D-IS FOR DREW:THE NOW TOLD STORY OF A RENEGADE FILM REVIEW:CHAPTER 1: FINDING SAFETY AMONG MONSTERS
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BANG! BANG! BANG!
I’m shaken awake by a faceless corrections officer’s booted foot smashing into my bunk.
“Hey Mead! Uncover your fuck’in head! I gotta make sure you’re alive, man!” He shouts.
As if he cares. My death would simply mean a change in this asshole’s paperwork routine. I thought I was done with this shit, but just like on oh so many other topics I was wrong about this as well. I know I’ll be fighting for sleep for the next few hours. A sleep I won’t be able to return to except in spurts of 20 minutes or less now that these sadists have taken away my tranquilizers. My mind starts to drift to the typical self destruct bullshit I’ve toyed with on and off for the last few months..Afterall I’ve lost everything: The woman of my dreams (who happens to also be my best friend of 11 years) left me for dead months ago, I’m getting old, Hell even the site is likely in fuck’in shambles..That thing was my baby almost as much as my kids are.. So I sit here in prison for the second time and the fucking kicker is I came here on purpose this time around! (although I hadn’t intended such a lengthy stay..but we’ll get to that..) You’re probably wondering at this point if you’re about to read a lengthy droning suicide note. Well I hate to disappoint you but that’s not quite what I have in mind. Instead, consider this my last ditch effort to AVOID taking my own life. I’m acting as my own Clarence The guardian Angel and while it wasn’t always a wonderful life it’s certainly been an interesting one.
I’ve always been a bit of a Mama’s boy but strangely enough my earliest (and quite possibly most influential) clear memory is actually more of my Father. I couldn’t have been more then 6 months old because I was sitting in my car seat pricariously perched on the couch. My Mother was unsuccessfully trying to calm me down and get me to go to sleep. It was after 3AM and my Father came through the door, coming home from a long shift at the mill. He cocked his head at me looking irritatedd at first and then broke into a grin. “What are you doing up?” he asked, kneeling down from what seemed at the time to be a gargantuan height and kissing me one the cheek. He smelled of Brute aftershave and hot metal and his stubble was quickly becoming a beard that tickled my face. “Well kid, no sense sitting here in silence in the dark hu? Maybe a little idiot box will put you under.”
My Mother went to bed as he turned on the family TV and flicked past Billy Mays having a loud orgasm over a “special TV offer” to channel 30, the classic movie channel. What I saw that morning would plant a seed in my young mind that would continue to grow forever. This wasn’t Ninja Turtles or Eureka’s Castle. Oh, no, this was pure madness!. A black and white landscape was under attack by ants the size of tractor trailers! Science had run amuck! People screaming in terror! My Father laughed and clapped his hands. “I’ve seen this one! This is THEM! It’s a good one!” I could barely register what he was saying. I was transfixed, mesmerized. After that day I started staying up every night all through my early life to wait for my Dad so I could catch the late late B-movie. I saw every giant creature imaginable from Gila monsters to Jack rabbits! I saw killer yogurt, and people turned into crocodile headed fiends! I learned that you should never trust anything with ping pong balls for eyes. I even saw a Western starring an all chimp cast and another staring nothing but Dwarfs! Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if Gone With The Wind had been playing that morning. Would I be a politician today? Maybe a Sheriff? A professional athlete? HAHAHAHAHAH Yeah right! More likely I would have snapped without my little escape hatch from reality. This would be the confessions of a serial killer instead of…whatever the fuck this.
