Chainsaw Cheerleaders (2008)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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Red Lips 2: Bloodlust (1996)

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A woman meets a seemingly indifferent woman in a bar, and tells her about a dream she had. The dream is about a female vampire picking up a woman and starting a relationship with her, eventually turning her into a vampire too. The woman in the bar, it turns out, is also a vampire, and after a long conversation, turns her new friend. They go for a walk and the first woman gets bored and just ditches her on the street, walking off laughing.

 

That’s it. That’s everything that happens in this movie. I would love to tell you I’m joking, or being a little facetious, but no. Donald Farmer has done it again! This is the most unfinished-seeming movie I think we’ve ever covered, and I have a theory, but more on that later. It’s yet another movie that manages to be bizarre in a whole new way, so our admiration for the great man grows still further. It’s also a welcome return to the ISCFC for Debbie Rochon, who doesn’t get the chance to show much of her acting chops, but is definitely the best of the cast. It’s got lots of different sorts of filler too!

 

The initial scene, in the bar, is insane. According to the end credits, most of the characters in this movie don’t have names (and IMDB definitely gets at least one wrong) so I’m going to have to go by their actual names. Anyway, Debbie Rochon is sat at a bar, and Maria Ortiz (credited co-writer) just sits next to her and starts talking. Perhaps ranting would be a more appropriate word, as she reveals to Rochon, whose body language could not be any more uninterested, her most intimate fantasies about vampiredom. Ortiz, who I’m guessing wrote her own dialogue, trips over her lines and repeats herself and generally acts like a lunatic, but Rochon, who remains turned away from her the entire time, humours her.

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The majority of the movie is Ortiz’s dream, starring two completely different actresses. I admit I’m assuming that the footage we see is her dream, because the movie doesn’t tell us. A couple are casing a bar before robbing it…well, I say bar. They’re obviously in an empty room with a dark curtain draped behind them, but I’m not sure whether to think this is some deliberate audience alienation stuff from Farmer, or he had ten minutes to get a scene done, no money and no props. The plan is, the woman (Jenny Wallace) is to seduce the owner of the bar while the guy (really not sure who he is) robs the office. So far, so good, but while Wallace is in the “bathroom” (which looks like someone put an unplumbed toilet in the middle of an empty room), snorting some cocaine to give her courage, she’s approached by Caroline, the only person referred to by name in this entire thing.

 

Now, I know I’m as guilty of hyperbole as the next low-budget movie reviewer, but Kashmere, the lady playing Caroline, could well be the worst actress I’ve ever seen – In a field with many, many strong competitors, she stands head and shoulders above them all. I presume she was an exotic dancer (this is her sole movie credit, thank heavens) who was the only person to turn up for the audition, because I’ve seen corpses who’d be more convincing as a sexy vampire than she is. She bites Wallace, which makes her her slave, sort of, and after Wallace and the boyfriend indulge in a remarkably extended sex scene (I began fast-forwarding, it went on for a good three or four minutes), Wallace sees her at the window, bashes her boyfriend over the head with a bottle and the two of them go off together, with Kashmere eventually turning her into a full vampire (whatever that means).

 

If you thought the Wallace / sleazy boyfriend sex scene was unerotic and too long, wait til you see her and Kashmere go at it! Although it’s difficult to read any emotion on Kashmere’s face, she appears thoroughly bored, and the two ladies sort of lay next to each other, naked, occasionally stroking each other on the arm or the leg. Again, it’s so bad that I’m beginning to wonder if this is all some Dadaist experiment. The second sex scene, positions the same as the first, at least has something moderately interesting visually, as scenes from classic horror movies are projected onto their bodies. But this pales into insignificance next to filler so blatant they might as well have replaced it with a blank screen.

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After a heavily processed scene in a graveyard, where Kashmere may or not kill Wallace’s boyfriend, our two lesbian vampires go to a cinema – well, five chairs in a room somewhere, that looks a bit like a cinema. Bearing in mind this scene is a dream, apparently, being related by Ortiz to Rochon in the bar…we’re then treated to approximately 10-15 minutes of the movie they’re watching! It’s a spy thriller set in Moscow (and apparently filmed there, if the credits are to be believed) about some woman who can kill people with a touch, and the KGB guys who want to stop her. The sheer balls to put something like this in your movie is almost to be commended, almost. So, the couple kill a guy in the cinema, go home and live the rest of their lives happily.

 

The ending is Ortiz then doing the same thing to Rochon, the two of them walking through New York for a few minutes – which is the most interesting thing in the movie because they’re really filming, guerrilla style (best guess, they hid their camera) on the busy streets. Then Rochon fails to attack some street bum, and is left by Ortiz, with the final scene being Ortiz walking off laughing. Wrap your minds round that!

