Saturday, March 22, 2014

I Spit On Your Film

I normally am Mr. Let's Have Some Fun With This Movie, recounting some life events and having some giggles at the expense of the movie. Being that person is a part of watching crap movies; if you can't laugh at yourself, you can't really laugh at much else. And I like pointing fun at the goofiness/lameness/weirdness of the movies I watch.

Most people who have been invested in watching crappy and weird and gross movies will ultimately run across movies that are outside their limits of taste. Some people will draw a line with animal death in something like Cannibal Holocaust. Others freak out over concepts as outrageous as The Human Centipede. Certain people hate watching more realistic brutality exhibited in films like Salo or Men Behind The Sun. Then you have the momentary thrill seekers who test their skills against puke-inducing videos like "Two Girls, One Cup."

I've watched all of these, and while I felt a lot of it was unnecessary, nothing freaked me out or grossed me out. I am sure I have explained in the past that, since my formative years of movie watching, I seek a film, or films, that can do one or more of the following things: Be so gross that I vomit, or be so frightening that I wet my pants, or be so offensive that I cannot bring myself to watch any further. To be honest, I've seen movies so stupid and boring that I've done most of these things, but I mark that up to brain damage. Not the same thing.

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a film that sounded like a great chance to push the envelope of one or more of my goals mentioned above. The cover stated that it had been banned for 13 years, and that it had been turned over to New York police as a "snuff" film. There is even a warning that the film is not for the faint of heart or those easily shocked. Comments referenced the fact the film boasted the longest and most brutal rape scene ever committed to film. (Let me make this clear: I'm not a rape film fan. Oddly enough, there are people out there like that, but I'll reference that later in the review.)

They All Must Die! is the title, and based on what the comments and synopsis told me, it sounded like a perfect fit. Some cheap, sleazy bit of trash to kick me in the mental balls and walk away laughing.

Let me get the story out of the way. I do mean STORY as there is no plot that I can piece together.

White woman moves into the Bed-Stuy neighborhood to write about life through the eyes and lives of black working men. As she is moving in, 3 black youths begin verbally attacking her with insults and racial slurs. One guy decides he is going to hit on her and makes his move. He is told by the woman that she isn't interested as she is there to work. His friends rag on him for bombing, and he hints that he is gonna get what he wants.

The woman's landlord is an obsessed fan of her writing and figures that it is the perfect time to win her over. He is so confident that he kicks his wife/girlfriend out of the building so he can devote all of his time to winning over the white writer. Of course, the writer turns him down.

Our 3 youths whip themselves into a frenzy in which they decide that they are going to teach the white woman a lesson. They terrorize her until the landlord leads her away from the youths and attempts to calm her down. When she goes back to her apartment, she finds the youths are waiting for her. She is then abused, doped up, beaten and gang raped for roughly 30 to 40 minutes. After the 3 guys tire of her, she drags herself into the bathtub and attempts to clean herself.

We see her stalk and kill all three of her attackers in a very short series of scenes. Lo and behold, it was all a fantasy as we are brought back to the woman, beaten and bloodied, still in the bathtub. She crawls out and attempts to get to her phone to call for help, but her injuries are such that she collapses.

In comes her landlord. She begs him to call for help. Instead, he takes advantage of her condition and satisfies himself sexually in her mouth. He then ties her up in his apartment while he discourses on how important he will be now that he has a white woman of his own. 

Yeah, that's it. 

For those of you who find the story vile, I suggest you hang around for the rest of the review. For those of you who find the story enticing and a turn on, by all means rush out and buy your own copy and do whatever it is that people who like this stuff do while watching it because I'm sure nothing I am about to say will have any impact.

What little history that can be found on this film does offer some insight into what you see. Apparently the director, Sean Weathers, watched the much-hyped I Spit On Your Grave and figured he could outdo the rape scene in both length and brutality. Congratulations, Mr. Weathers, you certain did that. To make the scene more authentic, he supposedly kept the lead female and the 3 lead males from meeting until shooting the first scene. One guess what that first scene was. Yup, the seemingly never-ending rape scene. I can't imagine what that first day must have been like, but the shock and horror on the woman's face certainly doesn't look faked. I'm impressed she returned for the rest of the scenes. That is, if the stories about the film can be believed.

Now we turn to the film itself. It looks to be shot on shitty video which almost gives it an uncomfortable aura of being shot as it happened. The in-your-face style enhances the feeling being an invisible leering pervert who is following these characters around and getting off on the misery. You are made to feel as if you are as much a participant as the thugs themselves. Unless you have a seriously bent sex drive, you will feel beyond soiled after watching this movie. It has been nearly 2 years since I watched this and I still cannot scrub this stain of a film from my memory. Again, congratulations, Mr. Weathers.

If you look up some reviews of this film, you will find a few that suggest the woman in the movie is arrogant and just as racially insensitive as our trio of abusers. I have no idea what movie they saw, unless there are various versions of this thing. She is firm but polite enough when the one guy hits on her. She is also polite enough when the landlord makes a fool of himself when he reveals his obsession with her. The only transgression she is guilty of comes while she is having a private phone conversation with her mother (which we are aware of only because her landlord has sneaked into her apartment to spy on her). She tells her worried mother that she isn't going to let a few "spooks" keep her from writing her book. Sure, not the nicest thing to say, but it isn't like she's Paula Deen or, maybe, HITLER! And it definitely is not justification for what she has done to her.

