Teeth of the Sea’s Film Jukebox

Teeth of the Sea
Teeth of the Sea

Inspired by French prog, Angelo Badalamenti soundtracks, electronic experimentations and psychedelic rock, the genre-defying Teeth of the Sea continue to push boundaries with their brilliant third album Master which mightily combines potent riffs, hypnotic rhythms and filmic atmosphere. Teeth of the Sea play Electrowerkz, London, on 11 January 2014, and present a visual and sonic remix of Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England on 15 January as part of the London Short Film Festival. For more information, visit the Teeth of the Sea Facebook page. Below, the band tell us about the films that have most thrilled and influenced them.

1. Doomsday (Neil Marshall, 2008)
NEEEEEOOOOOW KERSPLATTT! What is it you want from your drunken Saturday night entertainment? Is it killer viruses? No, it’s knights on horseback! No, it’s Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic meltdown! In Scotland! No, it’s a car chase soundtracked by Frankie Goes to Hollywood! Can’t decide? Well fear not, lover of yucks, because Neil Marshall’s balls-out gonzoid masterpiece has all these things and exploding bunny rabbits besides. When we were asked to do our first live soundtrack event for Branchage festival a few years ago there was only really one film in the running. Doomsday‘s maniacal approach isn’t everyone’s cup of Irn-Bru, but its outrageous attempt to ransack every element of trash movie culture and bundle it into one 90-minute hymn to tasteless excess means it has remained a firm band favourite. Fearless and frequently unbelievable, one senses that in time it will get its due as a true pièce de resistance of lovingly sculpted trash cinema. (Mat/TOTS)

2. Phase IV (Saul Bass, 1974)
A psychedelic sci-fi head-spinner concerning ants (yeah, ANTS) developing a collective super intelligence and seriously fucking with some scientists in the desert, pioneering graphic designer Saul Bass’s Phase IV remains an overlooked masterpiece. Dialogue is scant at best, there is no action to speak of, and the soundtrack (by Brian Gascoigne) is a collection of abstract electronic noise, all of which adds up to a deeply unsettling trip of a film. Unfortunately it was Bass’s only full-length feature as a director, though he did make some great shorts (The Quest in particular is well worth seeking out). If David Bellamy took mescaline then watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, Phase IV is the film he’d make. (Mike)

3. Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955)
Jules Dassin’s first film after being blacklisted by Hollywood in 1950 (during the making of Night and the City, another gem) meant he was fully based in Europe by this point. His knack of placing the city at the absolute heart of his films was undimmed, though, and the nightclubs, backroom card games and early morning street scenes of Paris exude exactly the right blend of allure and decay. Ostensibly the story is of an old-time robber arriving home from prison, determined to go straight until he discovers his ex-lover has taken up with a gangster and rival of his, whereupon he plans the perfect heist on which to retire. Whilst all noir is based on tropes such as this, the real genius of the film lies in conveying the requisite level of existential doom and amorality whilst keeping you on tenterhooks. The heist scene at the heart of the film unfolds in real time in virtual silence and lasts about half an hour – probably one of the greatest pieces of cinematic tension I’ve ever witnessed. (Sam)

4. Daft Punk’s Electroma (Daft Punk, 2006)
I don’t think anyone saw this coming: the world’s most successful dance duo make an abstract, wordless homage to 70s science fiction cinema, featuring no music by themselves but rather that of Brian Eno, Jackson C. Frank, and Todd Rundgren, amongst others. Featuring two robots wandering the desert and not a great deal else, Electroma is a hypnotic and considered piece of filmmaking. Whilst clearly influenced by films such as Phase IV, THX 1138, Zabriskie Point and Westworld, it never descends into pastiche (let’s not mention Random Access Memories, *shudder*) – instead becoming an unexpectedly emotional experience, and one that bodes well for Skrillex’s forthcoming remake of Last Year at Marienbad. (Mike)

5. Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980)
The chutzpah-laden and occasionally wayward oeuvre of Ken Russell is a Teeth of the Sea aesthetic mainstay, from the thrilling transgressions of The Devils right through to the heinous hi-jinks of The Lair of the White Worm. Yet Altered States will always stand out from the rest of his lineage for us, partly due to the gung-ho trip-out sequences that found this film a home in the stoner fringes of the early 80s midnight movie circuit – and also on the sleeve of Godflesh’s legendary Streetcleaner album – yet also due to the incredible dialogue of Paddy Chayefsky, the maverick also responsible for the drop-dead velocity-verbiage of Network. Chayefsky may have thrown a wobbler and disowned his part in the movie, but hearing William Hurt and Blair Brown rabbit out that insanely verbose metaphysical rhetoric, in between either carnal carnage or a return to man’s simian origins, will never cease to raise our own primordial pulses. (Jimmy)

