Written by: Jerry Angell, Todd Sheets
Directed by: Todd Sheets
Starring: Mike Hellman, Bobby Westrick and Charles Monroe
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďHow can you stand to watch that stuff? It is really gross!"
The cult of shot-on-video horror is a strange brood; I used to think that slasher fans were the most deranged and loyal devotees, but SOV purveyors truly trudge through the cinematic mud to scrape up oddities that arenít so much long-forgotten as much as they were barely known in the first place. Some have gained notoriety since the horror community sprang up online over a decade ago, but there are hordes of this stuff that likely ended up lining VHS dustbins and may never be seen again. For example, take the case of Todd Sheets, one of the SOV sceneís most prolific directors, who directed an astounding 24 features over a 12 year period. His Zombie Bloodbath trilogy is sort of like a holy trinity of SOV movies, but weíre not here to discuss that one; instead, weíre here to talk about Goblin, a film that my buddy Matt Hill (whose tolerance for celluloid inflicted pain is higher even than my own) recommended to me--or maybe itís more apt to say he presented it as a challenge. Iíd call him Dr. Clayton Forrester to my Mike Nelson, but I took this up willingly, and, shockingly, donít totally regret it.
In fact, I think I was pretty much on board with Goblin within a couple of minutes; its opening scene features co-writer and frequent Sheets collaborator Jerry Angell (still rocking a power mullet) tending his lawn or something as he rambles incoherently about nothing in particular. Eventually, he tires of this and declares heís going to grab a beer; for whatever reason, he makes a quick detour to a barn, where heís suddenly attacked by some inhuman creature (okay, itís clearly a human arm decked out in some lo-fi goblin garb) that turns the tables on him by grinding him up with a hedge-trimmer. This is merely a pre-credits prelude to the actual story, which involves a group of friends moving into a new house, only to be attacked by the very same goblin that eviscerated our mulleted friend earlier because they may or may not have uncovered a nearby well.
A total acid-washed nightmare, Goblin is more a gore-soaked demo reel more than an actual movie. Like the other five or six Sheets movies Iíve seen, it looks to have been hatched and produced among a group of friends who gathered for a long weekend to spill their fake guts on camera. Goblin is fraught with amateurism as it pertains to acting and editing (some scenes even repeat the same takes of dialogue) as it lumbers and splatters along for about 74 minutes to the beat of metal riffs. The entire SOV scene was defined by such productions, but Goblin is probably one of the rougher ones youíll encounter since itís such a fever-dreamy hodgepodge of stilted dialogue, baffling character decisions, and bizarre tangents; itís not quite on the level of Things (which is probably exactly what an acid trip would look like if committed to three-quarter inch tape), but itís certainly bloody, slapdash mayhem.
All of this is to be expected, of course; Iíd say you should never judge an SOV movies on actual terms, but itís probably more interesting to examine how these things often work because they are precisely the antithesis of what we consider to be good movies. The fact that they actually capture moving images and (sometimes loosely) tell a story might be the only way they qualify as actual films. But thereís definitely a charm to these movies; if they work at all, they do so despite themselves, and I donít even know if itís accurate to say you need to meet them halfway since you probably need to go an extra mile. Movies like this are completely non-cinematic but donít even manage to feel like TV shows; instead, itís like watching a community theater troupe get in front of a camera--just about everything feels hyper-staged and wooden, only itís filtered through a certain hazy dreaminess. Goblin especially doesnít feel like a vivid nightmare, but rather, a half-remembered one that illogically bounces from one place to the next, albeit with some actual style (Sheets actually employs lighting rigs and camera movement to nice effect pretty often).
Iíd also argue that Goblinís brand of heavy-metal fuelled carnage is something thatís uniquely Sheets, who actually manages to toss in some interesting detours along the way. Thereís a moment where we think weíre seeing the goblin performing a Fulci-style eyeball drilling on someone, but the scene quickly cuts away, revealed to simply be a movie that the main cast is actually watching. I get the feeling that Sheets just had some extra footage sitting around that he decided to cobble into Goblin, and it certainly plays as wildly gratuitous, but itís a neat enough trick. Scenes like this probably made Sheets a favorite of the local raw meat industry since he probably single-handedly kept them in business. Whatever budget Goblin had certainly was invested in the gobs of gizzards and other assorted chunks that spill forth in seemingly endless fashion; I canít imagine that anatomical correctness was a high priority, which explains why the disemboweled bodies here are composed of an entire meat locker. One unfortunate victim even has her guts pulled out through her vagina in a sick, squirmy sequence thatís prolonged for maximum agony.
Thatís indicative of Goblin though--it drones on and on, including the admittedly impressive gore sequences that get their flavor boiled out a bit by their excessiveness. Sheets tries his best to keep Goblin moving, even tossing in a bit of a hard left turn towards the end thatíll once again leave you wondering if he just had some extra resources and material on hand that could be stuffed into this movie. Usual rules donít really apply to Goblin and films of its ilk--theyíre objectively bad by technical standards, but many of them still manage to perfectly accomplish what they set out to do; Goblin isnít quite one of these, but if youíre the type of person who enjoys a goblin that resembles a shaggy hobo (a "hobogoblin?") ripping people apart for an hour, youíll probably have some fun with it. Itís very likely that you already know if youíre predisposed to these sorts of things; if so, youíll probably want to pick up Pendulumís Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares 50 pack that features this and many other Sheets films. The transfers are essentially VHS dubs, but at the right price itís not a bad deal for what amounts to a cinematic scrap-yard; besides that, Iím not sure that Goblin would work any other way; it was likely at its most delightful when you could pluck the tape from a video store shelf, its box art assuring you that ďyou wonít believe your eyes until he rips them from their sockets!Ē If only you could still simply Rent it!
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