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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Deadly Embrace (1989)

Directed by:
David DeCoteau

I've had a strange fascination with the films of David DeCoteau since my pre-teen years tuning in to the USA network's Up All Night program, where I'd marvel at such lowbrow, upbeat offerings as NIGHTMARE SISTERS (1987; which actually had new "clothed" scenes shot specifically for airing on that program), SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA (1987) and DR. ALIEN (1989). Embrace is one of the director's only films from that era never to make the show's line-up; probably because when you remove all of the sex and nudity you're not left with much else. The film is one of the earliest examples of an erotic thriller made for the direct-to-video market and was made several years before the two Shannon's (Tweed and Whirry) began dominating late night cable and video erotica. Earlier mainstream films such as BODY HEAT (1981) and FATAL ATTRACTION (1987) laid down the groundwork for these types of films, but the genre itself wasn't really solidified as a formidable and profitable subgenre until the blockbuster BASIC INSTINCT (1992) hit theaters. The long-forgotten Embrace (which has yet to see the light of day on DVD) doesn't hold a candle to any of those bigger-budgeted films and unfortunately isn't even a good example of a low-budget erotic psycho-thriller. It's just bad. Plain and simple.

College student Chris Thompson (beefy Ken Abraham) gets a summer job as a live-in handyman for the Morland's; wealthy and almost always absent businessman Stewart (Jan-Michael Vincent) and his attractive, lonely, stay-at-home wife Charlotte (Ty Randolph). Stewart has been having an affair with his secretary (Ruth Collins) and wants a divorce from Charlotte once he can find a way out of the marriage and keep his considerable fortune in tact. In other words, he hopes to catch Chris and Charlotte in an affair so that he can use that to keep her from cashing in once they separate. It isn't long before Chris and Charlotte start crossing employer-employee boundaries but, strangely enough, it isn't Stewart who is monitoring things with hidden cameras placed around the home, but Charlotte herself. She uses a two-way mirror to keep tabs on her new boy toy and finally goes over the edge when Chris tries to call things off and invites his bubbly aspiring actress girlfriend Michelle (Linnea Quigley) over for a visit. A kidnapping and few deaths follow.

Utilizing a noir-ish framework featuring close-ups of hands holding cigarettes and gesturing and utterly redundant voice-overs to recount what is going on to pad out the slim-as-can-be storyline is really the least of this film's problems. The fact that none of the characters are adequately developed, the acting is highly uneven, the premise is anything but original and it's weakly scripted and directed are other clear problems, but the pacing being positively glacial is what really does the whole thing in. It drags so much and for so long that Charlotte's potentially entertaining psychotic breakdown is mostly relegated to the last 10 minutes (!) Even those scenes, with her tying up Quigley in the basement and threatening her with a gun, fail to build even the faintest amount of suspense. No one is really asking for depth in something like this, but is a tiny bit of excitement or tension really asking too much from a so-called "thriller?" Opting for filler instead doesn't quite cut the mustard.

Speaking of filler, numerous silent fantasy sequences featuring a fan-blown Michelle Bauer (the "Female Spirit of Sex" according to the credits) stripping off in slow-mo in an all-black room and having sex, plus some colorfully-lit clothes shedding from Quigley, were spliced in throughout the film. Even though these were clearly added to the mix as a way to pad out the time even further, I actually enjoyed these scenes more than the main storyline! Part of the reason could be that the voluptuous Bauer looks delectable sans clothing, but primarily because the scenes take on a bizarre and almost artsy-surreal quality after awhile. The film certainly does deliver on the promise of nudity; though this is one of the only films I've seen where Ruth Collins actually keeps her clothes on! And since this is a DeCoteau movie, ample time is also focused on the male star's physique, something not all that common in one of these things (though certainly common in the director's movies... even at this early stage in his career).

Though lead actress Randolph isn't given much at all to work with and is saddled with a poorly-written character, she at least manages to give a mature, somewhat subdued performance under the circumstances. Possibly best known for her bit as a horror movie actress in Brian De Palma's BODY DOUBLE (1984) - anyone who has seen that film remembers those closing credits quite fondly! - Randolph had a spotty career throughout the years in both exploitation and big budget Hollywood films, stretching back to the early 70s. According to some sources she also did a handful of X-rated films under the alias "Lisa Berenger." This is one of her only starring roles. All but one of top-billed Vincent's boring scenes take place in either his office or his attorney's (guest star Jack Carter) office, so his fans shouldn't really make this a priority. Abraham and Quigley also shared the screen in DeCoteau's low-budget ALIEN copy CREEPOZOIDS (1987) and in the Rick Sloane-directed comedy VICE ACADEMY (1988), another Up All Night staple.

The VHS was distributed through independent label Prism.

