Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Heinous for the Holidays: THANKSKILLING 3 (2012)

I know what you're thinking. You are wondering what the hell I'm doing watching the sequel to a half-assed SOV-shot low-renter made by a bunch of kids who couldn't be bothered to really put the effort into 98% of the movie. That's what you're thinking. Matter of fact, I was thinking that too. It seemed like only a week ago that I was blissfully dreaming about ridiculous amounts of salty, fatty, sugary foodstuffs that would send my doctor to perform an epic facepalm. Little did I know that writer-director-producer and voice of the foul fowl, Jordan Downey, had just released a sequel to coincide with the holiday. Yep, I got my fingers on the pulse.

In case you need a recap, THANKSKILLING (2009), was one of those cheap "look at how stupid our movie is" kind of shot on video flicks where general laziness is supposed to be excused by the intent of making a bad movie. The story is about a group of kids heading off to turkey day when their car breaks down and they run into a homicidal turkey who is the physical embodiment of a Native American deity  Lots of potential, most of it wasted. Three years and one Kickstarter campaign later and we have a sequel, penned not just by Downey, but two other people as well. A sequel that has actually skipped it's first sequel (which was set in space), you say? A sequel with a post-apocalyptic robot that crashes Thanksgiving dinner, you say? A sequel with mostly puppet characters who die horribly, you say? Ok, I'm in! Besides, how can you go wrong with these promo posters?


THANKSKILLING 3 starts out with one of the best low-expectation-smashing intros since the jaw-dropping UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012). Designed to look like a lost low-budget film from the early '80s, THANKSKILLING 2 starts out with Wanda Lust (looking even more haggard and depressed) in a boob-exposing space suit only to be zapped in half by Turkie in his fighter ship along with his (literally) pie-faced wingman named Pie-lette (Pilot, Pie-lette... get it?). We then roughly segue into a psychedelic post-apocalyptic vision of men in gas masks with flamethrowers burning piles of THANKSKILLING 2 DVDs in the middle of the desert. This is intercut with a scene with a Henson-style puppet and a voice over talking about how the movie has a hero who lost her mind, cuing a Henson-style puppet brain to wander off. This whole sequence is actually one of the best bits in the movie and for five jaw-dropping minutes actually got me to seriously believe that this was going to be an amazing reinvention, fixing all of the issues with the first movie and beyond. Not a chance in hell.

You had me at "flamethrower"

Turkie's 512th birthday at home (a sequence played out like a sit-com ala NATURAL BORN KILLERS) is brought to a screeching halt when a news report comes on the tube about how studio executives have deemed THANKSKILLING 2 the worst movie ever made and have decided not only to shelve the film, but burn all remaining copies. Ok, a homicidal, flightless bird that is the incarnation of an ancient Indian spirt I can buy. Studio executives refusing to release a film based on it's lack of artistic merit? That is straining the limits of my ability to suspend disbelief. Turkie's wife tells him "your movie is worse than that toilet paper commercial that shows people actually wiping their asses." This news drives Turkie into a killing rage causing him to cleave his wife's head in half and grab his pea-brained son (represented by an inarticulate clump of feathers with cheap toy eyes held up on a visible rod) and head out to track down the last remaining copy of THANKSKILLING 2. Ok, so now Turkie is going to go on a killing spree, chainsawing anyone who gets in his way to exact his revenge on the studio execs, right? I mean, who doesn't love some skewering satire of Hollywood? Yeah, that's what you'd think anyway, and you would be wrong. Totally and completely wrong.

Our Henson-esque "hero" (who does nothing heroic whatsoever and is barely a central character) Yomi (voiced by Downey) is obsessed with an animated TV show about a gay cat Meowmir, but that has nothing to do with anything. Yomi wakes up in a dumpster while looking for her mind and discusses the situation with a trash puppet, but that has nothing to do with anything. Exiting the trash she meets Uncle Donnie of Uncle Donnie's Pluckmaster 3000 fame. The Pluckmaster 3000 is the hot ticket this holiday season, a household appliance that takes a live turkey and turns it into a perfect dinner in minutes... but that has nothing to do with anything. Uncle Donnie invites Yomi over to his home for Thanksgiving where he assures her that she can find her mind.

