Why Did You Send Us This? – Horror In The WindJanuary 28, 2010
A few years ago, actor-comedian Jamie Kennedy made a documentary in reaction to the overwhelmingly negative critical response to his film Son of the Mask entitled Heckler. The film is a very personal and at times defensive critique of criticism itself, which actually struck a chord with me in particular, even beyond the clear irony that blasting critics due to their profession presents. Sprinkled throughout Heckler are interviews with comedians and actors describing how they feel when they are the subject of negative criticism, with many resorting to the stance that they would like to fight anyone who calls their talents into question — including director Uwe Boll, who did just that, and as a result is seen as a kind of hero.
I understand this sentiment entirely. I take criticism very personally — even reasoned, constructive criticism will sometimes send me into a days-long depression. When I was editor for the Squelch, I took it very personally when we would get the occasional “you suck” or “you aren’t funny”, and it even got to me when someone told me we were offensive. I understand what Kennedy is going for in Heckler. But there’s just one problem. Son of the Mask DID suck. Uwe Boll DOES make awful, awful films. And sometimes Squelch ISN’T funny. Sometimes things are just bad and just because someone worked really hard on it doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from being bad or that it has special protection against people calling it bad.
This is particularly applicable to the comedy Horror in the Wind, a film that was sent to us for some inexplicable reason.
Like many other things that are erroneously sent to us, Horror in the Wind was mailed to our tiny, tiny mailbox in Berkeley with the intent that we would excitedly write about it in our prestigious journal of record, apparently unaware that the Squelch is primarily a collection of scripts about people on TV farting (“Farts in the City?” Where is my pen!). And just like all hot news leads, the information we were to write about came pre-written for us in the form of a press release, which very proudly reports that this film is banned in New Mexico.
I know exactly what you’re thinking. “New Mexico!?! But they never ban anything!!” Well, it’s true. Sort of. Not really. According to the press release, one chain of theaters in Alamogordo, NM wouldn’t buy the rights to show the film in their cineplexes. Why? According to the release, the owner of these theaters thought the film was “too political.” What could have been so controversial about an independent film that would make some asshole in New Mexico not want to put it in his theater instead of Transformers?
Horror in the Wind bills itself as a sci-fi comedy about gay rights, but that’s like calling Liar Liar science fiction, or watching a married couple arguing while slipping on banana peels comedy (actually, that does sound hilarious). I’ll get to the gay rights part later. First, here’s a lengthy breakdown of the plot:
After a gratuitous credits sequence in an airplane for no reason, the film shows us a brief clip from “Fax News” which very lazily introduces the setting: it is the year 2017, and Pat Robertson is now the president of the United States. In an exceedingly clever take on then-current president Bush’s War on Terror, Robertson has diverted most of the government’s resources towards the War on Sex, i.e. making sure that no one but married Christian couples have sex. Perhaps this is science fiction, since it takes place in the future and presents a kind of alternate history? No. It doesn’t. It just creates an implausible situation in order to make cheap shots at the religious right, which deserves to have much more deliberate, aimed shots thrown towards it. But, again, more on this later.
Once the setting’s all squared away, we are introduced to our heroes: two scientists who have their own small pharma research lab somewhere in the middle of New Mexico. One of them is bald, the other has white dude dreadlocks. As far as I can tell, these are the only distinguishable personality traits between them. We come in on them working on a sexual suppressant in an aerosol form, which they are testing on rats to no avail. As the film goes on, we learn that these two are each sleeping with the other’s wife, equally oblivious to their respective wifes’ and friend’s betrayal. The fact that this has never been done before by anyone ever is overshadowed by the sheer ugliness of the sex involved. In one scene, Dreadlocks cuckolds Bald on a haystack literally next to a pigsty. As he awkwardly thrusts into her with a style that I can only describe as both mechanical and irregular, and she lays there essentially motionless producing labored moan after labored moan, I’m pretty sure you can even see a little bit of Dreadlocks’ scrotum. In a film that seems to be very much for sexual liberation of a kind, I’ve never seen sex put in such a thoroughly unpleasant light.
