There are few films or video projects I’ve seen that I’d truly classify as "unsettling.” All-around shit-kicker Wigwolf has made The Wet Ones, and while it may not be at the top of my 2021 favorites, it does rank rent-free as one of the more unique entries. A full-blown rating is not applicable here.
There’s nothing like The Wet Ones, and likely never will be. Too bad, too good - take your pick.
Wigwolf was kind and awesome enough to answer a few of my questions on the movie itself and his creative choices. For a listing of links to his various work pages, and to purchase this opus of madness, visit his linktree:
Bill Arceneaux: Two and a half hours of talking action figures, dolls, and puppets, getting into vulgar scrapes and flowing in and out of TV sets: What inspired you to do The Wet Ones? What obstacles, if any, did you face in making it?
Wigwolf: The Wet Ones was the result of several different influences and events. The visuals and style were very much influenced by the work of Gregg Araki, especially The Doom Generation and Nowhere. But overall my greatest inspiration has been Katy Perry. I've always loved how fun and colorful her work is, and the fact that she isn't afraid to experiment and take risks. It's one thing for an artist like her to have major success, like her second album Teenage Dream. But it's another thing to have a spectacular failure like her fourth album Witness. I love that at the peak of her career she just decided to make a pure piece of art and passion with zero regards for the market or audience expectations. I knew that I may not be able to make a successful or marketable film, but making a spectacular failure seemed manageable. I was inspired by the work of people like Nick Zedd and Giuseppe Andrews, filmmakers who created art for art's sake and who didn't hold their audience in contempt. I've always loved to be challenged by art and I wanted to make something that would challenge the mainstream notions of filmmaking. I wanted someone to see my movie and feel inspired to make their own, with almost no money or resources, or education. Just pure imagination and drive. There are several other random influences that informed the story and characters, off the top of my head I can mention: Stevie Ryan (Lil Loca), Flannery O'Connor, Courtney Love, Gus Van Sant, Brit Marling, and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.
The main obstacle I faced was that, since more than half the movie was improvised, the run time got really out of control. I hate to cut anything but I did cut three full plotlines from the movie, and still ended up with a two-and-a-half-hour run time. I'm not good at editing myself and I'm also a troll so it was kind of funny to me to make something so loud, obnoxious, and unreasonably long.
Bill Arceneaux: There was a clash of styles going on in The Wet Ones, blending glitch art and Youtube Poop (YTP) with amateur camcorder videography, on top of a built world of green screens and DIY found material landscapes. What were you intending with these aesthetic choices? Were you influenced at all by any filmmaker or artist in particular?
Wigwolf: In high school, I had been really obsessed with this band called The Cramps and also the 1950s teen delinquent movies. So I started using a VHS camera and my stuffed animals to make little B horror movies in my yard. So I remembered how fun that had been and decided to start making short films again using obsolete cameras. I've always recorded my music on cassette because I love the warmth that it adds to the recordings, and my favorite Bruce Springsteen album Nebraska was recorded on cassette. You get a lot of unintentional effects when you record on an old tape, to me it makes the music feel more alive. I find that applies to video as well. There's just something so nice about watching your VHS footage and seeing how each tape you used looks slightly different and the random artifacts and distortions just look beautiful to me. The way a VHS tape captures color is just different. The same with Mini DV tape and Video 8 tape. Each format brings its own subtle and unpredictable quality. So there's always an element of surprise that makes the filming so much more exciting.
I don't know if there were any thematic reasons for the aesthetic, my main goal was to make something very vivid and colorful. I love old Technicolor films and I love oversaturated colors. I like everything to be surreal and crazy. Giuseppe Andrews is a huge influence on me. I've watched his films and the documentary Giuseppe Makes A Movie. Harmony Korine is also an inspiration to me. As a child, I was friends with the actress Chloe Sevigny. I was on set during the filming of Kids. I had a talking Goofy watch that I'd just gotten from Disney world and when Chloe introduced me to Harmony Korine he was so impressed by my talking watch. Then about a year later Kids came out and it was such a big deal, I had no idea when I was on set that it was even gonna be a major film, it really felt like people were just hanging out having fun and filming stuff. It didn't feel at all like the normal rigid film production where people are mostly sitting around killing time waiting for scenes. It was so alive and chaotic. If I ever make a live-action film, that's how I want it to be.