What we are left with is a film that goes to extremes to present the black male characters as self-serving brutes who feel entitled to do what they wish to this woman simply because she is white and she has moved into their neighborhood. Honestly, the film provides no other possible motivation. Their "fragile" egos require them to ignore the woman's desire to be left alone to write so they can exercise their manliness. Even the landlord kicks out the only other woman in his life when she attempts to be a voice of rational thought and reason. The men in the film take advantage of this woman in every possible instance and way.

Oh, but she gets her revenge, right? No. As I stated, the revenge sequence only takes place in her mind. To be honest, that part of the film seems to almost be an afterthought, added simply as a nod to I Spit On Your Grave maybe. The film would actually be better served if that segment was left out. It adds nothing. It provides no comfort or closure. It is a pointless distraction, and takes away from the overall sense of intense brutality that the director supposedly wanted to create. Not that I'm supporting this film as art, but it is just a narrative issue.

I could easily just walk away from this movie, as I have presented it so far, and shrug it off as a nasty bit of pointlessness about black men and their obsession with white women. Unfortunately, for me, the director did something else with this film that is the reason it nags and troubles me to this day. 

At various points throughout the film, usually during the violation sequences, you might notice a flash on the screen, almost like a bad edit. I should be so lucky. If you pause the movie and advance frame by frame (most DVD players can do this, so don't think I did some high-end technical work here), you will find that these "flashes" are actually single frame images of lynchings. You heard me correctly. Crystal clear black-and-white images of dead black men, beaten/hanged/burned, surrounded by grinning and laughing whites. Real images from heaven knows when, but brutal and sickening.

What are we to make of this? Is it there to imply that their attacks on this woman are justified? Are these random thoughts "flashing" through her head? Is it meant as some grand political statement? WHAT THE FUCK DOES THIS MEAN? I even sent an email to Mr. Weathers asking him to explain this. I heard nothing. So I'm left with a vile film that now has a subtext that I am unsure what to make of.

Now, if the director was a white guy, I could easily write this whole nightmare off as racist trash. Sean Weathers is African-American, which brings a whole new level of WTF? to this movie. The entire film presents the black men as little more than animals who have no motivation other than to destroy and mark their territory. Weave in the images of lynchings and then I have to wonder what we are to make of it in relationship to the rest of the film.

They All Must Die! is a truly disturbing film on most levels. When I decided to write this review, I told myself that I would watch it again. The thing sat in front of my TV for days. I put it into my player a few times. Honestly, the thought of watching the film again sickened me. I ultimately could not bring myself to do it. I have no desire to ever watch this thing again. Once was enough. I doubt I will ever forget it, though I wish I could. It did not offend me enough that I could not finish it, but it did offend and sicken me enough that I never want to experience it again.

If you chose to watch this movie after reading this review, you are on your own. I hope nothing I wrote here sounded in any way as encouragement.

I understand there are different kicks for different folks. As long as you don't drag me into your playhouse against my will, you can do whatever you want to and with yourself. And I'm not the kind of person to call someone out over opinions that are utterly subjective, because, as my dad used to say, "Opinions are like assholes: Everyone has one, and they usually stink."

However (you knew that was coming), while doing some research on this film, I ran across a review for They All Must Die! by a person identified as Hiccup who writes for Bring Out the GIMP (Girls In Merciless Peril). Apparently a site that is dedicated to films in which woman are imperiled and/or brutalized. That's fine. But towards the end of the review, there was a paragraph that...well, here, let me just quote it for you:

"In summary I'm amazed this movie actually got made when it did. Its definitely the most politically incorrect movie made in the last 20 years which is why there was very little distribution of it. The forced stripping scene and rape were spot on with excellent acting, humiliation and nudity. One thing I didn't like is the director tried to make Wendy appear as a real rape victim with blood, bruises, matted hair and whatnot which made her less attractive to look at."

The bold type is mine, but it is a direct copy and paste, misspellings and all. 

I look at that sentence and cannot wrap my head around the mind that could put something like that together. A victim of a long, savage beating and rape who isn't attractive to look at when it is over? What does this person want, that Wendy should walk away with her hair perfectly teased with full makeup and slut pumps and an ass-hugging tight skirt?

If the writer of this abomination is a guy, I feel shame that I am of the same gender. If it is a woman (and I can't believe that it is), she is not human. I'll admit to be being one seriously twisted mister, but this begs the title "sick fuck". Yeah, yeah, live and let live. Just don't expect me not to find some people to be a bit frightening.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Remembering A Night To Dismember

Everyone has their own quirks when it comes to what they tend to prefer and/or how they go about exposing themselves to crap movies. (Yeah, okay, "exposing themselves" probably isn't the best term to use, but you understand what I'm saying, hopefully.) Some folks like insane/inane writing. Others enjoy giggling when the set wobbles or when makeup effects look like they were done by narcoleptic kindergartners. Certain fans like to explore one genre/director/actor/whatever fully before moving on to another.

