Saturday, August 31, 2013
Those darn Commies always mess everything up, except for hockey that is!
Screenplay By: Arne Olsen
Directed By: Joseph Zito
When it comes to Red Scorpion I have one question to ask before we get into anything else. What in the hell did M. Emmet Walsh think he was accomplishing in this flick? He is harsh man, oh so harsh and hard to deal with during Red Scorpion. He whines so much that his voice becomes like nails on a chalkboard. The screenplay doesn't do him any favors by having him emphatically swear every other word so that he sounds like a yokel. And Mr. Walsh is not above hamming it up either, some of the facial expressions and body mannerisms he supplies in Red Scorpion will cause a double take from just about every viewer. I have no qualms declaring that Mr. Walsh does his very best to single handedly turn Red Scorpion into a terrible film.
The above being said, Red Scorpion was well on its way to being a mediocre film before Mr. Walsh even showed up. The main problem I had with Red Scorpion was the pacing of the film. I hesitate to call Red Scorpion an action film. In actuality it's a lull film with brief respites of action. So much of Red Scorpion consists of scenes where nothing happens that matters to the film. The movie is easily fifteen minutes too long, but even with the removal of some footage there would still be pacing problems with Red Scorpion. There needed to be more focus on the action, and less focus on treks through the desert and bad Cuban accents.
When Joseph Zito's film does get to the action, it's pretty good. The action in Red Scorpion isn't anything that will knock the socks off of an action aficionado. That doesn't mean the action is horrendous. As I said before, the action in Red Scorpion is pretty good. Dolph Lundgren makes for a decent action star and when he's asked to he manages to carry the action rather nicely. He can be cumbersome at times, but Herr Lundgren shows a surprising ability to work his oafish nature into the action sequences. He's not fluid, but he is strong and brutish and that's how the character of Nikolai Rachenko comes across in Red Scorpion. I'm not willing to say that Mr. Zito's film scored every single time in the action department, but it did work for the most part and that's why the action in Red Scorpion is a positive for the film.
I'm sure I'll have more to say about Herr Lundgren as I explore more of his action work. As it stands right now he seems quite competent and his Red Scotpion is a perfectly serviceable action flick. I've seen way better, and I really could have done without Mr. Walsh's character entirely. Still, for as flawed as it is and as badly paced as the majority of the film is I did enjoy parts of Red Scorpion. Mr. Zito's film isn't a great work of action cinema, but there are plenty of worse alternatives in the action cinema landscape.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Welcome to the 250th episode of the GGtMC!!!
This week we brought along special guests, Dr. Zom and Pickleloaf from the Silva and Gold podcast to talk about Johnnie To's Election series of films!!! We cover Election (2005) and Election 2 (2006). Great cast and great conversation was had with many derailments into tomfoolery!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_250.mp3
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Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 1:09 AM
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
To describe the plot of Sogo Ishii’s Burst City (aka Bakuretsu Toshi) implies that it both has one (it does, at least in a loose sense), but moreover that it gives a shit about having one or about following it (but we’re going to give it the old college try, anyway). In a post-apocalyptic Japan, a duo on a motorcycle (the bike and characters appearing to have been cut from The Road Warrior) show up in a town. A couple of punk bands play some songs and essentially perform in their own music videos. Some better-dressed yakuza types plan on taking over the land the city is on, and their leader likes having rough sex with a young hooker (seemingly the only one in the stable of a quasi-pimp, who just so happens to also be a henchman for this gang and in love with the hooker). There’s some music, some rioting, and some more music. Honestly, that’s the best I got.
