It’s amazing the things you remember. My teenage years were a wild, swirling firestorm. I was hell-bent, hung out on the way wrong side of the tracks and have the neuroses to prove it. To quote Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore in Ghostbusters, "I’ve seen shit that’d make you turn white."
That said, one of the most vibrant memories from that period is not from Thayer St., an underage foray into the depths of club hell, or even that party near South Station that COPS broke up (Also referred to as "The Hammer Party." Not a Big Black reference… There was a guy walking around hitting people in the noggin with a ball peen hammer.) Nope, although the above hives of scum and villainy (and countless others) added much to my character and in some twisted, hyper-jaded way helped make me the man I am today, they all take second place to a single moment that took place in the most innocuous of locales, The Somerville Theater.
I was there for an all-night trash movie festival. The doors were locked between 2:00 and 6:00 A.M. because of some zoning restrictions (that’s my assumption at least) and we were smack dab in the middle of the "locked-in" patch. Things were running pretty smoothly. We had just sat through a tasty little Jaws remake called Blades and I was pretty happy with the proceedings. The hook with that film? Instead of the ocean it’s set on a golf course and the part of the shark is played by a sentient lawnmower. My kind of movie.
After a short intermission, a coffee fueled trip to the little bastards room and a quick check of the program I sat down eagerly awaiting the next film, an Italian Horror picture called The Evil Clutch. Now, in my present, wizened state I would’ve known something was up immediately since Italian Horror is now the New York Yankees of the film world for me. If the allusion isn’t obvious (and it probably isn’t), they’re the films I love to hate. Back then however, I was just a freshly scrubbed film geek, still wet behind the ears and totally unaware of the inherent danger of sitting down to a movie that features both "Horror" and "Italian" in the description.
It started off promisingly. A young couple was in a farmhouse and, as is the way with horror movies, they were in the process of getting it on. The euphoria of being 17 and watching a half-naked Italian scream queen was short lived however as we soon found out exactly what Evil Clutch referred to. I don’t remember the exact sequence of events, but the scene’s "punch line" is burned into my memory. Basically this is what I saw. The scream queen was sitting on the floor of the farmhouse with her skirt hiked up and her panties down. Normally this would have been a perfectly acceptable sight for my hormone clouded eyes and might even have served as get-home-at-10:00- A.M.- and- crash- like- a- coal- miner masturbation fodder. Alas, that was not to be as a quick check of the screen showed me that there was something terribly wrong with the image before my eyes. In the spot where Basic Instinct made Sharon Stone a star there was… an… appendage. Not a Crying Game style appendage (which would’ve been odd enough), but something a little closer to the H.P. Lovecraft aesthetic. Leathery, slimy, three feet long and topped with a bloody set of claws, this thing was writhing around showing off it’s newly acquired trophy, the hopeful lover’s penis.
Now, imagine being a 17 year old sleep deprived male and then picture yourself watching this unfold. At that age your body is all penis. In those days even my hair had erectile tissue and there I was watching a guy lose his manhood under the most excruciating of circumstances. Let’s just say I wasn’t pleased. My buddy took it even harder. After the initial shock I turned to my left for a little reaction and I saw my 6’2", strong- as- an- ox friend perched on his chair, hugging his knees with one arm and staring agape at the screen. After a minute or two of silent scream he managed to let out a whimper.
As you can imagine, after that intro our interest in that particular offering waned rather rapidly. Besides the obviously unpleasant fact that impromptu penis removal surgery was the point of the film, there was another small hitch.; it was horribly boring. After about fifteen minutes it became apparent that the brute-force penis relocation was going to be the highlight of the film. Word to the wise- if that’s all a film has to offer you know you’re pretty much doomed.
We were still trapped in there, by the way. The rip-off-your-penis movie was on and we were stuck inside the building forced to choose between sitting in the theater and toughing it out or sitting in the hallway with nothing to do but suck down bad, black coffee and count the hours off. Lots of fun, I assure you.
Thank you writer/director Andreas Marfori!
Want to know the one good thing about the movie? I found it while prepping for this very piece. It’s the tag line for the movie and it may be the most honest piece of advertising copy ever written.
"The nightmare that grabs you where you least expect it!"
Reading that makes me think I should have read the program….
This review was originally published in Boston's Weekly Dig (now digBoston) in January 2000.