Sunday, March 21, 2010

Smash Cut and The Caretaker (Sasha Grey Vs. Jennifer Tilly)

Smash Cut

David Hess is absolutely brilliant and hilarious in this loving homage to the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Down on his luck after the recent critical and commercial failure of his latest horror film, Terror Toy, a depressed director (Able Whitman played by Hess) seeks solace and inspiration from a local strip club and drunkenly wrecks his car. He suddenly finds inspiration in the broken and bloodied corpse of his female companion, using her body to shoot in a scheduled scene before realizing he needs more blood and more parts in order to complete his masterpiece! The director moves from victim to victim, creating a trail of dead bodies and the greatest masterpiece of his career. With a plot inspired by “Color Me Blood Red”, the story continues to find one homage after another to additional films from The Godfather of Gore with the introduction of Private Detective Beaumont (obviously based heavily on Abraham Gentry, from The Gore Gore Girls), music from “Blood Feast”, “Color Me… “, and a number of gags and scenes lifted from one exploitation film after another.

Hess owns this movie entirely, chewing up dialogue with perfect comic timing and playing a much lighter part than I’ve often seen him in. Often pretentious and presumptive, his character is an artiste and justifies all his wretchedness as a devotion to his art. At the same time, there’s certain gleeful sadism in his character and he absolutely relishes in the violent acts he commits. I’m going to say that this is the best I’ve seen David Hess since “Last House on the Left”, it’s a role that I’m in awe of and one that he seemed to have a great time performing.

There’s also a stand out performance from Sasha Grey as the investigating reporter and sister to the directors’ first victim. She’s a straight woman foil to the outlandish antics of both Hess and Detective Isaac Beaumont, and she stands up to both male leads and threatens to steal away the film at times. In fact, I honestly think that Grey was much more endearing a character than the largely over-played Beaumont as portrayed by Jesse Buck. Lacking the dismissive and somewhat abusive nature of the original character, the Detective came off as less charismatic than his predecessor and often played second fiddle to the other leads.

But, as long as we’re talking about great performances, I can’t forget to mention Michael Berryman as Hess’ erstwhile producer. He doesn’t get nearly enough screen time in this exploitation gem. This is a man who purchases his own golden figure award in order to feel like he’s really truly participating in the Hollywood dream of big productions but doesn’t have a clue about the films in his own vault. Berryman wears a bad wig, penciled in eyebrows, and constantly worries about the image of his company and where the money will come from to pay for his next major production.

“Smash Cut” is brutally violent and hilarious, featuring a bizarre blend of good and terrible special effects, with over the top and utterly entertaining performances. If you enjoy the films of Herschel Gordon Lewis, if you enjoy the work of David Hess, or if you’re just curious to see Sasha Grey in a mainstream film than I highly recommend and support any rental or purchase of the film! This is the movie many horror fans are going to want to have sitting on their shelves for an entertaining evening with friends.

5 out of 5.

The Caretaker

Jennifer Tilly might be a little bit typecast as the annoying ditz a few years past her prime, but she’s also very GOOD at playing the part and comes off as the most entertaining portion of this largely generic slasher film. Three teen boys decide to ditch their school’s Halloween Dance and drag their dates to the old melon orchard and scare them with a story about obsession and murder, little realizing that the Caretaker has returned. After some fairly standard scares and the realization that a killer is stalking them, the teens panic, their wholly inappropriate teacher (Tilly) arrives, and events begin to spiral out of control as the teens are picked off and eliminated one by one. Despite the lack of any real horror or effects gags, the campy script calls for a lot of uncomfortable laughs with some good one-liners and a number of goofy moments. In addition to Tilly, we also have a small appearance from Judd Nelson as the protective father of one of the teenage girls. There are a lot of movies far better than this one, but it’s worth a quick rental when you’ve pretty much exhausted your list or come across it on a boring afternoon or late night bout with insomnia.

3 out of 5.

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