This is one of those films which is best looked at with some degree of remove. It is also one I think I appreciate far, far more than I actually like as a form of entertainment. Ishii is much more interested in being kinetic than being coherent, and many of his scenes are filled with indecipherable, nausea-inducing, handheld shots of swaths of people, lights, and things blurring past in a flurry of motion. I believe that the director would like nothing more than for his work to be resistant to interpretation. Unfortunately, this is an impossibility, and I will tell you why I believe this to be the case (those of you with a natural disinclination to care for my more analytical approach to film may want to go read something else at this point). My view is that the process of production (we’ll limit ourselves to films for our purposes here) in and of itself forces its creators’ perspective onto the finished product, consciously or unconsciously. Everything from shot choice to editing style to music selection tells the viewer something from the producer. It is a form of communication (direct or indirect) between two parties (or more with things like fan edits popping up these days) via the intermediary of creative media.
Of course, this engenders something of a vicious circle, because for as much as a filmmaker may be trying to communicate an idea, philosophy, what-have-you, the viewer also imprints his/her viewpoint on the piece. So, even though a director may use a certain type of shot or lens for a scene, the viewer may not necessarily read it the same way it was intended. This is not a flaw in the process or an overreaching for the sake of making a point, per se. As I said, it is communication. If I say to you, “My, it’s a lovely day today,” you may respond, “It is, isn’t it?” or “Go fuck yourself,” or any other myriad replies, and my reply to that would naturally vary, and so on and so on. By that same token, If I showed you a shot of a person very small in the frame standing in a field that stretches for miles, you may see that as being indicative of the insignificance of humanity in an incomprehensibly vast universe, or you may see it as an indication of the distant, icy, and enigmatic personality of the person, or you may see it as a moron standing in the middle of a very large field. These ideas are not necessarily mutually exclusive, though, and the more elastic the visual idiom, the more readings that can be overlaid on it. And so the conversation goes. But back to Burst City…
Ishii’s film is all about energy. It is meant to be experienced, not simply viewed. So you have elements of Post-Apocalyptic films. You have elements of Art/Experimental films. You have elements of Performance films. You have elements of Teen Rebel films. These elements sometimes fit nicely side-by-side, and sometimes they don’t. But tying them all together is the idea of rebellion. Almost everyone in the film is under the thumb of some type of authority, and they are just waiting for the lid to blow off, so they can regain some control (though their actual interest in being someone in control of others is slim to nil). So the members of The Rockers band not only can’t hold down jobs, but they just don’t care to, because their superiority comes (at minimum, partly) in the rejection of norms (“We’re much too artistic and advanced to work for the likes of you”).
Similarly, while squatting at a dilapidated factory, Future Man and Wild Boy (what I have dubbed the Mad Max style characters, since I couldn’t find any decent credits listing any characters’ names) are told by the Hobo Leader, “This place belongs to all of us, understand?”. The division between social strata is clear, and it reaches its natural conclusion as expected. It also indicates a predilection for groups of people and the power they inherently possess over individuals. Aside from the extensive use of closeups (which demonstrates a fetishization of post-industrialization as well as a fetishization with the human body, both of which are encapsulated by Future Man and his little buddy), there are very few shots in the film which don’t feature large groups of people, whether they are acting as a unit or as a chaotic, human sea of discord.
I don’t know the history of music videos in Japan, but much of Burst City feels very much like a collection of clips from the early days of MTV (which for the younger amongst you actually stands for “Music Television”). Even if Ishii or anyone else hadn’t seen any of those early videos, they do a remarkable of capturing the aesthetics and conventions of them. I keep thinking of the second music segment in the film (following directly on the tail of the first one), which plays out with the band walking through the streets singing their ditty while bystanders bob their heads to the beat and even take part in singing along. The more I think about it, the film is largely reminiscent of the old Friday Night Video Fights, where two music videos would be shown, viewers could call in to vote for their favorite (for, I’m sure, a nominal fee), and then the winner would move on to the next week’s match. If only Sogo Ishii had thought to do the same thing (or even gave a shit to, I’m sure), he could have made a mint doing the same with the bands in this film. Who knows? Maybe he could have burned the money during a riot scene in his follow up film.
MVT: The energy of the film is what everything centers on, but it also proves enervating over a lengthy runtime. It becomes sensory overload. The filmmakers may have discovered a perpetual motion machine, but I don’t think they should have left it cranked up to maximum for the whole film.
