April Fool’s Day

a cut above the rest

April Fool’s Day
aka Week-end de terreur
aka Die Horror-Party
aka A Noite das Brincadeiras Mortais
Director: Fred Walton
Released: 1986
Starring:
Deborah Foreman, Thomas F. Wilson, Griffin O’Neal, Mike Nomad, Deborah Goodrich, and Clayton Rohner
Running time: 83 minutes
Genre: slasher, comedy

It’s gotta be bloody unforgettable: Preparing for the arrival of her friends at her island home, Muffy St John (Deborah Foreman) prepares the house, happening upon an old jack-in-the-box in the basement. While opening it, she recalls receiving it as a birthday present, and how the little monster inside scared the bejeezus out of her while all the adults laughed.

Ready for some Spring Break, Muffy’s friends wait for the ferry to pick them up. The company includes the serious A-couple Kit (F13P2 Final Girl Amy Steel!) and her boyfriend Rob, sex maniac B-couple Nikki and Chaz, and Chaz’s BFF Arch. Unknown quantities are wetblanket shy girl Nan who does theatre with Muffy, the ambitious Hal who’d like nothing more than to make good with Muffy’s wealthy father, and Muffy’s fine-ass cousin Skip. On the ferry over, insta-buddies Skip and Arch smartly play a game that involves throwing knives (yes, exactly what your parents warned you NOT to do), but the fun and games take a turn for the worse when Skip takes a knife to the stomach and falls overboard. Rob and townie crewman Buck leap into the water to save Skip, only to discover that it was an elaborate prank involving a trick knife belt. After all, it’s April Fool’s Day! Oh, you kidders!

we got punk’d

But then as the ferry is arriving at the St John dock, Buck, who stays in the water attempting to hook the boat up from below, is crushed and horribly maimed between the ferry and the dock. He’s carted off to the hospital by the ferryman, screaming imprecations at the group, who are also roundly chewed out by the local constabulary, who warns them not to leave the island until the matter is sorted out. Suitably chastened, they repair to Muffy’s secluded mansion.

The girls talk sex while heating up beans n’ franks for dinner, and the boys goof around outside, but Skip stews over the accident and Buck. At dinner, Nan is mortified by sitting on a whoopie cushion, while Arch is somersaulted by his trick chair. Nan drippily offers a toast in appreciation of college chums, only to be outshone by Muffy, who quotes Boswell’s Life of Johnson. (You really cannot go wrong with Dr Johnson or Boswell, kids.) A touching moment. As the guests raise their glasses to their hostess, Muffy looks on smirking, enjoying the wine dribbling down everyone’s chins. “April Fool,” she says archly. That isn’t the end of the gags, though. As everyone settles in for the evening, each room’s occupant stumbles upon more yet more pranks. Some of the pranks are innocuous–exploding cigars, trick faucets, lights that won’t turn off–but others seem aimed at dark secrets: clippings about questionable deaths, drug paraphernalia, S&M gear, and more.

hey, biff, your mcfly is open and we can see your flux capacitor

Even Muffy seems off-kilter when they come down in the morning, looking unusually frowzy and acting totally out of it. Despite the previous night’s minor contretemps, everyone spends the day relaxing and trying to enjoy their vacation. At least until Kit and Rob sneak off to the boathouse for some nookie, and catch a glimpse of what appears to be Skip’s body floating past. Rob, Chaz, and Arch investigate and find Skip’s trick knife covered in blood, and speculating on a connection to Buck’s accident, the three split up, intending to search for either Skip or the possible maniac. Only, Arch doesn’t come back.

Reassuringly, Muffy offers to make tea, because that’s definitely what’s needed in times like these. Discovering that the water main is broken, Nikki and Hal go out to the well where they discover Arch’s head and Nan’s body and flip their shit. When the constable calls that evening, he assures them that he’s been with Buck all day, but that he’s on his way to the island with some important information. While they wait, the group battens down the hatches, locking doors and windows. Everyone but Muffy hangs tight in the den, where they speculate on how odd Muffy’s been acting–and looking. As they discuss the pranks from the night before, tempers flare and suspicions are raised.

What exactly is going on at the St John house, and will anyone survive?

“april fool”

An essential lack of seriousness: Despite initial low returns at the box office (due in large part to a crap advertising campaign), April Fool’s Day ended up a cult classic due to success as a staple on late-night television and as a video rental. It is a perfect blend of comedy and horror featuring a quintessentially ’80s cast, and directed by Fred Walton who helped kick the whole slasher craze off with ’79s When a Stranger Calls. It’s a lighthearted mid ’80s slasher that manages to pay homage to the antecedents of the genre while epitomizing the decade in which it was made.

Bill: Writing reviews in the two person format we’ve chosen here at PB&G can sometimes be a pain.  With a single voiced review, you can just bang it out whenever you feel like it, but with a partner, you sometimes find yourself hostage to your “co-anchor’s” schedule, health, even mood, and sometimes your desire to crank one out gets stomped on by your 2nd voice’s (my) laziness.  Such was the case with last week’s review of French Sex Murders. I slacked off and we didn’t finish on time. Because of that and because I love April Fool’s Day, I figured I’d surprise Fisty by having this review all primed, synopsis written, and ready to go, so we could turn this mother out  and start on our next, The Initiation of Sarah. …but I got sidetracked. By the time I was ready, she’d already done most of the work and been waiting on me. My response upon seeing this, being as I’m a jerk, was not, “Wow! You’ve been busy. Good work. Let’s get into this.” It was, “Aw. You already did the synopsis for AFD. I was going to do that.” Now, since Fisty isn’t talking to me (this has happened before – it’s temporary) and this review has to be done by tomorrow, I get to review April Fool’s Day all by myself. Prepare to be underwhelmed!

dramatic recreation of the results of two-person format reviewing

First thing I want to talk about is the cast. As our crew of possible killers and would be victims arrives, ready to ship on out to friend Muffy’s island for the week, you’ll notice a lot of faces that any child of the ’80s will recognize. Ginny from Friday the 13th Part 2, Larry the narcoleptic male stripper from Summer School, Biff motherfucking Tannen, the wholesome girl from the S&M scene in Waxwork, um … the boyfriend from I, Madman … and … others. I wish Fisty were here. She’d love to talk about these folks and their ’80s pedigree.

Fisty: Mr Passive Aggressive, you forgot to mention the hot, popular girl in Just One of the Guys AND Rick, the made-over nerd into cool dude also from Just One of the Guys! Plus Stu Charno, from BOTH Friday the 13th Part II AND Just One of the Guys! And last, but certainly not least, that truly dazzling Julie chick from Valley Girl! Totally trippindicular fer sher!

