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©2001 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights fucking reserved.

This week:

Waking Life
13 Ghosts

Filthy says:
"Too much talking out loud."

Filthy says:
"A serious case of cinematic diarrhea."


A man without a job has a shitload of time for the cinema, sitting in the dark and letting his worries about money and the disapproval of his wife get drowned out by Dolby Digital sound. I am a man without a job. Don, the manager of the Wheatridge TerrorDome for one month a year and jackass car-parts clerk at Autozone for the other eleven, got on his high horse and fired me. He fired me even though I was doing more to scare those little kids than any of the lazy teenagers in the TerrorDome. Those assholes just sat around and talked about shitty vampire novels and put black nail polish on. Our customers were an inconvenience to them. I was the only one who cared about the quality of our "scare experience", who made the little girls cry and the little boys cry harder. I was the only one who had the balls to lock the exits until the kids screamed in real terror and begged not to die. I was the only one who would stalk them into the employee washroom and shut off the lights.

In short, I was the only one who cared enough to take the bus to work with a snootful. With enough $1 drafts in me, I wasn't worried about what my goth teen co-workers thought. I wasn't too inhibited to show the little kids my kidney scar or my dead toenails or how I can pop my collar bone where it broke and didn't heal right or tell the gruesome story of how the Harelip lost her finger.

And typical of how this fucking world keeps people like me down, having the initiative to go the extra mile is what got me canned. It wasn't, "Filthy, great job there getting that kid so scared he had the seizure." No "Filthy, you're the only person who cares enough to bring in real blood." Instead, all Don could say was "Is that alcohol on your breath?" or "were you drinking on your break?" Well, fuck me, but if you can't be drunk working at a haunted house, where can you?

What the fuck has happened to this country when carnies and other low-wage earners in the thrill industry have to submit to urinalysis? Where are we supposed to turn for employment if we can't run the Tilt-a-Whirl or work the haunted house while juiced to the gills? Wasn't part of the thrill putting your lives into the hands of a man operating heavy machinery while he could barely stand or stoned out of his gourd on angel dust? Didn't the story of the drunk carnie who ran the Gravitron 2000 until the passengers' nasal cavities shattered make you want to buy an all-day ride pass? If you were eight years old, wouldn't you want to the go to the haunted house where the creepy drunk guy shows you his scars? Of course!

Look, I'm sorry to go off on this tangent, but this is an issue I feel very strongly about. I'm going to write my congressman about it. I've got time because I'm fucking broke and bored. I had twelve bucks, but I went to see Waking Life and 13 Ghosts. Now here's two extremes: one movie with too many ideas and one without the faintest whiff of one. Like me when I have too many ideas, Waking Life doesn't get it right. Without any ideas, 13 Ghosts is a bust, duller than a sober frat boy and not as scary.

Waking Life is by Richard Linklater, a Texan who writes and directs his own stories with some success. He made the fabulous Slacker many years ago, and he also made one of the few romantic movies that doesn't make me wants to jab a fork into my eye, Before Sunrise. Waking Life is mostly getting notice because of how it looks. It was originally filmed and then a bunch of stoner artists painted over the footage with some big computer. It's very fluid and primitive animation using a palette of primary colors. The intent was to give the story a dreamy quality and it succeeds. Holy fuck does it succeed. It's hard to describe it without sounding like some pompous asshole who is way too impressed with himself for knowing how a movie is made, even though it's knowledge he'll never have any use for (and I get a shitload of e-mail from people like that -- so knock it off, especially if you're one of the assholes who is just about to e-mail me to say it was shot on digital video or that the animation process is called rotoscoping -- get a fucking life). The movie floats, its objects and people shift and swell and the animation achieves a fluidity that real life never does.

Wiley Wiggins is sleeping, and no matter what he does, he can't wake up. He tries to rise but only finds himself deeper in slumber, aware he's dreaming but not able to escape. He wanders the streets of Austin encountering people who tell him various theories about dreams, self-determination, individuality and a few general crackpot ideas. If this sounds like deep stuff, well, yeah, the bullshit gets pretty thick. It's not because Linklater is trying to impress the fucking nitwit Jetta drivers in their turtlenecks, it's because Linklater is genuinely in love with these ideas. That much is clear.

Anyway, before Wiggins realizes he's dreaming, he absorbs what's being said. As his situation becomes clear, he struggles to control and understand his dream. It's a plot as loose as a Tijuana hooker's vagina, but there is a narrative and there is an ending.

Like I said, this movie is pretty fucking amazing to look at, it's a moving art gallery full of impressionist, surreal and pop art paintings. But, the problem is with all that beauty, Linklater's like a cripple in a jungle gym; able to see it but not do anything. He presents all these people, some are interesting, some are boring, all talk, talk, talk. But the power of movies is to illustrate ideas. I mean, isn't that what a great movie is: a great idea played out as fictitious social experiment? Waking Life doesn't. Rather than use the medium to dramatize ideas, Linklater uses it to show us people speaking them. Yeah, it looks nice, but all that gorgeous animation could have been used so much more profoundly by digging deeper.

