Twisted Issues (1988)

Twisted Issues (1988) video cover

director Charles Pinion
viewed: 11/05/2014

Charles Pinion’s 1988 “psycho-punk splatter comedy” Twisted Issues is unique in my personal history of film-watching.  It’s the only movie that I’m “in,” appearing for about a second and a half in a party scene, watching local band, Mutley Chix perform.  It’s also easily the only film I’ve come to write about where I know the film-maker, have known him for nigh 30 years, more or less.  It’s also the only film in which I know virtually every person, every location, and from the music to the artwork to even the film’s own lines and shots, something with which I am utterly familiar.

Pinion shot Twisted Issues in Gainesville, FL in 1987/88, and though I am only in one shot, I was probably at a couple of the shoots of local bands playing, saw the film getting made, and talked with Mr. Pinion during the process of the film’s production.  And of course I was at its premiere at the on-campus Orange and Brew pub when it was first shown.

So for me, I’ve always felt too much of a relationship with the film, the subjects, the stars, the now time capsule world in 1980’s Gainesville, FL to really be anywhere objective on the movie itself.  It’s just a wholly different thing to me.

I recall, in 1991, when first living in San Francisco, I met some non-Gainesville people who had seen the movie and liked it.  And at the time, I had a hard time fathoming that.  And I guess, that is the lack of objectivity of which I’m thinking.  Not necessarily the generous feelings one has towards the work of a friend but maybe the reverse, the lack of appreciation that I think is really quite common in local arts and music scenes, taking for granted something from proximity.  A true lack of clarity.

I always had affection for it but it was too hard to have perspective.

Interestingly, on my current 2014 rampage of film-viewing, a multitude of tropes of films from the 1960’s-1980’s has been broadening my perspective quite a bit.  In particular, movies such as Night of the Creeps (1986), I Was a Teenage Zombie (1987), The Dead Next Door (1989), or other movies shot on 16mm, 8mm, or even like Twisted Issues on video long before video was very good.  It’s low budget horror bootstrapping it, DIY’ing it against all odds.  And some other movies that I’ve still yet to see like Chester Novell Turner’s Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984) or Tales from the Quadead Zone (1987), which have come to my attention through the VHS collector fanaticism and love of the low-fi and obscure as featured in Rewind This! (2013) or Adjust Your Tracking (2013).  This developing groundswell of appreciation for the extremely odd and unintentionally avant-garde.

Frankly, re-watching the film for the first time in a long while (I’ve watched parts and pieces over the years), I believe I managed to see it with the freshest eyes I’ve ever had for the film itself.  I have an personal aesthetic issue with video, something I’m coming to terms with, believe me, so I won’t belabor that issue, which I think has been another sticking point over the years for me appreciating this film properly.

Mr. Pinion shot the film with himself, his girlfriend, the co-writers, and numerous characters, personalities, and scenesters of Gainesville’s late 1980’s slow boom.  Nobody was a professional anything.  The music is entirely made up of local bands of the time, some terrific, some good, some odd and unusual.  I guess the acting is something that I’ve turned around entirely on.  For a bunch of post-college kids who’d never done this sort of thing (and many who never did this sort of thing again), Pinion actually gets very good performances from the game team players.

It’s the story of a skate-punk kid (Paul Soto) who gets run down by some mean older punks, only to get revived by a mad scientist to go on a murder spree against each and all.  The red-tinted Karo syrup flows freely.  Charles plays one side of a strange duality of tuned-in head-trippers who end up fighting it out in a comic bloody finale.

It’s not so much a fever dream, but a multiple source of intoxicant-induced dream.  The whole thing could be read much as the world through the eyes of the chemically deranged.  Filled, as well, with MTV-esque snippets from television of the day, images of politicians, wars, religious leaders, diatribes, and clips from movies are interspersed with other late-night fantasy snippets of Pinion’s own devising: local characters adding to the broad-based surrealism of Gainesville life circa 1987/88.  Television, drugs, and rock’n’roll.

It’s funny, inventive, cleverly shot and edited.  It’s truly a film much primed for getting its due.

Pinion went on to New York City, mingling with some bigger names in underground film-making, producing a couple more features early on.  He currently has a new film ready for promotion, playing festivals and getting ready for broader release and consumption.  And I am personally very excited to catch up with his other films, which oddly enough, I have not ever seen.

Whether it originates in the realms of the hardcore video collectors or new waves of people keened in on appreciating the most obscure of horror films, independent film-making, or even the maximum unusual quality of a “shot on video” feature film, the time may well be utterly ripe for a rediscovery of Pinion’s first feature.

I will always have my unique relationship with Twisted Issues.  But I have more appreciation for it than ever before.  I don’t think I’m alone in that latter perspective.

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