Bill:Fisty! I am NOT passive aggressive. And I’m pretty sure the Julie girl from Valley Girl is the sweet girl from Waxwork, but I’ve still never seen Valley Girl, so… Hey, did you know the guy that played Buck was in Jason Lives? He was the stunt coordinator on that, too. That movie ties with The Final Chapter for my favorite Friday the 13th movie.

Fisty: BILL! Yes! I know that! Actually, he’s also Thornton in Jason Lives, which is why he’s got his own category. Nyah. That’s how we roll here, by the way; we have categories for every actor, director, sometimes FX or composers or writers, that you might possibly find in another movie we might conceivably write about one day.

but where is paul?

On topic, this movie is chock-a-block with familiar faces from myriad other classics of the Eighties, which is one of the reasons it’s so fun. Even Aristotle would agree. Also agreeable in that they satisfy certain expectations are the genre conventions that April Fool’s Day upholds, then transposes. Like gialli before it, AFD takes a murder mystery–in this case, one of the ur-mysteries, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None–and applies the slasher formula, slowly picking off pretty young things in inventive ways.

Bill: AFD is a lot closer to its gialli forebears than most slashers. In ways I think it resembles Bay of Blood even more than Friday the 13th does, with all the mystery and talk of inheritance, the possibility of sinister local boatmen, the missing bodies, scheming for money (by Hal), and the wooded setting. It even slightly resembles 5 Dolls for an August Moon, even if that is mainly due to the island setting and the healthy sense of humor. I love that it feels so akin to a giallo or straight up mystery.

a bay of blood?

I also love that it’s successful at being damn funny (that sense of humor I just mentioned.) Chaz and Arch are the primary funny men, and they are great as the class clown types. The girls’ sex quiz talk is genuinely funny, too, but Muffy’s pranks, childish as they are, are the best. Whether it’s dribble glasses, whoopee cushions, trick chairs, rigged faucets, whack-a-mole lighting or whatever, it all gets at least a smile. Most of these actors have had some comedic experience as well, and they know how to sell the sense of merriment you feel whenever you see someone get gotten. It really makes the first half of the film super fun to watch. It also creates a sense of total uncertainty. From the very beginning of the movie, everything is a joke. You’re never quite sure when something is real or just another trick. When the mischief begins to darken to the point of upsetting people, you don’t know if you’re seeing actual clues to the real mystery, genuine malice, or just more jokesterism going a bit too far. This carries on through the whole film, so that even in the very last moments, you can’t be sure where things will go.

Fisty: Walton creates and sustain tension beautifully throughout the movie, right from the beginning, which has a “found footage” feel. Perhaps this is a metamodernist interpretation (since Cannibal Holocaust was really the only such genre film before it), but Chaz’s video footage gives the feeling that it’s the only surviving testament to their weekend, that perhaps no one survived. And that’s from the very first frame! The creepy boatman that Bill mentioned, the accident, the isolated setting, and the possibly malicious pranks–Walton harps on all of them to keep heightening the tension, and then lessens it with moments of good humor and gregariousness as the narrative rolls on. By the time people really start disappearing, the mood is well-established, and Walton never lets it up right until the finale. But he couldn’t do any of it without the superstrong (mutant strong?) cast.

“hold me as only a mutant strong man can”

As noted above, pretty much everyone in the cast was a regular on the psychotronic scene by the time they hit AFD, and their combined experience–particularly in working together previously–lent a genuine camaraderie to their acting. The first part of AFD is very much an ensemble piece, depending on those actors to create likeable, real people, and they get it right. As does Walton’s direction, and even more, Danilo Bach’s script, of course. Though they’re all spoiled preppies–they (mostly) attend Vassar, and Muffy OWNS an ISLAND, for crying out loud–they’re still not just walking, talking stereotypes, nor do we get Twenty Minutes with Jerks. They’re just ordinary, if over-privileged, young people, concerned with their nearing entry into the post-collegiate adult world, with very real concerns like career-planning, “what will I do with my life” nerves, and whether to do anal or group sex. This weekend, they might have their choice.

Now, I don’t know anything about Bach, other than that he also wrote Beverly Hills Cop, and it makes me curious about his agenda with AFD. Because seriously, there is no other pre-Scream slasher that has anywhere near as much gay subtext as does AFD. It’s not even all subtext; we’ve got the subliminal, the liminal, and the superliminal! So we’ve got Vassar students–a college renowned for its resistance to heteronormativity–and we’ve got at least three men who are very comfortable playing dual roles with their sexuality. Chaz plays bottom to Nikki’s top and camps it up with his New Wave look. Arch, despite vowing to bed multiple women over the course of the weekend, also indulges in a lot of mincing, and is comfortable rolling around on a bed with not only his BFF Chaz, but gets up close and personal with Skip, whom he’s only just met.

heteronormative

Rob is kind of a nonentity, but he does like to prance around in half-shirts and short-shorts, displaying his wares for men and women alike. With the women, we have first Kit, who like Rob is the control, though she is fond of mannish attire (contrasting with his slutty togs?). Next we have Nikki, a mostly confident and sexually adventurous young woman, who is comfortable experimenting though she might sometimes feel insecure. And then there are Muffy and Nan, our Vassar theatre girls. There is definitely something going one with those two; not only is Nan completely out of place with the group, she’s also unreasonably upset when she thinks Muffy may have betrayed her secret. Her toast celebrating the particular importance of college friends seems to hint at the particular importance Muffy has for her, and notice her role at the end? Very telling! My interpretationof their relationship casts Nan in the role of Serious Sapphist, maybe new to it, but sprung on Muffy, while Muffy is a bit of a playgirl–maybe she’s just experimenting, maybe she’s an honest to goodness bi Ethical Slut. Muffy is a bit of an odd fish, with her past with Biff Arch; contrast that with her interactions with Nan and Nikki, and she comes off as very much as smooth operator, a genuinely self-assured coquette, even a femme fatale of sorts. Deborah Foreman OWNS Muffy, and she OWNS this movie. Hats off to Amy Steel for another outstanding Final Girl, but it’s Foreman who gets the standing ovation here. No other Val girl can touch her.

Bill: Speaking of homo-subtext, I really would’ve loved to see Muffy get it on with Nikki. Or even just see Nikki get her kit off. (See what I did there?) Man, Nikki was hot. There’s no nudity in AFD, however, and less gore than you’d expect, a certain boating accident’s victim being the main exception. Even the three – count ’em THREE! – severed heads aren’t particularly gruesome. Believe it or not, I’M NOT COMPLAINING! This a movie that doesn’t need any more red than it has, would, in fact, suffer by its inclusion. This is a movie that needs a bit of mystery to the kills for it to work. You have to be kind of uncertain about what happened and how. Is someone just missing or are they dead? Where did they go? Who startled them? Are they kidding? Is it just a joke or did something terrible happen? The less you know, the more tense it gets.

met her in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine

Charles Bernstein’s music adds to that intensity. He’s done plenty of horror scores before, for movies like The Entity, Cujo and, of course, A Nightmare on Elm Street, but there’s something different going on in the music for AFD. There’re no discordant sounds meant to disorient you. It’s not about some unrelenting chase theme or crazy stinger. It gets at you the most during calm, quiet scenes. It’s simple and serene. It sounds like secrets and childhood. It reminds me a little of the music from Poltergeist, but even more so, it reminds me of the opening of Tales from the Darkside. It makes me feel like I did when I was a kid, when it was so easy to be scared.  It makes me think of the opening sequence of Darkside, where everything looked nice and sunny and pretty, but you knew there was something else, something you couldn’t see, that needed to be feared. I don’t know much about music, but I know when it’s effective and the music in April Fool’s Day really creeps me out.

