Dorm Of The Dead (2006)

Dorm Of The Dead poster

There’s a scam in the low-budget movie world. It’s a variation on the Cannon model of “make a cool poster, sell that to distributors, then make a film based on the poster”, only a little more advanced. Have you ever watched a movie which started off well, got you interested, then suddenly dropped off a cliff of quality after the first five minutes? This is often associated with a change of location or characters, or both, and is usually the pre-credits sequence.

 

The big secret is, they make that first five minutes to secure funding, and distribution; when they’ve got their money, based on the expectation that the rest of the movie will be as good, they knock out any old piece of cheap crap. This crap will then get sold to cable channels, video rental places (now streaming services, I guess), eke out a meagre profit and the cycle will continue. The ur-example of this is Fred Olen Ray’s “The Tomb” from 1986, which starts off as an Indiana Jones-style adventure before switching to an hour of people talking on telephones, but there’s a case to be made for “Dorm Of The Dead” being a member of this group.

 

Ignoring (for now) the framing device, we get the first segment, where a guy tries to persuade his girlfriend to have sex before leaving, frustrated, only to then meet a couple of zombies, start making out with them, and get eaten. It’s well lit, filmed on decent equipment and (by and large) well acted. Now, the makeup is abysmal, even for a no-budget zombie movie – a bit of grey paint on the face, dark rings round the eyes, which looks even stupider when it’s a woman in a small top and you can see acres of perfectly healthy flesh – but everything else looks good.

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Then, after the credits, we hear that distinctive hum that means someone is using their camcorder’s on-board sound recording, and all bets are off. It’s ISCFC favourite Donald Farmer, who’s been entertaining us since the mid 80s, and just like with most of his movies there’s an absolute ton of things to talk about. Playing over those opening credits, for instance? “Eat The Living”, the same song that so dominated the last Farmer movie, “Red Lips 3”.

 

After a 15-minute segment that has nothing really to do with the rest of the movie, where B-movie regular Tiffany Shepis cheats on her boyfriend, then the boyfriend’s a psycho, then they all get turned into zombies anyway so who cares, we get to the plot. Sarah, a goth girl, mildly insults Clare, a “townie”, in class one day (their verbal jousting is embarrassingly wooden), so Clare decides to get her revenge in the most insane way possible. The professor has a vial of zombie blood, sourced from Haiti, so Clare and her friend steal the vial, find Sarah in her dorm and pour the blood down her throat – this slowly turns her into a zombie, although I suppose Clare couldn’t have expected it to actually be real.

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Where to start? Let’s talk about the editing of a couple of early scenes – the aforementioned classroom scene, then one right after it, where Sarah’s tuition cheque bounces and the principal takes great delight in telling her she’s kicked out of her accommodation (she has to move to Arkham Hall, where all the broke kids are). Anyway, it looks like Farmer filmed everyone in these scenes individually then spliced them together but did it with different cameras and lighting, in different locations, and it’s so obvious, for no real reason. It’s not like any of the actors were famous or good, so why not just hire people who were all able to show up at the same time?

 

In a film which barely hits 65 minutes before the credits roll, there’s also a heck of a lot of padding – check out the scenes where Sarah walks through a funfair, or the one where Farmer regular Jim O’Rear (surely a name more appropriate to a porn star?) escorts her through an enormous convenience store, where nothing happens, slowly. And the acting! Although I can’t use any of my trademark hyperbole, as Farmer has already previously employed the worst actress I’ve ever seen in my life (Kashmere, in “Red Lips 2”), there’s still a wide range of rank amateurishness on display. Ciara Richards (Sarah), Adrianna Eder (Alison) and Jackey Hall (Clare) feel like Farmer was just wandering through campus one day and picked them at random; they appear to have no desire or aptitude for acting. The men in the movie, all scumbags or rapists or both, fare no better.

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Endings in movies are tricky beasts. A great one can elevate a weak movie, and a terrible one can do the opposite. It’s nice to actually have one, though, even if Donald Farmer disagrees. “Dorm Of The Dead” doesn’t so much end as just abruptly cut off, in the middle of a news report where the on-location reporter is unsure what a safe distance from a group of zombies is. There’s been no character development, no resolution to any of the plotlines, no sense of closure, nothing. It’s so poor, if it were anyone other than Farmer, I’d think it might be a deliberate audience alienation tactic. But there’s one crucial part of the ending we’ve not yet discussed.

