other classic-era dispatches from the Pennsylvanian suburbs.  This just happened to be the title from their catalog that’s currently free to stream on Tubi.  Between the chainsaws, the puke, the loving nods to Herschel Gordon Lewis, and the VHS camcorder patina, I’d say its place in the larger horror canon lands somewhere between Things (’89) & America’s Funniest Home Videos, with all the charm & limitations of both amplified a thousandfold.  More importantly, it’s a great opportunity to test the boundaries of your appreciation for practical-gore juvenilia.  The film reeks of a teen boy’s bedroom, from the monster doodles drawn in the margins of otherwise untouched school notebooks to the moldy pile of mysteriously “used” athletic socks.  If you have any stomach for this kind of for-their-own-sake practical gore showcases, here’s your chance to test out the claim that you have low-brow, undiscerning tastes.  In my case, guilty as charged.

-Brandon Ledet

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