Slumber Party Massacre III (1990) Review by RevTerry

This might sound sarcastic, but I love the haphazard world-building in your average horror film series, especially during the 80s, where an originally semi-grounded flick seemed to be under contract to introduce some comedy or a new supernatural element (or both) in its sequels. Any character could have a previously unmentioned sibling or child, and if you had an unmade horror script just laying around, you could always just move stuff around to fit it into a series on the fly. I fucking dig it. Somewhere out there in slasher-land is a bunch of unlucky families, quite a few cursed objects and oddly enough, a ton of homicidal people who can't be killed a single time. Films frequently bend over backward to do something like reviving a slain killer, that is if they acknowledge the death at all or refrain from retconning it. “Reaching” for a sequel is a tradition that lives on in modern horror, a staple of the straight to video market. A film like Wrong Turn (2003) comes out in theatres with little fanfare or unexplored concepts, and eleven years later we have five follow-up movies and one fucked up timeline of manic elaboration. The movies are mostly horrid shit, but just the time I have spent thinking of ways to make sense of the defecated upon, expanded canon is entertainment enough for me to feel like I got my money's worth out of the 6-pack from Walmart. At this point, the unnecessary sequel (or prequel) is a time-honored art in the genre (or just movies in general) right next to re-titling which is it's own (long) conversation. There are a lot of ways a film series can go about this, but few heavily utilized methods. He wasn't the very first, but I feel like Jason Voorhees set a precedent for left turns into murky supernatural madness. In fact, the Friday the Thirteenth series has utilized several of the common methods in it's eleven(ish) films (if it didn't pioneer them), having to think of new ways to keep unkilling Jason (or ways not to) each time. Along with the Prom Night films, which just shoved in a two-part ghost story in-between unrelated films (which I have touched on before), the Slumber Party Massacre films are some of my favorite examples of fuck-it worldbuilding. In the first Slumber Party movie (1982), an escaped serial killer named Russ Thorn wreaks havoc on a group of girls during a slumber party using a large power drill, simple enough--but it doesn't leave a lot of loose ends to tie up in future films. The next film (Slumber Party Massacre II 1987) also featured a slumber party, a power drill of sorts, and includes the younger sisters of one of the first film’s victims. It resurrects a dead killer to jump-start its story as well, only not the guy from the first film. Instead, we get an unrelated 50s rockabilly ghost that attempts to mix the essence of Andrew Dice Clay and Freddy Krueger. I enjoy it. But from what I hear, it kind of splits a crowd, and in all honesty, makes absolutely no sense. Following that, I guess they were out of ghosts and blood relatives, so they dialed it back a little bit, stuck to the basics and didn't worry too much about the in story’s connection to rest of the series, outside of making sure to include a drill and skimpy bed wear. That gave us today's subject, Slumber Party Massacre III (1990).
The film opens with a montage of family photos (which may have been laying around from some failed 90s tv pilot) that fade in and out like a PowerPoint presentation alongside the credits. Afterward, we come in on a very chaotic but competitively lax game of beach volleyball already in progress. During the game, we find out that one of the girls, Jackie (Keely Christian), is planning a slumber party because her parents have gone out of town and she has the house to herself. Between turns at the net, the females in the group discuss party favors and who they are crushing on currently. The festivities are slightly disrupted by the uninvited appearance of a lone dark, overdressed stranger (Yan Birch) with a staring problem, but he just kind of sits in the sand and disappears before too long. Since not all strangers are created equal, Juliette (Lulu Wilson) introduces herself to fellow beachgoers with a bowl cut (Brittain Frye) who she invites to the party. When a little of the romantic logistics of the group have been discussed, and everyone gets sick of taking turns serving, they leave the beach with plans to go to Jackie's house later for the get-together. Everyone except Sarah (Devon Jenkin), who instead gets killed by an unknown assailant, in her back seat with a large power drill.  The rest fair much much better as they all carpool together in Frank's convertible, for a scenic montage to pop music through sunny California (why the dead chick wasn't invited, I don't remember, maybe not enough seats). Frank (David Lawrence) drops off Jackie last, so the two can awkwardly flirt and confusingly lay out a few ground rules about their blossoming relationship. When she arrives at her parent-free home, she is startled to find her tall lurching neighbor (Michael Harris) has already invited himself inside. He tells her that the door was open, and he came inside because he saw the house was for sale. She tells him to show himself around, (because that's an okay thing to let creepy neighbors do). He pretends to check out the place, then before leaving, informs her that he owns a telescope. Sooner or later Jackie’s female friends arrive, and the gang quickly starts drinking and talking about boys again. Only like a half beer later, the girls are cheering each other on, in an impromptu striptease. The male half of the friend group decides the best way to make an entrance is to break into Jackie's house with masks and scare the girls-- mid inexplicable dance scene (in a nod to the original). After that goes as well as it sounds, and the girls have forgiven them, the real party begins, which really just means they pair off every so often to cuddle.  When the weird proto-Hot Topic kid from the beach pops up again, Jackie tries to call the cops, but the officer down-plays the situation as drunken sleepover antics, so they all go back to eating pizza, wearing pajamas and splitting up to get killed. Normal sleepover slasher madness follows as a body count builds behind the clueless group of grown-up looking kids. At some point, enough people are found dead, so that everyone starts to panic. Finding that the cops are still no help, the leftover gang is left to fend for themselves and figure out exactly who is drilling large holes in every one of their friends, before they all suffer the same fate. Oh, and someone gets electrocuted to death by a wet dildo in there somewhere.
