Thursday, December 9, 2010

PLEDGE NIGHT (1990) - college life presented through a homoerotic prism, all to the tune of Anthrax

trailer, yo

With the opening credits of Pledge Night pronouncing that the film "features Joey Belladonna as Young Sidney Snyder", (Joey being the former lead singer of Anthrax), I perk up like a fawn sensing the oncoming of spring. I then say to myself "self, this shit is gonna be good". Then I do the move where I realize that I’m talking to myself and pretend like I’m singing a song instead as to not look like a crazy person. You know what I’m talking about. “Gonna be…good, baby, gooooooooooooood”.

Well, some poor schnook is abducted from the fraternity bathroom (unsurprisingly to the tune of Anthrax) and tied to a tree, but saved by his brave girlfriend. We then see six pledges getting the third degree (if my math is correct). and cruelly being forced to perform push-ups. This is par for the course during hell week, as a parade of naive schmucks are forced to perform various depravities to try and gain membership into a frat house, thereby informing their 7 years of college with masochistic spirit and homoerotic undertones.

One trainee can't handle the pressure, so he stabs one of the frat members, perhaps out of Freudian frustration. He is dragged by the others, bleeding and screaming, to…Tony's Cheesesteaks. The film must take place in Philadelphia, where people are taken out for one last cheesesteak as they are dying…oh wait, the whole thing was faked. I guess they were testing the pledges, seeing whether they would consider ratting out a frat member to the fuzz (which they don’t). Then again, maybe they just don’t give a shit if one of these dime a dozen frat fucks departs our humble planet. I’m voting both ways here folks, although I recognize that the latter reasoning may only function on a subconscious level.

Once loyalty is established, the "cherry race" begins, the object of which is to use your buttcheeks to snag a cherry sitting on a block of ice, and then race over to another block of ice and deposit the cherry, so your "partner" can then repeat the process. The losing team has to then eat the cherries. I guess masturbating to gay porn is considered "old fashioned". If that isn't enough, they have to hang a cob of corn around their neck, which is then tied to their penis, while another “man” pulls on the corn (sort of a tugjob once removed). Maybe I’m old school, but I think gay anal sex would be more “direct” and altogether less fussy.

The frat dudes take a break from the fancy pants shenanigans and head to a titty bar, molesting some girls in front of an American flag backdrop (a la the opening speech in Patton), as if they were trying to recruit the general populace into accepting the premise that they’re not a group of deluded flamers. Real men don’t need to flaunt it in public, and most certainly don’t devise butt-related Olympic events as mandatory rites of passage. Right on cue, the next scene shows the pledges getting their bare asses paddled while reciting "thank you sir…may I have another?", famously featured in National Lampoon’s Animal House (via Kevin "his foot is loose" Bacon). Admittedly, I still can’t figure out if the question is supposed to be rhetorical, sarcastic, or just a direct order to smack someone on the buttocks. As a coup de grace, a Grecian insignia gets branded into their bare, naked asses; their supple, tender posteriors singed with the hard, scorched steel of the...oh, the noodle wanders. I apologize.

The pledges now have to stay in an old abandoned frat house, but a concerned mother mentions to her son that someone died there 20 years earlier “performing” the same type of pledge. The frat boys defend their “traditions”, implying that standards have progressed by pointing to the fact that the pledge group includes a black guy, a Jew, and an Italian guy (I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised to see them walk into a bar together). Regardless, this doesn’t stop the mother from instigating a flashback on everyone. More specifically, sometime in the late sixties, several frat members (looking suspiciously like members of Iron Butterfly) make an acid bath, and poor Joey Belladonna is forced to take a dip. Shockingly, he ends up dead, but at least there’s a silver lining, what with this incident inspiring the eventual Iron Butterfly album "Acid Bath of Sure Fire Deathliness". See, I knew I recognized them.

Well, it’s back to present day, where more phallically charged tests of will flood our corneas. The pledges now have to stuff an egg in their mouth (read: ball washing) while doing push-ups. They are forced to bob for potatoes (i.e. “Bob’s potatoes”) in the toilet, eat worms (which are really just thin, wiggly penises), and munch on cockroaches (“cock” roaches; I rest my case). They are forced to wash it all down with a mysterious "fraternity cocktail", which no doubt metaphorically entails fraternizing with cocks. Few movies have ever been so committed to cinematically exploring the mysteries of phallic symbolism. If Sigmund Freud was a diehard Anthrax fan, he would LOVE this movie.

