by Helen Grant
Encountering “Queerbait” brought to mind all the strange types of film fuckery that exist in this world, but especially those spawned in the pre-YouTube and smart phone era, so think: “America’s Funniest Home Videos” meets bad VHS cult movies. I expect “Level 10 Wizards of Obscure Movie Geekdom” to enjoy Mickey Reece’s latest offering for this very reason. It’s the kind of thing that invokes a sense of pre-Internet, bargain bin movie rental nostalgia. Honestly, watching “Queerbait” also reminded me of a Tumblr user, Monster Man. With a passion for old, new, and little known monster movies that I can’t even fathom, this dude continually posts scenes, gifs, and other tidbits from terrible B to F list movies from the world over that makes you wonder – just how much of this shit exists out there anyway?
And, more importantly, what is our preoccupation with it?
To understand and bring us closer to the weird in ourselves? I mean, for a film shot in 24 hours with no script, you’re not exactly expecting a moment of serious reflection, but there’s a scene at the end of “Queerbait” where the protagonist, Harry Spaghetti (Dustin Sanchez), has an epiphany of sorts while he talks to himself in a dirty bathroom mirror. The camcorder this movie was shot with blurs in and out as it shifts the focus between the image of Spaghetti and his reflection; it’s the only deep moment to be had in this entire farcical tale.
Mocking this “genre” is easy, Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured some terrible films back in its heyday, but I think Reece did a pretty good job with the level of camp on “Queerbait.” This is to say there are some awful, but funny jokes to be had. For instance, Jacki Spaghetti (Rebecca Cox), says to her brother Harry at one point, “We Spaghettis stick together.” It’s clearly bad in that “roll your eyes” kind of way, but when you see the two siblings conspiring to kill someone just so Harry can have a great birthday, the bad pun works.
Even though “Queerbait” is obviously intended as one big, low budget joke, I think the way Reece spliced real movies, such as “Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back”, and random shit he found from who only knows where, adds to the jangled cohesiveness. It’s like you’re watching a home movie that was recorded over the parts of many other things, yet you know you’re getting the whole package, sloppy and imperfect as it is.
Ordinary folks with more mainstream sensibilities will probably not dig this, especially if they happen to hate the “lowest common denominator” and are super sensitive about “gay jokes.” But honestly, “Queerbait” places its fucked up characters in a fairly open context. The dudes that have that “queerness” in them are not subtle at all, and the only real homophobic character is a trash talking harpy of a mother; she was reluctantly invited to the birthday party so her son could attend. And of course all the mother’s worst dreams come true once Chad (James Paulsgrove) arrives to the party. Keep in mind, not all of the male characters are repressed either. Chad, for instance, is totally comfortable talking about his predilection for alcoholic enemas as he is with his fitness routine and diet. I think Chad’s character really embodies the spirit that went into making “Queerbait,” in that he just lets it all hang out.
Understanding some of the subtle nuances of film is not a necessity for enjoying this nearly 54 minute ode to ridiculousness. Like I said, it was shot in 24 hours, with no script, and with a VHS camera recorder. But it was done in such a way, that I can’t help but to be reminded of a John Waters film in terms of campy situations and stock characters, and also of Quentin Dupieux’s middle-of-the-road “Rubber,” which blends “high” concept with “low” art. Dupieux’s movie comes to mind only because of shit that seemingly happens “for no reason” during Spaghetti’s quest to puppet master his friends and family into throwing him an epic 40th birthday party. And some of the random video that Reece found is so terrible, that when viewed in short bursts of sporadically stitched together clips, which is not unlike watching “Robot Chicken” in someways, it actually seems to make that salvaged material more funny than it would have been on its own. Think: wooden acting and bad effects galore.
To that end, if you want to see a free movie that will likely make you laugh (unless you have a problem with this sort of thing) you should go check it out at the Paramount, 701 W. Sheridan Ave, at 8:30 p.m. this Friday. You know, after you’ve gotten your fill of food trucks at H&8th. Also check the FB event page if you want to keep track of the event too.