My memories from this point are understandably choppy and far from linear so if I wind up jumping back and forth in time a bit I’m sure you’ll understand why. I remember living in South Glens Falls in a two family house. There was nothing around for us to look at but a huge water tower. Our neighbors were a little older then I was (I had to be 4 or 5) and their parents had alot more money then mine did. I knew this because while we had a beat up old Atari with 25 variations of Pong under different titles these kids had themselves a Nintendo. They had two games that really caught my attention: Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street. My Dad is an old school Christian and being four or five I had, of course, never seen the films these games were based on. in fact at the time I had no idea these were movies at all. All I knew is that these monolithic monstrosities were something new. These weren’t anything like the tragic creation of the evil Dr. Frankenstein or the misunderstood Creature From The Black Lagoon. They were as far from the seductive Count Dracula (or his funky counterpart Blackula) as Kanye West is from Gandhi! These fuckers were Brutal. They were murder on two legs. They Boogie men like I’d never experienced. Unlike the Vampires, Werewolves, Crawling Terrors and Triffids I’d come to love they lacked the inherent weaknesses of their goofy by comparison counterparts. They weren’t the ghosties and ghoulies of my father’s era. These were MY monsters. The Nightmare fodder of my generation, as bloody and apathetic as the age that spawned them and damned if I wasn’t immediately drawn to the Knife fingered Christmas enthusiast and hulking hobo in a Hockey mask from the moment I saw them plastered on those cartridges even if it wasn’t until years later that I saw their actual films I still dreamed up possible stories for the two characters. In my childhood mind’s version Freddy was coming home from seeing Raiders Of The Lost Ark on Christmas when an asteroid fell on him burning him to a crisp. An Alien parasite got into his brain and reanimated him. Since he lost his hand he got a super strong bladed robot hand and went on a killing spree and the only thing that could stop him…was wood from an Elm tree. My version of Friday the 13th was equally off. A homeless guy just wanted to play Hockey with the local kids but the mask he dug out of a dumpster was cursed and when he put it on it made him go crazy, remembering back when he was in Vietnam. He goes nuts, and gets his army issue machete then goes on a rampage at a summer camp… Now that I think of it I should probably be working for Asylum..Isn’t what I just described how they make movies? Show a dumb kid a movie poster and tell him to write a story based on it? (Just kidding Asylum, I love you guys..Still waiting for a ripoff of the shitty Robocop reboot..Robo-officer perhaps?) SHIT..I’m getting sidetracked
…Anyway… Another important thing happened while I was living in South Glens Falls. One afternoon my mother was having coffee with the neighbor kids’ mother. Meanwhile I was sitting in the living room with the other kids. They had a movie going. It was one of the Watchers movies, I believe the third one. As usually happened I was caught up in the action on screen. There was a scene where a testing facility was experiencing an emergency lock down. The creature in the film (A slimy reptilian fucker that looked like what would happen if you crossbred William Dafoe, Michael Jackson and a Humanoid from the deep with a rusty radiator) was being pursued by some commando types. The monster cornered some poor scientist. I waited for the traditional cutaway to a shadow and a scream..but no. Not this time. This time I saw it all as this thing tore this poor bastard limb from limb like a rotisserie chicken! Looking back now the scene was pretty tame compared to a lot I’ve seen since but holy fucking shit! I had never seen anything like it at that point. Of course my mother picked that moment to come in, see what was on the screen and dramatically pull me to her like she was deflecting bullets. She yanked me out of there quicker then Eddie Murphy catches a nut with a transsexual prostitute..but it was too late, a gore hound was born.
From that moment on, every time I went to a video store or a grocery store with a rental section I’d lose myself in the Horror section, swept away by the gaudy over the top box art: a Macabre art gallery of half naked screaming women, drooling demons, sex starved cannibals, mutants and madmen sporting everything from knives the size of cutting boards to a guitar with a five foot phallic drillbit sprouting from the neck! Most of these films were off limits due to their R-rating but Dad wasn’t a complete asshole and he’d let quite a few questionable films pass through undetected as long as they weren’t rated R. Thank God for the fact that so many Indie filmmakers couldn’t afford to pay off the MPAA to use their rating system and so had to release their films unrated. This probably has a lot to do with my lifelong obsession with the low budget shock shluck that I consume more then Oprah consumes house wife soul infused lard cakes.. Like most kids I also dug the typical late 80’s, early 90’s cartoons. I loved GI Joe and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tales From The Crypt Keeper and Ren and Stimpy but one show reigned supreme above all others in my little kid world. A show with goofy stooge-esque humor, gross out characters and a good guys always win formula. That show was THE TOXIC CRUSADERS.
