Monday, August 12, 2013

Adventures in Downloading!! Vol. 5

Open House (1987)
The first American film from Jag Mundhra, an Indian writer-director who would follow this with a series of progressively dumber sexual thrillers of the cheesy 90s variety, Open House is an intriguing title for horror and cult film fans because of its cast. How many movies bring together Adrienne Barbeau, Joseph Bottoms, Robert Miano, Mary Stavin, Tiffany Bolling, and Scott Thompson Baker? Truth be told, there is enough campy fun to be had with this film, but it falls short as a late-period slasher film.

In a pre-credits sequence, a troubled young woman who has been raped repeatedly by her father (Stacey Adams...whose father is Don Adams from "Get Smart") has a heated telephone conversation with on-air psychiatrist Dr. David Kelley (Bottoms) before blowing her brains out in the phone booth. Flash forward to...some time later, when the "Open House Killer" is brutally murdering real estate agents in their open houses. Det. Shapiro (Miano) is on the case. The Killer eats dog food while stalking the empty homes. The radio host's girlfriend, Lisa (Barbeau), works at one of the top real estate agencies in town, Grant Real Estate. She calls into his radio show as "Mary Lou", a nymphomaniac, and invites him to one of her empty homes for candle-lit sexual liaisons. When the Killer, calling himself Harry, begins calling into Kelley's radio program to rant about the victims deserving it, the doc and Shapiro team up to catch him before he strikes again.

Saddled with one of the stupidest scripts of any slasher film, one would think that would sink Open House. Just the opposite. Mundhra's stumbling through the writing and directing of an American slasher flick makes it one of the most distinctively bad examples of the genres, and at 98 minutes a virtual epic. There is not one moment to be taken seriously, as the film becomes a compelling exercise in camp storytelling. For example: the first discovery of a fly-infested bloody corpse in a shower goes on forever, with a screaming woman practically assaulted by the camera and quick cuts continually capturing blood spatter on the wall and the dead woman's face. It's deliciously over-the-top. Speaking of splatter, gore and grue fans will get the goods. In the most graphic sequence, a man's fingers are sliced off and left twitching on the carpet before he and his female companion (Miss World 1977 and Bond girl Mary Stavin) are sliced to death with a plunger handle equipped with razor blades! Let's not forget the killer's crazed motive and his not one, but two falls to his death, a horrendous synth musical score that really kicks into cheese overdrive during a climactic fight scene, the screamingly gay radio technician Toby (Page Mosely), cartoonishly chauvinistic real estate nemesis Barney Resnick (Barry Hope) and his repulsive S&M date, and the dynamite cinematic pairing of 80s porn star Robert Bullock and 70s drive-in starlet Tiffany Bolling as real estate agents doing an open house together. And wait till you get a load of the killer's motive. Those hoping for the standard slasher movie T&A will be rewarded with some choice Barbeau topless moments. Oh and there's a random male shower scene that comes out of nowhere.

Evil Seducers (1975)
The Shaw Brothers, perhaps Hong Kong's most prolific film producers, were no strangers to the horror genre, releasing unique and bizarre classics like Killer Snakes (1974), Black Magic (1975), The Boxer's Omen (1983), and Seeding of a Ghost (1983). But for some reason, Evil Seducers has languished in obscurity over the years. It has never received a DVD release anywhere, perhaps because that it's simply not a very strong genre title compared to those skin-crawling favorites.

Mengyin Fang, an egotistical calligraphy artist, is persuaded by his friend Zi-an Li to wed the eldest daughter of the wealthy Jin family, but when he sees she is no ravishing beauty, he writes an offensive poem on a fan for her to break the union. He instead sets his sights on Liqing Zhou, a mysterious noblewoman with a beautiful servant after he sees the pair purchase a peony lantern in the marketplace. It turns out that they are neighbors, but after Mengyin spends a passionate night with Liqing, she is quick to rush him out of her home before daybreak. When Zi-an discovers the late night tryst, he confesses he saw Mengyin in the garden making love... with a skeleton!! Zi-an enthusiastically claims that Mengyin and her servant must be ghosts, but the truth is in fact more blood-curdling.

Much of Evil Seducers plays like an old-fashioned romance, or more specifically one of the Shaw Brothers' costume melodramas. It takes a full hour into the 91-minute film for anything of horrific substance to happen, instead developing the relationship between a romantic lead we don't like and a delicate young enigma. When the horror finally arrives, it is typical of Shaw Brothers genre efforts in its effective atmosphere and make-up effects, and in this case very evocative of 1960s Hammer films with its slow-mo effects, cobwebs n coffins n mist, and blood-dripping fangs. There are two very nice twists near the end, one including a wild "dance of the dead" sequence and the other predating April Fool's Day (1986) by 12 years. But the film really is nothing spectacular. There are no maggots or centipedes that would typify the Hong Kong horror film, but there is a priest who instructs Mengyin on how to eliminate the demonic spirits using talismans and ancient procedures. These kinds of traditional Chinese folklore and indigenous horror elements are what set apart western and eastern genre films, creating a distinct genre filled with shocks and surprises. That said, Evil Seducers is not a prime example of the pleasures to be had in exploring Hong Kong horror. It's an enjoyable curiosity, nothing more.

The Green-Eyed Elephant (1960)
A year after writing and producing the colorful sci-fi oddity The Angry Planet (1959), Sid Pink made an unclassifiable quickie for Danish television that is perhaps the worst thing he ever made. Looking at the rest of his resume, that says a lot. Delphi Lawrence and Naura Hayden play Lisa and Sally, roommates in Hollywood who aspire for stardom. Sally is a bitter actress who is having trouble getting work, while Lisa (Hayden has the worst fake Southern accent ever filmed) is an empty-headed model. When the perfect part pops up for Lisa, but they want someone with Lisa's measurements, the two magically pull a Freaky Friday with the help of a pink elephant statue in their apartment who winks its green eyes at them. Not just bodies, but their voices are switched. The less said about this piece of garbage, the better. At least it's mercifully short at 70 minutes. While in Denmark, Pink was able to partially finance and produce another cult classic, Reptilicus (1961), which has much more enduring entertainment value than this experimental misfire.

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