Monday, 9 September 2013

Dr Hackenstein (1988) Richard Clark

With the exception of the more offbeat, tasteless and splattery, I'm not a great fan of horror comedy. Sure, the two are just opposite ends of the same snake, they should work so well together, but somehow I find much horror comedy has the two ends going in opposite directions instead of feeding off of each other. So I wasn't exactly well primed to watch Dr. Hackenstein but I settled down to it all the same. Mostly for the name. Just can't resist a name like Dr. Hackenstein. And really, neither can you. Most of you aren't even reading this right now because you just opened another tab to go load the movie up on Youtube. I could spend the rest of this review besmirching your saintly mothers and virtuous maiden aunts and you'd be none the wiser. I won't though because I'm a mature adult, ass dick titty poop. 

Anyhoo, this isn't much to write home about. A couple of hot bitch sisters, their annoying ass whiny creepo little brother and cute nice girl cousin crash their car and wind up at the house of the titular doc. He just so happens to need a sets of limbs, as his wife has been reduced to a severed head and is none too pleased about the state of affairs, communicating through telepathy. Fun fact, severed heads are capable of developing awesome telepathic and telekinetic powers, as their functions are unimpeded by the needs of the body. Unfortunately they still need the whole support structure of heart and lungs so few remain alive long enough to develop such powers. But back to the film. From the outset, this is remarkably sane and competent for something distributed by Troma. The story, the structure, the humour, all very conventional, the acting mostly restrained, production values fair and direction and editing all up to snuff by "normal" standards. This is good in some ways, giving the film an innately easy watchability. But without any intrinsic weirdness to go on the requirements are a good deal higher for the rest of the film to impress. 

There's some good stuff here, but not enough and some judicious pruning would have helped to make it stand out more. The title role is charmingly essayed by one David Muir, with the right weird enthusiasm and undercurrent of menace. He seems like he probobly had the chops to be a fair b horror player but his only other role outside of television was in Neon Maniacs (which I've not seen). The three girls are attractive and likeable enough to watch, with the lead played by Stacy Travis, who went on to star in Richard Stanley's classic Hardware. There are a couple of kooky old graverobbers played by Anne and Logan Ramsey, they bring the frankly dim material alive by playing it like second nature and seeming to have a good time, the same goes for a short appearance from Phylis Diller as an irascible biddy. The house in which most of the film takes place is a sturdily imposing place, and the laboratory well kitted out with pipes, bottles, tubing and frothing colourful fluids. There's brief nudity (including corpse boobs, nobody doesn't like corpse boobs) and what effects shots are there (too few really) are actually pretty well handled. And there's an interesting if not especially original detour into dark poignancy in the climax. But at the same time there's too much walking, driving, sitting and staring. Lots of dead space and not really the good kind. And some mostly unfunny deaf mute housekeeper humour. The sort of thing that's only funny when pushed to ludicrous extremes, which here it is not. So I guess this is kinda dull in spells. Not quite enough to get truly tedious, but definitely dull. Still, you could do a hell of a lot worse on a slow evening. Watch if you must, I guess. 

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