38) Job Switching (I Love Lucy)

Lucille Ball sold more televisions than anyone else in history. I Love Lucy was so popular in the 1950s, people went out and bought their first television sets in order to watch it. That’s a record that will almost certainly last forever. Or until Holo-screens start coming out.

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Like they’ve been teasing us with for a while.

Okay, so, getting it out of the way now, the premise of this episode hasn’t exactly aged well within society. It’s based on swapping gender roles, and nowadays those aren’t as strictly defined as they were in 1952. It also has some lines based on the idea that women can’t handle money, which… well, they didn’t age well. To its credit, this episode does depict a number of working women, from line workers to supervisors. It’s only Lucy and Ethel that are depicted as incapable of working a “normal job.” Similarly, there are lines about male cooks and housekeepers in the show, so it’s only Ricky and Fred that are somehow so incompetent at basic “home economics” skills that they manage to destroy much of the house. The depiction of other members of both genders being able to switch roles successfully is probably attributable to the fact that the episode was actually written by a male-female writing team (Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr.). Still, it’s going to bug a modern audience a little bit. Let’s just go ahead and say that both stereotypes are played up just for laughs, recognize that this show made a woman the most famous comic in the US, and consider the implications no further.

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The show had a pretty general premise. Lucille “Lucy” Esmeralda McGillicuddy Ricardo and Enrique “Ricky” Alberto Fernando y de Acha Ricardo III (Ball and Arnaz) are married and they live in an apartment in New York, where they frequently interact with their friends and landlords Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance). Ricky is a popular bandleader and singer at a club. Lucy is a housewife who dreams of stardom, despite her complete lack of talent, leading her to do things that usually are described with “Hi-jinks Ensue.” Also, credit to her, Lucille Ball’s greatest talent is her incredible ability to play someone without any talent.

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Granted, there was a ton of talent on this show.

While she and Ricky were portrayed as deeply in love, her antics still had a tendency to get on his nerves, usually denoted by him breaking out into rapid-fire Spanish. Lucy also frequently was irresponsible with money and time, something that usually caused friction between the two. Ricky, meanwhile, sometimes indulged in the nicer side of being a popular bandleader at a burgeoning nightclub, which made Lucy want celebrity all the more, which, in turn, led to more antics.  This episode focuses mostly on their marriage.

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It was a fun band to lead.

SUMMARY

When Ricky finds out that Lucy has bounced a check, he snaps at her for being irresponsible. Lucy and Ethel try to downplay the issue, but Ricky and Fred both respond by mocking their wives for sitting home all day while the men go to work. I assume this happens in the episode because the men already slept in separate beds from their wives, so they weren’t planning on ever getting laid again. Otherwise, mocking your wife is considered a bad idea. But, Lucy and Ethel respond with a challenge. The men and women will switch places for a week.

Splainin

At first, Ricky tries to one-up Lucy with a fabulous breakfast in bed, only for Lucy to discover that he just bought it at the corner diner and carried it upstairs. Ricky and Fred don’t fare much better at any of the other things their wives usually do. They break dishes, ruin most of the clothes trying to do laundry, and manage to destroy the kitchen trying to make dinner. Ricky even falls over his own rice and injures himself… which wasn’t part of the script. Desi Arnaz actually fell on accident, and the audience loved it, so he did it again on purpose. He also apparently bruised himself badly doing it, but it’s funny nonetheless.

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Meanwhile, Lucy and Ethel go to an employment agency, and, out of a long list of unattainable potential jobs, they blatantly lie to get jobs at a candy factory. Hopefully, after reading that sentence, every one of you now remembers this episode. If not, hopefully you have time to watch the video below. Lucy and Ethel each get assigned to various jobs around the factory, failing spectacularly at all of them, while being yelled at by the ultra-strict foreman. Finally, they’re put on the chocolate-wrapping assembly line, and the pair are told that, if even one piece of unwrapped candy makes it all the way down the line, they’ll be fired. At first, the chocolate coming down the conveyor belt is at a reasonable pace, and the two manage, but it quickly speeds up to the point that the pair are unable to wrap, and can only grab chocolates from the belt and hide them. Despite this, the foreman congratulates them on not letting any unwrapped chocolates get to the end… and tells them that now they’re going to have to do it at high-speed. As the chocolates come careening down the line, the two completely abandon any attempt at wrapping and instead just stuffing the chocolates in their clothing or eating them.

