Pearl: The Assassin

“Fake pearls.”

pearlI think perhaps the most memorable thing here was that, while doing my usual pre-review Googling, the search results returned with the warning that, “In response to multiple complaints we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 35 results from this page.” I’m not sure whether I’m surprised or concerned that 35 sites apparently deemed this worth their while to rip and upload a bootleg copy of this, because it probably doesn’t deserve it. I may be particularly disgruntled due to the presence on the sleeve both of helicopters that don’t exist, and someone totally different from the heroine; half a star was docked from the grade for this. In reality, the star  (Patton, the director’s wife – he plays the florist she’s garotting in the picture, right!) looks more like Marilyn Manson, with a high forehead and close to no eyebrows.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing – indeed, there’s something to be said for a heroine who challenges conventional notions of beauty, and Pearl does that, even if the distributor chooses to hide this behind a leggy, long-haired model type. She looks like a pissed-off killer, out for vengeance – not any longer on the people who killed her parents, for they were taken care of years ago, as others of that same type. Which would be criminals, drug-dealers, pimps, etc. She kidnaps meth scientist Erik (Morales), using his inside knowledge to work up the chain toward top boss Tre (Brown), while Detective Wyatt (Morafetis) follows the trail of bodies left behind Pearl, from the other end.

Even given my tolerance for independent, low-budget cinema, the action here was particularly poor, barely choreographed and possessing absolutely zero impact. Surprisingly, what worked better than expected were the characters, particularly Erik, who actually possesses something of an arc, going from a meth-head with few redeeming features into something of a tragic hero. By comparison, Pearl doesn’t move the needle very much: she starts off the film as a stone-faced killer, and more or less ends it as a stone-faced killer. You do get to see some of her backstory, but it seems more perfunctory, and it’s also simplistic in the extreme: someone killed her family, now everyone must pay. That might have worked for Charles Bronson forty years ago; now, audiences expect rather more nuance. Still, there was one genuinely shocking moment, demonstrating Tre’s utter ruthlessness, and I actually laughed at one of Erik’s lines. Overall, it’s a case of being able to see where the film-makers are aiming; unfortunately, the results fall significantly short of that target, and you’re probably better off sticking with the obvious sources of inspiration here, instead of this attempt to imitate them.

Dir: Guy Patton
Star: Dana Patton, Scott Michael Morales, Justin Brown, George Morafetis

Lady Ninja Kaede 2

“Secret technique, reverse dildo return!”

ladyninja2I am uncertain whether this is related to the other Lady Ninja series, or if it’s an entirely separate series. I’m leaning towards it being independent, as there appear to be magical overtones here, that weren’t present elsewhere. But just to confuse matters further,while this is on Netflix at the time of writing, there’s no sign of part one. Perhaps, if I’d seen that, this would suddenly become entertaining? Nah. Pretty sure it wouldn’t make a difference. This is slightly elevated over its predecessor by not being a po-faced ninja story with soft-porn sex scenes. It is, in fact, a barking mad ninja story with soft-porn sex scenes. What? You want specifics?

The heroine, Kaede (Akatsuki), is basically a member of the sex police, punishing those who are too lustful. There’s a religious sex cult who have combined the penises of three men into one supercharged dildo, leaving them with an apparent gaping void at the crotch. After fulfilling her first task, or retrieving the hyper-dildo, it’s up to Kaede to fix things, by finding the three donors and having sex with them, which restores their genitals. She is accompanied on her quest by a gay samurai.

Not included in this film. Any significant ninja-ing by Kaede; what action there is, is more carried out by the samurai. And, contrary to the sleeve, nor is she tied up at any point, so any bondage fans will be particularly disappointed. There is, of course, plenty of aardvarking, as Joe-Bob Briggs used to put it, and actually, I can’t say I minded the performances too much. The division of the population into those for whom sex is positive and those for whom it’s negative, reminded me (bizarrely!) of a Japanese medieval take on Cafe Flesh, Kaeda supposedly being on the anti-sex side, but in reality being the most active of anyone.

