Monday, August 23, 2010

All About Evil (Joshua Grannell, 2010)

Taking care to exclude all the wanton stabbing, slicing, and chopping that takes place in this movie, I like to believe that writer-director Joshua Grannell was thinking of me when he set about making his feature length debut, All About Evil, a loving tribute to old-timey movie theatres, campy acting, unorthodox bloodshed, and ghastly puns (A Tale of Two Severed Titties, The Maiming of the Shrew, The Scarlet Leper, and Gore and Peace). Everything from the crazed manner in which some of the actors uttered their dialogue to the healthy doses of morbid humour sprinkled here and there seemed like it was employed purely for my benefit. The overweight guys with goatees and Type 2 diabetes can have their unbalanced ushers being asphyxiated by the gaping neck hole of a recently decapitated dreamlander, I'll take the sight of a deranged Natasha Lyonne (Slums of Beverly Hills) sewing Mink Stole's still luscious mouth shut over that lurid nonsense any day of the week. Of course, I realize that there isn't much difference between the gruesome act I liked and one favoured by the goatee/diabetes guys, I'm just trying to distance myself from such a gore-tastic demise–you know, for no particular reason.

Inspired by Herschell Gordon Lewis (The Gore Gore Girls) , Doris Wishman (Deadly Weapons), John Waters (Serial Mom), and the Kuchar Brothers (Sins of the Fleshapoids), Joshua Grannell (a.k.a. Peaches Christ) explores our love affair with violent movies (the opening titles feature a montage of altered classic horror posters) and the places we go to see them. Unfolding at the Victoria Theatre, a rundown cinema in San Francisco that shows Blood Orgy of the She-Devils and movies about giant insects on a semi-regular basis, the film follows the misadventures of the late owner's daughter Deb (Natasha Lyonne) and her struggle to keep her father's legacy intact.

Which is going to be tough since her shrewish stepmother Tammy (Julie Caitlin Brown) wants to sell the theatre (last time I checked, ultra sheer pantyhose and chic blazers don't grow on trees). On the night they happen to be screening Blood Feast, Deb is confronted by Tammy with a pen–you know, so that she can sign away her share of the theatre. Except, Deb doesn't sign, instead she sticks the pen in Tammy's neck (and in her chest, fifteen to twenty times) right in front of the Milk Duds. This act of impromptu stepmother-on-stepdaughter violence is accidentally broadcast onto the screen that was supposed to be showing the infamous Herschell Gordon Lewis flick. Projected via the theatre's lobby security camera, a smattering of goth chicks (the goth placement in this film was spectacular) and a scary movie buff named Steven (Thomas Dekker) see the grainy footage of Deb's pen prodding clip and hail it as a triumph of realistic horror.

Seeing this as an opportunity to realize her dream of becoming a world famous director/actress/mogul, Deb re-brands herself Deborah (pronounced De-Bohr-rah) and, with the help of the threatre's elderly projectionist Mr. Twigs (Jack Donner), sets about making more movies in this fashion. Drugging an attractive goth patron (Kat Turner from Inland Empire) wearing a fierce belt, Deborah and Mr Twigs concoct an elaborate murder scenario involving a faulty guillotine that ends up attracting quite the cult following. Murdering people while filming them at the same time is a lot of work, so Deborah and Mr. Twigs hire Veda (Jade Ramsey) and Vera (Nikita Ramsey), homicidal twins recently released from a mental asylum, and a twitchy fella named Aaron (Noah Segan from Deadgirl) to assist them with their murderous tasks.

Even though they hardly say a word, just the mere sight of the Ramsey twins in their cute red usher outfits was enough to send my cult movie senses into overdrive.

It's true, the majority of the audience applauded and cheered at all the gore. I, on the other hand, was enraptured by Natasha Lyonne and her campy as fuck performance as Deborah, a mentally unwell woman determined to keep the art of showmanship an integral part of the movie-going experience. Channeling Mae West (her stairway posture was very "come up and see me sometime") and Divine circa Female Trouble (blowing sloppy air kisses to attentive drag queens), Natasha seemed to relish the chance to ham it up and prove to everyone that she is very much alive. The way her character gradually went insane was greatly appreciated; I hate it when characters go crazy literally overnight. Anyway, you'd have to go all the way back to Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trickbaby to find the wide-eyed actress at this high a level of elated meshugana.

I'm still sitting atop a fence erected to separate two incompatible thought patterns when it comes to deciding whether or not Ariel Hart was wonky on purpose as Steven's non-goth gal pal Judy. Despite not garnering any conventional laughs from the people who approve of things by making ha-ha noises with the holes they consume pie with, I thought she was wonderfully off-kilter. And as most folks know, my favourite kind of performances are the ones that are off ever-so slightly, and Ariel was definitely off...but, you know, in a good way.

While it wasn't as visually flamboyant as I expected, especially when you consider the fact that it was directed by someone with an alter ego named Peaches Christ, All About Evil does feature Mink Stole (Desperate Living) as a librarian and Cassandra Peterson (Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) as Steven's concerned, cleavage-free mother. And in the long run, that's all you really need. Well, that and the wherewithal to understand the importance of proper goth placement.

The eeriest part of this whole experience wasn't the mouth sewing, irregular breast augmentation, chunky guys with goatees, torrential arterial spray, or even the neck hole incident, it was the fact the Victoria Theatre had the exact same flavour as the Bloor Cinema (the freaks to normals ratio was about the same as well). It was kinda similar to the sensation I felt during my screening of Anguish. Except, without the whole "someone is about to cut my eyes out" thing.

video uploaded by Peaches Christ


  1. This looks really good! I heard about out the film last year and was excited to see Natasha Lyonne back in a starring role. I'm also becoming a fan of Noah Segan. Thought he was great in Deadgirl and What We Do Is Secret. Looking forward to this one when it's released here.

    By the way, I love the photos of Missing Persons and SSQ! You always put up great photos!

  2. Yeah, Noah Segan was hilarious in Deadgirl. (He wears fishnets and a blonde wig All About Evil.)


    People seem to forget that before Stacey Q, there was SSQ and even a band called 'Q.'

  3. "The Maiming of the Shrew." "Gore and Peace." Ha ha. (I love the word "shrew.")

    Good to see Natasha Lyonne working.

    Are you going to TIFF this year?

  4. Note to self: Use "shrew" more often.

    I just found out that Natasha Lyonne appeared on Pee-wee's Playhouse.

    Yeah, I'll probably check out a couple of TIFF flicks. Even though nothing in the schedule is scratching my cinematic itch as of yet.

  5. Lyonne seems a lot like Lauren Ambrose's "Anne Bowman" from "Psycho Beach Party" - not that there is anything wrong with that. Perhaps it has something to do with the drag-friendly direction?

  6. I wouldn't mind seeing "Psycho Beach Party" again. In fact, I think I'll watch it some time in the near future. Thanks for the PBP reminder, DW.

    Oh, and the popularity of that pre-coital Fanta pic I posted on Tumblr over the weekend has left me baffled and amused. :D

  7. The NY Premiere of this in July was a riot---the opening floor show was incredible!