Saturday, March 19, 2022

Raw Nerve (1991) [filmed in 1990]

... aka: Farligt sinne (Dangerous Mind)
... aka: Intuizioni mortali (Deadly Insights)
... aka: Kuoleman sirpaleet (Fragments of Death)
... aka: Nervos à Flor da Pele (Nerves on the Skin)
... aka: Premonition

Directed by:
David A. Prior

After losing their parents, adult children Jimmy and Gina Clayton (Ted Prior and Traci Lords) share a home. He's a minor league race car driver with conservative morals and financially supports the two of them. She's a smart, though slightly rebellious, 18-year-old high school senior who wears halter tops, skin-hugging miniskirts and high heels to class (well, she IS Traci Lords, after all) and has just been accepted into the Pre-Med program at the college of her choice. The two share a close bond, which actually comes off as a little TOO close as in borderline creepy incestuous close. He complements her on her looks and "great legs" while she tells him "You look hot!" Yikes. Jimmy is extremely overly protective of his kid sister, borderline paranoid she'll be led astray and expects her to live the same impossibly clean lifestyle he does. That means no dating, no sex, no drinking, no drugs and no sexy shoes. Fat chance. She is Traci Lords, after all. Jimmy's slovenly uncle, car mechanic Blake (Randall 'Tex' Cobb), who drinks beer for breakfast, belches constantly, doesn't appear to ever shower and has been married six times, informs him that Gina "needs to be out running around, getting laid..."

While out on the race track, Jimmy wrecks after getting an excruciating headache followed by a scary psychic vision of twin sisters being murdered by someone clad in black in a room of mirrors at a carnival. He's later able to confirm via a newspaper that these murders did indeed take place. And they're not the first either. So far the tally is six and a serial killer with a fetish for red high heels is on the loose. He's called "The Face Killer" by the press for his penchant for shooting women in the face. Police officers - led by Captain Gavin (Glenn Ford) and Lt. Bruce Ellis (Jan-Michael Vincent) - are already trying to crack the case.

Jimmy goes to the police station and offers to be of some assistance but when he informs Gavin of his visions he's understandably thrown right out. Thankfully, nosy investigative reporter Gloria Freedman (Sandahl Bergman) is at the station trying to get the scoop and overhears some of the conversation. She then invites Jimmy out for coffee to discuss things further. That leads to dinner at her place which leads to Jimmy finally loosening up a bit and jumping into bed with her on their very first date. Their budding relationship doesn't sit too well with Ellis, as he used to be married to Gloria and is still in love with her. Meanwhile, Gina and her friend Lori (Yvonne Stancil) go to a school dance, sneak outside to "smoke a doobie" and are accosted by the killer, who leaps out of a second story window with his shotgun and kills Lori. Gina, who passes out, is spared. For now, at least.

Police come up with a profile for the killer. A police psychologist believes he or she either suffers from multiple personality disorder and perhaps "a classic case of object-induced dream state psychotic dysfunction" (?!) Plugging the information they have thus far into their trusty computer, Jimmy is tagged as the most likely suspect in the killings. Further delving into his past, Ellis discovers Jimmy had an extremely traumatic childhood. Not only was he sexually abused by his own mother up into his early teen years but he also witnessed his father shoot their mother in the face before turning the gun on himself after he caught the two of them in bed together. Jimmy then spent three years at "the funny farm" to recover. But has he? Then again, Uncle Blake could be responsible. He's seen fondling a pair of red high heels in one scene and starts stalking and threatening Gloria. Or the killer could be an out-of-left-field choice. I'll never tell.

There's a deranged elderly lady who shows up at the police station filing false rape reports against her neighbors, a car chase that ends on top of a parking garage, a pretty good car wreck, a new wave band performing at the dance and a few skeevy family secrets revealed during the twist ending, which is probably responsible for this otherwise bloodless and sexless film getting an R rating. Otherwise it is surprisingly tame.

Despite Prior's reputation for making nothing but violent exploitative schlock (see also: Deadly Prey, KILLER WORKOUT), this one is actually competently made for a change and could easily pass for your average made-for-TV psychological thriller. Even though it's nice to see that the director could make a passable film that doesn't insult one's intelligent, the problem here is that the plot is simply too tired and unoriginal. While this is watchable, it's not nearly as memorable or entertaining as many of his other films, even if it's technically put together with more skill.

One of the biggest selling points is certainly the cast. In his final theatrical release, top-billed Ford looks bored as hell sitting behind a desk reciting colorless dialogue. Vincent, who appears to be drunk in all his scenes, gives an absolutely terrible performance which consists of barely-coherent mumbling and making simple lines of dialogue look physically painful to spit out. Surprisingly, Ted Prior proves to be a capable leading man here and Cobb can play this shady greaseball in his sleep; in fact he made a career of just that. Bringing much more to the table are the ladies. I always love me some Traci Lords and she looks very vibrant and beautiful here, plus creates a likable character with her limited screen time. I wasn't previously a big fan of Bergman's work outside of Conan, but she's really been winning me over here lately the more I've seen of her and makes for a very appealing female lead.

This was filmed around Mobile, Alabama and was given a very limited theatrical release by AIP in 1991, followed by a VHS release through the same company. As far as I know, all DVD and streaming releases are sourced from the video copy.

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