Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ed Wood Made Nothing This Bad

Poor old Edward D. Wood Jnr., he really got a bad wrap.  Those idiotic fuckheads, Michael and Harry Medved, who wrote The Golden Turkey Awards, gave Ed the nod as one of the worst directors of all time.  It was undeserved.

Come on, folks, Ed's movies were technically inept, but the guy was passionate and his films were never boring. In Tim Burton's Ed Wood, and in Nightmares in Ecstasy, the book on which the film is based, Ed comes across as a passionate, somewhat deluded adventurer, who made what he could from minimal resources. He wasn't the greatest quality controller, and clarity wasn't his strong suit, but he made a bunch of fascinating films that have endured and will gather new fans as the decades roll bv.

I felt particularly sorry for Ed while driving home from a screening of Lily and the Syphon, because it will probably never be denigrated with the glee Ed's films have been. It should be.

The film's first time director, Lloyd Lee Barnett, who's worked as a digital compositor on films such as Avatar, Speed Racer, and Apocalypto, made the film over a three year period between his studio gigs. Despite much effort and devotion, I'm sure, the film is a hideous, vomitous mess, and resembles something made by a bunch of unfocused, drug-fucked, pretentious high schoolers.

Travis Mendenhall plays Clay Foster, a man who talks to his dead wife Lily (played by Shannon O'Dowd). A physical presence in his house, Lily sits on the sofa rotting slowly as Clay engages her in conversation. We never see Lily's lips move because Clay is a nutcase and imagines she is speaking to him. We just get close-up shots of dead Lily while Clay chats to her. Throughout the movie, other characters are introduced, and the story of how Lily ended up dead is revealed. None of this is mildly entertaining. The performances are either flat (Mendenhall) or totally over-the-top (everybody else). The score, which was played at a nauseating volume, is a grating headached-inducer. It reminded me of a young kid at a party smashing his fists on a piano to annoy his parents and their guests.

On top of the rotten storyline and actor misdirection/lack of direction, the film indulges in irrelevant, repetitive, nonsensical dream/hallucination/who the fuck knows? sequences that throw cheap, shoddy, cliched images of death, space, and ghoulishness, and laughable, end-of-days proclamations at the audience. For example, a Satanic version of a character already introduced in the main story (?) stands in a space-like vortex espousing nonsense like "Your soul is damned!" while surrounded by Goth women with fangs. Huh? What the Christ?  This drawn out sequence has as much to do with the story as 9/11 has to Smurf birthing practices. A repeat of the same returns near the film's climax.  The result of the film's blending of hallucinations and dull narrative is a ninety minute bore that, for sheer ineptitude, eclipses anything poor Ed Wood ever did.

Prior to the screening, the director did something kinda stupid. He stood up and told the audience that they were in for something dark, violent, disturbing, and shocking. Unless you are going to deliver these things, don't promise them, let the audience discover the film on their own. On the other hand, if he truly did believe that the film was delivering these things, I totally get why Lily and the Syphon (awful title) is the beast it is. Grand delusion!

Unfortunately, I can't even recommended this as a fun, so-bad-its-good diversion. No, it's so bad it's sad (for the producers, actors, and audience).

Recently, the film has been retitled Death Do Us Part.


  1. I happen to enjoy Ed Wood's movies. Maybe I'm one of those very few nostalgics who find "Plan 9 From Outer Space" endearing.

  2. Leta --perhaps i didn't make myself clear. I, too, love Ed's films, and think he's been unfairly maligned. 'Plan 9' is endearing, the work of a passionate man. My point was that 'Lily and the Syphon' lacked any appeal for me, yet it is poor old Ed who got criticized for his films. Thankfully, he was canonized in Burton's 'Ed Wood'.

  3. jervaise brooke hamsterAugust 1, 2011 at 3:56 AM

    "Lily and the Syphon" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space" might indeed be atrocious unwatchable trash but they`re still infinitely better than anything the British film industry has ever produced.

  4. I was at that screening, and I agree with everything you said about it. This movie is a huge hunk of shit, and there were many times I wanted to scream out 'FUCK THIS MOVIE!' while watching it. Some low lights for me include the repeated 'dream' sequence, the constant hissing of the 'devil' character just came off as a bitchy West Hollywood queen. Man I hated this movie. This movie is a perfect example of the saying 'Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.'

  5. Anonymous -- we should have had a drink and compared notes. Jesus! I've never read any other reviews of this, so I was starting to think that I imagined watching it. Unfortunately, your message is proof I didn't. As a filmmaker myself, I really do hate slamming a movie with such force, but this really deserved it. It's tragic to see producers raising money for material this terrible.

  6. Other people must have told him the name of his movie was stupid; changed the name to "Death do us Part", how original.

  7. Anonymous -- I'm convinced now that these folks don't have an ounce of talent or originality -- well, I guess I allowed for 1% before. DEATH DO US PART? They'd be better going with QUEER FUCKS FROM THE DEMON DIMENSION. Gees! This is a turd that won't be polished with a thousand gallons of perfume. I'd get a good actor, shoot him on a bender on Death Row hallucinating snippets from the movie. This won't ever be saved.