Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Film Appreciation - You Won't Believe Your Eyes

Guest contributor Matt, God of Thunder takes a look at the 1993 shot-on-video Goblin for Film Appreciation.  

Allow me to tell a story. When I was 10 years old, we all had the internet, and if we wanted to find out info on something obscure, we could do it, unlike the early '90s when the film I'm about to review was released. At that point, you pretty much had to get lucky and discover films. Either way - I was reading VIDEO AND DVD GUIDE by Mick Martin/Marsha Porter when I saw the title 'Zombie Bloodbath.' I took a second to process this, and thought, "Wow... this sounds like the most amazing film ever..." and saw the director's name - TODD SHEETS. There may as well have been a dramatic musical cue when I read the name, given how things have turned out. Either way, I looked to see how many films he had done when I saw one title that grabbed me - GOBLIN. So simple, especially in light of BLOODTHIRSTY CANNIBAL DEMONS, but it was intriguing enough that I wanted to find out a bit more info about it. I figured a killer goblin was something I had yet to see and the movie just HAD to be the shit. Of course, it had been given the 'turkey' rating, but I never let something stupid like that get in my way.

So I went on Amazon and looked up the title and bam! I saw the box. "Wow... this is awesome..." my 10 year old self thought. I liked the artwork so much that I printed it out and placed it in a three ring binder, to go along with the million or so GRIZZLY poster print-outs I had made. Of course, I never found the movie anywhere I looked. At the time, I really wasn't able to order stuff online, and being 10, I didn't really have the money to do that either so... I spent years wondering about what the movie was like, thinking that box art was the coolest thing ever made that seemingly nobody was talking about. Flash to a few years down the line and I'm finally seeing the ZOMBIE BLOODBATH movies. At this time, I had grown to love shot-on-video films - and I would have absolutely hated those movies had I saw them at first mention, as I was unfamiliar and unenthusiastic to the medium. The first ZOMBIE BLOODBATH really blew me away, as did the other two. Then I finally got a good look at Todd the man himself - big tall guy, Testament cap, long hair. There was absolutely no way I was going walk away as a NON-fan after that - the dude dug thrash metal, over the top splatter, and camcorders! Oh, how much we had in common.

I started to look up more of his movies to see if I could buy a few - then GOBLIN came back to me. Try as I did, I could not find an old VHS of the film. However, a couple years later I did notice that the movie had been released by Pendulum Pictures, and there were at least 3 sets of DVDs that the movie was on! After a short cheer, I ordered it, and at this time Todd and I were friends. I messaged him about it, told him how excited I was to finally own a copy of the movie, and... "You poor guy! RUN! NOW!" *ominous cue* The DVD set came in the mail a few days later, and that night, I popped in GOBLIN to see if the 10 year wait was worthwhile in the end. Now, again, when I had first heard of it, I was TEN YEARS OLD. I never thought it would be shot on video, I never thought it would be as obscure as it was, AND I WAS NEVER SUSPECTING THIS.

We start off with Sheets regular Jerry Angell (mullet in tow) swinging a sling blade around some grass and babbling on and on about "Virginia Woods" and how badly she pissed him off. After about 30 seconds of this, he slams the blade down on the ground and says "Enough of this, I'm gonna go get me a beer." He makes his way toward the barn (I guess that's where he keeps his beer) and notices that something isn't exactly right here. Dizzy camera angles around a mounted bull skull give us the same impression. He begins barking at the air for whoever it is to get out of there before he comes over to whoop some ass. About 5 seconds later he gives up and continues his descent into the barn (beer, barn... I'm not sure I like what road this guy is going down, especially if the livestock room is in his path). He's making his way down, no doubt salivating at the very prospect of alcohol when BAM! Hairy arms grab him and shove him to the floor. Wait... hairy, human arms... this is about a goblin, right? In any case, he just sits there shrieking at the top of his lungs, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE style (*rimshot*... WHAT?) while the supposed goblin grabs a hedgetrimmer and places it on his stomach. Apparently this is the kind of hedgetrimmer that does not need to be powered on, nor make any real contact to inflict bodily mutilation, because the carnage begins immediately. After some orange, Tang-ish blood shoots out of his stomach, his guts fall out into a pile in his lap, continuing to bleed orange Gatorade. The goblin eventually packs up and leaves, taking the hedgetrimmer with him, and the opening titles commence.

After which, we cut to a group of friends, two of which have bought a house and are in the process of unpacking it. One of the friends finds an old book in the basement and begins reading - it's a diary. Apparently the former owner was a struggling farmer who decided to resort to black magic to save his crops. Instead of receiving the desired results, however, it only summons a vicious goblin from the depths of Hell itself, who slaughters the man's family and other residents of the town. The man eventually decides 'enough is enough' and finds the goblin passed out in the bottom of the well outside - so he boards it up and that was the end of his bullshit.

