Janie

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“Janie hasn’t got a gun. But that won’t stop her…”

janie ad matThis grindhouse obscurity manages to rise above the limitations of its budget, and proves an effectively nasty piece of work. The titular teenage “heroine” (Carpenter) is on the way to see her older lover, but embarks as well on a killing spree that first includes a classmate and the guy who picks them up, then a householder (Michael Findlay) whose swimming pool Janie hijacks, before moving onto a predatory lesbian and finally her lover’s girlfriend (Roberta Findlay), whom she strangles with a belt. This is all told in flashback as she tells the story to her disbelieving bedmate – though the corpse he discovers in the bath-tub rapidly changes his mind. Oh, and did I forget to mention, for extra sleaze points, he is also Janie’s daddy? Damn. All of her exploits are accompanied by narration from what could be seen as an ancestor of Dexter’s “dark passenger”, exhorting Janie to further murderous acts, in a placid and matter-of-fact tone that is actually all the more chilling for its calmness.

While credited to Bravman, there was definite creative input from the husband-and-wife partnership of the Findlays, both in front of and behind the camera. Bravman says Michael “helped” direct a number of scenes, though insists he was in charge overall. And as well as her on-screen role, Roberta also provided the narration and shot the film under her pseudonym, Anna Riva. The Findlays would go on to achieve worldwide notoriety for their 1976 film, the purportedly real Snuff, before Michael was killed in a rooftop helicopter accident the next year. The film appears to be Carpenter’s only movie, though reports indicate she was the director’s girlfriend, whose real name was Linda, and she was not a natural blonde, as depicted here – the early, failed efforts involving wigs account for some of the woeful continuity present here. She’s not a bad actress, though isn’t asked to do much more here than alternate between psychotic and cute; it’s the narration and overall sleazy feel that are mostly responsible for making this flesh-crawlingly effective.

Make no mistake: this is cheaply-made, with all the killings save the last (because you don’t need much to fake a strangulation) thoroughly unconvincing and lacking in impact. And for a grindhouse film of the era, it’s actually kinda tame, with less nudity than you’d see in a typical Game of Thrones episode [this runs 65 mins, so isn’t much longer either!]. Still, this is such a nastily twisted piece of work, it can only be admired as such, and is a fine example of how low-budget and independent film-making can go places mainstream cinema would never dare venture.

Dir: Jack Bravman
Star: Mary Jane Carpenter, Roberta Findlay, Peer St. Jean, Michael Findlay

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