So, we dig the cast, the music, the direction, the tone, the writing… What do we have to bitch about in this movie? I know the most common complaint thrown at it and I suppose we can address that after this…

SPOILER WARNING! SPOILER WARNING! SPOILER WARNING!

Do not read past this point unless you’ve seen the movie!

Fisty, what do you have to say about the people that hate the twist ending of April Fool’s Day?

Fisty: Well Bill, they’re fools. I’ll admit it, the very first time I saw AFD back in high school (after years of admiring the VHS cover), I was like, “Wait, WHAT?” I can understand the shock, really, I can. But any long-standing ire or complaint is completely unwarranted. It’s just so cleverly done, so much misdirection and hinting–with very few stretches of imagination–that you just have to applaud. And it’s so fucking funny, too. Kit’s reaction when she runs into the parlour, and everyone silently pretends to ignore her, is fucking priceless. It’s absolutely perfect. And poor Rob! Still locked in the pantry while Kit’s getting the lowdown, wailing and pounding on the walls–oh, I may just faint. Hilarious. Absolutely worth it.

oh, HA HA, that’s really funny, you guys

Bill: Damn right, they’re fools! I watched this A LOT when I was younger and I can’t really remember my very first reaction to the twist, but I imagine I must not have had a problem with it, since I went on to watch it so many more times. As it is now, I love it. It’s a slasher movie with a truly happy ending. How often does that happen? Everything about the reveal is perfect. Even better, Walton did such a great job of keeping you on your toes and questioning everything in the movie (even when you hear a dog howl in the dark, it turns out to be one of the guys getting drunk outside) that you doubt the happy ending. The denouement reveals everyone to be ok, it was all a big joke, they partied down and had a good time and, yet, you, as the viewer, can’t relax.  You’re still expecting something horrible at any moment. So great.

Fisty: And you do get a final jump scare, one of my favorites!

Now that we’re in Spoiler Town, let’s touch on how AFD handles those slasher tropes, shall we? Attractive young people: check. Any questions? Remote location: check. There’s no boat back to the mainland till Monday. Stalking victims into an And Then There Were None scenario: check. AFD is relentless and creepy about it. Nil authority figures: check. Our constable is the only one, and he’s only nominally involved, long enough to disappear. Bodies disappearing so that no one knows what happened to them: check. It’s essential to the plot.  Inventive deaths & Poetic Justice: check. We’ve got F13P2’s caught in a Looney Toons trap, Hall’s trussing, the Chaz bondage mask murder, and Skip’s being stabbed with his own prank knife all fit. Holiday theme: check. It’s the whole gimmick of the movie! Yes, yes, these qualities are all in line with what we expect from our slashers. What’s different?

As mentioned above, the characters aren’t two-dimensional assholes, and we’re not rooting for any of them to die. We also don’t have any expendables, people who wander onscreen long enough to die and show what a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day the Real victims are going to have. The Psychotic Evil Twin of Happy Birthday to Me and Blood Rage is inverted not only by being not a psychotic evil twin, but by being a fraternal twin, not Buffy but Muffy. And then there’s Death By Sex: Doesn’t happen. Yes, all of our characters are sexually active, but the first to “die” is the most morally upright and virginal-seeming, Nan. Darling Nikki is the last girl–barring our Final Girl–to go, and she and Chaz were getting it on all weekend. Our Final Girl Kit herself is a pretty ordinary, non-virgin type: monogamous, but not with the guy she lost it to, gregarious, happily participating in the sex quiz. She and Rob even sneak off for some midday booty without being impaled in the middle of it. The guys are all pretty similar; Arch and Hal are both intent on getting some, while Rob and Chaz actually are. Now if only the many slasher imitators had had the brains to be similarly original, then perhaps the slasher genre wouldn’t have peaked and devolved into self-parody quite so quickly, effectively murdering the horror genre for years.

THUS ENDETH THE SPOILERS! SPOILERS HAVE ENDED THUSLY!

You may resume reading. Or just go watch the movie and come back, jerk.

Bill:So, no real complaints about April Fool’s Day at all. It’s a solid flick. I’d put it right up there with Friday the 13th, The Burning and Halloween as one of the best. Do yourself a favor and watch it, if you haven’t already.

And thank you, Fisty, for forgiving me and being the consummate pro that you are. I couldn’t do this without you.

PSYCH! I got this shit, man. I got it by the ass! HAHAHAHAHAHA! April Fools, sucka!

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French Sex Murders

better than portuguese handjob assaults

Casa d’appuntamento
aka The French Sex Murders
aka Das Auge des Bösen
aka La brigada del inspector Bogart
aka Maison de rendez-vous
aka The Bogeyman and the French Murders
Director: Ferdinando Merighi
Released: 1972
Starring: Anita Ekberg, Rosalba Neri, Evelyne Kraft, Barbara Bouchet, Howard Vernon, and Robert Sacchi
Running time: 83 minutes
Genre: giallo, exploitation

It all began on the last day of Carnival: The silhouette of a man leaps from the Eiffel Tower! Cut to the base of the Tower, where a man dashes toward it from one direction, while several cars full of men and gendarmes pull up from assorted directions. Then HUMPHREY FREAKING BOGART jumps out of a car, and they all give chase up the Tower! Upon reaching the observation deck, the man/silhouette leap (again), and Bogey lights a cigarette, then looks pensively down. A noir-ish voiceover tells us when it all began …

Jewel thief Antoine leaves the scene of the crime to shower baubles on his favorite hooker, Francine (Bouchet), at Madame Colette’s House of Ill Repute. Unfortunately, the very concept of a hooker doesn’t seem to sit well with the deranged Antoine, and he smacks his bitch up upon realizing that she does indeed make the sex with other men. Antoine is clearly crazy and a dick. He absconds, and her body is found bludgeoned to death. It seems obvious that Antoine is the killer, and he is pursued accordingly by Bogey–sorry, Inspector Pontaine (Sacchi). Antoine goes to his ex-wife Marianne (Neri) for help, but she and her lover/manager Pepi want none of that, and the hapless schmuck is soon caught, protesting his innocence all the while. Upon his arrest and sentencing, Antoine vows revenge upon all those who helped to convict an innocent–albeit derange and woman-beating–man. To further his vendetta, Antoine escapes prison and flees, only to be decapitated in a grisly motorbike accident. His head is handed over to the creepy Dr Waldemar (Vernon) for some totally pointless “experiments,” and we’re briefly distracted by some intrigue between Waldemar’s assistant Roger and his daughter Leonora (Kraft) before the Inspector pronounces the case closed.

death stalks la ville-lumière

Everyone can rest easy now, right?

