In its heart, it’s a television channel from the 1980s. In actuality, Channel 99 – premiering at the Whiteside on June 26 – is a movie.
There are certain venues which are simply correct for a particular kind of film. The Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera should be enjoyed in a cavernous, opulent movie palace like our own Whiteside Theater, ideally with a live musician playing a Wurlitzer organ. I Spit On Your Grave should be experienced at a drive-in on a Summer night with the crackle of bad audio. Bikers Versus The Undead should be absorbed in your living room, watching a VHS cassette where ‘be kind rewind’ never occurs to you after the credits roll.
Joe Sherlock and the rest of the Skullface Astronaut crew understand the importance of setting the right mood. They lovingly recreated the tacky charm of a 1980s TV channel, complete with a station promo and a hopeful catchphrase – “We’ve Got It!”, ads for films and series coming soon, and computer-generated title cards. Within this setting, they have placed several brief satirical shorts representing different kinds of movies in the genres of horror, science fiction, and soft-core erotic titillation.
There’s quite a lot of titillation all through the film, actually. And a lot of tits. Not only of stereotypically perfect bodies, either. I suspect this is not a reflection of a limited talent pool, but a conscious decision to present a wider range of bodies. In any case, there are several good-looking women in this film who are showing (almost) everything to the camera.
Skullface Astronaut is more than just Joe Sherlock. There are other capable people working on this film, the most famous being Jacky Neyman Jones.
The time period is well-represented by the style of the framing sequences, but less well by the props. [Funniest prop: a house being sold by a murderous broker whose firm is a member of the “National Association of Reality”.]
I can excuse the Toyota Tacoma (first manufactured in 1995) and almost excuse the smart phones in a couple of scenes. [Second funniest prop: a jar of Roger Corman Mayonnaise.] And I expect it’s difficult to find actors in their 20s who don’t have tattoos (which were much less common in the 1980s, especially on women).
I was pleased to see landline telephones, a flip phone, vinyl records, and someone wearing a portable audio cassette player. Those were nice touches. [Third funniest prop: Someone sits reading a book, and what is it? Sherlock’s own graphic novel Demonized.]
What was really disappointing was a collection of DVDs, rather than the VHS cassettes which were so iconic for the period. For shame, guys – this is a movie about genre films of the 1980s.
Those are minor complaints, though. On balance, Channel 99 is delightful. Well worth the $5 ticket price the Whiteside is asking.