Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
April 1st, 2006

Resident Demon

Directed by Billy Parish
Written by Billy Parish
Starring Billy Parish, Georgia Cobb, Samantha Klein, Steve Siegel
Produced by Billy Parish
82 mins

Okay, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Billy Parish is likely a big John Carpenter fan.

Why would I go out on this limb?

Because Billy Parish wrote, produced, directed, starred in, and edited a movie that is, when you stop and think about it, almost an homage to "The Thing."

An assertion like that requires explanation. This is evidenced by the sheer number of people who are probably screaming at their screens right now, demanding an explanation.

"Resident Demon" is basically about a pair of sisters, one of whom went Satanic-ritual-nuts one day and started fooling around with human blood. Discovering what turns out to be really similar to that old Countess of Bathory concept, Tabitha (the ritually nuts sister) starts drinking and bathing in blood to keep herself immortal. Things, of course, don't go well for Tabitha, who needs her sister to help hold up the operation, and once her sister flakes out, Tabitha dies, and her soul, which is now mostly demon, is expelled and now haunting the bathtub in which she drown.

Wait, there's more.

Tabitha's sister then gets sent to a looney bin and a young married couple purchases the house where Tabitha did her killing. Haunted bathtub and all.

Wow, that must've been some pitch from the real estate agent. Eventually, I want to see a whole movie about the poor bastards of the real estate game who have to try and sell these houses.

But I digress. The haunted bathtub starts taking possession of the young couple, and the people who came over for a housewarming party at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME EVER, and the cops that show up later.

Now, that doesn't sound much like "The Thing". In fact, what that almost sounds like is a weird blend of "The Exorcist" and "Very Bad Things". The part that becomes very much like "The Thing" is in the execution. What's left of Tabitha is, well, very mobile.

She's gonna do a lot of body-hopping, folks, and no one's gonna be able to tell right away (except maybe the audience) what body she's in right this second.

So you've got lots of "who's who", or rather, "who's WHAT" going on, and that makes this very much like "The Thing", only without the nice remote setting and the easy expedient of hot needles to check out just who's the demon in disguise.

When you start blending this much together--there are easily little bits of three movies cropping up here--you start getting some real distortion in terms of goal and focus. It's especially bad when you consider the runtime. "Resident Demon" weighs in at a mere eighty-two minutes. There's not a whole lot of transition here; most of the time some event occurs, then we rejoin the film at some other event, and we're left to assume that the person involved in the first event just started moving to the third event. Even worse, a major plot point just shows up out of nowhere with just over a half hour of runtime left.

It's a great concept, this--I don't see nearly enough John Carpenter homages (or even John Carpenter knockoffs!), and it's about damn time that somebody took a run at it.

Sadly, this particular one just wasn't executed as well as it could have been, and it shows. From mysterious plot points, to disjointed plot coverage, even down to just the strangest things (like check out the nurse four minutes in--you ever seen anyone that chipper working in an insane asylum? I didn't think so!) "Resident Demon" can only be described in one way--a really good try.

The ending is a bit confused. We've seen people fighting Tabitha's possession throughout the film, but to this extent? Not until it needed to be there, a little dose of convenience at the end.

The special features are limited to trailers for "King of the Lost World", "Dead Men Walking", "Shapeshifter", "The Girl in the Basement" and what is called the "Original 'Lich' Trailer", which is basically footage from "Resident Demon". I'm guessing "Resident Demon" started out as "Lich".

So all in all, "Resident Demon" is a good try, a fairly original concept that sacrificed development for a panoply of good ideas. No one should find themselves too distressed over taking this one for a rental, but there's vastly better out there.

Excel Saga: Imperfect Collection

Directed by Shinichi Watanabe
Written by Hideyuki Kurata, Yosuke Kuroda, Koshi Rikudo
Starring two very long lists of individuals speaking both English and Japanese
Produced by Shigeru Kitayama, John Ledford, Mark Williams
624 mins

Warning: The Raving and Drooling of a Fanboy Occurs Next Several Hundred Words.

I'll admit it plainly. I love "Excel Saga". I fell in love with this series back in college. The opportunity to finally finish the series, and to have all twenty six episodes easily available, was too good to pass up.

What you're going to be seeing in "Excel Saga" is the story of Excel, a hyperactive high school graduate with a lot more energy than good sense. Excel joins the ideological organization ACROSS, fronted by Lord Ilpalazzo. Excel, as is so often the case with anime, is wildly hot for Ilpalazzo, and terrifyingly devoted to him.

Stalking laws were created for chicks like this.

ACROSS, meanwhile, has aspirations for global domination. But in a prudent move on Ilpalazzo's part, ACROSS is starting small. Their plan is to take over their home city first, and work their way up from there.

Which is, frankly, good. When you get a look at what ACROSS has to work with in terms of personnel, you won't be surprised either. The story, meanwhile, will only get more baffling the farther out you go. Trust me on this one.

So already you've got a formula for mayhem and madness. When you throw in the numerous parodies, and the constant stream of gags, and the just plain old psychotic plot elements, you've got a recipe for truly insane anime. Psychotic plot elements? You're probably asking right now what I mean. Here's a partial list of this six-disk masterpiece's features: lesbian android overtures, a municipal Power Ranger-esque crime fighting team, a dog that her owner (Excel) describes as an "emergency food supply" that gets convulsions every time someone mentions food around her (small wonder considering that the dog's name is Menchi, which apparently translates as "minced meat"), small and truly adorable aliens with designs on interplanetary conquest, and for the piece de resistance, the frequently dead princess of a far-off planet.

I had only one real problem with "Excel Saga"--toward the end, they completely pulled the gags out of script. Completely. Now, think about that. You're laughing, you're gleeful, you're having the time of your ever-loving life with this, and all of a sudden, it gets COMPLETELY SERIOUS. Whoa. It's like a room full of monkeys that suddenly went angsty.

And it would have ended on the biggest downer note ever, if it hadn't been for one great redeeming feature:

Episode 26: Going Too Far.

This is the king of them all. The episode with more blood and more gunplay and more comedy and more fanservice and more everything (except the serious stuff) than you've seen anywhere else before. It must be watched to be truly appreciated.

And after the horrible downer of Episode 25, you're going to be doubly thankful.

There's a legion of special features here. Previews for other anime including the truly preposterous "Puny Puny Poemi", a light ton of easter eggs, subtitle and audio options, and plenty more over this six disk collection.

All in all, wow. "Excel Saga: Imperfect Collection" brings together some of the best anime ever seen by mankind and puts it all into a wildly comic package. Truly fantastic stuff.