Slumber party massacre III pulls back from the stylization that the second brought to the series. It also does away with any supernatural or fantasy elements (other than whatever makes the jackhammer drill-thing run with no power). A paint by numbers slasher, it has none of the wit or satire that the first film was built around. In fact, when taken at face value, it would seem to be exactly the type of film Slumber Party Massacre originally sought to lampoon, falling back on standard slasher roles without commentary. Strangely, it is presented with a straight face and plays it seriously, even at its most laughable moments. It's hard to believe it is not in on at least some of the joke, being part of a series which, up to that point, had been adorned in a variety of tongue in cheek horror tropes and table-turning. There are still the comedic cliches like the first two had, but they come off as less intentional. Further deviating from the flimsy brand of its predecessors, it employs a level of mystery to its antagonist. Part III opts to substitute the larger than life bad-guy for some stray creepy characters and dead-end plot points to keep the killer’s identity a guessing game up until till the latter third of the movie. Amidst the cliches and despite the fact that the writers ( possibly more the editors) didn't quite understand foreshadowing, it actually manages to pull off a low rent classic whodunnit vibe at times. I had fun trying to pick out the killer from its unblended red herrings the first time around (even with no real build up for it). With its shallow, bargain basement, Clue-like elements and it's focus on suspense, it puts more into audience participation than it does any kind of aesthetic. Our killer barely gets a backstory, although there are a few unexamined hints at some kind of plot thrown in at random ( eg the photos in the credits). Without spoiling it for those yet to experience the film, I'll just say-- all we end up knowing about the guy with the drill, is that he's a crazy douchebag with a bad haircut, and he possibly, maybe comes from a family with a history of crazy douchebags (although I'm not sure about the haircut part). The cartoon side characters are more vivid and spirited than the main cast, even just being undeveloped diversions. It kind of (just kind of) rubs up against a 70s giallo murder mystery vibe with its telescope equipped, creeper neighbor and the angsty dark outsider, conveniently hanging around (although no one has a cool scar or disfigurement, which would have helped). It keeps a lively pace that ramps up a little after the mystery has dissolved and has a bountiful (bloody) payoff of sorts. It's mostly basic stuff, but there may be a well stocked, somewhat engaging slasher in there. If nothing else, those who don't appreciate its attempts at a thriller-like atmosphere can get something out of the unintentional humor.
On a technical level, the film is mostly solid, if not a little on the mediocre side. It plays it safe with colors and lighting, not employing any of the music video-like effects that part II used. For better or worse, it's a very brightly lit film and seems to have chosen white as the center pallet theme. There is very little intentional aesthetic for the style’s sake at all, somehow falling into a flavorless hole between the gritty neon late 80s and Trapper Keeper art of the 90s. It's a neatly wrapped B movie and easy to watch, although it feels a little too clean without the grime. The editing is quick and helps keep it's involved pace during the less violent acts. The sparse crazy-ex-cop uncle shit and the other fragments of backstory suggest something was left on the cutting room floor, but the cut doesn't feel broken, and it glides over the holes with the help of the simple plot. Shot placement gets the job done but brings nothing special to the table, outside of avoiding some of the slapstick feel the first two had. A lot of the suburban feel from the other “massacre” films is absent, in its place a cliche California beach town atmosphere. The beginning scenes verged on Saved by the Bell College Years type stuff (minus any flashy paper cup art), especially the convertible sing along montage. I'm not sure, but I think the supplied pop music would have sounded dated even in 1990. The rest of the soundtrack reminded me of bad educational PC games and KidVision VHS tapes. It features some good gore effects but pulls away from some of the action in the earlier kills. People still get drilled frequently, the body count is high, but it's just not quite as gruesome as it could have been at times, partly due to the squeaky clean technical aspects. Of course, to fulfill the requirements placed by the film’s title and subgenre (and I think Roger Corman at that point), there are several scenes of pointless booby action if you get bored (naked dance time is standard at sleepovers right?). There is even some nudity and violence at the same time to kick it up a level during the latter rampage. Its formulaic mean spirit comes through in its production and blends well with the comedy.