In the world of crap movies and crap movie fandom, there are few hard and fast rules. Other than "If you enjoy it, it's all good!", I can't really think of one. Of course, you will always have people tell you that you have to see certain movies or learn about this or that director if you want to experience crap movies to the fullest. While this is far from the truth, there are, umm, milestones, if you will, in the world of crapdom. Plan 9 From Outer Space is usually one of the films most fans cut their teeth on, and the rest of Ed Wood, Jr's works will usually follow. Then you have films like Blood Freak or filmmakers like Jerry Warren and Roger Corman who tend to filter in as crap movie fans move up the ranks of The Brotherhood Of The Weird.

Another of those milestones would be Doris Wishman and/or most of her films. I will admit to being late to the Wishman party. Though I knew of her since my college days, I had never seen any of her movies. Until a couple of years ago, that is.

For those who don't know about Doris Wishman, I'll do a brief biography. She got her start in film after the death of her husband as a way not to spend time focusing on her loss. Knowing virtually nothing about film-making, she jumped in to the growing market of nudist camp films. She worked that genre until it wasn't marketable and switched over to "roughies", films that sported not only a fair amount of nudity but also some violence well seasoned with humiliation and sexual frustration. Ms. Wishman later dabbled in action/crime films as well as a couple of hardcore sex films that she distanced herself from due to her discomfort with the genre.

This brings us to the film to be discussed today. Wishman was always mindful of trends in film. In the late 70s and through the 80s, gory films filled with slashers and other killers were filling theaters and drive-ins. In an effort to stay where the money was, she set out to make her own gore movie, though I believe she preferred to think of it as more of a psychological horror film with blood.

That film was A Night To Dismember.

Let's see if we can summarize: The film is narrated by a cop who investigated the whole massacre we witness. Apparently, a whole family self-destructs on a single day, with sisters killing each other and randomly falling on hatchets (yes, you read that correctly), as well as a husband who finds his wife butchered but ultimately admits to hiring someone to kill her. He commits suicide in his jail cell. Oddly enough, we don't see the father of the two girls who pulled the murder/accidental suicide die but supposedly he died as well. 

Though we are told that the whole Kent family was wiped out in one day, one brother, Adam, who lives in the same town, is seemingly unaware of the death of his brothers and survives so he can pick up his daughter from the state asylum. Yup, Vicki Kent is being released after being locked up for 5 years for the brutal murder of 2 random teenage boys. Gotta love the legal system.

Vicki is the only cast member worth noting as she is played by Samantha Fox. Not the super cute 80s pop star. This Fox is the star of many porn titles. Why she chose this film to do a "legit" role is a story I would love to know. But I digress.

Mary and Bill are Vicki's siblings, and they aren't happy to have their crazy sister back home. Both of them set about trying to snap her fragile grasp on reality. Mostly it is Billy dressing up and tormenting Vicki while Mary walks around being a bitch who rants in Doris Wishman's voice.

Magically, another Kent brother, Sebastian, appears only to upset Vicki. He and his family are killed by an "unknown" person who just happened to be in their car when they pile in to go somewhere. Don't ask how they didn't see this person sitting next the the aunt. Seriously, just don't.

We are then treated to what appears to be another person playing Mary, who has a dream that her whole family attempts to kill her. Most likely as a sacrifice to appease the God Of Bad Acting, but we may never know as her family is suddenly being killed, one by one.

I will avoid giving away the ending. Not because it is any real surprise, but I don't want to ruin your jaw smacking the floor when you are faced with the immense nonsensical resolution and the aftermath.

The film is available for viewing on Youtube. I recommend that format, unless you care to plunk down $60 for the DVD release, which is out of print. I took the dive simply because I wanted to hear Doris Wishman's only DVD commentary.

What you will get for your time is story elements that don't match up, characters who change clothes/hairstyles/faces from one room to another, sounds effects (dogs barking, squirting blood and a head being squished) done (poorly) by someone's mouth, voices dubbed in by both Doris Wishman and the narrator (they each do voices for multiple characters) and lots of shots of Wishman's apartment for interiors. The movie only runs roughly 69 minutes. I have no excuse for falling asleep every time during 3 different attempts to watch this movie. I'll go with the excuse that my brain short circuited and put me asleep to prevent damage.   

Dismember is a film that many people point to as a sterling example of film-making ineptitude and/or as an over-the-top display of Doris Wishman's personal style. While both attitudes have merit, there are some facts you should be aware of while tackling this cinema buffet of weirdness.

Doris Wishman created her promo to sell the film before it was finished. This was done to presell the  feature to build up funds to complete the film. The trailer is available on Youtube, and the story presented in the trailer sounds moderately interesting, if you can get past the weird guy describing the movie with his face uncomfortably close to the camera.

With presales in place, Wishman then had an obligation to deliver the film to the buyers. Sadly, the lab processing her film went bankrupt, and a disgruntled employee destroyed a number of negatives and prints held in the lab. She lost at least 50 to 60 percent of her entire shot footage for Dismember. Ms. Wishman could have just thrown up her hands and stiffed the buyers who fronted her the money, but as quirky as her movies may have been, she had always maintained a sterling reputation in the business as a person who paid her debts and backed up her promises. Over the better part of a year, she cobbled together a movie from what footage she had, outtakes, bits from her earlier films and a few additional scenes she could afford to shoot. This resulted in a radical change in the storyline and the addition of the narrator to attempt to make sense of what she pieced together.

