Friday, October 9, 2009

Jason watches the Primitive Screwheads do BRAINDEAD ALIVE

It's been a long two years since the Primitive Screwheads drenched me with blood, but last night they were finally back, and with a vengeance.

Their show was an adaptation of Peter Jackson's Braindead (aka Dead Alive), often called the goriest movie of all time. First, I have to make a diversion because this movie is very important to me.

Some of you might have noticed that I watch a lot of movies, and in particular I go to a lot of film festivals. So a lot of people ask me what my favorite movie of all time is. I can't answer that question, but instead I explain the Braindead/Dead Alive is the movie that really started my obsession. You see, when I first saw the American cut of DEAD ALIVE (someone played it in the lounge at college), I loved it. I hadn't even really seen a gory movie before (Seriously, I grew up without watching a lot of movies and kind of a chicken. I made up for it fast). Well, I loved the movie enough I sought more information about it on the ol' Internets, and I found it was originally called BRAINDEAD. I also found there were a number of sites where I could get bootleg VHS copies of the New Zealand/European cut called BRAINDEAD (many of these sites, like Gorehound Video or Blackest Hearts Media, folded their VHS copy business once a lot of these cult films started being released on DVD). Well, the BRAINDEAD cut has a few extra minutes of footage that tie up a few loose ends and just make for some good gags. It's still my preferred version and thanks to Indiefest 2003 I'm one of the few American audiences to see that version on the big screen. Anyway, in searching for the best copy of BRAINDEAD on bootleg VHS I learned about a lot of other cult movies available at these sites. One that impressed me greatly was CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. In 2001, shortly after I had moved to the SF Bay Area, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST did a tour of the U.S. on the big screen. In San Francisco, it played at a little theater in the Mission called The Roxie. After watching it there, and thoroughly enjoying it, I figured I should keep tabs on what's playing at a theater that's cool enough to play such an extreme movie. Well, the next February they played something called Indiefest. By this time I was already seeing a movie or two every weekend, and was gravitating towards independent film rather than the blockbuster of the week release. But I hadn't really done a film festival before. And I also figured out that in the 2002 Indiefest schedule it was possible--but not trivial--to see everything. I figured that's the thing to do. Sure, some people would go just to see the movie their friend made, or see a few that seem interesting, but there would be a number of people who were there to see everything. Turns out, I was the only one (by now, there are at least one or two more people who do that), and now I've seen everything in Indiefest since then (the streak is still alive!) And the rest, as they say, is history.


So this rambling tale of my personal history is just an introduction to say, I KNOW THIS MOVIE PRETTY DAMN WELL. So I can tell you, the Screwheads did a very faithful, and pretty damn funny adaptation of it. Actually, they did a stage parody of a radio-play parody of it. That's right, they present it as a radio play, and make jokes about 1950's style radio. The old-timey microphones are a nice touch, and the joke about cigarette advertisements never got old (okay, they got old, but I still liked them. Makes me want to get a pack of Sammy's cigarettes). And the live Foley effects were really cool. It does mean that a lot of the action is narrated rather than acted (as anyone who has seen the movie knows, there's a lot going on that would be rather difficult for a non-profit theater troupe to put on stage) and so I think it helps a lot to know the movie beforehand (I'd be interested to hear from anyone in the audience who hadn't see the movie).

Oh, but let's be honest, I was there for one thing--blood. Gallons and gallons of blood dumped on the audience. Reportedly, their previous record was 80 gallons of blood in a show. Last night, they used 200 gallons. I believe it. My soaked hair believed it. My soaked clothes (all the way to my freakin' taint) believed it. I was literally left with no bit of surface area not soaked (something that hasn't actually happened since their Chainsaw Massacres show back in 2006). So, Mission 100% Accomplished! My only complaint, I got plenty soaked, the rest of the audience (including my friend Ira) got plenty soaked, but the cast members got away relatively clean. They're playing 4 more shows--on the 10th, 24th, 29th, 30th, and 31st (my birthday, and the extra-bloody closing show!), so hopefully they'll find a way to soak the cast more before then.

Then of course, was the walk to the BART (that blood is cold, by the way), and the long ride back to Fremont. I got a few odd looks, but given that the blood shows up more pink than anything, maybe they figured I had dressed myself as a giant breast cancer awareness ribbon or something.

Anyway, you should all see their show. Tickets are only $20, and are available here.

[Update: I completely forgot to mention how much the Primitive Screwheads love me back (I am, after all, an honorary Screwhead). They made my involvement a little bit of the show, including making me an example of a "not-well-maintained frontage." I <3 @primitive_screw]
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