JUNE 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : DEVIL IN THE FLESH
If you can't get enough of bad girl Rose McGowan from her feature film appearances, you could try the low budget shocker Devil in the Flesh. We did, and it's tough to see why McGowan, who already had a couple of juicy roles under her belt, would agree to appear in such a routine thriller. This role is much more suited to a former child star trying to change her image, like Drew Barrymore in Poison Ivy or Alyssa Milano in Embrace of the Vampire. We're not sure what McGowan was trying to prove.
After her mother and her mother's boyfriend are killed in a suspicious house fire, Debbie Strand (McGowan) is sent to live with her grandmother. In typical trash movie fashion, the grandmother is a bible-thumping disciplinarian who is convinced that she can undo years of Debbie's presumed hedonism with some "correctional therapy." Meanwhile, at her new high school, Debbie develops a crush on one of her teachers, Mr. Rinaldi (Alex McArthur).
The driving force of the film is that Debbie, when faced with a challenge, is happy to meet it in the most violent manner possible. We began to wonder if her old high school offered an advanced class in body handling and disposal, because Debbie tears into the local population with a vengeance. First she gasses her grandmother's dog Bibi to death with bug spray ("Hasta la vista, Bibi"), then bludgeons Grandma to death with a bat, and when the local jock tries to get at her goodies, she impales him on a handy ski pole.
With the preliminaries out of the way, Debbie concentrates on her impression of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, with Mr. Rinaldi in the role of Michael Douglas. It's a tired plot with a tired cast, and the dialogue, especially McGowan's, offers little in the way of entertainment. You'll get a feel for the movie's sensibilities when we say that one of the high points is Debbie's murder of her grandmother, because the old bat is the only person in the film more unlikable than Debbie herself. (As Debbie puts it, "It's a family thing.")
Most insulting to the audience's intelligence is the last-minute analysis of Debbie's psyche, which tries to explain why she's such a nut. To which we say: we knew going into the movie that Rose McGowan was going to play a bitch -- that's what she's good at. Offering an excuse for her behavior, or trying to engender some sympathy towards the character, is not only beyond the point, it contradicts it.
If you're going to make a trashy movie like this, you should go all the way and embrace your trashiness. Devil in the Flesh is a good title, as it seems to promise nudity and overall nastiness, but the movie doesn't deliver. Rose McGowan never gets naked, which would have heightened the film's drama considerably, at least for us. (Unfortunately, it seems that she saves her full frontal nudity for Hollywood awards shows.) And as bad as Debbie is, she's got a long way to go before she takes command of Hell. Bottom line: not enough devil, not nearly enough flesh.