Did it work? Oh, HELL no. Just watch the first 10 minutes of the film, and you can see that it is confusing and hilarious in that you are laughing at, not with, the film. Your head will hurt from trying to keep up with the changing sets and characters. Your ears will not believe the post-production dubbing and orally generated sound effects.

All that being said, you still have to admire Doris Wishman for doing what she could when Fate decided to take a massive crap in her lap. On top of that, she created a piece of work that endures as a milestone of crap film-making that will frighten non-fans and delight those who enjoy watching a movie self-destruct faster than a house of cards being built by someone with Parkinson's.

Doris Wishman is no longer with us. Thank the deity of your choice that we still have her films. Bless you, Ms. Wishman. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Danny Trejo, WHY, man? Just...WHY?!?!

Have you ever seen the movie Feast? You know, the one connected with Project Greenlight. The movie that slammed a title into the screen when introducing a new character, just so you knew what generic role that person represented. The movie that took your expectations and snapped them like Bane snapped Batman's back. The movie full of nasty, gooey, gross blood/guts/brains/etc. splattered on almost every inch of the set.

You remember that movie? If you do, you have no business watching Zombie Hunter because this movie spends the bulk of its running time copying Feast and lifting scenes/dialogue from better movies in what I can only assume are ironic/hip/knowing nods to every film the writer/director has ever seen. Before you ask, Quentin Tarentino did NOT write/direct this movie, but someone who wants to be like him apparently did.

Sure, there will be those who will say that the person responsible for Zombie Hunter is poking fun at such wannabe filmmakers. Yeah, and Desperately Seeking Susan was laughed out of theaters, so suddenly it became a comedy to cover the fact it was a bomb.

The basic story is the same one we have seen a dozen times. Mostly nameless guy with a dark past is the ultimate killer of zombies (actually, just victims of a designer drug that had nasty side effects but still spread like vines of cute kittens on the Internet). He narrates the movie in a hard-boiled style that even Mickey Spillane would be put off by. Huge portions of the first third of the film look like they were cloned and pasted from Mad Max and The Road Warrior. Then our "hero" gets shot and is taken in by a ragtag group of survivors. Yup, never seen this before.

The group is made up of characters we've all know from other zombie movies: obnoxious fat guy, skank girl, sweet girl, sweet girl's reason for living (her brain-dead brother), all-around jack-of-all-trades guy and the group's leader who has a shadowy past, somewhat like our "hero". Your mileage may very, but within minutes of each character being introduced, I wanted all of them to die, with one exception.

Danny Trejo plays the leader of the group. He is supposedly a priest, but he has two of the most awesome scenes this movie could put together. Just Trejo, an axe and dubstep background music as he hacks his way through zombies in a hellish landscape. I could have watched 90 minutes of that. Don't get used to it, though. I almost think Mr. Trejo had a couple of days where he wasn't working on better films and decided to help out.

Anyway, the group decides to make a run for an Air Force base, but they have to go through a town called...wait for it!...Dahmer. That sly humor that is like blunt force trauma to the face. Give me more. (Please note that this comment is meant to be sarcasm. I don't want to confuse people who think this kind of film is funny and hip.)

I will spare you the rest of the story. You can probably write it yourself. If you can't, give a small child the set-up I gave you and they will probably tell you how it ends. Honestly, the child might come up with a better story.

When not being slapped with the annoying characters (the skank girl is the single most irritating member and that is no simple feat in this movie) and blindingly obvious lack-of-budget locations, the filmmaker decides to offer up CGI work that makes films from The Asylum look like Lord Of The Rings. If the CGI had been used with any level of subtlety, I might have overlooked it. Subtle is not in this film's bible. Fake looking gunshots and inept monsters are constantly obscured by digital blood splashing on the camera lens.

I get tired just thinking about this movie.

Danny Trejo, sir, I have to ask you why? Why did you do this movie? Did someone blackmail you? Did the director save you from a burning building and you felt the need to pay him back? Did you need money for Christmas?

Before I end, I must respect my mother's teachings. She always said, "Find something nice to say about everything." Okay, Mom. 

The film always stayed in focus. Mostly.

Monday, February 10, 2014 3D! And he still sucks!

I have a confession to make. I have never been a major fan of Dario Argento's work. Please, do not get me wrong. I understand and appreciate his contributions to horror cinema. I even enjoy some of his movies, namely Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Trauma. Without a doubt, he is a master of the horrific, bloody set pieces by which most of his film are anchored. His work has spawned a legacy of filmmakers inspired by the innovations he crafted.

Now we have an icon tackling a piece of classic (and iconic) literature. 

Purists out there, please exit now. Stoker is in his grave screaming, "Who befouled my good name?" Well, Bram, ignoring all of the other times your work has been abused, we can shake a crucifix at Mister Argento this time. Of course, he had a few other writers helping him, like some wild pre-sweetened-cereal-overdose, finger-painting mishap in a daycare center with no supervision.

