OCTOBER 8 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1983)
Reviewed by Geno McGahee
A photographer, Adrian (Michael Callan), is having nightmares where he is killing the models that he takes pictures of, and his dreams are coming true. He doesn’t know if he is the killer or not, but he is seeing a psychologist to help him cope. Some of his dreams are so vivid and so accurate that he thinks that he must be the killer, but he won’t turn himself into the cops.
His brother BJ (James Stacey), is missing an arm and a leg, but still has charm with women. He doesn’t let the missing limbs stop him from making out with hot chicks…and his brother does incredibly well too. The brothers get the hottest chicks! Well, the photographer makes sense. They may benefit from sleeping with him, but the armless, legless, obnoxious bastard brother? I don’t get it.
I have to give the cinematographer and director (William Byron Hillman) a lot of credit. This movie was shot incredibly well and the reactions from the actors were a thing of beauty. I absolutely love overacting, and Michael Callan brought his A game when it came to this talent. In one dream sequence, he kills a girl and then talks to himself in the mirror, having multiple personalities. He takes a picture and shows warmth but another pictures sparks the anger and he calls all of the models “whores.” I watched it multiple times. It was hilarious.
Although this isn’t a full-fledged horror movie, it is a whodunit and there are plenty of suspects. There is the psychologist, gay friend (which was my pick), brother BJ, BJ’s girlfriend, and even the detectives could be involved…and the payoff at the end is decent. The killer is far from obvious and the film is very interesting and amusing from start to finish.
DOUBLE EXPOSURE is amusing more than anything else. If you enjoy over the top acting and a mystery, then this is your movie. It is a winner in my opinion, but then again, I’m a huge fan of overacting.
Scared Stiff Rating: 7/10.
OCTOBER 8 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1983)
A men's magazine photographer has vivid nightmares where he kills his models in gruesome ways and when his models start getting killed for real he begins to doubt his sanity. His one-armed and one-legged stunt man brother, hilarious 1980s gay stereotype assistant, useless psychiatrist, and totally out of his league girlfriend all lend their support. Meanwhile, typically ineffective 1980s cops run around wasting time and padding the length of the movie.
From the title alone you would expect this to be an 80s cop action movie, maybe with Steven Seagal in it. However you would be wrong. Instead it's a sort of serial killer stalker movie, like a cleaned up version of Maniac or a (much) less bleak version of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. And while not nearly as good as either of those horror classics, Double Exposure is surprisingly good and except for a telegraphed and awful twist ending is actually a very effective thriller.
Much of the success of this movie can be attributed to the portrayal of the photographer character. He's very well-written and acted, making for a surprisingly interesting character. He's got an interesting relationship with his brother and his assistant, and his awkward flirtation with the woman who ends up becoming his girlfriend is not something you usually see in a movie like this. When you get to the first scene where he murders a model it is generally unexpected and shocking, even though the movie cleverly plays with the idea well beforehand. When the gruesome nightmares start to become too much for him to handle, his breakdown is done very well.
It's almost an excellent movie. That is, until the end where you get the twist ending you've seen coming for an hour but have been hoping you're wrong. It's stupid and suddenly the movie is no better than any gritty murder movie from the era. Cut that out (and while you're at it, the pointless cop scenes that are just there because in a movie like this you need them) and you'd have a horror classic. With that in there, it's just good.
OCTOBER 8 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1983)
"To meet him, you'd think he was just an attractive, ordinary, nice kinda guy. But on arousal he was susceptible to the most appalling fantasies. Violent nightmares racked his sleeping hours with such intensity he began to suspect the things he imagined must be true. Neither the shrink, nor his amputee brother, nor the lovely Mindy were able to help. And the worst of it was, all the girls he ever dreamed he'd murdered were lying in the morgue ..."
"Are you trying to give me a neck massage?" - a hooker doesn't cotton on fast enough.
[review by Justin Kerswell]
Adrian Wild seems to have it all. He earns his living from taking pictures of beautiful women for a living, and all the models seem to find him irresistible. He's popular, considerate and kind. He even drives a fancy mobile home the size of a small ocean liner. Yes, Adrian seems to be living the life of Riley. There is, however, one small problem: he thinks he's cracking up big time and with a looney-tunes psycho killer on the prowl even his shrink is giving him sideways glances.