There are moments of twisted creativity that made this not unwatchable, and there’s a mad aesthetic here that could be appealing if you’re in an undiscerning mood. But if you’re looking for any kind of action beside the horizontal variety, you are going to be extremely disappointed. Finally, I did have to snort derisively at subtitles during the magic ceremony which referred to “Casper Howser”, who is presumably Doogie’s occult-inclined brother. I imagine that should instead have been “Kaspar Hauser”, a 19th-century German figure with mystical significance, about whom Werner Herzog once made a movie. Bit of a toss-up whether distributors Tokyo Shock did not know, or just did not care.

Dir: Takayuki Kagawa
Star: Luna Akatsuki, Kazu Itsuki, Yuka Sakagami

The Great Texas Dynamite Chase

“A movie packed with blow(-up) jobs.”

dynamitegirlsSorry. Couldn’t resist the above tasteless joke. I did try. It was the longest five seconds of my life. But, let’s face it, the late Ms. Jennings would probably have approved, as she shot across the B-movie firmament like a meteor, in other films reviewed here, such as Gator Bait and Unholy Rollers, before her untimely death at the age of 29.

This is an energetic and briskly-paced B-movie, with no pretensions, perhaps inspired somewhat by the Italian film Blonde in Black Leather, made two years earlier, which also had a downtrodden woman breaking free of the shackles of society for wild adventures alongside a rebellious friend. Here, the former is bank-teller Ellie-Jo Turner (Jones), who has just been fired when her branch is robbed by the dynamite-toting Candy Morgan (Jennings). in need of funds to save her family’s farm. The two meet each other again on the road, and Ellie-Jo convinces Candy that a life of crime would be fun, and so the pair – after scoring some non-fizzling explosives – begin a cross-Texas bank robbery spree. During an unscheduled diversion to a convenience store, they pick up a hostage, Slim (Crawford), who turns out to be rather happy in his plight. However, for how long can they stay ahead of the law?

I didn’t even realize this was an action heroine film, until a friend reviewed it on his site, so a hat-tip to Hal for that. The alternate title – particularly if accompanied by the over-enthusiastic French poster accompanying this piece! – makes this more clear.  I enjoyed the Thelma and Louise vibe here, with the two heroines playing off each other nicely, and while it is obviously exploitational, right from the moment Jennings gratuitously changes her top inside the first five minutes, these aspects are relatively restrained. To be honest, I could very easily have done without Slim entirely, as his character appears to add nothing of significance to the film, and Crawford’s performance is so blandly uninteresting, he sucks the life off the screen whenever he appears – quite a contract to Jennings.

There is also a sharp shift in tone for the final reel, where Pressman [whose subsequent directorial career include a pair of really bad sequels in The Bad News Bears: Breaking Training and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze] apparently getting in touch with his inner Sam Peckinpah, and delivering a slow-mo blood-squibtravaganza that is not at all in keeping with what has gone before. However, I’m prepared to forgive it for one big reason, though unfortunately it’s too spoilery for me to provide more details. For the same reason, I have to remain vague in my approval of the ending, which went in a different direction from the one I was expecting, and was all the better for it. This is more evidence that Jennings’ early departure was certainly our genre’s loss.

Dir: Michael Pressman
Star: Claudia Jennings, Jocelyn Jones, Johnny Crawford
a.k.a. Dynamite Women

Ballet of Blood

“Bitchy ballerinas, being bitches.”

balletbloodWell, I will say this. If you start your film with a ballet class being interrupted by a former student, who rushes in – topless, for no readily apparent reason – and sprays the class with fire from her Uzi: you have my attention. Unfortunately, this early goodwill is utterly wasted, frittered away in a number of ways over the next 90 minutes that would be spectacularly impressive, if that were the aim of the film-makers. However, it appears their true intention was along the lines of, “Let’s do a micro-budget version of Black Swan, but one based on our obsessive watching of Suspiria, starring a cast of interchangeable Barbies rounded up from the strip-club nearest to the local community college.” Actually, that sounds rather more entertaining than this.

There are two intertwined threads here. One, is the aftermath of the shooting, carried out by mad dancer Nisa (Raye), which injured the school’s prima ballerina, Sylvie (Robinson). Nisa escapes, leaving the school on edge, and breaks her pal Ria (Knopf) out of the asylum where she’s being held – as, apparently, you are – in order to assist with an even more deadly assault. Meanwhile, the atmosphere at the school is becoming increasingly abusive and strained. Student Maren (Martinez) is disturbed to find that the novel she is writing is turning eerily predictive. Is her old typewriter somehow causing events to take place? Or is it all in her psyche?