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Bill Arceneaux: The film, I found, was a pretty difficult watch - a thrill, but challenging for sure, making me think of a cross between Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels and the Bjork Stalker video diaries. Is my description a good one? How would you sum up the movie? What video store genre would you label it under?
Wigwolf: It's funny that you mention Frank Zappa. I'm not so much inspired by him but before I started making The Wet Ones I got really obsessed with Moon Unit Zappa and her brother Dweezil. I listen to his 80s shred guitar stuff a lot and I have a huge crush on Moon Unit from that era. She was so cool and cute. I love the "Valley Girl" video and song. I figured the movie would be challenging, I mean you have to pay attention. There's a lot in there about alienation and loneliness, I have strong feelings about how our society is right now and I get sad seeing so many people become alienated and disconnected. I'm obsessed with suicide and the feelings that lead to it and that runs through almost every frame of The Wet Ones. As silly as the movie is, it's also an expression of sadness and disillusionment. It's about how dreams are the most important thing and how the death of a dream is the greatest tragedy. There's a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that's a tribute to all the deformed and disfigured creatures in the world, the mistakes and aberrations and how they are the most beautiful things and gifts from God. I really feel that sentiment. I find all the beauty in the world through mistakes and imperfections, and distortions. Like that Tik Tok kid who was born with half a face, I find him beautiful. I love how Crispin Glover made a movie only using actors with Down Syndrome. I love messiness in art.
I think your description of the film is a good one, I'm happy that you found it difficult but that you took the challenge and watched it. I hope it sticks with you and stands out from all the other films you see. If The Wet Ones had been in a video store I'd probably want it in the drama section. It's not really horror or comedy and it does have a lot of drama in it.
Bill Arceneaux: What are your next projects, film and beyond?
Wigwolf: For my next project I plan to do an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz but combine that with the Southern Gothic and Catholic fiction of Flannery O'Connor. I want to tell a story about suffering from overwhelming guilt and doing everything you can to hurt and punish yourself in order to make the guilt go away. My version of Dorothy will suffer like that. It will be like watching the last ten minutes of Bad Lieutenant on a loop. Imagine two hours of Harvey Keitel crying in agony, grimacing and suffering and begging for forgiveness. That's going to be my The Wizard of Oz.
Other than that I'll probably keep making random short videos and music. I also am in the process of learning to roller skate and disco dance and hope to incorporate roller disco skills into my projects. I'd like to act in other people's films as well and to one day produce and distribute films for others. I recently linked up with a creator on Tik Tok who is way more famous than I am. We are going to start making content together and he is also going to be in The Wizard of Oz. I hope to learn a lot from working with a younger creator from a younger generation.
Bill Arceneaux: Top five favorite movies of all time: What do you pick?
Wigwolf: It's so hard for me to pick my favorite movies. It always changes so I'm gonna try to go by how long I've stayed interested in the movie:
1. Unforgiven (this movie is a masterpiece on every level, no western even comes close. Clint Eastwood is always thrilling to watch).
2. Peggy Sue Got Married (a spectacular failure, this movie is so flawed but so beautiful and brilliant, it's always in my brain, I can never stop thinking about it.)
3. The Strangers: Prey At Night (this movie is the best slasher film ever made by far, it's beautiful and thrilling and the pool sequence when Total Eclipse of the Heart is playing is the most perfect and brilliant sequence of any film ever made).
4. Leave Her To Heaven (brilliant technicolor noir masterpiece featuring Gene Tierney's best performance).
5. Year Of The Dragon (this movie is amazing, I love it, so underrated, the best movie made in the 80s by far, best NYC movie)