Uncle Donnie and his brother Jefferson both wear colonial wigs and dream of creating an amusement park named "Thanksgivingland" that will feature rides such as the "gravy train" and "mashed potato mountain". But that has no - oh never mind. Uncle Donnie and Jefferson (who aspires to be the security guard with a long pike at Thanksgivingland) live with their mother, a rapping, sex-crazed invalid in a wheelchair (another puppet) who has a music video for her sick beat "Wrinkles or Sprinkles". Ok, ready? All together now: "but that has nothing to do with anything." At this point a mutant-robot thing named Muff and his lover, Rhonda, a gay, eunuch worm with a mustache, crash the party. Have you had enough of all this wannabe "South Park" stuff yet? This entire massive second act of the movie goes on for so long that you might just forget that you are even watching a movie that is alleged to be about a killer turkey looking for his sequel. Long, drawn-out sketches that include such hilarious things as Jefferson trying to turn off a light switch with his "long pike" (a broomstick with a butter knife taped to the end) and Uncle Donnie's tale of how he lost his wife and child to wolves while trying to find parts for his original Pluckmaster machine turn a few good ideas into a massive trainwreck of epic proportions. At one point someone says "sounds like the longest and most boring story". Oh the irony. Jordan Downey, you said it, not me.

Eventually Turkie does turn up again killing Jefferson (off camera) and quipping "looks like he quit life - cold turkey!" Oh my sides, please stop! No really, please stop. After still more rambling dialogue, Turkie accidentally ends up in the Pluckmaster 1, the original prototype for the Pluckmaster 3000, and loses his penis in the process. Since he has no penis, he quickly assembles an attachment for his chainsaw (which has "chain carver" etched on the blade echoing the wittier "Excalibur" from 1990's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III) and connects it to his stump, turning to the camera and saying "gravy". Yes, in late 2012 we have a poorly executed EVIL DEAD II spoof scene. Even worse, that is actually one of the better moments that we've had in the last hour of watching this mess. I am not even joking.

Turkey and son (who has been embedded into the last DVD of THANKSKILLING 2 - don't ask) flee to Turkey Hell (located inside the oven), a swirling blue portal is opened up in Muff's anus, a rubber cockroach on a wire-hanger that delivers dialogue like "I'm just roachin' around", and some other stuff happen, but... wait for it... that has nothing to do with anything. Downey and his new recruits, Mike Will Downey and Kevin Stewart, have a few great ideas, but not only can they not create a tangible film out of them, but they are happy to toss them aside in favor of strings of random non-sequitur "comic" sketches, such as a bit where Turkie takes a ride on an animated seagull "taxi" who ridicules Turkie about not being able to fly until Turkie decides to bail and get back to looking for his movie. Then there are a couple of moments where it seems like the cinematographer, Kevin Stewart, who can't write a script to save his life, comes up with some amazingly cool, psychedelic visuals that could have been the basis for a movie that rose above it's sub-high-school level writing and quite frankly could have been pretty damn awesome. Could have... I remember going to a new Greek fast food place a few years back and noticed the owner sitting at a table playing with his laptop. After he showed me all the precooked food in a steamtable (like falafels, which you never want to see in a steamtable), I asked if everything was made there. He said no, because "cooking is too much work".  This feels like the same thing. Making a movie is just too much work for these guys, and what do you get without a work ethic? Well you don't get my money a second time. Wait, this is the second time. Ok, well, you won't get my money a third time! Ha! Yeah, that'll show 'em.

Honestly. Would you give these guys money?

Produced after scraping together over $100K via a Kickstarter campaign, investors were promised "Blood, Puppets, & Explosions" and "the script is PACKED with laughs!!!" Uhhhh, yeah, there was one explosion, there is a little blood and I guess the technical definition of puppet is met as they are technically not required to be articulated. They can, in fact, be figures on rods being bounced up and down by someone's hand, much like an 8 year old kid playing with toys. Interestingly they kept pushing a "secret plot" gimmick on Kickstarter, but after watching the film, I'm pretty sure that they had no idea what the plot was going to be, even while writing the script. If this is what people are going to get from Kickstarter, I see a grim future for indy movies on the horizon. Not only did the video camera make it easier to make movies that are just thrown together in someone's back yard, but Kickstarter is now making it easier to get the money to make an outing that is as scatter shot as a melon under Gallagher's hammer, but can have a badass trailer.

A tedious chore to sit through, THANKSKILLING 3 actually throws away all of it's great ideas and a couple great scenes in favor of a pale imitation of Comedy Central sketch show programming, making the original film, which fumbled every pass, seem like a very coherent and well-made outing. Don't be fooled by the well-cut trailer that uses mostly footage from the opening credit sequence and the  admittedly excellent score. Too bad THANKSKILLING skipped it's own sequel, from what we see of it, it may have been a lot more fun than this.

Moments of Clarity:

1 Reactions:

  1. Eff ME. That sounds just horrible. It also sounds like Downey & Co. should stick to short films (provided they feel compelled to make films at all, which I think we can all agree is a bad move on their parts). You are a braver man than I.

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