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The Jar

The Jar (1984) ***

Paul (Gary Wallace) is a dull, bearded man who will spend most of The Jar wandering through nightmares and staring at his surroundings with irritable angst after experiencing a fateful auto accident. The other driver, a strange old man (Les Miller), is shaken and uncommunicative, so Paul takes him home with him to his apartment. The elderly gentleman soon disappears, but leaves behind him a jar wrapped in a paper sack. Inside the jar is a little blue demon, and before very long Paul is suffering visions of his bathtub filling with blood and his shower head emitting rays of otherworldly light that transport him into a dark, rocky pit. Crystal (Karin Sjoberg), a beautiful, bright-eyed brunette with a dimpled chin, for some reason takes an interest in Paul, wants to date him, and attempts to drag this drab, unfriendly nutcase out of his madness and increasing isolation.

An offbeat, minimalist horror obscurity that will try and annoy all but the most open-minded seekers after the arcane, The Jar is a film that flouts conventions, refusing to conform to the expectations of genre buffs. People who rented the video based on the cover image of what the box describes as “a repulsive, embryonic creature” and hoped for another Gremlins (1984) or Ghoulies (1985) must have been sorely disappointed, as the thing only appears onscreen for a second or two at a time and is almost totally inanimate, to boot. Unremittingly weird and yet frequently boring, The Jar‘s most unforgivable fault is that next to nothing happens for the duration of its draggy 85 minutes.

On the plus side, The Jar has quite a few eerie moments and shows how scuzzy production values and a cast of non-professional actors can sometimes evoke more menace and atmosphere than high-dollar horror. The Jar, in a Vietnam flashback scene, also contains the most maddening helicopter noise ever heard in a film, the electronic sound design doing much to sustain viewer interest for much of this rather frustrating movie. Unsurprisingly, this was writer George Bradley’s and director Bruce Toscano’s only film.

3 out of 5 stars.

 

Getting Lucky

Getting Lucky (1990) ****

Bill (Steven Cooke) is a nerdy, liberal weenie and recycling enthusiast being bullied by the jocks at school when he fortuitously finds a recovering alcoholic leprechaun (Garry Kluger) in a beer bottle. Granted three wishes, Bill naturally wants a shot at hot cheerleader Krissi (Lezlie Z. McCraw), which brings him into intensified conflict with sadistic stud Tony (Rick McDowell), who also wants to get his paws on her. The hit-and-miss Irish magic results in such memorable moments as Bill being turned into a cat, Tony’s tennis racket coming to life and giving him a whacking, and Bill shrinking to mite size, riding a naked vixen’s bar of soap as she lathers herself, and bouncing around in Krissi’s panties and holding on for dear life in the perilous jungle of her pubes. Throw in a few quaint soft rock songs, and Getting Lucky has the makings of an 80s classic.

Admittedly, Getting Lucky, sporting its 1990 copyright, is not technically an 80s movie, but it does demonstrate nicely how the early 90s were in many instances a holdover, a culmination, or a last gasp of the 80s – and so it narrowly squeezes in as an 80s Oddities Month pick. Something of a straggler within its genre, Getting Lucky is essentially a throwback to the early-to-mid-80s variety of teen raunch comedy, a genre which had lost steam over the course of the decade, with the charming likes of Screwballs (1983) and Hot Moves (1984) having given way to lamely tame youth fare like The Allnighter (1987) and How I Got into College (1989). At the same time, Getting Lucky‘s imaginative nastiness is tempered by a sweetness and innocence that at times recalls The Virgin Queen of St. Francis High (1987).

4 out of 5 stars. Recommended to fans of films of this type.

 

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David DeCoteau, along with Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski, was one of the more heroic and endearing directors to emerge in the era of VHS.  He is especially noteworthy to horror fans of a nostalgic bent for having made two low-budget wonders, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama and Nightmare Sisters, which brought together Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley, and Brinke Stevens, the three premier scream queens of the period.  Now, in 1313: Cougar Cult, the four great screen queens – Bauer, Quigley, Stevens, and DeCoteau – are reunited for one more roll in the trash, this one about a trio of supernatural pagan sisters who turn into cougars – literally! – and devour the young men they succeed in luring into their tackily decorated Malibu mansion.

Photogenic Ryan Curry, Bryce Durfee, and Jack Kubacki star as college students who show up (and end up showing a lot) to take jobs as the cougars’ houseboys.  There is something resembling a plot in 1313: Cougar Cult – something about ritual sacrifices to please an ancient Amazonian deity – but the film is really just an exercise in bisexually friendly cheesecake, with Bauer, Quigley, and Stevens slinking around and acting horny, and lots of long, lingering shots of young actors washing their sculpted torsos or sensually writhing in sleep.  Harboring no illusions about what it is, the film is at times playfully self-deprecating – and even annoyingly so when the sisters’ transformation into their carnivore forms is depicted by the cartoonish superimposition of cougar heads over the actresses’ faces.

1313: Cougar Cult will appeal primarily to two mostly separate groups: those who enjoy ogling half-naked young men and those who fondly remember the scream queens’ work in the low-budget video gems of the 80s and early 90s.  It will, unfortunately, frustrate many in this latter group because 1313: Cougar Cult is ultimately little more than a gigantic tease.  For having a premise built on three evil middle-aged women’s insatiable lust, the film is remarkably tame and devoid of explicit heterosexual action.  Bauer, Quigley, and Stevens are very sexy women, their vintage notwithstanding; and while, having reached a certain stage in their careers, they may be understandably reluctant to undress or engage in simulated sex onscreen (note: do yourselves a favor and see Assault of the Party Nerds), the fact that nothing of the sort appears in 1313: Cougar Cult is still a pretty grievous disappointment.  What but sadism, for instance, could motivate a film in which Brinke Stevens informs a young stud he will have the pleasure of oiling and massaging her – and the viewer never even gets to see it?

Most puzzling of all, perhaps, is that whole decades had to pass before the three venerable cuties could be brought back together.  That occasion, sadly, contents itself with being coquettish and uber-campy rather than satisfyingly sleazy or even vaguely horrific; but no Amazonian deity dictates that the actresses’ collaborations have to stop with this one.  They will, if the gods of video nerd garbage are benevolent, be making more films as a trio in the not-too-distant future.  Meanwhile, fans must content themselves with the picturesquely animal lust on Stevens and Bauer’s faces in this film as they softly paw Bryce Durfee’s body – that and the gratifying moment when Quigley, speaking in a ludicrously demonic voice, commands the audience, “Come to Mama.”

3 of 5 possible stars – one apiece for each of these enticingly mature scream queens.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that 1313: Cougar Cult is:

5. Anti-state.  The cougars pay their manservants cash, seeing no reason to involve the government in their private transactions.

4. Drug-ambivalent.  Smoking – smoking cigarettes, that is – is bad for your health.

3. Innocently class-conscious.  The decadent rich prey upon the weak, sexually and as cannibals.

2. Feminist.  Women give the orders.

1. Hedonistic.  The human body is beautiful and a source of fun.  The fun, furthermore, should be prolonged for as long as humanly or cougarly possible.

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