Since this is a exploitation murder mystery, no. People continue to die right and left, all with a connexion–sometimes so entirely tangential as to appear invisible–to Madame Colette’s House of Happy Endings. Who could the killer be? Is it the pipe-smoking Professor of Prostitution? A hooded Satanic cabal? The Killer Nun–err, Madame Colette–herself? Could it be sleazy Roger? Or even Boris Karloff–I mean, Doctor Waldemar? Who knows? Merighis sure doesn’t seem to! We will visit scene after scene, murder after muder, and the cast will drop like flies until someone realizes a murder mystery requires a killer–and all will be revealed, culminating in the final chase we … already saw. Twice.

Play it again, Samuele: Not all gialli were created equal, and French Sex Murders is one of the most disadvantaged orphans of the genre. It has none of the style or visual flair key to stars in the giallo firmament, nor any suspense, and not very much gore. The plot is more confused than convoluted, and makes even less sense than that of most gialli. But a cast that’s a virtual Who’s Who of Eurocult cinema, a swinging score by Bruno Nicolai, insane edits by Bruno Mattei, and the nonsensical gimmick of a Humphrey Bogart-lookalike make it a worthwhile diversion for the (very) tolerant fan.

when worlds collide

Bill: Remember that awesome scene in Point Break, when Johnny Utah is chasing a president through back yards and alleys and they’re leaping fences and throwing a dog around and it’s exciting and fast-paced and gets you all pumped? French Sex Murders starts off exactly like that scene, only it’s not awesome and it doesn’t have the same excitement and action or even a dog, but it does have some cops making a big deal of jumping over a chain that was so low they could’ve easily stepped over it. Oh, and Johnny Utah is Humphrey Bogart and the man in the president mask is a cartoon silhouette. Yes, Humphrey Bogart. Or, rather the man with Bogart’s face, Robert Sacchi. He’s not the only familiar face. Just as Point Break had an awesome cast of recognizable actors (at least to mainstream American audiences,) FSM’s cast, while maybe not the Eurosleaze all-star team, could definitely be the Eurosleaze all-stars B or C-team. This cast, the complete absurdity of the movie, and some laughably inept acting, however, are all the movie has going for it. French Sex Murders, I mean, not Point Break.

Fisty: I especially like the cast credits over the laissez-faire chase scene; excitement is created by all the infamous names flashing by, but not by the chase itself. It’s a very subtle way to distract viewers’ attentions from the many shortcomings of not only the opening scene, but the entire film. After all, one can coast on the pleasure of seeing Evelyne Kraft, Rosalba Neri, or Barbara Bouchet for quite a while–or Howard Vernon if that’s your bag.

"oh, nothing much. 'sup with you, girl?"

That amazing cast influences the wacky plot, too. Apparently, it was common practice to feature alternate edits–sometimes differing wildly–for different countries, often focusing on a star who was particularly popular in a given country. A cheap exploitation flick like French Sex Murders (I’ll never make an initialism of that title because I enjoy saying it too much) would milk that dodge for all it was worth, as you can see if you try to follow along with French Sex Murder‘s plot. The good folks at Mondo Macabro took practically every inch of footage from every version, stringing it all together in what is touted as the longest, most complete version of French Sex Murders ever distributed, but whether that creates any clarity in the storyline, I’ll leave as an exercise for your divertissement.

Basically, nothing in French Sex Murders makes much sense. I know, I know, you’re saying, “But Fisty, how often do gialli make sense?” Yes, yes, as a genre, gialli do not have a reputation for being sensical. With all the red herrings flying about like fish at the Pike Place Market, and the boobies, and the psychedelica and the camp, the gore and the boobies, the crazy visual style and editing tricks, well … the actual story can get lost. But most have at least a pretext of plot, and the greats have more. French Sex Murders is not one of those. Everything in it is a red herring for exploitation’s sake, until they decided to just wrap it up already.

i'm not crying, i'm wondering about tony. wondering where he could be, who he is with, what he's thinking, whether he's thinking of me, and whether he'll ever return someday.

Ordinarily, you’ve got some amateurs investigating a murder (or murders), hindered by the hilariously incompetent police force. French Sex Murders has no amateurs doing anything at all but wandering around living their varied lives: Leonora and Roger have their affair and worry over it, Marianne sings and worries over her cheatin’ man, Waldemar messily mashes up a sheep’s eye for no particular reason, etc. Inspector Fontaine wrapped up the case after Antoine died, so he’s really not doing a whole lot after that other than the occasional narration, other than looking uncannily like a cross between Bogey, Nixon (Bill: like in Point Break!,) and my ex Sean. Ugh. People die. This isn’t even really explained as subplots, because they’re just the faintest traces of such. It’s more like the bare bones of five different movies (read: familiar and/or pretty faces) are all tossed together haphazardly till they stick in a semblance of a story. Mostly, people die that you’re expecting to die, so there’s not a lot of tension because, well, you’re already expecting it. Occasionally, someone else of no apparent import dies. Even the murders themselves are pretty tame, too, with some laughable effects, so the payoff for waiting and watching is insignificant.

it's a sexy party at madame colette's!

Bill: Antoine’s escape from the law is possibly the most useless twist in the film. He’s captured and tried and sentenced to die by the guillotine, which, shockingly, France was still using until 1977. I looked it up. This all seems to happen in, like, a day, by the way, with the trial – a murder trial with no real witnesses and a man’s life on the line – lasting all of two minutes! Nice courts, dick. Anyway, he lays a curse of revenge on everyone that allowed an innocent woman-beating thief to be executed for Francine’s death. This is cool. An innocent man is put to death, swears revenge and people start dying. I can dig that, only, in the next scene, you’re being informed that he’s escaped. They don’t show you this happening. They tell you with a news report. One second he’s screaming about a curse and the next, he’s on the loose. Now the supposed killer is on the loose and ready to carry out his revenge for the beheading he escaped. Fine.  Not as good of a story, but I’m still down. Only, then, they cut to him running from the cops. He steals a motorcycle and we get a really shitty motorbike chase with the cops that ends with him getting in an accident and losing his head.

WHY?!

