It’s fairly safe to say my expectations were low for this one. After the shockingly bad – yes, even by our normal standards – “Dorm Of The Dead”, I was not expecting to have a good time ever again with a Donald Farmer movie. But this one is different. I know, I’m a bit surprised too.
It’s also, very sadly, the last commercially available Donald Farmer movie. If anyone reading this bought any of his outtake VHS tapes (or managed to get hold of a copy of “Blood and Honor”, “Fighting Chance”, “Charlie and Sadie”, or “Bollywood and Vine”), then please get in touch. We’ve got one more of his movies to review – 2002’s “Body Shop”, which should be arriving soon – and then a blu-ray from the amazing SRS Cinema of a couple of his earliest movies, neither of which have IMDB pages or any other information available – SRS Cinema is putting out some pretty fantastic movies, so they’re a highly recommended destination for your entertainment dollar. Farmer has made a few movies since this, including the amazing-sounding “Shark Exorcist”, but to the best of my knowledge, unless you happen upon one at a convention, you’re not seeing them.
Right from the off, we’ve got two new things going on. Our writer / director goes by “Don Farmer” now, and he’s using real honest-to-goodness CGI! There’s also two people who can definitely act in this – ISCFC favourite Debbie Rochon, who was in “Red Lips 2”, and Tiffany Shepis, who was one of the very few rays of light in “Dorm Of The Dead”. It also, unlike many of his earlier VHS tapes, fills my entire widescreen TV, which is a welcome sight.
Anyway, the movie. Rather than some action and then “48 hours earlier”, we get some action and then “500 years earlier”, and the story of Lucinda the witch (Shepis), who was imprisoned in some weird alternate dimension after being too evil and witchy. Back in the present day, our star is Dawn (Michele Grey), a goth girl with a crappy boyfriend, Dax. He cheats, she beats him up, and then the school psychologist Dr Lacey (Rochon) says that she needs to take part in a new activity and change her ways, or…they don’t really say what the punishment for what she did might be, or why she chooses to go through with it, but there’d be no movie otherwise I guess.
Anyway, the activity chosen for her is cheerleading. The only three cheerleaders we meet (Bambi, Chastity and Jessica) don’t dance, their cheers mainly involve promises to have sex with the entire football team, and they’re all obviously in their late 20s. Anyway, Dawn makes a go of integrating with them, but at the same time a witch is trying to open a portal to bring Lucinda back. Well, she succeeds, and then it’s on, with murders and mayhem and all manner of fun things.
The extremely low budget shows itself in a variety of fun ways that are like a spoonful of sugar to we bad movie fans. The cheerleaders take Dawn to sell magazines door to door, but when shooting the scene no-one thought of getting any magazines, or subscription documents, or clipboards, or anything, for them to carry – plus, I must have misheard “cheerleader camp”, as it’s just a corner of a public park, with families walking past and a nearby road. My favourite is the way Farmer got round only being able to afford Rochon and Shepis for a few days – Shepis starts off as the witch, then almost immediately hops into someone else’s body; Rochon just gets murdered after a few seconds of her here and there is dropped into various points of the movie. There’s a scene later on of a gig, and the band has women in cages dancing. This must be a really good gig, right? Well, as the budget didn’t exist, it’s actually in an almost empty bar, and I’d lay good odds on the band paying for the privilege of being in it.
The title is accurate, for once, and the chainsaws are a lot of fun – even if the budget means they were never actually turned on, despite being in shot, visibly not moving, with the roaring sound of a working chainsaw dominating the scene. Dawn needs some protection as, sort of by accident, Lucinda has decided to make her life hell, killing all Dawn’s enemies and making it look like she did it.
You may have noticed I’ve not used any words like “sexist”, “garbage”, “murky”, “incomprehensible” and “miserable” so far. I really don’t know what to say, readers, but it seems like Don Farmer was making a play for the mainstream here! There’s no endless sex scenes (and only brief nudity, during a weird sex game featuring Rochon), the dreadful actors appear to know they’re dreadful, and play it for laughs, everything’s lit reasonably well, and I understood at every point why characters were behaving the way they were and what the plot was. This is unprecedented, basically – from “Demon Queen” through “Vampire Cop” all the way to the second “Red Lips” movie, Farmer has entertained in many ways, but having plotlines a rational human being could follow was never high on his list of priorities (or, indeed, on his list at all).
What’s annoying is the realisation that after this, which is both funny on purpose and comprehensible, Farmer stopped directing for five years, and then only broke silence to do a short film for the “Hi-8” anthology. It’s like he’d finally figured it out, and then knowing he’d figured it out, gave up!
Bear in mind, readers, that me enjoying this is based on having seen fifteen other Donald Farmer movies, and the myriad insane ways those movies failed. You, who watch normal movies all the time, would probably struggle with this. But if you’re a Farmer fan, like I am, and want to know if this is worth picking up, 100% yes. Buy it, enjoy it, and hope some distributor picks up “Shark Exorcist” and his upcoming “Cannibal Cop”.
Rating: thumbs up