Incredibly Bad Film Show: Kinky Killers

Dir: George Lekovic
Star: Michael Paré, Beverly Lynne, Brooke Lewis, Mark Belasco

I can only imagine the conversation which took place in the distribution company’s office, with regard to this movie and its original title:

“I think we can use the film, but Polycarp? What’s that again?
“He was a second-century bishop. In Greece.”
[Long Pause]
“Yeah. Well, actually, no. Here’s what we’re gonna do.”
[Reaches for black marker]
“Oh, and I hope you weren’t attached to the DVD sleeve either…”

Hey, presto: say what you like about the quality of the actual movie – and we will have plenty to say there before long, trust us on that – whoever was involved with the marketing was a frickin’ genius. We stumbled across this on cable, so the cover (right) wasn’t even a factor. Frankly, if we had, it might have been a warning, because it would have been one of those cases where the sleeve is clearly trying way too hard. As is, the title was sufficient, along with the presence of veteran character actor Charles Durning. He won three Purple Hearts in World War II, taking part in both the Normandy landings and the Battle of the Bulge, and shows up here in one location, to no real purpose. One can only surmise some kind of gambling debt was involved.

This is not impossible: we’ve covered a gangster/movie connection elsewhere, and this feels like the same sort of thing, an ill-conceived vanity project, though this has far less sense of any connection to reality. Bodies – mostly of blonde strippers – are turning up in the streets of New Jersey, with parts missing and tattoos on them the victims didn’t have when they were alive, including the mysterious word, “Polycarp”. The police are baffled. What does it mean? I guess the NJPD do not have access to, oh, Google? Detectives Paré and Belasco are “investigating”; quotes used advisedly, since their methodology is not quite straight from the police manual.

The original sleeve with the real Polycarp.
Now, why didnt they use him?

Still, it gets them into the right area: that inhabited by Dr. Jill Kessey (Lynne), a psychiatrist who has been giving therapy to a number of the victims. Yeah, because strippers can regularly afford $200/hour therapists, right? Kessey has an ‘open’ relationship with her boyfriend (and his bad case of back acne), and it turns out he slept with the victims. The cops suspect him. Which means they break into their room, interrogate him in the shower, take him away in his underwear then dump him under a bridge in what looks like Brooklyn, according to Chris. That drooling sound you hear is civil rights lawyers thinking about the possibilities. The trail leads from there to another psychiatrist, Dr. Grace Sario (Lewis), who also has an unconventional approach to therapy, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Ok, so far, it’s been dull in an erotic thriller kind of way, much as you’d expect from Ms. Lynne, the veteran of movies with titles such as The Bikini Escort Company, and the Black Tie Nights series. To describe her as “unconvincing” as a psychiatrist would be putting it mildly, and I needed to convince Chris at the half-way mark to persevere, and had to compromise by re-locating with her from the living-room to the bedroom. I’m glad I did, for it’s only after that point that full-blown religious looniness breaks out. Oh, it had been hinted at, with Pare’s cop found of quoting religious scripture to suspects [probably adding another count to that lawsuit], and if we’d been bothered enough to Google “polycarp,” could have found out its origins before the movie divulged them to us. However, it’s not until the final reel that we discover the truth.

[Spoiler alert, I guess. Though as usual, if you go ahead and watch this one, you should be doing so purely for amusement, rather than the plot.]  The murders are actually being committed by a coven of witches, led by Doctor Sario and Kessey, as part of a ritual with the eventual aim of putting the (very clearly plastic) pieces together, and triggering the coming of Lucifer. As you do. This is all explained in great detail by the perpetrators after they have captured three of the male actors: this is probably necessary, though it has the feeling more of a theology lecture than anything else – if the subjects are tied up, it’s likely to avoid them being bored into unconsciousness by the exposition and toppling off their chairs. Throw in some entirely gratuitous sex scenes before we get to that point, and the movie makes a late surge into incredibly-bad territory.

