Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Luther The Geek

Today I wanted to review a legitimate horror classic, but I wanted to do one that hasn't already been discussed to death. I mean, is there really anything left to say about The Howling 2: Your Sister Is A Werewolf that hasn't already been said a million times before?

Really, there was only one choice. We're talking Horror Hall of Fame here. We're talking the absolute best horror movie made in rural Illinois in 1990. We're talking Luther the Geek.

Luther the Geek opens with some stills of old-timey circus sideshow signage while some disembodied voice that sounds suspiciously like the narrator from the beginning of The Transformers: The Movie explains the history of geeks. Not geeks like you and me who own autographed copies of Bruce Campbell's autobiography, but geeks who bite the heads off chickens for the amusement of rednecks. The first scene is set in 1939, and it shows one such geek—a drunken travesty who lives in a cage—being egged on (that is not a chicken joke) by a posse of yokels who chant "Geek! Geek! Geek!" over and over again. (The movie's director is cursed with the nerdtacular name of Carlton J. Albright, so I'm betting this part was inspired by his junior high gym class.) One of these yokels is Luther, who at this point is a little boy of nine or so. Somebody accidentally knocks him over and he cracks his front teeth out on a wagon wheel, then sits there holding them while watching the geek bite the head off of a chicken and spit it out at the audience. This fascinates young Luther so much that he tastes the chicken blood before his mama hauls him away, calling him a little turd while he stares crazily at the geek.

So that's pretty much it for an origin story. Luther saw a geek bite the head off a chicken when he was a little kid, so that made him sculpt himself some metal dentures so he could bite people's necks out. Yeah, I don't get it either, but I'm guessing that Luther probably had some undiagnosed emotional issues long before the whole chicken-biting incident. The way I figure it, the geek thing just gave him a way to focus his rage.

Anyway, the story picks up 50 years later as Luther sharpens his steel choppers with a file while a committee of terrible actors tries to decide whether or not to release him from the insane asylum where he's been locked up for the past 25 years for tearing the throats out of three people. If you decide to watch this movie (which you should), I'm gonna have to apologize for this scene. It's boring and unbelievable and not at all like the rest of the movie. I guess they just needed a way to get Luther out of the mental hospital and out on the street, but that still doesn't explain why he still has his metal choppers after all these years. You'd think 1) They'd have rusted, and 2) They'd be in an evidence locker somewhere in a baggie marked Exhibit A. But then again, this is a real progressive mental health institution we're talking about. They believe in giving people second chances, even when the people in question are non-verbal maniacs who have turned their mouths into murder weapons.

So Luther gets out and heads right to the butcher shop, where some swarthy dude is thematically cleavering some poultry. For a second, you think it's going to be like in Psycho II where Norman tries to rejoin society by getting a job at the local diner, but nope, Luther goes right back to his criminal ways by stealing the butcher's jacket from a hook just inside the screen door. The butcher chases him, but Luther just runs off to a safe distance and struts back and forth like the cock of the walk. (That is a chicken joke, but it's also an accurate description of what Luther is doing. He preens like a rooster.)

This is your first real good look at Luther, and at first, he's not very impressive. His dossier in the mental institution lists his height as 5' 10", but I ain't buying it. He's 5' 8', tops, a wiry little middle-aged balding guy who looks and acts an awful lot like this retarded fella who used to try to beat me up when I worked in group homes for the mentally disabled.

So if this was your first day of freedom after all these years, I think you'd do exactly what Luther does: go to the supermarket and start sucking some eggs. This gets him kicked out of the store, so he sits down on a bench in the parking lot next to an old lady (who's actually a young lady in bad old-age makeup). Then, for the first and last time in the movie, he tries to reach out to another human being by offering her one of the eggs he stole. Naturally, the dumb bitch drops this gesture of good will, leaving Luther no choice but to rip her gizzard out with his teeth. This is a great moment, because he goes from kinda threatening but still goofy to a feral flesh fiend in about half a second. He just lunges for the old broad's throat in broad daylight. It's some good Fulci-style gore, too, with lots of ragged, stretchy flesh. Then the camera lingers on it afterward and lets you hear the blood trickling out like a leaky faucet. As far as first kills go, it's one for the books.

Now Luther's got a little legal problem on his hands, so he runs around the parking lot until he finds a car with an open backdoor. (A lot of the problems in this movie would be solved if people just locked their doors, including the butcher who lost his jacket.) The car belongs to this nice blond mom who unknowingly drives Luther out to her farm, where he sneaks into her barn, turns right to the camera, and bites the head off one of her chickens. This is the best chicken decapitation of the movie, bar none. The throat stretches about a foot before it tears, and then Luther guzzles blood from the stump like he's drinking from a wineskin.