 

Framing the movie is a Criswell-like narrator, Alf, played by a chap with the delightful stage name of Dukey Flyswatter. He supplies no useful information in the beginning, and just cackles with laughter before saying “get out!” at the end, but it’s his review on IMDB I wanted to mention. He says the film was terrible, only good for ogling the women, and mentions how he supplied his own outfit and improvised his own dialogue. I wouldn’t brag about that, mate! Anyway, he also mentions improvising a scene where he’s the father of a teenage girl, she’s on a date, her date is trying to get her to have sex with him and she’s completely (deliberately?) misunderstanding everything he says. It’s comedy for the severely head-injured, but he says the scene was cut short thanks to some “old woman” on the set complaining about the content, and it never made it into the movie anyway, not even the special features. Well, he clearly turned off the movie the second it faded to black, because the scene he talks about appears in the middle of the credits. And it is bad! It goes on for almost ten excruciating minutes, although I’m really not sure why it wasn’t just put in the movie – it’s no worse than any of the other terrible filler scenes.

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This is, by any reasonable assessment, worse than Donald Farmer’s late 80s movies. The effects are worse, the acting is worse, the dialogue, the editing…it’s a rare director who seems to devolve, but Farmer has managed it. I take no pleasure whatsoever in saying this – he seems like a decent guy, a real film buff, but after wildly bizarre early efforts that never failed to entertain, there’s no sense of adventure or fun in these later ones. Aside from that well-lit first five minutes, the entire rest of the movie seems to have had no money spent on it at all – the sets are all whatever they could get access to for ten minutes, the makeup is just a bit of dirt rubbed on faces, the blood and guts could be freebies from a local butcher (or just Karo syrup)…you could tell me “Dorm Of The Dead” had cost less than $500 and I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

So, I give my shoulders a hearty shrug for this one. It’s abysmally bad, even if (like almost all Farmer’s movies) it manages to find new ways to fail, and is therefore sort of interesting for the bad movie enthusiast.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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Red Lips: Eat The Living (2005)

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Following on from my reviews of the first two “Red Lips” movies, by and large about vampirism, we come to the third one, which really isn’t…but more on that in a minute. It’s unusual for one rather large reason and a bunch of smaller ones; and is a welcome return to the ISCFC for Donald Farmer, one of the more unique shot-on-video talents.

 

Casting your minds back to part 2, you may recall it used a framing device of two women – Debbie Rochon and co-writer Maria Ortiz – having a bizarre conversation in a bar. Ortiz tells of her vampire “fantasies”, while Rochon appears to be simultaneously humouring her and displaying incredibly uncomfortable body language. Every now and again, it cuts to the film-within-a-film, what you assume is the fantasy that is being related in that bar (and stars a lady known only as “Kashmere”, who is in the conversation for worst actress of all time). That assumption, though, is shown to be false by part 3, which uses the same framing structure.

 

Did I just say “same framing structure”? What I meant to say was…it uses exactly the same footage! Five years after Maria Ortiz died, she was still being used (and credited as co-writer) in a new movie. If you thought the conversation the two ladies had wasn’t all that relevant to the footage shown in part 2, just wait til you see how confusing it becomes in part 3, when there are four films-within-a-film and none of them have to do with vampirism! It also feels wrong, morally, so let’s put ourselves in the position of a Donald Farmer fan in 2003. You read in “the trades” about a new “Red Lips” movie and get excited…for some reason. Perhaps you watch parts 1 and 2 again in preparation, and then part 3 arrives and you’re presented with a 77 minute movie where 15-20 minutes of it is stuff you’ve seen before, but presented as if you haven’t!

 

What we actually have here, is an early example of the sort of portmanteau movie (or “horror anthology”) that has come back to prominence in recent years. Low-budget horror cinema has never particularly enjoyed putting all that boring plot stuff in, being more akin to the short story than the novel, so nowadays we get movies like “ABCs of Death” and “V/H/S”, featuring a mass of different directors and styles. “Eat The Living” gives you a handy clue that the two halves of this movie aren’t related at all by giving each individual mini-film its own credit sequence, which is odd to say the least.

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The four are: a wronged rancher from the olden days comes back as a zombie; a sort of normal group of survivors vs. zombies, Romero style; one about a haunted videotape which feels like it was improvised on the spot; and a haunted house movie, the longest of the four. They are, it goes without saying, all shockingly bad. The last one, especially, is sub-amateurish, to the extent I’d lay good odds on half of you reading this having produced a better home video at some point in your lives. It’s almost a joke, almost – as the cheap camcorder they use drones on, drenching every sound in a layer of static / humming, you will slowly lose the will to live.

 

I’ve said this several times about Donald Farmer movies, but this one feels unfinished, like he ran out of money and had to release it exactly as it was, in a desperate attempt to recoup the several hundred dollars spent on it. First up is the very beginning of the movie, where they provide you with highlights of what’s to come – almost like a trailer, in other words. It’s a rare gem that’ll include its trailer as part of the actual movie, though! Then, after a trailer and opening credits, we get five seconds of a black screen. No fade in or out, no music, nothing, just “we didn’t pay an actual editor”. Then, after the movie is done, the theme music, which we’ve already heard four or five times, is played again in its entirety over a black screen – no closing credits, because who has the money to do that?