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Ironically, they both were terrible at Hungry, Hungry Hippos

Arriving home later, the pair are sick from all the chocolate they ate. The ladies see a note telling them not to go into the kitchen, but Lucy’s curiosity overtakes her. She immediately starts screaming and comes out rambling about how there’s a mess all over the walls, the floor, even the ceiling. The men come home and ask to end the bet, conceding that they’ve lost, while the women confess they also didn’t fare well on the job market. The men apologize for thinking that running a house is easy, and offer the girls a gift… of 10 pounds of chocolate.

END SUMMARY

This episode is remembered for a few reasons. The first is that it contains some amazing physical comedy. Lucille Ball studied clowning for years before she got this show, and it paid off in spades. Her expressions during most of the scenes are so over-the-top that you can’t help but find them funny. While the conveyer belt scene is the best known, I honestly recommend that you watch the episode in its entirety, because the physical humor goes beyond just that one scene. I didn’t even remember the near-silent scene in which Lucy is pretending to copy a professional candy dipper with all the skills of a chimpanzee. She has such enthusiasm for it, however, until the fact that she’s screwing it up finally starts to hit her. Then, she swats a fly on a woman’s face, causing the woman to hit her back, covering Lucy in chocolate. Ball, afraid the other woman wouldn’t hit her hard enough to be funny, intentionally hit the other woman much harder than they had rehearsed, so that her reflexive response would daze Lucy. That’s how you suffer for your art. Vance, Arnaz, and Frawley are no slouches, either, each managing to hold their own against Ball in every scene they’re in.

The second reason is that the candy factory is basically the best representative of employment problems on film (aside from maybe Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times”). When Lucy and Ethel go to the employment agency, they are qualified for literally no jobs, because all of them require some form of training or education. So, they lie in order to get a job. Then, when they show up at that job, they’re given no form of training, and immediately put into a wide variety of positions, with no introduction. Eventually, they end up on the conveyor belt, with everything coming at them too fast. They manage to cope with it well enough, which just leads to a massive increase in workload to the point that they can’t handle it, at which point they’re fired. Almost every step in the employment process is needlessly complicated and done wrong. At some point in your life, you’ve probably been on that conveyor belt being inundated by tasks at a pace that you can only barely handle, only to find out that, congratulations, because you handled it, you’re going to get more. And all to get slap-dash candy out to the consumer.

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When the joke goes back to black and white TV, is it still funny?

Either for the subtext or the slapstick, it’s always worth watching I Love Lucy.

Here’s the scene you’re all waiting for:

PREVIOUS – 39: The Outer Limits

NEXT – 37: The Office

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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39) Demon with a Glass Hand (The Outer Limits)

The Outer Limits was the Twilight Zone without the unbelievable talent of Rod Serling. Unfortunately, that’s like the 90s Bulls without Jordan. It’s awesome, but it’s still missing that one little extra kick to put it on top. However, it also managed to get the great Harlan “my bibliography is huge and influential but you still don’t know my f*cking name” Ellison to write an episode or two, and that was enough to close the gap.

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SUMMARY

This episode begins with the narration: “Through all the legends of ancient peoples — Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Semitic — runs the saga of the Eternal Man, the one who never dies, called by various names in various times, but historically known as Gilgamesh, the man who has never tasted death … the hero who strides through the centuries …”

Our protagonist is Trent (Robert Culp), an amnesiac man who has a clear plastic hand that contains a supercomputer. That hand is also missing 3 fingers, and the computer refuses to tell him anything about who he is or why he has a missing hand until he gets the fingers back from the aliens chasing him known as the Kyben. Trent is stuck in a sealed office building with his only ally being a woman who got caught in the building with him, Consuela (Arlene Martel), who slowly becomes his love interest.

