Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Newlydeads (1987) Joseph Merhi

One way I almost always know a film will be a good time is by an opening driving sequence. From Manos to The Shining and all sorts in between, opening driving sequences are sure signs of quality entertainment. The Newlydeads opens promisingly with road, rain, radio, vamp red nails on steering wheel, otherwise unseen driver. Then the driver arrives at a lodge and swiftly succumbs to the advances of the sleazy manager. But wait a second, this is no lady! Scuffle scuffle, bish bash bosh and a corkscrew to the bonce. Cut to 15 years later. 

The essential set up screams out for a good cheesy slasher (murderous zombie drag queen is a hell of a hook), but the execution is confused at best. A small array of doltish death fodder is roughly established, often with hooks for us to want to see them die like pickled prick of a preacher, charmingly deaf elderly couple and such, but outside of one classically styled double murder there's actually little in the expected line and a good handful of the cast have little to no bearing on the plot despite their screen time. Jackie, for that is the name of our mouldering evil-doer seems at first to want to ruin her killer's business and marriage by popping up at inopportune moments and offing his guests, but then it seems that she actually wants him. I'm sure it's not entirely unknown for a head stabbing to light the torch d'amour, but in this case I'm just going to go with it not making sense. It's also unclear whether Jackie is supposed to be more of a visceral undead slayer or powerful supernatural being, both possibilities being touched on. Then there's an action that by any logical plot progression would be climactic but instead takes place with relatively little fanfare some half hour before the end, and a death which should be pivotal or at the very least emotional but is only noticed after the fact, and then immediately glossed over. And naturally, the ending is abrupt, bizarre, inappropriate and lacking in actual closure. 

As you might have guessed, this one is pretty much garbage. But it's the good kind of garbage, fast paced, lively and reasonably short with the end credits coming in around 76 minutes. There's a spot of nudity, a bit of gore, the zombie makeup is suitably grody as far as paste and paint jobs go, the final block is good fun and the whole is consistently stupid while just about keeping the right side of obnoxious. Worth a watch if you're a fiend like me with low low standards. Maybe. 

Freeway Maniac (1989) Paul Winters

Ah late 80's slashers, the glorious bottomless pit of inanity, where the serious is often hilarious and the humorous tortuous. Where sincerity is an accomplishment in itself and actual accomplishment is strictly a fringe benefit. The broad streak of what appears to be intentional comedy in Freeway Maniac should be its downfall, but its hard to dislike such an ungainly shambles of a thing, powered with distinct idiot verve. 

Things get off to a double classic start. First a short few moments of anonymous driving footage. Who is in the car? Who knows? Where is it going? See above. I'm not sure it ever even turns up again actually. But since much of the film is about driving lets just call it atmospheric foreshadowing. Then things switch to crudely enthusiastic kitchen sex, interrupted by stalker POV shots and stabbing. No impact shots, just the blade going up and down and getting a bit of red on it. The man of the scene seems to quite clearly have been stabbed in the back, yet he falls over clutching his stomach and his back is entirely unharmed. Good times... 

Expected things follow. Stabby child has grown up to be a savage hulking lunatic named Arthur. Breaks out of an asylum through the miracle of astoundingly lax security measures, leaves a trail of corpses. Meanwhile pretty young model/actress Linda is having a bad day. Her partner is a cheat, her car breaks down and she gets menaced by gas station sleazoids. Fortunately Arthur turns up to deliver from peril. Unfortunately he also wants to deliver her from life (or something) since she apparently resembles his dear mama. He gets sent back to the funny farm, and expected things happen again. And half the movie is yet to come.... 

To be honest there really isn't too much good here. Arthur is an imposing specimen and he kills loads of people (also at one point he eats a snake and howls like a coyote, that was fun), but since there's no real gore, only a little blood and barely even any impact shots, only a handful are especially effective. Being a big guy and prone to fighting and bludgeoning rather than hacking and stabbing, there's a somewhat pleasing rough and tumble brio to Arthur's attacks, but the choreography is pretty amateurish. The film seems to vaguely posit him as anti hero tireless overcoming obstacles in his quest, but forgets to make him very funny or interesting. Only the briefest of nudity, no suspense and worst of all perhaps, the execution is mostly low level incompetence rather than joyous insanity. But it bustles along nicely. I was rarely bored, there's an ever faintly glowing core of offbeat energy. I even laughed out loud a few times. I've not gone too much into the films specific good bits because if you're like me and you just have to watch films like this, the good bits are better left as a surprise. But I definitely thought there were a few good bits. Actually, I think I can probably mention that Robby Krieger was responsible for the soundtrack and that it kinda rocks. So there's that. Anyways, you probably shouldn't bother with this one unless you feel like you have to, but if you do have to it won't have you breaking out the eye chisel or anything. Watchable crap/score.