ZENITH Xela made multimedia brilliance out of one of the worst movies of all time.
In a festive tribute to Halloween last Thursday night, five noisicians broadly associated with the death-industrial subgenre gathered at Yes.Oui.Si., "Boston's multi-sensory exhibition space," to perform alternate soundtracks for a series of classic and not-so-classic scary movies projected onto the gallery's wall in lurid color. Xiphoid Dementia imbued Burial Ground (1981), an inane Italian production chock-full of morbid monks and shambolic zombies teeming with maggots — not to mention the antics of a sexually precocious child played by an obviously adult dwarf — with a sense of gravitas it never should have enjoyed. Dementia's pounding, energetic score — far superior, if I recall, to the film's original — provided aural cues essential to the manifestation of cinematic terror.
Zerfallt's sound designs on Alucarda (1978), a stately, atmospheric masterpiece of Mexican cinema, inverted the previous set by stripping the film of its dignity with absurd, repetitive squealing. As the rain turned to snow outside, the Vomit Arsonist played to an increasingly wet, cold, and febrile audience with Titicut Follies, vérité master documentarian Frederick Wiseman's 1967 stark black-and-white visit to Bridgewater State Prison for the Criminally Insane. Meanwhile, Deftly-D, the night's VJ, stalked back and forth clad in a chrome skull mask and a transparent poncho over his hairy torso.
The absurd atmosphere reached its zenith when Xela, a UK native who's taken up residence in Malden, showed Things (1989), surely one of the worst movies all time, shot on VHS cassette. Xela's set, the night's highlight, made the most of the film's inept cinematography by forging a visual/aural dissonance with his masterful sonic manipulation — as his set climaxed, a young woman in the audience fainted and her friends frantically dragged her from the dingy basement. Before onlookers could catch their breath, headliner Reviver hammered the space with a shrill, buzzing onslaught, and a clip of thriller Don't Look Now (1973) flickered on the gallery wall, closing out the evening. It was the stuff nightmares are made of.