Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gator Bait (Beverly Sebastian, 1974)

If you're easily offended by the sight of sickly perverts who get their kicks by openly pontificating about the sight of Claudia Jennings in cut-off jean shorts, you better clear on out of here, because things are about to get ridiculously out of hand. When I first saw the leggy crouching clinic Claudia Jennings was conducting on the film's unofficial poster (for some fucked up reason, Claudia's gorgeous mug is nowhere to be found on the film's theatrical poster), I let out a mild sigh. Why a sigh and not a woo-hoo, you ask? Realizing that if I watch and review 'Gator Bait, the bulk of my focus will be on her legs and the cut-off jean shorts they pour out of. In other words, I'm doing exactly what my detractors expect me to do. Now, you're probably thinking to yourself: Detractors?!? You don't have any stinkin' detractors. You're right, I don't have any detractors. In fact, I'm one of the most likable human beings I know. No, the detractors I have are not real in a walking around and doing stuff kinda way. My detractors live inside my own head, and they go by the name "self-doubt."

As I finished watching 'Gator Bait, and it became clear to me that this film, directed by  Beverly Sebastian and Ferd Sebastian (the former wrote the screenplay and the latter does the music and is the film's cinematographer as well), is the ultimate Claudia Jennings in cut-off jean shorts experience, I knew exactly what I had to do.

However, when I sat down to begin the long-winded cut-off jean short-related screed this film so rightly deserved, a wave of self-doubt washed over me like a tsunami. Maybe I should write about the swamp a bit before mentioning Claudia Jennings and her cut-off jean shorts, I thought myself. After all, the swamp plays a critical part in the gestation of this film's story. Sure, you could transfer the film's action to the heart of a big city, you could even move things out into the desert, but it wouldn't be 'Gator Bait, now would it? No, take away the swamp, and you pretty much have no movie.

Well, you can apply the same logic to Claudia Jennings and her cut-off jean shorts. What I mean is, take away Claudia Jennings and her cut-off jean shorts, and you can pretty much kiss this review goodbye.

In a disturbing twist, the first time we see Claudia Jennings onscreen she isn't wearing cut-off jean shorts, she's wearing a burlap sack with sleeves (think: cavegirl chic). Don't get me wrong, Claudia Jennings looks sexy no matter what she wears. It's just that this isn't what I signed up for.

Call me demented and sad, but the plan was to watch and review a trio of films from the 1970s that feature the inordinately leggy crumpet in denim shorts. And I even had a name picked out: The Jean Short Trilogy. But the sight of Claudia Jennings hunting snakes in a glorified burlap sack had me sweating bullets.

In an ironic twist, Claudia Jennings stuffs the snakes she catches into a–yep, you guessed it–burlap sack.

Keeping with the ironic twist theme, it just dawned me that 90% of the shows currently on television are about  people who live in the swamp. Except, these swamp dwellers are nothing like David Strathairn in Passion Fish. Uh-uh, these shows are mostly about morons (a.k.a. white supremacists without razors) who kill animals for fun.

Don't mind me, I'm just basking in the pompous afterglow of what I consider to be a pretty first-rate David Strathairn/Passion Fish reference.

Scooping snakes from the river like it was second nature, we're introduced to Desiree Thibodeau (Claudia Jennings) as she's collecting food for her brother and sister. Watching her are Deputy Billy Boy (Clyde Ventura) and Ben Bracken (Ben Sebastian), two yokels with shit for brains. I know, Billy Boy clearly says at one point, "We ain't stupid." But trust me, they're stupid.

After chasing Desiree through the swamp (using motorboats), Billy Boy and Ben corner her in a watery dead-end. As they're about to nab her (something about illegal pouching), she tosses her bag of snakes at them, causing Ben to jump in the drink and Billy Boy to pull out his revolver. Wildly shooting at the snakes, Billy Boy accidentally shoots Ben in the head as he was trying to climb back in the boat.