I would love to see some of Waking Life's monologues turned into stories: played out with car chases, naked women and an unemployed former gas jockey who gets laid a lot. For example, porn reminds us that three-ways and hot lesbian action are terrific fun by graphically illustrating them with silicone-enhanced women and slightly overweight men. If porn were just an animated image telling me that women having sex is fun to watch, I would have much lower Internet bills. The imagination of movies is to let filmmakers run their make-believe experiments and see what happens, not to just throw hypotheses out there and let them slide down the screen like hot, wet shit.

Three Fingers for Waking Life. It's worth seeing, it's fan-fucking-tastic to look at. But it's a God damn shame Linklater didn't have enough imagination to see the ideas come to life.

If I can think of nothing else to say about 13 Ghosts, at least it isn't suffering from too many ideas. In fact, fuck me with a claw hammer if you an find one. This is crappy poo, another hot load force fed straight into our mouths from the ass of Hollywood. It reminds ticketbuyers that if the law let Hollywood producers shoot us on the street and take our wallets, you bet your ass they would all have pistols. This is moviemaking as commodity: loveless, efficient mass-production of something they think we're stupid enough to buy. And we probably are. But fuck them for respecting us so little, or for not even considering us. Fuck them for not caring one bit about even making it worth the trip.

You'll hear "classic" thrown about by the grassfuckers when they refer to the original 13 Ghosts. But remember, Hollywood buys the word "classic" by the barrel and affixes it to anything old that they want to sell. Don't be fooled: the original was a shitty B-movie that the producers hope we'll have forgotten so they can deem it a masterpiece. The remake is even shittier.

The sliver of plot has a family that just lost its mother and all its money inherit a huge glass house from their creepy uncle. Unbeknownst to them, the house contains twelve ghosts. It is, in the hyperbolic, shitty way the script has "a machine built by the devil and powered by the dead." A thirteenth ghost is needed in order to fully-power the machine and open the "eye of hell," only the movie uses the improper Latin term for it, because that's the kind of shit that impresses those dumbfucks in Hollywood. So, the screechy family and their nanny goes to the glass house in the woods, get trapped in it, wander up and down the same fucking halls for 60 minutes looking first for the son, then the daughter, and eventually escape unharmed, except for the unnecessary character actors. There are a bunch of ghosts, each supposedly with a different personality, but fuck if the audience could tell. This movie has the resources to build a huge, expensive-looking house, but not to flesh out any people.

13 Ghosts is like a girl all dolled-up and looking for love at Bennigan's: the whole story is on the surface, no depth and no character, nothing to remember. It's too fucking simple and stupid to give us any deep scares. Instead, 13 Ghosts uses jump-editing, lots of flashing lights and blood to scare us. That shit's cheap and easy, a lazy man's way to yank a fright out of you when the story can't. And there's nobody lazier than Hollywood. Hell, any movie where the scariness is entirely up to the editor is bound to be a piece of shit. I mean, put enough jump cuts, strobe lights and shit popping out from around corners into Glitter and it would be scarier than this. Um, actually, it already is.

All of these actors are given the exact same direction for every scene: "Okay, now you're really scared." They overact, screaming in panic as soon as they're in the house and continuing for sixty minutes. Thereis never get any sense of increasing dread. Matthew Lillard was already one of the most annoying actors in the world. He's a guy Hollywood has somehow been convinced the kids think is cool, but it's pretty fucking clear he's about as big a shitty goober as there is. Spit bubbles, whining and acting panicked all the fucking time are not cool, funny or interesting to watch. 13 Ghosts casts Shannon Elizabeth as the wholesome daughter. What the fuck? This is the same shitty actress that couldn't act her way out of Tomcats and here they give her a role where she doesn't even show her tits? Jesus. I'll give Hollywood five bucks for every person they find who says "Oh, Shannon Elizabeth is in it? It must be pretty good." If they will give me five bucks for every teenaged boy I can find who says "she doesn't take her top off? Fuck that." If the part calls for someone who doesn't show her tits, why not get a real actress? One who won't walk around with that far-away vacant stare on her face all the time? F. Murray Abraham and Tony Shalhoub are the only real actors here, and they're both slumming it for the paycheck. Both of them spend the movie trying to see if they can top Lillard's overacting, and by the end they have stretch marks.

I can't forget to mention Rah Digga's sassy black nanny character. You see, when the movie starts, the family is broke, way behind in bills and living in a slum. But, they can afford a sassy black nanny because, otherwise, who would say all that sassy black jive that the white screenwriters thought up? It takes a certain kind of soulless nitwit to dig up the bones of such a hoary, offensive stereotype, but these writers didn't even think twice. "Don't go there!" "Uh-uh, I ain't going down there, no way!" Fuck the writers.

The plot drags itself along like a man who just had his legs bitten off by sharks. It flops, stumbles and leaves a trail of blood to the spot where it finally dies and all I can think is, why didn't someone put it out of its misery quicker? It makes no sense and barely tries. It's so contrived and ridiculous, and starts at such a screechy pitch that it has nowhere to go. By the end, I was certainly glad it was over, but only because I was tired of the screeching. Note to producers: in a movie, the problem should grow in complexity before being resolved, not just coast along until it is magically and absurdly solved by the sassy black nanny "scratching" on a sound mixing board in the basement. I swear to God this movie is that lame.

One Finger for this tedious crapfest.

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