Eventually, Bald and Dreadlock uncover the whole charade, but are relatively undisturbed and unangered on account of their mutual treachery. There’s a weird, touching moment where the two realize that the affairs have actually brought them closer together — Bald goes into how the whole thing almost seems like an intimate reach towards their male counterpart in a way that is genuinely homoerotic to the point of being problematic for later developments in the movie. After this, we get a small glimpse of their wives, who are so unimportant to the story arc that I cannot be bothered to even begin giving them belittling plot wrapup-nicknames, much less learn their actual names in the script. They share that they clearly are not troubled by their respective homewrecking, going as far as comparing their husbands/lovers in ability and personality. This setup of showing ten or fifteen minutes of the men having a heartfelt and meandering discussion followed by one minute of their wives very callously and bitchily having a similar but more meanspirited discussion is easily the most prevalent theme in the movie.
In the middle of all this, the film introduces its first of many B-plots in the form of the flamboyant preacher, played by That One Guy From Every Local Dinner Theater You’ve Ever Been To (Or Maybe It’s Just Me Who Notices This Kind Of Thing), who seems to be on some kind of crusade against the “Harry Potter Jr” book series in an uninspired attempt to invoke the Harry Potter book burning that took place in Alamogordo and simultaneously unsuccessfully remind the viewer that this is supposed to be in the future. Aside from his very ridiculous and over-acted persona, what’s exceptionally funny about Preacher is that he is very dumb and corrupt!! His church is a trailer, and the marquee outside has a bunch of misspellings on it!!! His alter has Visa and Mastercard plaques on it, almost as though the church were a business!!!! Again, no one has done anything like this before. It’s astounding.
This is where the real meat of the movie starts. Bald and Dreadlocks are contacted by Pat Robertson to make a no-sex spray that will work on mammals, particularly humans. Dreadlocks, in a rare moment of being written differently from Bald, gets all upset about the questionable ethics involved and doesn’t want to do it, but the lure of money and Bald’s flimsy suggestions of money eventually get him to completely overturn his ethics. It should be mentioned right now that Robertson is played by a guy who doesn’t look enough or sound enough like Pat Robertson for him to ever be completely on camera, so instead we keep getting shots of parts of his face moving around a little while he talks, as a totally different guy does his voice offscreen, and it keeps getting off sync and it’s basically an amazing culmination of several bad ideas and blerffhfh
Anyway, the subject for Dreadlocks and Bald’s newly subsidized experiments are the aforementioned Preacher and some Army Lady for some reason, both of whom apparently just want to stop having sex because of their super wacky religion, and a gay man and woman who want to stop being gay because it is too hard, I guess. Dreadlocks and Bald conduct a bunch of tests on these four to no avail, using props that were clearly made in the director’s living room out of shoe boxes and wiring from an abandoned building. This awful prop serves as a neat little metaphor for the movie, as it is just shitty enough that it’s almost as though the filmmakers are daring you to notice how shitty it is so that they can say “What do you want? This is an independent film. We made this whole movie for like fifty thousand dollars. Sorry that it’s not a CGI robot voiced by some washed-up celebrity, Mr. Hollywood!” “Why, then,” I would rebut to this strawman argument I just made up, “do you even need the prop? Can’t you just show the efficacy of the experiment some other way that doesn’t look so awful?“ They would probably come back with something about ontological hegemony, all the while hiding the fact that the whole thing is a deliberate handicap to hide the true uninspiredness of the whole fiasco.
Eventually, as a result of a stupid science montage, the spray begins to work. All four subjects no longer respond to their respective sexual stimuli, and our two indistinguishable heroes report their initial success to Pat Robertson. However, a twist appears! Robertson steals the still-not-entirely tested formula and begins spraying it on the whole country in an effort to stop all sexual activity immediately, with the notion that an antidote will soon be developed that will allow Christian married couples to have sex. At the same time, Dreadlocks and Bald discover that the spray doesn’t make people stop having sex, it just switches their orientation! All this is followed with piles of stock footage of planes flying around leaving contrails and several local New Mexican extras sniffing.
With a title like Horror in the Wind, you’d think that there would be some tension created from this gas attack; like, perhaps the scientists try to prevent it from happening, or try to get people out of the area of effect. But, no, Dreadlocks and Bald just sort of sit there and complain about it. They call Pat Robertson a couple times, but he doesn’t do anything. Everyone just sits around and gets gay-swapped. And as strange as it is, this anticlimax is really the emotional peak of the film, with the rest of the film being people getting slightly gayer and occasionally doing stupid sitcom-y things. More B-Plots develop and quickly go nowhere, such as the scientist’s wives doing naked yoga, or Preacher and Army Lady getting into BDSM for no reason other than a throwaway “Whoa! Are they doing BDSM!?” joke that gets very annoying the fourth time they cut away to the Preacher getting whipped while yelling about Jesus. We get it, it’s stupid.
