Back in 2016, when I had just taken off my Bad Movies-obsession stabilisers and had begun careening towards a future filled with frowning and concerned glances during small talk at social events, I had the memorable pleasure of peering into the peculiar mind of failed rap terrorist and Australian mumble-weirdo Raed Melki, and his equally failed superturd film, Still Flowin: The Movie. Back then, I decried the work as “The worst film I have ever seen,” and it certainly deserved that particular plastic crown and Closopine gift set, and to this day Still Flowin, as hilariously a methamphetamine-fueled case study of ineptitude as it is, continues to stand as one the chief defining monuments to hubris and incompetency ever put to film. However, as unintentionally awful a movie as Still Flowin is, it nonetheless comes a very distant second place to what I now know to be the very worst film that I, or anyone else, has, or ever will, see, ever.
I am of course, speaking of a wondrously transcendent epic of inane bewilderment and the truest expression of absolute wanton insanity that ever was….Alien Beasts.
Whilst you, dear reader, may have your quaint notions as to the worst movie you have ever seen up until this point in your soon to be irreparably confused existence, allow me to take your woefully unprepared opinion and pour a liberal dose of one Mr. Carl J. Sukenick, and his film Alien Beasts, down its throat.
Without wishing to sound overly harsh towards the obvious maniac that made this movie, Alien Beasts absolutely comes across as the product of that one sunny afternoon when a homeless magic mushroom enthusiast found a discarded chemical toilet full of Benadryl and a functional video camera, and then spent the rest of the day making a science fiction film with his friends. That certain scenes clearly do appear indoors speaks volumes to the ready availability of struggling, yet competent Hollywood location scouts.
The entire thing is up on YouTube, should you feel inclined and secure in your surroundings, but for those with a functional sense of self-preservation who have wisely decided to forgo having your brain raped by a cement block dipped in LSD, let me instead take you on a developmentally disabled ride through the first 10 minutes of Carl J Sukenick’s cinematic visualisation of drug-induced hypoxia. You can (but won’t) thank me later.
The First 10 Minutes…
After a brief title sequence consisting of a disembodied rubber mask presented neatly on a table with some curtains (set to what I’ll…for the sake of argument…call ‘music’), a scene cuts jarringly into frame of a static shot of someone getting up off of the ground and pointing. It’s tense stuff and I am on the edge of my seat. Mostly because that’s the direction the rest of my body has to follow in order for me to leave the room, which I then do.
Eventually I return with a large assortment of alcohol, mostly consisting of piss-swill lager and various cans of pre-mixed drinks, and I press play. Within seconds I hear the audio of someone coughing off camera that somehow slipped past the continuity department and numerous test screenings and focus groups. It’s shocking that such a blatant sound editing error would be evident within literally the first 50 seconds of the film, however, I am reminded that I have already seen this movie far too many times than anyone should feel comfortable admitting to, and given what I already know about how the next 74 minutes is going to go down, the bigger shock should be that there was even any sound to begin with.
…and then the play-fighting starts.
After a few seconds of frowning, I pause again so I can rub my temples and have a brief but heated internal monologue/argument centred around the topic of ‘why the fuck am I watching this AGAIN just for the purposes of this stupid review?’ Unsatisfied by any of my own answers I instead open a can of pre-mixed Elderflower Gin and Tonic and swig heavily. Newly invigorated and fucking depressed, I press play.
Some more play-fighting.
I don’t even…
A bit more.
Eventually these idiots stop trying to not hurt each other as the scene hard-cut’s to some random man’s face. This is accompanied by Carl Sukenick introducing himself (the man currently in frame is not Carl…confusion) followed by Carl trying to explain something about terrorist agents attacking Sarah’s house. I don’t know what any of this means but at least there is a STATIC IMAGE OF A RANDOM CHILD WITH HER HANDS IN THE AIR just to help make sense of it all.
Then cut back to…
Say what you want about the choreography, but the camera work is solid
…you know full well what it cuts back to. For some reason the disembodied head also makes another unexplained appearance…
…because obviously no fight scene is complete without hard-cuts to an unrelated psychotic break. We are also given more of the directors expository vomit, as we learn that some ENEMY AGENTS! (scary stuff) are attacking Sarah’s house, and that this is what all the gentle shoving and commotion is in aid of, which are all elements that could have potentially been smushed together to form something like a plot synopsis, except the film then instead decides to go completely insane.
