Thursday, October 2, 2014

The 500th Post: Zyzzyx Rd. (2006)

Well, it's been a long road to get here, but I've finally reached the 500th blog post on Cinema Freaks. Hooray!

Just imagine the sounds of people cheering.

Now you're all probably wondering what exactly I'm doing to commemorate this occasion...well, it's easy: something that will please legions of fans and draw in more audience traffic than ever before. Something well known by everyone that will surely seem like the logical choice for such a momentous occasion.

I'm of course talking about Zyzzyx Rd. See? Look at all the audience traffic JUST THE NAME ALONE has drawn!

Also, Cinema Freaks now takes place in high class theaters.


Well, shit. Ruined it again!

Director: John Penney
Starring: Leo Grillo, Katherine Heigel, Tom Sizemore

You're probably wondering why I'm reviewing this movie at all, let alone making a big deal about it. Well, I'll tell you: it's because this is the all-time box office record for the least amount of money made on a movie in the history of film. This thing was only in theaters once a day from February 25 to March 6 of 2006, and in that time it made a grand spanking total of $30 at the box office, with $10 of that being from a “personal refund” to makeup artist Sheila Moore and a friend by one of the leading actors after the opening weekend.

On top of that, the name of the movie comes from a real road in the Mojave Desert. Only here they spelled it wrong – whether by accident or not, I have no idea, but the real road is Zzyzyx Rd., not Zyzzyx Rd. Either one though, wouldn't really roll off the tongue enough for moviegoers to pique interest that much. I mean it does kind of sound like the sound you'd make when being electrocuted to death. Not really a big selling point.


Honestly, though, this is really only part of the story. Some newspapers were lazy at the time and figured the movie was so bad it only made $20. In reality, director John Penney didn't really care about releasing the film theatrically and only did it to fulfill a requirement with the Screen Actors' Guild so he could then distribute it on DVD – where it did make a respectable sum, or at least one that wasn't $30.

I'm sure this is in no way an inaccurate portrayal of the makers of the film after DVD sales.

In fact, the only reason they even wanted to release it on DVD was to make money to make other movies, which Penney and lead actor Leo Grillo fantasized as being “Hannibal with animals.” (Grillo was a pretty big animal rights activist and Penney was right there alongside him on that being a good idea, but then again, they have only done one film in the eight years since, which apparently wasn't a horror one at all.)

So with all the hullabaloo about this movie's creation and box office gross, it did gain a modest level of fame among the kinds of people who were fascinated by films like Plan 9 or The Room. And that's good enough for me. Let's take a look at this thing. What, already? Yes, I realize I'm jumping in with both feet...

We start the film off with a middle aged businessman named Grant (Leo Grillo), who is eloping from his wife and young daughter with a young girl named Marissa – real class act there already, movie; great job enticing me to like the character. Apparently these two not only killed Marissa's violent ex-boyfriend in a struggle at a hotel after he caught them having sex, they're now driving out into the desert to bury him. Which to me is always the best time to suck on a Ring Pop:

Put that shit in a commercial already.

It's just got that after-murder refreshing taste, ya know?

Grant gets out into the desert and tries to bury the body, which goes about as well as you'd think for a middle-aged tax accountant who looks like that trying to bury a body. Lots of swearing, sweat and the obvious one: misplacing the body. Yes, really.


He gets back in the car and asks Marissa about whether the boyfriend was really dead, to which she replies that she didn't even see him, because she was in the bathroom the whole time. Grant, apparently, just sucks at telling dead bodies from live ones. Either way they're both morons.

So Grant goes out and runs around in the dark looking for the escaped would-be dead body, but only ends up taking a tumble down a hill and getting hit at least once, but not actually capturing him. He goes back to the car and has a really telling conversation in the car with Marissa. First, Marissa panics, thinking the ex-boyfriend might tell someone, or even more bafflingly that he might die out there and someone else will find him!