 

If I had to guess, I’d say this is the result of Farmer trying and failing to get three different movies off the ground. There’s the stuff with Rochon and Ortiz; the stuff with Kashmere and Wallace; and the Russian stuff. Neither of the two vampire related stories have anything close to a resolution – one is “they killed a bunch of people and lived happily ever after”, and the other is “huh?” Kashmere is so mind-blowingly awful an actress that perhaps Farmer did everything he could to limit her time on screen. And the spy movie? It’s a rich stew of truly baffling moments. Also, if you have Debbie Rochon in your movie, who’s a great actress in the right project, and she’s barely in it compared to the amateur hour people surrounding her, then there’s some serious questions you need to ask yourself.

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I’m sorry for asking more questions than I answer (information is very thin on the ground about this movie). I wonder how Maria Ortiz got a writing credit on this? It’s her only one, and she only ever acted in Farmer movies, before dying in 2000, at age 27. I get the feeling she could have been a decent actress, too, but the dialogue she gave herself, about vampires and eroticism and dreams, while possibly very important to her, sounds like lunacy coming from the mouth of a person in a movie. I wrote in my notes “this is the dumbest conversation ever” and underlined it several times over the course of “Red Lips 2”.

 

So, yet more ultra low budget lunacy. Drink it in, dear reader.

 

Rating: negative thumbs up

 

PS – and yet again, pictures borrowed from the fantastic blog Taliesin Meets The Vampires. Go read their stuff, it’s great.

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Bikini Bloodbath Christmas (2009)

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First things first and let’s get it out of the way – you really ought to know what to expect when you rent a movie called “Bikini Bloodbath Christmas”. While that’s not necessarily an excuse (we wouldn’t be thrilled about people making really racist movies and then telling us to just not bother seeing them if we don’t agree with it), it’s more a quality guide – as in, if you like quality cinema, probably best skip this one.

The “Bikini Bloodbath” series is, quelle surprise, the brainchild of two men, Jonathan Gorman and Thomas Edward Seymour. These two valiant campaigners for feminism have crafted a series where…get ready for it…women in bikinis get murdered! The male cast is an unappealing and doughy bunch (presumably both directors and their friends) whereas all the women are either gorgeous and skinny (comparatively, this is a very low budget film after all), or have absolutely enormous breasts.  The villain in this enduring series (four movies and counting, although it looks like it’s done) is Chef Death, who might as well be called “Generic Slasher Villain X”, and they’re filmed in a tiny number of locations.

Now that’s out of the way, I have a confession to make, dear reader. I sort of enjoyed this movie! It was picked purely due to it being a Christmas movie, and having Debbie Rochon in it (who we loved in “Colour From The Dark”), but there’s a definite real sense of humour at work here. In fact, the comedy is by far the best thing about this movie – the gore effects, while certainly gross, are very cheap, and the nudity just becomes numbing after a while due to its ubiquity.

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The plot, such as it is, involves a feud between a weed shop and a deli, two stores that share the same yard. It’s Christmas time, and both shops want their own Santas outside, but there’s not really enough space for both of them, so there’s a fight between the store owners, the two Santas, and a few sharp words between the women, before it’s completely forgotten. For some reason, despite weed shops and delis not being the typical sort of place you’d expect to get served by a woman in a bikini, both owners are insistent on their staff being decked in as little as possible, and the film is kind enough to show every single scene of dressing and undressing which is physically possible.

I’m really not selling it well, am I? Tell you what, let’s get the rest of the bad stuff out of the way before we get to what the film really does well. The two bosses insult the women in the movie almost constantly, and while it’s not supposed to be taken seriously, the sheer volume and vitriol of the insults really wears on you after a while. It’s like the movie is determined to tell us that these bikini models are no better than you or I, and I honestly don’t understand why they’re doing it. The women don’t feel they have any agency in their own story – they’re insulted from pillar to post, and every now and again one of them will get butchered.

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Okay, I admit it. Criticising the lack of agency in a movie like this is so far beyond pointless that I wish I could get the skin cells that wore off typing those words back. But there’s a reason that stuff is annoying, and it’s because there’s a lot to like otherwise. There are some great jokes, some surprisingly inventive visual moments, and there are a couple of great performances in there too. Rachael Robbins as Jenny, the final girl from the previous two movies, is great, and Margaret Rose Champagne as “William Dafoe”, the evil Frenchwoman, is absolutely hilarious. Rochon is in it for maybe thirty seconds, which makes her top billing a little annoying…but the women do pretty well, all told.

There’s one scene which angered my wife so much I have to write about it (and it’s an amazingly new way to gross people out). Desperate to use the toilet, only there’s a dead girl on there, one of the characters opens a window and dangles his bare ass out of it. Rather than just having gross sound effects, we are treated to an extreme close up of a fake butthole, with a stream of shit coming out of it. I salute them for finding a level below the bottom of the barrel, I suppose?