 

Even the very worst of Farmer’s movies, up to now, has been entertaining in some way (yes, even “Savage Vengeance”, due to how bonkers it was), but this is miserable. The short films are absolutely awful, and the re-use of the linking segment was somewhere between tacky and ghoulish. I think the worst of it is, I can’t figure out why it was made. The third part of a vampire movie series, with nothing vampire-related in its new segments; of a level so low I can’t believe that anyone looked at this finished product and felt pride, or indeed any positive emotions, at all. As information relating to this movie is very limited, this is just a guess, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the people who made the short films paid to have their stuff included in this, and the actual release of it was a scam of some kind. Not a nasty scam, necessarily, but Farmer gets sole directing credit (according to IMDB) on a movie he had basically nothing to do with, the short film people get exposure via Farmer’s existing distribution network, everyone covers their costs, maybe makes a few dollars, and the only people left disappointed are viewers who’ve spent their money and time expecting some modicum of enjoyment.

 

As I gradually turn this review site into some insane quest for the absolute bottom of the cinematic barrel, we’re going to come across things like this from time to time. But it makes me sad, that anyone thought this deserved release. What gives, Donald? You’re a better and crazier filmmaker than this.

 

Rating: thumbs down

An Erotic Vampire In Paris (2002)

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Sadly, readers, our attempt to watch all of Donald Farmer’s movies has failed at the hurdle of 1999’s “Space Kid”. Never released on video or DVD, I was hoping to track one down (although it’s not like any of you would have been able to watch it afterwards, based on my review). It’s a shame but it seems he made several movies around the turn of the millenium which have either disappeared very thoroughly or were never released in the first place, such as “Blood And Honor” (a Civil War epic listed at 4 hours 33 minutes!), “Fighting Chance” and”Charlie And Sadie”, so forever onwards, and next in the available Farmer pantheon we find ourselves with this.

 

If you ever went in a video shop after the late 90s, then you will definitely know of Misty Mundae (who now works under the name Erin Brown). She was as famous as a person who starred in stuff like “Play-Mate Of The Apes”, “Gladiator Eroticvs: The Lesbian Warriors” and “Scary Sexy Disaster Movie” (aka “TITanic 2000”) could be. That sounds slightly dismissive – I’ve not seen any of them, they might be great – but she was enough of a draw to get her name in the title of several movies, with later stuff like “Misty Mundae: Erotic Raider” and “The Erotic Diary Of Misty Mundae”. Can you tell I’m having fun just listing all these titles? She cornered the market in softcore mockbusters, but I’m guessing the death of Blockbuster affected the business model for those sorts of movies, so she’s not been quite as busy as she was (although she’s still working solidly, in such things as garbage human Bill Zebub’s “A Nightmare On Elmo’s Street”).

 

Calling this an “erotic horror” is a bit off, as it definitely leans heavier on the erotic than the horror. Literally the first thing we see is Misty’s vagina, playing Caroline, a woman plagued by intense dreams. Well, her entire body plays Caroline, not just her vagina. Ah, you know what I mean. Anyway, as she’s walking across the room in the first scene, we’re treated to a shot of the cameraman following her, reflected in the mirror. Come on! It’s the first scene, you guys! Could you not have reshot it?

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Not the best shot, but there they are

As we get a voiceover which sounds like it was recorded over the phone, Caroline reads her diary, and we discover her Mother (who lived in Paris) just died, but she feels very worried about going there to visit her grave. Anyway, she does, and the initial scenes of her walking round Paris remind me of “Highlander: The Series”, although that show was able to close streets to film on, and this film most definitely did not. I guess no-one asks you for a permit if you’re filming a home movie, and a huge amount is shot guerrilla-style on the streets, with lots of poor French people unaware they’re in a Donald Farmer movie. They go to Notre Dame and a few famous streets, which is pretty cool though.

 

After visiting her mother’s grave (which actually belongs to a German person, if the wording we briefly see on the side is anything to go by) and having her bags stolen, she’s seduced by Isabelle (Mia Copia, also now working under her real name, Tina Krause), who we saw earlier on is a vampire. And really, that’s it. After getting Caroline, a woman she’s known for maybe an hour, to strip completely naked and eat food off the floor, the two of them then have sex more often than the stars of most hardcore porn movies. In what I suppose is a plot, Isabelle resists biting Caroline because she is in love with her? A guy (billed as “The Stalker”, played by the charmingly named Bill Hellfire) follows them round for a bit then just walks into their house, all three of them then have a bath together before Isabelle kills him; oh, and she kills the guy who stole Caroline’s stuff at the beginning too. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever based on what went before.