Instead of telling his father, Sheriff Joe Bob (Bill Thurman), the truth, he makes up this story that involves Desiree shooting Ben to death, not him.

While it was a cowardly thing for Billy Boy to do, I can see why he wouldn't want it to get out that he killed Ben, as his family are not the kind of people you want to piss off.

What the... Why can't I find the name of the actress who plays Laura Lee Bracken? Ahh! At any rate, we meet Laura Lee (and the rest of the Bracken family) as she hanging laundry in a clingy nightie (cling to those swamp-reared curves you slinky piece of store-bought lingerie, you).

Pete Bracken: "You sure look fine sliding around in that thing."

Laura Lee Bracken: "Feels good too."

Ooh-wee! I loved the way Pete says, "sliding around." His tone is so sleazy. I know, Pete and Laura Lee are brother and sister. But still, as far as incestuous relationships go, I dig their sick scene, man.

You know who doesn't dig it? Their father, T.J. Bracken (Sam Gilman), that's who. He shows his displeasure the only way he knows how, by whipping Pete real good. If you're expecting his brother Leroy (Douglas Dirkson), who's whittling nearby, to lend a helping hand, don't count on it, he literally doesn't have the balls.

Interrupting up this family squabble are Joe Bob and Billy Boy, who break the bad news to the Bracken's about Ben. Since Billy Boy didn't bother to bring Ben's body back, they all go looking for him in the swamp. When the finally do recover his body, their attention turns to Desiree, who is about to have three angry rednecks and two corrupt cops all over her ass; which, finally, has been sheathed in a skimpy pair of cut-off jean shorts.

It's true, twenty-two minutes might not seem like a long time to wait to see Claudia Jennings in cut-off jean shorts. But if you're brain is anything like mine, it will seem like an eternity.

Not around to protect her jail bait sister Julie (Janit Baldwin) and her mute brother Big T (Tracy Sebastian) from the Bracken Boys, Sheriff Sycophant and Deputy Dumbass, Desiree has left her family exposed. To be fair, she had no idea she was the one being blamed for Ben's death (she didn't even know he was dead), but leaving her siblings all alone was a fatal mistake.

Hunted like an animal, Desiree must use her swamp wits to survive, as she is being pursued by five of the most objectionable characters I've come across in a long time.

When using her acumen, shapely gams and tight midriff all fail to placate these assholes, Desiree employs the scumbag stopping power that only a fully-loaded shotgun can provide.

My only complaint about that manner in which Desiree takes care of these scumbags is that some of them get off too easy. Though, it's implied that one of them is left to be eaten by gators. Which, if I'm not mistaken, is an unpleasant way to go.

The first film in my self-proclaimed "Jean Short Trilogy," 'Gator Bait is an excellent showcase for Claudia Jennings to display not only her toothsome stems jutting out from a pair of cut-off jean shorts, but it also allows her to show off her various other talents. For example, whether climbing trees barefoot, driving motorboats at a high rate of speed, grabbing snakes out of the water with her bare-hands or talking with a Cajun accent, the fiery redhead manages to accomplish all of them with flying colours.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Slashers (Maurice Devereaux, 2001)

When I first saw the annoyed expression Sarah Joslyn Crowder sports near the beginning of Slashers (スラッシャーズ),  I thought to myself: There's no way her pretty little face is going to be able keep up that level of annoyance for the duration of the entire film. I mean, things have just gotten underway and the sheer intensity of the scowl on her exasperated mug is downright terrifying. On the other hand, she does have good reason to look irritated. Think about it, one minute you're attending law school in Seattle, and the next minute, boom, you're on "Slashers," the wild and wacky Japanese game show that involves homicidal maniacs disemboweling and decapitating contestants on live television. Hold on, I've just been informed that the contestants on "Slashers" are actually willing participants in this sick and twisted form of entertainment. Wait a second, if that's the case, why does Sarah Joslyn Crowder's Megan Lowry look so perturbed? While I can understand her being all vexed and junk after surviving an attack by a chainsaw wielding lunatic who looks like a cross between Carrot Top and Richard D. James circa Window Licker, but the show hasn't even started yet. In other words, Megan's pre-show glare has the structural temperament of someone who's already been to hell and back.

