Archives for posts with tag: erotic thriller

Body Chemistry 2

Lisa Pescia in Body Chemistry 2 (1992)

This reviewer retains a fondness for the lurid erotic thrillers that used to play late at night on Showtime during the late 80s and early 90s. Many of these – the likes of Out of the Dark (1988) and Body Chemistry (1990) – were stylish mysteries and wicked psychological dramas in addition to serving as eye-pleasing programming.

Of these, the one that left the deepest impression on his grade school brain was Body Chemistry 2: Voice of a Stranger (1992), in which the amazing Lisa Pescia reprises her role as the sadistic Dr. Claire Archer. It cuts a gash in pre-pubescence to know that something as grimy as sadomasochism exists – mere nudity was sufficiently forbidden to be exciting in those days – and, furthermore, to know that such sordid entertainment is interesting to a parent too lazy to shoo a youngster from the room while, for instance, a dominatrix humiliates Morton Downey, Jr.

Later generations, alas, would plunge directly into the porn cesspit, ignorant of the mystique that used to await the youthful discoverer of a Bedroom Eyes (1984), Red Shoe Diaries (1992), or some such other softcore classic. In “Generation Masturbation”, Matt Forney relates how early experiences of pornography and dirty movies can shape people’s sexual expectations and muses, additionally, on the disillusioning nature of actual carnal knowledge.

Kubrick seems to have been the one to initiate the young Forney:

We were staying with my grandparents for Christmas, and they had acquired pay-per-view channels through less-than-legal means. My grandpa had three TVs with free HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and all the rest: one in the living room, one in their bedroom, and one in the basement lounge room where I slept. It was two in the morning and I was flipping channels when I came across HBO airing Eyes Wide Shut.

Specifically, the orgy scene.

Read the rest here.

Stripped to Kill

Stripped to Kill (1987) *****  The first in a series of seedy adult fairy tale collaborations between writer-director Katt Shea and co-writer Andy Ruben, Stripped to Kill is among the finest erotic thrillers of that genre’s late 80s/early 90s peak period. Kay Lenz brings a valuable earnestness to her exploitative role as an L.A. policewoman going undercover as a stripper at the Rock Bottom, a club whose talent is falling prey to a mystery maniac. Greg Evigan plays her charmingly unshaven, doughnut-scarfing, zen-aspiring partner and, inevitably, love interest.

Shea, Ruben, and crew imbue Stripped to Kill with a convincing but expressionistic visual sensibility, a nocturnal air of stylized grime and neon magic that sets it apart from its thriller cohorts. “Deny the Night,” a moody, low-key rock song written by Ruben and performed by Larry Streicher, burns over a glorious opening credits strip sequence, perfectly establishing the darkly beautiful tone and themes of the film. Night, wet streets, red light, flashing knives, and fire dimly illuminate the dangerous world of this film and give it much of its personality.

Tawdry it is, but never at the expense of its humanity, with each character granted a more or less believable individuality. The supporting cast is especially strong. Three’s Company‘s Norman Fell is adorably sleazy and jaded as the strip club manager, while all of the dancers are captured at their expressive and memorable best both on stage and in their dressing room moments. Diana Bellamy also deserves special mention for her minor supporting role as Shirl. Icy and tough but also funny and almost warm at times, Stripped to Kill is a unique experience not to be missed by fans of murder thrillers and the female form in motion.

Stripped to Kill 2

Stripped to Kill II: Live Girls (1989) ***1/2  This disappointing sequel, again from the team of Shea and Ruben, fails to recapture the right combination of elements in writing, cast, and design that made Stripped to Kill such a special film. As a stand-alone piece, however, and without its classic predecessor to throw it into such an unflattering contrast, Stripped to Kill II is a passable if mopey and fairly predictable piece of trash.

Maria Ford, who developed a following for her willingness to appear naked in such films, is a picture painted from a gaudier palette than Kay Lenz and is less capable of carrying a demanding dramatic feature. She is, however, a more accomplished dancer than Lenz, more convincing as a stripper, and is actually at her best as an actress in her surreal dance and dream sequences, which, along with the other dancers’ periodic interludes, constitute Stripped to Kill II‘s strongest suit. Of particular note is Ford’s cat routine with roommate Karen Mayo-Chandler as the lion tamer.

Stripped to Kill II‘s cast is adequate, but – as with nearly every other aspect – falls short of the bar raised by the original. Eb Lottimer is innocuously low-key in his turn as the police detective who falls for Ford, the prime suspect in this installment’s series of stripper murders. All of the strippers are physically gifted artists and fine in action, but less than charismatic in dramatic scenes. Norman Fell, had his character returned, would have been a welcome source of seriocomedy, as would Greg Evigan or Diana Bellamy, sorely missed, the endearing role of Shirl having passed to ghastly Virginia Peters.

Shea, focusing on a more sundazed set of characters, would return to form and further develop her sleazy L.A. fairy tale aesthetic with Streets (1990).

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) ****  Director Dominique Othenin-Girard brings a Frenchman’s sensitivity to this last Halloween installment of the 80s.  Beautiful and extraordinarily talented child actress Danielle Harris returns as Myers’s niece Jamie along with Beau Starr and Ellie Cornell, who also appear in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.  After being taken in by an old hermit like Frankenstein’s monster in Bride of Frankenstein, Myers shuns the sympathy such a comparison might have suggested by doing away with his benefactor and making his way back to Haddonfield for another night of terror directed at his psychically damaged niece, who unfortunately for her spends most of the film in a state of acute distress.

