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Stick and Twisted amimation fstival is well-named




Somerville Theatre, through Oct. 31.


THE LAST FRAME OF "PINK KOMKOMMER," one of the new animated shorts in Spike & Mike's All Sick & Twisted Animation Festival, states that the film is "dedicated to those who disapprove, yet continue to watch." That phrase neatly sums up this latest offering from the sponsors of the Festival of Animation, this time devoted to films more like "Lupo the Butcher" than Looney Tunes.

The first half of the festival covers the twisted genre, intended to "ease [the] movie-goers into [the] experience." Two of these, "Hello Dad, I'm in Jail" and the hilarious "One of Those Days" appeared in previous collections, and both are indeed twisted.

Bill Plympton's "One of Those Days" is a look at possibly the worst day ever. Cleverly filmed from the protagonist's point of view -- we see things literally through his eyes -- "One of Those Days" starts with a severe shaving accident, limbs set on fire and electrocution -- and progresses from there.

"Hello Dad, I'm in Jail," an animated video set to the Was/Not Was song, is more abstract than the Plympton film. Chalk drawings and strangely shaped figures dance around the screen over lyrics like "Hello Dad, I'm in jail / I like it here / Tell Mom I said `hi' from jail."

Of the remaining features from the twisted half of the show, only "Thank You Mask Man" and "One Man's Instrument" stand out. The former, a cartoon from the 60s narrated by Lenny Bruce, relates the story of the inhabitants of a town in the old West. The Lone Ranger repeatedly refuses their efforts to thank him for saving them, and eventually, they assume that he's just a snob and become hostile. Drawn in a style recalling Yellow Submarine's Blue Meanies, "Thank You Mask Man" has a deceptively innocent feel to it, but Bruce's witty, acerbic dialogue proves otherwise.

"One Man's Instrument" stands out if only because it looks good. Its lush watercolor jungle and excellent detail work make it one of the most artistic entries in the festival. I would hesitate to call it "twisted," though; "strange" or "surreal" might be more accurate adjectives.

The second half of the festival lives up to its "sick" appelation. Unfortunately, it relies heavily on scatological humor that wears thin rather quickly. "Quiet Please" is one prime example, a film the sponsors describe as "the sickest film ever made," but most of the time, it's just plain gross.

"Pink Komkommer" is the most egregious offender. Directed by Marv Newland, "Pink Komkommer" is an "animated jam session," where nine animators produced different interpretations of the same soundtrack. The sections are framed by the same short sequence of an old woman making tea, then falling asleep and dreaming. Occasionally, the sequences do something really innovative, as in Sara Petty's erotic watercolors of vaguely sexual forms. Most, however, run on far too long, and include graphic sexual material for no obvious purpose.

A couple of the last features do stand out. "Woeful Willie" is the "sick" version of "One of Those Days," where a baby gets an iron dropped on his face, loses limb after limb in various accidents and finally winds up stalled in his electric wheelchair on a train track.

"Deadsey," the other good segment of the second half, is an intriguing blend of animation and live acting. With its stick-like metal protagonist and Clockwork Orange-style narration by a ghoulish talking head, "Deadsey" is far and away the most innovative of the bunch. It's fascinating and disturbing -- neither sick nor twisted, just thought-provoking.

Spike & Mike's All Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation runs, appropriately enough, through Halloween. (Under 17 not admitted.) Be warned, though; if you are easily offended by blood or bodily functions, you will be better off waiting for the Festival of Animation '92, set to show at the Somerville Theatre this spring.