Adrian's mental breakdown is to a backdrop of murder and intrigue. A barely glimpsed assassin in natty brown leather gloves stalks the night, clasping a deadly ice pick, and is making short work of the female population of Los Angeles. What makes things worse for the photographer - and all the more intriguing (and in occasionally baffling) for the viewer - is the fact that he has mood swings so severe it's like violently shifting sands. It's the easy going Adrian who charms Mindy (Joanna Pettet) when he bumps into her in a lift, persuading her to come out on a dinner date with him. However, it's also this charming Adrian who at first puts a pretty model at ease during a photo shoot, where she is required to go into the deep end of a pool, even though she can't swim; he offers to help her stay buoyant by giving her the pool net handle to grab hold of. But, as soon as she's out of her depth his face changes and turns into a mask of swarthy hatred, as he pushes her below the surface and she drowns. ... The thing is it was all a dream. Adrian wakes, drenched in sweat. However, worryingly, these dreams seem all too vivid. He confides in his brother, B.J. (James Stacy), a car stunt driver who lost both an arm and a leg in an accident (the actor really did lose these limbs in a motorcycle crash back in 1969), that "It's getting to be with the dreams, I can't tell when they're real ...". His concerns seemed to be well founded, especially when the model he dreamt about murdering actually turns up floating face down in the pool for real ...
The two cops assigned to the case of the serial killer stalking LA, Sgt. Fontain (Pamela Hensley - who will be a familiar face to those that remember the popular early 80's TV series' BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY and MATT HOUSTON) and her partner Sgt. Buckhold (David Young), are called to examine the murder scene. They have a special interest in this case, as the killer stabbed a colleague of theirs (who was posing undercover in drag as a hooker) to death with an ice pick on Sunset Boulevard in the film's opening scene. After another model turns up dead, and they find empty canisters of camera film, they begin to put the pieces together. But will their sleuthing be quick enough to stop the killer? And are things really as clear cut as they seem?
DOUBLE EXPOSURE is that rare beast amongst early 80's slasher flicks, if not quite an original, it's certainly one of a kind - which is something to be commended in a subgenre that relies on conformity and repetition to keep itself afloat. However, this certain specialness is something of a mixed blessing. The film is a bundle of contradictions: by turn, gripping and then totally infuriating. The semi-linear narrative neatly mirrors the refractive nature of Adrian's fractured psyche, and it works particularly well in the first half of the movie, where dreams and reality are mixed up skillfully (it's not quite Elm Street, but this trickery doesn't outstay its welcome). Incidentally, the more supernaturally tinged atmospheric slasher flick, THE SLAYER (also from 1982), played similar tricks with that hazy, shape-shifting place between dreaming and reality. However, where DOUBLE EXPOSURE ultimately falls down is that this slightly psychedelic approach not only leads to much head scratching on the part of the audience, the film is missing a satisfactory and solid thriller denouement (more of which later).
Certainly, the performances are almost uniformly good - especially Pettet, who plays the long suffering love interest for who Adrian's desire waxes and wanes with alarming regularity (it's her that the audience identifies with most, as it's clear she doesn't have a clue what's going on for most of the running time either!). Michael Callan's intense performance as the troubled Adrian is a scenery chewing tour-de-force, as he manages to succeed in both the Jekyll and the Hyde character (although his saccharine sweet good guy is a little too nice at points, I kept expecting them to show him rescuing a kitten from a burning building or raising enough funds to do up the old folks ranch, or something). However, it is easy to see why the whole film has been dismissed as a bit of a ego-trip for Callan - unless beautiful women actually do prefer ruddy faced middle-aged men. Sally Kirkland (who slasher fans will best remember as the homicidal transsexual in FATAL GAMES (1983)) has a memorable, albeit brief, cameo as an unlucky streetwalker whose 'neck massage' goes a bit further than she had originally envisaged! Also, the fractious relationship between the two brothers is nicely done, the characters are certainly much more complex that the ones you'd usually find in the subgenre. It reminded me of the classic thrillers from the 70's like PLAY MISTY FOR ME. However, it'd be wrong to paint DOUBLE EXPOSURE as pure class, this is a prime exercise in grindhouse exploitation through and through - good production values (on a tight budget) and good performances certainly don't mask this. There's acres of naked female flesh and the gimmicky murders aplenty (one where a bubbly model is bitten to death by a rattlesnake placed in a plastic bag forced over her head is both ridiculous and disturbingly mean-spirited) .
Of course, the reason to stick with the film to the end is to find out what the hell has been going on. Obviously I wouldn't dream of revealing what happens here. Suffice to say that although the grand denouement isn't nearly over-the-top as, say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981), it is daft as the proverbial brush. The revelation of who the killer actually is will elicit a "oooh", at first; quickly followed by an "eh?"; and then followed by a slew of empties aimed squarely at the rolling credits - and, if you're anything like me, you'll be rewinding the tape looking back at the kill scenes and trying to put two and two together (and in the case of this flick making five). Put it this way, as far as logic goes the makers of DOUBLE EXPOSURE haven't got a leg to stand on! Cryptic enough for ya?
