Dec 23, 2014
I have a very low tolerance for celluloid schlock and especially shot-on-video schlock, so I have been putting off watching the curious cult item BoardingHouse (1982) aka Housegeist aka Bad Force aka Boarding House directed by and starring one-time-auteur John Wintergate, which was hailed by no lesser exploitation cinema authorities as Stephen Thrower in NIGHTMARE USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents (2007) and by Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford in Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square (2002) due to its various retrograde idiosyncrasies, for about a year now, but I finally decided to give in and watch the flick the other day when I realized I had simply nothing better to watch and somewhat to my surprise, I am glad I did. Like the outstandingly aesthetically autistic result of a coke-addled preppie with a meta-Reaganite sense of materialism and a softcore psychopathic sort of narcissism who attempted to make a work of psychedelic horror video art after frying his brain after one-too-many William Castle movie marathons and misreadings of Alan Watts while high on mescaline, Wintergate’s positively preposterous pride and joy is notable for not only apparently being the first horror feature shot on video (Betacam to be exact), but also for being blown-up to 35mm (something that apparently cost between $45,000 to 50,000 at the time), thus also making it the first (and possibly the last) SOV production to be screened in an actual movie theater (apparently, it premiered alongside Jaws 3-D (1983)). A vanity piece gone terribly, terribly yet insanely intriguingly wrong created by people who seem to have no sense of cinema, BoardingHouse was originally intended as a hokey horror spoof and the original cut ran at the absurd length of 2 hours and 38 minutes but at the recommendation of an old distributor named Howard Willette that once worked for RKO Pictures and Howard Hughes, the director decided to completely reedit the film in a fashion to make it seem more like a ‘serious’ and ‘straight’ horror film, thus resulting in a totally berserk mongrel of a monster movie set in some alternate universe of preppie philistine psychopathy of the perniciously plodding sort where nothing is as it seems, let alone makes sense, and all genuine human emotion and rationality has taken a backseat to inanely idiotic irreverence, senseless supernatural stupidity, dumbfoundingly dumb and unintentionally surreal dialogue, sickeningly sterile sensuality and plastic blowup-doll-like sexuality, mindnumbingly moronic metaphysical mumbo jumbo, special ed grade special effects, preposterous visual puns (i.e. a woman fondling a stuffed monkey, thus ‘spanking the monkey’), and some of the most hysterically histrionic death scenes ever excreted onto archaic video. Featuring the aesthetic integrity of a post-porn-chic-era fuck video combined with the the shameless showmanship of William Castle had he been a stupid goy instead of a seasoned Semitic smut-peddler, as well as a badly bastardized hodgepodge of themes from popular mainstream horror films like Repulsion (1965), and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Carrie (1976), Halloween (1978), Phantasm (1979), The Amityville Horror (1979), Motel Hell (1980), and countless others, Wintergate’s pathologically outré epic of accidental eccentricity and suburban excess also features the would-be-iconic gimmick of ‘Horror Vision’ where a psychedelic shot of a leather-glove-clad hand appears alongside swirling noise anytime a murder is about to happen to warn “viewers with nerve or heart conditions” to “cover their eyes and ears,” thereupon further accentuating the already potent psychotronic schlock surrealism of the film. The waywardly and wonderfully retarded story of a seemingly sexless narcissistic preppie douche, self-stylized guru and metaphysician, and proud confirmed bachelor of the scrawny blond Aryan sort with telekinetic powers who inherits a haunted killer home from his uncle and turns it into a boardinghouse (aka softcore whorehouse) for generically beauteous bimbos between the ages of 18 and 25, only for absurdist murder and mayhem to ensue shortly after, BoardingHouse is like horror-porn for schizophrenic eunuchs and Mormon gorehounds, albeit only all the more bizarre than it sounds.