I would be a liar if I said the acting was good, it’s mostly awful. Some of its characters are so off, it's easier to believe that the effect was intentional. That being said, it has a great cast in my opinion. Among the ill-fated slumber partiers, we have Playmate Hope Marie Carlton as Janine, who along with being a card-carrying member of Andy Sidaris L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies, has appeared in a few other goofy horror flicks, including Ghoulies Go to College the following year. B-movie legend Maria Ford appears as... Maria, while wearing an oversized red wig for some reason. She's not given anything at all to work with (other than the wig, I guess) but she is always fun to watch even in the most awful of shit. Keely Christian plays Jackie Cassidy who I assume is the lead because she gets a last name. She brings the series into the 90s by playing Jackie with the (possibly slow) careless valley girl trope and a variety of dim stares for the dramatic moments. The rest of the female gang is made up of familiar faces from genre films and tv. As the lurking neighbor Morgan, Michael Harris was one of the highlights of the film. You know he is not the killer from his overcooked introduction, but it's an entertaining addition that reminded me of classic murder mystery films, and he really had the creep thing down. The douchey young male victims are expertly played by people with funny hair and very punchable faces. They are all just fucking shit actors and chronically less interesting than the female cast, but it works pretty well (although one had a lopsided unibrow that was distracting).
The film is the only directorial credit for Sally Mattison who produced classic garbage like The New Gladiators (1988) and Silk 2 (1989). It was written by Catherine Cyran who continues to write for straight to video flicks to this day. It was the third and last official entry into the Slumber Party Massacre film series. The trilogy is often noted for being both written and directed entirely by women. Like the first two, Slumber Party Massacre III was produced under the (reportedly menacing) eye of Roger Corman and can be considered part of the larger “Massacre” series which includes the Sorority House Massacre films (1987, 1990) and Hard to Die (1990 my review here).
It is served a little dryly, but Slumber Party Massacre III has most of the ingredients needed for some fun slasher sleaze. While not super creative, the movie shows up to kill some, mostly, attractive people with a drill, and it does just that.  The added murder mystery and supplied suspects are fun additions. It has its own vibe, but in the end, if you enjoyed what the other two had to offer, you will probably be satisfied (or possibly even relieved, if Elvis impersonation dream ghosts aren't really your thing). Still, it's a complete U-turn to close out the trilogy. Essentially, it’s an updated but brainless remake of the first, with added beach sand and a killer that uses a mask for the first half. It could have gone a lot of ways, following the ode to Meatloaf's character from Rocky Horror that proceeds it. In this case, it avoids trying to explain something like, how the killer came back, or that the murder-gene (or curse etc) had been passed on to someone's sibling (or whatever). Instead it just links the three films a with similar taste in power tools and the appearance of pajamas at some point. On screen, it paints a world where almost anything can happen but hardly anything does--beyond a lot of showering and some murder. In reality, it's just the relateable growing pains of an exploitation horror series akin to realizing you didn't die in your twenties like you thought you were going to, so you’d better get serious and get a real job. You have to keep moving forward, and sometimes that means not mentioning your colorful rock n roll ghosts.