Everything takes place in the general area of Dracula's castle, so no White Cliffs of Dover for you England fans. Apparently in these tough economic times, even Dracula has to scale back his ambitions. Harker is now a librarian who has taken on the job of cataloging the Count's library. Mina is his meek wife who follows him into Dracula's realm. Lucy is now the daughter of the town's mayor, who, along with other officials and upstanding citizens in the town, has snuggled up to the Count in an arrangement not unlike a Mafia scheme. Renfield is utterly confused as he is defending the honor of a poor girl killed by Dracula in one scene and a whimpering pet of Dracula in another.

Characters seem to be completely oblivious to Dracula's grip on the city, yet everyone seems to know he is using the town as his personal blood bank. The Count is slowly milking Lucy dry, but to what purpose? Other than a nod to the novel and another excuse for Argento to show his daughter, Asia, naked in one of his movies, the movie fails to give a reasonable answer. Other characters clearly are aware that creepy stuff is happening all around them, yet they brush it off.

The only person in the whole movie who actually comes out okay is Van Helsing, played with very solid understatement by Rutger Hauer. He plays Helsing as a man obsessed with rooting out evil. If people die while under his watch, so be it, as long as he is able to stop the vampires.

If the story and characters are not off-putting enough, you then have to deal with the constant sexual undertones and eye-rolling orgasmic looks of victims whenever a vampire touches them. If the whole thing had been a hair sleazier, it could have passed itself off as an homage to Jess Franco's cinematic stylings. Minus the zooming camera work.

Another item that seems to smack of minimal budget is the constant CGI work in the film instead of the good old makeup work that made Argento's earlier films so gruesomely fun. In fact, the effects range from so-so to "Are you fucking kidding me? My 5-year-old nephew could do better CGI!". However, thanks to the cheesy CGI, Argento and crew brought us one of the single most jaw-droppingly hilarious WTF? moments ever committed to film. I don't want to ruin it, but I will warn you that it involves a praying mantis the size of a mutant grizzly. Go find it on Youtube and spare yourself 2 hours.

It may seem that I am spreading the hate rather thick on this movie. I mean, it really is a rather sad thing. Yet, it has two things working in its favor. The first is that it does turn its back on the super-sexy vampires who belong on fashion magazines. Not one of these critters sparkle or have much on their minds other than feeding. The second thing is that this film has all the characteristics to become a cult favorite in the "It's so bad, but I can't stop laughing at it" category. Not something you want to see a former great director churn out, but it is better to be laughed at than ignored. Maybe. Yeah, I'll stick with that theory.

By the way, this thing is in 3D, so if you must wallow in this thing AND you have a 3D capable TV and Blu-Ray player, watch it in 3D. It makes the praying mantis scene funnier. So much funnier. I am not responsible for anyone who wets themselves laughing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

And Now For The Naughty Bits...And Pieces

You really have to hand it to the 80s. It was a time for radical and swift change in pop culture. Fads and clothing styles stole from the past, looked to the future and came and went so fast that even fashion freaks and trend-hounds could not keep up. We were treated to an endless flow of cheap comedies, zombie-fests and, more than anything else, slasher flicks. Other than everyone being upset about something and snorting way too much coke while reading the Art Of War in business school, things were pretty darn good.

But all things go sour at some point. It usually happens like the poor sod in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises going broke: Gradually, and then suddenly. Posed For Murder is the perfect example of how things had started swirling the toilet bowl for the 80s culture, fashion and the slasher genre just before that final suck down into the sewer.

The film stars Charlotte Helmkamp in her only lead role. A lovely woman to be sure, but her claim to beauty fame, at least here in the USA, was being a Playboy Playmate in 1982. Worthwhile spread. She seems to have decided to cash in on her fame before things started turning sour and she came back from traveling abroad to attempt a film career in the States. Sadly, she started out with a starring role in this direct-to-video film, and, from there, received only supporting roles for her next few films.

Her character is Laura, a woman who has hit it big as a Thrill Magazine girl. She wants to be an actress and move on to better things. Hmmmm, this sounds like Charlotte Helm...nah, there couldn't be a connection. Never mind. Her life is good except for an ailing mother (who makes only one appearance in the film and that is on the phone and the actress doing the voice sounds like she can hardly stay awake to read the lines off the script she was no doubt holding in front of her). She is taking acting classes, getting in touch with her inner being, wearing pretty things and working out at the local spa while wearing Spandex and leg warmers.
Somewhere along this time, we are treated to a scruffy type of guy being released from prison. First, we are shown Laura's centerfold from Thrill Magazine hanging on the guy's cell wall. Oddly enough, for a centerfold, there are no creases in the poster. He must be an expert at ironing. Perhaps this is foreshadowing. Ooh, there's also a poster of Sid Vicious and his punching-bag girlfriend, Nancy. Nah, no foreshadowing there; we'll stick with this guy's uncanny ironing skills. That, and he seems to have issues with our heroine as he slowly rips her perfectly ironed centerfold from his wall just as he is set free. More foreshadowing? Couldn't be; I'm giving this film too much credit. Probably means nothing.

