The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher (1979)

The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher 001

Ray Dennis Steckler may well have disappeared without trace were it not for two groups of people – the Medved brothers, who featured a few of his films in their “Golden Turkey Awards” books; and “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, who did such hilarious work on “The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies”. Like fellow auteur Ed Wood Jr, when the normal film work dried up, he wasn’t averse to dabbling in pornography (although Steckler was much more involved in it than Wood was); but unlike Wood, whose films at least made sense and whose inclusion in “worst of all time” lists seems pretty unfair, he was an absolutely awful director.

We’ve already covered Steckler’s last film “One More Time” at the ISCFC – maybe bottom five ever – but this movie was made in 1979, and judging by titles and rudimentary research, is the only non-hardcore porno film he made between 1968’s “Rat Pfink A Boo Boo” and 1986’s “Las Vegas Serial Killer”. Reading recaps of some of Steckler’s other movies is to really understand what “grindhouse” was all about, as even those porno movies have plots, murders and so on. It’s a weird and sleazy world.

Which is a perfect introduction to this movie. Jonathan Click (Pierre Agostino) phones up “models”, starts photographing them and then, usually when they take their top off (I guess they’re prostitutes, but I don’t understand why the movie is so coy about it), strangles them to death. Due to this movie having no live sound – who can afford to record sound at the same time as images? Come on! – we’re treated to his inner monologue as a voiceover, which seems to be about cleaning up the streets, or finding a pure woman, or something. If he was looking for a pure woman, phoning up “nude models” seems to be an odd way to go about it, but who am I to question his process?

The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher 009

At the same time, an unnamed woman who works in an adult bookshop (Carolyn Brandt, Steckler’s ex-wife, which must have been weird) waits to find homeless men who wander past her shop, then follows them to a dirty alleyway and cuts their throat. No explanation is given as to her actions, and she gets no voiceover. As the title goes, the two of them sort of run into each other a few times, then meet properly…

It’s a cavalcade of fun! The grime of the streets and locations comes through in every frame, and this is one of the most legitimately sleazy films I’ve ever seen. In between scenes, we’ll just get some random footage of people walking about, everything looks broken down and everyone looks vaguely hung over. It definitely provides a real flavour of the side of LA you don’t normally get to see – whether you’d want to see that side or not is by the by.

The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher 015

Although the Strangler seems to get no pleasure from his actions, he makes a completely off the wall joke at one point – after killing a woman with a pillow, he says “I wonder if she ever saw that movie Pillow Talk?” with a suppressed chuckle. The only character we see from the Slasher is that she likes to run on the beach after doing a murder (echoes of the final scenes of “The Incredibly Strange Creatures…”). In one scene, there’s a poster for the more famous earlier Steckler movie on the wall, which for another director might have been a fun in-joke, but for this one just means he used his own office to film a scene.

This film could have taken 10 minutes and been EXACTLY THE SAME. There’s no development for either character, no consequences to their actions, so it’s just repeated cycles of murder, footage of LA, and the two killers looking at each other, until the end. Oh, plus weird off-key presumably public-domain easy listening music too.

The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher 016

It’s awful, of course. But in its awfulness comes something interesting – certainly not “so bad it’s good”, but “so bad it’s curious”. It gives a real flavour of a bygone age and manages to be bad in a new way, a tough thing to manage. While I’m not going to recommend it because I like you all, readers, and want you to be happy, I’m certainly not sad I watched it.

Rating: thumbs down

Advertisements

Boggy Creek (2010)

31422_124057604300133_103938919645335_119424_2226108_n

1972’s “The Legend of Boggy Creek” was a pseudo-documentary about the “Fouke Monster”, a Bigfoot-esque creature which reportedly attacked a few people in Fouke, Arkansas at the time (I was about to say “it’s real”, but I just mean reports of it were in real newspapers). 1985’s “Boggy Creek 2…And The Legend Continues”, famously covered by “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, has recreations of alleged events, but is mostly a more straight monster movie. So, 25 years after the last installment, what would be a good thing to do? If you said “make a really terrible cabin in the woods movie, set in Texas with absolutely zero to do with the previous ones”, then a shiny prize is yours.