 Director: Sally Mattison
Writer: Catherine Cyran

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RevTerry


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Redeemer (2014) Review by RevTerry

A crusty traveler “kid” once told me that he wanted to live like he was on a mission from God. At that moment, only two things crossed my mind-- The Blues Brothers (1980) first, because any time someone says “a mission from God" I instantly hear it replayed in Dan Aykroyd’s familiar “Elwood” voice. Secondly, I thought about how cool it would be if there was a magical sky-being out there handing out missions that involved things like hopping trains, cheap beer and DIY accessories like “crotch flaps”. The thirty-nine-year-old had spent the day dropping surface level, profound statements as if a scribe was following him, which I assumed were a mix of stolen anecdotes and common sense, said in the form of what the internet now calls a “hot takes”. They all had come off along the lines of a dollar store birthday card with a character of an elderly cowboy on the front, and this one was no different, at least when it was first proudly released from his bearded, nicotine-stained lips. I had to give him credit though, because the rest of his crew was either too drunk for me to understand altogether or spoke in only FEAR lyrics (and only from two songs). While I didn't really give two shits at the time, I surprisingly found myself going back to the phrase (in his particular framing) later in my life. I don't know what “Beef-Boy of the Scunkunts” (their spelling not mine) true intentions were when he slipped me that fortune cookie-sized, recycled proverb, but it has come in my mind to mean that anything worth acting upon is something worth acting upon with conviction. Whatever it is I'm doing, if I'm going to do it, I might as well look at it as my life's charge, handed to me from above. This has served me well. I did originally hit a little snag around the god part. I don't know if I have a god, let alone if it hands out missions or what the missions would be like if it did. Luckily, I didn't have to start going to church to get the hang of things. Instead, I just started faking its positive effects with the help of my normal standby--cinema. Over time, through the magic of film, I have been witness to countless examples of a person who felt as if they had been tasked by a celestial being and acted accordingly. So if I need a good paragon for that kind of behavior, I can just remember the actions played out in classics like The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999), Clash of the Titans (1981) or Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). I just pick the best qualities from (mostly) fake crazy people and apply those (it's much safer that way).  Recently I found an unexpected new spiritual role model to add to the list, Redeemer (2014).
Meet Pardo (Marko Zaror), he has suffered some fucked up loss in his life, most notably his beloved family, at the hands of some guy who says bastard a lot, Alacrán (aka Scorpion played by José Luís Mósca), who then left him for dead in the desert. Pardo was once a well-tuned hit-man for a powerful drug syndicate but has left it all behind for a very close relationship with God. So very close, in fact, that Pardo plays Russian roulette daily to make sure the Lord is still listening. Since the death of his family, he has also taken to cleaning up the streets, using his expert ass-kicking skills and some raspy preaching. We first bear witness to this when he smashes the fuck out of some would-be rapist, scum bags he finds performing a low rent reenactment of an early scene from A Clockwork Orange. Turns out (after an explained time period) Alacrán is in the picture again and back to ruining lives, calling people bastards, and playing his part in the drug cartel’s brutal shenanigans. This time the crime syndicate has hired the psychotic hitman in an attempt to retrieve some money accidentally found by a local dock worker, Agustín (Mauricio Diocares). To save the dude (and of course because he already had beef), Pardo aims to take out the sick “bastard” forever and quash the whole drug market as well for fucking with his prayer time. With the help of angry working mom Antonia (Loreto Aravena), the mostly whiny Agustín, and of course a little push from the Catholic Jesus Christ, he mounts an all-out fake bible quote-laden assault on various assortments of thugs (including a whole market full of fishermen). The stakes are high, I assume with all the incoherent talk about money and asking ”God for forgiveness”, and the head honcho (Noah Segan) eventually sends reinforcements in to protect from the holy threat to his criminal empire. I almost forgot--the hero's hood always sits perfectly on his head, always, like with angry Catholic magic (or something). I feel like that's important for some reason and pretty cool.
