Red Blooded American Girl (1990) Review by RevTerry

Not once has a mysterious party shown up at my doorstep to offer me an exclusive job, as of yet anyway. It kind of bums me out. Maybe I'll need to come to some sort of peace with the fact that I do not have what it takes to end up in that situation. I mean, I can probably fix a virus problem on your junky home PC, but I'm certainly not an in-demand hacker that would receive black hat solicitations in the middle of the night. You could also say that I have mixed a few chemicals in my day, however, I don't think that makes me a super scientist the government desperately needs on the payroll. Same goes for clandestine military operations, as the closest I have ever been to war was watching Platoon with my veteran dad, and I do not possess a unique set of “skills”. I guess it makes perfect, unfortunate sense that I haven't been proposed to in such a way, but It just seems so fucking common in the movies. Many cinematic adventures start with a surprise visit to a wayward savant’s dirty hideout, be it a shitty apartment or remote shack. I, at least, have the unkempt dwelling going on. Logically, if it did happen, I would have to decline, as I have been briefed by countless films as to how that goes down, and those situations don't turn out super great. On the other hand, though, everyone likes feeling wanted, and I don't have anything else going on, so fuck it. Yeah, maybe I would end up knee deep in mutants, sabotage, or reality shattering realizations, but it might be a fun ride. It could even end up being a set up for a  sexy vampire party of sorts, like in Red Blooded American Girl (1990).
The film opens with a soft, dreamlike date-night between a topless woman with an accent and a slimy dude with two shirts and no pants. As the male pours them some wine, presumably to commemorate a night of linens, boobs, and man-ass, he not so secretly drops something in his companion’s glass while serving. A few quick seconds after the toast, the unsuspecting female suffers an attack of some kind and goes limp. With a creeptastic smirk, the man thinly apologizes before flipping her over and sucking blood from her back. The soundtrack livens up a little, and the movie cuts to Owen Urban (Andrew Stevens), a neurotic genius in the field of life-enhancing drugs. Urban, although brilliant, is left to experiment in squalor, testing his treatments dangerously on himself with little resources (aka snorting stuff he mixes up in his kitchen). One night, when he is particularly fucked up from one of his drugs, he is visited by a well-dressed man by the name of Dr. John Alcore (Christopher Plummer), who introduces himself as CEO of LifeReach, a completely legitimate and respectable pharmaceutical company in Urban’s field. After a quick game of chemical enhanced arm wrestling,  Dr. Alcore offers up a job and a part in “the most significant medical breakthrough of the century” to which Urban accepts. The next day, Urban reports to the LifeReach headquarters/lab for an orientation by Dennis (Kim Coates the creepy rufie-guy from the intro) which involves a tour of the facility's giant in-house blood tanks and some cult-like discourse from sun-deprived employees in lab coats. Along the way, he is introduced to one of the more cynical test subjects Paula (Heather Thomas), who happens to own both the most colorful skin pigment and loudest spandex in the faculty. The tour finishes back at Dr.Alcore’s office for technicalities and champagne where any worries Owen may have had were brushed aside with inspirational banter and a suitcase full of money. Unsurprisingly, the new job doesn't ever get more conventional, and it isn't long into the new vocation that he learns that the company might not be completely legitimate or respectable. In fact, there is a good chance they are a slightly murderous conglomerate of shady addicts, infected with a blood disease that completely mimics classic vampirism. Unfortunately for Owen, he already has developed a crush on that Paula lady and really fucking loves making drugs, so he may just have to ride this one out.
Despite being essentially about vampires, Red Blooded American Girl is less a bloodsoaked horror film and more a cornball science fiction flick with a sappy romantic angle. Its somewhat unique approach to the subject matter prescribes heavy doses of jargon and lab scenes that quickly dissolve into neon, often semi-erotic filler. Plenty of its flavor and details could possibly speak to a cerebral side, but it's too ditzy to ever hold on to anything real. Instead, its best qualities are brainless fun amongst quasi-intelligent ramblings and familiar tropes. Transparently, it is fast and loose with the comic book style super science, using it primarily for a surface level fashion. At one point, Kuru, the disease you get from eating bad human brains, is mentioned in a serving of murky exposition. It is casually implied that studying the infliction gave way to chemically induced, almost classic, vampirism ( an interesting idea...I think), but it never really connects the dots and moves on without issue. Many of the events, characters, and moods feel like they could have been a part of a frugal (bloodsucking) prototype for Species (1995). It keeps its cartoon lab coat respectively affixed until its sexy monster hits the streets for almost slapstick hijinks.  Despite the tone, dialogue, and intro, it's actually pretty light on the sleaze. There is, however, a consistent late night seasoning to the writing that leaves it in a strange place where --with any more nudity and little bit sillier dialogue, it might get confused for Showtime softcore.  It’s ahead by a few years, but it feels like it could be the slightly prudish, unstable connecting-cousin between Embrace of the Vampire (1995) and Possessed by the Night (1994) that had once been forced to watch Lifeforce (1985). Its actual amount of plot and productive themes could have easily been a solid episode of the 90s revival of The Outer Limits (or if you removed the boobs, the 80s Twilight Zone). There's an attempt at a fresh bloodsucker tale deep inside the story somewhere (involving science and drug allusions), but it has been securely hidden under a generous slice of cheese. It hardly works the way I'm assuming it is supposed to, and the unintentionally humorous blends seamlessly into planned jokes. Certainly, the movie has an underlying desire to add a fresh modern spin to the same old vampire lore, but at best it comes out as the (very) extremely light, hopelessly inept precursor to The Addiction (1995), padded to completion with almost Once Bitten (1985) type fluff.  To be perfectly honest, it's a  terrible waste of some good ideas slathered in overused cliches, but in practice, it can still be entertaining, numbing garbage for the right lazy day.