And yet it somehow all gets so much worse than this
Needless to say, the following 65 minutes were hell on earth and I ended the evening grumpy and drunk.
The Best of the Rest…
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Carl J. Sukenick went top-heavy with the writing for Alien Beasts and included all his best work within the first ten minutes. Of course he didn’t. No, he managed to thickly smear his mental ejaculate all over the 74 excruciating minutes of runtime, with moments including…
- The continued, incongruous addition of randomly placed images and clips of whom I now affectionately call Beetroot Boy…
…which are sprinkled liberally like oh-so-much Angel Dust throughout the film, and are at no point whatsoever explained or presented with even a hint of context.
- The avant garde, boogified funk-tumbledrier soundtrack, which is as compliant to the accepted standards of traditional rhythm based music as one might expect. That is to say…not at all.
I don’t know where Carl gets his music from but fucking hell he gets his money’s worth
- The narrator’s tendency to depict events that we never actually see, and also to describe entire plot points that he then resolves within the very same sentence.
It’s quite spectacular that an entire film’s plot can be patiently explained to you and yet still makes no sense
- Energy blast!
Can’t say no to a bit of energy blast
- Some honest-to-goodness practical effects god damn it! They may as well appear in the audiences recurring nightmares for all the sense and relevance to the story they make, but still. There’s even a pretty rocking looking fake head with an arrow in its eye!
- Carl’s frequently illustrated searing lunacy. The like of which appears to be of the type that one would do well to avoid, as is evident from the following gibberish-aggression…
“Your directorial style is scaring me, Carl.”
- The animated end credits, which I must reluctantly admit were at least partially interesting and somewhat competently created. No less as absurd and digressive as any of the other 65 minutes that comes before them, of course, but by the time you hit this point in the movie you’re grateful for anything that isn’t backyard wrestling.
Ok, I might be stretching the word ‘competent’ somewhat
A Word of Warning…
When Alien Beasts starts, it IMMEDIATELY begins spewing out thick strands of Carl’s unbridled imagination in discordant waves of sensory violation, all the while staring you right in the eyes playing chicken with your ability to put up with its disjointed nonsense and continue. It’s a hard watch. Not least of which is the unfortunate addition within Alien Beasts of what can only really be described as a straight up sexual assault, yet it sits within a film that offers such a relentless stream of exhaustive lunacy that it almost slips past attention. All this, of course, begs the question of why I’ve put myself through watching it so many times. Perhaps there is an element of needing to prove to myself that it is indeed as bad as I keep convincing myself that it couldn’t possibly be.
Yes, most screenings, in fact all of them other than the disastrous one undertaken for this review, have been held within the presence of other like-minded bad movie lovers/finger pointers, which of course adds to the charm of watching such apparent rubbish to begin with. Yet witnessing it alone for the first time (admittedly inebriated up to the eyeballs) demonstrated just how mesmerising a film Alien Beasts actually is. It is so extremely odd, and seemingly so entirely broken, that experiencing it over the course of 74 minutes became damn near hypnotic.
That said, Alien Beasts is utterly fucking bonkers, I really cannot emphasise enough. Case in point: One of the more quaint notes scribbled in the margins of my notebook from when I was assembling this review reads as follows…
I have to laugh at my own naivety, and apparent forgetfulness at thinking that Alien Beasts even had pieces that fit together, never mind possessing the zen-like level of patience required to assemble them. No, it’s safe to say that Alien Beasts struggles to make very much sense, no matter how many times I reluctantly rewatch it. It isn’t entirely possible to nail down precisely as to why either, as despite Alien Beasts containing all the necessary prerequisite components of a traditional film, none of them are arranged in any way that even approaches cohesion. The most glaring example of this disregard for basic structure may be how the film and its individual shots and scenes are edited together.
I might be also be stretching the word ‘edited’ somewhat as well
People of the industry often suppose that there are three moments when the soul of any given film can be said to exist. First, when the story is written. Second, when the film is being shot on set. And third, when the film is finally edited together. Which may go a long way to explaining why Alien Beasts’ soul may well be cursed. Why? Because he used god damn witchcraft to edit it, that’s why. Just as likely is the possibility that he has reinvented Basic Film Editing 101, instead using techniques that only he is allowed to make up as he goes along.