Still, credit where credit's due: DOUBLE EXPOSURE is, despite it's failings, a brave attempt to do something different in a subgenre that was, by the time it was filmed, all but mined out - and, for that reason, it's certainly worth seeking out.
OCTOBER 8 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : CRIME ZONE (1989)
Plot: In the totalitarian future city of Soleil, Bone, a security guard who has just been fired from his job, meets and falls in love with the prostitute Helen. A stranger Jason offers to get the two of them to freedom in the neighbouring democratic city of Frodan if they conduct a series of armed robberies for him. They agree but things go wrong and they instead end up hunted as fugitives by the police. Captured, they discover that Jason is in fact the city’s police chief – he has been so successful at wiping out criminals that he needs to recruit more in order to justify the existence of his force.
Ever since around 1980, the traditional dystopian science-fiction film – that is ideologically dark and oppressive futures, examples of which might include Fahrenheit 451 (1966), THX 1138 (1971), Zardoz (1974) and Rollerball (1975) – has become inextricably intertwined with the action film. In the majority of modern dystopian films – such as Mad Max (1979), The Last Chase (1980), The Running Man (1987), No Escape (1994) and this – the action is set in a rundown or oppressive future. Unlike the aforementioned classical dystopian scenarios, these films remain vague about the ideology behind it – the oppressive scenario has become so much a staple trope of the genre that it appears to no longer need any ideological explanation.
Little thought has gone into the scenario in Crime Zone and it often seems merely an array of generic oppressive elements without any underlying or consistent ideology – there is a police state, yet morality is lax and street crime appears to be tolerated; there are various anti-sex laws yet prostitution is legal. This however is not important – in the postmodern dystopian scenario, the totalitarian state is largely symbolic, standing in for the monolithic mass of controlling tyranny in everyday life, a symbolic ideology for the heroes of the piece to win their individuality against. This is why the action film, which is all about hard-fought individuality, has latched onto the dystopia so well.
Crime Zone is a peculiaefilm. It is a Roger Corman production and has been designed as a low-budget action hybrid – thus any pretensions it has should be regarded as a bonus rather than a failing. It does suffer from conceptually shabby scripting. Some of the character motivation gets extremely silly at times – it is hard to swallow that police chief David Carradine would set Peter Nelson and Sherilyn Fenn up simply because the police need criminals to keep their jobs going. Or that Michael Shaner would turn from being the hero’s best friend into a psychopath because simply Nelson fails to share a hooker with him. There is a priceless scene – one has no idea whether it is intentional or not – where the female cop bursts into Peter Nelson’s room suspecting to find him in flagrante delicto and in a thick accent demands: “I’ll bet you’re still horny, Sub-Grade – show me your dick ... Is that its normal size?” Whether intentionally or not, the background with its half-defined ideas about the social situation, its lack of ties to anything we can understand, creates an atmosphere of strangeness. What makes Crime Zone almost worthwhile is its interestingly nihilistic twist ending taken somewhat from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and its idea of the perpetual war to suppress the populace.
The production designer has tried to create a future that looks like an experiment in style that has gone wrong. Everything is decked out in neon, from the bars and brothels to the bedheads, the balls on the pool table and the spoilers on the cars – even the derelicts in the Plague Zone appear to drag portable neon lights around after them. However, with such overkill, the effect is more pretentious than it is futuristic. The production designer is also hamstrung by the film’s cheapness – the cryo-tubes in The Gardens of Hibernation are simply plastic sheets.
Among the cast, David Carradine gives an assured performance, easily the best in the film. Sherilyn Fenn, normally a vacant actress, is surprisingly good – her character comes tough and hard-bitten but with a forceful drive.
Peruvian-born director Luis Llosa later went onto direct action films such as Sniper (1993), the fine Stallone-Sharon Stone pairing The Specialist (1994) and then the campily awful monster movie Anaconda (1997).
OCTOBER 8 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : CRIME ZONE (1989)
MOVIE: “Crime Zone” (1989)
DIRECTOR: Luis Llosa (“Sniper“, “Anaconda“)
WRITER: Daryl Haney (“Friday The 13th Pt. 7“, “Xtro 3“, various soft-core porn TV series)
SIX DEGREES OF CAST & CREW
- “Crime Zone” was directed by Luis Llosa, and edited by William Flicker. Llosa also directed 1993′s “Sniper”. While Flicker is the editor for the new “Sniper: Reloaded” (2010), he did not edit the original “Sniper”, and Luis Llosa is not directing the new “Sniper” either. “Crime Zone” star Peter Nelson is also producing the new “Sniper”.