Make Or Break: In the midst of the chaos and the riots and the violence, there is a little love scene between two characters in an industrial-set (natch) shower. The emotions between the two feel genuine, and it’s touching considering the circumstances of the characters. But whether that’s because the scene is so divergent from everything else in the film or not is difficult to say.
Friday, August 23, 2013
This week the GGtMC fellas are joined by the powerhouses of the public domain box sets, The Mill Creeps (millcreeps.libsyn.com), for some coverage of some Bruno Mattei!!!
Aaron and Chris help us cover Strike Commando (1987) starring Reb Brown and Strike Commando 2 (1988) starring Brent Huff, both films directed by Bruno Mattei!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_249.mp3
Emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 2:51 AM
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
I’m just going to go ahead and admit something to you which you probably wouldn’t otherwise have guessed about me (maybe you would have, seeing as how the portrait I feel I’ve managed to paint of myself through these little, cinematic sojourns has been somewhat less than flattering). I liked Information Society. For those who don’t know, they are an electro-pop/synth-pop/etcetera group (from Minneapolis, which I would never have thought, personally) that formed in the Eighties (I have no idea if they’re still around). They had one hit with their song What’s On Your Mind. You may remember that one for its multiple sampling of Leonard Nimoy’s delivery of the line, “Pure energy” throughout the song. I was so excited by this song, I wanted my hair done like singer Kurt Harland. At the time, I kept my hair fairly short, and if you’ve ever seen Harland’s mop, you know it is decidedly long and chaotic. Well, I insisted to the lady who used to cut my hair that this was how I wanted my hair done, and I would brook no argument (yeah, I was a prick as a kid, too). Being the extraordinarily good sport she was, she complied as best she could from the tiny reference photo on the cassette tape’s card stock foldout. And I wound up with a very short, off-center Mohawk. That lasted about three days, and then I decided to get my hair buzzed off yet again and stop fooling around with such lofty, follicular ideas (we’re not counting when I grew my hair out, since that was half a reaction to going bald and half laziness). While this little venture wasn’t the worst thing I sank my claws into and clung to tenaciously, it sure as shit wasn’t the best, either. But at the absolute minimum, I never wore any fashions that resembled something from Fred Flintstone’s wardrobe like the titular Virgins From Hell (aka Perawan Disarang Sindikat aka Maidens Revenge) of Ackyl Anwari’s film. At least I don’t think I ever did.
A smoke-filled casino is busted up, some light genital mutilation ensues, and the movie gets underway. Sheila (Enny Beatrice) and Karen (Yenny Farida), the Ann and Nancy Wilson of Indonesian girl bikers, have taken over an all-female gang in order to exact revenge. Telling the girls her back story (and kicking off a flashback with, “It was a bright, sunny day…”), she details (we can only assume for about the tenth time) how Mr. Tiger (Dicky Zulkarnaen) liked their family’s house so much, he shot their parents to death and moved his illegal aphrodisiac operation into their unbelievably fortified and cavern-esque basement. Describing more of the film would not only ruin the experience of seeing it for the first time, but you probably wouldn’t believe what I typed at any rate.
Let’s go over a bone I have to pick with this movie, or at least its title. The female bikers are not virgins, or at the very least, the English-dubbed dialogue states that they’re not. Sheila insists early on that, in order to infiltrate Tiger’s casino, she had to “become a common slut.” We can only assume, then, that the other gang members had to do the same thing in order to accomplish their mission. Later, two of the gang will turn against Sheila and the rest. They become Tiger’s sex slaves and are regularly beaten and abused, but they never protest or make any attempt to escape or stop him. Credit where it’s due, however, both Janet (another biker) and Sheila appear to castrate men trying to force themselves on women, Janet with a knife, Sheila with a gun. That the guard Janet cuts turns up minutes later, seemingly healed and ready for duty, is part of this film’s charm. It would be nice to be able to say that the film carries the metaphor of chastity equaling power, but it really doesn’t. If anything, it falls into a Rape-Revenge mode fairly early on, and even then, the women aren’t too strong without the help of men.
