Sunday, January 24, 2016

Grotesque (Joe Tornatore, 1988)

When a pajama clad Linda Blair bolts from her parents' house in Grotesque, I thought to myself: Yeah, baby. This is when the movie starts to get good. By running through the snow-covered woods, Linda Blair (Roller Boogie and Chained Heat) is making a valiant effort not to get killed by a gang of unruly "punkers." Little do these "punkers" know, but Linda Blair is not someone to be trifled with. Think about it. It's just a matter time before Linda Blair stumbles upon a crossbow and replaces her jammies with one of the "punkers'" leathery outfits. After drinking a well-deserved cup of cocoa, the now leather clad Linda Blair is ready to fight back. Oh, man. These "punkers" have no idea what they're up against. This is going to be sweet. I don't know 'bout you, but I'd be quaking in my designer combat boots if I was them. If you've seen Savage Streets, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't seen it. Let's just say, Linda Blair knows a thing or two about comeuppance. Hm, I don't get it. (What?) Why is Linda Blair still running through the snowy woods in her pajamas? I mean, she should be totally killing "punkers" with her newly-acquired crossbow by now. Weird.

I'm not worried. I'm sure Linda Blair will eventually stumble upon that crossbow and procure herself some punk-friendly threads.

Okay, I have some good news and some bad news. I guess I'll mention the bad news first. Remember that crossbow Linda Blair was supposed stumble upon? Yeah, well, she doesn't stumble upon any crossbows in this movie. The same goes for the punk clothes. So, you can forget about seeing Linda Blair slaying punks in tight leather pants.

I'm sorry, the thought of Linda Blair is tight leather pants caused me to lose my train of thought. What was I saying? Oh, yeah. The good news. The good news is that Grotesque turned out to be a pretty awesome horror punksploitation thrill ride.

I know, how can a movie be considered awesome if it doesn't feature Linda Blair doing the things I want her to be doing while wearing the clothes I want her to be wearing? Well, that's simple, really. The film, directed by Joe Tornatore, takes a bizarre turn near the halfway point that will leave even the most jaded of cinephiles slack-jawed and bewildered.

Setting itself up as your standard home invasion flick, Grotesque starts off like Punk Vacation meets House On the Edge of the Park. But then it slowly morphs into a strange amalgam of Deliverance and The Burning. Sure, I was somewhat disappointed that the characters played by Linda Blair and Donna Wilkes (Angel) didn't fight back the way I wanted them to. But still, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the way it all played out. Plus, don't forget, the film has plenty of punks.

Granted, these punks seem to have gotten the bulk of their inspiration from Mad Max. In other words, they're not the type of punks you see panhandling outside The Yarn Barn. Nevertheless, they're punks, and they look like they're itching to harass some squares.

How can I tell? The way Shelly (Michelle Bensoussan) yells at Lisa (Linda Blair) and Kathy (Donna Wilkes) as they drove along a scenic road in the country practically screamed square harassment. Sticking her head out of the passenger side window of their VW Bus, Shelly threatens Lisa and Kathy with physical violence. Now, if you saw Shelly, who looks like she just parachuted in from the set of Future-Kill, and heard what she said, you might think twice about continuing down this particular road. But not Lisa and Kathy. No, they continue on their merry way.

(What's Linda Blair wearing? I mean, she can't be wearing pajamas, can she?) No, Linda Blair isn't wearing pajamas. She's wearing this long pink coat with a matching shirt. The cool thing about the shirt is that she's wearing a collar necklace and pearls. I thought these items gave her overall look the right amount of pizzazz.

As for Donna Wilkes... Her outfit, if you can call it that, isn't really worth examining.

Anyway, getting back to the Linda Blair. The scenes that lead up to Lisa and Kathy's confrontation with the "punkers," are the best ones for admiring Linda Blair's duds. Sure, the scenes, which feature Lisa and Kathy eating at a restaurant, getting coffee at the Burger King drive-thru and snagging a complementary bag of chips at Jim Fulton's convenience store, are pretty much filler, but you're not going to find a better showcase for her outfit.

