Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dreamaniac (1986)

Directed by:
David DeCoteau

As a teenager, David DeCoteau was already working professionally in the movie business. He began as a production assistant on ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and the Corman production GALAXY OF TERROR (both 1981), worked on craft service for such films as Ken Russell's CRIMES OF PASSION (1984) and also did some sound editing under the alias "Richard Chasen." Somewhere in between he got involved in the adult film industry (using the name "David McCabe") and would have over a dozen (mostly-all-male) X-rated features under his belt before the age of 25. The gory supernatural slasher DREAMANIAC (1986) - backed by Charles Band and released through his company Empire Pictures - was DeCoteau's first foray into 'legitimate' films as a director. He produced the film and probably also wrote it using the name "Helen Robinson." It possesses all of the earmarks of a low-budget slasher film from a first time director from this era, including terrible dialogue, God awful acting, inept direction, sloppy continuity errors, cringe-inducing attempts at humor and a bare minimum of both plot and location change. The budget was just 60,000 dollars, it was shot-on-video and though technically abysmal all the way around, it's fairly entertaining because it's gory (far gorier than the other films I've seen from the director) and the 80s sensibilities are occasionally amusing.

The film opens as Adam (Thomas Bern) has a nightmare about walking down a red-lit hallway naked and encountering an evil (and naked) woman in a blood-filled bath. As it turns out, our young hero has been toying around with black magic and has somehow managed to summon up a seductive succubus named Lily (Sylvia Summers). Let me take a brief time out to comment on Adam. Considering the fact he's supposedly a Satanist metal musician, Adam is hilariously wholesome, clean-cut and mild-mannered. He's even decked out in glasses and a ... Def Leppard t-shirt. Adam has a "punk" girlfriend named Pat (Kim McKamy) who has a preppy, sorority-hopeful sister named Jodi (Lauren Peterson). For some reason Adam agrees to let Jodi host a party at his house for her snotty sorority sisters - including the extremely unpleasant and slutty Francis (Cynthia Crass), who has her sights set on Jodi's boyfriend Brad (Brad Laughlin). Pat makes hash brownies for the occasion. The guests show up. Then the succubus shows up. And then the guests start getting killed by the succubus. Some of the victims return to life as zombies to try to kill the others. The end.

One of the only distinctive things about DREAMANIAC is the amount of homoeroticism and male flesh on display. There are more male asses, shirtless guys and guys in briefs than in any other 80s slasher film I can think of. During an electrocution scene, the camera placement isa even at crotch level on a guy gyrating in his tighty-whities. Admittedly, it's pretty funny seeing the obviously gay cast trying to play it straight. I wouldn't be one bit surprised if most of these guys were transplants from DeCoteau's gay porn past and their acting is about on that level. Strangely enough, the only verifiable porn connection of the cast is with lead actress McKamy. After appearing in this, EVIL LAUGH (1986), LUNCH MEAT (1986) and DeCoteau's follow-up CREEPOZOIDS (1987), she'd become popular adult star Ashley Gere. McKamy/Gere is easily the most watchable of the actors on display here and thankfully she's given the most to do at the end as well. The rest of the cast is amateurish and/or insufferable (those valley girls about take the cake).

Originally released by Wizard on VHS in a large-side display case proclaiming it "Too gory for the silver screen!" The film did well enough to prompt more Band/DeCoteau efforts, including the cult classic SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA (1987), the fun sci-fi comedy DR. ALIEN (1989), the above average sequel PUPPET MASTER III: TOULON'S REVENGE (1991) and many others.


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