Hallucinations (1986) Cover Photo

Upon first glance at Hallucinations (1986), you can tell exactly what cinematic stains the Polonia Brothers have gotten down on their knees to sop up. They’ve found lots of overflow from the troughs of HG Lewis and George Romero. And there’s more than enough Frank Henenlotter stickiness to make a DNA swab of their cultural influences particularly hazardous. Blood, barf and other unmentionables have saturated this creative sponge of theirs. Squeeze too hard at your own peril.

For many, the result is a movie that might seem nothing but the demented home movies of two horror obsessed kids. Little more than the diminished echoes of other films you have already seen. Freddy Krueger makes an appearance (but the limitations of their parent’s wardrobe will have him costumed in a track suit and floppy fisherman’s cap). And a giant Cronenbergian phallus crawls into the shower, just in time to block our view of the tighty-whitey brief junk John Polonia keeps threatening to show us. And there is also a general slasher ethos running through the film, even though they hardly have enough crew or cast members on hand to rack up much of a body count.

Hallucinations (1986) Killer

But to reduce Hallucinations to little more than a rudimentary copycat of better films would be to overlook what it really is at heart. It is a shared language between two outcast brothers. A shorthand with which they express their love of horror tropes to those of us willing to sit and watch their devotional home videos. As a result, Hallucinations acts as a secret handshake. A knowing wink that understands the life similar degenerates have spent soaking in similar transmissions in darkened rooms, under staircases, and beneath the floorboards. Whatever nook or cranny you felt you had to scurry off to in order to get your next horror fix. It is movie making removed from the burdens of cultural critique or cinematic expressionism. It is horror as pure escapism. 

What will ultimately add a layer of poignancy to the meagre escapist aims of Hallucinations though, is that it is a rare example of a film which exists in the same world in which its creators are trying to imagine themselves out of. The films only set is the home they are still clearly sharing with their (never to be seen) parents. And while the violent outbursts it peddles may always exist in the foreground of the frame, it is the details which clutter the background which bring the film back to the real place from which these two young filmmakers dream. Details that should be familiar to any of those who have grown up in a similar suburban kind of squalor. There are the awful sun-blotting drapes. The clots of un-ironed blankets stuffed between couch cushions. The perilous balancing of Chef Boyardee overflow in the kitchen trashcan. Floor mattresses. The browny-orange glow of a lifetime lived in low wattage lamplight. It is a creatively paralyzing kind of dishevelment. The kind of purgatory that we can imagine waits for the two brothers at the end of every school day, offering little more than yet another weekend of marathon television sessions.

Hallucinations (1986) Ouchie

But as much as this may be the kind of place where it is hard to imagine anything more than lost time being spent, the film remains a weirdly joyous experience to watch. There is a pent-up liberation in watch the Polonia Brothers bloody up their parent’s bathroom and cat-shred their basement in defiance of the existence you would otherwise imagine here. In watching them detonate a lifetime of couch naps by testing the boundaries of exactly how much movie wizardry they can emulate (and dare to get away with) inside of their parent’s home, there is an inherent urgency to their filmmaking. You sense their need to just get it all on tape while they still can. You can almost sense the threat of Monday fast approaching as the movie nears its conclusion. 

And maybe that’s what we are really supposed to fear while watching Hallucinations. Not the gore, or one of the Polonia Brothers’ friends dressing up as the grim reaper. Instead, the villain is a squandered potential of lost time. This is much worse than anything the imagination of these brothers might will into existence with their mix of cheap effects and the help of their parent’s wardrobe. In fact, these monsters of their creation are exactly how they are fighting it. To make sure they have something to show for the weekend before they are back in class, being bored and doodling decapitations in the margins of their notebooks. Simply biding their time before the next weekend production and being bitter they can’t get to it immediately. After all, what else could possibly be more dangerous than all this time away from the movies, whether it be watching them, being inspired by or actually really making one. 

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