Gorehouse Greats #9
So what would you do if your dad one day just up and went “Hey, I’ve got a brother I’ve never told you about and he lives in the ass end of British nowheresville! Let us all go visit him and we will have a jolly good time!”
You would probably look at him sideways and maybe suggest that he ease up on the homemade wine, right? Not 20 year old Catherine York (B-movie horror regular Candace Gendenning). Not only does she take off for the week of her birthday, she leaves behind her boyfriend, John (Michael Craze, who was also in Terror). Yeah, this is going to end real well!
Everything actually goes fine until they arrive just outside their uncle’s expensive looking mansion and both dad and mom burn to death when their car mysteriously hits a tree! We are then properly introduced to the group of lovely fun people who we’ll get to spend most of the film’s running time with. There’s uncle Alexander York (played by Michael Gough who’s been in damn near everything), cousin Stephen York (who we saw earlier in the film raping and murdering a random American girl), and the unrelated Frances who functions a some sort of secretary to Alexander and soon to be former lover of Stephen.
If you’ve seen a British Satan worship film from the 1970’s you pretty much know what’s going to happen, that is almost everybody is going to die a horrible painful death for your amusement. Thus, Satan’s Slave offers absolutely no surprises at all. So what does it offer?
In my write-up of Terror, I noted that director Norman J. Warren started off doing nudie movies until he found success with this film and moved in a horror-centric direction. As a result, Satan’s Slave is kind of situated halfway between two genres: sexploitation and grisly horror. Quite honestly, it’s a kind of uncomfortable mix. If you’ve seen stuff like David F. Friedman’s The Defilers (1965) or any seedy exploitation from the 60’s and 70’s, you know the kind of uncomfortable I’m talking about. For example, Satan’s Slave includes a male on female sexual assault (the woman is killed after), a priest who orders a woman stripped nude and whipped (she’s then burned to death), and several scenes where random nude women are sacrificed to Satan. It’s that grimy mix of nudity, sex, and violence that really made this film a success when it was released and not any skill on the part of its director. Because frankly without all of this rather nasty, and mostly female directed, depravity the movie would be pretty freaking hard to sit through. Mostly because it’s. so. sloooooow. The story inches along like a snail stuck on flypaper until the next bit of skin, “shocking” plot twist, or cruel bout of violence. This is also something I noted with Warren’s Terror: Blood and boobs are pretty much all that makes these films worth watching. That kind of thing can be fun if you’re in the right mood, and aren’t too bothered by women literally being treated like meat, but it can also be very boring. Satan’s Slave ends up being about 30% icky fun and about 70% “dear lord is this thing over yet?”
So while Warren still has a cult following with freaks like me that love this kind of thing, after watching two of his films, I’m just not that big of a fan. I need a bit more to keep me from falling asleep, you know? I want to go to the carnival and ride the rides, man! I want to eat cotton candy until I get sick and ogle the bearded lady. Staring at the dude biting the head off the chicken all night isn’t really my style.
On the other hand, that fingernail file to the eyeball was pretty bitchin’. Sigh.
- We get another kind of neat opening credits thing with this one. Every single drawing on display would make a really killer t-shirt.
- I think there’s like 4 pairs of boobs that get shown in the first 10 minutes of screen time. Not even kidding.
- Sadly, my small collection of David F. Friedman movies are stuck back in The States. Who wants to mail my copy of She Freak back to me?
- It’s weird that, thanks to this DVD set, that you can find this movie for about 5 bucks at Wal-Mart. Is this the kind of thing your average Joe Lunchpail puts on his TV set when there’s not football to watch? Cause that would be pretty cool if it were true.
You know what I think is kind of strange? Zach Galligan has been in quite a few films but until I got my grubby hands on this DVD, I had never seen him in anything but the Gremlins movies. He’s a talented actor so it’s odd that he’d have to stoop to films like Warlock: The Armageddon and Cyborg 3: The Recycler (you know they’re both quality because they have a colon in the title). The same goes for Ashley Laurence, a beautiful and talented actress who I’ve seen in nothing but the Hellraiser films. Maybe it’s the curse of the horror genre that brands an actor to a certain type of role. Some of them can milk it and make a decent living doing this kind of thing (Bruce Campbell being the ultimate example, if I may slip in a rhyme) but some get stuck doing movies like Warlock III: The End of Innocence and today’s sad excuse for a horror thriller…
Galligan is strange young man with a passion for Greek mythology. Well, not really a passion so much as a delusion. See, not only is he obsessed with the story of Cupid and Psyche, he thinks he is Cupid and he has to find his perfect woman so they can both die and be bound together for eternity or some such nonsense. Unfortunately, no girl has worked out yet and the discarded bodies keep piling up (although the movie never really explains where he’s putting them). Then he meets Laurence and…you know where this is going. There’s also the problem of Galligan’s nosey sister/ex-lover, Laurence’s ex-boyfriend, her trampy sister, a random detective …blah blah they’re all just meat for the proverbial grinder. It’s not a good sign when I start checking how long the movie has left when it’s only 10 minutes in..
