Saturday, October 11, 2008

a boring movie about cheerleaders? i feel so betrayed, or something...

So, I've been pretty lax in writing film reviews during this Halloween countdown, and I feel pretty bad about that.  It's just been hard to muster the enthusiasm, even though some of the things I've been watching lately (Love Me Deadly, Boardinghouse) have been pretty enjoyable.  It just feels like, I dunno, something's missing.  After having a conversation with a friend of mine about some of the serious flaws present in "I Know Who Killed Me," I feel a little ashamed of my "this movie sucks because it's lame" review.  Anyway, I'd like to pick up the pace some, get some more reviews up, watch some more films, and stop feeling like a lame-o all the time.

I'd heard about the slasher flick "Home Sweet Home" years ago but it wasn't until recently that a DVD for it showed up.  This is a cheap movie notable mainly for starring "Body by Jake" Steinfeld as the killer.  He's a big, hulking slab of meat who wanders around this movie, giggling maniacally and occasionally bodyslamming someone to death.  This is also notable as being one of the only Thanksgiving themed slasher films.  After "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th," filmmakers were kind of desperate to find holidays to pin their killings on (anyone ever read MAD magazine's slasher parody, with Jack Davis art, about "Arbor Day?").  Thanksgiving, I suppose, was deemed non-scary, or at least didn't spawn too many slashers.

Oddly, this film doesn't really do much to play off the iconography of Thanksgiving.  It's set in California, at a kind of hippy-dippy ranch house, so the weather's warm, and the celebrants kind of swarthy.  I had always sort of imagined this taking place in a New Englang suburb or something, in a traditional colonial home, turkey on the table, maybe a thin layer on snow on the ground.  But, no, instead you get a bunch of dudes with moustaches that I'm not even sure are related, their ladies, one little kid and a punk rock mime named "Mistake" who looks kinda like Jeffrey Combs and sounds kinda like Eddie Deezen and I suppose would be the comic relief in this thing if the killer weren't already ridiculous enough, and if his portrayal weren't kind of depressing, since he's the only teenager around and everybody seems to hate him, even to the point of initially blaming him for the killings.

Speaking of killings, they are few and far in-between here.  "Home Sweet Home" takes its' damn sweet time in getting to anything.  It opens with a four minute scene of Steinfeld driving.  I got up, got myself a Pepsi, checked my email, and kind of lost track of time before realizing that what was happening on the screen was the same thing as the last time I'd looked.  The first killing, after the opening, doesn't take place for seventeen minutes, although I admittedly laughed out loud when it happened, at the site of Steinfeld jumping out of the bushes on the hood of a car and smooshing a dude fiddling with the engine underneath.  Steinfeld's insane physical presence is overwhelmingly bizarre in scenes like this.

"Home Sweet Home" suffers from not actually being about anything.  Not only did I not understand the relationship between the victims, no indication of Steinfeld's motive is ever given.  The hippy house seems to be just where he winds up before the cops can shoot him down.  So there are lots of long scenes of characters I don't really understand doing things that don't really effect what's going to happen one way or another.  "Mistake" provides some cute moments, such as when he interrupts a very early-80s bit of coitus ("You feel so good...Jesus, you're so horny.") with some sweet guitar licks.  But the goodwill he builds up is somewhat dampered by the other characters contempt for him, and his participation later in the film's one moment that registers as disturbing or horrific, in which Steinfeld holds a knife to the throat of one of the character's girlfriends, and Mistake pleads with him not to kill her, asking Steinfeld to take him instead, and offering to play guitar and juggle for him in exchange for the girl's life.  The scene does not end happily.

Interestingly, one of the actors in this film had just previously directed the rock n roll themed slasher pic "Terror on Tour," which featured some roles by "Boardinghouse's" John Wintergate and Kalassu.  Ok, that wasn't that interesting.  And neither was "Home Sweet Home."  Aside from sloppy filmmaking and bad acting, I think it really suffers from not doing more with the Thanksgiving trapping.  Basically we've got a universal (in America, at least) theme, but a totally unrelatable setting and characters who, when you can understand what they're saying and why they're saying it, aren't very likeable.  Add to that a motiveless killer who giggles uncontrollably throughout, and you've got...I don't know actually.  This movie, I guess.  It was pointless and pretty stupid but I thought it was better than "I Know Who Killed Me."