1/2

17 comments:

spookyx3 said...

made in five days for $40,000. "real enjoyable piece of shit. it's just a horrible film by every stretch of the imagination... it's my worst film. but it made me a bloody fortune!" -- decoteau, c. 1991.

as you said, take out the nudity, and there's nothing here. i counted 26 different set-ups of people on the telephone. ty randolph's good to watch, but she's given little to do. crosscutting her and michelle bauer so often, it struck me how similar they looked -- coulda played sisters. probably filmed around the same time as MURDER WEAPON; those pool-side scenes look very familiar.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Yes this WAS probably one of DeCoteau's worst up until about 1991. Unfortunately, he's spent the past 20 or so years proving over and over again that he can do a LOT worse with all of his boxer brief fetish movies. It's like he is putting no effort into what he does nowadays.

spookyx3 said...

i think my last decoteau was PUPPETMASTER III, in 1991 (!), which puts me about 100 behind. even the recent ones with brinke, michelle and linnea together again couldn't tempt me.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I have seen more than I want to admit. Let's see here...

2006 Beastly Boyz = Awful. Maybe even his absolute worst up to this time. This is where I decided to stop. lol
2004 The Sisterhood = Awful.
2004 Ring of Darkness = Pretty bad but has some unintentional laughs at least.
2003 Leeches! = See above.
2002 Wolves of Wall Street = One of his better ones (at least plot wise) from the time but that's not saying much.
2002 The Frightening = Bad Sixth Sense wannabe, but it has your girl in it so you may want to give it a look, anyway.
2001 The Brotherhood 2: Young Warlocks (Video) = Awful, boring.
2001 Final Stab (Video) = Lame / dull slasher that attempts to be some DTV Scream and fails miserably.
2001 The Brotherhood (Video) = Bad.
2000 Voodoo Academy (Video) = Bad.
1999 Witchouse = Terrible rip-off of Night of the Demons minus all of the good stuff.
1999 The Killer Eye = Awful.
1998 Talisman = Average, which makes it one of his better ones.
1998 Curse of the Puppet Master = A surprisingly bold-faced rip-off of SSSSSSS (1973) with puppets subbing for snakes.
1998 Shrieker = Boring.
1995 Blonde Heaven = OK for soft core if you see the uncut version. Sucks as a movie movie.
1994 Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 = Not good but looks OK compared to a lot of what came after.
1993 Naked Instinct = Well, it has Michelle B. in it doing weird things with a riding crop so I can't totally hate it.
1993 Beach Babes from Beyond = Extremely dumb but pretty fun, anyway.

spookyx3 said...

thanks. it's about what i expected. for two decades he's been making the kinds of movies his detractors thought BOWL-O-RAMA and NIGHTMARE SISTERS were.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Yep, pretty much! I am planning on viewing Nightmare Sisters sometime this year. I have had the DVD sitting around for far too long.

spookyx3 said...

i really wanted a NIGHTMARE SISTERS OST -- was not pleased to find the songs on POSSESSION PARK didn't sound like the ones in the movie. and no "yumpin' yimminy" . . .

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I wouldn't mind having Santa Monica Blvd Boy. I saw that clip in Horror Workout.

spookyx3 said...

it's on a 1983 mystic comp, THE SOUND OF HOLLYWOOD VOL. 1: GIRLS, as "s&m blvd boy". the same recording she lip-syncs to in NIGHTMARE SISTERS.

working link here:

https://www.sendspace.com/file/pbl4sr

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

S&M Blvd Boy... Whaaaaa? Thanks for the link!

spookyx3 said...

at least a couple of the tracks skip. the skirts song is intact. dave markey was the drummer for sin 34; he directed DESPERATE TEENAGE LOVEDOLLS (1984).

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I remember reading about Lovedolls in the Psychotronic Encyclopedia but I've yet to see it. The write-up made it sound pretty cool!

spookyx3 said...

don't miss the sequel, LOVEDOLLS SUPERSTAR. wish it was available in its original form. markey re-cut it for DVD release in 2004 adding modern dissolves, wipes, new sound effects, and cleaning up the soundtrack. it's distracting. but you can't ruin a movie in which a member of redd kross takes an acid trip and hallucinates an order to kill "bruce springstein".

i love that we got here from a totally forgettable erotic thriller.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Something good came from this movie after all. ha. I just took a look at the Lovedolls poster and it has a quote from L.A. Times that says, "Tasteless, bad but entertaining."

spookyx3 said...

that's about right. the first one's almost like a dry-run; barely a step up from a home movie, really. looks as if they figured out what they were going to do seconds before filming. no different than a lot of kids with a camera in those days, only here, many of them were known in l.a. punk/hardcore circles. SUPERSTAR is more of the same with a little more money (well, more than low three figures, anyway) and a _lot_ more deliberation. arguably funnier, too. you can take in both in just over two hours.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Sounds good to me. A friend made me watch "The Time Traveler's Wife" this evening and the whole time I was thinking "Damn, no wonder I rarely watch newer Hollywood movies."

spookyx3 said...

i haven't envied the professional critics for a loooong, long time.

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