Sunday, July 20, 2008

d. Johnn Wintergate

Reviewed by Simon Oakland

From the back cover: "A man with telekinetic powers inherits a big house with a horrible past. He opens the place up as a boarding house, and it is soon inhabited by a gorgeous romp of women. Soon, though, the long-sleeping evil supernatural power occupying the house gets to work killing off the tenants, one by one."

Back when I was a kid, I would always look forward to Friday nights. By the time I was a teenager, it was a tradition of sorts to go down to one of the many local mom-and-pop video stores and then spend the evening eating popcorn, drinking far too much soda, and getting creeped out by the choice horror titles we selected. I was introduced not only to a lot of now classic horror movies that way (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD), but also to a lot of not-so-classics (NIGHT OF THE COMET) and a lot of outright bombs (CHUD II: BUD THE CHUD).

BOARDINGHOUSE falls into another category altogether. These were the kind of movies that always pissed us off, because as soon as you'd hit play you knew you were hosed and had just wasted two bucks on a worthless piece of you-know-what. First telltale sign: it was shot on video. Actually, that isn't true. Once you've fallen for the "SOV" scam you quickly learned how to recognize these things right off the shelf. First tell tale sign (and general rule of thumb): if you've never heard of the movie before, then the more money put into the artwork on the cover, the lower the budget of the film production is. Does it have a lenticular or 3-D case? Then forget about it. You may as well have taken that $2 and... Well, no. That would just be gross.

For what's it's worth, I did manage to enjoy BOARDINGHOUSE on a nostalgic level, at least for a few minutes. They certainly don't make them like this anymore (thank god). There are no doubt people out there (who may be reading this review, even) that will love this movie due to it's amazing cheese factor. If you love the 80s but are too young to remember experiencing the era firsthand, then watching this movie could possibly be an entertaining eye opener for you on an aspect of the era long since forgotten. For everybody else, it's a chilling doorway to the past that's probably best kept closed. On a personal level, what I initally thought of as a hilariously kitschy exercise in bad taste (80s fashion and music faux pas galore) quickly became painful, even torturous, to my eyes and ears. I honestly could not bear to watch it for longer than 20 minutes (but at least that was 15 minutes longer than I could've taken it back in the day). Perhaps when I live to be 80 I'll finally build up the fortitude to sit through the entire feature. In the meantime, though, I'll leave that chore up to somebody else with enough stamina to do so: Possibly you, kind reader!

The A/V in BOARDINGHOUSE is exactly what you'd expect for a movie shot on S-VHS tape: Low resolution with occasional instances of tracking problems and audio dropouts. In the beginning of the film, there is scrolling text done on a green screen computer, but is too blurry and caused me great eye strain to read. Thankfully, the filmmakers wisely saw fit to include some voice over narration. An odd quirk of the film's sound mix is that all of the dialogue is confined to the left channel speaker, and all of the music and narration is in the right. This may lead to some problems with film "enjoyment", as is what happened to me when I tried viewing BOARDINGHOUSE using a dvd player with two left-right audio jacks going out on a TV that only had one audio line in. Normally this set up wouldn't be a problem, but in this case you would have to choose between losing the dialogue or losing the narration, neither of which is a good option. Of course, an even better option that I can see (no matter what your sound system) is to put the BOARDINGHOUSE disc back in it's case and find something better to watch. May I recommend THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES to you, instead?

Special Features on the BOARDINGHOUSE DVD include: Audio commentary by director Johnn Wintergate and star Kalassu, moderated by Lee Christian and Jeff McCay, also, Interviews with Johnn Wintergate and Kalassu, Boardinghouse trailers and trailers of titles available through Code Red.


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