Redeemer is the zealot lovechild of the Dolph Lundgren Punisher (The Punisher 1989) movie and The Raid: Redemption (2011) if that child was then raised by Bibleman on Batman movies and Assassin's Creed video games. The movie feels like it could have been the gritty reboot of a Christianity based comic book no one ever read. Essentially, it's a classic anti-hero story, with a grunting badass trying to atone for the death of his loved ones through a minimalist but bloody vigilante lifestyle. Released in the same year, parts are relative to John Wick (2014), as it is a heavy stylized revenge tale with brutal fight scenes, reaching for the authenticity of something like The Protector (2005). It's a straight to video sum of the modern mainstream action flick formula but done with some slightly off religious angle and the right amount of authentic b-movie grit. Its bone structure is that of a modern kung-fu flick and keeps itself extremely simple for the sake of the face smashing. The meaty scenes are built around the glorious fights that will eventually close them out but still try for that quick, witty-fast banter that other action flicks might rely on. The set dressing already looks like a makeshift arena when the hooded avenger steps into place and the camera shifts to let you know when it's time to fight, like in a video game. In the spirit of archetypes like the Ronin character, the Christianity angle serves as only the philosophical harness for what is, essentially, pissed off nutbag fury. It sticks to the angry basics and skips over the deeper biblical references. Although possibly missing an opportunity to apply Evangelion style dogma madness to its kung fu, it keeps it fun and just carves “Catholic” into its hooded ninja with Batman-voice. It is lighter fare in most regards but an interesting mix of concepts and cultures in a few others. The movie takes being ridiculous very seriously. It's refreshing, for some reason, to see the outlandish or over the top taking itself as serious as the golden era of TNT action garbage (not that I don't dig the “meta” approach as well sometimes). The solid, simple storyline shines through the dubbing, although, as always, some of the deeper details or drama might be lost on me for various reasons. The normal man on a mission action movie feel is kicked up to cartoon levels. Our vigilante and other key players could feel at home in any modern superhero movies (with a shit ton of CG and better dubbing) or possibly even those WB superhero shows (although I haven't watched any so that's based off their promos). The world in which it takes place is a lively, eccentric one where villains watch a lot of anime and show up only after you have beaten up a small hierarchy of lower bosses. There are certainly more thorough films about violent religious people, but it's a nice watch for some The Boondock Saints (1999) type fun, with enhanced fight scenes and no bitter aftertaste.
The fancy ass-kicking is front and center and, fittingly, the film puts most of its eggs in that blood-soaked basket. Its an international kung-fu/action flick with what seems like a fairly large budget, but there are the normal things to consider for the English speaking audience. As is common, the dialogue feels silly as all fuck,  mostly due to a combination of the sudo-superhero aspects or the translating. Some of the individuals on showcase are, first and foremost, bad-asses in real life and actors second, so while the action is something of true mastery, some of the acting in between can feel a little cornball. All that having been said, the film is in pretty tight form. The editing is quick and slightly stylized. It takes a few cues from recent popular mainstream films in this department but keeps it on the conservative side with its special effects. Benefiting from the cast of martial artists, the no-bullshit fight scenes are a huge point to the film's credit. Because the people that started the kung-fu scuffle are the actual ones throwing the blows, the cuts don't have to play games to hide the fighters identities. Instead, motions are fully captured, followed through completion and the final product just feels more real. Don't get me twisted, most fight scenes are fun (good, corny, Captain Kirk type shit, whatever), but putting the film’s fully performed throwdowns up against--say the fight scenes from something like Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) would be something like comparing taco-truck tacos to the crunchy ground beef things you make at home. Both can be greasy fun in their own right (and I love almost every kind of taco night), but there is no doubt that one is superior. The whole film is brightly lit, and it contrasts its attempts at Dark Knight-like characters and gritty subject matter. The movie pauses, before a few of its brawls, to light the protagonist in some kind of Christ allusion that would make Jim Caviezel jealous. Shot in Chile, almost every fight has some beautiful scenic something going on in the background. In many ways, the style, lighting, and location during some scenes look like a real-world representation of Street Fighter 2’s arenas. There is some nice gore, especially for a flick of its kind, and it takes time to make sure you know no one is getting up after a beat down. The soundtrack is varied but continues to fall back on a random 80s synth beat and a lively rendition of the folk song made famous by Johnny Cash, "God's Gonna Cut You Down”. Despite sounding like some Stranger Things b-sides at times, the music is just silly enough to work with the whole live action anime thing the movie has going on.
Marko Zaror has a great 2000s Batman meets prudish Jason Statham thing going on.  His “Redeemer” could fit in great alongside other silly favorites like Darkman or Black Scorpion but with a few big differences. He doesn't really have a suit, just kind of a signature way he wears his hoodies, so no leather or mask. Secondly, he is a big plus to the action and its style. It's my understanding that in real life Zaror studies multiple martial arts and is, as well, a celebrated stuntman which comes through during the film’s practical fight scenes. His arch nemesis who only knows one insult, José Luís Mósca, looked creepy as fuck, and the fact that he babbled forever about the weirdest threatening shit was actually pretty unnerving, but the voice did not match that dude’s look at all. It kind of sounded like Spike from Cowboy Bebop, but as far as I know, Steve Blum was not involved. Also what was with the bastard thing? Surely not every person can be a bastard?  Noah Segan plays the cartel boss and corn balls his douchebag, ruthless leader nicely. It might have been partially his voice dubbing, but I was reminded of Mauricio from El Mariachi (1992) during every one of his scenes. 
