Friday, January 27, 2006

Burning Moon Sickness.

Lunatics: A Love Story
1991, USA
Josh Becker

First of all, this movie was not at all what I expected. Perhaps spoiled by Faces of Death bootlegs and Ebaum’s World, I was sort of hoping for grainy video footage of Jeffrey Dahmer hitting on a prison guard, or Albert Fish pulling a needle out of his cock to give Henry Lee Lucas a bad jailhouse tattoo of a shamrock. While the revelation that the film was not a deranged reality show was upsetting, it’s not nearly as upsetting as Lunatics: A Love Story turned out to be.

You should see where he keeps the ink.

This movie horrified me. And it’s not because it comes from that brief period in the 1990s when everybody who carried a cup of coffee on the set of Evil Dead got to make a shitty movie, though the lingering stench of The Nutt House made that a distinct possibility. And it’s not because the film is scary, because as near as I can tell it’s supposed be a comedy, or more accurately a fever dream about a comedy. No, what terrifies me about this movie is how much of myself I see in the main character. Not literally, of course, since the film stars Ted Raimi, and I do not look like a stop-motion Playdough model. But there are many elements of the character that I identify with, making the film somewhat of a guilty pleasure.

Put him in an E-Z Bake Oven, and you've got a delicious salty snack.

Ted Raimi plays Hank Stone, a writer living alone in an apartment by the bus station, slowly going insane from loneliness. Through a series of uninspired coincidences, he meets a naïve and similarly crazy young woman, and both the title and the premise of the film are born. Raimi’s character and I are not identical; he wears glasses, I wear contacts, he writes poetry, I am heterosexual, his girlfriend looks like Debbie Harry before she spent half a lifetime getting done in phone booths for drug money, mine looks like she doesn’t exist, etc… But writer/director Josh Becker manages to nail that particular blend of desperation, self-doubt, and stomach pain that defines the life of a struggling artist, something we probably all can relate to in some way or another.

Forty dollars will get you happy.

That, however, is about all that Becker does get right. Lunatics… feels rushed, and poorly structured. And while the surreal special effects are ambitions, I would advise all filmmakers that if you’re reaching for the stars with your effects, you should make sure you have something to stand on that isn’t made of papier-mâché and foam latex. So while I can’t recommend Lunatics: A Love Story as a film, in the absence of selling my soul and caving into one of those annoying “100 Things About…” lists, I will recommend it as the best way to get a glimpse into my miserable, miserable life.


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