The movie more or less devolves into an increasingly cyclical pattern that goes as such:
- Dreadlock and Bald work on making an antidote, it doesn’t work, they get slightly miffed. They call Pat Robertson about it, but he doesn’t do anything.
- Dreadlock and Bald talk to each other about the antidote and then get slightly gayer than they were in the last scene.
- 30 seconds of the wives doing yoga naked for no reason. They also get slightly gayer than they were a while ago.
- There is a small clip from “Fax News” where the reporter explains that the world is slightly gayer than it was last scene and a wacky news ticker spells out hilarious jokes like “Scientologists Offer to Buy the Vatican,” everyone is careful not to cut themselves on that edge.
- Preacher and Army Lady whip each other and yell, letting the audience know just how cheap the microphone used to film this thing was.
- Dreadlock and Bald go and do some activity and get even gayer.
- 15 seconds of the wives being gayer.
- 45 seconds of the ineffectual Pat Robertson impression, peppered with the guy who’s supposed to play Vice President James Dobson’s terrifying neck.
- Go back to beginning, repeat for 50 minutes.
After this cycle is repeated five or six times, the movie desperately throws in plot to tie everything up. First, through the — and I can’t stress this enough — incredibly lazy device of “Fax News”, we learn that a new version of the Bible was found (but more subtly suggested forged) that states that gayness is actually what God likes, making straight people the new persecuted minority. This is the only thing that comes remotely close to clever in the whole movie, and it leads to the only joke with any kind of statement behind it: a newsticker item reading “Heteros Spread Weird New Disease.” I actually had to pause the movie to make sure that they were actually saying something. A succint, somewhat humorous expression of frustration over the media’s conflation of AIDS with homosexuality — I was amazed. Then I was angry. If they were capable of making this kind of argument with their movie, then why is the rest of it about naked yoga and an old man being whipped and two guys having awkward sex while talking about Brokeback Mountain, a dated reference even in 2007 and
Sorry. Anyway, the movie ends when two men who want to be straight again threaten Bald and Dreadlocks at gunpoint to come up with an antidote, prompting a retarded chase sequence that ironically goes nowhere. It all ends in the plane that was shown in the credits sequence, prompting the audience to say “Ah, it makes sense, it all comes back to the plane” before realizing that that makes no sense and the entire inclusion of a plane in the first place is entirely meaningless.
There are so many problems with this movie, not the least of which being the mechanics of the gay-spray. What the hell does it do to bisexual people? What of the apparent homoerotic overtones of the scientists in the beginning of the movie? Maybe this is my own subtle bigotry, but the Preacher gives off huge gay vibes throughout the entirety of the movie, not just once he is turned gay. The film is ostensibly about gay rights, but it has a strangely sophomoric, black and white view of sexuality — either one is gay or one isn’t, and there’s no nuance to it at all, going against the more recent “queer” inclusivity of most gay rights groups (or at least the ones I’ve heard of). This might be in itself the statement that I was looking in vain for earlier, but that’s likely giving it too much credit.
What I really take issue with, however, is the immaturity of the majority of the movie’s humor. The right wing of this country deserves much better satire than this film can provide with its “look at these rednecks!” and “what a bunch of silly zealots!” jabs. If anything, the majority of these jokes lend a certain credibility to the religious right by making their intentions pure — Pat Robertson is treated as a genuinely reverent crusader against sex and venereal disease rather than the gaybashing, abusive tyrant he would have been had he succeeded in getting the White House. It makes gay rights a big fart joke, and you can say all you want that this is just supposed to be a light-hearted comedy, but then you don’t get to say your movie is about gay rights. It’s about farts. And just because it’s independent and included the hard work of several New Mexican citizens, it’s still an independent, locally-made fart movie.
Also, at one point, the lesbian who is turned straight by the spray proudly claims, after being “cured”, “no bearded clams for me tonight!” Does anyone actually say “bearded clams?” Does any human alive actually say that?
Horror in the Wind gets one bearded clam out of five.