As revealed on an archaic computer screen at an imaginary police station featured at the beginning of BoardingHouse, on Sept. 18, 1972 two ‘Nobel Prize Winners,’ Professor Don Hoffman and his wife—supposed leading authorities on telekinesis and the occult—were found dead in their home during their 16th anniversary party and the only witness was their 13-year-old daughter Deborah, who later testified that her parents died in a double suicide and who was committed to a mental institution a couple months later after suffering an “emotional breakdown.” Ever since the dubious deaths, anyone who has moved into ‘Hoffman House’ has died under mysterious and oftentimes ultra-violent conditions, including an old fart named Dr. Royce, whose sole heir, a 30-something-year-old nephew named Jim Royce (director John Wintergate), inherits the home. Meanwhile, on the day that Deborah Hoffman is supposed to be released from a nuthouse, two employees at the mental institution where she is interned are brutally murdered, with a nurse named Sherry (A'ryen Winter) being telekinetically hanged and a bald dork being strangled and disemboweled. Upon officially inheriting the Hoffman House after meeting with a weasel-like lawyer, Jim places a superficially sleazy ad in a newspaper reading: “Girls! Girls! Girls! If you’re between 18 and 25, unattached, and beautiful, then I want you to share my ten bedroom house with me for approximately $100 a month…Call Jim at the Boardinghouse.” While prowling around his pool, Jim somewhat sinisterly thinks to himself, “I can just imagine all those hot numbers…hanging around the pool. Yeahhhh! It’s going to be a real bachelor’s paradise.” Despite his obsession with having a bare-skinned brigade of slutty and big bosomed concubine babes at his disposal, Jimbo spends most of his talk yelling at the girls for having pets in the house and walking around in nothing but a faggy leopard print thong when the girls eventually move in, though he develops a special interest in a would-be rock star named Victoria Spelling (played by director Wintergate’s real-life wife and muse ‘Kalassu,’ who also acted as second unit director of the film). Unquestionably, the girls of BoardingHouse are rampantly heterosexual and discernibly sex-starved, but Jim—a casual collector of women whose entire existence seems like one grueling masturbation routine where he never actually cums—seems to like to keep the girls hanging around and is not actually attracted to them but rather the fact that they are so shamelessly attracted to him and love showing him their titties, as he wallows in all of the shallow attention. Indeed, there were multiple times during the movie that I thought Jim would start jerking off to his own image in a mirror, as he is a sort of Narcissus of suburban Hollywood, albeit nowhere as charming, attractive, or witty as he thinks.
Whilst meditating guru style on his desk at work in nothing but a rather revolting thong and listening to some metaphysical inspirational tapes and attempting to levitate something with his nauseatingly self-centered mind, Jim is rudely interrupted by his old Jewish dipsomaniac boss Joel Weintraub (Joel Riordan), who provides minor comic relief in the film as a boorish yet jolly overweight buffoon who at one point during the flick falls flat on his face while attempting to swing a golf club. Somewhat strangely, Jim seems to be just as interested in Joel as his eclectic collection of boardinghouse babes, if not more so. As Victoria states to her incessantly snickering teenybopper-like gal pals after a failed attempt at seducing Jim regarding the peculiar appearance-obsessed protagonist, “he’s not physical at all. He’s too into metaphysics. I don’t know. It’s really interesting though, he’s different than any guy I’ve ever met.” Indeed, instead of fucking her when Victoria comes to see him in some rather revealing lingerie that more or less reveals her pussy and tits, Jim autistically performs telekinesis on a bar of soap and then pushes the little lady in the bathtub with him, but just before you think he is going pound her puss, he gets out of the tub and leaves her high and dry, at least sexually speaking. Since Victoria cannot get Jim to seduce her, she decides taking a trip to the local library to pick up some books on metaphysics as it is the next best thing to being fucking by Jim as her act of devotion might grab her prospective lover’s attention since he is an obsessive occultnik and all. Considering that Victoria is such a superlatively self-centered narcissist that she has posters of herself hanging up in her room as if she worships herself in an almost religious fashion, it is a huge sign of how much she likes Jim that she would go so far out of her way to grab his attention, but unfortunately something in the Hoffman House has its eyes on her and its not a preppie pseudo-stud with a blond mullet. Indeed, the Hoffman House is haunted by a leather-glove-clad killer from another dimension who is able to cross over to the human world via the evil home, which holds many pernicious spirits. While Jim pretentiously proclaims, “I’m into harnessing cosmic energy so that I can learn the secrets of the universe,” he seems totally oblivious to the fact that a supernatural slasher killer is in his humble abode, as his head is so far up his own ass that even when some of the girls in the house begin getting mutilated and murdered by inanimate objects, he has no clue what is going on. Indeed, when an ice-pick magically moves on its own and stabs one of the boardinghouse babes in the hand, the only thing dullard preppie dude Jimmy can say is, “All her fingers work…I checked them.” Being female and all, Victoria's intuition tells her something evil is lurking in the house, so she nonsensically buries the ice-pick while absurdly proclaiming “I hate ice-picks” like a bratty toddler performing a mock funeral for a pet goldfish or hamster that died as a result of her neglecting to feed it. Indeed, most of the things people do and say in BoardingHouse make absolutely no sense, thus making for an obnoxiously otherworldly atmosphere that is as strangely and awe-inspiringly addictive as it is mentally and aesthetically grating.
