Just when I thought the world was starting to get over its nasty habit of not making a whole heck of a lot of sense, Garagehouse Pictures dropped a major bomb on me. Sure, on the surface, the HD offerings of two Los Angeles-made minor indie horror flicks from the late '80s may seem like good cause to rejoice. Alas, both 1987's Monstrosity and 1989's The Weirdo (or, Weirdo: The Beginning, as it is also called) stem from the sadistic and unimaginative world of the late Andy Milligan, so any and all signs of something amazing being found in these films are automatically rendered null and void. Rather, one is more inclined to sort of "assume the position" and hope to God the mental anguish and psychological scarring about to ensue doesn't go too deep.
No, actually, I'm not an Andy Milligan fan (what gave it away?). Then again, most everyone who has ever watched any of the late Mr. Milligan's various attempts at "entertainment" (which make Troma productions feel finely nuanced by comparison) has probably made (or at least thought) a similar statement ‒ actual self-professed fans included. But there's a really good reason for disliking his work so. For it is really bad, you see. Not in a classic Ed Wood-ian "so bad it's good" kinda way, either. At least then you can laugh at ‒ among other things ‒ the inane dialogue, homemade special effects, oversaturated sense of ham-fisted theatricality which ultimately collapses upon itself, and the often weep-worthy lack of anything resembling a moral compass or conscious.
Indeed, Milligan's work offers up those same classic bad movie traits, but whereas Wood's particular crafting skills appear to have been picked up in an alley somewhere, Andy Milligan's movies seem to have been stillborn into the sewers below. And I say that in the nicest way possible, too, as Milligan's short-but-tortured existence was far worse than anything he ever created. In fact, his life and death make for a far more interesting tale than his actual filmic output ever could. But that's beside the point. Or is it? These are Andy Milligan movies, after all.
Starting off like a late entry to the classic rape/revenge exploitation genre of the '70s and early '80s, Milligan's Monstrosity opens with something that includes murky amateurish photography, street thugs, a lousy percussion/Casio keyboard score, a murder or two, and a number of perfectly average white folks who are positively indistinguishable from one another. Somewhere in there, a great (or, perhaps, relatively minor) injustice is done, which leads to an even greater injustice. Namely, Monstrosity itself. But even this terrible opening pales to what happens next, when Milligan mysteriously, masterfully switches gears on us and turns the whole bloody affair into a misanthropic comedy.
Yes, that's right. After we establish (some?) of the film's characters and expose them to the seemingly unavoidable horrors of everyday real life ripped directly from Milligan's childhood memoirs, Andy decides to inform us all that this is actually really all just some plain and simple funny stuff.
Truly, only a handful of people could pull such a stunt off. But Andy wasn't one of 'em.
So, instead of all the grace and nuance one might bear witness to in a classic such as, oh, say, Lady Avenger, we watch a wrong kind of horror as a medical student and his friends ‒ all of whom are surprisingly chipper, considering the circumstances ‒ construct a Golem from human and gorilla parts to punish the bad guys. The result is a goofy-lookin' slab of doughy beef (Milligan semi-regular Hal Borske) replete with novelty redneck teeth, sagging eyeball, garish red Jewfro wig, and mismatched limbs. Naturally, they name him Frankie. (Of course it hurts, why wouldn't it?) Unfortunately, Frankie is less interested in killing than he is discovering love, which he does after he saves a kindly (if doomed) crackwhore named Jamie.
Look, I just can't go on. It's too damn painful to even think about what I have seen. So let's discuss Weirdo: The Beginning for a tad instead. Initially released in early '89 (neither Weirdo: The Beginning or Monstrosity saw very wide releases, which I'm sure won't shock a single one of you out there), this one takes a slightly more "serious" stance with whatever it may be trying to tell us, other than Milligan's usual hidden message: "You suck; go piss up a rope and die already."
If Weirdo: The Beginning feels a little more polished (and I cannot stress the emphasis on the word "little" enough here) it is because this one is an uncredited remake of an unreleased film Milligan made in upstate New York in the early '70s. Sadly (?), the original has since been declared lost, as have many of Milligan's movies, as ‒ and I kid you not here ‒ many were deliberately destroyed by a deranged Lew Mishkin (son of Andy's former distributor, William Mishkin), who probably thought he was doing the world a favor.
Anyway, here we see the abysmal plight of a troubled, very abused, and utterly mishandled young teen named Donnie (Steve Burington, in his one and only role ever ‒ and he is the lead, mind you!). Raised by an abusive devil woman who substitutes as a mum, bullied and belittled by everyone from suspiciously old street thugs to unsurprisingly malicious religious folk (again it feels like something right out of Milligan's youth), the strange shed-dweller soon meets and falls for a fellow outcast Jenny (voice actress Jessica Straus, in her only on-screen credit). Does their romance blossom into an unkillable love before the two sever their ties to all before sailing off into the sunset together? No, of course it doesn't: This is an Andy Milligan flick, you moron.
And that, kiddies, means we're subjected to yet another pitilessly pitiful abominations known to man, as Donnie The Weirdo goes berserko and begins to dispatch his many enemies in various ways. Ever see a butter knife cut off a human hand? I mean, there's a perfectly good reason if you haven't, I admit, but if you've ever wondered what it might look like if a no-talent filmmaker like Andy Milligan brought such a sight to life via his own unique form of special defects ‒ during a period of work which even his "fans" consider to be his worst, at that ‒ your slowboat to abject misery has sailed in, boys and girls. Actually, it's been sitting at the bottom of the sea for some time now; we just had to wait for Garagehouse Pictures to raise and rinse it first.
A good 30 years after their initial unveilings on what surely must have been a less-than-enthusiastic public, Monstrosity and Weirdo: The Beginning have returned to disorient and disappoint thanks to the diligent efforts of Harry Guerro and Garagehouse Pictures. Restored from their original camera negatives (Lew didn't get his hands on those, obviously), these two, uh, "titles" ‒ both of which promise sequels in their closing credits (dammit, Andy, why?!) ‒ look much better than they probably ever did before. In fact, from a High-Definition A/V viewpoint, Garagehouse Pictures' individual releases of Monstrosity and Weirdo: The Beginning are quite nice ‒ if not stellar (the only way I can use such words in conjunction with Andy Milligan), as evident by the included side-by-side comparisons each title boasts.
Additional special features for these two releases include a double-dose of audio commentaries (as in, "there are two commentaries for each movie," sorry) from several knowledgeable parties, including Milligan biographer Jimmy McDonough. There is also an interview with makeup man Rodd Matsui (who, fortunately, went on to do better things) split up between the two titles, along with a handful of Milligan-oriented trailers and other Garagehouse Pictures releases. Monstrosityalso includes a few deleted scenes and ‒ brace yourself ‒ a whopping two hours of previously unseen outtakes. Needless to say, there is a lot of Andy Milligan to consume here, which may either induce vomiting, blindness, or death, depending on how lucky you are.
Monstrosity and Weirdo: The Beginning arrive on Blu-ray as All-Region releases (so please accept my apologies, rest of the world), with the first wave of issues containing limited edition slipcovers with artwork by Justin Miller. Granted, those slips are probably all gone now, as it took me entirely too long to write about these two movies. But, then again, it took me several months to recover from watching these two movies enough to actually write about how bad they really are. Enjoy.