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Throughout the episode, as Trent manages to avoid and ambush the Kyben, Trent is told that the Kyben are actually from 1000 years in the future, having taken over the Earth, but found one day that all the humans disappeared, having set off a “radioactive plague” that’s killing the Kyben. Trent, however, remained until he got sent back in time. To find out what happened to the humans and if there’s a way to cure the plague killing them, the Kyben took his missing fingers and followed him back. Eventually, Trent sends all the Kyben back to the future, and destroys the time portal. After putting his fingers back in place, the computer reveals the truth to him: He’s an android, and all of the DNA of every surviving human, as well as the method for bringing them back, has been stored in him. The humans did indeed poison the earth against the Kyben, and then left Trent to wait 200 years for the radiation to leave before bringing them back. Finding out that he’s not really human, his love interest runs away horrified. Trent sadly realizes that, with the time portal broken, he now has to wait 1200 years, rather than just 200, completely alone.

The ending narration really nails it: “Like the Eternal Man of Babylonian legend, like Gilgamesh, one thousand plus two hundred years stretches before Trent. Without love. Without friendship. Alone; neither man nor machine, Waiting. Waiting for the day he will be called to free the humans who gave him mobility. Movement, but not life.”

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END SUMMARY

Unlike many episodes, this one doesn’t contemplate what Trent’s place in the world is, or what it could be, as a sentient being. It doesn’t contemplate whether or not he can avert the invasion in 1000 years, or whether that’s even possible. It just focuses on what it’s like to be completely alone in the world, forever the outsider for something you can’t control. It’s an existential nightmare earned by a guy who we watched be the hero for the episode, and Robert Culp manages to sell every aspect of it perfectly. If this episode doesn’t hit you in your heart, you might be an android.

PREVIOUS – 40: Supernatural

NEXT – 38: I Love Lucy

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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40) No Rest for the Wicked (Supernatural)

As I said yesterday, this is the first episode (aside from the bonuses) that I wrote after chemo. Yay.

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Sometimes what makes an episode amazing is when the people making the show know the rules for scriptwriting, and intentionally avoid them. Supernatural does this pretty often, but never have they taken as sharp a divergent turn as in this episode.

The premise of Supernatural has changed slightly over the years. In the beginning, the show was about two brothers on the road finding supernatural monsters and phenomenon while trying to find their father. Since then, the show has had to escalate multiple times, and what was once a show where the presence of a single demon was a season-long arc has become a show where the main characters regularly kill demons, angels, and various gods. They’ve managed to prevent the apocalypse, kill the mother of all monsters, kill the monsters God created before humanity and trapped in purgatory, make a mockery out of Satan, dethrone Hell multiple times, kill the Grim Reaper, and somehow prevent God’s own sister from ending creation.

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At the end of the first season of Supernatural, the main characters, Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), managed to complete their quest to find their father, signifying a hopeful new chapter in their journey typical for a TV show. A slight aversion of the traditional narrative is that, shortly after this, they are hit by a semi and rendered nearly dead in the last moments of the season. At the end of the second season, in order to resurrect his brother, Dean makes a deal with a demon that gives him one year to live before he has to surrender his soul, setting the stage for season three.

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Wow, they were so young back then.

Throughout the season, the audience is shown how the situation affects the relationship between the two. Dean, who is the older brother, has entered a state of nihilistic hedonism, not particularly caring to work to avert his fate. Sam, on the other hand, feels that he is obligated to save his brother’s life. This pretty much inverts the characters. Dean has dedicated his life to looking after his brother. Sam has been trying to live his own life, but circumstances keep pulling him back in due to his own sense of honor or indebtedness. Granted, after 12 seasons, this has evolved, but that was the start. Of course, Dean’s acceptance partially comes from the fact that, by literally giving his soul to bring his brother back, he’s finally truly “looked after Sammy,” the words his father first spoke to him in the series. Sam, meanwhile, cannot move on with his life if he knows the cost of his freedom, even if Dean says he’s okay with it. Eventually, Dean is convinced to save himself after being shown how much he’ll be missed by his brother.