Whether or not her ceaseless grimace properly reflected each precarious situation her character was placed in, take Sarah Joslyn Crowder's never-ending frown away from this movie, and she won't be the only one with a perpetually pissed off expression on their face. That's right, if you were remove Sarah Joslyn Crowder and her first-rate indignation from this movie, you'll be dealing with one unhappy Yum-Yum.

Now, I've obsessed over a wide range of topics during the past few years (pointy boots, suspender tights, pubic hair, bed-wetting, arterial spray, scantily clad writhing, Uzis and Udo Kier), but I don't think I ever cited an actor's unrelenting umbrage as the thing I liked most about a motion picture before. And I'm sure that's not what writer-director Maurice Devereaux intended when he set out to skewer horror movies and reality television in one fell swoop. However, as everyone knows, it's ultimately up to me to decide what the film I'm watching is about.

The great thing about Sarah Joslyn Crowder's vexatious visage in this movie is that it's framed by not one, not two, but three different tops. Just a sec, let me do a recount... Okay, I'm back. Not only was I off by one top, I forgot to count the time she spends topless as a scowl framing device.

All right, let's see, if you include being topless as a top, and you add the one I forgot, that means Sarah Joslyn Crowder's now legendary sour puss is framed five different tops!

I know, you're thinking to yourself: She must have been wearing a shitload of layers. Well, no, she isn't. You see, only two of the tops are actually hers (her skin, obviously, and the top she starts off the game in), but the rest are–brace yourself–other people's tops!

How does she manage to wear the top of almost every character in this movie, you ask? That's an excellent question. And I think the best way to answer it is to start from the beginning.

Opening with an explosion of in your face Japanese pop culture, or to put it another way, it gets underway with what most foreigners think Japanese pop culture looks like, we get a quick refresher course of what "Slashers," Japan's number one extreme game show, is all about.

Judging by what they show, "Slashers," or "$LA$HER$," seems to involve young people being murdered on live television. To give the show some added pep, it also features cheerleaders with skull pom-poms (The Slasherettes), an in-house DJ (DJ Slash), a perky host named Miho Taguchi (Claudine Shiraishi), and a catchy theme song.

However, on this episode of "Slashers," the young people are Americans. Yep, welcome to "The Slashers All-American Special." To celebrate this momentous occasion, Miho is dressed like the Statue of Liberty and the set is draped with American flags and other such symbols of Americana.

If, by the way, you were stop me on the street and ask me who my favourite Slasherette was, I would say, without hesitation, the tall skinny one with reddish blonde bob hairstyle. Me likey.

The Americans vying for the 12 million dollar cash prize are: Devon White (Tony Curtis Blondell), a former boxer from New York City; Michael Gibbons (Kieran Keller), a computer programmer from Chicago; Rebecca Galley (Carolina Pla), a fitness instructor from, oh, I don't know, let's say, Cleveland; Rick Fisher (Jerry Spirio), a bouncer from Detroit; Megan Lowry (Sarah Joslyn Crowder), a law student from Seattle; and Brenda Thompson (Sofia de Medeiros), an aspiring actress/model from Portland.

Did anyone else notice the way Rick was looking at Miho's ass as she introduced Rebecca? Maybe that's why I couldn't remember where Rebecca was from, I was too busy watching Rick mentally undress Miho.

At any rate, it's clear to everyone, including the audience, that Megan is in way over her head. And that there's no way Brenda is from Portland. I mean, would someone who is actually from Portland, Oregon really wear a top that colour? I don't think so.