Contrast this with the treatment of men and their sexuality in the film. Mr. Tiger’s big scheme is to create an aphrodisiac that appears to put women into paroxysms of ecstasy for an extended period of time (think Spanish Fly on crack). Of course, the single reason why this drug would exist at all (aside from Tiger’s declaration that, “With a drug like this, I can take over the worldwide aphrodisiac market “) is so that men can prey on women sexually and try to mollify their consciences (not that people who would do something like this would likely have one in the first place), because they (the victims) were “in the mood” to begin with. It’s power over women that the film not only focuses on but also seems to endorse, despite some of its more suffragist proclamations.
Mr. Tiger gives the term “sexual deviant” a bad name all by his lonesome. He whips women, pulls their hair, drags them around, and he does it with a bug-eyed intensity that is truly startling. This sense of sadism extends to the lesbian character of Dutch. Her name alone is masculine, she is rough and tough like the men she serves and serves with, and she even has a tattoo of a scorpion on her face (I kept thinking of John Candy’s classic “Harry, The Guy With A Snake On His Face” skits from SCTV), further distancing herself physically from traditional feminine concepts of beauty. Yet, Dutch also plays the part of another predatory male. She comes upon the slumbering Karen and begins covering her in kisses. When she gets to Karen’s thighs, though, she bites down and draws blood. This hint of blood and cunnilingus intermingling conjures one of the film’s more skincrawling notions, but certainly not its wildest.
If much of what I’m describing sounds just a bit insane, that’s because it is, but it has to be seen to be believed. Every inch of this film reaches for (and usually hits) new plateaus of craziness. A woman is hung by her wrists and spun around between four posts encased in barbed wire. Another woman is turned on a spit over a barbecue pit (later she turns up, like the castrated guard, healed). A crocodile is wrestled and slain like Johnny Weissmuller on a bad day. A snake is used to extract a bullet from a wound. Nonetheless, the levels of absurdity in this movie, no matter how far gone they may seem, are taken entirely in stride by the characters. Nothing fazes these characters. Nothing. Furthermore, there is no audience identification character through whose eyes the viewers have a proxy to help them acclimatize.
It’s this banality of the preposterous that makes Virgins From Hell and many Indonesian genre pictures like it so incredibly fascinating. Unlike with, say, a Terry Gilliam film, where there is often this same sort of facile acceptance of the outré (by the film, if not necessarily by its characters), the difference lies in the productions themselves. Indonesian films don’t have the budgets to compete with the slickness of a Gilliam or Cronenberg film, so they have to rely solely on their imaginations which are (to their credit I would argue) not served by their executions. It’s the audacity in putting everything on screen and then essentially shrugging at the audience as if it’s not their job to interpret any of this that makes them such unique cinematic experiences. You may see the wires behind an Indonesian film’s tricks, but what they’re holding up will likely blow your mind.
MVT: It’s the insanity. It has to be. If this were a standard Action/Sexploitation film (with not one nude scene, I might add), there would be nothing all that remarkable about it. Its excessiveness is its allure, but it somehow doesn’t truly cross the line of distastefulness (though it’s certainly not a film made in good taste).
Make Or Break: During a big battle between the Virgins and Tiger’s army, there is a single instance which stands out above the rest for me. One of the women rides her motorcycle off a cliff, diving for the house’s front door. As the bike wobbles on painfully visible wires toward its destination, a villain gets off a shot that causes the bike and its rider to explode. It loses its impact just reading about it, but trust me; your jaw will hit the floor, and at that moment, you’ll be all in.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Directed by Arch Hall Sr.
Runtime: 90 minutes.
"To alcohol! The cause of... and solution to... all of life's problems." Homer Simpson.
Hello, I am Brett Ridley and I am addicted to collecting public domain dvd collections. This is why I am reviewing Eegah and sharing the pain of this film. The too long; can't be bothered to read version of this review is watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode where they make fun of this movie.