Then we see the movie's most dynamic bit of filmmaking. The mom is in the kitchen, cutting up potatoes, when she glances out the screen door and sees Luther running toward the house. It's weird, because she's not alarmed at first, because it's the middle of the day, there's no scary music playing, and the shot is from far enough away that she can't really tell what's happening at first. It's just some dude approaching the house. I wonder what he wants? But then he gets close enough and she notices that he's covered in blood and obviously insane, so she runs up and slams the door, but he smashes the glass and breaks in anyway. This all happens within a few seconds, with minimal cutting. One second she's peeling potatoes, the next she's fighting for her life. What I think this symbolizes is the random incursion of chaos into order, the Dionysian element intruding on everyday Apollonian existence. Clearly, Luther is a figure shrouded in myth and mystery. He also bites the heads off chickens. (See above paragraph.)

Up until this point, this has been a pretty ridiculous movie, but right here is where it surprises you. All jokes aside, Luther is a scary motherfucker. His eyes have no reason or humanity in them. His movements are animalistic yet cunning. He's not like Dr. Giggles or some shit, some wannabe Freddy with a tired gimmick. He's just this crazy dude who wants to bite your neck out for no good reason, and you know just from looking at him that there's no talking him out of it. The scary part is that, unlike most of the mindless automatons you see in slasher movies, you can always tell that Luther is thinking about something, although you can't possibly imagine what that is. I can't stress enough what a completely believable but utterly batshit performance this is. I don't know who you are, Guy Who Played Luther, but Majestyks' Movies salutes you, sir. You sick fuck.

Anyway, after Luther busts in through the door, Mom runs for her shotgun, but Luther disarms her, shoves the barrel up her dress and pulls the trigger. Luckily for Mom's reproductive future, the chamber is empty, so she kicks Luther in the balls and runs away. Then he slowly gives chase as she runs upstairs instead of out the front door. Luther's stalking style is distinctive, because he clucks like a chicken while he does it. Believe it or not, it's very eerie and menacing as he taunts her with his clucks ("Buck, buck, buck, buck, buck… buck…buck… buck-aaw!"), letting her know that there is no escape from a bloodthirsty geek with murder on his mind.

So he captures her and ties her to the bed with strips of cloth from a sheet that he tore up. It's creepy to watch how carefully yet casually he does this, starting by making a little rip with his teeth, then tearing down the length of the sheet in a straight line. It's as if he's done it a million times before. Clearly, Luther's no newbie. He knows the drill.

So while Mom is tied to the bed upstairs, her big-tittied daughter shows up riding on the back of her boyfriend's Harley. The waist of her jeans goes up to about two inches underneath the lower swells of her globular DDs, while he's the sort of dude who wears red cowboy boots with black jeans. Despite the broken glass and the shotgun on the floor, Tits McGillicutty assumes Mom is just out shopping, so her boyfriend moves the plot along by spraying her with a random can of whipped cream, forcing her to take a shower.

And it's a hell of a shower, too. First, you think they're just gonna tease you because they only show her stripping down to her bra and panties before she shuts the bathroom door behind her. But then her douchebag boyfriend joins her, and we get a solid minute and a half of humongous all-natural knockage while they fool around in the shower. Apparently, this chick was on SeaQuest or some shit, so it's kind of like the first time you saw Alyssa Milano naked in Embrace of the Vampire, only with much, much bigger breasts and no eurotrash vampires (a great tradeoff, in my opinion).

Then she gets out of the shower and walks around in her bathrobe for a few seconds, making you think some scary shit is about to happen. This signals that the nudity portion of the movie is probably over, but then her boyfriend tackles her to the bed and the boobs come out again! What a great plot twist. I love it when filmmakers toy with audience expectations like that.

Normally, I don't go on and on about tits like this. For me, tits are just the sprinkles on a violence sundae. Nice, but not strictly necessary. But these tits are so spectacular that I'd recommend the movie even if the rest of it sucked. (Which it doesn't. But seriously, those are some nice tits.)

One kinky thing about this sex scene is that Busty Hooterman and her pet man-boy are banging on Mom's bed while Mom is tied up right on the other side of the wall, listening to them go at it. Talk about uncomfortable, right?

By this point, we've completely forgotten that Luther is even in the movie, but then he reminds you by stealing the boyfriend's bike and making him chase after him. Then they get into a fight, and the boyfriend accidentally get shot by this random shotgun-toting farmer, who tries to apologize to Luther, but Luther doesn't care. Luther just wants to bite a chunk out of this dude's neck and spit it out like the tip of a cigar.