6. The Doom Generation (Gregg Araki, 1995)
A gloriously trashy, hilariously violent, pansexual road movie, the second part of Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse trilogy. Amy Blue and Jordan White are dysfunctional teen lovers who give the nihilistic (and, dammit, hot!) Xavier Red (geddit?) a lift one night. When stopping at a convenience store Xavier accidentally kills the store owner and the trio are forced to go on the run. The film plots their course as they move from incredible-looking motel rooms to fast food joints to thrift stores. Xavier gradually seduces both Amy and Jordan and they are pursued by violent, reactionary forces across the USA, always resulting in yet more bloody carnage. Gleefully anarchic and genuinely sexy, it’s also rather touching in places. (Sam)

7. Outer Space (Peter Tscherkassky, 1999)
Simple, unforgettable and more genuinely unsettling than any of the host of frighteners that get pumped into today’s multiplexes like so much rancid mayonnaise, Peter Tscherkassky’s Outer Space‘s marriage of horror movie assault on the senses and avant-garde technique ensures that it’s pretty much the ultimate Teeth of the Sea film. Tscherkassky takes a single reel from forgettable 80s scare-fest The Entity and brutally attacks it in real time; twisting, mangling and unspooling it until it resembles nothing less than the horrific death dance of the screen itself. His fetishistic revelling in the grainy matter of the film reel and its punctured, eruptive soundtrack means that the sensation of watching Outer Space is almost textural, lending it a powerfully psychedelic pungency that sticks with you like the memory of a bad trip long after your first viewing. (Mat)

8. Wild Zero (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 1999)
Herschell Gordon Lewis, eatcha heart out. Wild Zero, starring Japan’s three-chord gods of gonzo Guitar Wolf, remains an unequivocal triumph of sheer stupidity over common sense, and of style over content – one indeed so potent that the average trash connoisseur has to pinch themselves to check it hasn’t emerged screaming from some dope-fugged fever dream. Yet, as fast, loud, stupid, gory and relentlessly invigorating as one of the band’s Ramones-on-PCP tunes, this outrageously over the top and life-affirmingly guileless orgy of ravenous zombies, seedy nightclub corruption, obsessively teased Brylcreem quiffs, overheated amp stacks, utilitarian special effects and heart-warming romance is enough to put a smile on the most jaded second-hand record shop employee’s face. ‘FUUUUUCCKKK!’ is a key repeated line of dialogue here, not to mention the average reaction of any sane audience member. If only the director of Bula Quo! had watched this first. (Jimmy)

9. The Thing (John Carpenter, 2013)
A chucklesome Arctic groo fest? A beautifully balanced study of paranoia and alienation? A Cold War metaphor with teeth and tentacles? The ultimate celluloid example of Artaud’s theory of the screaming body? That John Carpenter’s The Thing is all of these and more is testament to its unforgiving and relentless power. Everything is so perfectly set up, from the desolation of the snowbound setting, to the inability of the protagonists to deal with the horrific events that ensnare them, to the hideous, ever mutating unknowability of their vile assailant, the stakes ratcheting up ever higher as the film draws to its hopeless conclusion. In its perfectly weighted balance of suspense and explosive, unbelievably vile body horror (‘You gotta be fuckin’ kidding…’) The Thing remains that rarest of entities: the practically perfect horror film. (Mat/TOTS)

10. Purple Rain (Albert Magnoli, 1984)
Movie vehicles for musical megastars have an uncanny habit of flirting with disaster, the métier of their subject matter being so ostensibly foolhardy that any attempt to elevate them to the celluloid form proves gauche at best – just ask any poor thousand-yard-stare-toting soul who’s made it all the way through either The Doors or S Club Seeing Double. Yet Purple Rain, for all its (many) flaws, is a different box of sequins altogether. At the culmination of one memorable-for-the-wrong-reasons evening in 2013, the members of Teeth of the Sea found themselves in a minus-one-star Nuremberg hostel with only a laptop and a DVD of this movie for company. We could have made mincemeat of Prince’s somewhat threadbare thespian abilities, the constantly irksome presence of Morris Day, the risible plot and any amount of other weaknesses all too apparent in this Herculean cinematic leap of faith. Yet instead, to the sound of the fellow in the next room apparently attacking his door with a claw hammer, we found ourselves strangely enervated. It wasn’t just the mesmerising concert sequences – in which the diminutive boy Nelson comes over as little less than some Weird-Science-machine-created vision of the perfect pop star beamed in from Venus. It was more importantly the sheer gall that was required to carry off this flimsy yet outrageously outtasight folly. In an era in which pop music frequently seems a gruesome treadmill fit to manipulate its audience’s emotions as vigorously as the stars it creates, the power of raw charisma can’t be quantified. Purple Rain is a magnificent playground for a particularly potent example of exactly this elixir. (Jimmy/TOTS)