Bloody Movie (1987)
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Horror movies in which a group of teens is forced to fight for their lives against the ghost of a silent movie star. How's that for a bizarre sub-genre?
Believe it or not, it's one that could at least warrant its' own shelf at any decent video store, with the two entries listed above and works like [i]Frightmare[/i] and Pete Walker's [i]The Flesh and Blood Show[/i] (I believe) making an appearance as well. There's something about silent movie stars that just screams "teen hack-'em-up," I guess.
[i]Twice Dead[/i] holds a special place in my heart, as I remember it fondly as a teenager. It came out when I was 13, very into horror films, and obsessed with everything Cinemax had to offer. [i]Twice Dead[/i] had actually managed a minimal theatrical release, back when such things were still possible for minor studio genre films, and while I didn't catch it in the theater, I clipped out the ad (like I said, I was obsessed) and waited patiently for it to show up on TV.
When I finally saw the film a few months later, I was disappointed to find that the great poster art was a lie--at no point in the film does a hanged, spectral figure jump through a mirror wielding a knife. But even more shocking was the presence of Todd Bridges, "Diff'rent Strokes"' Willis. You see, I'd grown up watching "Diff'rent Strokes" with a certain degree of commitment, and the idea that one of the actors from my youth could suddenly show up in a B-grade slasher film--getting killed, no less--was a new one to me.
It's all old hat at the time, but I guess up until then, I figured actors were either famous or retired. It was, I believe, my first encounter with the world of the has-been.
(I guess the point of all this is that I may be giving an unfairly high note to[i] Twice Dead[/i], as I still watch it through the youth-colored glasses that viewed it over and over again my sophomore year in high school. I didn't get out much.)
The plot of [i]Twice Dead [/i]is an odd combination of [i]The Amityville Horror[/i] and[i] Class of 1984[/i]. A family of four (parents, brother, sister) and their doomed cat (named "Meow," for chrissakes) move into an inherited old house where an old silent movie actor had killed himself in the attic. Spooky things start to occur, but the family is more concerned with the kids' having inexplicably pissed off a local gang, one that's not afraid to go all the way with their revenge. The ghost, which up until now has threatened the family, for some reason now starts defending them against the leather-jacketted marauders.
One of the problems with [i]Twice Dead [/i]is the gang itself, though they could just as well be an asset if you're looking at the film for corny '80s nostalgia value. First off, they're an all-white gang--I mean, they're so white you wonder if they've ever even seen a black person*--and they've got huge hairdos and make such vague, over-the-top threats that they don't really seem scary at all. The exception is Crip (Jonathan Chapin), who puts on an almost Crispin Gloverian performance as the creepy member obsessed with raping the sister, though he does it in such a bizarre, eccentric manner that he easily outshines the laughably big-haired leader, who simply comes off as the bastard love child of Emilio Estevez and William Zabka. (One of the gang is Shawn Player, who was in [url="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/journal_view.php?journalid=13186&entryid=244183&view=public"][i]The Final Alliance[/i][/url] and the Andy Milligan film [i]The Weirdo[/i]. Now that's a great short career.)
That said, Tom Breznahan (in [i]The Brain[/i] the same year) and Jill Whitlow (of the classic [i]Night of the Creeps[/i]) are good in the leads, with Whitlow being likeable yet a bit odd and Breznahan exuding a smarmy cuteness that made me regret his character wears longjohns to bed. Brooke Bundy and Sam Melville play the broke parents, and they're given more development than tha standard parents in a teen horror movie, thanks to the "family vs. punks" side-plot.
Writer/director Bert L. Dragin (whose only other credit is the previous year's [i]Lord of the Flies[/i]-meets-[i]Meatballs[/i] flick [i]Summer Camp Nightmare, [/i]so I suppose the combining of two exploitation films into one wasn't too unusual) attempts his best to make every action of the film justified, whether or not the dialogue becomes awkward. When they find a dumbwaiter days after moving in, the mom justifies it, as she attempts to do when she brings up the fraying in the cord on their electric blanket, even though the electricity isn't on. (It's just a set-up for one of the death sequences, where Charlie Spradling dies while having sex with a guy getting electrocuted. It's... memorable.)
[i]Twice Dead[/i] takes some clever turns, and you can tell everyone apart, even though their personality traits aren't that different. It's not a terrible waste of time, and if you can get by some of the goofy punks or lousy epilogue, you might even get a little shivery. It's even got a not-too-terrible theme song (!) by Poor Saint Christopher, which sounds like an odd heavy metal/Siouxie and the Banshees cross with lyrics like, "God doesn't care, he just looks the other way/After you're dead and condemned to stay/Twice Dead...."
Not enough horror movies have theme songs.