- Was filmed in Peru. Also filmed there was “Ultra Warrior” (1990). Both it and “Crime Zone” were produced by Roger Corman and Luis Llosa and share six cast members of varying repute.
I love me a good post-apocalyptic cyber-punk sci-fi/action movie. Now, allow me to revise that by removing the word “good”, as I’ve yet to find a film that legitimately warrants being referred to as such. I didn’t even dig “Blade Runner”.
So if there’s hardly any sincerely quality movies of this genre, what is it about them that I’m continuously drawn to? In a word : atmosphere. I absolutely adore a cold, dripping, grey-metal, steam-vented, dimly back-lit world. Where spaceships drone like death, computers click and whirrrr louder than a golf cart, and keyboards and synthesizers hem and haw and harmonize the sheet music of the cosmos.
And it’s heaven until the people show up, chewing syntho-food and eschewing nonsensical new curse words.
All in all, 1989′s “Crime Zone” nearly perfects what I love and hate about its type of movie. It’s wonderfully dark and moody until somebody opens their big yap.
In this case, the yappers are Bone and Helen. Helen is somewhat notably played by Sherilyn Fenn, recognized from “Zombie High”, “Twin Peaks”, the Malcovich/Sinise version of “Of Mice & Men”, and to this day a healthy dose of one-off TV appearances. She’s got plenty of drive and genuine ability, and carries most of the scenes. And by that I mean, she carries Bone, played by action star Peter Nelson. “Who?”, you might ask.
If you’ve seen “Die Hard 2 : Die Harder”, you’ve seen Peter Nelson. Yes, one of the villains. And no, not one of the bad-asses on snowmobiles or getting stabbed with an icicle. He’s the nervous last-minute-replacement villain who constantly looks like he doubts the whole evil operation and might do something about it, but doesn’t. Thankfully, the name of Bone’s game in “Crime Zone” IS to do something about the rut he’s in.
The rut in question is the dystopian, warring-nations world that he lives in, aka the “crime zone”. Now there’s two things that “Crime Zone” likes to indulge in…
1) Perfectly placed floodlights amidst coincidental fog or smoke. EVERYwhere. I mean, every location has at least one.
2) Vagueness. Glorious, fill-in-your-own-blanks vagueness.
Here’s the best I could surmise about the “Crime Zone” world : The city/country/nation/continent is at war against the other city/country/nation/continent, perpetually. Society is divided into four levels of status/class, segregated by location. The film spends most of it’s time in the lowest class area, where people are called “Sub-grades” and are bullied the police state who won’t let you be in a relationship. The Utopian upper-upper-upper-class land they hope to find is also the enemy territory, but apparently you can be in a relationship and the women are divine.
Also, if you commit big enough crimes, you’re executed in the Justice Superdome via genitals-exploding-circular-heatrays.
So first we meet Bone, the freshly-fired security guard who was born (I think) with a general serial number a name, and eventually nicknamed “Bone”, because “That’s what they call me.” Then we meet Helen the prostitute, and it’s love at first site. Only Bone’s childhood buddy Creon (who probably huffs freon, given his wired expressions) doesn’t like her, and considers Bone a traitor for hooking up with her and not wanting to be a “Fuck Up” anymore (their gang name).
Then we meet cigar-gesturing David Carradine, aka “Jason”, just starting to grow his hair out and projecting a wonderfully Kevin Spacey-esque smugness. Jason wants Bone and Helen (I really want to make some sort of Helena Bonham-Carter joke with those names, but there ain’t one) to steal a secret computer disc from the hospital-that-isn’t-a-hospital and in exchange they can go to the upper-upper-upper-class sector and blah blah blah blah blah typicality blah blah.
Plot-wise, it’s not an interesting premise. The story and character blueprints are very much borrowed from everything. That being said, there is a twist-ending that, while not terribly inventive, is delivered decently. Carradine’s smug, matter-of-factness humorously saves us the eye-rolling of what would otherwise probably be an overly dramatic and thusly underwhelming revelation. There’s also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, “Chasing Amy” love triangle style moment that will both surprise you and make you laugh.
And there’s a handful of genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Seriously, when an over-acting policewoman tells the doe-eyed good guy to whip out Little Bone so she can see if he’s just been with a prostitute or not, it’s tough to keep a straight face after hearing a Peruvian woman say, “Show me your dick, Sub-grade!”
And then there’s this guy…