Supernatural-2Bobby
But apparently not Bobby (Jim Beavers), even though he loves him.

With 30 hours left, the brothers have been told the only way out of the deal: To kill the demon holding the chit, Lilith (Rachel Pattee). And so, the episode starts.

Supernatural-3Lilith
She’s the cutest demon of the bunch.

SUMMARY

The reason why this episode works is that, for the most part, every episode of Supernatural ends with the brothers managing to pull something out of their collective ass at the last minute to overcome whatever they’re fighting. It’s pretty formulaic, and this episode is no different. The brothers manage to find the one weapon that can kill the demon, they manage to track her down in the body of a young girl (now played by Sierra McCormick), set a trap, and after a number of bad turns, manage to actually get themselves in the room with their target. This, as often happens in the show, is a trick, and the little girl is no longer possessed.

Supernatural-4Lilith
Admittedly, it’s a trade up.

The clock strikes, and the literal hellhound that will kill Dean to satisfy the contract is summoned. In a great performance by Jensen Ackles, Dean actually is shown to accept his fate… and then decides to run for his life anyway. He manages to get back to Sam and Lilith, who has switched bodies again (Katie Cassidy), with just a few moments to kill her and save himself, and then… he doesn’t. Lilith overpowers both of them easily and lets the dog eat Dean.

That’s it. He dies. The last shot of the season is him, suspended by meathooks in a Hellraiser-esque torture sequence calling out for his brother in anguish and despair.

Dean in Hell

END SUMMARY

It’s a moment born from watching two characters that have consistently managed to escape from such problems in a formulaic manner. It’s the moment when the Scooby Doo villain actually manages to get away with it, despite those meddling kids. It’s the moment when Doctor Who doesn’t come up with a clever plan (I know he’s “The Doctor,” but it made it obvious who I meant, so shut up). It’s when NCIS actually doesn’t solve the case. Yes, in recent years, all of these things have actually happened on their various shows, and they were earned by years of commitment to using a firm formula to entertain, which makes it so much more meaningful when they avert it. And so much more tragic when done in this manner.

PREVIOUS – 41: Peanuts

NEXT – 39: The Outer Limits

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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The End of An Era

Alright, so, this is just a note that this marks the transition. Friday was the last article written while I was either in the hospital or dealing with a heavier amount of Chemo-brain to the point that it sometimes caused me to have severe memory lapses, blackouts, emotional instability, or other cognitive impairments that would possibly have impacted my writing. I still deal with some of the effects, but on a smaller scale.

What does this mean for you?

Well, hopefully that means that the writing is about to get a bit better. So, enjoy the last 40 of the list (plus some of the bonuses).

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Reader Bonus: Door Jam (Frasier)

This was a reader request, which brings the total number of Frasier spots up to 4. Granted, this isn’t actually one of the 100 episodes, but it’s still solid.

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SUMMARY

So, this episode focuses on Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and their inability to be content with anything. It starts when Frasier gets a piece of mail that was sent to his upstairs neighbor, the equally snooty Cam Winston (Brian Stokes Mitchell). The letter is an announcement of the opening of “La Porte d’Argent.” For those of you who don’t speak French, this means “The Silver Door.”

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They have an 8 hour negotiation session over bath balm recipes.

The letter contains no information about what “La Porte d’Argent” is, so the pair are anxiously trying to figure out schemes to uncover the secret, until their father, Martin (John Mahoney), points out that they could just go down to the location on the letter and ask. They discover that it’s a very exclusive health spa, which they con their way into, by having Niles pretend to be Cam Winston (who, for the record, has an extremely deep Baritone voice, leading Niles to have to speak like what I imagine Barry White sounded like as a child). The pair are completely satisfied by the unbelievable level of treatment that they receive at the spa… until they see a Senator going into a Gold Door in the spa. They try to follow him, but are stopped by the staff. The Gold Door is for the Gold Level, and they are but Silver.

