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, March 17, 2010

Murderock - uccide a passo di danza (1984)

...aka: Danza mortal
...aka: Demon Is Loose, The
...aka: Giallo a disco...aka: Murderock
...aka: Murder Rock Dancing Death...aka: Murder-Rock: Dancing Death

Directed by:
Lucio Fulci

Who knew Fulci could be so glossy? Most of his films from the early 80s are pretty gritty. From his tropical living dead cash-in ZOMBI 2 (1979) to the misogynistic exploits of the THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982), it's all about primitive shock effects shot through a grainy eye. Not so much here. This one's sumptuous, soft-focus and much more polished. It's also quite restrained as far as blood-and-guts are concerned and is one of the director's least violent and least graphic films. Trading off over-the-top splatter for a more professional-looking effort is something that's probably not going to sit well with the majority of Mr. Fulci's fan base. After all, we're talking about a man whose claim to fame rests primarily on images of eyeballs being skewered by splintered wood, internal organs exiting bodies through mouths, razor blades slicing open nipples and ginger girls getting their heads blasted off with shotguns. Murderock is the other side of Fulci. It's him returning to the oft-neglected beginning of his career when he was making less-celebrated giallo thrillers such as A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971) and DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING (1972). Is it as good as either of those? Nope, but it's a passable effort. Passable if you have a high tolerance for 80s tackiness, that is.

The words "cheesy" and "dated" often crop up during discussions of this film and both are apt descriptions of what you'll see here. Fulci claimed in interviews that both the musical numbers and Keith Emerson's cheesy pop/disco/synth music soundtrack were both forced upon him by the film's producer. This results in what is essentially a slasher remake of Flashdance. Sure it sounds God awful, and parts of it are indeed God awful, but it's usually in a good-dumb-fun kind of way. Much of the entertainment value rests in the hilarious choreographed dance routines where leotard-clad ladies get so worked up they're flinging sweat off by the time they're done. And then, of course, they die.

The very attractive Olga Karlatos (aka the gouged-out eyeball chica in Zombi 2) stars as Candice Norman, a troubled dance instructor whipping her young male and female dancers into shape at the Arts for Living Center in New York City. One of her female students decides to stay late and is attacked while taking a shower by a psycho who chloroforms her and then sticks a thin metal pin through her heart. Many more students will die in a similar fashion and everything seems to coincide with the arrival of some producers announcing they'll be accepting only a couple of the students from the school for an upcoming TV series. Is someone wanting to trim the competition to increase their own chances? Or is something else afoot?

You get your typical line-up of suspects. Naturally, any of the students would have reason to kill the others. The first victim's boyfriend, Willy (Christian Borromeo), seems to have a temper and a bad habit of being at the scene of several of the murders before they occurred. Then there's jealous choreographer Margie (Geretta Giancarlo), academy director Dick Gibson (Claudio Cassinelli), who either is sleeping with several of the students or wants to, and Candice herself, who has been plagued by strange nightmares of a man trying to kill her. Even stranger, the man she's been dreaming about turns out to be a real man named George Webb (Ray Lovelock), a hard-drinking, washed up former male model. Candice and George begin seeing one another, but George himself turns out to be connected to the dance academy. One of the chief dancers is his ex-girlfriend. Everything ends with a John Huston quote.

Nice-looking production with a typically convoluted plot and badly written dialogue, a pinch of T&A, a surprisingly low violence quotient and a fair mystery. Karlatos does a very good job with what's handed to her, though the rest of the cast doesn't make much of an impression. Cosimo Cinieri (from Fulci's Manhattan Baby) co-stars as a detective and small roles are played by Robert Gligorov (from Soavi's STAGE FRIGHT) and an uncredited Al Cliver. Fulci himself appears briefly as an agent.

★★

Scream Dream (1989)

Directed by:
Donald Farmer

Like most of Farmer's output, this is very cheap, very badly made, full of continuity errors, padded out with whatever will stretch the running time to about an hour and has terrible amateurish acting. However, it's slightly better than his two previous efforts (the seemingly-unfinished DEMON QUEEN and the enticingly-titled though nearly insufferable CANNIBAL HOOKERS) thanks primarily to second tier 'B' queen Melissa Moore, from Versailles, Kentucky. Though Moore (a blonde, six-foot-tall model) never quite reached the height of fame as some of her Scream Queen sisters, she was one of the most beautiful in her category, a decent actress and had a pretty good ten year run lasting from the late eighties until about the mid-90s, racking up credits in numerous low-budget horror films such as Jim Wynorski's Sorority House Massacre II and HARD TO DIE (both 1990), Vampire Cop (1990; Farmer again), the horror spoof REPOSSESSED (1990) and Mad at the Moon (1992; an arty horror western for director Martin Donovan), among others. Scream Dream is the actresses' first leading role, and all things considered, she acquits herself fairly well here... especially in comparison to the rest of the atrocious cast!


No lame jokes about how cut-throat the music business is, I promise!
.
Things begin when a topless chick lying in bed gets chainsawed between her legs in a 'shocking' music video for bitchy heavy metal queen Michelle Shock (Carol Carr). Michelle is rumored to be a devil-worshipper and once word gets to the press that people have been mysteriously disappearing from her concerts and that her music contains subliminal Satanic messages, she's fired from her band. Michelle turns out to be a blood-drinking demoness who's been murdering her fans. In one scene, she goes down on a guy and bites off his dick. She also has some kind of rubbery little mutant hand puppet cat familiar that kills people. Derrick (Nikki Riggins), a bandmate and former lover of Michelle's (who's now dating a jealous girl named Linnea, played by Michelle Uber), stumbles upon her secret and ends up having to kill her with a medieval axe. Strangely, her dismembered hand takes on a life of its own and must also be stabbed. So band manager Lou (Gene Amonette) decides to replace Michelle with up-and-comer Jamie Summers (Moore). Jamie becomes possessed by the scorned Michelle and, in between overlong musical numbers, morphs into a murderous demon-creature with horns and claws.


The horror genre misses Melissa!

Definitely nothing to write home about. There's cheap gore, lots of charmingly dated hair metal from a group called Rikk-O-Shay, a couple of topless scenes and an unexciting, anti-climactic ending. Make-up artist Rick Gonzales (an assistant to Tom Savini on Day of the Dead) contributes a decent demon costume to the works for what it's worth. So what became of Melissa, you ask? She now trains American saddle-bred show horses, has 50 World Championships to her credit, is the owner and manager of Sunrise Stables and was a 2007 Wilhelmina 40+ Model Search finalist. I guess she's no longer acting, but she still looks great and I'd like to see her in film again.


Hide your junk, girlie men!
Tough-to-track down these days, Scream Dream was released to VHS on the American Video label and hasn't been picked up for distribution since. It's so rare that I can't even find a box scan anywhere online. Someone out there hook a brother up!

★1/2
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