If they were going to cut off his head anyway, why not just do it with the guillotine? Why was this chase even necessary? All his escape did was lessen the impact of his curse rant, make for even more of a convoluted plot and pad the run time with boring scenes of Antoine riding a motorcycle. Did Dick Randall just show up on set one day and demand a motorbike chase? (Fisty: Yes.) Did they not have a kung fu professor handy to shoehorn in that day? “Hey, Merighi, someone’s letting me borrow a motorcycle, write it in.” I mean, I could at least understand it if Martellanza was the kind of actor you just wanted to see more of, but he’s not. He’s terrible! His dick-flappingly angry explosion of man on woman violence against Francine should have been upsetting, but he’s so outrageously bad that the scene becomes unintentionally hilarious.

pb&g does not condone woman-beating, ever. unless she's really uppity.

Fisty: As a card-carrying humorless feminist who likes to shriek, “Misogyny” whenever she gets the chance, I must say that it is amazing how woman-beating becomes high comedy in the hands of skilled artisans. I love that Merighi keeps Bouchet fully dressed while Antoine’s willy waves in the wind–and that Martellanza desperately tries to keep it covered. His performance is nothing short of uh, remarkable. French Sex Murders is full of moments like that.

Bill: Like when one girl is accosted and all but raped in the club, and Marianne and Pepi just watch. And when Pepi finally does step up to stop the guy, Marianne interprets it as a sign of infidelity! And seduction in French Sex Murders seems to boil down to snatching a bitch up by the arm, spinning her around and slamming faces together, busting her lips with your teeth. I am surprised everyone walked away with all their teeth intact. There really is a lot of crazy to laugh at in this flick. We did mention that, right? Every murder flashes over in rainbow colors, like some twisted Skittles commercial. The courtroom scene flashes to negative. At one point, while the aging judge is on the verge of collapsing, looking like he’s having a heart attack, Waldemar, the DOCTOR, just suggests he go home and have a shot of Cognac. Alcoholism is the BEST heart medicine!

But it’s Bogey that really takes the prize. Inspector Pontaine just has to be the wackiest thing in the whole movie. One of these things is not like the other. He feels like he was snatched out of a completely different movie and dropped into this. It’s like having a Ru Paul impersonator play Gary Busey’s part in Point Break.  Even his dialog is out of place, with lines like, “You run a tight ship, Pepi. Better keep it on an even keel.” He just does not fit in this movie. Whoever had the idea to cast Sacchi and use him like this (probably Randall) is either completely mental or a true visionary. Either way, the total nuttiness of French Sex Murders is the saving grace of an otherwise stupid giallo that, despite its cast, can’t even manage to be sexy.

Fisty: Whoa, whoa, WHOA. Brandy IS medicinal, Bill. And lest we forget as Dr Johnson said, “Claret is the drink for boys, port for men, but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” Clearly, Waldemar is a hero. Acting out a Donkey-Skin fantasy, but a hero nonetheless.

definitely not an oedipal reference

I want to get back to where you were going with sex and the French murders. Considering it’s a giallo set in part in a brothel (and ostensibly named for it), French Sex Murders isn’t seductive in the least. There isn’t much nudity or sex–comparatively speaking. Merighi also keeps the focus largely on male characters; though the camera does follow Marianne and Leonora around for a while, it’s content to chase others as well. It’s an interesting turnabout from a more usual female-centric giallo, where a woman is an integral part of a sleuthing duo, or the main character. Rather than dissecting the male gaze upon women as in films like Blood and Black Lace–or even Strip Nude for Your Killer–Merighi seems more interested in gazing upon males and their activities; women are only incidental. They’re on par with the hideous faux rococo knickknacks scattered around the sets to class up the place.

Bill: Ugh, I know. All that eye candy and no one bothers to take the wrappers off. Neri may be your girl, but I am all about Evelyne Kraft. She was stunning as Leonora, way hotter than stupid old Lori Petty was in Point Break. But sadly she isn’t given a whole lot to do in the movie and Roger can never seal the deal (not surprising, considering he pronounces Roger ROH-jhay,) so she never sheds her kit. The second half of the movie is a bit spicier, however, including the sex scene where we get to see Doris’ magnificent pit-crops hanging like the damp black hair on a pair of Japanese ghost girls’ heads. Typically underarm ‘fro on a girl is something I’d complain about, but here, it adds some extra hilarity to a sex scene that was already made pretty funny by her bearded hippy man’s lovemaking style. It kind of looks like he’s in a wrestling match that he can only win by climbing over her and licking her shoulder blade.

oh my god, i left the baby on the bus!

Fisty: I might venture that the main failing of French Sex Murders is that it doesn’t fetishize anything at all; not the blood or kills, not the mystery, not the women or even the sex (and if you can’t fetishize sex, what fun are you?). Even with all its myriad faults, look at how another purely exploitational giallo like  SN4YK worshipped its women; they were stunning and active–look at the camera’s love for Femi Benussi; she exists to be sexy and beautiful (which is likely sexist, but who doesn’t enjoy watching that woman walk? or move? or breathe?), her introductory scene is a paean to the confident and sexually liberated woman. There is no woman like that in French Sex Murders. And the sex is perfunctory, like they realized they were over halfway through the movie with barely any action, and so they threw in a sweaty sex scene.

With such flaws, can we still call it a giallo? Sure, why the hell not? It nominally features many genre conventions: Black-gloved killer, psychosexual motivation for the murders, murders that re-enact or compulsively repeat a trauma, camp fashion, incompetent cops, red herrings, casual sex, etc. We’ve got a ludicrous narrative, staccato editing, tacky settings, and performances that vacillate between labored and melodramatic, but we also have a film that is rarely dull due to its defiance of conventional (or good) filmmaking. Dick Randall (look for his cameo as a few-wearing sheikh!) et alia set out to make a campy and preposterous exploitation giallo, and they did just that.

If you’re looking for middle-brow Art or intelligence, you won’t find it in French Sex Murders. You won’t find much sexiness or style, either, or even blood, but you will find total absurdity.

Bill: It’s no Point Break, but it’s ok for a watch with some MST3K style ribbing.

they're all going to laugh at you

Frozen

on the rocks

Frozen
aka Muerte en la Montaña
Director: Adam Green
Released: 2010
Starring: Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers, Kane Hodder
Running time: 93 minutes
Genre: horror, survival horror

Worst case scenario: Longtime pals Dan and Joe, and Dan’s new girlfriend Parker, head up to the slopes of what are CLEARLY New England mountains and definitely NOT the Rockies, one Sunday to enjoy and afternoon of snowsports. Dan is teaching Parker to snowboard, while Joe prefers his skis to the faddish snowboards. They make a few runs, chitchat, grab some overpriced crappy snacks in the cafeteria, and head out for a final run before the slopes close for the week. An unfortunate coincidence leads to tragedy when they persuade (bribe) the lift operator to let them take one last, “wicked fast” run. Their guy is summoned by the boss, and in his haste, doesn’t make it clear that there are three riders still on their way up. When the replacement guy sees three skiers arrive at the bottom, he shuts down the lift and makes tracks, leaving Dan, Joe, and Parker alone, high above the ground, in an oncoming winter storm.