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Mundae and Copia have appeared in 13 movies together, 7 of which were directed by Bill Hellfire (who does double duty as second-unit director here – I can’t even begin to imagine what that job title really entails on a movie as low budget as this), so they’re obviously comfortable with each other, which is handy when the majority of the movie is the two of them in bed or naked. Although Mundae has appeared in 20 movies with an actress by the name of Darian Caine, so she’s not even the most regular collaborator!

 

I appreciate this is basically a softcore movie, so reviewing it like a normal one is pointless, but if the sex were better shot then it would at least be fun to look at? But it’s often out of focus, or it’ll zoom in on a bit of flesh it’s impossible to identify, or entire scenes will be in extreme close-up, or the cameraman will be in completely the wrong position to capture any decent angles, which means I don’t think it really works either as a movie or softcore “action”. But I am far from an expert on such matters.

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It just seems so amateurish. There’s a segment near the beginning where Isabelle seduces a photographer, and you see her posing for photos and then some photos appearing on screen, indicating someone got a new graphics package for their PC. But anyway, the photos we see on screen are just stills from the movie, not the actual photographs the woman is taking (they’re from a completely different angle). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m complaining about a softcore movie because of the angle of some photographs!

 

There’s a strong whiff of “Virgin Among The Living Dead” and other Jess Franco movies here, with the music, the European setting, and the S&M undertones, although that is this one’s superior in every possible way. Obviously, I love Donald Farmer, he’s a huge movie buff and has made some insane entertainment, but this is just rubbish. I guess it was made very quickly and very cheaply and turned a decent profit for everyone involved, and making it coherent or fun to look at was very far down on anyone’s list of priorities.

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If anyone would like, I’ll do a series of reviews of Seduction Cinema’s other efforts, and try and do them as seriously as possible, treat em like high art? If you want to read about “SSI: Sex Scene Investigation” or “Kinky Kong”, then let me know. Actually, after 13 Witchcraft movies, I’m not sure my brain could take it.

 

Rating: very very thumbs down

Demolition Highway (1996)

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What would you call a movie that had no demolitions or highways in it? I wonder if some producer / money-man came to him and said “hey, Donald Farmer, I want to make something with this title, got a script knocking about anywhere that’d fit?” to which our friend Donald replied “er…yes! But don’t check with me until the movie’s done, okay?”

 

Up to a point, “Demolition Highway” had me thinking it was going to be a competent, and therefore utterly boring, B-movie. I understood who the characters were, what they were doing and why they were doing it, and the plot seemed to be progressing in a reasonable manner. The wheels fell off, so to speak, when our hero Frank Scarvo (Danny Fendley) meets a biker gang, and “Poet” (Ghetty Chasun) starts showing tarot cards to demonstrate that he’s out of luck. But she doesn’t show them to him, she shows them to us, pointing them right at the camera while cackling maniacally, and that thoroughly bizarre choice, and so many more afterward, lets us know we’re in Farmer country.

 

After an intro where Scarvo’s girlfriend is shot by some bad guys while the two of them are leaving some robbery or drug deal or something with a suitcase packed with $500,000, Scarvo spends five years in jail. He keeps his mouth shut, despite it being immediately obvious (to the viewer, not him) that he was double-crossed by his boss. So, he gets picked up by a couple of goons on his release, and he’s expecting a big party and some sort of reward. Unfortunately, that reward is to be shot and buried out in the wilderness, but Scarvo is made of tougher stuff than that and kills em both, plus he frees some old guy from the boot of the goons’ car. The old guy has a beautiful daughter, Summer (Lisa Tyre, hired for her boobs more than her acting) who’s been kidnapped by Scarvo’s old boss, Xavier Cardone (Joe Estevez), so Scarvo decides to pay his old boss a visit and rescue the girl at the same time.

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But, mighty oaks from little acorns grow. Despite being told Cardone is a tough guy to get close to, Scarvo is able to just drive up to the front door of his house and see him; and both good guy and bad guy ought to be a bit quicker to shoot people, because there’s far too many scenes of these two mortal enemies having conversations and then one or the other escaping. Then there’s Summer. Cardone, the guy who’s presumably raped her on several occasions and is holding her against her will, tells her that Scarvo is the guy who killed her Dad and she immediately believes him, levelling the gun at our hero and letting Cardone off the hook. So yes, I wrote “wow, Summer is stupid” so many times I nearly wore out my pen. One of the many problems this movie has is that it’s in the same position at the 1-hour mark as it is at the beginning, and that’s no good to anyone.

