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.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Newlydeads, The (1987)

Directed by:
Joseph Merhi

A mysterious, tall, husky-voiced, hardbodied blonde named Jackie shows up at a lakeside hotel late one evening looking for a room. The owner, Lloyd Stone (Jim Williams), likes what he sees, and vice versa. Right as the two begin kissing, Lloyd goes to run his fingers through the sultry blonde's hair and ends up pulling the wig off a lusty transvestite instead. Lloyd snaps, tries to throw Jackie (Scott Kaske) out and, after being punched in the face and kicked in the groin during a scuffle, grabs an ice pick off of the counter and sinks into the side of his / her head. He throws the body in the lake and goes about his business. Fifteen years later, Lloyd's successful little hotel empire has expanded and he's set to marry the sultry Lynda (Roxanna Michaels), who looks about twenty years his junior. Right in the middle of his wedding ceremony, the undead-looking ghost of Jackie pops in long enough to inform him that "I'm not going to let you have anyone but me!" Why Jackie's ghost is obsessed about a not-very-good-looking middle-aged man he/she was around for about five minutes is anyone's guess. Lloyd doesn't heed the warning, goes through with his wedding and other guests start filing into the hotel soon after.

Most important amongst the guests is Kris (Jean Levine). Chris is a psychic and her husband Ron (Jay Richardson) would prefer her to use her powers in a more useful way: namely helping him make money. Kris is also one of strangest choices for a heroine in slasher flick history. She's middle-aged, loud, abrasive, bitchy, has a grating voice and is just extremely unlikable. After seeing Jackie's ghost outside the lodge, Kris demands they spend the night there. Amongst the other duos to show up to there are rednecks Blanche (Rebecca Barrington) and Bull (Michael Springer), who can't even wait to get to the hotel to start "balling" and just pull their car over to the side of the road, elderly couple Marilyn (Jean Lowry), who's hard of hearing and needs everything screamed at her, and Mathew (Dick Crawford) want to celebrate their second honeymoon, blonde hottie Brenda (Renee Way) and the geeky, scrawny Tim (Doug Jones) are celebrating their honeymoon and pot-smoking, rainbow-haired Aussie punk rocker Roger (Ron Preston) wants to propose to his girlfriend Sabina (Michelle Smith).

Their first night there, Kris informs her husband that "Someone is going to be murdered tonight!" and then hysterically (and hilariously!) starts shrieking and hyperventilating about someone breaking into their home. She tries to warn Lloyd, but he ignores her and returns to his room where his new brides awaits. Unfortunately, the honeymoon bliss is ruined when Lloyd tries to strangle Lynda after having visions of her turning into Jackie and biting out his tongue. Lynda promptly packs her bags and refuses to come back until Lloyd sells the place. Chris' premonition ends up coming true when Tim and Brenda are discovered dead the following day. For some reason that defies adequate explanation, Kris talks Lloyd into not contacting the police! Instead, he hides the corpses under the cover on a boat down at the docks. On her way out, Lynda is carjacked (!) by the ghost and has to return to the lodge. Jackie does the same routine she did before and tricks Lloyd into stabbing her to death in the shower. Kris pops in long enough to recommend they hide her body, too. When Ron goes into town to get help, he's stabbed through the throat in a public place which finally brings a pair of detectives to the lodge.

The last fifteen minutes or so consist of about ten people running around in the woods getting picked off by the laughing ghost. A maid runs into a saw and decapitates herself, a guy is accidentally blasted with a shotgun and there are a couple of impalements (on tree branches, with a cross, etc.)... and then it just sort of ends. After setting up what could be an adequate body count, only about half of the characters actually die, making us realize that most of these idiots serve no purpose whatsoever aside from eating up time. In fact, judging by what a huge, rushed mess the ending is I might venture to say that this wasn't even completed. During breaks in the horror, there are some lame attempts at comedy, such as a foul-mouthed, drunken, singing minister (Captain Mike) wandering around and the old couple playing Trivial Pursuit and her mistaking "fox" for "fuck."

I know this sounds pretty fun. A killer transvestite ghost is a cool idea and all but these folks pretty much just turned it into a tedious, inept bore. It's also a really ugly, cheap-looking film, with murky and often blurry photography. It appears to have been shot on video, but I'm not 100 percent sure about that. The funny song that open the film, a decent amount of female nudity and OK make-ups from Judy Yonemoto are all it has going for it. Still, this was the little acorn that helped grow Merhi and Richard Pepin's City Lights Distribution company, which specialized mostly in direct-to-video action flicks. The company was also responsible for EPITAPH (1987), FRESH KILL (1987), DEATH BY DIALOGUE (1988), HOLLOW GATE (1988) and some other genre films.

Troma handles the distribution these days and released it on a 3 DVD set along with Dead Dudes in the House (a re-title of THE HOUSE ON TOMBSTONE HILL) and SPACE ZOMBIE BINGO!! (1993).


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