At the spa (after one of the cheesiest workout montages ever set to overworked 80s music), our poor heroine is hit on by a muscle-bound half-pint. His plan would be perfect, for if he slow-danced with her, he could faceplant in Breastville. Before his macho, woman-hating approach can reach the point of questioning her lack of taste in men, a big, beefy nice guy steps in and scares away the twerp. Apparently no one cares that in the background a particularly LARGE man is faking a workout on equipment with no weights in place, but you should as it keeps this scene from making you cringe at the poor dialogue and Ms. Helmkamp's squinting, which is meant to be her style of emoting.

The nice guy is Rick. He is played by the co-producer Carl Fury. When you take the whole picture of his character to heart, you will understand why Rick being played by someone named Fury is more appropriate than having Paris Hilton play a rich girl. As it is, he is the typically beefed-up guy with a hint of mullet that makes you wonder where evolution went wrong. But I'm a guy, so women may be looking for other things, like a low and thick brow and goofy teeth that do not fit in his mouth well.

Just as our leading lady gets the feeling she can put the stigma of the Thrill Magazine behind her, the sleazy (and who isn't in this film?) man in charge of Thrill Magazine wants to make her Thrill Of The Year. She isn't having any of it and after some vague threats by the editor in chief about how she owes so much to him and Thrill Magazine, she offers to think about it. Naturally, this is when Mom chimes in with a desperate cry for cash and the dutiful daughter recants and agrees to the photo shoot.

Then we go to another lovely montage of hardbodies working out as our unidentified stalker rips her car cables loose. Note: this wouldn't really work now as Laura would Google from her 3G networked cell phone and most likely figure out the issue, but 80's chicks are apparently incapable of opening the hood of their cars. We even see the short twerp from earlier in the film seeing our heroine sitting in front of him and getting excited, but, oddly enough, she is wearing completely different workout clothes and is working out in a different location. But that doesn't stop the janitor perv from pulling his tattered, creased copy of Laura's centerfold from his pocket and drooling over it as he watches her working out. Yet when he tapes it to his workroom wall, it only has one crease. There must be an ironing subtext to this film that has yet to reveal itself.

Laura squints her way through a conversation with Rick who appears in just her moment of need to offer a ride to her photo shoot on his handy motorcycle, and off we go another montage with 80s music fueling the...excitement? You just want them to get where they are going so the music stops and Sleazy Rider gets off your screen. Get there, they do, and as the obviously smitten couple say their goodbyes, we get some really incredible shots of Rick's apparent overbite. Maybe it's just bad false teeth. We are not told how this will affect the story, but if anyone is bitten to death in the film, the dental impressions would either convict or exonerate Rick in seconds.

The shoot gives more glimpses of Laura's assets as we bounce through--wait for it!--another montage. Like I have said before, this is an 80s film. It lauds all the excesses of that era by giving you an excess of montages. You could almost wonder if there is a theme here, but it is just obvious the filmmakers are just padding their film to hit the recommended running time. Well, that, and it allows us to see that the top guy at Thrill Magazine has more on his mind than sales when it comes to our lovely leading lady. He talks her into a dinner (Oh heavens, nothing more to be sure!) and she agrees, but she first has to go to an audition.

Enter sleazy, 4? 7? Doesn't matter. This one is the director casting for his next opus, Meat Cleavers From Mars. He needs a leading lady with looks and the ability to scream. Laura has the looks, and she splits your ears with a scream. But the director likes to play games. Does he know who Laura is? Does he care? Does it matter? Not so much as it is just another suspect and another way to kill time.

Ah, but it is finally time to kill. As Laura makes her way back to Thrill offices for her dinner date, someone has made it there ahead of her and punctures the lustful editor in chief, leaving Laura to find the body.

Which leads us to the other major character. Yes, nearly 30 minutes into the film and we meet another major character. Can this thing stretch its run time or what? Introducing Detective Barnes. Does he look familiar? Why, isn't that Sgt. Kabukiman? Yup, Rick Gianasi shows up and is in charge of the investigation of the editor's death. While it would certainly help this film if he turned into his Troma character, he does no such thing, so just get that idea outta your head right now.

Now the stage is set and we know the story is really gonna get underway any minute now. Right after a threatening phone call that Laura forgets 10 seconds later when she is called and asked to come back for a second meeting about the movie. A starring role in a crappy movie certainly trumps a murder and psycho ringing you up to threaten your life.

Yup, it gonna start...right after a WAY too long bit of exposition and romantic looks as Rick and Laura go out to dinner at a restaurant that overlooks 42nd Street in New York. And they dance. This IS a thriller, right? Did I miss something? More bits with her being cast in the film. Shots of her swimming at the spa.

Before you and I both go to sleep, the janitor gets his throat slit while spying on Laura. Rick and Detective Barnes don't like each other after issues when Rick was on the police force. Rick and Laura have wicked, dirty sex.

Oh, and that guy from the beginning of the film? He gets the short end of the stick. In bits and pieces, we find out he is Laura's old flame who robbed a liquor store and she didn't try to save him from prison so he's a bit upset with her. But he only shows up in the distance, until we get close to the end. Even then, he has less than 5 minutes screen time. No wonder that the actor never made another film.

