January 15th, 2008

HATCHET (2007) ***

The poster for this movie proudly proclaims “Not a sequel.  Not a remake.  Not based on a Japanese one.  Old school American horror.”  And yes, it is refreshing in this day and age to see an original straightforward slasher film that pays homage to what’s come before it, and isn’t a remake or have a number at the end of the title. 


Kane (Jason) Hodder stars as the maniacal Victor Crowley, a deformed killer who lives in the Louisiana bayou and murders people who enter his woods.  Joel David (Dodgeball) Moore plays a lovesick nerd who goes on a haunted boat ride ran by a fake Cajun Asian dude.  When the boat sinks and the passengers end up on the Crowley property, the hideously disfigured Victor picks them off one by one.   


The movie is pretty much a wall to wall gorefest with the spectacular effects provided by the great John Carl Buechler (who also directed Hodder in Friday the 13th Part 7).  Guts are ripped out, arms are torn off, spines are plunked out, and bodies get ripped in two (and that’s just the first scene).  Despite the title, only one person gets cut to ribbons with Victor’s trusty hatchet.  It seems that Crowley’s favored method of killing is TOTAL DISMEMBERMENT.  One head gets torn in half, another head gets twisted off like a cap, faces get power sanded off, legs get chopped off, heads get chopped off, arms get pulled out of their sockets, and more. 


Director Adam Green clearly shows a lot of love for the genre and crafts an entertaining, if one-note horror flick.  Slasher movie fans will have fun picking out references to other horror flicks (Crowley’s origin is similar to The Burning and the final scene mercilessly rips off Friday the 13th) and seeing such horror icons as Robert Englund and Tony Todd in cameos. 


Even though it suffers from some annoying characters (like the two Girls Gone Wild wannabes) and a complete non-ending, Hatchet has enough (intentional) humor and paint-the-room-red blood and guts to make any horror fan sit up and take notice.  Besides, any movie that features Candyman, Jason, AND Freddy is automatically worth a look in my book. 


Moore (who will play the lead in James Cameron’s next flick Avatar) gets the movie’s best line:  “Every hot, half naked chick I see reminds me of Christine.”

THE DEFILERS (1965) ** ½

“There’s only one thing in this crummy life that counts, and that’s KICKS!”


That’s the motto of a duo of loutish playboys (Byron Mabe and Jerome Elliott) who are tired of banging women on the beach and raping chicks in abandoned warehouses (they always seem to end up liking it) and try to brainstorm ideas for how to kill their weekend.


“We could blow up a kindergarten, run down an old lady, poison the city water supply…”


They end up deciding to kidnap a virginal chick (Mai Jannson) fresh off the bus from Minnesota.  They tell her they’re taking her to a “Hollywood party”, but instead lead her to decrepit basement where they beat and rape her.  They keep her locked up and abuse her whenever they want.  Finally Mabe takes things too far and kills her, which leads to a fistfight between the pair of rowdy rapists.  In the end, Mabe falls face first on a nail while Elliott goes to “get help”.


In short, a feel good movie. 


Produced by exploitation king David F. (Blood Feast) Friedman, The Defilers is generally considered to be the first of the “roughie” craze and while it may have certainly blazed the trail, it offers nothing particularly shocking.  This just might be because I’m a jaded sleaze movie veteran, but there was nothing especially novel or taboo about the two men’s exploits for me to fully recommend it.  Also the sex scenes leave a lot to be desired and aren’t very erotic either. 


What director Lee (Nazi Love Camp 7) Frost does do well is bring an atmospherically sleazy mood to the proceedings.  Filmed in stark black and white, The Defilers definitely has the look of a down and dirty roughie, even if it lacks the nasty sentiment inherent in the genre.  It also provides a great look at Hollywood Boulevard in the 60’s (the Chinese Theater is featured). 


Frost worked in many exploitation genres including the nudie movie (House on Bare Mountain), the biker movie (Chrome and Hot Leather), and even blaxploitation (Black Gestapo).  He also directed the cult classic The Thing with Two Heads as well as penned the Peter Fonda drive-in hit Race with the Devil. 


Mabe, who is quite good as the sleazier of the two “Defilers” also went on to a prolific exploitation career behind the camera, directing such hits as A Smell of Honey; A Swallow of Brine, She Freak, and The Acid Eaters. 