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They do get stalks of wheat for some reason.

The pair then begin to obsess over getting into the Gold Level at the spa, to the annoyance of everyone else. Finally, Roz (Peri Gilpin), confronts them about why they even care, when the Silver Level is already an unbelievable spa experience. Niles responds “Gold is better.” Roz points out that the Gold might not be the end of it. There could be even more levels beyond that, and the only reason they want them is that they can’t have them. However, she also reveals that she could get them into the Gold Level, because she had an affair with the Senator… and also saved his life from a mid-coital heart attack.

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Can’t imagine what gave him that…

So, Frasier and Niles get into the Gold Level. Frasier is given a color therapy, which partially color-blinds him, and Niles is coated in an orange honey-butter mask and wrapped in seaweed, which renders him both blind and mostly immobile. They are put into a luxurious grotto to relax… at which point Frasier sees a Platinum door. He tries to open it, but is stopped by the staff, making them both anxious to see inside. Together, they stumble/hop through the door into the bright sunlight… of a dumpster-filled alley. The door was for the trash, and they are chased off by a beehive.

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Irony is sometimes easy to get

The B plot concerns Daphne (Jane Leeves) and Martin watching old TV shows so that the English Daphne can catch up on American culture. While watching, Daphne keeps comparing Martin to the elderly characters on the shows, such as Rockford’s Dad on The Rockford Files and Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H. Eventually, she just pretends she was confused on the character names and identifies Martin as younger actors just so he’ll stop complaining.

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Hey, it’s a compliment to be Col. Potter.

END SUMMARY

The theme for the episode is pretty straightforward. So straightforward that they have more than 3 characters in the episode comment on it directly. Niles and Frasier want what they can’t have, so they’re never happy with what they do. Each time they reach what they perceive is the pinnacle of society, they seem happy with what they’re getting. After the first spa treatment, before they find the Gold Door, they’re both commenting that they’ve never felt better. After the second in the Gold Room, they think the same thing, until they find the “Platinum Door.” It’s a pretty normal theme, and one that’s fairly universal, but it applies more to people like Niles and Frasier, who are fabulously wealthy off of dream jobs, than to normal people like Roz or Daphne. Frasier and Niles live at one of the highest rungs of society. They should be content, but instead they’re even more focused on advancement than other people. Rich people will argue that their refusal to be content is why they achieved so much, and sometimes that’s true, but Niles and Frasier didn’t really. Niles married rich, and Frasier lucked into a cushy job that he hardly works at. Ultimately, it’s just a “grass is always greener” story. Still, few things are funnier than Niles hopping in a seaweed wrap. David Hyde Pierce knows physical comedy.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Best Groundhog Day Episodes

You know that movie Groundhog Day? If you don’t, please go watch it now.  Then watch it tomorrow, if you get there.

But, there have been a ton of TV episodes that have used the set-up of repeating the same series of events over and over again, and I’ve decided to list my 5 favorites.

Runner Up: Same Time Last Week (Angry Beavers)

This one has the premise that one of the Beaver Brothers, Norbert, can get so upset that he literally knocks his brother Daggett into last week, restarting the loop. Daggett tries to game the system, but is ultimately too stupid to pull it off. He finally breaks the loop by being so annoying that Norbert is angry enough to “bop him back to the dawn of time” so he meets his own cave-beaver ancestors.

Runner Up: Cause and Effect (Star Trek: TNG)

Space Explosion sends everyone back in time just enough to ensure that they cause another space explosion. This one is pretty standard, although it takes them a while to realize they’re in a time-loop. The main reason I love it is that the first time it was broadcast, a bunch of stations re-used the same promos during each commercial break. I didn’t catch that one, but I did catch it a few years later when a local station used the same gimmick on Groundhog’s Day.

