Godmonster of Indiana Flats (1973)

This one was suggested to me by a chum called Rhys Roberts. This proves two things: firstly, that I haven’t heard of every strange film on the planet and thus am always willing to give them a go when someone recommends one. Secondly, that Rhys is a cruel and terrible person. The auteur behind it was world-renowned artist Fredric Hobbs, pioneer of ART ECO and Parade Sculpture, and this movie is a testament as to why probably you haven’t heard of any of his cinematic works.

The film starts as it means to go on; cheaply shot, with an energetic soundtrack that doesn’t always sync up with the visual images, and not worrying about the audience. A farmhand is in the back of sheep truck (with, I am convinced, the sound of sheep and human bleats), gets paid, and then heads into a contemporary casino in a busy city. Once inside, everything goes quiet until he wins $200 dollars on his first spin on the slots, and then makes some fast friends at the bar. We then have a road trip through the Nevada mountains, before ending up in a bar that looks like it’s either Dali doing Westworld or the northern remake of Deliverance. A local girl picks the farmhand’s pocket, the townsfolk beat him up for accusing her, and then a passing scientist drives him all the way home to his sheep shed. He falls asleep with the sheep, and then he gets attacked by 70’s psychedelic special effects and wakes up next to a 5-foot blob-form of a sheep fetus. As you do.

Anyway, after the first ten minutes and with the blob and farmhand in the scientist’s lair, the second movie then starts up. This one involves an African American businessman trying to buy up all the property in the area and the locals (run by a Civil War appreciation society/sinister all-consuming conspiracy) screw with him. They eventually achieve this by faking him having shot one of their dogs during a Wild West fair (I think, it could just be how they all live), and then making everyone hate him at the funeral. Surprisingly the racial aspect is kept mostly off the table during this, with the locals mostly hating him for being a city boy with money to throw around. These sections also use raw footage from actual rural celebrations, and some scenes of the actors mucking around with unaware locals, which add a touch of reality to it all. It helps highlight the idea of this place being half in contemporary America and half in the Old West, as well as building up your general confusion as to what’s going on or when it’s supposed to be.

Interspersed with all this is the continued tale of the blob fetus and the scientist randomly poking it with sticks. It’s pure mumbo-jumbo weird science, throwing in a bit of mining terror and haunted Indian burial grounds, and filled with health & safety violations. The two plots occasionally wave at each other, but mostly they got on with their own thing. Both are probably trying to say something insightful about the world, but they’re too busy chewing through the script to make anything clear. At one point a character says ““Events have a certain logic. A way of falling down the mountains like an avalanche,” which is basically how the whole thing is structured.

Eventually, with about 20 minutes of run time left, things reach ahead as the monster movie is let loose to rampage! This is surprisingly ineffective as the Godmonster is a 6-foot tall mutant sheep made of foam rubber and wool. Shooting all of its sequences in daylight, and often in full view, is either brave or stupid; much like the decision to go all Boris Karlof Frankenstein sympathy opera about five minutes into the aforementioned rampage. Heck, there’s 15 minutes left; why not throw another film in? The final ten minutes really knuckles down and decides that The Prisoner meets Dr Doolittle at a political rally is what it’s really all about, so you can’t say you didn’t get your money’s worth.

Why haven’t I mentioned the performances? Well, because they are mostly range between mediocre and adequate. None are noticeably bad; they are just done in a very flat manner that suggests hurried work with minimal direction. Like the creature costume the cast were there to convey ideas quickly and simply, with the concepts being more important than any kind of reality or attempt at credible artifice. The camerawork is also similarly okay, with the odd shot of the landscape looking unavoidably magnificent but never really feeling like much care was taken about it. Even the editing is surprisingly drab, with you able to keep up with the plot even whilst it’s taking a hop, skip, and a jump though logic and narrative. The final effect is a film that never outpaces you but does mumbling to itself a lot.

Fundamentally it tries to combine horror, creature feature, hicksplotation, psychedelia, western, Avant Garde, and social commentary into a thick soup and ends up with a thin gruel. There are enough moments to keep you watching if you want to watch something off the beaten track, but at no point does it become really compelling. It doesn’t even become especially weird at any point, only peculiar, because of its relatively pedestrian pacing. It tries to make a number of big and interesting points; it just manages it with such overt signalling that you end up feeling spoon-fed. The few moments of true weird are few and far between, giving it a daydream like quality rather than any real bite. I’m pretty sure the director was happy with how Godmonster turned out, as it’s very clearly exactly what it set out to be. But in my mind others have done better and with more pizzazz.

The Raggedyman

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