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Science Crazed

1989, Starring Cameron Klein, Tony Della Ventura, Robin Hartsell. Directed by Ron Switzer.

Guest review by Jonathan Culp

Just how bad can a bad movie be? Well, if you haven't yet moved on to more pressing life issues, you might want to try Science Crazed on for size. If you can imagine the indescribably ugly juvenilia of Things crossed with the turgid endlessness of Golden Apples of the Sun, you're in the ballpark this movie is so bad it barely exists. In spite of back-cover promises of a "camp spoof'" and a transparently after-the-fact prologue designed to assure viewers that the ineptitude is entirely self-conscious, Science Crazed reads more like some negationist avant-garde installation, designed to inflict the greatest possible amount of pain on the viewer. It is to Lloyd Kaufman as Andy Warhol is to Herschel Gordon Lewis.

The film gets underway when outraged director of the Shelley Institute demands the resignation of mad scientist Dr. Wilbert Frank. Dr. Frank's assertions that he is on the verge of a breakthrough that will be "extremely important to biological science" are ignored, so he retreats to his lab and injects a sterile woman with a serum that will, he insists, cause her to give birth to "a fine healthy baby boy" in just 21 hours. After an evening of grimacing and twitching her fingernails (painted an unforgettable shade of green), the hapless female subject lies dead on the floor beside a bloody towel, which is perhaps supposed to be her baby. Dr. Frank tells his appalled slacker assistants to keep this to themselves, and to wrap the baby in gauze.

Left alone in the room, the baby instantly matures into the wheezing, snorting Fiend (Tony Della Ventura), a beast with a gauze-covered face, ketchup-spattered undershirt and yellow foam Spock ears. Mourning for his mother, this sad excuse for a monster kills Dr. Frank at his first opportunity. When his assistants soon find the good doctor's body on the lab floor and the Fiend gone, they know there's only person to call--Inspector McCoy! They reach the detective at the local video store (where else?), a bit of clairvoyance that is reciprocated by the store owner, who answers the phone before it rings. McCoy gets the lowdown while the store owner makes stupid faces at him, and heads to the Institute.

As the film hits the 15 minute point, the narrative grinds to a virtual halt, giving way to a series of diabolical massacres undertaken by the Fiend. These seven attack scenes, punctuated by minimal exposition from the Inspector and his sullen cohorts, are absolutely astonishing. Recycling itself with indescribable belligerence, the middle hour of Science Crazed actually achieves the mathematically impossible as tedium somehow collapses back in on itself.

Despite stiff competition, the first attack scene is surely the best--perhaps one of the greatest bad cinema achievements ever. Two women do some light aerobics, under which is heard sophomoric heckling from the camera crew, which is barely obscured by the looped, glitchy 1980s synth soundtrack (which is actually the best thing about the movie). Their routine, which is dominated by a zoom lens pathologically fixated on one of the chick's asses, is intercut with shots of Fiendish feet plodding down a poorly lit hallway. Cardio. Feet. Cardio. Feet. Cardio. But wait, it's the same cardio, and the same feet! How long can this go on? The answer: exactly TEN FUCKING MINUTES, with no shot used less than twice and the two paltry foot-shots recycled nine times in this sequence alone, and destined to recur for the rest of the film.

The second attack occurs after a lab assistant finds herself alone with the Fiend. She sets out to prove that she's friendly by idly fondling his shoulders and chest for two and a half minutes. Then he breaks her back, also at length. An unknown woman decked out in New Wave fashion gets it next, as she stands in a room mouthing a monologue that cannot be heard as the camera circles artily. This brief, unexplained shot is looped for five full minutes before she is strangled.

Next, a group of people lazily hang around an indoor pool without incident until the Fiend finally hobbles in and drowns one woman by dunking her head underwater. This scene is notable for some of the worst dialogue punch-ins since Crunch, with disembodied voices delivering lines like "Hey (inaudible), why don't you get wet and wild?"

Attack Five: surviving female lab assistant wanders around hall at one point almost running into the camera for five minutes this is incessantly intercut with those same, poorly lit Fiend feet. Finally they meet, but this woman actually survives by the novel expedient of running away, so the frustrated Fiend launches his next attack on a couple of unidentified goth girls in a dorm. The seventh and final attack is another highlight, with a woman sitting pensively at a desk, reciting the following riotously inexplicable litany, in voiceover: "I suggest nerve gas tests be done in the following countries: Fraaance...(13 second pause)...Caaaanada...(9 second pause)...United Staaates...(10 second pause)...Iiitaly...(8 second pause)...". This is repeated for a total of fifteen different countries, intercut with more plodding feet until she, too, is reduced to a pair of dangling high heels.

Then, it's back to the plot as McCoy is mortally wounded, the lab assistants trap the Fiend in a parking garage and he is destroyed by bullets and a single machete hack...or is he? The end titles promise "Revenge of the Fiend," but the filmmakers must have known, deep down, that they had already achieved their masterpiece and had nothing more to prove, since that film never materialized. The dialogue is almost entirely recited deadpan and directly into the camera, while the wholesale post-dubbing sometimes diverges radically from the actor's lip movements. The sound seems to have been edited between two cassette decks: tape hiss cuts in and out abruptly every time a character speaks. And that is not too often--what little dialogue the script musters is staggered between more meaningless pregnant pauses than a Herman Sunday comic strip. The Fiend elicits a lot of blank stares, too the various random women who wander into view all seem to have been coaxed on set with the promise of unlimited sedatives. And for more than half the film, the grainy 16mm image is illuminated by a single, un-diffused, and singularly ugly 1K light.

The only clue to Science Crazed's geographic origin is a 1987 Toronto phone book glimpsed in one shot, and there's not much wisdom to be had about how this film came to exist or how Triworld was persuaded to unleash it on the home video market. But the impossibly content-free, crassly juvenile result leads one to imagine that producer Donna Switzer is director Ron Switzer's mom perhaps she forked over the nominal budget as some extravagant 18th birthday present, with the condition that siblings David and Shaarei be given substantial speaking roles. But while they gave it the old college try, you can't ignore what's on screen for all to see an inarguably strong contender for the worst "movie" Canada has ever, or will ever, produce.

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