Welcome to Awfully Good, where we celebrate movies that suck! Since this month’s Greedy Guts theme means anything goes, tonight’s movie is an anti-drug PSA that I watched in elementary school. We’ll get to that in a second, but first let’s cover some ground rules. Rule number one: this column is a place to celebrate rad trash, not just dump on things I hate. At the end of the day, these are movies I enjoy. Rule number two: if you’re going to put your drink down, use a coaster. With that out of the way, let’s look at the baffling Straight Up!
One fateful third grade day, the guidance counselor wheeled the big TV cart into my classroom. She announced that we were going to watch a video, and that it might be a little bit scary. She popped a tape from 1988 into the VCR, let auto-tracking work its magic, and then stepped outside for a smoke break. That tape was Straight Up, a public service announcement in three parts. We watched the first two parts, then never came back to it. A full decade later, through the magic of YouTube, I found the video in its entirety. I finally got to watch it all unfold, and let me tell you: this movie is garbage. It’s cheap, cheesy, bizarre, misguided… truly everything that makes for an Awfully Good pick. So without further ado, let’s jump into Straight Up!
Straight Up begins with Ben, the protagonist, trying to do skateboard tricks in a parking garage. Unfortunately for Ben, he completely sucks. Bad kid Kevin shows up with a rainbow coalition of delinquents, who have come to the parking garage to ride skateboards, but really to drink and smoke. To be specific: two beers, a bottle of scotch, half a pack of cigarettes, and what I would consider a whole lot of weed for a twelve-year-old to have. They want Ben to join them in their hooliganry, but he declines. The bad kids then mall grab their way to the elevator. Ben follows, but doesn’t go with them.
Once the bad kids leave, Academy Award winning actor Lou Gossett, Jr. (Jaws 3-D) appears out of nowhere in an all tie-dye ensemble. He’s like, “hey kid, come get in this elevator with me,” and because this is just an anti-drug PSA, Ben does. Academy Award winning actor Lou Gossett, Jr. sings a song about the Fate Elevator, because I forgot to mention that Straight Up is also a musical, and then lets Ben loose in the Dungeon of Ignorance with a tie-dye headband. Good luck, Ben. Try not to die in the dungeon.
Ben runs into a hobo named Booze. As they shake hands, the headband speaks up. It says, “Booze is alcohol. Alcohol is a drug.” Booze, the character, recoils at this knowledge. I missed part of this because I had to grab another beer, but Ben ends up having to balance his way across a rickety board. Booze, the hobo, tries to kill him with a chainsaw. Straight Up, at its core, is a horror movie!
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After narrowly escaping Chainsaw Hobo, Ben wanders around the Dungeon of Ignorance pretty aimlessly. Then, he runs into Booze again… and is captured! Not to worry, though, because a lady who looks like Poison Ivy in a community theatre production of Batman shows up. Her name is Miss Pot (because Mary Jane would have been too easy?) and she shoves Booze out of the way! Ben isn’t safe though, because Miss Pot steals his headband.
Booze and Miss Pot sing a song called “Gimme that Headband” while they fight over a magic item that’s literally worthless to them. Oh, and Ben‘s dangling over a pit of snakes. He pulls himself free, retrieves his headband, and then wanders around the Dungeon of Ignorance spouting anti-marijuana facts that were absolutely made up for this movie. Straight Up isn’t as egregious as Reefer Madness, but it’s pretty close.
Booze and Miss Pot push Ben to a gateway (like gateway drugs, get it?) where he sees a ghost lady(?) who represents cocaine, and a guy who looks like John Stamos as a death rock punker (heroin). If you don’t want me to do heroin, why would you make him look like the coolest guy ever? Anyway, Ben makes it back to the Fate Elevator, which takes him to the parking garage. The other middle schoolers are struggling to skateboard with a BAC of like, 0.28. Ben addresses the gang and explains that your body? It’s like a spaceship. And drugs? Why, they’re spaceships too! Then we’re treated to a cartoon where Ben gives a voiceover about how every organ is like a system on a spaceship. At this point, Straight Up has proven to be an enjoyable bad movie, a musical, and aimed at it kids. It’s the middle of the Venn diagram of topics I cover. Happy Greedy Guts month, everyone! As the cartoon ends, Kevin says something vaguely threatening. Thus concludes Part 1!
I don’t want to spoil Straight Up for you, in case you want to watch it for yourself, so I won’t go into too much detail about Parts 2 and 3. If you do want to watch it, you’re in luck! It’s available on YouTube, and since it’s a PSA there’s no copyright laws to worry about. You can relive the classic moments like “gang of bad kids gets kicked out of a video store for drinking a whole bottle of liquor,” “Booze and Miss Pot shoot lazers at Ben until he puts on his They Live sunglasses,” and “courtroom drama in Drug City.”
This movie felt like a dream that I half-remembered for the better part of my adolescence, so I’m pretty stoked to be able to watch it any time I want. That turns out to be about two times a year!
Have you ever stepped into an elevator with Academy Award winning actor Lou Gossett, Jr. and then been forced to wander the Dungeon of Ignorance before a hobo tries to kill you with a chainsaw? Let us know over on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook page! For more horror than you can stuff into your backpack and then impress the rest of the bad kids with, stay tuned to Nightmare on Film Street.