The end result is obviously one hot mess of shit. Yet that doesn’t stop Alien Beasts from insisting that we still somehow divine sense from scenes that chop epileptically from static footage of the directors friends endlessly play fighting in someone’s garden…
Honesty, there’s about 20 minutes of this stuff
…to static shots of some old man’s expressionless face, whose character is never (at least at any point that I can discern) introduced or explained.
To make the point that it isn’t entirely conducive to the pacing of a feature film is like suggesting that spending your spare time watching and writing about Alien Beasts is conducive to leaving the house and being good at sports.
No, I’m sorry Carl, but discarded Lego instruction manuals and a potato peeler WILL NOT SUFFICE when taking your patiently filmed footage into the editing suite. But then again, there was fuck all patiently filmed the day he made whatever the shit this is supposed to be…
This film really is the most insane thing ever made
I quite possibly know what you are wondering, however, and many before have posed the same question as to whether or not Alien Beasts even constitutes a film. And it would be all too easy, even for myself, to write off Alien Beasts as simply some ego-driven, misanthropic seizure captured on film, and therefore barely worth discussion, never mind merit. But the difference here, at least as far as I can see, is that due to a very important aspect of Alien Beasts this film barely…just barely…can still be considered a movie, and therefore qualify for the title of ‘The Worst One Ever’.
And that one addition is the narration, through which we (barely) learn that Alien Beasts is…supposed…to contain something approaching an actual story, and isn’t just randomly edited shots of pretentiously confused, masturbatory slop smeared over a camera. This fact just, and only just, pushes it over the line enough to be considered as an actual honest-to-goodness film, and not just confused fuckery recorded by a madman.
Not that the addition of plodding, half-mumbled verbiage (that is delivered by Carl himself) actually helps to make sense of anything. Quite the opposite. If anything, it makes things even more horrifying.
Repeating everything has a multiplier effect, Carl
But as painful as Alien Beasts is to experience as a passive viewer of its non-stop crazy, I beg you to please spare a moment for this poor lady who at one point during proceedings (as prior mentioned) is straight up sexually assaulted, but who also had to endure what I’ll tentatively assume is something almost as uncomfortable. Namely; being talked at by Carl J. Sukenick.
You poor poor woman, and yes, this is in the film
It must be said, however, that Alien Beasts is thankfully not boring, at least in the sense that discovering a never before seen bacteriophage on the walls of a public urinal is not necessarily boring either. They both cause you to at once stare in astonishment and not want to be there, which are both common reactions to the vast majority of Carl’s cinematic repertoire, included within which is (no shit) the alluringly titled…Space Fucks.
Whilst I honestly do wish to commend Carl for displaying enough effort to have actually make an entire movie, I just cannot get past how inherently confused and detached from reality the final product of that effort was. As a coherent film intended to entertain its spectators through the telling of a story, it fails horrifically. As an exercise in blindly exploring the directors own playful fantasies, with a stubborn insistence on never diverging from those strict terms of artistic expression, then I suppose it was a success, at least for the only person intended to enjoy both its creation and the end product, namely: Carl himself.
There certainly exist far more offensively banal and pointlessly vapid films (again, Alien Beasts and it’s idiosyncratic director are far too grimly fascinating to elicit boredom), and indeed, considerably more pretentious, given that Alien Beasts is certainly a genuine expression of the vision of its creator: It truly is the imagined nonsense come to life of an exceptionally unusual individual’s steadfast determination to express himself as he sees fit, with precisely zero thought given (or possibly even capable of being given) to how it all would come across to the hapless movie-goer who might happen upon his work. As I’m sure Carl was at the very least aware of, and as I will attest…it’s not for everyone.
Alien Beasts is a masturbatory fantasy, certainly, and borderline narcissistic, maybe, but nonetheless entirely truthful in its reproduction of the inner workings of the severely twisted mind that made it, and I somehow…kind of love it for that. Despite its numerous failings, Alien Beasts is thought-provoking in its eccentricity. It’s arresting, revealing, and crucially…it’s unique. Which of course it must be, given how it has triumphed at becoming the single worst film that I’m pretty damn sure I will ever see, and that, when all is said and done, is something I can’t help but celebrate.
Well done Carl, and thank you.