After the audience has finished chanting "dead meat" at Megan and Miho goes over the ground rules (there are none), we're introduced to the masters of mayhem. First up is crowd favourite, Chainsaw Charlie (Neil Napier), a redneck wielding a chainsaw. Next is a rookie slasher named Preacherman (also played by Neil Napier), a demonic priest carrying a large crucifix-shaped knife. And the third and final slasher is Doctor Ripper (Christopher Piggins), a psychotic doctor whose weapons include scalpels and scissors.

Much to my chagrin, the show's three female contestants are all wearing trousers. Can you believe this? Trousers! Sure, the Slasherettes are wearing short skirts, but when the action moves into the "Danger Zone," we don't see the Slasherettes again until the very end of the movie. Again, can you believe this? Anyway, once inside the "Danger Zone," the contestants are followed around by Hideo (Takaaki Honda), the show's roving cameraman.

Given one final chance to back out, Miho asks each contestant if they're "game." When Miho finally gets to Megan, everyone assumes she's going to quit. Utilizing the fiercest scrunchie face in her vast arsenal, Megan looks directly at the camera and says, "No, I'm game!" Yeah, baby, I think I like this woman already. You might be wearing pants, but you got spunk, honey.

Oh-oh, it would seem that Megan is starting to regret her decision to appear on "Slashers" already, as she starts to hyperventilate during the elevator ride down to the "Danger Zone."

Once in the "Danger Zone," everyone, accept Megan (and Hideo), runs toward a building. Staring directly at the camera, Megan gives a speech deriding the show and the people who watch it. Claiming the viewers at home are responsible for her death, Megan waits to be killed by one of the slashers. Of course, it's too early in the show to kill off any of the contestants, so the Doctor Ripper slasher rips off Megan's top, leaving her topless in the middle of what looks like an indoor paintball course. Using her arms as a makeshift top, Megan eventually decides to join her fellow contestants, who, like I said, are hiding in a nearby building.

When Rick tries to prevent Hideo from entering the building they're hiding in, he receives a painful shock. All the contestants, including the slashers, are wearing shock collars (which look like bike lights). While the game might not have any rules, the producers can still manipulate the contestants and the slashers with the push of a button.

It's during their time inside this building that I really began to appreciate Martin Gauthier's synthy, techno-esque music score.

The only member of the group who seems to have any idea what to expect is Devon, who is fashioning a spear from a wooden table leg as we speak.

After giving Megan his grey t-shirt, Devon says something to affect of, "look lady." To which Megan responds, "My name is Megan!" I'm telling you, man, Megan rocks. Sure, she can be a tad whiny at times, but Megan's the only character worth rooting for. 

If you're wondering how Megan ends up with Brenda's top, it happens because Brenda, after listening to what Devon says about her odds of making it to the end (5 to 1), removes her top. Thinking that her chances of surviving are a lot greater if she's wearing less clothing, Brenda takes off her red floral top and gives it to Megan (who then gives Devon his t-shirt back).

While Megan and Rebecca (who are separated from the rest of the group) are wandering around the clown-themed hallway, we get to know a little more about them. Which is fine (character development is the cornerstone of drama), but all I can think about is how is Rebecca's sleeveless camouflage top going to end up on Megan?

Since the answer to this question is rife with spoilers, I'll just say, Rebecca had no more use for her sleeveless camouflage top, and, so, Megan took it. However, before she dons Rebecca's top, Megan, in a fit of frustration, yells, "Do you want to see my tits?!? and removes her arms and shows the world her breasts.

Now, some of the audience will no doubt cheer Megan's decision to finally let everyone see her boobies. On the other hand,  there will be those who see this as a sad testament to the sorry state of popular culture (big boobs equal big ratings). Mocking horror movie conventions and the burgeoning disease that would ultimately become reality television, Slashers is a surprisingly intelligent satire and boasts one of the most memorable final girls in the history of horror cinema.