Friday, November 28, 2008

Parades or Killer Fetuses, That is the Question

Babies aren't always so cute and cuddly.

The title of this post is, of course, a quote from "Hamlet." I think the whole thing goes:
Parades or killer fetuses, that is the question;
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The murderous unborn in films produced by Roger Corman,

Or to watch a giant inflatable Snoopy take over the streets of New York

Both are almost equally pointless, and will make you want to die, to sleep.
(That last part might be off by a few words. It's been a while since I last read "Hamlet.")

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the United States, and it's a day that's always been "meh" for me, perhaps because I don't like turkey or football -- or maybe because I don't need to be reminded to be thankful for all the good things in my life.

For me, Thanksgiving means there are marathons of horrible shows on cable all day and there's no mail service. Is that really worth celebrating? Then there's the family togetherness concept, which always sounds so warm and fuzzy in theory and ends up being more like a bad Fassbinder film in practice, but without the very things that make bad Fassbinder films bearable: English subtitles and sodomy. (Oh, and without the Hanna Schygulla. Can't forget the Hanna Schygulla.)

Quickly, if you will -- this was supposed to a parenthetical aside but spiraled out of control -- here is how Thanksgiving goes with my family. Once the food has been consumed, everyone divides into two camps: the guys congregate in front of the TV, where they natter on endlessly about typical guy subjects (sports and cars at first, and then the dads start talking about Iraq or weather-proofing the house, while my cousins say things about Natalie Portman and Megan Fox that make me recoil and reach for the travel-size Purell that I never leave home without), and the women sit around the dining room table discussing the stupidity of their respective husbands and children.

Where do I fit into any of these conversations? I don't know anything about cars, I've never given any thought to having sex with Natalie Portman or Megan Fox (I'm more the Kerry Washington, Eva Mendes and assorted middle-aged French and Spanish actresses type), and I don't have a husband or kids to complain about. There are times at family get-togethers when I have lots of lesbian company. (You know the scene in
"Arsenic and Old Lace" when Cary Grant's character tells Priscilla Lane something like, "Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops." Replace insanity with gayness and you've described my dad's side of the family. Assemble us all in the same room and the only place you'll find more lesbians is at a Tegan and Sara concert.) But forces conspired against us last night and the end result was an interminable straightfest. The kind that has you trying to mentally recite the "Who's on First?" comedy routine or play entire songs from Pet Sounds in your head to keep from losing consciousness and plunging face first into a gravy boat.

The good news is that despite all this, my Thanksgiving wasn't a total bust. I did have time to watch
"The Unborn," an egregiously terrible horror/sci-fi hybrid that Roger Corman produced in the early '90s. Normally I don't go anywhere near Roger Corman movies (even the women-in-prison ones that boast Pam Grier in the cast, which is really saying something), but one that's about killer fetuses -- starring no less than Brooke "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" Adams herself -- sounded too good to pass up, especially when the alternative was watching a family-friendly parade that didn't feature any dykes on bikes or leather queens in assless chaps.

The premise of "The Unborn" is pretty simple: a crazy infertility specialist (played by James Karen) is impregnating unsuspecting, desperate-to-reproduce women with murderous babies. We're talking babies so murderous they start killing when they're still in the womb. Babies so murderous that even being aborted doesn't quell their blood lust. It's enough to make John McCain reconsider putting the health of the mother in air quotes, I'll tell you that much.

Altogether, yes, it was 83 minutes of my life that I'll never get back. The direction, by Rodman Flender (the man behind the masterpiece that was "Leprechaun 2"), was seemingly nonexistent, and I'm not quite sure there was an actual screenplay involved. But think of all the things you see in those 83 minutes. There's Lisa Kudrow in a bit part as a flaky doctor's receptionist, looking unusually demented; Kathy Griffin as a dippy New Age lesbian whose expectant partner, alas, turns out to be a bit too much like Kenneth Halliwell for my liking; K Callan, who played the lesbian partner of Edith's dead cousin on a groundbreaking episode of All in the Family, as Adam's mentally unstable mother; an indescribably awkward sex scene involving a married couple and a rocking chair; an aborted fetus stabbing its father through the eye with a knitting needle; and a vengeful Brooke Adams
training a gun on a baby. How often does that happen in a movie?

For all its many faults, "The Unborn" -- when it isn't taking shots at science, infertility, reproductive rights, mental illness, feminism and lesbianism -- does provide a valuable social service of sorts: It encourages adoption by stressing the point that once you get pregnant, you never quite know what you're carrying. Your baby could be a psychotic murderer for all you know, one that's intent on destroying you from the inside out and killing your partner as well. Babies are entitled enough as it is, crying and screaming whenever they want something and making you feed them and make silly faces for their amusement. To think they can also rip through our stomachs in a violent rage and plot deadly car crashes when things aren't going their way, well, that's enough to convince me that adoption is the way to go.

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