Cut to the neighbors, the husband is going out for some groceries and the wife is washing the dishes in what has to be the most horrible kitchen sink I have ever seen. She's washing some plates when all of a sudden - a guy in rags and a monster mask pops out (this might have been a bit more effective had the camera not sharply panned to the left a good 2 seconds before this reveal) and bitchslaps her! Wait - who is this? Is this the goblin? I guess it must be. Hmmm... looks fairly cool for a homebrewed horror monster. But where was he 15 minutes ago? Anyway, she fa- wait, if this is the goblin, what the hell is going on here?! I thought he was sealed at the bottom of the well?! Did he finally figure out that wood's pretty easy to break if you're a super demon from Hell? Or did someone take it off without showing us? Anyway, she falls to the floor, spitting blood. The goblin then notices a conveniently placed power drill. He picks it up and slooowwwlllyyy brings it down... down... down... down... dooowwwnnn... until her eye is gouged by the drill in what has to be the most obvious Lucio Fulci double reference I've ever seen (and if you can't figure it out, NO, I am not going to hint you. Watch the damned movies.) He drills her eye for a good 5 seconds or so, when it cuts back to her head - she's been covered with raw chicken tenders painted red! He picks up one of the chicken tender guts (guess she's full of 'em) with the drill bit and, hilariously, allows it to spin around in a circle for a few seconds. After this, the G dude decides to cut the bullshit, and have a nice little disembowelment session. Then, the camera zooms into a lit burner! Oooh, what's he gonna do now?

Well, guess we'll never know, because apparently this whole scene was a horror movie the kids were watching, which they summarily turn off. One of them goes "It was different, but I liked it." At that point - they've been joined by this fat guy with long hair (who bears a striking resemblance to myself, eerily enough) who had the bright idea to scare them instead of, ya know, knocking to make sure he was welcome. Douchebag.

Now we cut back to the neighbor's house and WHAT? It really happened? Are they watching surveillance footage of the nighbors? (Kinky bastards.) Or... what the hell movie were they watching? WHY DO I HAVE SOOOO MANY QUESTIONS 20 MINUTES IN?! Either way - apparently what we just saw 5 minutes ago was INDEED the second kill scene in the movie's universe. The husband's back, and establishes this by saying "Hi honey they ran out - OH MY GOD!" a bit too eagerly, at which point the Heavy Metal Goblin comes up behind him with a fire poker and jams it right up his ass, until it comes out of his gut, like a halfassed CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST chick.

Cut back to the house - they hear noises, a couple people think that their buddies are messing around with them, so they decide to investigate. True to horror movie form, it doesn't work out too great. One guy is pulled onto the roof by the Goblin and it is revealed that he TOO is filled with raw chicken tenders - he's got a belly full of 'em! Which the goblin is happy enough to throw all over the place and grunt at.

Meanwhile - the blonde friend (who I did not mention earlier because keeping up with the characters is a bit too much to ask with this movie - trust me) goes to the bathroom to change into some hot-pants (at which point, the delighted viewers get a nice look at her nipples under her sweater) when she TOO hears a noise outside and, unaware that she's being filmed in a horror film, also decides to go investigate. She climbs a ladder until BAM! A hairy, human arm grabs her, with a sickle in the other hand! Wait - what the hell? What happened to the goblin? Who's this asshole? What... hold up... I was gonna let it slide the first time but - WHAT? Don't SHOW us the goblin TWICE and then pull this! Either way, the 'goblin' pulls her down a few steps of the ladder and swipes the sickle's blade into her flesh, blood immediately spewing from her maw. Cut to the sickle - and it's making good friends with her love tunnel. He keeps slicing the wound wider and wider until he decides he's created enough of an orifice that he can jam his very human-ish fist right up in there and rip out fake intestine after fake intestine, VIOLENT SHIT style, all to the tune of a sweet speed metal riff. After he's done throwing meat trimmings everywhere, it cuts back to the house - and everbody's wondering where the hell their friends have gone. They send one guy to look who, in the very next says "They're dead!" I guess it would have been too much trouble to show us the decimated corpses.