 

It’s pretty obvious Farmer had seen a few Tarantino movies before writing this one. He tries his best with what he’s got, both in terms of his own skill and the actors he can afford, but sometimes, that best just isn’t good enough. There’s a particularly crazy scene where Scarvo annoys that random bike gang (it turns out they work for Cardone), so they kidnap Summer and leave him tied to a noose with a rickety chair underneath him – next to a normal road, but that’s by the by. He manages to escape because he’s amazing, of course, and turns up at the bike gang’s base in the next scene. This requires a few questions be asked.

 

  1. They drove him an unspecified (but presumably not small) distance from his car. How did he get that car back?
  2. We see them throw his gun away. How did he find it?
  3. How did he know where the biker hideout was?
  4. Why did they let him drive up into the middle of their group without shooting him?

 

Although 4 could be applied a dozen times in this movie, with people just turning up in the middle of large groups of people who don’t like them, who don’t immediately shoot them despite it being in their best interests to do so. There’s a weird bike-jousting battle between Scarvo and one of the bikers, with Summer as the prize, and the bikers just let Scarvo steal the gun from his opponent and shoot him, without helping their comrade out. It’s not like they’re honourable guys, either…ah, this entire segment is crazy. It’s really trying for that self-consciously cool crime thriller, but it’s so far off the mark.

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I made reference to him doing the best he had with his actors, too.  Fendley seems to have improved very slightly since we first saw one of his movies; but I think if Ghetty Chasun had been discovered by any other director than Donald Farmer, she could have been a big name. She seemed comfortable in front of the camera, able to communicate emotions other than “confusion”, and I think she deserved better (and that they spelled her name wrong in the credits is just the final insult).  Joe Estevez is the only actor who realises what a piece of trash he’s in, and while he’s definitely the weakest of that acting family, he gives it his all and overacts with the best of them. Everyone else is, of course, terrible, but there’s one funny bit. I would bet good money on the biker gang boss having put that he could ride a bike on his acting CV, but if you notice in the movie, he’s always the passenger. Did he lose his licence or lie to the director?

 

The ending is perhaps the culmination of all this “classic Farmer” and relative acting chops. Cardone, his one remaining goon, and Summer, are stood on one side of a quarry, Scarvo on the other. Cardone shouts, because the two of them are supposed to be a long way apart. Perhaps because Fendley is unable to shout, Scarvo talks in his normal voice. The goon gets shot, from an amazing distance, with a handgun, too. It’s a great scene.

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One last scene breakdown before we head off. Scarvo and Summer have a plan to steal $500,000 back from Cardone, and it involves intercepting a drug buyer before he can hand over the cash. To carry out this plan, they need the help of one of the strippers, a friend of Summer’s. She agrees to help, and does so, but when Scarvo and Summer drive off with the money, they leave her there and Cardone just shoots her in the face. One might expect the two heroes of the movie, who we’re supposed to be sympathetic with, to want to save their friend, or be a bit sad that she’s dead just so they can be rich…but no. They don’t so much as mention her again – sorry, stripper friend!

 

It’s another gem, and although it’s every bit as incompetently made and poorly acted as any other Farmer movie, this one looks a lot better (it’s either shot on a very good camcorder or maybe honest-to-goodness film) and is therefore easier to sit through. As I hope I’ve made a few fans out of you, I worry that future pickings are going to be slim indeed. There’s comedies, kids’ films, and more thrillers – although it looks like this was the last time Danny Fendley acted in a Donald Farmer movie, so we’ve got that to be thankful for. Let’s hold hands, dear reader, and brave 21st century Farmer together.

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Rating: thumbs up

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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Deadly Run (1995)

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This is a movie which is perhaps more notorious than it is well-known, and even that notoriety was relatively short-lived. The producer, Samuel Rael, used to be an attorney, and one of his most regular clients was a low-level criminal called Gary Hilton. Hilton and Rael became friends, and when Rael got out of the lawyering business, Hilton operated as an unpaid producer / ideas man on this movie. He found the location (a shack in the Georgia wilderness) and came up with the plot, about a guy kidnapping and hunting beautiful women in the woods. A little over a decade later, Hilton was arrested and charged with the murder of a young woman, whose body was found in very similar terrain 30 miles from that shack. He’s since been charged with a number of other murders, with some similarities to the plot of this movie, and if you like you can read about his story here.

 

If that rather chilling detail isn’t enough to put you off, then perhaps the involvement of Donald Farmer and his regular actor Danny Fendley will send you over the edge. Farmer is only credited with “additional scenes”, as most of the movie is filmed competently by credited director Mark Bender, with sufficient lighting and camera coverage, and is therefore unlike any other Farmer work. Fendley is supposed to be the villain, but with his inability to act and high-pitched southern accent, he’s not remotely threatening – in other words, just like every other time we’ve seen him on screen.