SCUM OF THE EARTH (1963) ** ½


The same year that Herschell Gordon Lewis made the immortal Blood Feast, he also directed this crass exploitation picture.  It features many familiar faces from that film and uses some of the same music.  It even ends with the villain being endlessly chased on foot by the police, just like Blood Feast.  Although it’s pretty tame and features no nudity (except for one brief slip of the nip), it’s still fun to watch. 


Vickie Miles stars as a young, naïve and gullible small town girl who wants to go to college but can’t afford it.  A sleazy gang of pornographers find out about her plight and blackmail her into taking some scandalous pictures.  The photographer and some of the models are nice to her, but most everybody else is a repulsive letch.  In the end, the organization topples itself and Miles is able to escape with most of her dignity intact.


The film’s centerpiece is a scary rant given to Miles by the owner of the porno ring, Mr. Lang (Lawrence Wood).  If you’ve seen any Something Weird DVD’s, you’re probably familiar with his speech since it’s showcased in their opening title montage.  He berates Miles telling her “All you kids make me sick!  You’re no better than a woman who sells herself to a man!  You’re worse!  You’re damaged merchandise and this is a fire sale!  Down inside you’re dirty!  Do you hear me?  Dirty!”   


It’s also fun catching Lewis’ usual stock company in small roles, especially Mal Arnold.  It’s hilarious to think that in the same year he played an old Egyptian caterer (in Blood Feast) AND a dirty picture seller who’s “still a minor”.  That just shows you his range I guess. 


Miles is quite good in the lead role, but her name was just an alias.  She’s actually Allison Louise Downe, the same woman who wrote many of Lewis’ best movies including Blood Feast, The Gruesome Twosome and She Devils on Wheels. 


Even though Lewis skimps on the skin and shows off none of the trademark gore he’s known for, Scum of the Earth remains compelling thanks to a handful of memorable performances and the sordid atmosphere.  While no one in the cast pops their tops or gets their tongues ripped out, Lewis still peppers the movie with some truly wonderful dialogue like “I’ll keep my shirt on as long as you take yours off!” and “Our business is pleasure!  Let’s do it in front of the camera” to keep you entertained. 

AKA:  Devil's Camera.

CHAIN GANG WOMEN (1971) ** ½

If you’re expecting an all female update of The Defiant Ones, forget this movie and go rent Black Mama, White Mama instead.  The title has nothing to do with the movie (there IS a chain gang, but it’s populated by nothing but men don’t ya know).  It’s just another classic example of the drive-in bait and switch.  Give the people a great title, a campy trailer and an alluring poster to pull them in; then show ‘em a movie that features nothing of what they’ve been promised.

All things considered though, it ain't half bad.


A meek pot dealer named Harris (Robert Lott) gets his jail sentence commuted to working on a chain gang in a Georgia work farm.  He gets shackled to a gruff lifer named Weed (Michael Sterns) who has dreams of escaping and waxes philosophical on what life is like on the outside.  (“Do you know what would be really great?  To go to the toilet any time you want to!”) 


The duo seizes an opportunity to escape and hole up with Harris’ estranged girlfriend (Linda York from The Dicktator).  Harris wastes no time making time with his woman, which makes Weed a little jealous, so the next day he sends Harris on some errands and Weed promptly rapes his girlfriend while he’s out and about.  (Hey, when the cat’s away the mice will play.)  The two men then decide to hide in a remote farmhouse where an old man likes to bang his hot (and underage) wife played by Barbara (The Stewardesses) Mills.  Of course you know the two horny pants fugitives are going to be hitting Mills’ hot ass before the movie is over, but the kicker is… she likes it folks!  This naturally doesn’t set well with the old farmer and he quickly grabs a shotgun and has his vengeance on the two no-good felons.


It’s easy to see why this flick was so popular at the drive-ins.  All the ingredients are there:  Cool ad campaign, catchy title, naked women, car chases, and lots of good ol’ boy country music playing on the soundtrack.  Too bad the movie, like it’s main characters, never truly breaks free and becomes a down and dirty classic. 


Director Lee (Policewomen) Frost stages the escape sequences with panache and utilizes lots of cool split screen camerawork, but unfortunately doesn’t crank the knob when it comes to the exploitation goodies.  The nudity IS pretty plentiful however (even if there is only TWO women in the entire cast) and anyone looking for a mildly amusing way to kill 85 minutes can certainly do a lot worse.


AKA:  Women in Chains.