Everything Is Terrible!’s Commodore Gilgamesh
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Considering the insane levels of fun packed into its first two movies, Chicago found footage group Everything Is Terrible! didn’t have much motivation to change up its working formula. But creative forces Commodore Gilgamesh and Ghoul Skool nevertheless took on an exhaustive feat for their third movie—following Everything Is Terrible!: The Movie and 2Everything2Terrible2: Tokyo Drift—in remaking Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 cult classic The Holy Mountain with only dog-related footage. The result, DoggieWoggiez! PoochieWoochiez!, speaks a much more psychedelic language than EIT!’s previous two films and features way more dogs. Ahead of the group’s upcoming tour—that includes a Jan. 28 stop at the Project Lodge—The A.V. Club spoke with Gilgamesh about the pain of working with movies you hate, people dressing up dogs because they hate themselves, and how the live show should be just like a Showbiz Pizza party.
The A.V. Club: Why did you choose to use only dog-related found footage?
Commodore Gilgamesh: It’s something that we wanted to do and that we’ve joked about doing forever. I think it’s because dog movies and dog footage tends to be the dumbest. It’s like the lowest common denominator amongst everything we’ve found, the most mediocre footage imaginable. I think that was a big motivator, and we just like dogs. It’s a nicer way to deliver horrible things about humanity. Instead of watching people be racist, which makes you feel terrible, you get to watch dogs be racist, and you’re like, “That’s a little better.” And, you know, we get to dress up like giant dogs.
CG: Yeah, it’s different from everything else we’ve made. Generally when we make these movies, it’s been like, we really love most of the stuff we use. But this time it’s been a different feeling for sure, at least with the features. I don’t think I like any of them. Like the Air Buds and the Marmadukes, they’re just awful. So I think it was a fun challenge for us to take something we respected the least and remake something we respect the most, The Holy Mountain. It was the hardest thing we could think of to do.
AVC: Did that make the process more painful?
CG: Truly, yeah. It was more painful because we weren’t just building from our daily posts on the website, which we’ve spent a year or more already going through the whole tapes and editing them down to the best three minutes. And now, we have to start from scratch with this movie and go through thousands of VHS tapes and find those three minutes and put them in a pile until we have enough to make an hour-long movie. And yeah, it made it harder because we just fucking hate those movies.
AVC: Did you go into the project knowing you wanted to remake The Holy Mountain?
CG: It was, again, a joke that we had been just goofing around about, like, “We’re just going to use a bunch of found footage to remake The Holy Mountain.” It’s our favorite movie. It was another joke that soon became real until we were like, “I guess that’s what we’re doing?” And then we told everybody and we couldn’t back out. Once we did the Kickstarter we were like, “Oh shit. We’re screwed. We gotta do this.” Honestly, we were never even close to being sure that it was going to work until it was done and we were like, “That’s it! We did it!” It kind of makes me think you can make anything out of anything if you keep doing it for long enough.
AVC: You kind of mentioned this before, but the innate cuteness of dog footage seems to really contradict the grotesque nature of The Holy Mountain. Did you have that in mind from the beginning?
CG: For sure. I don’t want to [go] into too much because I have some pretty crazy theories about man and dog and how it’s all come out on film after watching all this. I think that’s a big reason why people use dogs the way they do, because I think we kind of hate ourselves so we dress up dogs like ourselves to mock ourselves. So you dress a dog up like a drunk human, and then you laugh at how ridiculous it is, but I think it’s therapeutic. We’re letting off steam about how much we hate ourselves. In the same way at Everything Is Terrible!, we have some beefs with some things in our culture, so we thought the best way to deliver that was with a nice, furry package with big, floppy ears.
AVC: With the strict guidelines you set for DoggieWoggiez, was it more difficult to put together than your previous two movies?
CG: Yeah, it took a lot longer. I spent four months living in Ghoul Skool’s closet, all day, every day, just going through tapes. It was insane. It’s been 14-15 months since we started it, and I haven’t worked on anything [else] during that time. I haven’t even kissed my girlfriend. It’s been pretty intense. I think in the end, it feels like an Everything Is Terrible! movie. We were able to like it enough to keep it together so it doesn’t feel bad, like a negative experience.
AVC: So you enjoyed the movie when you watched it back?
CG: Yeah. I think what saved it, to be honest with you, is the non-features. For some reason if people make a 30-minute video about dogs it’s like, “That’s not so bad.” But once they try to make something longer than an hour it becomes fully offensive to every part of my body.
AVC: The humans in DoggieWoggiez come across as really creepy. Do you think that’s just the case when actors work with dogs and other animals?
CG: Yeah. It has to be. We’ve always had a thing with how people treat little people at Everything Is Terrible!, like it’s really weird and creepy. Anybody who’s like a second-class being, when they’re used in videos, it comes across very creepy and gross. I think it’s the same thing with humans and dogs. They’re weirdly sexualized, they’re weirdly turned into little kids at the same time. When they’re your best friend it turns into this weird, gross, furry pile where you can’t tell where the lines are between human and dog, master and slave, and sex, and it’s just ugh.
In that way it turned out to be perfect, because when you watch The Holy Mountain you’re so confused about the world and you feel icky, but at the same time it’s beautiful. It felt perfect when it was coming together because it was gross but then you put 15 layers of dogs together and be like, “I think that’s kind of beautiful.”
AVC: I watched the movie twice and found it entertaining but also slightly disturbing. Was that the goal?
CG: You know, it didn’t have to be the goal. It’s so disturbing on its own. I feel like most things we make as a culture tend to be pretty disturbing. So that is just something that’s innate in the stuff that we make and then we just try to make it pretty and funny because that’s the hard part. Gross and disturbing is just going to be there, no matter what.
AVC: You’re definitely right that the clips from the feature films were the creepiest.
CG: I think that’s because there’s more money and more people and they’re fucking over more dogs. It’s a bigger mess and everyone’s more confused. You’re the first person outside of our friend orbit to tell me that you saw the movie, so I’m glad that you watched it and liked it.
AVC: I did like it, and I’m a fan of The Holy Mountain, too. I couldn’t always pick out which scenes were being duplicated, but there are definitely spots where I could see the influence, especially with the ending.
CG: We definitely strayed from it from time to time, but for the most part we just sped up The Holy Mountain to 190 percent and then were just lining things up almost directly at first. That was how we did the first edit of the movie. It was almost shot-for-shot lined up and then we thought, “This is just too weird,” so we added a minute’s worth of something funny here and there to give you a break from the shot-by-shot remake. I think it balanced itself out pretty well.
AVC: What should people expect from the live show on this tour?
CG: It’s going to be pretty different from our other shows. I think it’s going to be a lot more fun. It’s like our take on Showbiz Pizza combined with our normal off, cultish stuff. So it’s just going to be a pizza party. I picture giant dogs messing up everybody’s hair in the audience. I just want to go through and touch everyone’s head and just mess up their hair. Just like a shit-eating dog with sunglasses like, “Hey buddy!” Don’t put too much hair gel in your hair before you come because your hair might get messed up by a giant dog. Generally it’s going to be more fun, goofy, colorful, and dumb.
AVC: So not quite as trippy as the movie?
CG: I think the goal is to make it so cute, dumb, and furry that it just becomes psychedelic again. Instead of making something psychedelic to be psychedelic, just make it [so] straight and Americana that it comes right back into being psychedelic. [...] When I went [to Chuck E. Cheese’s] I remember thinking that it was like being on drugs. I was 17 when I went and it was like a drug experience for me. I think that stuck with us that those places are trippy, man. They’re weird. So it was that idea that pretty much informed the whole live show.