On top of that, the scenes also allow us to witness Linda Blair's unique sense of humour. As Lisa and Kathy are approaching Jim Fulton's convenience store, a little girl, who obviously knows Lisa, introduces her to her new dolly. When Lisa asks what's the doll's name, the little girl replies: "She's an orphan... she doesn't have a name." To which Lisa responds: "That's nice." The way Linda Blair delivers this line and the face she makes while saying said line is classic Linda Blair. Funny, gorgeous, and not the type of woman to put up with little girl-fostered bullshit, Linda Blair is a national treasure.

Oh, and when I say, "national treasure," I'm not simply talking about the United States of America or Republika Hrvatska. I'm talking about the entire world. If that's the case, I should have called her a "global treasure." Whatever.

On their way to Lisa's parents' house in the woods, Lisa and Kathy run into the punks again. Having a bit of car trouble, the lead punk, Scratch (Brad Wilson), tries get them to stop and help, but ultimately fails to achieve this goal. Nonetheless, the car trouble scene gives us our first good look at all the punks.

Fans of cult and horror movies will notice right away that Robert Z'Dar (Samurai Cop) is playing one of the punks. Unfortunately, he doesn't really do that much in this film. Which is weird because he's Robert Z'Dar! If I made a movie with Robert Z'Dar, it would be all Z'Dar, all the Z'Time (this gag never gets old... or I should say, this gag never gets z'old).

As Scratch is ranting and raving, and Gibbs (Nels Van Patten) is laughing at his own jokes (he's like a coked up hyena), you will no doubt notice a vision of ghastliness in the form of Belle, a punk/goth chick in a long black coat. Hands down my favourite punker in the movie, Belle, like Robert Z'Dar, isn't given all that much to do. Which is a shame because the monkey noise she makes during the height of the home invasion scene is definitely one of the film's high points.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the actress who plays Belle is credited as "Bunki Z." I'll let that sink in for a bit.

All right, I'm back. When she's doing bit parts on Dynasty, she goes by the name "Bunky Jones." But when she's playing goth-punks in movies like Grotesque, she's Bunki Z! Yeah, baby!

It would seem that Lisa and Kathy and the punks have a date with destiny, as guess which house the punks decide to rob? That's right, Lisa's parents. Believing that Lisa's father, a horror film director named Orville Kruger (Guy Stockwell), has a stash of money and drugs hidden somewhere in his house, the punks show up unannounced during the night and demand that he hand over the goods.

When these "goods" are not handed over, things get a little hairy. It's at this point that the film takes a twisty left turn, when Patrick (Robert Apisa), Lisa's deformed brother, makes his presence felt. The action quickly moves outside, where Lisa and the punks must survive the elements. And, of course, the latter have to contend with Patrick, who wants to tear the punks apart.

There's a lot to like about the outdoor scenes. But I think most of you will agree that the fact the snowfall was genuine was the film's greatest asset in terms of creating actual suspense. Seriously, when I saw that it was really snowing, I started to feel concerned about the actors. This is especially true when it came to Linda Blair, who, like I mentioned earlier, is wearing nothing but a pair of pajamas. Now that's what I call commitment to one's craft.

If this twist wasn't enough, Grotesque gives another one when Tab Hunter (Polyester) literally runs onscreen. At first I thought Tab was running because someone had just told him that his paycheck had bounced. But that wasn't the case at all. Playing Lisa's "Uncle Rod," when Tab Hunter shows up the film goes in a completely different direction all-together. It's true, if you took away all the filler scenes and jettisoned the pointless fake out opening and the ultra-lame fake out ending, the film would barely run twenty minutes long. That being said, it's a pretty entertaining twenty minutes. Well, not really. But, hey, it's got punks, real snow and Linda Blair, what more do you want?

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I remember this. I watched it one night late while in college. Awful, awful movie.