Friday, January 15, 2010

Girlfriend from Hell (Dan Peterson, 1989)

The mundane act of fixing up two shy friends on a blind date becomes a nightmare of epic and mildly irritating proportions in the intellectually appealing Girlfriend from Hell, another in the not-so long line of films that involve demons and dating (My Demon Lover). A sophisticated mishegas masquerading as a foolish slab of empty-headed nonsense, writer-director Dan Peterson (Vampire Knights) does an elegant job balancing the theological with the slapstick. And, not to mention, balancing the cross dimensional with impromptu penis touching (a scripture enthusiast gets his "pee-pee" fondled for the very first time). It's a tough symmetry to maintain – as everyone knows by now, flip-flopping between scenes that feature deep, philosophical conversations with God and frank discussion about what constitutes a "stupid balloon" are fraught with potential complications. But somehow the film manages to deftly allude the fate that befalls the majority of possession-based dark comedies that sport weird tonal shifts and alcoholic devil women. There's an unforeseen intelligence at work here that transcends actual content and the overrated conventions of reality. Now, this is the sentence where I'd normally give you an example of this lofty transcendentalism at work, but I don't really feel like enriching any minds with my sound logic at the moment.

What I really want to do is go on a ridiculously worded tirade that sufficiently glorifies the leg coverings that Liane Alexandra Curtis, Lezlie Deane, and Hilary Morse cavort about in during this movie. However, since my "doctor" has instructed me to ease up on the undergarment and hosiery talk, I've decided instead to focus my attention on the labyrinthian plot and the excessive amount of face punching that takes place in this film.

For those uninterested in minutiae, look no further than the film's spiffy title; as you will find everything you need to know just by reading it. I guarantee comprehension. As for the rest of you, the scripted structure of Girlfriend from Hell is part allegory, part wicked satire. The former is about the romantic adversity shy people have to face when trying to connect with one another on an appreciation basis. The latter shows up in the form of physical roughhousing (like I said, there's a lot of face punching) and spiritual tomfoolery (a character is repeatedly seen talking to some kind of cloud-centric supreme being).

Nevertheless, these two seemingly incompatible aspects commingle together in such an agreeable manner, that you'd think it was planned that way.

Seriously, the fact that the film's convoluted, and surprisingly far-reaching mythology, was able to gel at all with the dating ups and downs of an unsure girl who finds her body inhabited by the Devil was a minor miracle.

The film starts off with a desert showdown between God's go to "chaser" (Dana Ashbrook) and the Devil, who is actually a glowing glob of undefinable energy. This inflamed ball eludes its pursuer (who's carrying a strange-looking raygun) by shooting across the sky and landing squarely into the chest of Maggie (Liane Alexandra Curtis), a slightly awkward gal who has been set up on a date with the equally awkward Carl (Anthony Barrile) by her friends Diane (Lezlie Deane from 976-EVIL) and David (James Daughton from The Beach Girls and Malibu Beach). Up until the moment the diabolic entity enters her body, the date, which is taking place at the home of Alice (Hilary Morse) and birthday boy Rocco (Ken Abraham), has been going terribly.

This, of course, all changes when the dark forces start to take over. You could tell things were different by the way Maggie's stuffy opera gloves had magically become fingerless (a change she relishes). Also her hair had become more pronounced in the untamed department (evil and big hair are synonymous). Another way you could tell was that the once demure lady had this sudden urge to copulate with every guy in sight.

Making demonic possession seem like fun, Liane Alexandra Curtis (Critters 2: The Main Course) is a delightful scourge as the uncouth Maggie. Reminding me of cross between Bonnie O'Bendix (Papusha Demitro's character in Perfect Timing) and your typical Voivod-loving metal chick, Miss Curtis seemed to be having a hootenanny and a half. I mean, check out her posture during her post-bashful phase, the confident manner in which she stood, her uncreased red pantyhose tighter than Lee Aaron's urethra, is the stuff of upright legend. From a non-standing point-of-view: I loved the way she would yell emasculating put-downs (my personal favourite when it comes to insulting men with dicks) and bark orders at everyone. And the restaurant scene is a comedy classic as far I'm concerned (she openly mocks Jesus and spits wine at her fellow diners).

In a surprising turn of events (and believe me, this film's got plenty), it's the stellar work turned in by Lezlie Deane that dominates the film's dreamlike third act. Taking place in multiple dimensions, Lezlie's Diane helps Dana Ashbrook's "chaser" get back to modern day in order to save Maggie from becoming another satanic statistic (the Devil can only use a persons body for 24 hours). Anyway, on top of looking amazing in black pantyhose and a Heathers-style blazer, I thought Lezlie gave a well-rounded performance that worked well alongside the horny Ashbrook and Curtis's campy temptress schtick.

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  1. Is that Liane featured prominently on the poster/box cover? 'Cause I always thought that was Adrienne Barbeau for some reason. I passed over that one many times at the video store, but was alway curious about it. Sounds like a good reco.

  2. Dude. Transcendentalism. That's deep, dude.

    Dig the poster auf Deutsch.

    Peter Griffin is still Jeopardy! champ.

  3. @Russ: I was gonna say "of course it's Liane." But then again, I've seen so many posters that feature people who aren't even in the movie on them over the years, that I had to take a closer look. But yeah, that's Liane on the poster/box cover.

    Video store? I guess this was awhile a go, because I'd love to see this get a lovingly restored DVD release.

    @Karim Amir: Dude. You said said "dude" twice, dude.

    Is deepness good?

    I try to go "auf Deutsch" whenever humanly possible.

    He's not as chubby as I thought he'd be (Peter Griffin is quite large).

    So... Who do you want to see replace Simon Cowell? Jim Cuddy or James Urbaniak?

  4. I just watched this on YouTube and all's I gotta say is...more Liane!! Quite the revelation she turned out to be. Every time she was on-screen, it was like I was watching a different movie. However, the best line had to go to Dana Ashbrook's character: "I think she's with that blond guy from Animal House."


  5. The version I watched on YouTube seemed to missning some scenes. :(

    I mostly know him as the guy from The Beach Girls and Malibu Beach... But yeah, that "blond guy from Animal House" line was pretty awesome.

    Do you know where I could find some screen captures from John Paizs's Crime Wave? (Especially one's that feature Tea Andrea Tanner.) I have four, but need around eight or nine.

  6. Re: Crime Wave screen caps.

    Sure! Send me a MC pm and describe the desired scene(s) (and approximate timestamps if possible) and I'll fix ya up. Image quality may be lacking, but will do the best I can. I'll put 'em on Imageshack and pm you the links.

    Btw, HUGE FAN of Crime Wave here. Have you seen Paizs' equally fine Springtime in Greenland?

  7. No approximate timestamps, but I did try my best to describe 'em.

    Nope, but I'll definitely add Springtime in Greenland to my 'to-see list.'

  8. Twisted anger dot net has this..