Saturday night in the City. Holiday season is in full effect. Penelope is at the beach. The Femme is stuck in her castle. The Swede is on holiday in Syria, the Greek's gone MIA, the Minister's Rebellious Daughter is nowhere to be found and the only two people who would go see a nasty Thai flick about cannibalism ala Sweeney Todd are my next door neighbor who can't get out of a holiday party (perhaps she was just being kind) and la Divinavila, who is in L.A.. Fuck it, I'm still going, but the trek to the theater forces me to walk through the hordes downtown, tens of thousands of oblivious out-of-towners and tourists who move in slow, meandering packs weighed down by bags from Old Navy, a general sense of stupor and their obvious, oblivious awe and uncomfortableness at finding themselves in an actual City for a change. There are couples and groups and I'm consciously aware that I'm on my own, headed to see a movie called Meat Grinder. Ho ho ho. I arrive at the venue. There's a big party going on downstairs. An usher asks me "Are you here for the Nutcracker?" I reply in the negative. I'm here to see the movie. It's supposed to start in 10 minutes.
She looks puzzled. She tells me the movie is upstairs but they haven't told her to let anyone up yet. She directs to someone who should have an answer. Turns out I'm the first one there. I get my ticket and a guy comes out and lets me into the upstairs theater. It's small, and completely empty. It stays empty, except for me, for at least another five minutes. I open up my package of Red Vines, bought at a Walgreen's on Market St.. I think I should be in a grindhouse. Why did the Strand Theater have to close? I'm a middle-aged white guy sitting alone in a theater with Red Vines and a flask on a Saturday night while there are thousands of people within a mile's radius who are shopping for loved ones, dressed up and on their way to holiday parties, celebrating "the season." It's okay- I'm in my natural element. Meat Grinder is part of series of films called Go to Hell for the Holidays and that's something I can appreciate. It's an idea I can get behind after a week where Obama completely punks out and then lets Bill Clinton stand in for him. Talk about disappointing.
Finally someone else walks into the theater, and wouldn't you know it- it's someone I know. Not well, but our jobs used to intersect and I seem to always see him at Patti Smith concerts. We have a mutual friend, Chad, who tipped me off to these screenings and I know it was this guy who told him about it. We chat for a bit about A Serbian Film, which I know via Chad he has a screener copy of which he sent via intercompany mail to a co-worker/friend and it got lost. Can you fucking imagine that? If you don't know what I mean, it's akin to accidentally forwarding a link to a kiddie porn or bestiality website to your friendly, born-again co-worker at a huge corporation via email. Some people have questionable judgement- I'm often one of them. A couple of other people filter in- a lone female who sits on the aisle (and bails about 15 minutes into the movie) and a fat bald guy and his bleach blonde female companion who look like their next stop after the movie is going to be the Power Exchange. The bald guy looks like one of Vukmir's goons in A Serbian Film. I feel like a scuzball just for being in the same place as these two.. A single white guy in his twenties shows up, looking self-conscious, and takes a seat. An Asian guy takes a seat in the row behind me and proceeds to constantly pull stuff from a paper bag loudly. Asshole. Then he proceeds to cough like he has TB. There are now eight of us. The lights go down. My mother had invited me to a family dinner and a boat parade with Christmas lights in Sausalito. I chose this instead. Like I said, my judgement is often questionable. The Asian guy keeps hacking and ruffling through his bag of tricks. I want to smack him, but I don't want TB, so I sit there passively hoping he'll shut the fuck up.
Meat Grinder turns out to be a near miss. The acting is good, the cinematography better, but the narrative of the movie is completely screwed. For horror to be effective, the audience has to undergo a sensation of mounting tension. This movie, which starts with dated footage suggesting the past ala Martyrs, goes back and forth to the point of incoherence. The audience is never really sure where we are in the story, as the idea of crafting a linear plot is anathema to director/writer/editor/cinematographer Tiwa Moeithaisong. It's too bad, because he knows how to create great individual scenes and images, but the whole is a jumbled mess that fails all litmus tests for what makes a great horror film. Or even a good one. At least that's how I saw it from my Western perspective. Perhaps there is something different in Thai culture that makes all of this not only palpable, but acceptable. It's entirely possible. Who am I to judge? I thought The Grudge and it's Japanese original, Ju-on to be barely watchable crap.
The film ends on a note of incoherence, or at least ridiculousness, and my acquaintance remains seated to watch the credits. I bail, wait a few minutes outside to hear his opinion, but decide enough is enough. I make my past the bums bedding down for the night in the doorway of the now vacant Virigin Megastore as shoppers and the bridge and tunnel crowd walk by them and pretend they don't exist. Past the Ferrari store which never has a soul in it but has manged to be there since last year, thinking I'll give my own souls a lift and look at the kittens and puppies in the windows of Macy's but there are just too many damn people there. It's a mob. I walk past the restaurants which are all packed, the couples dressed up for a once-a-year night on the town, the groups of Guidos who somehow manage to take up the entire 10 foot-wide sidewalks and I make my way back home, wondering what the fuck I'm going to eat for dinner. The Paki place across the street from my apartment is packed and I peek in the window see many tables without any food on them. Not an option.
I enter my building, where there is party going on in the lobby, which the HOA rents out for people who want to have a party in an art deco palace. It's not a party I can crash, otherwise I might out of sheer ennui and the desire to get this Bickle-esque taste out of my mouth. In the lobby is a relatively new resident I know and she has a certain hunger in her eyes as she's talking to the doorman/guard. I know that hunger like I know the back of the my hand. She looks at me, and I wonder to myself how many other men who live in this building have felt that weight, the palpable desire, of that particular, distinct gaze. It's too close to home. The elevator opens, I punch the button for my floor. it opens and I stride down the quiet hall to my apartment- the last one on the left. Entering, I'm met with complete indifference by the other occupant- a cat. Now we are current, and the tourists and shoppers should be gone, it's almost 11pm, and now it's time to get something to eat. Ho ho ho.
Update on Sunday morning: The Femme called me this and complained about the darkness of this post. It's really meant to be tongue in cheek- I mean who else but a Travis Bickle type would really go see this kind of stuff during the holiday season? Have a nice day and don't forget to smile.