Now, of the people who get offed in this film, I can understand the thread involved and how they are all linked, like the sleazy editor, the sleazy janitor and the creepy acting teacher. But her rather plain and sweet female friend ends up with her throat slashed and her face buried in a plate of pasta salad. I just don't get that one, but what the heck? It kept me awake for another couple of minutes.

At this point, even though I have tried to be fair and neutral about this whole thing, I think it is pretty obvious who is doing all the killing. I won't say who the killer is. I will say that if you get this on DVD from Media Blasters, DO NOT watch the "trailer". It shows you who the killer is. Of course, you have to be pretty slow not to catch on as soon as the hand pulls the cables loose in Laura's car.

I will also say that the film is not completely awful, but it is rather...bland. Yet, the director. Brian Thomas Jones, felt good enough about it to put in an appearance at the end of the film as the cameraman for Meat Cleavers From Mars. I've included a picture of him in case you doze off and forget to look.

The DVD release of this film, found on the Rareflix Triple Feature Volume One, has a commentary by three guys who work at Media Blasters. You can hear them drinking beers and going off on tangents that have nothing to do with the movie. The saddest thing you'll hear comes about two thirds of the way through the film. One guy, who has been suffering from allergies, whispers to another guy, "I don't like this film" in the most pitiful voice, and you have to agree with him. Worth it just to ogle the leading lady but fast forward to the ridiculous ending. You'll be thanking me later.

Oh, and they never resolve the whole ironing subtext they created. Bastards.

For those who care, here is a shot of our lovely lead emoting.

In case you can't get enough, have another.

Hangin' With The Cosbys-Ninja Style

Every once in a while, you run across one of those movies that really makes you stop and think, "What the hell was THAT all about?" Not that you don't follow the story or that the movie itself makes no sense; you just cannot quite put your finger on why it was made or what the filmmakers were trying to do. A prime example of this kind of film is Blood Freak, which has been called a Christian, anti-drug, gore/monster movie, among other things. You have no idea if the filmmakers were dead serious about some of it, all of it or none of it, and if it was a comedy in disguise, the filmmakers played it so straight that the joke is truly on all of us who have seen it.

The film this time around is almost the same type of thing, but to a far lesser degree. Nothing can be as weird as Blood Freak. Our film today is The Black Ninja. And we are not talking the other weird movie with the same name that had Chris Kelly with badly-spliced together footage from an old martial arts film and a more modern film that had ninjas who looked like Power Rangers. Nor is it the OTHER film called by the same name that came out in the early 80s.

Our version of The Black Ninja stars Clayton Prince, whom you may know from many classic roles in The Cosby Show, Hanging With The Homeboys or as "Seaweed" in the original Hairspray. He plays criminal defense attorney Malik Ali, one of the most sought-after lawyers in the Philadelphia area as he can get any criminal off no matter how guilty the scumbag is. But do we get introduced to him right off the bat? Oh hell no! We get to see three street thugs threaten the safety of some utterly generic, and apparently incredibly STUPID, woman who wanders into a section of town I wouldn't enter in broad daylight with enough weaponry to make Rambo green with envy. As they offer to help themselves to her ample sexual charms, some douche bag in a black outfit shows up and ruins what could have been a very interesting opening to a rough porn film. He kicks, slaps and boot-plants these jokers like they have no idea how to defend themselves. They scurry away to an abandoned building and think they are safe. Our "hero" then takes an obviously illegal explosive device (a concussion grenade from the look of it) and tosses it into the building where the rambunctious fellows ran. They escape in time to avoid seeing an obviously cheap mock up of building (which looks little like the real building) explode. Not only is the fellow in black a bully, but he is also a terrorist.

We then are whipped to some of the most laughably bad opening credit animations ever created. Not THE worst, but, as you can see from the included screen shots, this film is basically telling you they spent their budget on these bad animations and that this film is a comic book, at best. Already we are being told what to think. Not only do we have no confidence in the filmmakers and find the guy in black to be a spoil sport, but now they try to control how we should look at this film. I'm already finding myself not happy about this turn of events.

Moving from Cartoon Cheesefest 2003, we find ourselves watching a crime being committed, with a sneaky man stealing keys, shutting down lights and ultimately assaulting a poor single woman in her home. Wait. I remember reading this was a comedy. So...rape is comic fodder? I must remember this for my stand-up career when I do a show for the women at Vassar; they'll be ROLLING in the aisles.

Yet ANOTHER transition to a courtroom where we finally meet dapper Malik Ali. Behind the final credit of the opening credits. The one that reads, "Written & Directed by ME". I'm NOT kidding. The image you are seeing has not been Photoshopped. An amazing display of hubris, overweening pride, with many thanks to both Strangers With Candy and former New York mayor, Harold Washington. Then the attorney proceeds to trash his client's intelligence to achieve a victory that only Matlock could envy. Okay, so we have a comedy...maybe.

On to what has to be one of the best scenes in the movie. A lovely Asian reporter is commenting on the events of the courtroom and interviews Ali and Pooky, his client, as they exit the courthouse. Pooky, when asked his opinion, says, "Damn, girl, you fine. You got any black in you? You want some?" Okay, we have a comedy.