Their surety of being rescued slowly evaporates as first the lights go out, and then it grows colder and windier, and the horror of their situation begins to dawn on them: There’s a storm and the mountain will be closed until Friday. And no one knows they are up there.

going to mount blood, ain't ya?

It’s just a safety bar, it doesn’t really do anything: Green takes an excellent, naturally chilling scenario and creates a taut, anxiety-ridden survival thriller unfortunately weighed down by (mostly) mediocre performances, a little too much time, and one laughably silly element.

Fisty: Seriously, there are few sentences more frightening than “Nobody knows we’re here.”

Bill: What about, “He knows you’re alone?”

Fisty: Or, “The calls are coming from inside the house!”

But SERIOUSLY, survival horror is superscary. Any kind of survival theme like that, even a non-genre film like Alive! or 127 Hours, has a special element of terror to it … the thought that it could easily be you there. Trapped. Alone. It happened to DeWitt Finley. It happened to the Kim family. It nearly happened to Daryl Blake Jane. And Lifetime has made a cottage industry of movies based on real life in which couples reconcile after being trapped in life-threatening situations.

And that’s one of the strengths of Frozen, that Green captures the feelings of isolation and panic that are natural to such circumstances. Everything he does emphasizes the remoteness of the location, the height at which they dangle precariously, the cold and ice, the fear, the loneliness … . Brr!

objects on lift chairs are way higher than they appear

Bill: None of that would matter, however, had the movie been populated with assholes. Luckily, it isn’t. These characters are pretty likable. At the start of the film, you really do cringe and squirm a bit, knowing that things are not going to end well for these poor kids. Shawn Ashmore’s Joe, would, I suppose, be the “dick” of the three, except that he’s not. He’s a little jealous of his best friend’s girl, who is taking his pal away, but he does his best (even if he fails) to try to keep her from feeling like she’s intruding. And Parker, while she does want to spend time with Dan, is not some time-vacuuming bitchmonster. She doesn’t want to come between them at all, feels kind of guilty for even being there. The dynamics of their relationships all seem genuine and reasonable. Even when the stress levels soar and they snap at each other, they never drop too far into antagonism that they can’t recover and at least attempt to comfort one another. By the end of the movie, everything that you feared may happen has, plus some, and you do feel for the kids.

When the trailer was first released for Frozen, I thought it looked good and I had liked Hatchet, so I was excited for it. I shared the trailer online and got back responses like, “Bill, I’m sorry, but that looks dumb as shit. I’m gonna make a movie where a bunch of douchebags get locked on a roof with no escape for a week. Or a movie where a bunch of douchebags get trapped in a cave. Or a basement. Or a submarine.” And, “Douchebags + shitty script + dumbass naked teens and 20-something audience = Hollywood gold.” Well, guess what, motherfuckers, I was right and you all suck! These aren’t douchebag kids that do dumb white people stuff. They never really seemed like they were asking for trouble. Their dialog is believable, fun and even witty, at least until the shit hits the slopes and things get dark. That “douche+shit+naked” formula may apply to Hatchet (which was still fun) but it certainly doesn’t fit Frozen and a big hi-five to Green for being able to switch gears and deliver good flicks that are so completely different in tone.

no future?

How about, “Have you checked the children lately?”

Fisty: Nah, that one leaves me cold. Kind of like the characters. I have to disagree with you on them, because I didn’t care for them all that much. I didn’t actively DISLIKE them either, though, I did dislike how they were consistently being passive-aggressive  and manipulative all though the “getting to know you” opening third of the movie. Conning their way onto the lift sans tickets at the start, followed by a similar use of persuasion and bribery at the end (which of course led to their ultimate downfall) was stupid. Not only did it waste time–cutting out most of it, especially the opening con, would have considerably tightened the flick (who says a movie has to be ninety minutes–cut that shit!) and it’s already clear who these characters are without the lazy characterizations–but it also gave me reasons to dislike them as cheaters, and also implied a vague sort of morality. And this was a situation that called for no moral; it’s better that it just happens by chance. Terrible chance.

But! I will say that I (mostly) liked their interactions, despite passive-aggressive whinging. Shawn Ashmore particularly deserves a shout out for making his “dick” character truly likeable, a real person. I did kinda disapprove of him in some of his early behaviors and attitudes, but he was convincing enough that in the end, I liked him a great deal. I would have even rooted for him to get with Parker, but thankfully Green avoided unnecessarily bolstering his screenplay with any such nonsense. And Parker, too, was finely nuanced. Bell handled her uncertainty at charming the lift guy well, but unfortunately in later scenes she got too histrionic with her emoting and NEVER STOPPED. Though her monologue about her puppy was devastating. That poor puppy was all I could think about while these people were dying of exposure. Because I am THAT kind of dick.

really, we're okay kids

I’m also the kind of dick who will complain about other aspects of the movie, like THE FUCKING WOLVES. I’m resisting my urge to second-guess and nitpick everything the characters did after getting stranded (but I bet I would have gotten out), but WOLVES? Okay, not only are they totally (not) in New England (why DID Green do that? It would have been so much simpler to just have them in the Rockies, Sierra Nevadas, or Cascades), which isn’t really known for wolves, but wolves hardly hever hattack people. Like, super rarely. Wolves are nice! Didn’t he read Julie of the Wolves? Or Brother of the Wolves? Granted, they are surely more likely to attack an injured/crippled person like what’s his name, boring innocuous whipped dude … Dan! That’s it. But it would also surely take much longer for them to get up the courage to approach. Yeah, I’m calling shenanigans on that one. At least Green resisted putting in any antagonist outside of Nature, like some crazed killer or something supernatural. (Though I LOVE Wind Chill, which features people trapped in a car in the snow and menaced by Evil!) Really, even a mountain lion (sorry, catamount since they’re so totally in New England) or a bear would have made more sense. Bears eat people every damn day.

how dare green malign this noble animal who only wanted to help?

Bill: Aw, Parker and the boys were just trying to save money! I have gone to a concert without having tickets, expecting to get some from a scalper when I got there and I have snuck into attractions, switched from one theater to another and all that sort of thing. I wasn’t judging them and I don’t think behavior like that is too uncommon. And those wolves? They were totally being nice.  They can smell death and knew who would make it and who wouldn’t, so they Kevorkianed some mofos. It was totally out of compassion. … Ok, maybe not. I guess I do agree about the wolves. It would’ve been totally more believable to have cannibals or sasquatchi (plural of sasquatch!) find them and attack. So it isn’t a perfect flick. Damn you and your picking of nits! I want to stab you in the throat with your nit pick. (Not really.)

