The closing credits of the 1989 bargain-bin horror novelty Things declares in fuzzed-out block letters, “YOU HAVE JUST EXPERIENCED THINGS.” That kind of neutral, matter-of-fact statement is truly the only way this movie can be assessed, as if it were more of a unit of time or a natural disaster than it is a work of art. Things is delirious, direct-to-video Canuxploitation nonsense – a scuzzy hangout horror filmed on Super 8 and filtered through beat up VHS tapes. It’s near-budgetless & near-plotless, essentially just documenting a small group of Canadian horror nerds as they hang around one buddy’s bleakly dingy home, playing with homemade monster puppets and pretending that they’re Making A Movie. Its ineptitude drifts between disturbing dream logic & mind-numbing tedium so fluently that it’s near-impossible to determine whether it’s Good or Awful as a whole. And yet, it’s fondly remembered as a regional horror gem in cult-movie circles, because genre-trash Canadians are intensely loyal to their own subculture runoff. I cannot stress how much I admire that.
In the abstract, there’s a kind of sub-Cronenbergian body horror element to the premise, in which a couple’s desperate attempts at artificial insemination gives birth to an insectoid mutant creature that must be destroyed. The movie isn’t really about the couple or the mad scientist who created the ant-beast, though. Most scenes just feature a trio of buddies drinking cheap beer in that couple’s living room, while tangential interjections from outside the house occasionally gesture at the vague outline of a plot. This tactic includes sporadic news reports from vintage porn goddess Amber Lynn as TV reporter Amber Lynn, who appears to have filmed her contributions to the picture in less time than it took her to get in make-up. Things smartly paves over a lot of its incoherence with good ol’ Dream Logic, starting the whole thing off with a nightmare sequence just to set the tone. That does little to forgive the long stretches where absolutely nothing happens, and the characters trapped in its no-budget purgatory complain to the audience, “This is so boring.” I can’t help but agree, but its complete lack of purpose or urgency is—against all odds—charming, especially whenever the insectoid baby-mutant shows up to party.
Things mostly survives on the tried-and-true horror formula that Ineptitude + Time = Art. Its rubber monster puppets, Atom & His Package drum machine score, and general Tim & Eric awkwardness are adorable enough to leave most B-horror audiences with a positive feeling, even if we can’t remember exactly what we just “experienced.” The thing that really sticks out to me, though, is the way the actors can barely hold back their smirks, even in scenes where they’re supposedly being attacked by a mutant insect baby. The real joy here is not in what happens onscreen, but in the movie’s trajectory from a weekend art project between friends to a beloved Canuxploitation gem. Things has been cited as “perhaps the worst movie ever made” on several occasions, but even its status as the body horror version of The Room is a sign of respect in my eyes, a testament to Torontonians’ collective interest in exalting their own no-budget genre trash. I sincerely wish our own regional genre nerd community in New Orleans was strong enough to turn movies like Mardi Gras Massacre or The Last Slumber Party into cult classics in the same way.