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WEIRDO FLICKS: 'Twisted Issues'

by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe... 

'Twisted Issues' - 1988, Directed by Charles Pinion

It might be a niche audience, but I know SOME of you are punk rockers. And where there are punk rockers, there's an audience for the many oddball punk films of the 1980's. I grew up on 'Repo Man' and 'Suburbia' (the 80's one, not the silly unrelated 90's movie) and continue to seek out obscure punk-themed flicks because they are almost always entertaining, seedy and of course weird.

'Twisted Issues' might very well be THE most underground punk film. I mean, even 'Suburbia' had a budget and 'professional' cameras. Charles Pinion's film is about as DIY as you can get with the homemade gore, VHS home camera quality, and members of Gainesville, FL punk bands as actors.

So here are the few negative aspects first: It sounds like most of the audio is directly off the camera with NO boom mic or anything, so some of the dialog gets lost behind the admittedly awesome soundtrack of 80's Florida hardcore punk. And, of course, unless you're Spielberg or something, probably most of your friends can't act, which is the drawback of putting them in a movie. 

But, that's not the reason to watch something like this. I mean, Emilio Estivez's acting was pretty awful in 'Repo Man,' but he's playing a snotty punk so it doesn't really matter. You watch a horror-punk-comedy for two reasons: a) to have a good time and b) to see a document of a bygone time. And this film offers you both in spades.

From all the information I can find, 'Twisted Issues' was supposed to be a documentary on the Gainesville, FL punk scene, much like 'The Decline of Western Civilization.' Then, with the addition of writer Stephen L. Antczak, it was decided to turn it into a horror film. Although, according to Pinion there are some mythology-related undertones, and the whole thing plays more like an arthouse flick written and directed by the Duke and Archie characters in 'Repo Man' than your average zombie movie.

The story concerns a young skateboarder who has a bad run-in with some older drunk punks. It should be noted that the young kid is straight-edge, because there's some interesting commentary on drug use throughout. 

After getting into a fight with said drunk punks, the young skater becomes a pawn in the power-struggle between two punk rock gods, Charles (played by the director) and Hawk, and is killed. Charles spends most of his time in a bizarre apartment, watching TV while him and his girlfriend take turns killing each other (they always come back to life.) Hawk on the other hand has a huge arsenal of weapons and eats/drinks nothing but raspberry soda (as do his houseplants.) 

Fortunately, a mad scientist finds the young kid after he's been killed and resurrects him. But, you can't always predict how things like that will go, and he turns on the scientist and then sets out to get revenge after drilling his foot to his skateboard. It also doesn't have wheels at this point.

It should also be noted that Charles is able to watch various clips of these happenings on his television set. Like I said, it's pretty strange stuff.

Along the way, we meet a whole bunch of oddball punk rockers, and some of them are fairly lovable characters. There's one guy who reminded me heavily of Jeff Spiccoli from 'Fast Times at Ridgement High,' and the Hawk character is just completely deranged--almost out of something Frank Zappa wrote.

There are also some interesting media collages and a lot of commentary on television addiction, and of course the aforementioned terrific soundtrack.

Okay, at times it might feel like watching something your older brother and his friends made, but that's part of the appeal of it. This is a must-see if you're interested in punk rock cinema, and if you can look past the fuzzy VHS quality and low budget, it's also a non-traditional horror film to add to your October watch-list. I'm definitely going to check out his other work as soon as possible.

Oh, and lucky for you, Charles Pinion has made this and all his other films available in DVD format on his WEBSITE.  Check it out.

VHS photo by Toby Hudson.