 

The basic gist of this movie is yet another riff on “The Most Dangerous Game”, that idea so beloved of cheap movie producers (all you need is a forest, a villain and a few victims). Fendley is Bobby Wilson, a wealthy property developer who has a hobby he keeps from his wife and son – that he picks up prostitutes, strippers, and transients, flies them in his little plane to his cabin in the woods, then releases, hunts and kills them. This has been going on for some time, if the statistics spouted by one of the cops later on is to be believed, so clearly Bobby is getting bored as he breaks what must be rule 1 in the “psycho kidnap-murderer handbook”: don’t leave witnesses. He hits on two women in a bar, takes one and leaves the other, so when the friend disappears off the face of the earth, there’s a fairly clear route back to him.

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Luckily for him, the police are almost comically indifferent, and when Barbara (Amy Bush) goes to report her friend’s abduction, the desk sergeant just says “she’ll be fine, stop worrying about it”. When the one cop who seems to give a damn (Joe Spivey, the sole screen credit for one David Jacob) trots out statistics about the rather high volume of local missing persons cases, the other cops get angry with him, saying no-one wants to cause a fuss. Amazing!

 

So, Barbara, Joe, and some old guy whose introduction I must have slept through because I had no idea why he was there or who he was related to, try and work out who the killer is, while Bobby just carries on murdering people in classic Donald Farmer “act 2 is just act 1, repeated” style. You’d expect the net to start closing in on Bobby at some point, but you’d be wrong – although Joe gets an arrest warrant after a lucky break with a pen that Joe foolishly gave Barbara just before abducting her friend, Bobby trumps that by blowing up the police helicopter with a bazooka (!) and to all intents and purposes getting away with the fairly high number of murders, entirely scot free. Okay, I understand the legal system works differently if you’re rich, but even wealthy people can’t use high explosives on cops and expect to suffer no consequences, surely?

 

Bobby’s plane is blown up by a woman trying to escape at one point, but a few scenes later he’s got another one, presumably thanks to the insurance (although this is never stated). You’d think the insurance people would check the wreckage and find evidence of a human body in there, or perhaps he’s with my favourite company, “Lazy Useless Insurance Ltd”.

 

“Deadly Run” is a classic example of having your cake and eating it. Presumably, the people who made the movie don’t want to tell you that it’s fine to abduct, hunt, and kill women, so at the very very end the bad guy gets his comeuppance. But they also can’t think of anything to put in it other than women in peril, so a good 90% of its running time is repeated scenes of just that. Bobby’s life doesn’t unravel in any way, the police don’t step up their investigations, nothing. Just killing people (including a few hunters wandering across his property, presumably to head any criticisms of misogyny off at the pass) and the occasional scene of Barbara looking a bit sad.

Not from the movie, but I thought this was funny

Not from the movie, but I thought this was funny

I appreciate I’m just a critic, and people like Mark Bender (who never made another movie after this, I think the IMDB credits are for a different guy with the same name unless he just took a decade out) got out there and actually did it. But I just don’t understand why this movie was made. “The Most Dangerous Game” is responsible for so many movies, endless variations and retreads of the same theme, so it’s not original, it’s not fun to watch, the acting is pretty weak and it’s full of holes (how does a property developer buy a bazooka with multiple reloads?)

 

Donald Farmer didn’t have enough of a hand in this to make it fun in his own unique way, so in the end it’s just deeply, deeply dull. Strictly for the Farmer completists (if anyone can think of a fun collective name for we fans of the man’s work, please let me know).

 

Rating: thumbs down

Red Lips (1995)

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I think there’s some sort of graph you can draw that plots the descent of a certain sort of director – as the budgets drop on one axis, so the number of boobs increase on the other. Such luminaries as Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski have long since gone down this path, the late great Don Dohler did too, and there are dozens of others whose names are lost to time but whose smutty movies are not. Luckily, a glimpse into the future reveals this isn’t the fate of Donald Farmer, who’d go on to all sorts of weird and wonderful cinematic works. Although we were worried there, for a minute.

 

Although I’m a heterosexual man and like boobs just fine, I’ve never quite understood why low-budget horror directors are so insistent on having a few in there – no-one sees horror movies for titillation, surely? Even full frontal shots and hefty amounts of simulated sex? Especially now, when everyone with a phone has access to an almost infinite amount of smut at any time, there’s a significant number of low-budget directors who seem insistent on getting women to disrobe on camera, which speaks more to them than it does to their audience. Perhaps I’m over-estimating the tastes of low-budget cinema fans?

 

But enough of our armchair psychoanalysis, we’ve got a movie to cover! After a girl-girl sex scene which might be related to the rest of the movie or might not (thanks to the VHS quality, it’s pretty difficult to tell) we get right into things. Caroline (Ghetty Chasun, resplendent in an L7 shirt) is a young woman, living on the streets, and has been reduced to selling her blood in order to survive. The doctor (billed as “Doctor”) says that actually, if she wants $100 a day rather than just the $15 every 6 weeks from selling blood, she can get Caroline into a special test programme, where they inject her with a special new serum that may well render her immune to any disease.

