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By Mike Watt | February 16, 2005

In the future, two very special people are hiding away in a very special place.

Adrian Torque is a police officer who has lost more than half his skin to an explosion that should have killed him. Instead, his destroyed epidermis has been replaced with the tongue meat of all the people who were killed that horrible night. Where once he only felt, he is now being slowly driven mad by a never-ending stream of tastes.

Virginia Chin is a genetically engineered combatrix with a clitoris implanted beneath the epicanthic fold of each eye and a taste for blood. Her uncontrollable murderous impulses keeps her barely one step ahead of the law … and each blink of her eyes keeps her tightly poised within a state of heightened stimulation that only the blood of her enemies can sate.

And now, in a run down adults-only franchise called the Sappho Motel, where even the most obscure desire of every occupant can be met for a price, they are about to collide…

This is the plot of “Sixteen Tongues”, the long-awaited second feature of writer/director Scooter McCrae. McCrae is perhaps best-known for the 1994 dystopian zombie movie, “Shatter Dead”, which has generated a healthy group of fans and detractors. Like McCrae’s previous offering, “Sixteen Tongues” is shaping up to be a movie that people will either love or hate, with very little in between.

“(The synopsis) screams “commercial”, don’t it?” McCrae says. “Alex (Kuciw, “Tongues” producer) and I wrote that, so I can’t take all the credit, but I think it’s an accurate summation of what people will be seeing on-screen when the damn thing finally arrives.”

Production began in 1999, and the film finally reached theaters earlier this year at the Fantasia Film Festival. The reasons for delays mirror countless productions: lack of money, lack of time, an over-abundance of things outside of a filmmaker’s “real life” encroaching on his art.

“We had no on-set crew besides myself, Alex and the make-up effects guys, so it meant that on top of having to direct I also had to light the set and operate the camera,” McCrae explains. “It’s hard to concentrate on what’s good or bad through the camera lens when you have to pay attention to so many different things at once. What might have been a good take for the performers might have been a bad one for me as a camera operator or vice-versa. Sometimes it’s nice to have all the various responsibilities distributed to a number of talented folks instead of having it all filter through just one person, like myself, who’s lighting abilities are nowhere near as good as those of someone who actually enjoys doing that aspect of production. No problems otherwise. The make-up efx always ate up time and nothing was easy to accomplish, but these kind of difficulties were exactly what we expected on a project of this type. Nothing’s ever easy once production begins, is it?”

As McCrae has reported, half-joking, in previous interviews, “Sixteen Tongues” drew its inspiration – at least as far as its title goes – from the old song “Sixteen Tons”. But there is obviously more to it than that, wouldn’t you think?

“Hard to say,” says McCrae. “Funny how my mind works, but when you ask me how the idea developed beyond the title I can only add that quite often the title comes first and helps drive the idea to completion for me. I think it started as a joke I told at parties (which I’m sorry I don’t remember) and kind of grew into an idea that tickled me enough to try and figure out what kind of a plot could contain two characters this extreme. It wasn’t easy and I’ll have to let others decide if I was successful, though I personally have very mixed feelings about it. I’m not saying the project isn’t successful, of course, but I don’t know that I exactly achieved what I set out to accomplish and that always disappoints me. I feel the same way about “Shatter Dead”, of course.

“’Tongues’ is a great example of what happens when you’re listening to music and hear the lyrics wrong. You just never know what the heck is gonna inspire you. I mean, s**t; what would The Platters think if they knew their recording of the song lit a fire in me that’s kept me hard at work for the last seven years and I didn’t even hear what they were singing correctly? So many ideas I get are from mishearing what someone says or only seeing half an image; it’s like one of Dario Argento’s tortured artist protagonists trying to reconstruct a crime with only a half-clue and a whole lot of imagination.”

The interview continues in part two of SCOOTER McCRAE: SHATTERED TONGUES>>>

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