Week in Film: Texas Virgin on a Tear, Student Council Blood Bath

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(Flyer via Wiki commons)

Strawberries Need Rain
Friday September 2, Friday September 9, Saturday September 17, Saturday September 24, midnight at Spectacle: $5

Throughout September, Spectacle is screening a whole slew of films by midnight master, Texas filmmaker, and self-proclaimed “schlockmeister” Larry Buchanan. Old photos of the dude could easily fool you into thinking he’s a jolly pediatrician who makes house calls and checks your pulse with the aid of a pocket watch. Best known for his schlocky sci-fi/horror B-movies like Mars Needs Women and the 1969 original of It’s Alive! (not to be confused with the 1974 cult classic written/directed by Larry Cohen), Buchanan made some super awful and yet somehow successful films, as the story goes. The Times put it best after Buchanan died in 2004 at the age of 81: “It was not so much that his films were bad; they were deeply, dazzlingly, unrepentantly bad.”

But Spectacle, being an edgy sort of joint, is all about turning over the filthy animal that is popular cinematic history and combing through its scraggly belly hairs, waiting for the delicious flea nuggets of truth and justice to drop. Strawberries Need Rain is one such flea morsel swollen with the juices of Buchanan’s under-loved filmmaking triumphs.

(Via Spectacle)
(Via Spectacle)

And it’s pretty friggin’ amazing to see what Buchanan could do with a very low-budget art film, what Spectacle’s calling “Bergmansploitation.” Hoping to make it look as European as possible, he shot the film in one of those bizarro, cutesy German towns in Texas Hill Country. The story takes place in the last 24 hours of a young babe’s life. Whatever is a young virgin to do after the Grim Reaper surfs up to her doorstep and is all, “Hon, I’ll give you one day to make it right”? Given the excellent movie poster showing Monica Gayle (the stunning exploitation actress of Switchblade Sisters and The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio) as the squirrelly innocent licking a very strange looking strawberry, you can well guess what the young lass decides to do with her last remaining hours.

According to a Texas Monthly article, Buchanan talked a Dallas movie theater owner into marketing Strawberries as a legit Bergman– he was quite pleased when, reportedly, the audience ate it up: “One of the high points of Buchanan’s life was hearing [Southern Methodist University] students dissect the symbolism of this thrown-together fake in hushed, reverent tones.”


I Am Not A Serial Killer
Thursday September 1, 9:55 pm at IFC Center: $14

Tonight’s your last chance to see this creepy serial killer horror flick at IFC Center, so get to it. In this film set against the bleak backdrop of brutal Midwestern winter, a drawn looking teen John Cleaver is obsessed with serial killers, which doesn’t seem so abnormal. Heh, right? But Cleaver’s actually cut out to be one– first of all, he’s a white male with a name that’s almost too perfect for sensational headlines. Also, he’s pretty comfortable around all those corpses passing through his family’s funeral home, maybe even a little bit too comfortable. Not to mention that Cleaver’s a diagnosed sociopath. Somehow though he’s managed not to act on his urges. Yet.

Cleaver’s ability to control himself, however, seems less likely as an actual, accomplished serial killer shows up in his hometown and starts knocking people off left and right. If the plot sounds familiar, well, you’ve revealed yourself to be a YA lover, cuz it’s based on Dan Wells’ teen novel series. If the trend of adults reading YA really grinds your gears, and you think about swallowing a stick of dynamite every time someone tells you to go check out that new Pixar Toy Story sequel because it just “Says a lot about the adult human condition,” don’t freak– we have good reason to believe this film’s less Hunger Games and more Let The Right One In.

I’m even inclined to draw parallels between It Follows, because based on all the plot strings and symbolic undertones going on here, there might be a similar sort of alternative morality play going on here. Whereas the Detroit-set horror movie that was something of an indie hit last year was heavy on the female sexual awakening, STDs, and rape, Serial Killer might be approaching the subject of sexual coming of age from the boy’s side. I mean, literally every piece of post-modern art can be traced back to masturbation, but I can’t help but make the connection between Cleaver’s self-control and learning how not to spend all day petting one’s self.


Election
Saturday September 3 and Sunday September 4, 1 pm and 4 pm at Syndicated: $3

Tracy Flick was arguably the only good role Reese Witherspoon was ever cast in, and the actress is brilliant as the high-strung, overachieving perfectionist, running for student council president in Election. The film was released way back in 1999, simpler times to be sure, and I’m sure you’ve seen it a million times already (as seems to be the case with all of Syndicated’s movies) but there’s a ton we can learn from this movie since we’re suffering the craziest Presidential election season ever in the recorded history of Democratic politics.

Election has that deliciously dark, twisted tone that defines the movies of Todd Solondz, which is a a surprising detour for Alexander Payne. The filmmaker is known for his fair share of parodies, but this one’s definitely the wickedest of them all. As you probably recall, it’s deeply satisfying to watch Matthew Broderick’s character Jim McAllister is just as much of a nut job as Tracy, but it’s dizzyingly painful and so, so timely to witness what happens to humans who devote their entire body, mind, and withering, putrid soul to WINNING. Really makes you think!

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