Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Homebodies (1974)

Directed by:
Larry Yust

Looking for something different? Then look no further! HOMEBODIES is an absolute gem of a film that has unfortunately become difficult to find over the years. In fact, it's been released on a home viewing format in the States just one time - in 1984 - by Embassy Home Entertainment. Now that the tape is 25-years-old, I think it's about time someone rescued this one from complete obscurity and put it out on DVD already. Why we need a dozen special edition reissues of films like "Friday the 13th Part 20" and a great film like this is able to slip through the cracks is something I'll never quite understand.
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In Cincinnati, Ohio, a construction company is busy at work erecting a huge skyscraper. Across the street, the city has condemned a block of tenement buildings. One by one, the buildings are being demolished after its elderly citizens are dragged from the comfort of their homes to live in some colorless, sanitized new apartment home against their wishes. However, the tenants of one of the buildings set to be torn down are not going down without a fight. This is, after all, their home we're talking about. They've been living there 30 years. And since no one seems to care about them and their welfare, why should they return the favor? Mattie (Paula Trueman), who spends her days sitting by the construction site munching on prunes, witnesses a fatal accident and then conspires with her friends to rig similar accidents to delay the destruction of their home. One thing leads to another and before long they're resorting to stabbing a cold social worker and burying a wealthy land developer alive in wet cement! One could accuse the film of being far-fetched, but most dark comedies are, and the film manages to skillfully blend social drama, horror and black comedy together in an entertaining, thought-provoking and unique way.
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One of the big pluses here is that the plight of the low-income elderly is shown in a grim, though very realistic and plausible, light. These people are often bullied, pushed around and treated if they don't matter, so despite their murderous schemes, there's never a moment where we don't identify with, and sympathize for, the people involved. Another huge plus is the cast and level of characterization. Many genre filmmakers mistakenly believe the target audience for these films only want to see hot young things strutting their stuff, not a bunch of senior citizens. They're wrong. Here we get six veteran character actors capable of adding those intangibles to their roles that only come with experience.
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Trueman as the spunky, unpredictable and increasingly more unstable Mattie seems to be the centerpiece of the film and she does an excellent job. Just as good are Ian Wolfe as the building superintendent, Ruth McDevitt as his wife (also the conscience of the group), William Hansen as a widowed writer, blind Peter Brocco and Frances Fuller as a wig-wearing agoraphobic who still talks to her dead husband and hasn't left the building in 20 years. Each of the performers bring a human element to their role, and the characters aren't just tenants. They're created their own little microcosm in the building and each depend on one another in equal measure to simply get by. To disrupt their environment is to destroy their lives, so why should they care if a bunch of greedy big wigs or whoever else go down with them? Co-stars Douglas Fowley, Linda Marsh and veteran horror/sci-fi star Kenneth Tobey as the construction boss also deliver fine performances in less-sympathetic roles.
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Quirky, unique, thoughtful, very well-written, directed and acted on a modest budget; this independently-produced film is probably not going to be for all tastes, but for fans of both horror flicks and black comedies, I can't recommend this one enough. It's worth the search.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

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