Also lurking around the Hoffman House is an unnamed Gardener (also played by Wintergate) with a pseudo-punk fashion sense and crippled arm in a chain-sling who suffers from posttraumatic stress as a result of doing a couple tours in the Vietnam War. When the Gardener acts like he is going to attack Victoria with hedge-clippers and rudely knocks her in the pool, all the girls complain about the old disheveled and beat-up creep's presence, but as Jim tells them, he “comes with the house” since he apparently saved his belated uncle Dr. Royce's life during the Vietnam War. Aside from being a physical cripple, the Gardener is also a sexual invalid of sorts that is terribly afraid of women, so when he starts to approach one of the boardinghouse babes with a chainsaw, the chick uses her boobs as a weapon by flaunting them in the seemingly semi-retarded horticulturalist’s face, thus causing him to run for his dear life. Aside from being inhabited by a inter-dimensional killer, the house also causes people to hallucinate hellish things that seem to be dreamed up by some sort of demonic pig fetishist. For example, when one of the girls cuts herself while shaving in the shower, the tiles on the shower wall become drenched in blood and before the little lady knows it, her lovely little blonde head has transformed into that of a grotesque balding male mutant pig creature (!?) in what is undoubtedly one the most bizarre and quaintly unnerving yet humorous scenes in the entire film. Aside from supernatural elements, one of the girls, Cindy (Mary McKinley), also faces harassment from her wealthy ex-boyfriend, Richard (played Josh Brolin’s brother Brian Bruderlin), who hires a moronic horndog with a mullet named Harris (Dean Disico) to scope out the boardinghouse where he ultimately becomes the object of mindless worship and amorous adoration among the girls of the home, with one of them immediately shouting, “A man! Let’s get him in the pool ladies” upon seeing him. Ultimately, Harris is enthusiastically defiled by the sole East Asian chick at the house, Su Ling (Victoria Herron), but shortly after they share miscegenation-based carnal knowledge, the dimwitted jock detective is killed via electrocution after a blow-dryer levitates and lands in the water of the bathtub where he is washing the Oriental sex juices off of his body. Shortly after his rather pathetic death, his employer rich dick Richard shows up to talk his estranged girlfriend Cindy into accepting his less than romantic marriage proposal, but she has less than fond memories of him brutally raping her, so she has to give the idea some thought. To help cheer Cindy up about her rapist boyfriend coming by, Jim takes her to the beach and the two begin making love, but that is cut short when the supernatural gloved killer, who somehow magically managed to get out of the Hoffman House, beats them both over the head with a large rock. Possessed by the spirit of the sadistic inter-dimensional killer, Cindy drowns herself by walking into the sea and not looking back in a fashion not unlike that of Georgina Spelvin's character in Gary Graver's Bergman-esque hardcore flick 3 A.M. (1975).
In one of the most nightmarishly nonsensical and phantasmagorically schlocky scenes in the entire film, Victoria is grabbed by a monster arm that pops out of the mattress on her bed, so she runs outside and eventually ends up in a graveyard where a bloody monster man with a rotting pig head attacks her. In some sort of convoluted dream-within-a-dream borrowed from Don Coscarelli's Phantasm, Victoria decides to sleep in a bed that she discovers in the middle of the graveyard, but she is soon rudely awakened by a corpse, not once but twice in a row as she is transferred from dream to dream, only to truly wake-up after two nonsensical bedtime encounters with dead bodies, or so it seems. Luckily, after having a massive globule of semen-like yogurt ejaculated on her face by a malicious being hiding inside a refrigerator, Victoria is taken to a steamy shower by Jimmy boy and has her meat-curtain rigorously reamed in what is probably the most awkward, unintentionally creepy, and seemingly unending sex scene in all of film history. While Victoria is more than a little satisfied after being buggered senselessly by Jimmy boy in a steamy shower, her happiness is soon completely shattered when one of her roommates, a mousy British broad named Debbie (Lindsay Freeman, who had a small role in Brian De Palma’s 1984 film Body Double), hands her a fancily wrapped present that she claims is from Jim that contains the mutilated corpse of her beloved kitty cat named ‘Pumpkin.’ Of course, at this point in the film, it is quite clear that there is something not quite right about Debbie.
