Saturday, October 24, 2009
Oh man, I have had the proverbial cold from hell all autumn long. It knocked me on my ass for like a week about a month ago, then came back a couple of weeks ago (my head was so congested I had trouble hearing, ugh) and now it's back again. My office is a total germ pool, everybody's been sick the past couple of weeks. I feel totally gross, and between that and working a pretty heavy schedule between the temp job and teaching at SVA, my energy has been totally sapped recently, which is why I've been doing a lot of comics posts for this Halloween countdown and not a lot of actual writing. It's super frustrating, I'd like to be more enthusiastic, I'd like to writing every night, both on Negative Pleasure and on the other projects I'm working on, and I have been writing some, but not nearly enough not to prevent the flood of self-loathing and deep feelings of inadequacy.
Anyway, since I'm sick, I thought I'd write about a stupid movie I saw called SICK GIRL. A lot of what I've been covering here lately is what I guess you could call "difficult horror." That is to say, films that provide some kind of a viewing challenge, generally more serious in tone, either disturbingly violent or presenting a general aura of dread and uneasiness. DEADGIRL and GRACE are difficult horror films. OFFSPRING is a film that aspires to be difficult, but ultimately isn't, because it isn't really about anything.
SICK GIRL not only aspires to be difficult horror, but also aspires to be about something, though it fails on both counts. Basically it's a serial killer movie, about an unbalanced girl living out in the middle of nowehere who snaps and starts killing and torturing people. Whatever else the film may offer or try to offer, that is essentially and its core, death and torture. The torture aspect of the film, I think, is meant to be entertaining, even fun, while at the same time disturbing, and I think that's largely where SICK GIRL fails. In terms of tone, it's all over the place, we're never really sure if it's supposed to be taken seriously or if it's all just a sick joke.
This lack of consistency makes the more serious aspects of SICK GIRL difficult to swallow. The main character is unhealthily fixated on her brother, a Marine who we eventually learn has died in combat in Iraq. Presumably, then, the film is trying to say something about the war, but what? Well, really, nothing. Rather, it just uses the war as a signifier of gravitas that is otherwise lacking in the material. I guess that's the definition of an exploitation film, using whatever is available for maximum effect, regardless of artistry or meaning. This gives SICK GIRL a really cheap feeling, and not that cheap is bad in a horror film, or any kind of film, there's definitely something to be said for cheap, sleazy movies, but not here, there's no real thought behind it, just button pressing, and fairly weak button pressing as that.
As portrayed by Leslie Andrews, that main character Izzy is really hard to get a grasp on. She's crazy, basically, but not much else, she just seems crazy, acts crazy and turns out to be crazy. It's just sort of assumed that we are willing to accept that she's simply crazy and that's all we really need to know about her. I wanted more, though, more to the character. Presumably there's a reason she was so fixated on her brother, but aren't given much insight into that. Really, insight isn't SICK GIRL's domain. What the film gives us instead is basically one scene of shocking gore, in which Izzy castrates one of her victims and uses the severed penis to rape another. This scene is basically SICK GIRL's whole reason for existing. I can't really say that it's not effective, the images are certainly discomforting, but there's no real build up to this attack, its motivations are unclear. Rather, it's just sort of this burst of messily hateful rage that emerges unexpectedly from the series of sloppily constructed scenes that precede it.
I guess the other, maybe the only other, interesting thing about SICK GIRL is that Stephen Geoffreys is in it. Geoffreys was, of course, the co-star of FRIGHT NIGHT and the star of 976-EVIL (and appeared in such non-horror offerings as FRATERNITY VACATION, AT CLOSE RANGE and a personal fave of mine, HEAVEN HELP US) in the mid-t0-late 80s before disappearing off the legit acting scene and winding up in gay porn. Geoffreys' over-the-top yet sympathetic performances have earned him a deserved cult following over the years, and the gay porn thing adds a certain "what the fuck?" aspect to his legend. One can just imagine what circumstances led him to the porn world, it gives him a mystique of tragedy. Anyway, SICK GIRL is one of the few legit (or at least semi-legit) films he's done in a while, so it was interesting to see him again (really, for the first time since MOON 44 in 1990), even if it's a fairly small part and he doesn't have a whole lot to do with it.
Whatever, SICK GIRL is just kind of stupid movie, it doesn't really know what it's trying to do or say or be, so all we wind up with is some ghastly gore without any real context to it, just like "watch this and be disturbed, rah rah fuck yeah horror" which is lame and lazy filmmaking. Blah.