For those who don’t know, THE TOXIC CRUSADERS was an early 90’s cartoon series about a rag tag group of misfit superpowered mutants who team up to save a small town called Tromaville from an evil alien cockroach named Dr. Killemoff who plans to make Tromaville and the surrounding world more inhabitable for his race by ways of massive levels of pollution. (He selects Tromaville New Jersey because it’s already the Toxic Waste dumping capital of the world.) His own pollution accidentally creates our heroes in various ways. You have Junkyard, a redneck who winds up with his DNA mixed with his favorite dog, creating a werewolf-like dog man with super human hearing, smell and one hell of a bite, Major Disaster: An ex-marine who is turned half plant by radioactive swamp gas and now controls plants telepathically, Nozone; A fighter pilot who flew through a cloud of radioactive pepper causing his skin to turn blue for some reason but also causing his nose to grow to twice the size of the rest of his head, giving him a super sonic sneeze, The Headbanger (Fender and Bender): A surfer dude and an evil scientist who wind up scrambled as a two headed freak by an accident reminiscent of The Fly and have the power to…spout catch phrases and bicker while looking awesome…? (seriously Thats all they did now that I think about it.) Leading the group was everybody’s favorite hideously deformed creature of super human size and strength The Toxic Crusader! Toxie started off as a 98 pound nerd who worked at the Tromaville Health club until a cruel prank resulted in him landing in a misplaced barrel of toxic waste. He left the barrel as a 7 foot tall muscle bound monster with a lumpy misshapen head, a-symmetrical eyes and the ability to sense (and uncontrollable urge to thwart) evil. Where most cartoons took their crime fighters ultra serious ( No matter how ludicrous they actually were) The fine folks at Troma took the opposite approach, snubbing their noses at the action and drama and fully embracing the absurd by placing their head hero not only in tights but a vibrant pink tutu as well and arming him with a mop. Toxie wasn’t suave or debonair, he didn’t ooze confidence and he wasn’t overly smart either but his lacking in all those areas made him all the more likeable. In a weird way, as ugly and odd as Toxie and his buddies are they were the most HUMAN heroes I had ever seen. This instilled in me the idea that an outcast could still be a hero, hell an outcast could be the BEST hero. Rising above adversity and saving the very people who tormented him in the past instead of using his powers to destroy them like a lesser man would. I’d say that’s one hell of a powerful lesson, no matter how stupid the show was. I never thought i would have thought Tromaville would have collided with my obsession for B-movies, afterall this was a nationally syndicated Saturday morning cartoon, but I would soon find out differently. Toxie didn’t just collide with that world, he came from it to begin with!
You’ll notice most of the jabbering I’ve done thusfar has been about movies (well, until I got all gushy about The Toxic Crusaders and got distracted even further) I haven’t gotten overly personal yet..Well, there’s a reason for that.
As I was blossoming into the film obsessed weirdo you’ve all come to know and love, my real life wasn’t so great. My Father was (as I said Before) a Mill worker and my Mother was a housewife, My Dad was a pretty stern dude and certainly not known for sparing the rod. My older brother Corey and my older Sister Amanda had different Fathers and were both keenly aware of the fact. They constantly seemed to get under my Dad’s skin, setting him off. Dad wasn’t a small man and catching the wrong end of his belt was no joke. The belt was only one weapon at his disposal. Dad was the mcguiver of ass whoopings. You could give him a Ramen noodle, a thimble and a jellybean and he could figure out a way to blister your ass with it. My Mother has suffered from severe Manic Depression since I can remember, alternating between desperately clinging to us kids and angrily shooing us away. No matter how hard Dad worked it was never enough and Mom and him were constantly at eachother’s throats. Mom was of the opinion that she should be best friends with us whereas Dad believed we were Hellions destined to become murderous Satanists and anarchists if we weren’t pushed to submit to his will and the will of God. In a perfect world they would have learned from one-another and us kids would have grown up well adjusted because they came together and to raise us somewhere in between the two extremes…Instead we grew up listening to them hate each other vehemently and very, very verbally, often breaking into actual physical confrontations. I love both my parents and I don’t hold any grudges against either one of them. I know both of them are going to feel betrayed if they ever read this because I didn’t spew rage against one while praising the other as a Saint, but the truth is both of them were….off. Both of them are human beings and as such they were (and are) flawed and I refuse to tear either of them apart here. That’s why I’ll avoid going into detail on alot of happened except where I feel it’s essential. I think it’s important though to point out that my childhood wasn’t a nightmarish Hell. I won’t pain horrific pictures for Sociopathic book critics to whack off to. This isn’t another A Child Called It or the typical celebrity tell-all.