Later, one of the frat members is sitting on the toilet while reading a copy of “Juggs” (which is not a magazine dedicated to water receptacles). A hand reaches up from the toilet, rubbing up against his testicles before killing him in unseen fashion. This hand belongs to Dan the pledge, and he begins a murder spree while performing some giggly insanity routine (complemented with some unibrow shading). One of the girls helping with hell week is taking a bath, and Dan cackles his way into the bathroom. He plugs in a radio (set, as it usually is, to the 24 hour Anthrax station) and drops it in the tub, short circuiting her ample headlights (or, if you prefer, sending them to the great juggyard in the sky). He then ties up the hot girl in the kitchen and plants an electric egg beater into her skull (I guess he scrambled her brains…hee hee). Dan then ties up a frat dude and explains to him that he is actually the spirit of the acid bathed Belladonna, and, to prove it, he rips open his own body, revealing a charred, sub-Freddy presence: Sid, the hippie zombie. He celebrates this miracle of reincarnation by lighting a cherry bomb and sticking it up a frat guy's ass. Considering the “cherry race” pledge from earlier, I guess this qualifies as sweet irony, in a toilet humor sort of way.

Sid then pops out of a homemade coffin and asks what any respectable undead hippie might ask: "which way to the protest?". A pledge jumps into action, yelling "yo zombie!", and stabbing him with a nearby sword. His large intestine falls out, but Sid is rather nonplussed about it at first, totally stoked at a second glance. He now has something to choke the token black dude with. The victims try to escape through the front door, but Sid just happens to be standing there (fucking teleporting hippies). The door slams shut and, for some reason, he plants about ten knives into the door. One of the pledges rings up the pork trough, explaining to the fat boys in blue that some zombie dude is strangling innocent bystanders with his own intestines. Of course, the bureaucratic swine ignores his pleas, chalking it up as a frat boy crank yank.

The pledge, no doubt disillusioned with the system, starts hearing the voice of one of the dead girls and follows it, but, alas, it’s only Sid doing his voice copying act. Despite having an axe in his chest, he chokes the pledge to death. Now, you’re probably annoyed at this point that they keeping introducing new powers for Sid from out of left field. Other than a quick flashback, there really isn’t enough running time to have a whole super-hero origin story. However, all of his various super powers and what have you are clearly explained in the liner notes of the Iron Butterfly record. It’s one of those concept album deals.

Sid hides out in the room of the dude that owns the sword (understandably replete with Conan posters), luring one of the other pledges before forcibly assisting him into a bad Linda Blair impression, turning his head 180 degrees. The dude with the sword shows up to save the day and slices Sid open, but this only leaves a hole in his abdomen. While most would see this as a setback, enterprising bogeyman Sid views it instead as an opportunity, sticking the pledge’s head into his gaping wound, thereby melting his noggin. Townie pledge Larry now has the unenviable task of competing with Sid in a sword fight, but, alas, only being armed with a baseball bat. Thankfully, the girl that’s still alive is a bit of a brainiac, noting that acidic flesh is susceptible to pressurized stuff and whatever, so she grabs a fire extinguisher and royally sprays him with whatever that fire extinguisher stuff is. Adding extra phallic gravitas, Larry shoves the sword down Sid's throat. A couple of other “twists” round out this epic adventure of cock-fueled foolishness.

While most of the one liners Sid spits out during the movie are admittedly forced-in, hippie related stupidity, one line in particular sticks out: right after killing someone, he zings "that's for Spiro Agnew!”.


Not making this shit up.

I guess in Sid’s crispy mind, the tyranny and power of the fraternity mirrors the U.S. government, what with Nixon and his lap dog Spiro bending and breaking laws in order to maintain their grip on those not fortunate enough to be born into the privileged life of a professional bullshitter. These hippies apparently have had enough of the bullying from the Alex Keaton types, and, more to the point, are tired of having deeply repressed homosexuality shoved down their throats in ritualized fashion. Of course, none of this applies to any gay hippies hoping to join a fraternity, as they would undoubtedly be chuffed to bits to partake in such a bountiful barrage of meaty man games.

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