The movie opens on the whitest town in California were Roxie (played by Marilyn Manning) leaves the all night women's clothes store and goes to visit Tom (played by Arch Hall Jr.) at the gas station where he works. There is an exposition dump from Tom about Roxie and her father Robert (played by Arch Hall Sr.).
Roxie takes off for the country club and nearly runs over the title character Eegah (played by Richard Kiel). Instead of driving off and ending this nightmare movie, Roxie decides to stop get a better look at Eegah and then faint. She is save from being kidnapped by Tom driving up and honking his horn. At the country club Roxie retells how she fainted at the sight of a giant. Her father not believing the story but insulted that their guest (who name I can be bothered to look up) decides to go to the site where Roxie saw this giant.
The next day Roxie, Tom and Robert go back to the desert road where Roxie had seen the giant. Finding proof to Roxie's story, her father gets a helicopter ride into the desert to find this giant. So armed with an overnight bag, a camera, binoculars and no water Robert takes off into the desert. After some stock animal footage and a few minutes of walking he meets Eegah. Robert tries to take a picture of Eegah but Eegah is protective of his image and how it is used. So Eegah uses his club to explain this to Robert. Robert's mind is so blown by a caveman giant that is protective of his image rights that he trips and falls.
We cut to the country club where Tom and his band playing some song about a girl and Roxie swimming in the pool near by. After Tom's musical number Roxie gets a phone call from her father's helicopter pilot. The helicopter was having the gasket changed and would be unable to pick up Robert. This calls for Tom and Roxie to breakout the custom p.o.s. dune buggie.
What follows is five minutes of these two twits driving pointlessly around the desert to pad the run time. At some point they remember why they are there in the first place and they go to meet the father. Finding that Robert is nowhere to be found they set up camp for the night and crack out the guitar and Chekhov's transistor radio. Tom sing yet another song and then the two of them sleep for the night. Eegah uses his mad giant ninja caveman skills to sneak up on the two of them but the Chekhov radio goes off at random and scares Eegah away.
The day for night filter rises and our heroic couple decide to split up because nothing bad ever happens in movies when people do this. Eegah uses his ninja skills and sneaks up on Roxie again. This time their are not radios to save Roxie, so she defaults to her survival skills. By survival skills I mean faint at the worst time and get kidnapped by Eegah. Meanwhile Tom and some stock animal footage fail at finding where Roxie and Eegah have disappeared to.
Elsewhere in this horrible movie, Eegah reunites Roxie with her father. Eegah also shows Roxie and Robert the mummified remains of his ancestors. Eegah also grunts at them as though they were still alive and can talk back to him. At this point Robert gets the brilliant to have Roxie shave him because his clavicle is broken and he has to look his best to happy hour at the country club later that night. This is Robert's cunning plan to distract Eegah long enough for the two of them to escape. The plan half works, Eegah wants to thank Roxie in private for the shave by ripping her cloths off. So Robert makes his escape and Roxie screams a lot and eventually works out running away is a good idea.
Tom is trying to form a new band with the stock footage animals when he hears the screaming and remembers that he is the heroic lead in the film. First he runs to see if Robert is the one screaming but Robert points him in the right direction. He catches up to Roxie and Eegah thanks to Roxie fainting again. Tom tried to shoot Eegah with the rifle but Eegah just takes and bend the rifle. So Tom is forced to throw rock at Eegah until he passes out from laughing.
The heroic trio are reunited and make their way back to the dune buggie. But Eegah recovers and uses his ninja ability to teleport to the cliffs where he can menace them as they escape the desert and retreat to the country club. Meanwhile, Eegah has returned to his cave and is grunting out with the benefits of stalking Roxie with his mummified. I have no idea what is said as all of Eegah's dialog is grunt and nonsense so I am assuming they told Eegah that he was better for Roxie than Tom. So Eegah takes off and ventures into amazingly generic California town to find Roxie.