For the next few minutes, we bounce back and forth from the film showing us political commentary to romantic hints to more action as the Black Ninja does his glorious moves in a lovely repetition of three times, which you saw in the opening scene and you had better get used to it. Apparently the filmmakers read Twain and his belief that nothing sticks in the mind unless it is repeated 3 times. I don't think he meant 3 times in succession, but what the hell, right?

Are we even close to the real story? Do we have a hint? Where is the stank of the story?

Here it is. We get the back story of Malik as he talks to his new obvious love interest, Dr. Tracey Allen, whom he has saved from attacks before. Now, as a client, he bares his exposition as he explains how he defended Shinji Hagiwara, an obvious psychotic killer, and how he stole all of Hagiwara's money to defend the nutcase. Shinji does not take kindly to this and slaughters the good lawyer's family in return. We see images of the slaughtered family and of Shinji writing a message in the son's blood on a mirror. Eh, comedy...anyone,!

The obviously disturbed psychologist (what kind of patients does she deal with?) stops the interview and sends Malik on his way. Within minutes, she is harassed by armed thugs sent by Tony Fanelli, who killed a cop and the good doctor happened to be a witness, although you would be hard pressed to find her in the flashbacks, but who am I to doubt anybody? Still, the good doctor, who seems more tightly wrapped than a generic tampon, just happens to have a print of the Marx Brothers on her office wall. Hmmmm. Are we to believe she has a comedic side we aren't seeing, or are the filmmakers just flailing about to find some decoration? Don't look for subtext. This film isn't that deep.

The Black Ninja jumps to her rescue...again. So much for strong female characters in this film! Our hero (okay, do I really need to maintain an aura of secrecy over who The Black Ninja really is?) goes after the lead assassin Mr. Fanelli uses. With a few well-placed punches, the gunslinger coughs up his boss and his address. Meanwhile, the good therapist is arrested for the murder of the assassin's sidekicks, and she immediately calls Malik Ali. Not sure, but isn't this a conflict of interest? Oh, wait, this is a movie and reality has no place here.

Next we get some happy bonding with the female doctor and the sleazy lawyer. But he has a heart of gold. Oh, wait, he is...but the good doctor doesn't know, so we won't say anything yet. And we get to see a bit of rather obvious over-dubbing as we meet Pooky again as he is being locked in a cell with a massive cross-dressing sex freak called Frenchy. Despite the subject matter of the movie, the filmmakers decided it was important not to do anything that would net them anything worse than a PG rating. A marketing ploy no doubt, but it isn't like it got them anywhere as I don't think this has received airplay beyond a few UHF and alternative digital channels.

Where the hell is all of this going? I don't know and I've seen it twice now. Okay, quick trip through more plot developments to get to more fun stuff.

Malik/Black Ninja keeps psychologist locked up to protect her. Finally gives in and bails her out. He saves her again. She realizes Malik is The Black Ninja (slow, girlfriend, very slow). Ninja Boy goes out to find out more about the plans to kill the good doctor while telling her to stay in his secret hideout. She leaves hideout and the Red Ninja kidnaps her.

Thank God for The Red Ninja. This movie was going nowhere until he shows up and proceeds to gnaw scenery like a starved rat. His over-the-top performance actually makes you believe this film MIGHT be a comedy. Or is he just overacting? Still, his bug-eyed looks and smarmy expressions make this role one of the best for the entire film. And the actor, one Yuki Matsuzaki, has gone on to better things, unlike most of the rest of the cast. Check out the two lovely screen caps shown here.

So, his treatment of The Black Ninja's new love interest provides motivation for the rest of the movie. This includes a ridiculous bit of padding about a diamond theft that does nothing for the story.

Do I need to hold your hand to make it clear how this movie plays out? I'm not gonna give it away, but, really, do you need me to paint a picture? I will tell you that there is one interrogation on a toilet seat that fans of bathroom/fart humor will find so wonderful that they may need to visit the toilet themselves. Honestly, you have to see it to believe it.

Ultimately, the question is this: What the hell IS The Black Ninja? I have no idea. Is it boring? Heck no. Is it worth watching? Definitely. You will be tossed from side to side, from serious action flick to comedy to social commentary, and the damned thing never sticks to one and it never seems to know what it is in the end. But it DOES entertain, even if on the level of "How stupid can they get with this next scene?" Even on that level, you will not be disappointed.

Biggest overall complaint is that it appears they took a movie shot on 35mm film and gave it an awful transfer over to a video print for easier distribution. The thing just looks plain ugly and grainy. But then, given the movie does not seem to have any sense of what it it, MAYBE they shot it so it would look so ugly. Nah, they couldn't be that crafty.

Now, for the downside. If you go to the trouble of buying this film, which it is worthy of if you can score it for less that 6 bucks, you may be tempted to watch the "making of" featurette on the disc. Do so ONLY after watching the film at least once. I will not go into detail, but I will say that the "making of" film is actually better in many ways than the actual film and may just have you feeling a touch awkward for laughing AT the film instead of laughing WITH the film.

But don't listen to it. Even though it isn't as utterly stupid as the Chris Kelly Black Ninja, this is a seriously dopey movie that deserves an audience that will laugh both at and with it.