During last year’s Six Weeks of Halloween, I spent a couple of weeks covering what I had termed “Obscure Scream Queens”, including Erika Blanc and Isabelle Adjani. This weekend, we return to this sort of theme with a trio of films starring 80s B-movie star Linnea Quigley. Literally off the bus from Iowa, she hit Los Angeles in the late 70s and began picking up small roles in B movies, eventually graduating (pun intended!) to a bigger role in the 1981 Troma slasher Graduation Day. She followed that up with a string of higher profile appearances in the likes of Silent Night, Deadly Night, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, and a couple of the movies I watched this weekend, amongst countless direct to video shlock (one of which I also watched this weekend). One of the things that inspired me to use this theme was that Joe Bob Briggs included a Linnea vehicle in his recent The Last Drive In marathon on Shudder, a classy little film called Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. I think you can tell what kinda movie that is right from the start. I loved it, and vowed to explore more of her filmography (and if you’re in the mood to support horror, Shudder is certainly a worthy purchase, and Joe Bob’s commentary is always worthwhile). After last week’s high-brow classics, arthouse films, and foreign entries, it’s time to get a little trashy, so let’s dive in:
- Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (trailer)
- Jack Chop (short)
- Demons (trailer)
- Night of the Demons – A bunch of kids gather for a Halloweeen party at Hull House, an abandoned funeral home fraught with urban legends. Proto-goth girl Angela attempts a seance and inadvertently releases a demon that had been trapped in the house. Hijinks ensue! It’s a premise that isn’t exactly original, but it mashes up a number of familiar elements (from the likes of slashers, haunted houses, possessions, maybe a sprinkle of zombies) to form a well well executed version of each horror trope it gloms onto. The urban legend angle is surprisingly effective, if a bit derivative. The production design is well done despite clear low budget limitations. Director Kevin Tenney provides a few visual flourishes that work really well, such as a POV shot as the demon glides through the house, or a shot with characters reflected in a broken mirror. The kids are an unlikely bunch, but each comes off distinct and avoid feeling like total cardboard cutouts. The final girl is dating a guy who at first seems good, but turns out to be a creep. Her ex seems to be a creep at first, but winds up being a stand up guy. Linnea Quigley plays Suzanne, more of a sidekick than the main demon (and her demon makeup is somewhat uninspired), but she gets some interesting things to do beyond the normal T&A, notably the infamous lipstick body horror gag (amazing for such a simple effect) and a nice eye-gouging sequence.
Amelia Kinkade plays the goth-like Angela, who turns out to be the ringleader demon, and gets some pretty good stuff for herself (of particular note: the go-for-broke dance sequence set to Bauhaus’ “Stigmata Martyr”). Also notable is that the token black character, Roger, actually survives the night along with the final girl. There’s this sorta non-sequitur bookend bit about an old man who plans to put razor blades in apples for Halloween, which is odd, but makes for a neat little coda at the end. Not particularly original, but it’s packaged up well and hits every note you could possibly want in such a movie. I can see why this has become something of a cult hit, and it’s well worth checking out for fans of 80s cheese. ***
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror III: Dial Z for Zombie
- White Zombies (Key and Peele)
- Night of the Living Dead (trailer)
- The Return of the Living Dead – A pair of bumbling medical supply warehouse workers accidentally release a poison gas into the air that raises the dead from their graves. A group of punk kids partying in the local cemetery get caught up in the action. A full decade before Scream took the piss out of horror conventions, this film was laying the same groundwork. Written and directed by Dan O’Bannon (most famous for having written scripts for Alien and Total Recall), he was clearly angling for the self-referential, deconstructionist charm that animates (pun intended!) more modern takes on horror. For instance, this flick literally references Night of the Living Dead, positing that the movie was based on real events and that the remains of zombie bodies were mistakenly sent to the warehouse by the army. While deconstructing zombie films, O’Bannon also manages to add his own wrinkles to the sub-genre, most famously imbuing the zombies with an insatiable craving for brains, a trope that really struck a chord. He also made “fast-zombies” a thing decades before nerds started arguing the merits of such details on the internets. Indeed, these zombies can move fast, use complex tools, and even speak (a running gag involving a zombie using a radio in an ambulance to get the authorities to send more brains is pretty funny). The makeup and effects work is pretty good too, giving most of the zombies a distinct look that prevents them from being a completely faceless hoard (until they swarm on unsuspecting victims, I guess, but still).
In particular, the zombie that kicks off the shenanigans, dubbed the Tar Man, is quite effective. All melted and goopy, he’s pretty much the platonic idea for zombiekind. The human characters are fine and O’Bannon’s quirky sense of humor abounds, but mostly they’re just unwilling suppliers of brains to hungry zombies. Linnea Quigley plays the most memorable of the punk kids. Named “Trash” and sporting neon-red hair, her character apparently has a penchant for stripping nude at the slightest provocation, and she spends most of the movie in skimpy clothing (or, uh, nothing), even once she’s been zombified. It’s certainly a memorable performance.
The ending is also a fitting take on the sub-genre, displaying O’Bannon’s perverse sense of humor and giving that last little knife twist that punctuates so many horror movies (though this time, it’s not so much a stinger as it is a dawning realization). I’m not even much of a zombie fan, but it’s hard not to like this one. ***
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (trailer)
- American Pickers Texas (Robot Chicken)
- Werewolf Women of the SS (fake trailer)
- Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers – A private eye is hired to find a missing girl and gets mixed up in a series of gruesome murders perpetrated by chainsaw wielding hookers who are providing human sacrifices to their Egyptian god. You know, that old saw. Look, if you can’t tell by the title, this is a sleazy B-movie to it’s core, and it revels in cheese. There are feints in the direction of respectability. Jay Richardson plays the private eye as a caricature of noir detectives that actually works reasonably well. The Egyptian cult is led by Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which is a nice touch. Alright, so maybe “respectability” isn’t the right word to use to describe any aspect of this production, but it’s still tons of fun. Linnea Quigley is joined by another infamous scream queen, Michelle Bauer, who gets one of the film’s greatest moments. In a scene that prefigures American Psycho, she takes one of her tricks back to a hotel room, gets naked, covers her painting of Elvis in plastic (to protect it from blood splatter, which will be copious), puts on a hairnet, and then goes to town with a chainsaw. It’s brilliant trash.
Quigley gets a few big sequences too, notably her double chainsaw dance in rather elaborate body paint (yes, T&A abounds again here), and of course, there’s a chainsaw duel between Quigley and Bauer that’s quintessential B-movie cheese. The film has a pretty memorable poster too, and the Blu-Ray I watched has a perfect quote on the cover: “The 4th Greatest B-Movie Of All Time” (from that classic film historian house: Maxim Magazine). Look, fine cinema this is not. But if you want trashy 80s cheese, it’s hard to beat something like this. ??? (I mean, come on, how do you rate something like this?)
So there you have it. Quigley’s filmography clocks in at 154 credits and counting, so there’s plenty of schlock to explore here, and I might even take a flier on one or two additional flicks as the Six Weeks of Halloween marches on (Another good thing about B movies? They tend to be short, 75 minute affairs.) Stay tuned, for next week we’ll tackle another purveyor of fine physical media, Scream Factory!