Due to Eegah's ninja training he is able to get to town quickly and go unnoticed as a seven foot giant in a loin cloth. After some wacky comedy with a drunk, Eegah goes to a motel to show off some more of his mad ninja skills. However the police have been called so Eegah goes to the country club.
At the country club Tom is singing again. Eegah gets there and starts busting up the place. Roxie is unsure if she should get a restraining order against Eegah or if she loves him. Robert leaves the scene for a bit to get a martini. Eegah crashes the party where Tom and Roxie are and the police show up to kill Eegah. The end.
MVT: Richard Kiel. It is clear how he managed to have a career after this.
Make or Break: Make is Richard Kiel again and Evan Williams Honey Whiskey. Break, the movie minus Richard Kiel.
Score: 0.25 of 10
Posted by Unknown at 11:41 PM
Saturday, August 17, 2013
That's a heck of a lot of ass kicking to dole out for a girl you hardly know!
Written By: Gareth Evans
Directed By: Gareth Evans
I was floored by the action in Gareth Evans 2011 effort, Serbuan maut. That film had a lot of hype accompanying it, but I was still impressed by the type and tenacity of action presented by Mr. Evans. My mind was a blank slate going into Serbuan maut, but the same cannot be said for my state of mind when I started watching Merantau. Thanks to my previous exposure to Mr. Evans most popular film I came into his sophomore effort with certain expectations. Most of those expectations were met, and that's both a positive and negative in this case.
There's only one place to begin a discussion of Merantau, the martial arts action. I remain super impressed with the way that Mr. Evans films his action scenes. They are hard hitting and visceral in the best of ways. This isn't the stuff of light tag that is too often present in Hollywood action films. When someone is hit in Merantau their pain is easy to feel. The violence of the film brings with it a level of immediacy that makes the action easier to swallow. A lot of the action in Merantau is far fetched, but I bought into it because of how immediate said action was presented.
Where Mr. Evans most shines as a director is in his understanding of space and surroundings. The fight choreography of Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian deserves special mention. However, without Mr. Evans having his camera in the right place at the right time during every single fight the choreography would have been lessened. Mr. Evans focuses on the area around the fight, and to great effect. Some fight scenes have a claustrophobic feel, while others feel like the entire world is at the fighters disposal. Added to this is the way that Mr. Evans implements the sound work of Ichsan Rachmaditta. The various working parts of Merantau are really good in and of themselves, but it is the guiding hand of Mr. Evans that brings those elements together to craft a very well made film.
That's not to say that Merantau is a perfect film, or even that it is on the same level as Serbuan maut. In every aspect Merantau is an inferior film to Serbuan maut, but it's still a good motion picture. The main problem I had with the film was that it did drag in the non-fighting moments and that on the whole the film could have stood to lose a good fifteen to twenty minutes from its run time. The fighting, or martial arts if you will, in Merantau is lean and mean, but the movie doesn't always follow suit. The story that surrounds the fighting is bare bones. That isn't a problem all by its lonesome, but Mr. Evans spends far too much time on such a weak story. This in turn causes the film to drag and lose a lot of the momentum that the fight scenes build up. Luckily the fight scenes do eventually come around and get the movie back on track. But, Merantau is a tad too on the bloated side for the type of film it wants to be.
Merantau falls well short of being a great film, but it's still a darn good action flick. The story can be tossed aside, and the bloated nature of the film shouldn't pose too much of a detriment to the film. The fighting in Merantau is where it's at, and in that aspect the film delivers on all of its promise. The kinetic energy of Mr. Evans action direction pulled me in and refused to let me go. Any action fan should find something to like in the action provided by Merantau. I know I did, and I know that Gareth Evans has emerged as one of the best young action directors working today.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Welcome to another episode of the GGtMC!!!
This week Large William, Koop and Tanny bring you coverage of Close Up (1990) directed by Abbas Kiarostami and Blood Diner (1987) directed by Jackie Kong!!! We want to thank Koop and Tanny for stepping in to help Large William while Sammy is away working on his tan lines!!!
