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April 8, 2012

Supremely Cheesy Cinema, Vol 11: The Being

The ultimate terror takes form - if the tagline is to be believed - in The Being, an incredibly ridiculous piece of '80s horror that served as the debut feature for Blood Diner helmer Jackie Kong.   It's a film that I always remember around this time each year, because it just happens to be set on the eve and day of Easter.  Celebrating the resurrection of the Lord with a movie about a mutated beast that comes from toxic dumping that Martin Landau approved is probably a bit off.  But hey, association is association.
I don't know why, but I love horror movies with streets that look like THIS.
The setting is the small town of Pottsville, Idaho, where the locals are up in arms about recent events. Some of the townfolk are upset about filthy pornography invading their happy community, while others are worried about the contamination caused by a corporate fella (played by Landau, who's long been one of my favorite dudes) who is behind some waste disposal just outside the town.  We learn very early in the film - we're talking pretty much scene two - that these fears are valid, as a slimy creature that leaves a green trail takes out a scared teenager in a vicious manner.
That will definitely lower the car's resale value.
Enter our well bearded, trashy looking hero - Detective Mortimer Lutz.  He's played by producer Bill Osco - a member of the Osco Drug family - but Osco decided he needed a pseudonym for his on-screen persona.  And he created pretty much the best fake name for an awkward horror movie star of all-time: REXX COLTRANE.
He's like Kurt Russell in The Thing, only it's Idaho and he's uncomfortably hilarious.
Mr. Rexx Coltrane - there's no way I'm ever going to pass up the chance to write Rexx Coltrane, so this review might get a little repetitive here - is both the investigator assigned to the mysterious disappearances and one of the first people to encounter The Being and escape, which makes him basically Sheriff Brody from Jaws and Roy Neary from Close Encounters of the Third Kind all wrapped up in one awkward-yet-manly package.  Rexx Coltrane is probably most defined in one fantastic sequence, in which Rexx Coltrane a) accidentally sneaks up on the waitress he is trying to protect/bone; b) helps her to her car; c) notices a Being randomly hurling itself into the car from just off the right side of the screen; and d) jump kicks the door shut so he and waitress/new love interest can run away as fast as they can.  It's one of the best scenes ever, because it contains images like THIS:
Rexx Coltrane knows kung fu. WHOA.
As if the Earth-shattering performance from Rexx Coltrane - who takes on The Being straight through a warehouse based final showdown - wasn't enough of a reason to see The Being, I present another Oscar worthy performer from the film.  That performance comes from little Roxanne Cybelle - the daughter of Kong and Osco/Rexx Coltrane - in the film's most wonderful Easter based scene.
And the Academy Award for Best Performance by the Child of a Director & Rexx Coltrane goes to...
In said scene, little Ms. Cybelle plays Suzie, a toddler stuck in an Easter Egg hunt with much larger and less humane children.  We follow the pantless child around as she reaches for little bitty eggs and has them snatched from her grasp by older children who appear to have no souls.  Undeterred, Little Suzie (who may have had the Tesla song named after her, but I can't confirm that) keeps searching for eggs, wanders into some trees, and finds a hole in the ground that's kind of disgusting.
Worst. Easter. Egg. Hunt. EVER.
That's pretty gross looking, right? If you were a pantless toddler, you'd probably walk away from that, right? Well then....you're not as totally awesome as little Suzie as played by Roxanne Cybelle.  She knows that an Easter Egg hunt is a war - in fact, she probably learned that while she was still in the loins of Rexx Coltrane - and she doesn't give up so easily.  She doesn't walk away from the slimy hole with a baby Being in it.  She goes for the gold like a champion.
What's the worst that could happen?
Naturally, I wouldn't dream of telling you all what happens next (and honestly, I'm not sure what happens next makes enough sense to be explained anyway). All I can say is that this little girl is a superstar, and that she should be lauded through all the kingdoms of the horror realm.  As I rewatched the movie last night, I had to watch this scene a good three times - because there are very few equally excellent scenes involving children in terrifying situations in horror these days.  I kind of want to bottle this scene and put it into a better horror, but I guess it's like that old saying - you gotta dance with who brung ya.
And sometimes you dance with Martin Landau while he carries TWO rifles.
The rest of The Being isn't really as fantastic as these two marvelous scenes - Ruth Buzzi, Dorothy Malone, and Jose Ferrer(!) all add some exquisite cheese to many scenes, but lack Rexx Coltrane's hairy presence - and the plot is relatively C.H.U.D.-dy while not being C.H.U.D., but it's a far more enjoyable film than its 3.0/10 rating on that there IMDB would indicate. Though the film was actually produced in 1980 (with the title Easter Sunday, which I assume was there to try and capitalize on the holiday-themed-horror craze of the era), it sat on the shelf until a brief release in 1983.  Any cinephile can easily see why the film was relatively ignored on the whole - especially if they don't see the appeal of Rexx Coltrane as a laughable star or have a fondness for incredibly slimy creatures - but there's a charm here that a non-discriminating horror fan might recognize.
I'd like to think The Being has an eye for detail...
The Being is darn ridiculous - it even starts with an awesome bit of narration from a movie-trailer-sounding voice over man that sets a tone of ridiculousness - but I can't help being enamored with it.  It's a one of a kind small town horror - you might say it's the Balki Bartokomous to C.H.U.D.'s Larry Appleton (Perfect Strangers FTW!) - and it makes me smile a bunch.  So, in the name of everything Rexx Coltrane and Roxanne Cybelle - go find The Being.  You'll thank (or curse) me later.  Either way - Happy Easter!
This post is sincerely dedicated to the only man who would run to save Martin Landau, but stop near the end to re-adjust his black baseball cap: REXX COLTRANE. May his name live on forever.

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