I don’t know why but I seem to keep stumbling on movies lately that give me no reason to recommend that anybody besides hopeless nerds like me ever watch them. I suppose it’s the curse of the dollar DVD. They hardly cost anything to buy and you can find a lot of good stuff if you don’t mind wading through piles of feces. I wouldn’t say Cupid is that bad, it’s just a waste of time. It’s not crappy enough to be enjoyable but it’s not good enough to be worth anything. I’d say it’s frustrating that it wastes the talents of it’s actors but it’s more frustrating that it’s an hour and half long when I wanted it to end much much sooner than that. Like, almost right after it started.
I suppose if you really want to see how not to write an exciting film, this would be a perfect example. Despite a few missteps, the direction isn’t that bad, but it takes a huge talent to overcome an awful script and Doug Campbell is not that talent at all (unless you really like Big Bad Beetleborgs. Remember that show? He directed a few episodes of that.)
And with that it’s time for:
Script Writing Lessons I Took Away From Watching Cupid
- Even if you manage to finagle talented actors into your movie, you have to give them something to do that isn’t just standing around and talking. Even if you do just have them standing around blathering, try to not make their dialogue suck.
- Having your characters be impossibly stupid until it’s time to make them smart just because you need them to do something to advance the plot is fucking lazy and I hate it more than Republicans limiting access to birth control (okay, maybe not that much.)
- If you’re going to kill somebody, make it interesting. If the rest of your movie is boring you can at least be forgiven with a couple sprays of blood or a tumble off the side of a cliff. Choking somebody with a phone cord does not count, especially if your special effects guys can’t even make it look realistic.
- A thriller should “thrill” for fuck’s sake! Have interesting things happen in your movie! Have anything happen at all! You can do it! You’re only limited by your imagination and budget! Go nuts! If you’re going to fail at least fail with a bang instead of a wheeze.
So, yeah. Cupid is a wheeze and a justly forgotten one at that. The only sort of memorable thing about it is some outdated 90’s-isms, like beepers and used bookstores and there’s movies that are even better to watch if that kind of thing gets you off. If you really need to see the dude from Gremlins play a psycho the film fucks that up by not giving him anything to really do beyond staring crazily all the time and making out with his sister. Ahhh, good things, good things, got to find some good things to say. Always have to find the good. Ummm…the house the crazies live in is pretty cool looking. It’s one of those massive old school mansions with all kinds of neat looking paneling and huge ass staircases. There you go. This film has a cool looking house in it. Hoo-fucking-ray.
Don’t bother with this movie. Take it from me, I love you.
Or take it from Wanda Jackson:
I really have no idea what this was doing in a 5 dollar DVD set with a bunch of Asylum produced schlock. A slow moving but genuinely eerie tale of child abuse and mental illness, Ursula Dabrowsky’s debut feature has actually won several awards at international film festivals and ends up being quite a decent effort, despite a minuscule budget and short shooting time. (It was made for a little over 6,500 dollars and shot for two weeks during one of the worst heat waves the city of Adelaide had ever seen).
It is not, however, a perfect film. The whole thing kind of inches slowly along and the story is really kind of threadbare. It makes up for these and other faults with some really spooky atmosphere and great performances from it’s two main actors, most notably Kerry Ann Reid as the drunken mother who steals every scene she’s in. There’s also quite a few twists that I actually didn’t see coming, which is also really cool.
Anyone that tells you that you need a massive Hollywood budget to make a decent horror movie is dead wrong. At least this time they are. I’d like to be proven right on that front more often, honestly. Sigh..
I really love when a horror movie tries to do something different than just teens getting cut up and crappy monsters (although I do love those types of movies too) so Family Demons was a nice surprise, especially for only costing a buck. It’s a horror movie that actually has a deeper meaning underneath it’s blood and grime covered exterior. And even with a bit too much padding, it still ends up being oddly hypnotic while being quite repellent at the same time. (Just a warning: There’s rape and sexual assault in this movie. Nothing graphic is depicted but it’s still there. A lot of it. In fact, it’s a central plot point!)
I’m going to throw it out there and tell everybody reading to track this one down, especially if you’re into Australian horror movies. And if you’re not into Australian horror movies…why the Hell not? I demand you watch Razorback and Wolf Creek as soon as possible! You can skip The Howling III though. Don’t even get me started…
- Hooray, a good movie! Sometimes when you put your hand in a pile of shit, you pull out a diamond.
- Ursula Dabrowsky is actually working on another movie at the moment called Inner Demon and I’m kind of excited for it after watching her debut. She even has her own Tumblr page, which is really kind of cool even if, as of this writing, she hasn’t updated for like a month.