More silent movie stars go a-hackin' in [i]Bloody Movie[/i], a film made in 1987 and not released until last year, which should pretty much tell you everything. It is, bizarrely, the last film of Andre de Toth, the director of the original [i]House of Wax[/i], who filmed some scenes before getting replaced by Nick Marino. Conversely, Nick Marino was replaced by John Saxon while directing[i] [url="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/journal_view.php?journalid=13186&entryid=196014&view=public"]Death House[/url] [/i]for the same producers. Isn't the low-budget film industry of the '80s fascinating?
[i]Bloody Movie[/i] has the advantage over [i]Twice Dead[/i] on the surface if only because it has actual has-beens in a movie about a homicidal has-been. Alan Hale Jr. shows up as a security guard, Cameron Mitchell pops in briefly as an over-the-top detective, Dan Haggerty gets stabbed, and Aldo Ray either plays a drunk or was simply too wasted on the day they shot his scenes**. Best of all is John Ireland's starring performance (sort of) as Lance Hayward, a silent movie star thought long retired or dead, who may or may not be killing trespassers on his property in gruesome ways. It's a film so packed to the gills with B-grade-actors-turned-horror-movie-regulars that the fact that John Carradine's [i]not[/i] in it is positively shocking. (Interestingly, de Toth was also the director of[i] Monkey on My Bac[/i]k, one of Mitchell's best starring vehicles.)
I'm not trying to be clever about the "may or may not" part. I honestly don't know, because the movie doesn't seem to know, and you figure the climax will sort things out, but it doesn't. That's part of the problem with Bloody Movie--it really doesn't make any sense, and often feels like two movies uncomfortably squooshed into one, which it very may well be.
I've got memories of [i]Bloody Movie[/i] as well, back when it was called [i]Terror Night[/i]. In an old issue of Fangoria, they interviewed William Butler, one of the most frequently killed guys in horror films of the '80s--in fact, this is the third film I've reviewed with a Butler bashing, the other two being [i][url="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/journal_view.php?journalid=13186&entryid=319662&view=public"]Buried Alive[/url] [/i]and [url="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/journal_view.php?journalid=13186&entryid=148717&view=public"][i]Ghoulies II[/i][/url]. Butler lamented that this hadn't been released yet, as he was supposed to have not gotten killed in it, though, as it turns out, he gets killed. So I'd always harbored a desire to see that movie where William Butler was supposed to survive, but doesn't.
His character could just as easily have survived, too. In this rare case, Butler plays the lead, and as much as I like him on screen--he's got a shy, dorky adorableness that makes him look all cuddly even when he's trying to be mean--he's not really a great actor. It doesn't help that he introduces himself to a girl with "My name's Chip... like computer chip. Do you like computers?," the sort of line that you'd not only have to be a nerd but a really fucking socially retarded nerd to say. But he's just one of a six-pack of kids that decide to journey to the old Hayward place for reasons better left to a screenwriter's imagination.
[i]Bloody Movie[/i] is done with a certain degree of love and respect for the film industry and the stars of early Hollywood that it's tough to be completely turned off by it no matter how stupid or inept everything gets. Characters do completely irrational things, plot threads make minimal sense and the dialogue borders on unearthly, but it's not an utterly unlikeable movie.
It's not really even that bloody, though a car-assisted dissection shows you what [i]The Hitcher[/i] shied away from. (This bit of splatter immediately then cuts to--Alan Hale, Jr., making it probably the only film in history to have a vicious bit of slaughter followed by a cast member of "Gilligan's Island.") It's certainly never scary, and while it throws in the prerequisite nudity (not, sadly, by Butler or, thankfully, by any of the fogeys), it feels more like an afterthought, like inserts stuck into a film to make it racier. It's almost as though de Toth wanted to make a moody homage to gothic horror and Marino wanted to make a dumb-ass slasher film, and Bloody Movie got stuck somewhere in the middle.
It's an odd little standout in slasher films, if only for the presence of five cinema veterans in a low-rent horror caper. It's not a good film by any means, but it's executed with a certain degree of, if not flair, then compassion (the murders follow clips from silent movies using the same m.o.) that makes it watchable. If you can find something to like in most '80s Fred Olen Ray movies, you'll probably find something of merit in [i]Bloody Movie[/i].
[i]Twice Dead[/i] gets the edge, easily--it's a focussed, fairly well-written little combination of a rebel gang movie and ghost story. But [i]Bloody Movie[/i] has Aldo Ray getting decapitated and John Ireland reciting Othello, which adds up to some interesting parts if not much of a movie.
[size=1]* -- Though, to be fair, when they see Todd Bridges, one of them calls him a "jambone motherfucker." Oh dear.
** -- I think this is the cruelest thing I've ever written. I almost took it out, but, y'know, old, formerly semi-famous drunks are kinda funny. Pathetic, but funny. How about that time Lon Chaney Jr. was so drunk and consumed by lung cancer that he couldn't be given any lines on [i]Dracula vs. Frankenstein[/i]? Hysterical, in a my-god-that's-so-horribly-depressing sort of way.
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