My Dad made wooden toys for me, taught me how to use tools and carry myself like a man but never be a bully or a braggart. My mother taught me how to sew, make jewlery, read, and indulged me when I went through all my odd little phases (even when I insisted on wearing masks every day, went through an odd “nerds are cool” phase and even at one point took to wearing skirts as a teen despite the fact that I was already heavily bearded before I hit 13) They had their dark sides (Mom forced me to pretend I was special Ed, learning diabled and had ADHD so she could collect SSI in my name. I believed there was something wrong with me until i stopped taking medication, went to college and maintained a 4.0 GPA for three years with zero effort) but they loved us kids in their own way.
My Dad was far from the monster that my mother made him out to be, Alot of the rage we saw was frustration with my Mom and also because us kids were so hard headed, especially me. Contrary to what my mother says I don;t recall my Father ever punching my Mother. It usually came down to them arguing, Mom grabbing a weapon and Dad defending himself. I used to jump in between them, always taking Mom’s side (ironically I did this because Dad taught me a man should never hit a woman no matter what.)
My Brother Corey was my hero back then. I used to think he was the baddest motherfucker who ever lived. He worked out, smoked pot, chewed tobacco and seemed to have a different girlfriend for every day of the week. He was even fucking his friend’s mother! He was my Mother’s favorite and my Grandmother Johnson (who didn’t seem to like anyone) beamed over Corey like he was Jesus himself. The one person who didn’t click with Corey was my Dad. Corey seemed to get off on pissing my Dad off. He’d tell him to go fuck himself, that he wasn’t his “real dad” on a regular basis (despite the fact that Corey’s “real father” was an abusive prick who abandoned him until he was a teenager after him and my Mom divorced.) and the two of them would get into some pretty epic battles. At this point in my life Dad had gotten laid off at the Mill and we were forced to live in a low income housing project in Glens Falls. The official name for the place was The Henry Hudson Townhouses but the locals called it the “chicken coops” because of the high number of crack heads and dealers that lived there. It was what the French refer to as “a fucking shithole” (Mr.French, not the people) but I was happy enough. I made friends with Will and Kevin Paterson (a couple of black kids who lived a few doors down who used to go to headstart with me) and kept busy running around Glens Falls (a City I still consider home). I still longed for a house though. I wanted my own club house and a dog. More then that i wanted my own room i wouldn’t have to share with my brothers and sister.
I thought I would never have those things until one day I came home from school to find two old women waiting for me with my parents. They were holding balloons and wearing huge grins. My mind immediately conjured up the horrific image of the hooked nosed goblin-like hags from that fucked up Disney movie Witches. I braced myself to be turned into a mouse and eat (what the fuck is wrong with you Disney!!??) to my surprise my mother shouted “we’re getting a house!” Me and my siblings went wild! The balloons were released. We did a 4 way flying high five, broke out in an ad lib musical number that landed us a record deal, the whole neighborhood joined in the fun! That’s when Jesus showed up doing cartwheels and handing out free candy that gave us all superpowers and then….ok, so some of that isn’t true (It was only half the neighborhood) What really happened was the balloons got caught in the ceiling fan and popped…but we didn’t give a fuck! We were getting a house! My Dad had been volunteering for a church based organization called Habitat for Humanity. Habitat For Humanity rounded up hundreds of desperate poor men ad women and got them to build houses for poor families. The deal was, if you put in so many hours you get put on the list to receive one of the houses in the future. Our names had come up on that list and we were finally going to have our home…But first we had to build it.
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER 2:SHIT GETS WEIRD