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She naturally jumps at the chance, but there’s a side effect – she grows horrific sharp teeth and is compelled to drain peoples’ blood, murdering them in the process. You know, that old chestnut! So, one day, she’s just wandering the streets in a serum-induced daze and happens upon Lisa (Michelle Bauer), who’s just broken up with her girlfriend over the phone. That girlfriend, by the way, is famed B-movie actress Kitten Navidad, who lived with Russ Meyers for many years, the chap who according to legend paid for her breast enlargements. She was at the stage of her career where she was appearing in pretty much anything (including many hardcore movies, where she would just go topless and not do any of the actual “work”). It appears Navidad never learned to act, or perhaps it was a little hard to motivate herself when the scene involved Donald Farmer turning up at her apartment with a camcorder, filming her in the bath for ten minutes then leaving?

 

Much like every Donald Farmer movie, there’s so much rich detail that it’s tough to not just recap every scene.  Anyway, Caroline and Lisa meet, and Caroline is a mess by this point – she’s already killed quite a few people, and she’ll kill the doctor soon, too. Lisa looks after Caroline, and the two of them fall in love remarkably quickly (the entire movie seems to take place over the course of maybe a week, although it’s difficult to tell). They meet Gina at a club and all three of them hit it off. I think? Anyway, Gina invites them to stay with her, but Caroline wakes up in the middle of the night, drinks her blood and kills her in the process, and Lisa, insanely committed to the woman she met YESTERDAY, disposes of the body for her by cutting it up and putting it in the fridge! A brief cameo from Farmer favourite Danny Fendley as Gina’s pimp and you’ve got yourself a movie, kind of.

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There’s so much more I wanted to talk about, and I’d happily tell you everything that went on, but we don’t have all day. As with all Farmer’s movies, I recommend you watch it because it’s a singular experience. Saying that, though, this one honestly feels like a regression in terms of budget and acting – Farmer’s previous two had real actors in them, and at times looked like actual movies. Certain scenes in this are as close to home movie footage as anything I’ve seen for the ISCFC – Navidad’s is the best example, but there are plenty of others. One would hope that after directing movies for close to ten years, he’d have figured some stuff out, but apparently not.

 

You may have noticed the little recap section up there bounced around a bit – if so, it was only because it was mirroring the movie. It would have made a ton of sense to have a bit about their developing relationship, perhaps a montage intercut with Caroline’s feeding, but all we get is…well, nothing. This mirrors the attitude of every woman in the movie, as they’re all up for a lesbian experience pretty much anywhere, at any time. Caroline just walks up to a few victims and starts kissing them, and every one of them is “cool, let’s go” and not “excuse me, I’m just washing my hands, I was in the middle of lunch”. Although Farmer seems to have finally figured out sex scenes, that both people should look like they’re enjoying themselves.

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There’s half an interesting plot here, too! The issue is, it feels like he couldn’t be bothered to develop it. If they’d merged the Doctor and Lisa characters, they could have had the doctor race to find a cure for her lover’s weird vampire curse; this would have provided at least a bit of dramatic tension. Instead we just get endless scenes of Caroline eating people with not even the pretence that we’re moving forward in any remotely logical way.

 

Factor in the out-of-nowhere conclusion with Fendley, and you’ve got a movie that feels like Farmer knocked it out in a bored weekend with whatever piece-of-crap camcorder he could get his hands on. And that’s a shame, I reckon. Ghetty Chasun as Caroline, while not the greatest actress of all time, is strikingly beautiful (I think, through the VHS haze) and towers over the other women, so she’s already 100 times more visually interesting than the average Farmer actress. She appears to have opted out of acting according to this chap who did some research before me, so good for her. Michelle Bauer as Lisa is fine too, but everyone else is just awful, including Danny Fendley, although mercifully he’s kept to a few minutes in this one. I keep expecting him to luck into hiring a good actor, the law of averages indicates he’s due a few, but no. Just legions of the wooden.

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Every Farmer movie is weirdly compelling and absolutely worth watching, but even for him this is grimy and ugly and undeveloped. Don’t jump in with this one, only for the experienced. For a final bit of trivia, Leslie Q, a fascinating experimental musician active in the 90s, is featured in this movie, and you get the entirety of one of her songs. Hell, I liked the music in this much more than anything Farmer had done to this point, a wild noise assault which mirrored (possibly accidentally) the descent of the main character. But this review is nearly done, I can’t start it up again!

 

Rating: negative thumbs up

 

PS thanks to “Taliesin Meets The Vampires” for the screenshots, saved me the hassle. Go read their reviews, should you need more vampire-related stuff in your life.

