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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Runaway Nightmare (1982)

Directed by:
Michael Cartel

A pair of worm ranchers; Ralph (director / writer Michael Cartel), who enjoys how quiet and predictable the desert is, and Jason (Al Valletta), who's looking for some more excitement out of life ("I just wish something would happen... anything!") are out shooting their rifle and getting some sun when the the bored one finally gets his wish. They see a couple of guys burying a large box, dig it up and open it. Inside is an attractive, still-living blonde (Sijtske Vandenberg), so the duo decide to take her back to their house. Soon after, a bunch of "delicious women" and "their rugged girlfriends" show up armed with rifles, kidnap them and take them back to their hideout, threaten to brand them with a hot iron and keep them prisoner in a dark, cold room. The leader of the cult, Hesperia (Cindy Donlan), punches one of the guys out when he tries to leave and uses a trick gun to blow the head off an opponent during a duel. "Oh wow, man, her heads all gone." The females decide whether they want to sacrifice the guys or make them members of their commune, and decide on the latter, but first the men have to take the "test," which basically involves hanging by their arms and legs from a pole and having sex with two of the women.

Hesperia decides to let the men join because they need help fighting "the syndicate," who have stolen a suitcase full of platinum (?!) from them. The women also apparently make money transporting guns and bombs across the border. Jason starts liking the set-up and access to all the women, while Ralph wants to try to escape. Jason suspects that "Maybe their problem is they've been away from men too long" but actually, only a few of the women are actually sane, and one of them is conspiring to run off with a top secret nuclear weapon (!) once they steal it from a mob warehouse. The entire time some of the women (including one who practices witchcraft and another who may actually be a vampire) try to shoot, stab, strangle or hang the guys in scenes that I believe are supposed to be funny.

This movie has, bar none, the absolute worst acting I've ever seen in any film. In what may be a first, not a single line uttered in this film sounds believable. Not one. Even the worst actors out there usually have a moment here or there where what comes out of their mouth sounds somewhat natural and unaffected, but not here! It's difficult to tell whether the dialogue was dubbed in later or not, but much of it seems improvised on the spot and people are constantly stumbling over their lines; using frequent "uhhh"s to try to string sentences together. At one point, the comic relief chubby girl (who giggles uncontrollably and has a major crush on poor Ralph) mumbles "I mean, you know, I mean, I mean, it's awareness, you know what I mean? I mean, I mean, I know what life means. That's what, that's life." The plot makes about as much sense as that sentence, including the introduction of a barrel of toxic waste at the very end up which apparently transforms the worms into the size of hamsters (which we don't even get to see). One of the main characters ends up in a straight-jacket at a nuthouse and suddenly transforms into a vampire!

I suppose some might find this God awful film amusingly inept, but I got bored with it very quickly. The plot somehow manages to be thin and senseless at the same time, the dialogue is atrocious (and irritating), there's next to no violence and the frequent below-the-neck shots of T&A were clearly added to the film later on (they were shot on video and use the same actress over and over again) in an attempt to give viewers something worthwhile to look at. Fail.

Surprisingly enough, some of these actors did go on to do some other things. Both male leads and Vandenberg had already appeared in the barely-released mafia-themed crime/drama BITTER HARVEST (aka Naked In My Grave). Cartel also had a small role in the drive-in hit PETS (1973), Donlan was in SCHIZOID (1980) with Klaus Kinski and Valletta appeared in SOLE SURVIVOR (1982), which was supposedly the precursor to the later hit FINAL DESTINATION (2001), and the terrible shot-on-video slasher HOLLYWOOD'S NEW BLOOD (1988). Two of the cult members; Jody Lee Olhava and Karen Stride appeared in the bizarro sex comedy THREE WAY WEEKEND (filmed in 1978 and not released until years later). Stride also played one of the titular bloodsuckers in the horrible horror-comedy VAMPIRE HOOKERS (1978), with John Carradine.

Most interesting of all is Georgia Durante, who started out as a model, went on to create her own stunt driving company in Hollywood, released the acclaimed autobiography The Company She Keeps and now works as an anti-domestic violence advocate and motivational speaker. Interestingly, Durante herself was immersed in mob culture early in her life (she worked as a mob driver and was married to an abusive businessman with Syndicate ties). One wonders what hand she may have had in the mafia subplotting here.

Never released to DVD, this one has rightfully fallen off the map after its initial VHS release through All Seasons Entertainment.


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