Things (1989)

I’m taking a college course in literary theory right now, and I must confess that it is one of the most fascinating courses I’ve ever experienced. While I can’t say right now if it will dramatically impact my journalism style, but I can say it will probably change the small things about me that define my humanity. Right now we are examining trauma theory, and I can say without missing that trauma theory applies to the little-known 1989 Canadian film known as Things. Things is indicative of some kind of horrible event in the past of the directors. It is something that has made them go beyond the barriers of our feeble humanity. It cannot be grasped nor explained by sane and rational minds. I have hoped to make a career out of grasping that which is outside the cosmic scope of how we view the universe. I cannot even come close to determining what the fuck Things is supposed to be. It is not a film. It is not a story. I assume it was made on Earth machinery, but whatever devices were used no longer exist, because they broke the laws of physics and their very matter was destroyed by the madness they recorded. This is my best guess at what went down in the course of this movie.

So this guy named Don takes his friend Fred to visit his brother Doug out in his cabin in the deep dark woods, where he lives with his wife Susan. Doug and Susan have been struggling to have a baby, as indicated in an opening dream sequence where Doug asks a woman wearing a devil mask to have his baby, and then gets his hand bitten off. Anyway, Susan has been experimented on by the evil Doctor Lucas, who laughs like David The Rock Nelson and flays peoples’ hands. The David Nelson reference is apt given that Susan gives birth to not one but several hundred Devil Ants, dying in the process. Don, Doug, and Fred respond by grunting, vomiting, farting, cracking jokes, drinking beers, apparently visiting “the fourth and fifth dimensions”, and getting killed several times. Seriously. Fred is “sucked into that weird mouse-hole” off-camera and apparently explodes into blood—only to show up later with a chainsaw and get eaten by the Things! Actually, he gets eaten down to a skeleton and cracks jokes at his death while he is a skeleton. Also, Doug gets hit in the head with a hammer, which crushes his skull, only to die when he bleeds out as his hand randomly fucking explodes!! Meanwhile, Don may be criminally insane and also Amber Lynn shows up as a shoehorned-in reporter. Then, as a wholly separate entity from this vague semblance as a plot, we have the dialogue.

The voices in this movie are almost like Carl Sagan going through puberty, only with no humanity or emotion behind them. Except humor. Seriously. Screams of pain and laughter? What’s the diff? Plus also: “Aagahghgashgqqqghgha! They ate her to the skull! GAAAAAAHHH!!!” “You son of a bastard! Lighten the mood?!?!?! You DICK!!!!” “I’ve heard of living with the dead in New York, but man, this is ridiculous!!!” “You’re mentally insane! I’m taking you to a crazy person hospital! You’re psychologically crazy!” People joke about brutal death even when they themselves are being killed or are already dead. It’s like a comedy, but…not. There’s just something lodged in my brain that refuses to accept as something meant to be laughed at by anyone, even on an unintentional scale. It’s too chilling. Chilling is a perfect word. There’s just something—wrong—about…everything. The dialogue I’ve described. The camera angles…alien. The music…ill-fitting. The lighting…glitchy. I almost feel like there’s someone behind me when I watch it; and then the “jokes” reassure me that that element is outside the film’s budget. Not like budget limits anything else. The sky’s the limit on gore and dubs. They just happen to soar low.

I feel like as Yr. Humble Film Critic I’m doing a sloppy job. I simply cannot define this film any further than what I have done above—the weirdness is impeccable, but above (below?) the idea of class. It literally has to be seen to be believed. But I’m almost afraid to recommend it. Even my crowd is normalized by it. Anyone who is inexperienced will be dragged below. I assume wherever this film beckons, there is weeping.

There is no grand sense of scale here. I feel like, as in Shreck, the filmmakers were horror nerds—but they refuse to let it show. Sometimes it bobs through, but in more of a Science Crazed sense. Actually, this is Science Crazed to perfection. The plots are actually almost identical. Repetition, if ever used, is done with efficiency in mind. Or out of mind, for nothing is “in mind” in this film. The stilted acting is not made to an art form which is what makes it so sublime. The crackling film and weirdo sound effects are laziness in action. There is nothing like this, folks. Nothing at all. And if there is, it is lying. It is a pretender.

Make the call yourself. I wish I could help you further, I really do. But this is all I can offer for now. The men and women who labored at this production have captured not inhumanity, but lack of humanity, on film. Make of that what you will.


  • Venger Satanis

    Wonderful analysis! I finally saw Things a few days ago… it was a revelation. Of what, I have no idea. But a revelation nonetheless. This movie goes beyond ordinary human understanding…