The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: THE ABOMINATION (1986)
After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas, and Chicago. GATW’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!
Out of the many recent and upcoming HMN flicks, this week’s pick was one I was anticipating the most. I heard talk of THE ABOMINATION from many different sources and just had a feeling this was going to be a special entry into our weekly little program. My assumption was correct! This is quite low budget, shot on Super 8 and edited on video, filmed rather close to where I live and full of many special moments - both in acting and gore. So what if it runs about 30 or 40 minutes too long? It’s spectacular, dammit!
The story concerns a young man named Cody who opens the film in voiceover, telling his grisly story of murder and mayhem courtesy of a biblical entity known as The Abomination. According to the Bible, as Cody says, this creature would be sent to destroy everything, and it just so happens that it came to be in his house. As his uber-religious mother worships along with a televangelist, Brother Fogg, she coughs up what she believes was a cancerous tumor. During the night this pulsating growth crawls out of the trash can (because you should just throw tumors aways without consulting a physician, right?) and crawls down Cody’s throat as he sleeps. Soon he too coughs up the creature and is driven by an uncontrollable force to kill and feed the human remains to the now multiple blobs with teeth.
I’m not even sure where to begin with this film. There is just so much going on that it’s hard to concentrate on any one thing specifically. The film is directed by Bret McCormick, under his stage name Max Raven, shortly after finishing film school. He and his partners (at the time) decided they wanted to take what little money they had and make something their way outside of the studio system. Because of this they picked up a Super 8 camera and filmed near their hometown area of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. This left them shooting on location and with some pretty inexperienced "actors."Actually, the acting can barely be called acting at all. Just listen to Cody talking to his doctor over the opening credits. They guy playing the doc is probably reading his lines off the page and he’s not even doing it that well. It sounds so unbelievably unnatural. He isn’t the only bad actor we get the privilege of watching, hell, he might not even be the worst.
McCormick made the odd choice to start the film, pre-credits, with a montage of all the major plot points in the film. For nearly the first four minutes clips are shown that show many scenes of death and the crazy giant being The Abomination becomes. And not just once, some of the clips are shown at least three times. This tells a lot about the movie. First, you find out that it will be a bit of a chaotic, strange ride. It also sets up a recurring theme in the film of repetition. There are many recycled shots throughout and even phrases as Cody repeats “The Abomination, which makes all things desolate” ad nauseam leading up to the movie’s climax.
If you stick with the film past the first little plot summary montage then you will see the gore plays a big part in the film. Not that you shouldn’t be too surprised by that. Once Cody starts to kill for The Abomination, things get pretty crazy. There are some gnarly deaths, including a couple rough moments of sawing on throats, a shovel to the face, and a fantastic glimps of a chainsaw used to saw off the top of Cody’s boss’ head. A very scrambled-looking brain plops out onto the ground and everything. The crew knew what they were doing when it came to the red stuff and made sure to include plenty.
The Abomination itself is quite a creature, from his humble beginnings as a coughed up “tumor” in the trash can I couldn’t help but think he was cute. I even tilted my head and muttered “awww” to myself. Soon it grows into a snakelike thing that squirms its way down Cody’s throat only to be hacked up again and placed under the bed. I guess it replicated in Cody’s stomach because he hurls up a few different incarnations of the destroyer who all grow into blobs with massive jaws and teeth. The end result - which lives in the oddest of places like a washing machine, a kitchen cabinet and a toilet - looks like something the band GWAR has used on stage to feast on random fans in the crowd. It’s like a Muppet from hell and that is a good thing for sure.
The biggest downfall of the film is how every single shot goes on far too long. Having the boring “plot” scenes take forever is bad enough but even the gore-soaked death scenes, that should be fun, plod on endlessly. How many times do we really need to cut between Cody standing and staring blankly at a body and the corpse itself? It’s a sad day when I’m getting bored of looking at the gruesome death scene FX.
The running time is also padded by recycling a bunch of shots and ridiculous amounts of B-roll. There is an ad for where to send money to the televangelist that Cody’s mother follows and it shows up five times in the span of just a few minutes. I guess this could be to show how money hungry TV preachers are, but it does get a bit out of control. Also odd that it shows his office in Arkansas when all of the road signs around are that of Texas highways. I would gladly write to that P.O. Box now and see if anyone answers but, alas, there is no zip code. Another pretty big chunk of the film sees Cody and his girlfriend cruising around in a truck next to his friends in theirs as they all laugh and drink beer. I haven’t actually calculated or anything, but it would be a safe bet to say that at least 25% of the film is nothing but shots of pick-up trucks.
Since this flick was shot on Super 8, you would need some sort of sound man to document all audio of the shoot. Seems like they did not have a traditional boom mic set-up in the budget because everything appears to have been added in post. All of the dialogue is just a little out of sync at times and the sound is so much clearer that it’s obvious they did all talking in ADR after the shoot. But the crazy dialogue is not the real star for your aural pleasure - we need to give a big shout-out to whoever the Foley artists were on THE ABOMINATION. They really went above and beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed before. Eli Trask is listed as “sound” and IMDb has this film as his only credit. Shocking. Every little sound is so exaggerated that I could not stop laughing at multiple points during the film. Every little footstep has a sound like someone jumping up and down. Who knew that bare feet on the floor sounded like someone wearing combat boots? Then there is the very special scene in the televangelist’s office. Cody’s mom goes to visit the highly revered Brother Fogg to thank him for “healing” her “tumor” through the television waves and beg him to come see her son and give him an exorcism because he’s acting so weird. When she arrives Fogg is in the bathroom and what is heard cannot be described, you must see for yourself. Note that I did no level adjustment on this clip or editing beyond cutting it out of the film. Also, be on the lookout for the best painting ever!
For the second week in a row we are treated with a cop-out ending. This time we don’t see the twist, instead the film ends and Cody and his doctor talk over the end credits explaining that Cody just killed all of these people and there is no large creature in his house eating the victims. This is a bit confusing at first, but the more I thought about it the more I can get behind the ending. I can see The Abomination having nothing to do with the killings because I figured out early on in the film what the real source of Cody’s killing spree was - his sunglasses. He never wears them except when he’s out to kill and from the moment they go on he moves around like a brainwashed ex-member of The Blues Brothers.
I hope everyone out there playing along at home enjoyed THE ABOMINATION as much as I did. Yes, it’s way too long and should be cut down to around 30 minutes, but it’s still fun. Hopefully someday some company will give this film a proper DVD release and fill it with special features. I would love some behind-the-scenes footage, even at the worst quality. Of course a commentary is a must! Now I’m really interested to see some of McCormick/Raven’s other films, including the film he and his business partner shot at the same time. I must track down OZONE! ATTACK OF THE REDNECK MUTANTS post haste! But for now I’m just going to concentrate on my rap career, where I will be performing under the name BROTHA FOGG.
Until next week - spend some time on Max Raven’s Official Website, where you will step back in time to the days of GeoCities and can read the actor/director’s autobiography online for free!
Body Count: 7 (and 1 cat)
Best Death Scene: Chainsawed Head
Number of Times Cody Repeats “The Abomination, Which Makes All Things Desolate: 25+
Best Name in the Cast: Gaye Bottoms!
Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-5/18/11: HOMBODIES (1974)
-5/25/11: THE SPIDER LABYRINTH (1988)
-6/1/11: AEROBICIDE (1987) aka KILLER WORKOUT
-6/8/11: SYNGENOR (1990)