5) Mystery Spot (Supernatural)

This one is hilarious and brutal. It just contains Dean Winchester dying in a number of increasingly ridiculous ways so that a trickster god can teach Sam a lesson about how to move on when Dean dies. After the loop is broken, however, Dean dies permanently, and the audience is shown that Sam does the opposite of get over it, he instead becomes a ruthless monster-slaughtering psychopath. Fortunately, they get one last loop for old time’s sake.

4) Been there, Done That (Xena: Warrior Princess)

This one is caused by a pair of doomed lovers praying for someone to stop their warring families. Aphrodite grants their wish by forcing Xena to re-live the day over and over again until she solves all of the families’ problems. Hilariously, she finds out that the loop starts only about 3 minutes before most of the stuff she’s supposed to prevent happens, so she spends several loops doing the math on how to solve it. The answer, as is usually true with Xena, is “throw a chakram really, really hard.”

3) Judgement Night (The Twilight Zone)

This isn’t a funny one. Not even close. Instead, this one is told from the perspective of a man on a passenger boat in the Atlantic in 1942 who knows that the boat is going to be sunk by a U-Boat, because he’s lived through it sinking before. However, unlike many examples of Groundhog Day episodes, he can’t effect any meaningful change on the events. It’s revealed in the end that he will relive this awful day for eternity, because he was the captain of the Nazi sub that sank it.

2) Heaven Sent (Doctor Who)

Also not funny, but by far the longest loop in any of these shows. The Doctor is stuck in a prison, and for most of the episode, is just trying to figure his way out, until he finally finds the exit… behind a wall of “a substance 400 times harder than diamond” that’s 20 feet thick. Unfortunately, it’s only then that he realizes he’s in a time-loop. Realizing that he has to die to restart the loop, but that the wall is the only thing that doesn’t re-set, he punches it a few times, then re-starts the loop. However, it takes him 4.5 Billion Years to punch his way through the diamond wall to freedom. One of my favorite Doctor Who episodes.

1) Window of Opportunity (Stargate SG-1)

This isn’t just my favorite time-loop episode, it’s also my favorite episode of Stargate SG-1. It has everything. First, it has the loopers, Colonel O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) and Teal’c (Christopher Judge), trying to figure out what is going on, then it has them trying to solve it, then it has them learning a bunch of useful skills to help solve it, and it has them taking a few loops just to goof off, including the scene of the pair hitting drives through the Stargate, messing with some random people around the base, and O’Neill finally kissing Carter (Amanda Tapping) after resigning from the army for 14 seconds. It even has a decent villain scheme causing the whole thing. Really, the perfect Groundhog Day episode.

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Netflix Review: 13 Demons

Update: This is now on Netflix, and I have to warn the people.

Compared to Iconoclast, this was a masterpiece, but I’m not 100% sure exactly what this movie was by any other measure. On its IMDB page, it appears I’m not alone, since a ton of the reviews are super low, and others are fairly high.

SUMMARY

The plot starts in medias res with 2 guys being accused of murder in a police station. They’re being held and interviewed separately, but delivering similar answers, claiming that they’re both demon-slaying paladins with fanciful names “Torkul of Darkhaven” (Stephen Grey) and “Abelsworth of the High Wind.” (Michael Cunningham) I braced myself at this point. It then flashes back to their origin.

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If you’re being interrogated while covered in blood, you may as well claim insanity.

It’s the 90s, the 2 guys are stoned gaming roommates, and a third guy (Daniel Falicki) brings home a board game called “13 Daemons” (no idea why they changed the spelling for the title) which had previously been banned because it caused people to go on murder sprees. The game immediately does the Jumanji “must be magnets or something” gimmick with the pieces, which one of the characters literally calls “Jumanji shit.” There’s then a 10-minute-long montage of these guys playing a roleplaying game… and it is boring. It’s just pot smoking, reading from the lore book, complaining about the smell of the game, and rolling the dice once. It’s like watching people play DnD but without the banter or coherence. Finally, one of the players gets to challenge a demon, and the movie then moves into this weird rotoscoping-style sequence that looks like either Tron or the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings. I admit, despite looking cheap and goofy, I kind of liked the sequence. It just has the player, Torkul, see an animated demon and then stab it to death.

