One can’t but help but form various theories concerning writer/director/producer/star Chuck Handy while watching his magnum opus, 1985’s Trashcans of Terror, surely one of the greatest films currently without an IMDB page. During each scene, you can’t help wondering what he thought he was doing, or what he thought would happen after it was done, or what he had for lunch on the day he directed himself battling a ring of rusty oil drums. Because joy radiates from every frame, it is beyond notions of competence or sophistication. Trashcans of Terror is a lovely document of a good time unmarred by the insane profligacy of film production. Here is a funny, creepy and life-affirming movie that didn’t require a toner budget to be realized.
Under screeching guitar strains, Handy begins the film with the truly Lynchian setup of his consumer video camera slowly approaching an abandoned car parked in the middle of nowhere. The singularly unnerving moment is followed by our introduction to Handy’s character Percy “Spider” Leibowitz, a sleeveless loner and superfan of Kathy, a weightlifter with occasional superpowers. After a chance encounter, the two battle local street toughs and extraterrestrial trashcans while falling in love. With admirable hubris and pocket change, Handy fashions a battle for the fate of Earth infinitely more enjoyable than all Marvel rubble porn.
Handy’s weird mojo doesn’t invite the condescensions typically lavished upon entertainingly bad movies. Trashcans of Terror instead provides a unique position for the viewer as they process a pleasurably outlandish and incomprehensible narrative while simultaneously marveling at its maker’s resourcefulness. The story persists, even as the cameraman audibly chuckles and the leading lady looks quizzically into the lens for direction. Why do another take when the last one was so much fun? Handy’s vision is far from our Romantic notion of the director who asserts a monomaniacal vision upon a world of scarce resources. Instead, his utopian film makes little effort to conceal its own production, which existed comfortably within natural and social contexts instead of trying desperately to fabricate them.