Redeemer is a silly mess of fancy moves and moody vigilante cliches with some comic book sized takes on religion. It is very much the product of modern action film trends, but the focus on practical fight scenes and in your face elements make it feel like it came from another time. Those that have some strict religious policies will likely find some beef in there somewhere, but it's a fun dumb action flick at its core.  To its ultimate credit, it is an over the top portrayal of faith that even a bleak agnostic like myself can get down with. Plus, now I have another great example to help me understand what being handed a “mission from God” might be like. I may not be down with the whole god part, but deities look like good motivational steroids, at least in films, and that can come in handy. Luckily, I don't have to go to a church to brush up on any of these self-help strategies, I can just watch shit like Redeemer. Because--sometimes you need to go at the day as if you traded coffee for a one-man game of  Russian roulette, and some magical sky-being informed you that it was your sole duty to kick people in the fucking face. Thanks, Beef-Boy, wherever you are. I never would have reached this religious understanding without you.
1h 28min | 2014
 Director: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
Writers: Gina Aguad, Sanz Andrea, Diego Ayala, Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, Guillermo Prieto

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Review by:
RevTerry


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Chained Heat II (1993) Review by RevTerry

I like how they snuck the women in prison genre back into the mainstream--it was slick as fuck. I hardly even noticed when it was really trending a few years ago. I can't really say I know what to call that approach, but getting housewives and college kids to be down with it was a nifty trick. Orange is the New Black isn't quite Franco's 99 Women, but if you made a pretty detailed WIP checklist, I'm sure it would have no issue hitting a majority of the boxes. Plus, from what I have seen, it borrows pretty liberally from the classics. There's just as much trash to it as there is drama and it serves many of the same functions as most of the favorite girls-behind-bars flicks. Female penitentiaries sit along a well-worn path in entertainment, with sidewalks and a bike lane. The ideas and drama involved come standard in some of the (damper) parts of cinema. A posh girl’s harsh “reality” checks, the rampant inevitable extreme abuse of power in the hands of cruel individuals, and a tendency to pause abruptly for steamy sex in unbelievable fucked up places (like a prison) are hardly fresh concepts. That newfangled shit is very much a part of a time-honored tradition dating back to the 1960s (and before), just repackaged (again) and with a great selling strategy.  It's not a bad thing, actually the opposite. In fact, I feel bad for pointing it out. I wouldn't want to be responsible for ruining someone's trashy entertainment, even if they fooled themselves into thinking they were watching something else, something more respectable. Who knows? -- this could lead to much better, grander things. One day they could be roaming the backstreets of Amazon video or Netflix and run into to one of Orange is the New Black’s ancestors and, on some level, make a connection. Say they click that shit, and still high on the mainstream shlock, they allow themselves to enjoy the sleaze that unfolds before their nearly virgin eyes. Weirder shit has happened, and a person can dream of a better reality. I like to think a few binge watchers have uncovered previously unknown worlds in the last few years; worlds stocked with all the drama and explicable prison relations they could ever want. Before you know it, you’ll have soccer moms and straight-A students making a run for the bargain bins, looking for forgotten cinema sleaze like today's subject, Chained Heat II (1993).