The entire exercise seems to have been churned out with amazingly little thought, from the basic concept – those with a fondness for T+A will be put off by the religion and vice-versa – all the way through to the casting, where I wouldn’t be surprised if they sold off all the roles at auction, not just this one. In Durning’s long career, which has gained him nine Emmy noms plus a pair of Oscar nods, it’s unquestionably a low-water mark. Even on the considerably less-distinguished resumes of Paré and Lynne, this is something which will be buried and forgotten as nothing but lurid nonsense with few redeeming merits.

D
[November 2009]

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Phoenix Fear Film Festival 3 – the ‘close, but no cigar’ movies

If you’ve been wondering where we’ve been of late, and why there’s been no reviews posted for three weeks, we’re heading towards the 3rd Phoenix Fear Film Festival on January 23rd. So, our spare time has been spent filtering through the various shorts an features sent in for the consideration of the viewing panel. Submissions came from a variety of sources: we had films directly from the makers, got others passed on to us for consideration by our friends at Brain Damage, and we also reached out to some creators whose work looked like it might be interesting. [You can spend, literally, days trawling round Youtube, watching trailers of all shapes, sizes and qualities of horror!]

This year, I think the quality of the submissions was the highest it’s ever been. I know it sounds like a patronizing cliche, but the decision of what to show was genuinely a difficult one, and we could easily have run the event over two days rather than one. Writing the rejections is not the funnest part of the endeavor, though much credit due to Devi Snively, whose email in reply was surprisingly upbeat and quite made our day [her film, Trippin’, is currently first alternate, in the event that a movie Brain Damage have promised us does not complete post-production in time. Update: and as that proved the case, Trippin’ made it in!].

We have now just about finalized the list of features to be screened there – details of those can be found on the festival site. But I’d like to pay deserved tribute to some of those that didn’t quite make the final cut [as it were], and give them a bit of publicity for their efforts. Hence, the reviews below, which cover some of the contenders in the feature category – please note, these are my opinions alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of the entire festival panel, blah, blah. You know how it works. We’ll be covering the shorts separately, since we’re trying to squeeze as many of those into the festival as possible.

It’s somewhat amusing how some film-makers subtly (or not-so subtly) hint that if we pick their movie, all their friends will show up at the festival. We treat such assurances with skepticism, after years of promoting bands and other shows. Now, we pretty much knock a zero off any predicted claims of attendance – and deduct a further 50%, for those who do show up, and claim they should be ‘on the list.’ From a pragmatic viewpoint, it’d be only a short-term gain, even if their friends did turn up, and pay to get in. Showing crappy films might get a few more arses on seats this year,  but the rest of the crowd will not come back next year.

For some reason, we got an awful lot of late entries this year too – in September, we were wondering if we’d have enough features submitted to fill up the event, hence our decision to see if Brain Damage had any suggestions. However, the last couple of weeks saw a tidal-wave of features and shorts arrive, on almost a daily basis. Which, of course, means that the viewing panel has had to convene on almost a daily basis to watch them. While this has been more of a pleasure than a chore, now we have got the line-up finalized, I think we will likely be taking a break from watching inde horror by choice for a while. So, look forward to our review of The Ugly Truth in next week’s update.

We’re joking. Of course.

Meanwhile, other preparations continue for the event: we did look at the possibilities of bringing in a “big name” star to headline the event, but the finances didn’t quite work themselves out there. I have to say, some do seem to have a rather inflated idea of their own worth, demanding more money for their appearance than we’d take in, if the entire event sold out. And we’re not even talking icons like Bruce Campbell, but fairly minor stars. Perhaps they’re under the impression the PFFF is some kind of commercial event such as Fango’s Weekend of Horrors, when it’s really just Chris and I, doing the work entirely because we love the genre – if we break even, we’ll be happy. However, we are delighted to have inked scream queen Tiffany Shepis, one of the leading horror movie actresses of recent years: she’s been a pleasure to work with.

Stay tuned for a full report on the event, with reviews of the five chosen features, towards the end of January – after we’ve recovered from the event itself!

Reviews