Direct download: ggtmc_248.mp3
Emails to email@example.com
Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 11:22 PM
Welcome back for another episode of the GGtMC!!!
Thie week we bring our dear friend Zack (The Lightning Bug) from www.thelightningbugslair.com for a celebration of 5 years of insanely great friendship and celebration for his blog and the GGtMC, which started around the same time!!! Zack chose Sons of Steel (1988) directed by Gary L. Keady and Raising Cain (1992) directed by Brian De Palma.
Direct download: ggtmc_247.mp3
Emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Voicemails to 206-666-5207
Posted by Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema at 11:18 PM
I can completely understand the appeal of being a male cheerleader. I know what you’re thinking; this is just a sex thing from some horny guy. Well, you’re absolutely right. I honestly couldn’t care less about school spirit or the talent it takes to create and perform a solid routine. I’m not saying cheerleaders are talentless. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my mind, they’re like the Peking Opera performers of American scholastic extracurricular activities. But I’m selfish and something of a pig, so the thought of holding up a cute girl by her bum appeals to me.
That said, I was almost a team’s mascot once. In grade school, our symbol was an eagle, and the school debated having a mascot for their basketball games (it was the only sport they sponsored). Being a fan of special makeup effects, the idea of creating a costume and performing in it appealed to me. I had visions of a nice, baggy zip-up suit with a large mask/helmet that I could dance around the gym in, rallying the crowd. And then, like everything else, reality came crashing in, demolishing my spirit for the venture. You see, the powers that be wanted to have the mascot wear what was essentially a uniform with tights on its legs. Yeah. No thanks. For those who can pull that look off, more power to you, but I’m not one of them, and I wasn’t about to have what was already shaping up to be a nightmarish puberty transformed into one of cataclysmic, nigh-apocalyptic proportions. Yes, I’m exaggerating here, but have you ever met a pubescent who didn’t see every single moment of their lives as either grandiose triumph or agonized tragedy? If I were smart, I would have changed this attitude once I hit college. But no one has ever accused me of being all that smart.
Alison (Betsy Russell) wanders the dark locker room of her innominate school. Changing into her cheerleading outfit, she makes her way to the football field, where she is alone. Or is she? Some discarnate voice talks to her, and soon she is doing her damndest to perform. Then her parents show up, but they seem disappointed in the girl despite her best efforts. Waking up, Alison realizes she is en route to “the big competition” at Camp Hurrah. She and her ragtag cheerleading troupe from some unknown college pull in, and some stuff happens. Then some people die.
To my mind, the most appealing theme of this film concerns inadequacy. Alison has nightmares about her failings, both as a cheerleader and as a sexual being. She lives in a constant state of self-doubt. It’s so bad, she takes pills in order to cope (what type, I cannot recall). Alison can’t even hold onto her boyfriend Brent (Leif Garrett) much longer than the time it takes to put their van in park. In Cory (Lucinda Dickey), the team’s mascot (a crocodile, not a glorious eagle, I might add), Alison finds a confidante. She also finds a supporter. Cory is Miyagi-esque in her dedication to improving Alison (“There’s more than one way to be a winner”), though Cory also deals with issues of insufficiency, lamenting that she’s only the mascot and not a full cheerleader. Though she is a member of the squad, Cory is faceless and sexless in her anthropomorphized costume. This is emphasized in a scene where the various mascots are instructed to eat their lunch with their full costumes on. Farcical stick-up-the-ass Miss Tipton (Vickie Benson) proclaims, “You’re a mascot, not a human.” It mirrors the military practice of tearing an individual down in order to build a warrior, but here it’s strictly in the pursuit of humiliating an inferior caste of the cheerleading social structure.