The great Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis shtick might have been annoyingly stale by this point in the series if not for the streak of erratic behavior and cockeyed scariness injected into his character in this outing.  Particularly appalling is his badgering of the psychologically brittle Jamie and his willingness even to use her as bait to lure her relentless uncle.  Loomis, after spending the other films decrying Myers’s pure evil and soullessness, now has the idea that the killer’s niece might be utilized therapeutically to reach what remains of his humanity.  While this may seem at first to be a far-fetched and too-liberal interpretation of Myers, the fact that he repeatedly returns to his home and instinctively seeks out his family does suggest that some emotional need still exists behind the legendary impassiveness of the William Shatner mask.

Halloween 5‘s risk-taking in playing with franchise mythology continues with its introduction of an enigmatic, faceless stranger in cowboy boots who follows Myers and plays an important part in this sequel’s somewhat silly ending.  Also questionable is the inclusion of two bumbling, comic cops (Frankie Como and David Ursin) whose antics are more than once accompanied by absurdly clownish music.  These are only minor blemishes, however, on what is overall a very worthy entry in the series (with blemishes seeming to constitute a motif of Halloween 5, what with Loomis’s inconsistent burn makeup and not one but two scenes of characters examining pimples in rear view mirrors).

Also doing much to enliven this entry is the sympathetic and sexy presence of Wendy Kaplan, who in one of Halloween 5‘s more memorable and suspenseful scenes unwittingly plants on Michael Myers his first (albeit still masked) screen kiss when she mistakes him for her Halloween-costumed boyfriend.  Her character’s death, along with those of Ellie Cornell, Tamara Glynn, and others, is painful to watch, and what ultimately keeps The Revenge of Michael Myers urgently interesting, suspenseful, and frightening is the sustained and probably allegorical sense of youthful innocence in a very real and deadly peril.  A respectable 4 of 5 possible stars.

Night Angel (1990) ****  Sordid, slimy, atmospheric, and slightly rough around the edges, Dominique Othenin-Girard’s Night Angel, his next film following Halloween 5, is perfect late night entertainment.  After melodramatic voice-over narration that introduces the myth of Lilith, Adam’s first treacherous lover in Eden, the wily woman herself (raven-haired model Isa Jank) is seen arising from the earth in sensual ecstasy, only to react with horror after catching a glimpse of her grotesquely deformed hand.  She soon recovers from this small setback, however, and proceeds to seduce and prey upon the entire staff of a fashion magazine, Siren, through which she hopes to distribute her evil image in high circulation.

Linden Ashby is adequate as the male lead, and Debra Feuer is fine as his love interest; but Night Angel‘s true stars are the enticing Jank and the overwhelming sense of lurid design with which the film is gifted.  Filled to the brim with gorgeous women, lust, shadowy interiors, night, blue light, smoke, and the unsubtle synthesized music of its period (plus “Siren’s Burning”, a wild and unexpected contribution from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins), Night Angel is a tawdry feast for the senses.  One highlight is a sadomasochistic sex club phantasmagoria worthy of Brian Yuzna’s Society.  Constantly driving the film, however, and providing its principal visual confection and sex appeal, is the irresistible Isa Jank as Lilith.  Night Angel is also surprisingly funny, due partly to Doug Jones’s turn as a gangly, curly-haired, and overheated nerd.  Also prominent in the cast are lively and exquisitely mature Karen Black and frumpy, gruff-faced Helen Martin in a part that perpetuates the film industry’s wise, supernaturally initiated black person stereo/archetype.

Though dated to an extent by its wonderfully gooey, pre-CGI special effects, exotic fashions, chintzy music, and overall sensibility of Miami Vice mode gothicism, Night Angel is nonetheless timeless in its concern with devious temptation opposed to the safety of purity and love – a theme given more unsettling resonance in the age of AIDS.  This film deserves rediscovery by horror fans and those with a taste for the 80s and the stylishly, unabashedly tacky.  4 of 5 possible stars.

Out of the Dark

Out of the Dark (1988) *****  Generic title notwithstanding, Out of the Dark is a genuine gem from the heyday of the late night cable erotic thriller.  Bobo, a serial killer in a clown mask, is stalking and murdering beautiful phone sex workers, and a handsome photographer (Cameron Dye) finds himself the number one suspect after a sultry photo shoot with one of Bobo’s victims.  His phone sex cutie girlfriend (Lynn Danielson) stands by his side, but a hardboiled and cynical L.A. detective (Tracey Walter) is determined to nail him as the culprit.  Distinguishing Out of the Dark from some of its peers is its wicked sense of humor and ultrastylish sensibility.  This movie even makes Tracey Walter look like the world’s coolest dude as he’s getting out of his car in slow motion.  Greatly enhancing Out of the Dark, too, is the fine cast of character actors, with Bud Cort, Karen Black, Divine, Starr Andreeff, and Paul Bartel all in fine form in smaller roles.  Recommended to those who wish Basic Instinct had been funnier, but not quite as dumb as its parody Fatal Instinct.


Clownhouse (1989) ****1/2  The story of what transpired behind the scenes during the filming of Victor Salva’s Clownhouse is widely known and has resulted in its forever being tainted and relegated to out-of-print movie ignominy.  Politically incorrect as it is to concede, however, this film, which was effectively creepy when first unleashed on adolescents more than two decades ago, is actually amplified in its power to unsettle them as adults and is arguably – albeit unintentionally – a stronger chiller in retrospect for its unsavory intermingling of art and reality.  A horror film within a horror film, Clownhouse frequently gives indications of being an exercise in perversion for Salva, whose story luridly focuses on the psychological torture of a boy (Nathan Forrest Winters) who is terrified – and with good reason, as it turns out – by clowns because, as he puts it with tears in his eyes, “You never know who they really are.”  Indeed.


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