They then collectively shit themselves, where it is revealed that they DID, in fact, bust up the boards on the well. Of course, this wasn't filmed and the audience was pretty much left in the dark on the matter. Either way, after a mass shriek contest and 2 or 3 "This is like a bad horror movie"-style lines, they all band together and... walk outside, I guess to go get help from the trees. Uh, YOU'RE OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. YOU HAVE CONVENIENTLY PROVIDED A BUFFET FOR YOUR MENACE. Either way, as could be expected, the goblin shows up again and attacks the long haired fat guy, ripping his guts out, fittingly enough. But - he takes it a step further - he begins to TEAR HIS BRAINS OUT OF HIS EAR! What the... that's pretty awesome. And hey, apparently he decided to wear his nice WHITE T-SHIRT while he did it. Uh... why was that shot left in?! Where was the goblin costume, did it fall apart after that one scene? Or wait... could it be that, given how much the movie has decided 'happened' without showing us, there is a killer on the loose as well? That's all I can think of. And I gotta tell you - if I was a crazed mass murderer picking off innocent people in the most disgusting, inhuman ways imaginable, and my thunder was being stolen by a GOBLIN, I would be extremely pissed.

Either way, the goblin (I guess we'll just have to accept him this way) plays around with the brains while one of Todd's metal tunes plays on the soundtrack, and the rest of the group run around, thinking up ways to get rid of the goblin. They again decide to check out a neighbor's house, and as luck would have it, she's home. Of course, they were so damned noisy about it that the goblin is again hot on their trail - and surprise! It is in fact the goblin this time! Costume and all. He runs around and falls on his ass. I guess the last kill made him a bit clumsy. The group are let in by the neighbor and begin to recite their story. The neighbor says "Yeah - it's a goblin." O...K... she explains the backstory once more, and the movie cuts to a foggy set of vacant houses, with a long haired guy in a leather jacket wal- hey, it's Todd! Todd walks around, talking to himself, until he decides to break into one of the houses. In the darkened house, he walks around screaming "Hello? HELLO? I'm gonna call the police!" Uh... what?

About 5 minutes later he makes his way to the outside balcony, where the goblin is waiting for him. The goblin stabs Todd in the mouth with some scissors and starts cutting his fingers off (apparently melting his skin into plastic as well) while the camera cuts to... a slighty pink-tinted burst of water hitting the wall. Uh... either way, the goblin kills him, while some bizarre stock classical music plays.

So... from this point on, the movie variates between the group and the neighbor talking about the goblin, and the goblin once again running around and falling on his ass, until they figure out how to stop the goblin: they have to cut his chest open and... shove a necklace into his gaping wound. WHAT. Why not blow off his head with a shotgun and set the headless corpse on fire? Why not sever each limb with a chainsaw and piss on the twitching remains? Why not force holy water down his throat and have him disintegrate from the inside? WHY DO THEY HAVE TO KILL HIM WITH A NECKLACE?! *sigh*

OK... so they start to enact their plan when a cop decides to check up on things. Unfortunately for him, the goblin is back, and shoves a sickle blade down his throat. Apparently he's all full on eviscerations, so that's the end of it. I guess when you start out on max level... either way, two of the guys chase the goblin around with a rototiller, while the goblin goes to harrass one of the women who has locked herself in the car. The guy loses control of the rototiller and the goblin chases after them with it. Fortunately, one of them has a powersaw handy, and begins to slice his rib cage open. After green pus sprays from his chest, they shove the necklace in, and more green foam sprays out of the goblin, who dies.

Of course, that's not enough for this movie, so we see... zombies? What? Really? A demon from Hell ripping peoples' guts out isn't enough? There has to be ZOMBIES? I mean, I know Todd's a big zombie dude but... why? Apparently - in yet another plot turn that didn't come up until now - everyone who got killed by the goblin turns into a zombie. They break into the house, and everyone inside (the rest of the characters) is purely and simply screwed. The end.

Wow... I... what... WHAT THE HELL? What... what was this? Was there a gas leak in my house that I didn't know about? Am I only seconds away from succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning and this was my last heavenly vision on Earth? Just... I have absolutely no idea what to make of this.

Now, I'll bet after that, you probably think I don't like this. I'll bet you think I LOATHE this film. That I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT. Well I got news for you, Jack, you're WRONG. In fact, I don't hate it at all. I LOVE it. I really do - I absolutely love this film. It's not great - actually, why don't I cut the bullshit, it is a HORRIBLE movie, but it's not one that I would ever call unwatchable, and it is VERY enjoyable with the proper expectations going in.

The story is.... well, it's fucked up. I think that much is obvious, but a cool story nonetheless. Had Todd Sheets been a bit more experienced, this might have gone on to be an absolute masterpiece of the SOV niche. The script however... uh... well actually, the script ain't too bad for this kinda thing either. HOWEVER - the execution of it is... wow.