The beginning of this film is so thoroughly annoying that I need to break it down for you. Jennifer is getting over the death of her father, so asks her best friend Maya to come with her to her family’s cabin, just outside Boggy Creek, Texas, for some quiet time away from everything. So far, so good, right? But as they get to the car to set off, Maya reveals she’s decided to invite her father’s godson Dave, as he’s having a bad time and could use a holiday…oh, and he’s hot. This on its own would have annoyed me, coming from my best friend.

We then discover that Dave has taken it upon himself to invite his girlfriend Brooke along, unbeknownst to either Jennifer or Maya. What? Who does that? “Hey, honey, my godfather’s daughter’s best friend invited her to a cabin in the woods, do you want to come? Even though I have a phone and could call them to ask, I’m not going to bother”. When it’s revealed a little while into the film that Maya has also invited her own boyfriend Tommy along, again without asking Jennifer, I gave up. Could they not have figured out a less annoying way to fill a cabin with hot young actors?

The guy next door is full of portentous statements about the danger of the monsters, and Jennifer, while being plagued with flashbacks of her parents, has to suffer her friends getting eaten too. Well, the first main cast member doesn’t die til nearly the hour mark, which is a weird choice and leaves the last half-hour thick with bodies.

2C0U2266

Thing is, this film clearly isn’t all that cheap. Although some of the shots look like a poor-quality digital camera took them, there’s quite a lot of nice-looking footage on display, and the special effects look good too – the blood and gore is decent; and the monsters have decent make-up, looking like the weird half-human monsters they’re intended to be. Also, the entire cast can act, and pretty well too. The brilliantly named Texas Battle (Tommy) has been in “Death Valley” and spent five years on a soap, and the rest of the cast all have a decent number of credits.

The blame must, I think, lie entirely behind the camera on this one. Firstly is the use of the “Boggy Creek” name, which I think happened solely because Charles Pierce, director of the first two, died in 2010 and didn’t do the right sort of copyright-filing for his films. The film, aside from a few tiny scenes of cannon fodder getting eaten (which is confusing, as the couples we see dying all look like Dave and Brooke), for over two-thirds of its running time is a group of young adults trying to have a good time in the creeks of rural Texas. In August, which my wife reliably informs me would not get much below 30 degrees C even in the middle of the night. But whatever the temperature, nothing interesting happens!

I fear a little trip into spoiler territory is needed to explain the rest of the film’s problems. That cannon fodder I mentioned above? Their deaths are investigated by a Sheriff and his squeamish deputy, but after their couple of appearances they play no part in the last hour of the film at all. The neighbour is obviously going to be the guy who saves the day, and when it’s down to just our star and she runs into him, you think “okay, it’s been dumb up to here, at least they’re going to get this bit right”. Then she just runs off!

It’s been established that Jennifer is a decent runner – she’s seen training at several points in the film. “Okay,” you think. “That last bit where she ran away from the guy with the guns was pretty stupid, but she’s in her element now, no way the monsters are going to get her”. Think again, voice in my head who sucks at predicting the ends of movies! Running into a clearing, she sees she’s a few hundred yards away from a motorway, where cars and help will be. So what does she do? Takes a phone call from her mother (her phone apparently unable to call the police at any point), then just sort of stands there while a load of monsters emerge from the woods and carry her off, presumably for mating purposes. What?

I have to assume the film was unfinished, and they edited it the best they could after running out of money. There’s way too much of the “kids” messing about on the river, and their assorted relationship dramas, and way too little of anything to do with the monster(s). Which is a shame, because when they appear the monsters look decent – credit to the special effects people.

The only interesting thing about this movie is that it joins that legion of sequels which are absolutely nothing to do with the previous films in the series. “Halloween 3” is the most famous example, despite at least having some John Carpenter involvement; but we’ve got the “Project Shadowchaser” films, a few of the “Puppet Master” franchise, and my personal favourite, the David Hasselhoff’s-penis-featuring “H.O.T.S. 3”. Filmed in the 70s as “Revenge of the Cheerleaders”, a decade before college-raunch comedy “H.O.T.S.”, it featured uniforms roughly the same colour as the other films in the franchise, so that was enough for the producers to buy the rights to it, slap a new title on it and have it be a sequel to a film it obviously predated. Oh, and the Hoff plays a character called “Boner”.

Hey, serial killers! If you’re reading this, and need a new mission, then the crew of this movie can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1493798/ . Not saying they deserve to die, but if you’re going to kill some people, why not prioritise?