Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The makers of Boardinghouse (1982) claim that it's the first-ever shot-on-video horror movie, and I tend to believe them because, like all pioneers, they clearly didn't have a fucking clue what they were doing. It looks and feels like somebody's high school project, provided the administration had a liberal nudity policy.

Boardinghouse has an admittedly amazing exploitation premise. It's about this poofy-haired blond L.A. hipster sleazebag (writer/director/producer John Wintergate, acting under the awesome pseudonym Hawk Adley) who buys a cursed house that kills everybody who lives in it. He then moves in and rents out all of the spare bedrooms to eight or nine chicks of variable hotness so he has his own harem. None of them seem to have jobs or social lives or anything, so all they do is horse around in the pool and hang out in the kitchen in their underwear. Every now and then, one of them takes her top off and hops into bed with him. They roll around for a while and he squeezes her boobs. The fact that one of these broads is played by Wintergate's wife lets you know a little more about their marriage than I think I'm comfortable with.

Did I mention that he's telekinetic? Yeah, he likes to sit around in his leopard-print bikini briefs and breathe real heavily while making stuff bounce around like it's hanging on the end of a fishing line. Which, clearly, it's not, because, you know, magic. Duh.

It took me forever to watch Boardinghouse. I don't mean it took forever to get around to watching it; I mean the actual watching process took forever. I watched it in 15 minute chunks over the course of three weeks, usually right before bedtime or just after getting up. Consequently, my memory of it feels more like a series of vaguely related dreams than a single unified work. The fact that its story makes no fucking sense whatsoever probably helps with that.

Here are some things things I remember, in no particular order:

1. There's an opening crawl that's supposed to be an FBI file or something.I think it's about the history of the boardinghouse (Why is it one word? Is it Dutch?) and it's written in awesome old-timey green computery letters on a black screen, and every now and again, they cut to...I don't know. Something. People dying of...something. Sorry, man, wish I could help you.

2. Wait, actually, it starts with an announcement that the film will be shown in HORROR VISION! which consists of a gloved hand appearing onscreen accompanied by some psychedelic Lawnmower Man computer graphics. This is intended to warn the more sensitive lunatics in the audience that something gory is about to happen. I only remember it happening once or twice over the course of the picture so I think maybe this idea got lost along the way. I don't think any of us are quite prepared to deal with the amount of blow that likely went into the production of this movie, so I guess we can forgive them for not sweating the small stuff.

3. Then I think somebody breaks out of a mental institution. There's no way to be sure but I vaguely remember somebody dressed like an orderly getting the mind whammy put on him and being forced to pull ketchup-coated sausage casings out of his shirt.

4. At some point, a hitchhiker stops by and gets thrown in the pool by the ladies, then he goes upstairs and get electrocuted by a hair dryer in the bathtub. He's never heard from again, but then one of the chicks is seen troweling in the garden. Suspicious? Your guess is as good as mine.

5. I'm pretty sure somebody flies one of those weird prop planes with the engine in the back. I don't know in what context, but yeah, I'm 95% sure that happened.

6. One of the chicks gets stabbed through the hand by a telekinetically controlled steak knife. It goes straight through her palm, probably severing a few tendons, but they just wrap a towel around it and send her on her way.

7. The blond dude is taking a bath when one of the chicks visits him in her lingerie and he impresses her by making a bar of soap fly around. Then he pulls her in with him and promises to teach her how to be a creepy New Age psycho like him.

8. At some point, I'm pretty sure there's an honest-to-God pie fight between a few of the ladies. Now that you mention it, I think Mr. Wintergate/Adley might be into sploshing, because there's another scene where a chick opens the fridge and gets a faceful of telekinetic yogurt.

9. Ooh, this is a good one. One of the chicks is taking a shower when suddenly blood starts leaking out of the cracks between the tiles, so she freaks out so bad that she mushes her boobs up against the glass shower door six or seven times instead of opening it. Then when she finally manages to escape, she looks in the mirror and she has the face of a pig monster, but when one of the other broads bursts in, the pigface disappears. Then they check the shower and declare that nothing's wrong, even though the grout is still stained red.

10. The blond dude is on the beach making out with one of the topless chicks in his stable when somebody clonks him on the head with a rock and she's like, "What the hell did you do that for?" Then she starts bleeding from the eyes and mouth and stumbles naked down the beach for a while before collapsing in the surf. Then the blond dude wakes up and is like, "Wow, that was weird."

11. Some cops stop by and investigate something. One of them is forced to shoot himself in the head at the end, that much I remember. I think one of them has a manilla folder.

12. Somebody goes to the library and narrates pointlessly about it. Actually, now that you mention it, I seem to remember that one of the chicks had a possessive ex-boyfriend who narrated pointlessly, too. What's with these movies that will just let any asshole off the street narrate them? Have some self-worth, movie.

13. Somebody has a dream...with some monsters...and a smoke machine...and maybe a hand under the bed...there might be a teddy bear voodoo doll in there, too, or that could be a different scene. This part's pretty fuzzy.

14. One of the chicks is in a band that plays at the house. They sound kind of like Joan Jett crossed with Berlin crossed with fetal alcohol syndrome.

Okay, now we've gotten to the final stretch, which I just watched last night, so its memory hasn't wiggled out of my grip yet. While the band is playing, the blonde chick with the trowel pulls aside the band's manager (a stereotypical showbiz sleazoid with a plaid blazer and a Rex Reed mustache) and starts making out with him and calling him Daddy. At first, you think it's just some skanky sex talk, but then she warns him not to go back to Mommy and starts going all demonic and shit. She stands in front of a light show stolen from the local roller rink and her face gets all distorted like a carnival mirror while talking like the Evil Dead and you BUG THE FUCK OUT because it's like the movie has lost its fucking mind. It's like some dude sitting next to you on the subway who seems normal enough but then he suddenly starts talking to you about how Puff Daddy and Jesus are really the same dude, after all, have you ever seen them in the same place? This scene kind of broke my brain. I remember all that shit I mentioned earlier, but I have no idea who these two incestuous motherfuckers are or what they have to do with the bordinghaus or why she has telekinetic powers that let her rip this doughy bastard's heart out of his chest with her mind. Then the blond dude walks in to explain everything. He's like, "Wait, your name is Dee! D is for Deborah! You're Deborah Hoffman!" And I'm like, "Who the fuck is Deborah Hoffman?" I probably should have paid more attention to that scene with the manilla folder.

Then the chick in the band shows up, and her and the blond dude give the evil broad the Care Bear Stare until some red computer graphics spill onto the screen. Then the movie ends, but first there's about five minutes of green-on-black computer text letting you know that the chick in the band got a record contract with RCA and the blond dude went on to be the system administrator for "Space Program." Not "the" space program. Just Space Program. That's what it's called. I'm assuming it's some kind of storage company.

I don't know, man. Boardinghouse was a long slog, but there was something hilarious in every 15-minute segment I watched, and that life-changing last scene made the whole thing worth it. And the cheap-ass keyboard score was pretty awesome. It sounded like somebody poured Mountain Dew into John Carpenter's synthesizer, gave him a glass of absinthe, and made him play the Halloween theme over and over again. And boobs are pretty cool, I guess. I have no beef with boobs.

I wish I could break it down a little more, but that's all I got, dude. Some works of art just defy analysis.

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