The direction is all over the place, as if it can't decide what other vampire or science flicks it’s ripping off during each scene. Abruptly and more frequently as it moves along, it pulls completely into a comedic timing without aim. It's not uncommon for the particular brand of shallow, seedy drama to verge into absurdity, but in this case, slapstick often takes the place of any possible attempts at terror. It's almost a letdown at first but becomes part of its style as the surrounding content gets zanier and more erratic. On a technical note, the movie falls somewhere between R.O.T.O.R. (1987) and an early episode of Silk Stalkings (1991ish). There is no shying away from blood, although I don't know if I would call any of it gore. People are often “fed upon” but the camera pulls away from the brutal stuff, leaving some fucked up implications at best. The movie’s vampires are developed with minimal special effects or any real indication as to their infliction. The exclusion to this (for some reason) is Heather Thomas who suffers a school carnival face painting job in place of a monstrous transformation. While the story just kind of wonders along, the film's editing does its best to create a build-up from the sequence of events with mixed results.  Although slightly muted, its color scheme and fashion are distinctly from the end of the 80s. When not inside bare laboratories, the rooms are all filled with omnipresent pink, blue, or red lighting. This is aptly topped with lively synth music which fits the Baywatch Nights style, even if it’s never sure what mood a scene is going for at any given moment. It’s not super effective filmmaking, but it is functional and makes a few bizarre choices which keep it interesting. The bright uniform television quality works to hold the confused mass of wasted concepts into a completely watchable piece of trash.
The film was directed by David Blyth, who had just recently been let go from the Sean S. Cunningham project The Horror Show (1989, definitely not House III... long story) while it was in production. He would later follow American Girl with a name-only sequel in 1997 after a few years of directing Power Ranger episodes. The script was written by Allan Moyle who also gave the world two angsty music related classics that I hold embarrassingly dear: Pump Up the Volume (1990 he wrote and directed), and Empire Records (1995 he directed from a script by Carol Heikkinen). It's definitely not his best work put to screen, and at its most nuanced, left me wondering what it had originally looked like on paper. Everyone is well cast, at worst meeting B movie requirements for over the top side characters. The film’s roided out genius, Owen Augustus Urban III, is played by Andrew Stevens, who seems to tap a few of cinema’s classic mad scientists for some inspiration.  Stevens would go on to become a figure in the Hollywood mainstream serving chiefly as a producer (100+ films including The Boondock Saints in 1999 and The Whole Nine Yards in 2000) and continues to act to this day (80+ credits most recently A Woman's Nightmare 2018).  Along with a few other quirky genre roles, era-appropriate bombshell Heather Thomas had a regular place on television throughout the 80s. She is in her element as the striking, quick love interest and even gets to show up in some trademark 80s workout clothing. Thomas also seems to be the only one working a Vampire's Kiss-esque insanity angle into the film, which ends up being one of my favorite parts. Once she goes into full “lusty vampire on the prowl” mode, she inexplicably starts mixing in unsexy, crazy faces and just kind of loses her mind completely without warning, it's pretty fucking awesome. Christopher Plummer can put in some serious acting when it counts, but as Dr. John Alcore mostly he just does his best Dan O'Herlihy impression and dramatically stares. It completely fits the film, but you have most likely seen him act his ass off somewhere else.  As the resident vampire sleazebag, Kim Coates is slimy and under-rated as ever. He has fully mastered these types of characters in both mainstream and lower budget films and really makes you taste it. He also might actually be a vampire, because he seems to age differently than most real people.
Red Blooded American Girl is steamy but tame vampire trash unconvincingly wearing a classic lab coat and some horned rim glasses. It applies a few science fiction elements, but it doesn't ever pursue the potentially unique concepts it sets forth. Instead, it playfully spins off into TV show-style antics and the usual genre tropes leaving most of its more interesting pieces lying around afterward. It's dumber than it could have been, but you can do much worse, as far as movies about vampires or even slutty scientist go. It makes a great throwaway Sunday watch between slices of similarly fluffy VHS bullshit, especially if you are not paying exorbitant attention. Also, I think I was premature in my pessimistic security about not receiving a mysterious job offering. That could still happen. I just watched this movie three times in a row to write this review, that has to be a particular skill of some kind.
1h 29min | 1990
 Director: David Blyth
Writer: Allan Moyle 

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RevTerry

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