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If the film had tried a little less hard to offend, and someone had told the directors that in an era where nudity is available at the click of a button, for free, for everyone in the world, then concentrating so hard on nudity might not be the best plan; we might have had a little B-movie gem. They have a talent for comedy, and a cast which doesn’t suck – try something that plays to those strengths, and you might even be able to find some decent actresses (or just ones who aren’t thrilled about constantly disrobing for a couple of sleazy guys).

Rating: thumbs in the middle

PS – if there was ever a sign of non-quality, it’s having a Lloyd Kaufman cameo in your movie. He presumably wrote his own dialogue, so unless you’re desperate to see a sad, pathetic old man say “I’m just off to rape a pregnant woman” feel free to hit fast-forward whenever you see his face.

Colour From The Dark (2008)

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When HP Lovecraft wasn’t insulting the working classes or non-white people, he could turn out a pretty fantastic story, and as he’s both famous and in the public domain, lots of movies have used those stories, and have had no problem with altering large portions of the source material. Sometimes, like “Cthulhu Mansion”, it’s an “inspired by the fiction of” credit (which means “we took the famous words and ignored the rest”); sometimes, like with  “Dark Heritage”, they try and stick closer.

“The Colour From The Dark”, though, is a sort of halfway house. The title gives us a clue – HPL’s original is called “The Colour Out Of Space”; and is about the horror caused when a few people interact with an very alien race (this is a very very brief and incomplete summary of the original). Lovecraft apparently spent a great deal of time imagining what an alien race completely and utterly different in all things to humanity would act and behave, and that fed into the story, one of his very best. He also tried to imagine / describe a brand new colour, which I’m sure you’d agree is a bit tough for a visual medium like the movies. This, on the other hand, puts the action very much in the hands of people (so I think, it’s open to interpretation).

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It’s Italy, in 1943. A small family is farming the land as families there had probably done in roughly the same way for centuries, and it looks a beautiful peaceful little idyll. Of course, the date should give you a clue, and when we see the neighbour of our main family giving help to a Jewish woman, we know something’s not right (even though there’s only one Nazi in the movie, really). Pietro the farmer, his wife Lucia, and Lucia’s younger sister Alice live together, but all is not well with Alice – for reasons which I think remain unspecified, she is mute and has some “difficulties”.

 

One day, Alice drops a bucket down the well, and trying to retrieve it, Pietro causes…something?…to happen. Smoke billows out of the well, along with a sort of lightning-looking thing, and things start happening pretty much immediately. The vegetables they’re growing, watered by that same well, start growing to monstrous size, and then even stranger, soon Alice is talking again and Lucia has become a sexual dynamo. Only Pietro appears unaffected initially, but things get darker and darker for our family, and…well, it’s available to watch for free, I’ll leave you to discover that.

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“Colour From The Dark” does a remarkable job of giving that feel of Lovecraft’s best fiction, perhaps more strongly than any movie the ISCFC has covered so far (with the exception of “Dagon”), that we are ultimately powerless against forces much too big and alien for us to understand. Now, here’s my theory about this movie, as it’s definitely not to do with aliens. The thing that causes the crops to fail and the people to slowly descend into madness is a Nazi chemical weapon, accidentally dropped in the bottom of the well. The Nazis and fascism could count as the “alien” belief system, which isn’t so much fought against as survived by people like the Italian villagers. I do want to point out that I ran this past my friends, who watched the movie with me, and they think I’m talking rubbish. So you may have a very different take to me.

 

It’s let down a little by some technical stuff. The CGI is awful, and presumably the budget was very small indeed (tiny handful of sets, a garden with very obvious blue screen behind the cast for some shots). It’s quite visually boring, too – look at a movie like “The Reflecting Skin” for how to shoot those sorts of locations with not much money. The three main women in the movie all look way too similar, which leads to unnecessary puzzlement at the beginning of a few scenes; although the acting is fine, with a series of perfectly workmanlike performances, with one particular exception.

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Debbie Rochon, as Lucia, is absolutely amazing. Her transformation is entirely believable, her sexuality almost leaps through the screen and grabs you, she’s mysterious and beautiful and far far too good to have just had a career as a low-rent “scream queen” (including a lot of Troma movies and a couple with Donald Farmer, so we’ll be seeing her again soon). Every scene with her in ends up elevated.

 

Sadly, the low budget is not my only criticism. While filmmaker Ivan Zuccon nailed the atmosphere (he’s made a lot of Lovecraft adaptations, so it’s perhaps to be expected) he really didn’t write enough movie. The middle is really slow, and while I’ve tried to spin the Nazi thing as a plot substitute for aliens, the whole thing with the Jewish refugee and the town’s Nazi never really went anywhere. It could have been set literally anywhere with the tiniest bit of tweaking.

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But, this is definitely in the “win” column for Lovecraft movies. Great atmosphere, interesting plot, and one amazing performance.

 

Rating: thumbs up