I live and breathe for bad movies. Total incompetence in film-making is my bread and butter. Can’t act? Can’t direct? Can’t edit? That’s not a problem. I’ll find something to enjoy in your work, even if it’s not what you intended, especially if you made it with passion and without cynicism. It’s all good with me.
But then I marathoned the TERROR TOONS trilogy, and director Joe Castro almost broke me.
Let me put my experience into what I call the “Five Stages of Terror Toons”:
1. Disbelief – Starting with the original classic, TERROR TOONS – made in 2002 over a course of three days and on a budget of $2300 and some sort of hallucinogenic gas – you simply cannot believe that anyone in their right mind would attempt making what is essentially an ambitious, but witless, gory, live action Tex Avery cartoon with so few resources.
2. Irritation – The shot-on-video nature of it all, the grating amateur performances, the obnoxious repetitive sounds, and the ugly as sin Photoshop effects are like an assault on the senses. You would have to be a demigod of patience to make it through twenty minutes of TERROR TOONS without your face muscles starting to twitch murderously.
3. Boredom – When you realize it’s a one trick pony, monotony sets in, and you start looking for something else to engage your brain. Anything. What’s that fuzz on the carpet over there? I think I might need to vacuum this weekend…
4. Depression – I was hit badly with a case of sadness half-way through TERROR TOONS 2, not just because I still had another half an hour of that film to watch, but also because I felt bad for Joe Castro. My first introduction to Joe – the man, the myth, the legend – was on the SyFy channel’s make-up competition reality series Face/Off. Joe was a contestant for all of one episode in Season 3; and when the judges criticized his creation and it became clear he’d be first to be voted off, he pre-empted the decision and stormed out in a fury of profanity and pure madness. The man clearly has a dream – nay, a VISION – and the thought that he’s been making these TERROR TOONS things for the last 15 years just makes me feel awful.
5. Numbness – The endless images of clip-art gore, stock sounds, and cackling visages of articulation-free prosthetic creatures wash over you until you feel like a corpse on the beach being pushed around violently by the surf. You begin to rot as crabs eat your flesh, but Joe just keeps on going… which brings us to TERROR TOONS 3.
This new masterpiece purports to kick off where the original TERROR TOONS ended, and I guess it kinda does. We’re treated to ten minutes of archival clips to bring the uninitiated up to speed, but this won’t help them. After another fifteen minutes or so, Herschell Gordon Lewis shows up in an appearance that was clearly filmed in his kitchen one afternoon, and the movie inexplicably becomes an anthology…sort of.
I couldn’t really tell you the plot of TERROR TOONS 3. In fact, I’ll give someone five bucks if they can convince me there was one. There’s so much computer generated trash on screen at any given moment that it literally becomes incomprehensible visual gibberish, and not in the questionably arty-farty style of Alejandro Jodorowsky. This thing is a veritable dog’s breakfast on your television screen. At times it felt like it was procedurally generated by some sort of twisted artificial intelligence hell-bent on extracting its vengeance on mankind.
The assault of digital gore and bizarre prosthetics gets so intense that for a moment, it almost becomes some sort of transcendental genius. I’m sure that someone out there will become convinced that TERROR TOONS 3 is the next evolution of cinema. It will run in art houses across the world for years to come, it will be required viewing for film students, and academics will be divided in years-long vicious debates about just how important it is to mankind itself.
TERROR TOONS 3 isn’t really a movie. The fact that it all ends with a “TO BE CONTINUED” and Joe’s already threatening to release parts 4 and 5 are simply the icing on the cake. Bravo, Joe. Bravo.