Uh, for one, if he DID tell someone, what would he say? “I tried to kill these people and they fought back”? And two, if he died out there in the desert, IT WOULD SOLVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS. Have you even seen where you are? You're in the middle of the fucking Mojave desert! The only people who will find his body are going to be other people trying to hide bodies!

Then she changes gears completely and says he isn't going anywhere and they can find him in the morning. He isn't going anywhere? I think you have an incredibly warped sense of space and the ability of people to move, lady!

Then they start talking about being in love, which really makes sense as they met in Vegas and had a skanky affair in which Grant cheated on his wife. Grant says he wants to be with Marissa now, because clearly having sex in a motel and then killing the girl's ex-boyfriend is what true romance is founded upon.

What? You don't agree? Then you, my friend, have never killed your girlfriend's ex-boyfriend in a shitty motel in Vegas and then driven out into the desert to kill him. Totally eye-opening experience, guys.

To add insult to injury, he then finds out that Marissa isn't even eighteen years old yet! I don't think it really matters though, as if you're a 50+ year old man married with kids, and you're spending your time with a girl who wears her hair in pigtails and sucks on Ring Pops when you're going to bury a body, you probably need to check yourself into marriage counseling – because, congrats, you have a bona fide mid-life crisis that's grown into a malevolent tumor.

I just love that he's still okay with kissing her after she tells him she isn't 18 yet, even though he still acted like he was pissed off about that a second before. It's like, I have priorities and morals, but eh, they aren't that important. What a fucking cockbag.

She doesn't kiss and tell...or rather, she does, but only in the Mojave desert in the middle of the night with frumpy, sad old men.

Oh yeah, and then she attempts to give him a blowjob, but because of the Ring Pop having a cinnamon-y flavor, she burns his dick as soon as she touches it. What a magical scene. I sure am glad that one was put in there!

A metaphor for the hard times in life when you just need to leave your wife and young daughter who you constantly claim to love for a 17-year-old girl who gives painful blowjobs.

Then we get some more scenes of them looking around in the desert and it's basically just a big old ad for the Mojave: come here and fall in love with the endless hallucinations and Hitcher flashbacks.

It really does reflect the movie - empty, dry and without much to do but keep going in a desperate trudge to find the end.

Speaking of flashbacks, we get some incredibly important and vital ones that show off an invaluable plot asset: Marissa has boobs. Truly we wouldn't have been able to figure that one out otherwise.

Her ability to have physical body parts that over half of the human race has is just astounding to me! She truly is great in this movie because of that.

Grant runs into the ex-boyfriend, Joey, played by Tom Sizemore. He's hiding out in some abandoned mine located conveniently right next to the road, which he says is because Marissa is actually some kind of succubus or demon that feeds on what you desire inside. However, I think it's really because he was hiding from the cops because he was wanted on drug charges.

Whoops! Did I spoil the illusion there? I'm just so sorry.

Joey tells Grant to go find Marissa and lure her down to the mine, and because he's got no sense of will or brainpower, he just goes along with it. After all, if you can't trust some weirdo you met in a dirty old mine in the middle of the Mojave desert, who can you trust?

"I, the Lord of this Abandoned Mine in the Mojave Desert, am truly a credible source for information!"

Grant gets Marissa down there, and she acts rather suspicious and skittish about the idea. He gets her in the cave and has to stab her in the leg when Joey doesn't hold up to his end of the bargain about trapping Marissa. Then Grant runs away and finds Joey being a fucking coward out in the desert, saying he just got scared or some shit like that – what a wimp!

Then they go back and Grant tries to lure Marissa out of the cave by saying he's sorry and it was a misunderstanding. For stabbing her, mind you. You know, one of those conversations every couple that's truly meant for one another has at one point or another. “Hey, honey, I'm sorry I stabbed you in the leg! Let's have make up sex! I'll make you brownies!”