The boyfriend's still alive, though, so they tussle some more, then Luther clonks him on the noggin with his motorcycle helmet, then throws his head back and lets out a triumphant rooster crow. Shit, man, I know how ridiculous this sounds, but I swear to god, it's creepy. You just have to see it.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Jugs has discovered Mom, so she tries to untie her. Unfortunately, Mom doesn't really help matters by yelling at her to hurry up, which just makes her nervous. I mean, I know you've had a rough day, Mom, what with getting captured by an insane chickenman and then finding out that your daughter is sexually active under rather awkward circumstances, but c'mon, give the girl a break. She's doing the best she can. Being overly critical isn't very productive.

So thanks to Mom's backseat knot-untying, Bigguns can't get her free, so she has to hide under the bed while Luther walks in. She sees that he has her boyfriend's stupid red boots on, so she basically becomes catatonic for the next reel or so. Then Luther catches her after some stalking around, and a deputy comes by to warn everybody about Luther, but Luther holds the shotty on the boyfriend (who's busy making brilliant observations like "He thinks he's a chicken! This is crazy!") while Boobsy pretends that everything is okay.

After the deputy goes on his way, Luther finally has a chance to have some fun. This is a weird part of the movie, because you aren't really sure what his agenda is. He's not in it for the sex, since he had plenty of opportunities, so all he does is kick Funbags in the ribs a few times and dance around with her like the Joker did with Vikki Vale. Then he kills the boyfriend offscreen, somehow tearing his whole chest off so you can see his heart beating on the outside. He didn't even have a knife or anything, so I don't know how he accomplishes this. With his teeth, maybe?

Then the daughter manages to free Mom right before she dies for some reason. Internal bleeding from getting kicked, I guess. I didn't really expect the movie to go there, and Mom's believable grief makes the rest of the movie a lot more intense than it would be otherwise.

She runs out of the house, where she meets up with the deputy, who doesn't call for backup or secure all exits or do anything useful. He just runs blindly into the house while Luther escapes, incapacitates the deputy's vehicle and radio, then runs into the barn. Then there's a whole lot of cat-and-mouse with the deputy and Luther in the dark barn (which must be roughly the size of the Mall of America), until the deputy gets fed up and starts taunting Luther by saying, "C'mon out, chickenshit!" Then he starts imitating Luther's chicken-speak, but he keeps his human accent so all he's doing is saying "Bock! Bock bock bock!" He's not even trying to pronounce it right, so he sounds like an ugly American tourist trying to parlay voo fronsay. If I was a chicken or of Chicken-American descent, I would find this really offensive, especially coming from a peace officer.

Luther gets understandably pissed off by the deputy's dismissive attitude toward his adopted culture, so they have a pretty solid mano a mano fight. Luther might not look very tough, but if you let him get up close you'll find that he's a grappler. You can't get a good grip on him, and when you think you've got him, he twists around and bites your fingers off and gnaws your trachea out. At least that's what he did to the deputy. He might make an exception for you, I don't know.

Meanwhile, Mom accidentally knocks herself out and spends the rest of the night in the chicken coop. She wakes up when Luther walks in to bite his morning gizzard, dressed in the daughter's boyfriend's stupid clothes. (I like how Luther keeps upgrading his wardrobe over the course of the movie.) Luther's thrilled to see her, and as he approaches, preparing to do god knows what, she also starts trying to imitate his chicken-speak. Only she does it right, putting the proper enunciation on the bawks and the ba-kaws, and this tickles Luther so much that he starts clucking away and dancing his happy little rooster dance. See, Luther's like the French. As long as you make an attempt to speak his native language, he'll respect you.

Unfortunately, Mom is not trying to make friends with Luther. She's just trying to distract him so she can grab her rifle and shoot him in the heart. Which she does. At first, I thought this was a lame way for him to go out. It wasn't very spectacular or bloody at all. But then I realized that it wasn't really about that. It was about how Mom goes fucking nuts and starts clucking and crowing over his dead body in a triumphant rage, sort of like a poultrified version of the end of the first Texas Chainsaw when Sally was laughing hysterically after getting away from Leatherface. Then that sort of morphs into a wail of sadness as Mom realizes that killing the metal-toothed maniac who murdered your big-breasted daughter is not going to bring her back to you. And that's where the movie leaves you, with a mother's wordless grief.

I know this movie sounds pretty retarded, like one of those so-bad-it's-good movies those ironic assholes over at the Razzies are always yapping about, but just try and laugh at that ending, motherfucker. It's serious as a heart attack. You never quite know where you stand with Luther the Geek, and that's what I love about it.

That and the tits.

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