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.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fatal Exposure (1989)

... aka: Mangled Alive

Directed by:
Peter B. Good

Most people who've seen their fair share of shot-on-video, direct-to-video horror cheapies from the 80s probably cringe at the thought of sitting through another. That goes double for anyone who's seen any that were released on the Tapeworm label, whose acquisitions were about as appealing as their company name. The acting in these things is almost always terrible and the writing and direction usually even worse. Couple that with extremely low production values and the sheer technical incompetence generally on display, and it's no wonder only a tiny niche audience who actually find enjoyment in these things exists. So I am pleased to report that Fatal Exposure managed to rise above the extremely low expectations I had initially set for it. Amongst all of the other shot-on-video efforts from this time, this perhaps comes closest to cutting it as an actual movie. It's reasonably well-made, has plenty of gore and nudity, a ridiculous, though very entertaining, storyline, some effective black comedy and lead actors with some charisma and talent. In the slasher subgenre, regardless of budget, this is also an above par offering.

A young couple (including ELVES star Julie Austin) are messing around in a car out in woods when they're attacked by a panty-hose-over-the-face psycho armed with an ice pick. The psycho responsible is Jack T. Rippington (Blake Bahner); the handsome and charming great grandson of infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper. Jack has just recently moved into one of those large old plantation homes in the small town of Prairieville, Alabama. His first visitors are Maggie Hopkins (Renee Cline) and her husband Jeff (Greg Wise), who pop in to welcome the newcomer to worship services at the town's church. Jack is working on a magazine article called "The Art of Death" and his attempts to photograph death scenes using mannequins just aren't working so he decides to draft his new visitors as models. Jeff is placed in a rack and gets his head lopped off, while his wife is tied to a chair and injected with acid. The death pictures end up capturing the realism Jack has been striving for because they are real. He then goes about recruiting other oblivious models to pose for him.

Aside from working on his project and killing various people, Jack is interested in meeting "the perfect woman" who will conceive a child to help carry on the legendary Rippington name. He drinks fresh human blood to stay sexually potent and asks each woman he runs across and is interested in three questions. 1. "Have there been times in your life when you've been obsessed with death and dying?" 2. "What do you think about when you hear the word blood?" and 3. "Have you ever thought about killing someone?" So far, none of the women have answered to his satisfaction. Jack disposes of the bodies in a crypt in an old cemetery where he doesn't think anyone will look and meets Erica (Ena Henderson), a pretty young woman with some edge to her, there. Not only does she have an interest in death and ghosts, but she's also kind of turned on by blood. Ding ding. We have a winner.

Jack begins dating Erica and even has her go into the big city to modeling agencies to help lure professional models back to his home. Of course the naive small town girl has no clue what Jack is up to or what she's doing and doesn't even realize he's already dismembered her suspicious best friend Gretchen (Joy Ovington) with an electric saw. Erica finds out she's pregnant. Jack's elated, but when Erica discovers what he's doing and tries to run off, he chokes her out and locks her up in his basement. He plans on keeping her prisoner there for seven months until she gives birth.

Aside from what's already been mentioned, there's an electrocution, a head blown off with a shotgun, a neck slashing, a stabbing with a shard of glass and other bloody moments. The best bits are a few acid meltdowns, including one where Jack spikes the dumb hick sheriff's (Marc Griggs) drink during a beer chugging competition. Pretty good makeup effects and a generous helping of female nudity helps things along. Bahner gives a competent performance in the lead role and it's no surprise he went on to do other things, though primarily in the direct-to-video arena. His character also narrates and even makes some asides directly to the camera. Lead actress Henderson is adorable and a decent little actress to boot so I'm surprised she only did one other film.

The director's name sounds like a pseudonym but it's not; he was born Peter Benson Good. His other credits include mostly camerwork, including shooting the classic exploitation flick JOHNNY FIRECLOUD (1975) and some of the FACES OF DEATH sequels.


1 comment:

Anthony Figueroa said...

I love this piece of schlock. One of the few good slashers from the very end of the 80s ("Intruder" is my favorite btw). This, to me, was more than watchable. Sure its Z-grade, B-movie trash cinema but I cant get enough of these types of movies. 80s slasher films truely are my passion. And damn Ill never forget this one. Why u ask? Cuz it was the first of "this kind" of movie I ever watched. Low bugdet, I mean. I musta been like 12 years old when I saw it on TV - if u can believe THAT, lol. By this time I had already seen a couple of the Halloween movies and a few modern, post-Scream 90s slashers and I was hooked on horror. It was October of what Im pretty sure was the year 2000, and I was browsing thru all the TV channels. I had no cable so the only good ones were 2-13, after that it was nothing but spanish language or korean programming, and independent TV stations. But somehow I stopped on channel 56 (KDOC-TV) and noticed they were running a month-long Halloween scarefest, and on this particular night they were showing this random, cheap-looking movie called "Fatal Exposure". I tuned in just in time to catch it from the beggining (pretty much), and when it was over I was like WTF did I just watch??? They actually left in all the gore and only censored the nudity. So it really stuck with me cuz like I said it was the first real NO budget slasher, hidden gem Id ever seen. I know u wrote this in 2013 but Im reading it in 2015 and I gotta say THANK YOU for such a great article. I never really forgot about this flick, but also never really bothered to look for it until I started getting back into 80s exploitation/splatter. Now Im really hoping some company like Shout! Favtory, Synapse, Olive Films, Arrow Video, Code Red releasing, etc., could find the original master copy and restore & release it on BLU-RAY! Anyway, thanks again for bringing back good bloody memories. Nice to know someone else knows about this movie. (U cant even find a VHS copy on eBay...smh)

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