Review Date: April 19, 2008
Released by: Code Red
Release date: 04/29/2008
Region 0, NTSC
Full screen 1.33:1
After the surprising artistic merit of Code Redís comeback DVD, Sole Survivor
, I was beginning to question their status as kings of the lost lowbrow of American cinema. After seeing Boardinghouse
though, my suspicions have been forever put to rest. This movie is bad. Worse than bad. Worse even than their masterpiece of incomprehensibility, Donít Go in the Woods
. Itís like waking up and finding out you have two illegitimate children with Zelda Rubinstein bad. Shot on video, short on script, shoddily edited and shit filled with corn syrup and bare breasts, itís one of those movies where the price of admission feels like more than the budget. And when you get the movie for free, you know thatís a sign. Is it bad movie bliss or corrosive celluloid, err, magnetic tape, crap?
In the commentary for Assault on Precinct 13
, John Carpenter said that when you have a low budget, you always do your credits on black to pad the runtime. Iím sure director Johnn Wintergate hasnít seen that, but not only are his in camera video titles on black, but so too is the entire opening back story. Yes, we get this endless DOS scroll of pixilated text so slow you could read it four times over. But thatís not enough. A narrator then reads it one more time just to make sure it all sinks in. The story? Well, uh, umm, it involves, uh, a house. Yeah, one with boarders. Well, now it has boarders. Before people died in it. Telepathy is fun! Letís go swimming!
The story is essentially that sparse, and that sporadic, mainly consisting of a bunch of friends having fun in front of the camera. Jim Royce (Johnn Wintergate
) runs the house, and a half dozen busty women rent it out. He extols Zen mysticism and telepathic knowledge to the leading boarder, Victoria (Kalassu
) before either having sex, hanging upside down from a stretcher of facilitating a food fight. In case youíd start to confuse this with a comedy, a random murder is spliced in at a regular rate of reoccurrence. Most of the murders involve a lot of homemade effects, usually with red corn syrup dripping everywhere and the odd poorly mimicked appendage. Since the story is such an afterthought, the only real explanation for the murders is that the house is possessed. That we learned from the speaking DOS screen.
Okay. More fun in the pool. Whoops, Betty lost her top. Hey letís look in the fridge. The cat is dead. Romance on the train tracks. A huge glowing hole in the bed that almost sucks in a woman. Johnny moves a glass with his mind. Fake blood all over a woman on the beach. I think sheís dead but sheís still walking. She walks into the water and is presumably eaten by the shark from The Van
. British chick has her top ripped off. A couple more people die. Another epically long DOS scroll. Fin.
is a movie that really took my expectations for a ride. Initially, I was really disappointed. The classic airbrushed cover with the joyfully punny taglines seemed to suggest your typical Evil Dead
clone of the time. Typical, it ainít. Instead of a low budget film, we get an even lower budgeted shot on video anomaly. The credits are atrocious, the deaths are not scary, the jokes are not funny. The story is slapdash and devoid of any momentum. He is telepathic? What? The whole thing is just totally amateur.
It was at about the halfway point where that weakness suddenly became its strength. Boardinghouse
plays like one big home movie. The kind of movie you make as kids, improvising one scene after another on your big clunky VHS camcorder. The quality may suck, and the ideas arenít much at all, but thatís never the charm of a home movie. Itís the passion behind it. Itís the desire to create art, however good, with whatever means you have available. Johnn Wintergate and his real-life wife Kalassu may not be very good filmmakers, but they certainly have fun with the material. As weíve seen with people like William Hung or Star Wars Kid, sometimes itís not the quality of the work, but the energy of delivery.
isnít great. Itís terrible. But its seams are so exposed and so loose that you canít help but admire this modest ensemble for pulling together to create this shoddy art ensemble piece. You see them laughing and having fun on camera. You see how they try to make the effects work. With the fourth wall exposed, you yourself feel a part of this affectionate little motion picture. Itís terrible, but youíd never tell it to your friends who made it. Instead, you look past the flaws and admire their effort, for there will be better movies, but thereís nothing like a home movie.