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The characters wake up in different positions with a murder reporting on the TV, bloody upside-down crosses painted in the room, and everyone in completely different positions. But, they keep playing anyway, and now, they start to descend into madness where their characters overtake them. This is represented by them reading the manual in slightly more serious tones and different voices. The acting is… well, they’re playing the “stoned” and “paladin” personas as very over the top and different, but I guess they’re supposed to be playing it that way. I’m not going to pretend this is a triumph of acting, but the director and writer (who is actor number 3) obviously knew they weren’t great, so he kept them at least somewhat in the right range for their skills.

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“Did you paint that in blood?” “No, did you?” “No… let’s get stoned and keep playing.”

The second player does another one of the animated sequences fighting his demon, and then comes what is undoubtedly the best sequence in the movie. The third guy is supposed to fight his demon, but instead of the animated hallucination, we see what is actually happening: He’s putting on pots and pans for armor and carrying a rubber mallet. It is done in a hilariously serious manner in the film. He then tries to slay a demon that is actually a mechanic with a tire iron, and, as would probably happen, the mechanic just beats him over the head with the tire iron. It’s genuinely an entertaining sequence.

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Now is the time of the Hammer.

The movie then loses steam in a very sad way. The rest is a montage of the two remaining players descending into madness while arguing over which one of them is the “purest” paladin. They basically challenge each other to a death match, then sit back down to roll the dice. It starts to flash between these scenes and the police station, where it’s revealed that they’ve been murdering random people who they thought were demons, including small children. And now, both of them believe that the last demon is the other one. The movie then ends with both of them in police custody, being charged with murder, insisting that it’s not “just a game.” It ends with literally no resolution or explanation of what’s happened.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, I’m torn on this film. On the one hand, the concept is… well, not new, it’s kind of a combination of “Mazes and Monsters” and “Jumanji” if you watched both on pot. But, it was at least kind of interesting. The acting is over-the-top and ridiculous, but, since the characters are always either stoned or possessed by a board game, that doesn’t really make it unbearable. The special effects are cheap and cheesy, but they know they’re cheap and cheesy, so, again, it doesn’t really make upset me. The sequence of the guy in pots and pans armor is nothing short of hilarious, but the rest of the movie doesn’t really come off as humorous, so it kind of gives you tonal whiplash.

Which brings me to the thing that most pisses me off in the movie: It completely lacks any climax, either emotional or narrative. If it were a comedy, or some form of alternative film where that made sense, it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s literally a quest film. It needs an ending of some sort, but instead, it just ends with the question over whether or not the game was causing the problem or if these guys are just crazy… which makes no sense because WE KNOW THE GAME IS THE PROBLEM. Even the cops should know the game is the problem. Hell, if I was their attorney, I’d point out that the game has a history of causing murder sprees, and it’s a decent defense to raise, which makes the ending argument really, really dumb.

13Demons-5Necronomicon.jpg
Is the book made of human skin evil? We’ll tell you at 11.

Honestly, this is almost a decent movie, it just doesn’t go anywhere. They just stretched a joke premise into 80 minutes, like Boss Baby, but it wasn’t funny… like Boss Baby. I really wish it had been either better or worse, because it really comes out as quality-pH 7. It also is never explained how they actually managed to kill this many people, since it’s revealed that one of them was using a stick. Not a large stick, just a stick. I mean, one guy got killed for trying to use a rubber mallet in his assault, and that’s significantly more lethal than the stick. Also, at the end, the police mention that the game was, indeed, banned because it caused people to go on killing sprees, which makes it more confusing that these guys tried the game in the first place, because that’s not a rumor, that’s a Federal law. Also, is it magic? Or is it chemical? I mean, they complain that the game smells, so, it’s possible that it’s just a hallucinogen. Also, the game clearly took like 12 hours of playing to start possessing them, so… how many people really could have had the dedication to play this game to the point of murderous rage?

