The Late Shift: My Year of Midnight Movies at the Belcourt



Usually when people make New Year's resolutions, they're made out of some vain, half-hearted desire to fix something that was wrong in the previous year. You wind up saying to yourself things like: ”In 2012, I’m going to start going to the gym,” or “In 2012, I’m going to learn to speak Italian,” or “In 2012, I’m going to stop dressing like a dope.”

I'm going to level with you right now — I have no intention of doing any of these things. (Sorry ladies, but it looks like I’m in for at least one more year of being out of shape, essentially monolingual and kinda dopey.) No, instead of improving myself in a conventional, useful way, I’ve come up with a much better plan:

In 2012, I am going to see every midnight movie screened at the Belcourt.

From Lady Terminator to whatever beautiful, terrible thing awaits me on December 21 (assuming I have my math right), I intend to catch and write about all 26 (again, math) midnight movies offered this year by Nashville’s finest movie theater. Even Rocky Horror. Especially Rocky Horror.

With all that out of the way, let's talk about Lady Terminator.

The most important thing you need to know about Lady Terminator is that it desperately wants to be the James Cameron dystopian robot classic. Desperately. A character literally uses the phrase, “Come with me if you want to live” (incidentally, the biggest laugh line of the night) during the titular lady's assault on a nightclub. In case you missed it, let me quote myself from two weeks ago:

In Lady Terminator, director H. Tjut Djalil, the madman behind the 1981 Indonesian cult horror classic Mystics in Bali, ritualistically disembowels Cameron’s film and stitches it back together with Indonesian demon myths, killer lady parts, mullet sporting buddy cops, and a pop star with a magic dagger. Lady Terminator is an absurd Frankenstein of a movie — like watching an American action film, if it were made by a foreign crew that got all of their information in an elaborate game of telephone.

The plot, in a nutshell, is that the South Sea Queen takes control of a naïve American archeology student in order to seek revenge on the ancestor of the man that stopped her succubus-style reign of terror. From that point on, it's basically just Terminator, except with a helpless pop star in the Sarah Connor role and occasional references to a magic dagger and vagina dentata.

For all its faults — and, boy, does it have faults — there's something charmingly entertaining about Lady Terminator. You can tell that Djalil (or, as he's credited here, “Jalil Jackson”) was honestly trying to make what he thought was a good Western movie. That winds up being the key to most of the hot garbage that finds its way into the hearts of dopes like me who love this vein of midnight movie. As bad as Lady Terminator, The Room and Troll 2 are, they're authentically bad. There's nothing worse than an inauthentically bad movie — just look at Shock Treatment.

The thing about Lady Terminator is that it, along with the other films of its era, was a product of a political coup. Indonesia's film industry was co-opted from its earliest stages as a propaganda tool — first by Japanese occupiers and later by the post-revolution government. After that government was overthrown, restrictions loosened enough to support a burgeoning industry and the movies about floating heads that eat newborn babies (y'all really have got to see Mystics in Bali) that made it up. The flipside of this is that the amount of taxes levied on already low-budget productions meant for, well, total crap.

You've got to hand it to Djalil, though — he made highly entertaining crap. Let me paint a word picture for you. At one point, the Lady Terminator (an anthropology student inhabited by the spirit of the South Sea Queen) is lured into an abandoned (?) airport where she is pinned down by a guy with a mullet named Snake. Snake proceeds to open fire on her in a tank, wedges her between it and car or something, then blows it the hell up. Also, Snake may or may not have been played by an actor named “Adam Stardust.”

In a weird way, the movie kinda succeeds in its goal of aping American action movies. It's big and stupid, covering up plot points with gunfire and explosions. Lady Terminator is less like Terminator and more like the Terminator 2: Judgment Day arcade shoot-'em-up. Which puts it at least on par with Cobra.

I should also mention that the specialty drink of the night (crafted by Belcourt mixologist/concessions wizard Pat) was called “Milk” and included tequila, curry syrup, lime and rosewater. Did I say that I'm also endeavoring to drink the specialty cocktail at all of these shows too? Because that's a thing I'm doing too.

This is the kind of thing you (and I!) have to look forward to over the next 12 months. I'll see you all next week after taking in a screening of H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator, a movie I've never seen but — for obvious reasons — have always wanted to.

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