Unlike most Thanksgiving meals, "Home Sweet Home" didn't leave me satisfied, so I decided to check out "Satan's Cheerleaders," a film I've had the disc of for a while and have almost watched several times, but haven't.  The first thing I realized while watching this is that it's not "Satan's School for Girls," the 1973 TV movie starring crushables Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd.  The second thing I realized is that this movie (made in 1977) was directed by Greydon Clark.  Clark was sort of an Ed Wood for the 1970s, in that he made bad, misguided movies that were often quite enjoyable.  I've seen a number of Clark's films (including his blaxpoitation pic "the Bad Bunch," an "Alien"-by-way-of-"Halloween" knock-off called "Without Warning," and the videogame sex comedy "Joysticks," though I haven't seen Mr. Clark's magnum opus "Lambada, the Forbidden Dance," which is actually a real movie I remember playing in theatres around 1990, and was not in fact the only movie about the Lambada to come out that year, which is sort of culturally akin to if, say, ten years later, two movies were released attempting to solve the mystery of "Who Let the Dogs Out?" or the dangers of the Macarena although to be fair the Lambada was the foribbden dance so it took some bravery by filmmakers like Mr. Clark to attempt to explore the topic in cinema. Also, "The Forbidden Dance" starred Sig Haig, Richard Lynch and Kid Creole [actually a really brilliant musician, check out the recent retrospect of his early career in NYC "the August Darnell Years" called "Going Places" on Strut Records, it's easily one of the best reissues of the year if you like funk, disco and postpunk NYC dance tracks, sometimes called No Wave dance music or Mutant Disco], so it's probably actually really kind of awesome in special ways) and had a general sense of what I was in for- moderate bordeom coupled with moderate amusement, and indeed, "Satan's Cheerleaders" delivers on both.

Like "Home Sweet Home," "Satan's Cheerleader's" is slow in getting started.  We're treated to some 10 minutes of the titular (ahem) cheerleaders frolicking kind of pointlessly around the beach, with the dimwitted coach (played by Jackie Taylor, Clark's wife and frequent star).  Then we've got another bunch of minutes (intercut with a brief introduction to the satanic coven, led by the great character actor John Ireland) before the story gets going (cheerleaders on the road to an away game), and even more time is spent before the story proper gets going.   It's a good thirty minutes in before we really start getting Satanic, and after that there's some meandering around the town where the girls are stranded.  

Basically, this is another movie that isn't really about anything.  You've got some cheerleaders, and some Satanists, and those are both things I can get behind, but there's just not very much going on in-between.  Fortunately, you've got Ireland, one of my all-time favorite actors, who seems to be having some fun interacting with his comely co-stars (it probably helps the fun-factor that he's playing a character called Sheriff "B.L. Bubb," easily the cleverest gag in the whole picture, and possibly the funniest thing in any film by Greydon Clark, including his comedies), and Yvonne DeCarlo aka Lilly Munster, vamping it up (so to speak) as his Satanic priestess wife.  John Carradine also shows up briefly as a hobo, and Jack Kruschen (the grandfather from "Webster" and "Full House") as a Satanic janitor. Sydney (son of Charlie) Chaplin also co-stars.

The cheerleaders themselves are all very attractive and pretty uniformly bad actresses.  I know it's pretty bad to judge a film based on how good-looking the female leads are, but I feel like it's kind of prerequisite when the word "Cheerleaders" is in the title (or "Nurses," or "Stewardesses").  Besides, you could never possibly hate me more than I hate myself.  Kerry Sherman, who plays the possessed Patti, went on to small roles in 1941 and 48 Hours.  Alisa Powell, as the slutty Debbie, was in "The Toolbox Murders" AND "Rescue from Gilligan's Island."  Hillary Horan, as Chris, went on to play three different characters on three different episodes of "Happy Days," and another role on the Happy Days spin-off "Mork and Minday." AND another role in an episode of the Happy Days spin-off "Joanie Loves Chachie," which has the account for some kind of record, even if she was never on Happy Days spin-off "Laverene & Shirley." 

That's about it, I guess.  This entry doesn't make me feel any better about my film analysis prowess these days, but these movies were kind of innocuous, so an innocuous review is kind of approriate, I guess.  At least I've seen these now, so I never have to see them again, except I'd kind of watch them again, maybe, with a friend who'd never seen them, or something, except maybe not, because they were both fairly boring.  Like pretty much everything else in life.  Or something.  I mean, I don't even mind a slow moving movie if it has something going for it.  Lots of my favorite movies are kind of slow.  Michelangelo Antonioni, Robert Bresson, Werner Herzog, Monte Hellman, Jim Jarmusch, Yasujiro Ozu- all makers of often very slow movies, all makers of some of my favorite movies of all time.  But boring horror films are just way too understimulating.  Why didn't any of those guys make slasher movies?  Well, Bresson's "L'Argent" is almost kind of a slasher (and it's one of his best films, so I guess that proves my point) and Monte Hellman made "Silent Night, Deadly Night 3," but that was pretty bad.

I guess a big part of the problem is understimulation.  Like, in a broader, more general personal sense, but also cinematically.  Hey, readers, send me some good horror movie suggestions, so cool, underrated stuff I might not have been or have thought to have watched, or even something you think I might have seen but should reconsider!  Help me make Halloween for again, y'know, for me.  Seriously, post your weird-o favorites in the comments section or email them to me.  Or don't, y'know, it's not like I can't find weird crap without you.  I don't give a fuck.  But, seriously, do, because it'd be nice. Or whatever.

Did I mention I've been pretty depressed lately?  Happy Halloween.

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