Oh, but  speaking of wounds… Those wolves were pretty savage, but the cold was way worse. I winced at all the frostbite and frozen digits and tearing, sloughing, freezer burnt skin. And fuck metal and gravity, for real. The batterings and breaking and punctures and shreddings… Oh, that hurts my parts!

shoulda gone to cancun

Wait for it … wait … How about, “They’re here!”

Fisty: Oh, you’re giving me chills, dude! I agree about the nastyliciousness, too. The horrors of Nature unleashed were nicely used, inducing shivers and winces all ’round. Though–no, I will not nitpick. And do you know why? Because despite some flaws, Frozen is extremely effective. Green takes an entirely possible situation, and plays it fairly straight, from the naturalistic dialog to the very real inherent dangers. I was positively RIDDLED with anxiety, and that’s a good thing. Especially effective are all the aerial shots of the cold, silent countryside, and the hapless victims dangling in their precarious position. It’s minimal, as such a simple scenario should be, and solidly suspenseful.  Though Frozen is no masterpiece,  it is capably done and diverting, and I can’t not recommend it.

What about, “This was no boating accident?”

dude, double rainbow!

Bill: Meh, but it reminds me of the blurb on the poster. Can we please get past the Jaws/swimming thing already? It’s been thirty-five years. Find a new comparison.

It will do for skiing what … The Dark Knight did for district attorneying!
Titanic did for taking cruises in the North Atlantic!
Inglourious Basterds did for being a Nazi!
Lord of the Rings did for putting on rings that turn you invisible!

Frozen does for skiing what Friday the 13th did for going to camp!

We have options!

Hey, Fisty…

“We all float down here.”

so totally new england

Leprechaun in the Hood

who stole me luc--oh, fuck it

Leprechaun In the Hood
aka Leprechaun 5: Leprechaun in the Hood
Director: Rob Spera
Released: 2000
Starring: Warwick Davis, Ice-T, Anthony Montgomery, Rashaan Nall, Redd Grant
Running Time: 90 minutes
Genre: Horror comedy

Fantastic voyage: Polyester, funk, pimpin’ as a lifestyle, platform shoes and bra-less disco titty freakouts… It’s the ’70s! Mack Daddy O’Nassas (Ice-T) and his lesser befro’d lackey, Slug, (no doubt using a sledgehammer stored in Mack Daddy’s spectacular T.A.R.D.I.S. of ‘fros) are smashing through a cemented-over opening in an old subway tunnel, following rumors of gold. Breaking through a wall inside they find an ugly little statue with a pot of Lucky Charms gold, a magic flute and a funktastic medallion hanging around its neck. Mack takes the flute and instructs his goon to get the rest. Clearly having not seen Leprechaun 3, Slug takes the medallion from the statue, freeing the Leprechaun from his stony imprisonment, and getting an afro pick to the throat for this misstep. Slug’s death throes tip off Ice-T to the Lep’s menacing advance. He pulls a succession of weapons, mostly from his afro, but is repeatedly disarmed by the midget midas muthafucka’s magic.  With seconds to live, Mack hits a valve, blasting the Leprechaun with steam, knocking him back and thanks to a bit o’ luck (o’ the Irish?) the little beast falls on a board that launches the medallion into the air at just the right angle to bring it back down around his neck, sealing him in statue form once again.

midget midas motherfucker

Twenty years hence, the worst rap trio imaginable, positivity-affirming Postmaster P, sketchy Stray Bullet and the virginal, scienterifically genius Butch are down some equipment and on the hustle to replace it before a local rap battle. If they win, they could move on to Las Vegas and the big time, but with no money (and no talent) they have no chance. Enter: Big time pimp, criminal don, and record mogul, Mack Daddy O’Nassas!

Mack offers the boyz a shot at fame if they drop their positive message and take on a more gangsta image, but Post’s reluctance pisses him off. He throws them out, rescinding his offer and insulting them and leaving them no choice but to turn criminal to further their career (which is better than playing fake gangsta, apparently.) They come back that night and break into Mack Daddy’s office, expecting him to be out partying all night, and are surprised when he walks in on them mid-burglary. In the confusion, Ice-T gets capped by a startled Postmaster P. The fellas gather up the Lucky Charms gold, including the flute and the medallion, kept like a trophy on the stone leprechaun in a display case in the office, and flee. They use the Lucky Charms gold to fund their rap aspirations as P learns about the powers of the flute. Unknown to them, they freed the Leprechaun and Mack Daddy O’Nassas isn’t dead and both of them are now after the trio, wanting the magic flute, the only thing that makes their rap palatable and their dreams of livin’ large attainable.

did we mention the demonic fly girls?

The Lep is the real O.G.: More entertaining than it has any right to be as a straight-to-video blaxploitation offering in the demented Leprechaun franchise, Leprechaun in the Hood features adequate performances and effects, and just the sort of self-aware humor you might expect from its title, as well as the least necessary top-billing cameo of all time.

Just in time for the celebration of all things ersatz-Irish with St Paddy’s Day, here’s Leprechaun in the Hood!

Bill: I love hood flicks. When I was an urban youth in the ’90s, it was practically required of me to watch Colors, Boyz n the Hood, New Jack City, Juice, South Central, Menace II Society, Strapped, Friday… Hell, even Poetic Justice and Jason’s Lyric (or Jason Lyrics as I’ve heard it called quite a few times) were must-watch movies.  Naturally, since I was already a horror nut, when they started making horrorthemed hood flicks like Tales from the Hood and Def by Temptation, I was a big fan of those, too. It might be mostly be that I love genre mash-ups. Weird Westerns, weird war tales, sci-fi horror and horror comedies are all some of my favorites. It’s also at least partially because they remind me of the Blaxploitation horror movies I would watch when I was little. Films like Scream, Blacula, Scream, Blackenstein and JD’s Revenge would play on the local stations here when I was little. They would never play any other Blaxploitation titles that I can recall, only the horror ones, so I didn’t even realize that they were part of a whole ‘nother subgenre of films. To me, they were just like any other horror film, only with a slightly different flavor, something to make them stand out in my memory. I dug them for being different and hood horror, being the successor to Blaxploitation horror, taps the same vein those memories run through and wind up occupying the same space in my heart.

nod to the 70s

That being the case, it isn’t surprising that I liked Leprechaun in the Hood. It’s a superbly made, well-acted, and sometimes touching lesson about greed and the desire for fame corrupting even the most noble souls. This lesson resonates even more strongly now, in the age of celeb-reality television than it did when the movie was made ten years ago. It’s also taut and suspenseful and full of twists that you will never see coming. It’s hard to think of anything bad to say about this movie at all.