The film opens with a credit spliced mad dash around a prison, from the eyes of (what I think is) a large cat of some sort, while female prisoners run in front of the camera screaming. Afterward, a very respectable voice-over tells us the story of Reznik in Prague, a historic former Soviet-run prison that has been locking up beautiful girls on bogus drug charges at an increasing rate lately. Some of which have turned up dead soon after (yeah, it just kind of says all this in voiceover). We also learn at this time that the powers in control of Reznik had seen opportunity in the shrinking of the socialist dictatorship and had begun to prosper under the new capitalist system. They had achieved such an easy economic transition by using the captives behind the walls of the prison for slave labor. This meant sometimes pimping the girls out to people who regularly killed them, which in turn led to prison officials actively seeking prospective prisoners (again, yeah, I'm paraphrasing, but it just kind of lays this stuff out in words less than 10 minutes in). After we are given what seems like the whole plot of a film, we meet Alex Morrison (Kimberley Kates), who is about to reunite with her sister Suzanne (Kari Whitman) in the lobby of a Czech train station. Unfortunately, just when the two are in eyeshot of each other, the local authorities pull Alex to the side and plant a hefty amount of drugs on her. Unceremoniously, she is quickly swept away to court where the judge finds her guilty of drug smuggling and sentences her to ten years of hard labor, without the possibility of parole. Soon Alex is at Reznik, where a sped up and bare-bones version of the obligatory WIP induction ceremony plays out with little flare. Right off the bus, she is put into a line with other new prisoners, where they are introduced to Magda Kassar (Brigitte Nielsen) the hard-ass prison warden that immediately makes some off-the-cuff comments about how soft people's skin is to lighten the mood. They also meet Rosa (Jana Svandová), the wardens grumpy, spiteful right hand. When clothes have been handed out, Alex is separated from the rest of the new girls and dropped off to a large cell filled with jeering ladies, all wearing the same blue and white outfit in separate and creative ways. There she meets her rugged bunkmates: the mostly friendly Tina (Lucie Benesová), and the helpful “Bobo”(David Buonantony). While Alex is getting acclimated, Suzanne wastes no time in trying to get her out and has already enlisted a lawyer by the name of Mr.Goff (Paul Koslo) for help, but proper channels were looking unsympathetic, to say the least. Unsurprisingly, the government connected, evil corporation, that we were warned about in great detail at the beginning, is protective of its cash cow prison industry, and they want pretty girls like Alex for sex slaves. However, Suzanne remains diligent, as her sister fights her way through oddly structured prison politics and shower scenes.  Will Alex be able to endure the brutal work/sex camp long enough to make some kind of escape? Or will the 90s sometimes Russian-sounding Brigitte Nielsen finally break her with her mind fuckery and sharp lady suits?
The film has no canonical relation to it predecessor Chained Heat (1983), the only obvious links being the bare bones of the subject matter (and maybe some character influence). It could easily be a follow up to several other related flicks (in some cases just by exchanging out the word “Heat” or “Chained”” in the title), and it would fit just as well, possibly more naturally. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the writers had accidentally rented Prison Heat (from that same year) by mistake in preparation, as the plot’s closer. The first Chained Heat (1983) which starred Linda Blair, Sybil Danning and John Vernon (oh shit, and Henry Silva) is a classic of the WIP genre. Mostly this is due to its cult star power, but for what it's worth, it's one of the more developed entries from that era (and a favorite of mine). Chained Heat II (1993) holds only faintly to the spirit of the original, and the type of focus the first one put to the evil corrupt bureaucratic system that kept the main character enslaved is left behind to make a more fill-in-the-blanks style antagonist. Here the protagonist faces persecution from a more classic fictionalized foreign authority figure, the hard-nosed relics of the cold war. The feeling is removed from the distrust of men in suits that was common in the 80s and is more in line with what you get from one of the Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975) clones of the era before. In fact, in a lot of ways, it feels like an older film than the first and often relies on tropes that feel out of place for the 90s, masked with a hint of early Cinemax late night original feature. You never get the loud angry vibes the Blair/Danning vehicle gave us, however, there is plenty to tie the two films together, like healthy amounts of showering, for example.  As a follow up to my favorite 80s WIP flick, it doesn't hold much weight, but it's a decent introductory use of common genre set pieces.
The film is fluffy trash throughout. A nice brand of easy to swallow sleaze, if you know what you're getting into. It's pretty light fare for the genre, geared towards the straight to VHS market, relying on the straightforward T & A, instead of shock factor, to sell itself (for worse or for better). Although it's written with a serious face on, it is low on the genre-patented mean spirit, possibly in part to widening its scope of viewership. It’s more a low-ball pulp thriller than a twisted drama. The terrible acts of the antagonists are relegated to the background for the most part, like some kind of classic spy-adventure flick. I mean, there is the obvious stuff, but ultimately we know they are bad people because they look villainous and talk about the horrible things they do. Those looking only for some of the normal gut-wrenching will probably be disappointed, and nothing will likely pull at a heartstring. Stakes never reach a level that can be felt in real any way, the threat is all surface level and hollow. The Plot keeps a quick fun pace while not really going anywhere, and keeps it entertaining, at the very least. Despite a barely foreshadowed twist, its story is too simple and well paved to trip upon in any way. It mostly serves to tie together scenes of classic behind-bars shenanigans and Brigitte Nielsen getting coked out in a David Bowie costume. In case any of the watered down WIP madness gets boring, there's a splash of slasher thrown in to make up for the lack of torture that its influences had. Some of the characters feel torn from another flick, dialog and all. Several conversations seem as though they are happening between two people of completely different eras. Some of this was probably intentional, in an attempt to portray the Czech Republic as alien or backward to our protagonist. The majority of the mismatching is likely the side effect of its heavy use of cliche genre archetypes that come from (at the time) forty-plus years of international cinema. It can't compete with some of the classics of the type, but it's a lively run through some of the tried and true themes the genre perfected. 
