... aka: L'Amérique éclatée (The Exploded America)
... aka: Neon Red
... aka: Violenti e perversi (Violent and Perverse)
"Howard Winters" (Cecil Howard)
Filmed under the title Neon Red in 1988, this played a few film festivals four years later (the copyright date on the print is 1992) and wasn't released to home video in the U.S. until 1993, where it was pretty much ignored. It wasn't particularly well-distributed here in America but there were also video releases in Brazil, Italy, France, the UK and several other countries. This lays out its goal before our feet with an opening title card that says “Last year, murder claimed the lives of 912 people in Japan, 275 in Sweden, 411 in Australia, 1,102 in Great Britain... and 18,155 in the United States. God Bless America” Considering the U.S. still has one of the highest murder rates of all developed countries nearly thirty years after this was made, this kind of material is as relevant today as it was in 1988. However, violence in and of itself is really sketchy territory for a social commentary and brings upon the obligatory question “Is the movie violent or is it about violence?” Anyone can make an extremely violent movie and claim it's a condemnation of violence without really having anything else worthwhile to really say about it. Since Dead Boyz sets itself up at the beginning as a message movie, one has to at least partially judge it on what it promises. What, if anything, does this have to say about violence beyond the title cards?
John (David John), a weary Vietnam vet and aspiring writer with a much younger stripper girlfriend he can't relate to, opens the film with a brief monologue as he sits down at a typewriter: “This is America. They say it's free, it's safe... Who the fuck are they kidding?” We then cut to the Zenith Employment Agency where sleazebag agent Norman Brody (Daniel C. Mahar) is interviewing potential employees. His first client is Myra Kandinsky (Ruth Collins), a hot, voluptuous blonde with seemingly no employable skills who he decides to take a chance on because, well, she's a hot voluptuous blonde and he wants to get in her pants. High school drop out, budding artist and yo yo enthusiast Buzz (Jason Stein), shows up next only to get laughed out of the office when he brings in his portfolio full of cartoon drawings. Later that night, Buzz sees Myra out on the street and decides to get his revenge by ambushing her in an elevator, where she's raped, stabbed, strangled with a gold chain and then has a “Z” carved into her stomach.
When he's not busy destroying mannequins with a baseball bat while dressed in drag, sociopath Frankie Goosich (Brad Friedman), who prefers to be called “Goose,” is running around doing whatever will get him money, including (he claims) selling crack to 12 year olds. He returns home, ties up his mom ("Bad boys will burn in hell!") and raids her wallet. Goose then heads out and meets up with psycho Buzz and their apprehensive, fidgety friend Jo Jo (Daniel J. Johnson) and the three plot to pull off a “high rise rip” over Veteran's Day holiday weekend and break into a doctor's office where they think they can score all kinds of drugs and money. Meanwhile, idiot detectives O'Brien (Marc Macaulay) and Santini (Kurt Schwoebel) investigate Myra's rape / murder, which eventually leads them back to where the action is. But first they enjoy a nice casual lunch at a fancy restaurant while dozens die!
After getting into the high rise, the three thugs first raid a dentist's office, shoot the dentist and his secretary and torture one of the dental patients by drilling his face and yanking out his teeth. Then it's off to a publisher's office, where they rough up the publisher and beat and sexually assault his niece (who's set to be married in a few days) and her friend. Next up, they make it to the doctor's office and do about the same routine on the doctor and his secretary (who he's having an affair with) before getting their hands on the pharmacy keys and eating a bunch of pills. Penthouse Pet Delia Sheppard shows up as a patient in a distasteful bit where one of the thugs poses as a doctor, gets her to strip off her clothes, feels her up and then kills her and paints her face with blood. A few other characters pop up, like a drunken doorman (Ken Eaton, from FLESH EATING MOTHERS) who's always asleep on the job and a suicidal lawyer whose wife has just left him, and the punks eventually drag all of the survivors into the employment agency and start killing them off. John (the Vietnam vet / writer), who works there as a janitor, manages to survive having his head dunked into a bucket of cleaning fluid and attempts to save the day, but things don't turn out as one may expect.
There's war stock footage spliced in here and there, black comedy, some nudity, lots of blood, gore and violence, American flags all over the place and a very high body count. Performances range from very good (especially Friedman and Stein) to God awful but most of the cast at least appear to be trying. Others who pop up in small roles include Jennifer Delora as a chatty restaurant manager, Sheila Kennedy (a 1983 Penthouse Pet of the Year and later reality TV star) as the stripper girlfriend and Scott Baker (a regular in Chuck Vincent movies) as a cop.
However, I'm not really sure this has much of anything to really say about violence (psychologically, socially or otherwise) aside from sensationalizing it so it looks as bad as possible. I guess that could conceivably be the whole point, but it's not one that hasn't been tackled elsewhere numerous times before. Despite that and some tedious and amateurish spots, this is strangely enjoyable as an exploitation pic: gritty, fast-moving and always pretty entertaining. Once the action moves primarily to the employment agency in the final third, the film offers up one surprise after another and the whole thing is wrapped up in a completely unexpected (and darkly humorous) way.
For years this was believed to be the work of an unknown, one-time director but it turns out that the credited “Howard Winters” is actually the real name of Cecil Howard. Howard was one of the most respected porn directors of the 80s with releases like Scoundrels (1982), Firestorm (1984), Snake Eyes (1985) and Star Angel (1986), all of which were nominated for some of adult cinema's highest honors and were released through Howard's own company, Command Video. The production company behind this one was Command Cinema Corp., likely the more mainstream direction the director, who was out of porn for good around 1990, was trying to take his career. That started and ended right here.