Episode 32 - Tales From the Quadead Zone (1987)
If you've listened to this podcast for awhile you are undoubtedly familiar with our infamous episode on Black Devil Doll From Hell, which is one of the worst movies ever made. Tales from the Quadead Zone is the second (and last) movie made by the same VHS auteur Chester Novell Turner.
Turner represents the every man when it comes to film, the youthful 10 year old who uses their parents video camera to make a movie, except Chester Novell Turner was a man in his 30's and sold his films commercially. Turner has no idea how to write a screenplay or how to make a movie but it didn't stop him from trying and despite his shortcomings his films are endearing in their innocence.
Watching "Tales from the Quadead Zone" is an exercise in tedium. Despite it's minuscule run-time of 62 minutes the movie feels like an eternity. Edits are haphazard, shots barely make sense, takes for on for what seems like an eternity, the sound is mixed horribly, and despite all this the movie just seems to keep you watching; if only to see what could possibly happen next.
Chester is obviously a big fan of the Twilight Zone and he attempted to model his film after it; creating three distinct tales and mixing them into one loose narrative. The problem lies in his inability to tell a coherent story, all three of the vignettes barely qualify as having a beginning, a middle and an end and it leaves the audience with endless amounts of questions and simply no answers.
The first story is about a family who simply refuses to cut sandwiches in half. That's not an exaggeration, that's literally what the story is about. They won't share food, there are too many of them, and eventually someone decides to resort to bloodshed instead of sharing. After this, it just ends. If this where a first grade classroom and you turned in that as your story, you would get an F.
It takes a total of 15 minutes to tell us this story, 15 insufferably long minutes of people eating, looking longingly at sandwiches and talking over each other in inaudible dialogue. The "resolution" is simply presented as text onscreen, it's as if Turner just decided to give up half way through making the film and simply move on to the next one.
The next story is about a brother seeking revenge on his death brother who recently passed away. That might seem like a real cut and dry description but it takes Turner about 20 minutes to reveal that simple fact to the audience. Instead we simply walk around dark rooms and talk about coffee mugs shaped like breasts.
There is something to be said about Chester's inability to tell a story coherently, his method of storytelling is so different from any other filmmaker. It's fascinating to view how he presents the simplest plot points in the most tedious ways imaginable. What should take a typical filmmaker a matter of minutes could take Turner an entire movie, or in some cases just not at all and simply reveal that an important plot point happened earlier when the camera's weren't rolling - as if we "just had to be there".
The third tale is actually a creative way of tying the rest of the movie into a loose narrative. I give Chester credit for creating an interesting twist to his film that you might not have guessed. The impact is lost though in a series of scenes that simply drag on for minutes at a time and offer nothing to the viewer expect the ability to check their watch and think about what else could be done with the remaining hours in their day.
When the film does finally end we are left with a bizarrely satisfying ending that is both strange and sweet. It is the best moment Chester had ever captured with his VHS camcorder and is unfortunately the last moment we have of his work - for now. It's as if Turner finally realized the power of storytelling only to simply give up and never return - it's a lot like the plot of one of his movies.
NEXT WEEK'S FILM: The start of our first ever theme month on the Grindbin podcast:
BLAIRVEMBER! 5 straight weeks of Linda Blair movies.
WEEK 1: Roller Boogie (1979)
Director: Mark L. Lester
Writers: Barry Schneider (screenplay), Irwin Yablans (story)
Stars: Linda Blair, Jim Bray, Beverly Garland