On a technical level, it feels close to a short-lived action show on Fox and less like the softcore cable flicks that normally carry this kind of nudity and hairstyling. The background walls look as though they could be wheeled out and exchanged when necessary. Entered by way of dirt roads and dungeon-like hallways made of stone, the actual prison cells look like a cross between a Fema camp and a plantation. The whole thing is well lit and, while it's not flushed out or soft, it has none of the grimy feel that drives home some of its peer's more fucked up aspects. Women always look extremely made up and groomed for prisoners, with the possible explanation in this case, being their expected duties. The soundtrack is a blast but is definitely not “good”. More just hilariously out of place at all times. It's all over the spectrum and gives not a single fuck about what's happening on the screen. One memorable scene tries to pull off some kind of S & M vibe (not a crazy idea for this type of shit), but the accompanying score had me sure I was waiting for someone to reveal witch powers or turn into a werewolf at any moment. Out of what I have seen from the director, it's one of his more solid works, although the bulk of his work goes much further over into the realm of softcore porn (including the cable TV spiritual sequels Chained Heat 2001: Slave Lovers in 2001 and Girl Camp 2004: Lesbian Fleshpots in 2003 ). On a basic level, it is adequate filmmaking, but his light-hearted style blends with the lack of on-screen violence to make something much less gripping and complicated than a movie about a fucked prison/slavery ring should be. On the bright side, it makes it an easy pill to swallow and maybe a good entry point for the uninitiated (or the rare Brigitte Nielsen fan, if you find one).
I hate to keep comparing the movie to its namesake, since I really shouldn't bother, but the cult cinema power duo of Sybil Danning and Linda Blair is a fucked up act to follow. Brigitte Nielsen is a legend in her own right, and in the right kind of film she can kick a lot of ass. I feel blessed that I was born early enough to remember her as part of the golden age Stallone crew, as opposed to being introduced to her during the awkward grasps for relevance of the 2000s. Bridget's “bad guys” are larger than life and full of bright comic book gusto. The style doesn't quite mesh perfectly in this particular case, but it's always fun to watch her stomp around scowling at people. Another familiar face in cult cinema, Paul Koslo lends his deep-fried glare. Koslo gave us great roles in flicks like Robot Jox (1989) and (another all-time favorite) Vanishing Point (1971) (etc..). He brings a little extra ham in this case, mostly to match the rest of the flicks motif, I think. Kimberley Kates plays the incarcerated focus of the film. Chances are, you have seen Kates at some point in something (Seinfeld maybe). I felt like she was well cast. For whatever reason, her take feels like the most appropriate for writing out of the main leads. Actually, in some other time period, I could see her playing a lead for Jess Franco or Cirio H. Santiago in a WIP flick at an earlier point in history. That's not to say her acting here is what's normally called “good”, but she brings the right kind of energy to the corny-ass table.
Chained Heat II is less a worthy sequel to one of the best “behind bars” flicks of the 80s and more a mostly safe 90s tribute to the entire Women In Prison genre in general. Quick paced and padded with late night cable-like skin, it can make a pretty entertaining watch, but you aren't going to find any of the dastardly content or shock that made the genre memorable in the previous eras. I myself can enjoy the off-kilter attempts at steamy drama and straight-faced corn it has to offer. In the end, I guess time proved this movie failed to widen the WIP audience in any significant way with its tamer, more easily digested approach; something Netflix would seem to perfect twenty years later. Maybe the shopping mall crowd won't be lurking the yards sales for VHS tapes any time soon, but I’ll be looking forward to seeing how that fad filters through the mainstream. And just to be clear, I'm not saying that you should start sharing your favorite 90s near-porn with your mom just because she watches Orange is the New Black or anything like that... I'm also not speaking out against that type of information flow or like judging you if you do. I just don't think I am prepared to take credit for those kinds of relationship dynamics.
1h 39min | 1993
 Director: Lloyd A. Simandl
Writer: Chris Hyde 

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Review by:
RevTerry


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