Then we get a chase scene where it seems like Marissa is actually the one who's normal and Grant is the crazy one – wait, you mean the guy who was convinced his new girlfriend was a demon ISN'T the picture of sanity? Well, fuck; check ME into a mental asylum then. Marissa is chased by Grant to some house in the country, where Grant kills the guy who owns the house. Then, they go out to this road where Marissa trips over nothing and falls on her stomach:

"Damn air, always tripping me up. Maybe I'd better just use a wheelchair to get everywhere from now on."

She pleads with Grant not to kill her, and apparently understands in seconds that Grant is actually seeing a hallucination of her dead ex-boyfriend Joey who's telling him to kill her. I guess Joey was just that kind of guy. Ya know, the kind of guy where you just look at him and go “yeah, that's the kind of guy who will later appear from beyond the grave telling mentally weak people to murder me in cold blood.” I hate those kinds of people.

He doesn't do it though, and instead decides to take the easy way out and kill himself. I'm sure people were glued to the screens about that one.

"What have I done...hmm, what should I have for dinner tomorrow? Did I finish my laundry?"

This whole thing wasn't terrible or anything. In fact the setting was nice, it had some good ideas here and there and it was even kind of suspenseful, in a trippy, psychedelic sort of way. It was the kind of thing you can definitely use to simulate the feeling of psychedelia when you're too poor to go buy mushrooms from that weirdo down the street at the abandoned old K-Mart. The acting, while not great, did manage to convey the story reasonably well.

The only problem was that it just wasn't really fully realized. Was Grant really so weak-minded that his delusions took the form of the dead body of a guy he just met once, and under stressful circumstances? Why was Joey his hallucination telling him to kill Marissa? Maybe it could have been his wife, whose voice we hear a few times nagging him in his brain – that would've made more sense and probably added some depth to this character who otherwise is just an unlikable asshole. I mean, yeah, that would have made no sense for her to be in the desert with them, but maybe his delusional mind tells him she followed them there. And these things don't have to make perfect sense anyway.

Also, why was he even crazy to begin with? Nothing really suggested he was, apart from the script forcing you to think so. It just kinda came out of nowhere like a truck on a foggy morning. Or one on a clear day where a crazy man can jump in front of it and kill himself, but either way is fine. And some of the dialogue in this thing was just so bad. I mean it really was just so stupid, silly and unrealistic, and took you out of the movie with the force of a guy falling from a ten-story window with an anvil strapped to his ballsack.

Overall though, it wasn't bad. It did at least prove one thing – guys who go for 17-year-old girls wearing their hair in pigtails and who suck on Ring Pops after murdering someone DO tend to be quite crazy. Though, for unrelated reasons that aren't fully explained and are quite separate from that initial pedophilic attraction.

If that wasn't enough for you, you also get some super cool extras when you buy the DVD, like behind-the-scenes things that are kinda cool. I dunno; I love the idea of seeing what goes into the creative process with any movie, as it really points out how so much work goes into making even a bad movie.

I mean, maybe if I watched more of these special commentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes for the movies I reviewed, I'd have a whole new outlook on life. Maybe I'd suddenly see the good in these films and have a much rosier, sunnier picture of the world and really turn my life around because I wouldn't blow a gasket every time I saw one of these horrible movies! Maybe I'd finally turn into a rainbow, break through the shrouded gloom-cloud of life and magically see all the faults in my life and fix them with the snap of a finger.

Or maybe I'd just get shitty featurettes that looked more like you saw the movie in theaters and recorded it with a fucking cell phone camera. Where you can't hear any dialogue so the whole thing is pointless.

You can, however, hear the wind against their microphones. Whispering siren songs enticing you to watch bad movies...

Hear that? That's the sound of my last hope for happiness being murdered in an alleyway.

Oh, and we also get a "theatrical trailer" that makes this thing look like some kind of action-packed thrillfest, like it's some Denzel Washington thriller or something.

I'm sure that would have been magical if the movie were actually like that in the least.

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