Once upon a time — before YouTube and its like rendered the sharing of images immediate, simultaneous and virtual — spreading the word about ironically appreciated or irreverently manipulated underground schlock involved a physically communal experience: dubbing VHS tapes, distributing bootlegs through the mail, watching an obscure treasure or homemade highlight reel with a group of friends around a box-shaped TV. That vanished tradition will be revived and writ large this weekend at Cinefamily, when the cinema allows itself to be taken over by Everything Is Terrible!, the found-footage foot soldiers whose traveling circus of rejecta, The Quest for the Magick Crystal Tour, will stake its tent in Los Angeles as the Everything Is Festival!, undoubtedly sullying the City of Glossy Images with an inclusive freak-culture apocalypse/jamboree.
Since 2007, EIT! has been collecting and doctoring bizarre video detritus, posting clips on its hyperbolic Web site and producing feature-length mash-up movies compiled from scavenged and savaged material, including Everything Is Terrible!: The Movie and sequel 2Everything2Terrible2: Tokyo Drift. (The latter will make its L.A. premiere at EIF!) Wide-ranging and participatory, The Quest opens with an "Inaugural Sacrifice" that welcomes the uninitiated not only into the world of EIT! but also that of video-junkie brothers-in-arms, such as Waverly Films (creators of Doctors With Guns) and Showbeast (directors of Beach House's Norway video). Other events include a costumed dance party; a screening of curios from the private files of comedy writers Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon; and a "Found Footage Battle Royale," in which audience members compete against one another with their own stashes of video castoffs and whatsits.
The festival also should provide an opportunity to discover the Oz behind the curtain that is EIT! Shrouded in mystery and riddle (the About page of its site consists of an epic, opaque screed touching on numerology, Ron Paul and "the space between"), EIT! is, according to member Dimitri Simakis, "just a group of kids achieving ultimate wisdom, and trying to change base metals into gold" via video sabotage. EIT!'s statement of purpose carries religious overtones only partly tongue in cheek. "The Quest for the Magick Crystal Tour is our first journey across America, where (along with selling our tonic medicines) we are trying to spread our message and help people find salvation," Simakis says. "Our live show is both a celebration of a lost art and a punishment for losing that art in the first place."
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EIT!'s ethos is wholly expressed in 2Everything2Terrible2, a psychedelic ingesting and spewing forth of a tacky and truly terrible American culture, from the forced smiles of Christian Bible educators to the dead-serious thermometer placement of professional cat massagers. Arranged in thematic blocks (sex, disaster, drugs, race, etc.) to a relentless yet careful rhythm, the 53-minute opus plays like Bruce Conner for the information age, the ordered anarchy cleansing via humor as much as horror. "This movie was made at a party, and therefore we love playing it in party settings, where everyone can just lose their shit and have fun," Simakis explains. There is, in fact, a cathartic purging undertaken in 2Everything2Terrible2 that thankfully invokes laughter more than other involuntary body functions.
Another festival highlight is the Alamo Drafthouse presentation of The Miami Connection, a Z-grade, Mystery Science Theater 3000–caliber discovery from 1986 that melds the best and worst trends of its era (merciless street gangs, the fitness craze, clean-cut college kids, cocaine, incriminating facial hair, music-video aesthetics, ninjas) with delirious technical ineptitude. Directed by and starring one-hit wonder Y.K. Kim (assisted by Woo-sang Park, the mastermind responsible for L.A. Streetfighters, scheduled to screen at Cinefamily in September), this unholy amalgam was born to be watched while downing a beer or seven. After School Special line readings, shirtless male bonding, unintentional-slapstick fight choreography (twice someone toe-pinches an enemy's schnoz), nonsensical editing, stage performances by multiculti, taekwondo–trained "rock band" Dragon Sound, and gratuitous biker montages and martial arts demonstrations — so endless as to border on the mesmerizing — are just some of its perverse pleasures. Kim's ability to bring to life an uncommonly subtle script (a young woman, upon learning her boyfriend has killed her brother: "It's okay — I understand") fittingly culminates in the greatest end title in movie history: "Only Through the Elimination of Violence Can We Achieve World Peace."
Finally getting the platform it deserves after decades in the distribution wilderness, Miami Connection stands as a shining example of the revelatory mission of Everything Is Terrible! It might be one of the few cinematic achievements to bring EIT!'s conciliatory dream to dramatic fruition.
EVERYTHING IS FESTIVAL! | Aug. 28-29 | Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre | cinefamily.org