This movie had some entertaining sequences, but the ending just felt like they ran out of budget, and the fact that about 30 minutes of it is just people reading a book and rolling dice really didn’t help. The movie wasn’t self-aware enough to be Chucky-sequel entertaining, wasn’t bad enough to be The Room level entertaining, and wasn’t good enough to be… good. But, I’ll be damned if the pots and pans armor wasn’t funny.

Skip this movie, unless you’ve really got a lot of alcohol and have run out of other bad movies.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Trailer:

Notes:

Preliminary: Sober, slightly ill, and bracing myself. I’ve been told this is better than Iconoclast, but that bar is basically saying “less crazy than Manson.” Hopefully, this one will at least keep my interest.

7:45 – Movie starts with a quote by William Howard Taft that I’m 90% sure is not actually by William Howard Taft. A cursory Google during the credits indicates that it’s unsourced and just being repeated on the internet. Auspicious start.

7:46 – Film quality is significantly better than Iconoclast, but not much above Birdemic. Starts off in police interrogation in medias res.

7:47 – Main character introduces himself as Torkul of Darkhaven, and I’m already slightly worried about the writing. The acting of the other characters in the scene is… I’m gonna have to go with The Room level, but without the dedication.

7:53 – Flashback begins. Oh my God, it’s Jumanji meets DnD. The TV is a tube tv and they’re playing the Dragon’s Lair NES Port, so I’m guessing it’s either the 90s, or they’re poor.

7:55 – And the main characters just said that it’s “Jumanji shit.” At least they know what they’re ripping off. If this ends up just being like that Tom Hanks movie “Mazes and Monsters,” and it’s just in their heads, I might applaud.

8:07 – After a 10-minute montage of 3 stoned guys trying to play this RPG (amounting to 1/8 of the total runtime) and complaining about how bad the game smells, we finally get to the magic shit. The magic effects look like the rotoscoping from Tron and the Bakshi Lord of the Rings. This movie came out in 2016, so that’s dated, but… eh, fuck, I love Tron and Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, so it’s working for me.

8:12 – Okay, so they woke up in completely different positions around the room to hear about a murder, the game has changed, and they decide to just keep playing. Yeah, I get nuts about finishing games too.

8:19 – I think the writers greatly overestimated how much audiences would enjoy having rulebooks and lore read to them onscreen for large amounts of time by guys who either are stoned, or play it very well.

8:21 – I get that they’re supposed to be descending into Madness and stuff, but they’re either overselling it or underselling it by just repeating the same lines 5 times.

8:22 – Okay, more rotoscoping-style stuff. Again they wake up in different positions to hear about a murder, and they go back to playing. It’s now been at least 2 full days of playing. This cursed game really takes its time. Jumanji started stuff on roll 1.

8:26 – These guys are not good actors. It was not a great decision to focus most of the movie on them just talking and reading a book aloud.

8:29 – “Roll a 3, take the Right Path. Roll a 4, take the Left.” Okay, but… it’s a 6-sided die. What do they do with the other numbers? I NEED ANSWERS!!!!

8:31 – Alright, rather than the magic this time, they’re just putting on Pots and pans as armor. I might love this movie.

8:36 – “Go back to oblivion to suck on your mother’s teat” might be my new favorite way to call someone out. But now the crazy gamer has a rubber mallet, and the other guy is a mechanic with a tire iron. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t win.

8:37 – To the movie’s credit, he didn’t win.

8:40 – Okay, so they killed a ton of people, including a child. I’m very intrigued as to how this works out. I want it to turn out that all of these people actually were possessed, but I think we’re going the straight route.

8:50 – And now they’re challenging each other to a fight, but then they still have to play the rest of the game by dice rolling. I… Don’t know what the rules are here.

8:57 – “It’s a game.” “It’s not a game.” X 20 is apparently the dialogue now.

8:58 – WHAT? THAT’S THE END? THAT’S NOT AN ENDING!!!

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