Firstly – much love for Wild Eye Releasing. Those folks are doing some sterling work bringing ultra-low budget and completely forgotten works of horror cinema to a wider audience, and if you have any spare money I heartily recommend buying some of their stuff and having a good time. Well, a good time is not guaranteed, but you know. Get this film from here.
This also continues our Donald Farmer season. The great Farmer, after dropping the insane classic “Vampire Cop” on the world, decided to do a documentary featuring the women of the new world of low-budget and shot-on-video (SOV) horror. Well, “decided” might be too strong a word – it looks like he was offered interviews with a bunch of women in their homes, or waiting in the reception room of some movie company, and saw a buck to be made.
There’s absolutely nothing interesting visually about this documentary at all, unless you count the sound drops and weird tracking problems that came from Farmer’s original VHS tape and Wild Eye’s transfer of said VHS. So I’d normally try and say something about the movie itself, but in this case I’m stumped. Pro wrestling fans will recognise a lot of the “shoot interview” trend in this, where a wrestler was filmed telling stories in a hotel room on the road somewhere for a couple of hours. No-one has ever said “this shoot interview was really well filmed”.
A substantial number of women are interviewed, and what’s interesting I think is the mix of extreme honesty and typical Hollywood back-covering from them. Sadly, a lot of them had to rely on, for want of a better word, bottom-feeding scum like Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray for work, and those guys were far more interested in whether a woman would take her clothes off on camera than telling an interesting story (with one or two minor exceptions for both guys). So you get young women like Melissa Moore, Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens, and veterans like Mary Woronov and Martine Beswick, all trying to be as polite as possible about men who I’m sure they’d have crossed the street to avoid had they been in any other line of work. Stevens even manages, from the vantage of 2015, to be a little heartbreaking, as she talks about writing movies and getting into A-pictures…when we can see her IMDB page and the last 20 years is full of cheap horror garbage I’d never even heard of.
I think the politeness spoils it, slightly. For instance, making a movie in four days must have been a bizarre experience, and it’s brushed over as “well, I was new, and I’d do anything”. Tell us more! Give us dirt!
There are no new ideas in the world, and so it is with this movie. Farmer must have seen “Scream Queen Hot Tub Party”, released the previous year, which was a Fred Olen Ray / Jim Wynorski joint effort and basically an hour of mostly naked women talking about the shitty movies they’d been in…although Farmer changes it up and also interviews people like David DeCoteau, who artfully skates round why he doesn’t use certain actresses any more (real answer: they had the temerity to join a Union, and his cheap garbage is most definitely non-Union). DeCoteau, “interestingly” enough, is still trading on the “Scream Queen” name, casting Linnea Quigley, Bauer and Stevens together in 2014’s “3 Scream Queens”.
It’s an fascinating artefact from a fascinating time, and thanks to Wild Eye for putting it out there. But, all told, I’m glad Farmer went back to doing what he did best – making spectacularly cheap horror movies. While I have my soapbox, though, I’ll add a little bit about Wynorski and Olen Ray, as their shadows loom large over this sort of cinema. A lot of sites and magazines will call them “legends”, or make reference to their “gleefully un-PC” cinema, or will even pretend to like their movies. This is 100% bullshit, though. Not only did they make cheap crap with very few redeeming features, they exploited women, and if you think “well, the women could have refused to work for them” then I’m sorry that you don’t understand how the world and power relationships work. Anyway, after the era covered by this movie, Wynorski went on to basically make soft-core pornography (including “Witches of Breastwick” and “Cleavagefield”, and those movies are not as much fun as the titles suggest) and Olen Ray, along with also making soft-core horror, just with less entertaining titles, made super-cheap family movies (“Abner The Invisible Dog” is one), because his entire business model relies on fooling old people and children in video shops and Netflix queues.
B-movies, cheap SOV horror or whatever you want to call it, can be sleazy fun without being so exploitative, but if you only had their work to go on, you’d never realise that. I’m far from a prude, but if being called a prude means I don’t have to pretend to like the person who made “Girl With The Sex-Ray Eyes” then I accept the title. Hell, I’ll be an equal opportunities prude, just look at the front cover of any David DeCoteau movie made in the last decade and tell me you don’t feel a little bad for the guys on the posters.
I realise I’ve spent over half this review talking about people who aren’t in it. Sorry ISCFC readers, but “Invasion Of The Scream Queens” comes recommended – just don’t expect much of the documentarian’s art.
Rating: thumbs up