Friday, November 25, 2016
Regret Watch: Rollergator (1996)
In our house, a visit from The Dug is a holiday tradition, and part of that visit is always filling two hours of my life with regret. I don't go in for terrible movies quite the same way I used to, but I'm still willing to roll up my sleeves and dig back in a few times per year.
To refer to Rollergator (1996) as a "movie" is a bit of a stretch. Shot on, at best, 3/4" tape (but I strongly suspect it's S-VHS) over what may be, at longest, 3 days, it's nearly impossible to tell if the movie has a script, who this movie was intended for, and what anyone involved was thinking.
For something like 80-85 minutes, this thing just keeps happening, and it's all you can do by the 15 minute mark (even with the benefit of Rifftrax) to not start slamming your head in a car door to make the weird, dull pain behind your eyes go away.
Our "plot": people wander aimlessly around the Santa Monica Pier. You realize one of these people is Joe Estevez, the all-too-common hanger-on-ish, talent-free brother of an accomplished actor (Martin Sheen), who has somehow hung on in Hollywood, decade after decade, giving the viewer a curious bit of insight into what the more famous sibling would be like if things had gone poorly (see: Frank Stallone).
The human star of the film is a young woman who never did anything else again, and one hardly wonders why, but she was clearly talked into appearing in a bikini for the least sexy scenes to ever appear in a movie, anywhere, when she (a) follows a voice luring her into a darkened cave and (b) discovers a horrible, purple foam alligator puppet who proceeds to insult her. Or, I assume, insults her, because... who knows? The entire things is shot with the light and microphone attached to the camera, and then whatever sound they *did* have available is overrun by royalty and context-free guitar noodling playing over literally every minute of this movie.
I literally had the thought that the entire movie was made as some weird pretext for someone in the crew to hit on the star of the film who had no idea how movies are actually made, and then they realized she wasn't going for it, but, hell, we had the camera and puppet, so we might as well do this.
The Santa Monica Pier doubles as a carnival owned by Joe Estevez, who somehow had his hands on the talking alligator and then lost him, and has sent a "Dark Ninja" (some local martial arts enthusiast also conned into appearing in the movie) to retrieve the alligator. The alligator wants to find "The Swamp Farmer" who will bring him back home to "the swamp". In LA. Or something.
Really, the entire movie reminds me of when my pals in high school and college would pick up our cam-corders and say "let's shoot a movie. Uh, grab that spatula and go chase Tommy around the Kroger until they kick us out."*
Scenes drag on and on, with actors seemingly improvising their lines for 5- 8 minute stretches where they talk in circles, never, ever getting to a point. The Roller Gator smarts off like the dumb guy who just finished watching a Triumph the Insult Comic Dog video, and now thinks he can do that, too. And cannot. And Joe Estevez is just sort of acting to himself, seemingly believing they'll edit this down and just use part of it. But, screw you, Joe. We're using every second of footage shot.
Characters show up seemingly because, hey, why not? They were hanging around the set so now they're in the movie. I mean, it's fun to make movies with friends, I guess.
Also, tri-pods, mics and lighting are for jerks. Clearly.
What's weird is that the crew has semi-legitimate professional credentials. I'm not saying Hell Comes to Frogtown is earning any Oscars, but it's a funny, intentionally terrible B-film that seemed self-aware and did what it needed to do. But then it appears they sort of decided "trying" was not going to be something there were going to do.
The titular "Rollergator" is a terribly made foam puppet with no moving limbs. He looks a bit like a beer coozy with an oversized puppet head attached, like something someone picked up at a gas station.
I literally can't figure out if they just made the movie to fulfill a contract, pad out their resumes or if they were just killing time between movies. It's mind-boggling.
I have seen many, many terrible movies with various levels of incompetence on display, but never one so aggressively hostile to it's own audience. As Rollergator is not famous in any way (unlike, say, The Room), there's no history, no story to get your hands on to explain the existence of the film, why Joe Estevez did it, who the actors are, if this was actually intended to exist for any reason... Did they expect a release? Distribution? Anything other than languishing on their own shelf? Why did they edit the film? Why is there incessant guitar noodling over the top?
WE'LL NEVER KNOW.
All you will know is that you will hate yourself at the end of this movie. And, maybe, humanity. And, absolutely, you will hate Rollergators.
Here's some clips with the benefit of Rifftrax
*an actual video made in 1992