Fisty: I really do not feel qualified to interrupt Billy’s paean to hood horror, but he says it’s my turn to talk. Uh … my experience growing up was really the converse of Bill’s: I grew up in Hawai’i, where there really are no black people (seriously, some sources say the population is 2.5% and other have it clocking in at barely a half a percent), and had little to no exposure to blaxploitation or urban films. I had no idea they even existed till I picked up a novelization of Shaft at a garage sale when I was in intermediate school (which I lent my elder sister and she subsequently lost, damn her eyes). Now, chanbara and kung fu, that’s a totally different story–but irrelevant today.

Bill: Yes, yes, yes, but what about THIS movie?

ready to slowdance in your gloryhole

Fisty: This movie is a piece of shit, storywise. “Superbly made?” “Taut and suspenseful and full of twists that you will never see coming?” My ass. Screenwriters Doug Hall and Jon Huffman rely heavily on hood stereotypes like the Korean storekeeper, and on the “humorous” situation of non-black folks trying to jive-talk, like the record label rep, and of course that fucking Leprechaun. Also, our protagonists were pretty shittily written,though the actors inhabiting them were good, the characters themselves were pretty uninteresting; what is there really to like about people who suck so bad they have to resort to (stolen) magic to be successful? Or is that some kind of stupid moral? Wait, it can’t be, because the tired “twist” ending was really … well, I won’t ruin it for anyone. But umm, it was crappy.

That being said, I have a really low tolerance for low-budget, straight-to-video movies that suck, and I will admit I fully expected Leprechaun in the Hood to be one and to totally blow chunks, but it surprised me. Anthony Montgomery, Rashaan Nall, and Redd Grant turn in some excellent performances as the truly terrible trio of Postmaster P, Stray Bullet and Butch (wait, did they ever actually say the name of their act? WTF), and all the supporting actors (even Ice-T, who is honestly awful in everything) were damn fine, too, with special mention for Dan Martin as Jackie Dee. Even the humor was actually funny (in context), except when they’d get carried away with urbanizing the Leprechaun (“A friend with weed is a friend indeed?” “You must be trippin’?–fuck you, Leprechaun.)

what this movie's better on

Really, the production values in general were impressive, comparatively speaking, and I found myself reasonably amused throughout the whole thing–though it would have been better ON WEED–barring the Leprechaun’s rap finale, which was mortifying.

Bill: I was kidding! The movie is terrible! There’s no suspense at all! It’s full of silly plot holes like the Leprechaun summoning his Zombie Fly Girl to free him, when judging by the way he just popped out of his prison, he never actually needed to wait for her. The “urbanization” of the un-hip for laughs, like you said, is lame. It’s a hack bit and wasn’t funny when it was new, and the closing “rap” and the accompanying dance number is cringe-worthy. And why were all the “Fly Girls” white?! There was, like, one black girl! The club scenes showed the budget way more than I’d’ve liked, but lame club scenes are a pet peeve of mine.  There is some gore, but it’s mostly unimaginative.  Just some squibs mostly, with the exception of a great torso fist fuck and a nice gaping body cavity. It lacks in  comparison to some of the other Leprechaun movies (like the pot of Lucky Charms gold in the stomach from Part 2) and the similar Wishmaster movies. That little guy can do anything, so why limit him to straight-up, conventional physical violence? Though, I dug the hair pick in the throat. I just love the idea of a man being killed with his own afro pick.

mama said there'd be days like this

I stand by what I said about the plot twists, however. They are unexpected, even if they’re totally ridiculous. I mean, who saw that last reel transvestism coming?! Oh,  and HOW DARE YOU say that Ice-T always sucks?! Surviving the Game? Johnny Mnemonic? TANK GIRL?!

Despite the shitty, I really did enjoy LitH. I genuinely liked Post and Butch and even Stray. Butch even more than the others. Poor virgin science dork Butch with his chemicals, flashlight glasses, and Leprechauns for Dummies book. “Not in a dress … Do you think there’s pussy in heaven?” I liked that they were losers that had to use a magic flute to get ahead. If this movie was made now, instead of 10 or 11 years ago, I would absolutely say that the flute was a metaphor for auto-tune or other studio tinkering of vocals. It’s a neat reversal of reality that these losers could win anyone’s approval with a stage performance, but the sound of the flute couldn’t be duplicated with electronic equipment. They were funny, too. I laughed aloud very shrilly at their religious rap and at a few of the silly lines they dropped. I didn’t even mind most of the leprechaun’s blackifacations and got a nice chuckle at his shout out to MLK Jr with “Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last,” upon being released from his stone form.

criss cross'll make him ...

Fisty: Well, you are a better man than I, brother. Also, technically auto-tune WAS being used a decade ago. Only then it was used to make talentless somebodies listenable, and now it’s an effect, a total gimmick (though yes, it still masks imperfections. Refer to Jay-Z’s “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),” if you please. Which kind of does make this movie a total metaphor for the music industry. Huh.

Speaking of the music industry, I love that Coolio is listed as a “co-star” in LitH, when he appears in it for all of eight seconds. I counted. There is seriously no point to his being there, he doesn’t even speak, just looks confused. I suppose he’s in it just so they can say, “Starring Coolio!” but it’s so silly. Postmaster P even calls it out, saying, “Yo, that’s Coolio!” Why, thank you for noticing, young man. In the movie that is MY life, he was even on screen longer than eight seconds. (We were having late-night happy hour at my favorite dim sum place, Wong’s King when my husband looked at a guy walking past and said, “Yo, that’s Coolio!” I said, “Baby, not every black man with stupid hair is Coolio. Why are you so racist?” But it actually was Coolio, having a post-show dinner in the next room; I won’t bore you with the details. But that interlude was LONGER THAN HIS APPEARANCE IN THIS MOVIE. And since you’re not me, the time it took to read this paragraph was longer, too!)

even coolio doesn't know why he's there

Bill: Your life is so much more interesting than mine. Though, I do have Claudio Simonetti as a Farmville neighbor. I was never a big Coolio fan anyway. “Gangsta’s Paradise” is such trite shit. Boohoo, a gangsta’s life is so tragic that I have to use simplistic rhymes like see/me to make my cliche point. And that damn Michelle Pfeiffer movie … Blah! It’s piffle, a cushy suburbanite’s idea of ghetto tragedy. LitH isn’t any more authentic. It feels like it was made by white people that like hood movies for white people that like hood movies, like me. Whereas, the old blaxploitation horrors and Def by Temptation (my personal fave hood horror) were actually made to appeal to a black audience. Still, it’s not an un-fun movie. Not as good as any of Snoop’s entries into the subgenre or Def or even Tales from the Hood, but it’s for damn sure way more entertaining than Dangerous Minds.

Fisty: Talk about ersatz!

And look at how we only talked about the hood aspect of Leprechaun in the Hood, while the poor Irish were left out in the cold yet AGAIN. Thank god we have Saint Patrick’s Day to remind us of all the suffering the Irish have undergone since first arriving in this country.

at least it ain't a crackhead