At the end of BoardingHouse, Victoria has her generic rock band 33 1/3 play at a late night pool-party-cum-magic-show at Hoffman House on the tenth anniversary of the night when the Hoffmans were murdered during their own anniversary party. A young high yellow negro cop with a small afro named Officer Weston (Elliot Van Koghbe, who also acted as the assistant producer of the film) attempts to warn Jim of the unfortunate timing of his party, but he does not seem to mind that his friends might be brutally murdered by a malevolent entity. After Officer Weston is forced by sinister forces to unload some bullets into an ebony princess that looks like she could be his sister, the same forces make him turn the service revolver on himself. The Gardener is also attacked by the same entity and subsequently stumbles around the party wounded, but the party guests mistake his belligerent behavior for mere drunkenness and laugh at him like he is some sort of cheap novelty while he bleeds out. When Brit bitch Debbie gets alone with Victoria’s band manager—a seriously scuzzy pimp-like scumbag that proudly declares that there is, “nothing that I like better than a little head and some coke”—and begins feeling the old geezer up while calling him her “daddy,” things get a little bit interesting. Indeed, it turns out that Debbie is not British at all, as her full-name is Debbie Hoffman and she is the deranged child who was institutionalized after seeing her parents killed at the Hoffman House. In fact, Debbie was actually the one responsible for killing them, as she slaughtered her mother after she had walked in on her and her Noble Peace laureate father having incestuous pederast sex. Debbie also decided to kill Daddy Hoffman out of jealousy after he refused to give her his ‘heart’ and after Victoria’s band manager fails to do the same, she quite literally rips the old fellow’s heart out of his chest and drenches her body with his blood with the utmost orgasmic sadistic glee. When Jim sees Debbie’s deadly dirty work and realizes she is the crazed Hoffman daughter, he wages a telekinetic battle with her that results in the crazed cunt with an evil sort of Electra complex being pushed into another dimension. In the end, it is rather ridiculously revealed that Jim went on to become a digital systems analyst for the space program, Victoria became a “hot RCA property” and is now on a world promo tour, and Debbie Hoffman’s body was never recovered. Although the Hoffman House ended up mysteriously burning down, a mystery lady named ‘Angela Hart’ bought the charred remains in 1983, thus leaving room for a BoardingHouse sequel that has still yet to be made.
In the audio commentary track for the 2008 Code Red DVD release of BoardingHouse, director/star John Wintergate and his wife/co-star Kalassu, who are still married after all these decades, revealed that they are preparing a sequel and that their daughter Shanti Wintergate—an aspiring musician/actress that appeared as an extra in Donnie Darko (2001), has an unhealthy obsession with frog pseudo-avant-garde filmmaker Michel Gondry as depicted in an appalling music video she made, and is married to the singer of the pop-punk group the Bouncing Souls, Greg Attonito—will be starring in the film and that she might even bare some skin. Personally, I do not really see how a proper sequel can be made for the film, as most of its preternatural character and particular potency comes from its conspicuously kitschy Betacam look, singularly schlocky pre-digital special effects and equally archaic computer text, and primitive synthesizer-based score, which are all obscenely outmoded aesthetic ingredients that simply cannot be reproduced today in any sort of genuine or effective way. It should also be noted that in the summer of 2013, Slasher // Video released the remastered 2hr 38 min director’s cut of BoardingHouse on DVD, which is certainly the sort of epic (non)cinematic endurance test that separates the true gutter cinephiles and cineastes from the autistic DVD-collecting virginal fanboys. Personally, as someone who has indulged in my fair share of recreational drug use, I always get annoyed when people describe works like Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969), Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1970), and Alan Parker’s Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982) as “Head” movies and compare them to drug trips, but I must admit that Wintergate's betacam horror show is certainly a work that seems like it was made by dope fiends for dope fiends and considering all the mindnumbingly moronic metaphysical twaddle in the film and tendency for the characters to sit around half-naked and do nothing, I think that it is fairly indisputable that the auteur/star and his muse/co-star conceived of the work while they were fucking and getting stoned. Indeed, for better or worse, BoardingHouse is a bad trip in vintage video form, as one of those oh-so thankfully rare horror flicks like George Barry’s Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977) or even the avant-garde counterculture films of James Broughton (The Bed, Dreamwood) that transports the viewer to a completely capricious, uncanny, and idiosyncratic cinematic realm that is strangely inviting and fun to get lost in, even though it gives you every indication that it shouldn't be. Forget Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984) or The Video Dead (1987), BoardingHouse is the only shot-on-video horror turd that matters, as a strangely playful, fairly fanciful, and almost always whimsical piece of ‘accidental art’ that reminds the viewer that there are actually rare occasions when someone who has no business getting behind a camera, let alone directing, churns out something that is more curious and enthralling than any of the films that played at that year's Cannes Film Festival. Indeed, the film may be the zaniest labor of audio-visual love ever conceived by two drug-addled real-life lovers, as a post-counter-cultural Betacam abortion that manages to express the worst of its zeitgeist in a uniquely unwitting way that reeks of tasteless charm and conspicuously kitschy accidental charisma. In other words, enter the BoardingHouse if you dare to delight in odiously outmoded accidental video art of the horrifyingly horrendous horror-comedy sort.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:01 AM
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