Sunday, 30 March 2008

Shit-Start Second

Finally began the task of working my way through the DVD's I was so kindly given over Christmas by my lovely friends, who really deserve a higher percentage chance of use from their well thought-out presents than I generally tend to offer them.

Actually, there are presents specifically tailored to someone's sense of enjoyment, and then there's presents specifically tailored to someone's sense of sadomasochism. "Blood on Satan's Claw", a seasonal offering from Vomiting Mike, is most certainly in the latter category. Knowing of my dogged insistance on watching the crappest, campest, schlockiest (if it wasn't a word, I submit that it is now) horror films I can get my hands on, he managed to drag what looked like a true abomination of cinema into the light, presumably from out of whatever pit of Hell the mighty Beelzebub has reserved for 70's Hammer Horror knockoffs (the "critical essay", for want of a better term, which came in the box, claims that the film is often mistaken for a Hammer effort, although I would think it's probably more often mistaken for a cheese-induced nightmare dictated by a lisping, weeping child to a drunken idiot desperately trying to write shorthand with a wax crayon whilst wearing boxing gloves).

So, given I knew the film would be terrible from the start, I decided it might be an opportune time to play my Squid-patented "Shit-Start Second" game. The rules are pretty basic, you simply attempt to pinpoint the exact second in a film's running time at which it reveals itself to be total shit. Still with me?

To be clear, some films make you nervous from the get-go. You can have a bad feeling from opening credits for instance (or to go at it from the other direction, Big G swears he realised he was going to love "Brick" from a single shot only 54 seconds in). The idea here is to find the moment where your fears crystallise into certainty (the arrival of a given name in the credits does not count, an actor might not need to speak to ruin a film, but as a general rule we should at least give them the courtesy of waiting for them to arrive).

The current holder of the SSS record is the nightmare of celluloid men refer to in choking whispers as "Spawn". I was too traumatised by the experience of watching it to remember the exact timing, but it was the moment the evil clown started making fun of Martin Sheen. Somewhere around the four minute mark, I think.

Not that it matters, because I can now report that BoSC is our new reigning champion. The scene is as follows: Roger Dawltrey look-alike Ralph Gower is tilling a field when he notices some crows a little distance off. Finding the appearance of a small number of naturally-occuring fauna overpoweringly suspicious, he abandons his work to investigate, and finds that they've been bothering the decaying remains of some hideous quasi-human face. Except of course that what they've actually been doing is standing indolently atop a plaster-of-paris replica of a gargoyle's face with added blue paint and a glass eye. I know it's generally bad form to mock a film from the Seventies over its effects, but there's cheap-but-imaginative, and then there's stealing your props from children's parties (strange, twisted children, who grew up to go clubbing with chloroform and , but even so).

Time-stamp: 98 seconds. This will be tough to beat, I think.

Note also that you can sing the game title to the tune of "New York Minute" by the Eagles, which I stubbornly maintain is both cool and awesome. "In a shit-start second (oo-wee-ooooh) every film can change."

Suit yourselves.

As for the film itself, it was atrocious beyond belief. The increasingly ineptly named critical essay (if ever a film needed criticising, it was this one) claims it was originally written as three short stories hastily rearranged into one narrative, which certainly explains why the crazy-eyed sappy woman with the worrying similarity to T showed up, went nuts, got some kind of awesome claw-thing and then disappeared. Really though the problems were two-fold; firstly the plot didn't really go anywhere (kids go all witchy, try to resurrect Satan, fail), and secondly the "erotic" quotient of the film consisted of two topless women (one of whom, in fairness, was tremendously attractive, but even then attractive in the graceful beauty sort of way I've always liked that doesn't really lend itself to grubby gratuitous tog-shedding) and a profoundly disturbing rape scene (beyond the standard level of unease, obviously). Disturbing a) because the victim quickly started enjoying it (which you can wave away as being SATAN'S INFLUENCE, I suppose, but if there are films that can get away with the idea of a woman enjoying sexual assault (A History of Violence? Opinion is divided) it most certainly can't be one that already treats its female characters as all being hapless victims, bothersome old maids, and vicious conniving temptresses with big tits) and b) because the victim was Zoe from Doctor Who, and that's just not something my dreamy childhood memories can really sustain. The scene really wasn't helped by watching Betty from "Some Mother's Do Have 'Em" apparently reach orgasm as she watches all this, nostalgia really took quite a beating.

So a miss, all things considered. The only real highlight was learning that the DoP was named Dick Bush, which is probably my favourite name since Tokyo Sexwale.

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