Vicious Kiss (1995)

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I think it’s time for a new ISCFC rule – the “Genre Director Rule”. Basically, it means when you’re enjoying the genre (horror, sci-fi, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, whatever) work of a particular director, don’t follow them into normal stuff. Applied very specifically to ISCFC flavour of the month Donald Farmer, it means “don’t watch his erotic thrillers”. Saying that, though, he manages to find a new way to make this film suck, so perhaps he ought to be commended.

 

It’s an unwelcome return for Danny Fendley, “star” of Farmer’s previous effort “Compelling Evidence”. And it’s also an unwelcome return for that movie’s plot! Okay, the whole “I can’t leave my wife because of money” thing is very much the B story here, it’s still I think pretty compelling proof that Farmer was having some trouble with the ladies in the mid 90s. Or really really liked that plot idea, one of the two. Anyway, James (Fendley) is cheating on his wife, and the wife busts in…but it was all a dream! Or was it? Angela, the wronged wife, wakes up and touches the incredibly cheesy portrait of her husband that hangs in her home. That the infidelity was shown by a scene in a hotel room, followed immediately by a different scene in a different hotel room, shows right away that Farmer doesn’t care for your desire to have movies that make sense.

 

Fendley again! This time he’s got obviously fake long hair and is an artist called Jason, about to have his big opening. His wife’s there, and so is Angela, who sees her dead husband in front of her so…well, immediately decides to get herself involved in his life. This involves buying one of his paintings, getting him to deliver it, drugging and raping him, then trying (quite poorly) to convince him he’s actually James. Lisa, Jason’s wife, is a bit nonplussed by all this erratic behaviour, plus there’s an art critic subplot that I thought might go somewhere, but is really just an excuse for Farmer to insult critics some more (I do hope he agrees to do an interview with me when I’ve watched all his movies!)

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Before we go any further – or because I don’t want to go any further and would prefer to talk about something fun – let’s take a wander through technical things. While this movie is shot with a more expensive VHS camcorder than his previous movies, it still has that lovely VHS quality to it; but that’s not the only thing that should worry us. I’m talking acting. Fendley is still operating on his two-level approach – blank or angry – but he’s joined by some real troopers. The art critic could be the worst actress I’ve ever seen (I think it’s Robin Joy Brown, whose career amounts to this and a walkon part on “Just Shoot Me” five years later); indeed the only remotely bright spark is erotic thriller mainstay Monique Parent as Angela. She does what’s needed of her, and while she’s never going to win an Oscar, she’s head and shoulders above the rest of the cast.

 

Then we come finally to Jason’s wife Lisa. Lisa is played by Margaux Hemingway, another cautionary Hollywood tale to join that of Dana Plato from “Compelling Evidence”. She was the less famous and successful sister of Mariel, and after trips to and from rehab, drank and drugged herself to death the year after this film was released, dying alone and remaining undiscovered for several days. I was going to mock her bizarre speech patterns and complete inability to look like a human being in any scene, but she was firmly in the grip of her addictions when shooting this, so let’s move on.

 

I checked the time with what I expected to be about 15 minutes to go and discovered I wasn’t even at the halfway point! It’s almost unbearably repetitive, with Angela letting Jason go, then capturing him again, sex scenes used as padding, then trying to convince him he’s someone else, then him escaping…when she hires some drunk guy she finds outside a bar to murder someone and pin it on Jason, I almost cheered because at least it was a different face on screen. So this goes on and on for what feels like three movies, moving from “Fatal Attraction” to “Misery” and back again, before sort of stumbling to a lame conclusion. Once again, a man who’s had a murder pinned on him by a deranged female  in a Donald Farmer movie appears to just have everyone believe him, and be fine, at the end. By the way, he’d already beat the crap out of two police officers and escaped arrest, so he’s definitely spending some time in a jail cell. And then there’s a fight with a crazy old man somewhere near the end too. And another propaganda piece about California’s community property and divorce laws is over.

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I just don’t understand why this movie exists. It’s not like psycho woman movies were big business in the mid 90s (“Misery”, “Fatal Attraction”, “Single White Female”, etc. all significantly predating this), so the usual excuse of the low-budget people chasing the Hollywood trends doesn’t hold here. If he’d done that, it would’ve been some smart-ass crime thriller. At this very very low budget level, I guess Farmer could pick whatever subject he wanted, and for the second movie in a row he wanted an “erotic” thriller about cheating spouses. He wanted it absolutely chock full of awful sex (at least Fendley took his trousers off in this movie) and a plot that absolutely went nowhere, slowly.

 

Next up is the first of the “Red Lips” trilogy, and it appears to be sort of about vampires but not really. Anything other than this garbage will be fine.

 

Rating: thumbs down