Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)

... aka: Imp, The

Directed by:
David DeCoteau

Just like much of the music of the 80s, this is very enjoyable on a strictly camp / cheese level. It's all about knowing what you're getting yourself into. And if you don't know what you're getting yourself into with a film called Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, I'm sure a lot of things are lost on you. Naturally, this is a silly low-budget horror spoof not for the critical minded, but that just makes it all the more endearing and charming to the right kind of audience. One day, I really could see someone putting this little gem in a time capsule and sending it into space as a prime example of fighting back against 80s conservatism with pure, no-holds-barred exploitation. It never pretends to be otherwise. It never takes itself seriously. It is the perfect example of a film crafted by people who have their target audience in sight and don't want to let them down. And it was reasonably well made considering it cost around "90,000" dollars, which, with the prominence of digital video these days, actually isn't too shabby of a budget. This movie wasn't made to change the world, it was made to entertain. And that it does.

Taffy (Brinke Stevens) and Lisa (Michelle "McClellan" / Bauer) are sorority pledges at the mercy of blonde meanie Babs (the late Robin Stille of THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE fame), a future prison warden who gleefully subjects them to "institutionalized sadism" such as paddling their fannies and spraying whipped cream all over them (which of course then must be showered off). After a trio of nerds (Andras Jones, Hal Havins and John Wildman) are busted spying on the ladies, Babs forces them all to break into a shopping mall to steal a bowling trophy as part of their initiation rites, while she and a few of the other sisters (Kathi Obrecht and Carla Baron) keeps tabs on them using video monitors. There they encounter both foul-mouthed biker babe burglar Spider (Linnea Quigley, in one of her more amusing roles) and an evil, mischievous wish-granting Imp, with a LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS remake inspired "soul" voice, provided by "Dukey Flyswatter" / Michael D. Sonye. The imp traps everyone inside and proceeds to turn some of them into murderous beings, such as Bride of Frankenstein, a zombie and a killer dominatrix with one helluva paddle. Ah ha! It's great stuff. Really! It's totally infectious fun.

The #1 thing that draws people to this film - perhaps other than that wacky title - is the casting coup of Quigley, Stevens and Bauer (the three most popular American Scream Queens of their day) all in one film. You will read a lot of nasty and unfair things online about all three of these women. People will say they cannot act. Others will say they don't have talent outside of taking off their clothes. And some people even go so far as to blame them for "ruining" independent horror films. Sure, none of these ladies are Meryl Streep, but it's not like they're trying to act in Sophie's Choice either. They were most often hired to do campy, over-the-top T&A horror-comedies and gave fully-appropriate, over-the-top comedic performances in these films. Furthermore, anyone who has followed their careers know that each is capable of doing other kinds of roles in other kinds of films when they're hired to do so. You can watch SAVAGE STREETS (1984) to see Quigley give a credible performance as a deaf-mute high school student, or GRANDMA'S HOUSE (1989) to see Stevens giving an intense portrayal of a psycho mother, or DEMON WARP (1987) to see just how much Bauer enhances any film she's in by always giving 110 percent.

Another thing some people don't take into consideration is that the budgets and schedules on these films (many were made in less than a week) simply did not allow for multiple takes. On DeCoteau's follow-up feature NIGHTMARE SISTERS (1987), these actresses were doing 30 pages (!) of the script per day, were still able to create amusing characters and had to somehow glide their way through a 10-minute-long take without stumbling. That takes a talent that someone like, say, Julia Roberts, does not possess. Quigley, Stevens and Bauer got so much work not only because they were nice to look at, but because they were dependable and on point. Filmmakers knew they could rely on them to get the job done and do it with charm, a wink of the eye and genuine enthusiasm. They deserve more respect than what they get.

As for the director, this is certainly one of his better efforts, if not his very best. It's fun, upbeat, well-made and reasonably well-budgeted (Charles Band was the executive producer) for one of these things. Shame the same cannot be said for most of his other films. He's spent the last 15 or so years basically Xeroxing the same hot-guys-in-underwear template over and over again.

Some of the humor is embarrassingly dated; let's hope "Have a nice trip, see you next Fall!" never crops up in another film, but a surprising number of the gags still work. There are some amusing one-liners ("It's a shame we had to kill her... I really liked the outfit she had on" being a personal fav) and several great Quigley cat-fights. The entire scene where familiar character actor George 'Buck' Flower (billed as "C.D. Lafleur") - as the mall's hearing-impaired janitor - explains the origins of the Imp to Quigley and Jones is hilarious. Not too heavy on blood or gore, this does at least offer several decapitations (including someone bowling with a head!) and a few other bloody moments. There's also a car flip, clips from DREAMANIAC (1986) on a TV set and ample nudity provided by Stevens and Bauer.

Sorority Babes enjoyed a healthy run on late night cable in the late 80s into the mid 90s. It was a frequent fixture on the USA Network's Up All Night program, where it built up a small following. Now it's easy to find on DVD, which is nice to see. This kind of good-natured B-movie needs to break through to the next generation of fans. I grew up on this fluff and it truly does enrich your life in a unique way Hollywood never could.

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