Cory tries to keep Alison off the pills, she offers a shoulder to cry on and an ear to hear her friend’s problems, though whether she’s helpful (or even can be) is (very) debatable. This issue of shortcomings carries over into the realm of body image (though let’s face it; neither Russell, Dickey, nor any other woman in this film has anything to be bashful about in this regard). While the girls sunbathe by a river, they are spied on by creepy, pervy men. Reinforcing her dominance after stealing Brent from Alison without lifting a finger, Suzy (Krista Pflanzer) pulls off her top, attracting all the male eyes to her body, controlling them, and effectively marking her territory. Likewise, Pam (fledgling porn queen Teri Weigel), who is a teammate of Alison’s, also doffs her top, and following after Suzy, seduces Brent, showing her superiority within the unit of her team. However, once they’re alone, Pam rebuffs Brent’s amorous groping. Having displayed that she is the better of Alison and the rest of the squad is enough for her. It’s another manifestation of the competition motif that’s threaded throughout the movie. Everyone is a competitor, like it or lump it. And the characters either become stronger from the competition or are destroyed by it.
Don’t be misled, however. John Quinn’s Cheerleader Camp (aka Bloody Pom Poms aka Bloody Nightmare aka Bloody Scream) is not a horror film. Despite the V-C-Andrews-inspired poster art and the use of Albertus MT font (if that nomenclature doesn’t ring any bells, think of the opening credits to just about every John Carpenter film ever) for the main titles, this film would like to lull you into thinking it’s a Horror film. However, any (and I mean any) trace of this genre is erased about seven minutes in when the non-comic relief fat guy (Travis McKenna) gets his bare porcine ass caught in the van’s window while mooning the camp attendees. Mere moments later, he farts in the face of Miss Tipton, a stuck-up prig in the mode of Animal House’s Babs Jansen, who (naturally) has an inner deviant inside her a la Honeywell from Bob Clark’s Porky’s. The Horror elements of the film could be seen as a sort of satirical comment on the Teen Sex Comedy subgenre as a whole, but they’re mostly unspectacular, and they can in no way be considered a focal point of the film (they even elide a classic-style Horror reveal towards the end for absolutely no reason whatsoever), something on which Horror films rely.
But it’s not that the film wants to be both a Horror and a Comedy which bothered me. It’s that it doesn’t seem to care one way or another, and this is reflected in the script’s complete lack of structure. It has elements of both genres, but it doesn’t develop any of them, and any scene not concerned with being a period at the end of an incomplete sentence just flounders along until the filmmakers cut to another scene. This extends to the actors’ performances, half of which seem to be taking everything deadly serious, while the other half are solely concerned with mugging for the camera in the most obnoxious way conceivable (you can take that to mean they’re in on the joke, but it’s not much of a joke). Thus, you have two options when viewing this film. You can either try to figure out what was going on in the filmmakers’ minds while creating this thing, which will only frustrate you as much as the end product, or you can completely void yourself of any and all expectations and just let it happen. Being drunk out of your skull would probably be beneficial, as well, but who am I to dictate what you should do with your movie watching experience?
MVT: Aside from being a formative figure in my trot to manhood (who, just for the record, still looks amazingly beautiful to this day), Lucinda Dickey also gives the most sincere, gradated performance in the entire film. And, though I’m not fully certain it’s her in the croc suit (but suspect it is), she does a nice little dance performance in the film’s back half, complete with a little breakdancing move to finish it up. What a dame!
Make Or Break: SPOILERS. While everyone who hasn’t bugged out of camp is being pursued by the murderer, Timmy (the tubby guy) bafflingly stops, turns on the video camera he has been living his life vicariously through for the whole movie (and making quasi-porn with, incidentally), and talks to it as if he was giving a toast at a friend’s wedding. Then he makes a big to-do about having to micturate, and turns away, feigning horror. It’s neither funny, nor scary, nor suspenseful, adds zero to the piece, stops its flow (no pun intended) dead in its tracks, and makes not a whit of sense on any level. It doesn’t belong at this point in the film. This is not to say that it would have worked elsewhere, but it made me throw up my hands and finally admit that there was little that could be done to save this film for me. Dickey comes close in the final moments, but even she couldn’t overcome the hurdle set by this scene.