Heh. Perhaps the term ďQualityĒ shouldnít be used when describing this image, but weíll try. Boardinghouse
is presented in the 1.33:1 full screen ratio it was shot in (before being matted for its inexplicable theatrical exhibition). As one of the first shot-on-video horror movies, the video technology for the time was seriously lacking, and considering the filmmakers didnít really have much knowledge at all about how to light or shoot a film, it understandably looks like shit. Colors smear, exposure fluctuates from scene to scene, much of the night footage is underexposed. The inherent footage is so poor that itís really tough to objectionably grade Code Redís work on the transfer.
From what I can tell though, Code Redís done a fine job, making the muddy source material as clear and presentable as possible. Some segments are still a little darker than they should be, but you can only shine shit so far. Ironically, this transfer is not interlaced, despite the videotape origin, so movement actually looks surprisingly good and film-like in this progressive transfer. The irony continues that the shot-on-film Sole Survivor
, by Code Red, is not progressive. Still, Code Red extends their streak of solid transfers with this Ė but the cinematography behind the transfer will never win any awards (unless weíre talking Razzies).
Oh the sound. Presented in English mono, it sounds good from a technical standpoint. The material itself though, is wall to wall with the cheesiest neo-Carpenter synth riff youíll likely hear. Girls are playing in the pool, but still this ominous track pulses on. Itís quite humorous, and really the only track in the entire film. Remarkably all the audio is clear and easy to understand.
Code Red continues with their personal array of supplements, and if their work here and on Donít Go in the Woods
is any indication Ė the shittier the film, the more engaging the participants. The supplements here involve the director-and-actor and husband-and-wife team of Johnn Wintergate and Kalassu. Like their other releases, this involves a commentary, an interview, and a brief introduction. The introduction gets the whole affair off to a good start with Wintergate imitating his notorious (to fans at least) telekinetic face. The commentary is good fun, with Wintergate and Kalassu joined by moderators Lee Christian and Jeff McCay, as well as their own two kids. The moderators try to prod for filmic influences and thematic motivations of the scenes, but that doesnít really work. The Wintergates are an eccentric, granola bunch, but they arenít the most film literate or intellectual. They have a lot of fun though, and their infectious appreciation for the film is sure to elicit some smiles. Of note though, the commentary is often over modulated (whatís new for Code Red), and seems to be ten seconds out of sync with the action. That doesnít really matter though, itís still fun.
Since the Wintergateís thought process is so abstract-random, thereís not much overlap between the commentary and the short interview included as well. One nitpick that they continually address in both before we get started: They mention the film is the first to be shot on video and blown-up to 35mm. Not the case. Michelangelo Antonioni did so two years prior with his intentional video experiment, The Oberwald Mystery
. Considering the Wintergates gave a big ďHuh?Ē when Suspiria
was mentioned in the commentary, of course they wouldnít know such things, so itís all good.
They talk about the budget, the intent, their friends, and many other things in the interview, including how they moved to Canada to get away from that Los Angeles smog. It must have worked, because both look to really have aged well! On both the interview and commentary they keep talking about Boardinghouse
2, which theyíve written. Code Red seems intent to produceÖso look out!
The disc is rounded off with two TV spots for the film and Code Redís usual assortment of awesome vintage trailers. This time they advertise Sole Survivor
, Can I Do it til I Need Glasses?
, The Dead Pit
and The Chilling
. Watching those is always my favorite part, and seeing Grizzly Adams in full force in The Chilling
is a definite highlight.
is baaaaaaaad. The production values stink, the video look is ugly and the script is without focus of any sort. Yet the people who made it had a real zest for life and for the fun of creating art in a collective that the final product has a real enticing feel to it. It may not be good, but it was made to have fun rather than make a quick buck, and thereís a purity to that that Hollywood just canít match. Code Redís done all they can in making the shoddy elements presentable, and the extras with the husband and wife team behind the film are personal in the way weíve come to respect and admire from Code Red. Check any expectations whatsoever at the door, and Boardinghouse
might just be a fun stay.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B+
- Running time - 1 hour 38 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Audio commentary with director-star Johnn Wintergate and star Kalassu
- Interview with Johnn Wintergate and Kalassu
- TV spots
- Code Red trailers