The editing is the first thing that is SEVERELY wrong with this thing. This movie should have, at the very least, been about 7 minutes shorter (and it's only about 75 minutes as it is). Now, VHS was, as I understand it, an absolute pain in the ass to edit, so I can't get too mad at it, but... some of the shots just should not have been there at all. Sometimes scenes go on too long - the gore scenes by far - and the effect is practically ruined. The rooftop disembowelment scene is by far the biggest offender. It just keeps going on and on and there's so many ridiculous, revealing gore shots that just should have been trimmed like hell. The other 'biggie' is Todd's cameo. Now, I'll never say I'm displeased to see Todd Sheets as the man's one of my heroes. But this scene... it honestly reminds me A LOT of a similar scene in AX EM. It just goes on for waaaaaaaaaaay too long. It should have been about a minute and a half, instead it goes on for like 5 or 6 minutes and just kills the pace. And honestly - up to that point the movie had actually been fairly entertaining, but that's where it just gloriously collapses. I truly believe that this movie could be vastly improved - for a fan of SOV gore films that is, mainstream shitters are never going to pull their heads out of their asses long enough to give something like this a chance - by an extensive re-edit. Still, when all is said and done, I really can't be too mad at this movie.

See - GOBLIN was never intended for release. Ever. This was one of the 13 or 14 movies that Todd shot with a group of his buddies for practically no money at all, that were mainly collecting dust in his attic until Mr. Dave DeCoteau decided to have them released! Unfortunately - Todd's reputation suffered an enormous blow, and many people who saw these films decided he was a bad filmmaker and never gave him a second chance. Not only that - they were hostile about it as well, sending him hate mail, making cruel personal insults, all over a movie. I wouldn't be surprised if some asshole had sent him a death threat as well. Gradually, Todd managed to come back, with ZOMBIE BLOODBATH marking his 'real' film career. See, Todd's earlier movies went down so badly with the public and harbor so many hurt feelings that Todd basically disowns this and about everything else he did before ZB.

Which is a shame because, for all of its major faults, GOBLIN really isn't all that bad - well, it's bad, but it's certainly entertaining, it's certainly rewatchable, and it's a really fun time watching this. And I think these films were a major testament to Todd's talent - most filmmakers spend their time and preparation on ONE movie. Todd was doing like 5 or 6 of these things every year and kept going and going, and honestly, it helped him become the director he is today (err... that he was 10 years ago and will hopefully continue to be soon... Todd, give the radio station a rest, it's time for the GOOOOORE again!) One look at his newer material will confirm that the man does have talent - and it's definitely talent he learned hands-on, by doing this over and over and over again.

And besides that - GOBLIN is by far a movie that exists purely for Todd's worship of horror. The man's one of the single biggest horror nuts I've ever talked to. I highly doubt that there exists an old school or indie horror film that he hasn't seen. The guy simply LIVES for this genre. And it shows, in spades. So, when it boils down to it, GOBLIN's a severe horror addict's creatively shot home movie that got released by chance for the world to see. Was the world ready? Well, it appears not. It's easy to attack GOBLIN's many shortcomings but - I prefer to see beyond all that to the root of the entire show - horror worship. It's something I can very much appreciate and it makes the entire viewing experience worthwhile. So despite all the bad editing, the unconvincing raw meat gore props, the lack of a credible menace, the meandering, the lack of nudity (cause it really would have been appreciated, hahaha), the bizarre stock score that Todd used in all of his old movies making an encore appearance, and... well, I should stop here. Anyway, despite all that - I love GOBLIN. It's a very fun movie to watch, it's one I watch fairly regularly, and while it's not Todd's all time best accomplished by a longshot, I'd still highly recommend it it to any of his fans and fans of camcorder exploitation grotesqueries. After all, he was barely out of high school with practically no money, and if ANYONE is so conceited to think they could do way better under the same circumstances, that Todd's some kind of screw-up for making this under these conditions, allow me to bring you back to reality: YOU'RE DELUSIONAL, YOU'RE TALKING OUT OF YOUR ASS.

Give it a watch. If you can't find it - here ya go. Rent it on Amazon.

Now Todd, if you're reading this... A SPECIAL EDITION DVD WITH A COMMENTARY IS IN ORDER! We're all sorry how the assholes treated you over it, but we're your fans, and we love this film!

And... I would like to conclude this testament (CURSE OF THE LEGIONS OF DEATH! Heh heh) by saying... Thanks Todd, for being such a friend and an inspiration to me. You're among the coolest people on this planet and I'm glad to know you. Can't wait to work on ZB4.

You won't believe your eyes... until he rips them from their sockets!

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