There may be a bit of Showgirls, or perhaps cable series Flesh and Bone, to be found in here, Masters clearly having a fine appreciation of the trash aesthetic, which shines through in dialogue, particularly Sylvie’s, that is occasionally so dumb, it’s positive genius. The use of classical music for the soundtrack is not bad either. However, these don’t even start to balance the negatives: these begin with audio which often appears to have been recorded from the bottom of a nearby well, and continues into a slew of characters who look, sound and (fail to) act alike. This lends itself to viewer confusion, not helped by the fact your attention will likely be wandering to more interesting things – specifically, in my case, our cat playing in a cardboard box. There’s just too many scenes of the cast sitting about jawing tediously at each other, before Nisa and Ria kick things off.

Even though the grand finale is rather less than grand, the budget restrictions here being what they are, it does represent an improvement over the rest of the film, purely because something is happening. Quite what that something is, it’s harder to say, since this is where the giallo influence of Dario Argento really kicks in, meaning copious dollops of style, in lieu of substance. Except, Masters is not exactly Argento, and apparently forgets there’s more to creating cinematic style, than throwing a couple of filters on your lights. Much as I’m loathe to criticize micro-budget indie film, there just isn’t enough here to merit more than a clear warning.

Dir: Jared Masters
Star: Sydney Raye, Mindy Robinson, Marla Martinez, Jessica Knopf

Hooker With a Rocket Launcher

promo6Some titles conceal their meaning behind layers of depth. Needless to say, this is not one of those – but it is, instead, one that demands your attention, and I was not surprised to hear that, according to its Canadian creator, Chris Greenaway,”The title definitely came first.” However, inspiration for this short came from a number of sources. Most obvious among those is Hobo With a Shotgun, the fake trailer originally part of the Grindhouse double-bill, directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, before eventually becoming a real (and wonderfully trashy) movie, starring Rutger Hauer.  But Chris says the project additionally “drew inspiration from 80s ‘hooker movies’ such as Angel and Vice Squad. As Misty’s weapon of choice indicates, we were also heavily influenced by the awesome Cannon Films action movies of the 80’s like the Death Wish sequels and Delta Force.” I’ll pause here, for anyone of a certain age to sigh nostalgically.

Lead actress Adrianne Winfield needed no convincing, having worked with Greenaway previously: “Adrianne enquired about the role when I posted a casting call so I didn’t actually have to pitch it to her at all. She really liked the premise.” The actual production was relatively quick, just 2-3 evenings – one of those a reshoot day – with between two and four hours of shooting each night. Perhaps surprisingly (or not, if you have experience of how tolerantly placid our Northern cousins tend to be!), the film-makers didn’t have any problem toting large weaponry round the streets. “We had no issues with the rocket launcher because up close it looks VERY fake,” laughs Greenaway. “We also shot at night when most people were out of the downtown area.”

Chris came relatively late to production. Originally a writer, of everything from comic strips to travel articles, he transitioned into making films after returning home in 2006, after teaching English in Japan. He recalls, “I went through a number of training workshops, and worked as a P/A on a number of sets while making the transition into writing screenplays.” He has been making web series since 2008, with six to his name so far, as well as a host of shorts, and directed his first full-length feature, Witchstalker, in 2013, which was released by Screamtime Films the following year. His IMDb filmography reads like a love-letter to pop culture and bad film, with titles such as Beach Blanket Lucha, Ninjas of the Caribbean and Escape From Ridgemont High.

But what of Misty, whose armaments would make the residents of Sin City‘s Old Town deeply envious? “The reactions have been very positive from the get go. We’ve had several very positive reviews and feedback from my existing fans on Youtube has also been great,” says Greenaway, who would like to see Hooker follow in the footsteps of its Hobo predecessor, and blossom from a trailer into a full-blown movie. “We’re hoping to do a crowdfunding campaign to make it into a feature film. Once I’m done with a few other projects I’m involved in at this time, we can go all in with this!” We certainly hope that’s a project which comes to fruition – some day, we will get to utter the immortal line, “Play Misty for me…” Here’s the film, in its glorious, full 132 seconds.

Brianna’s Reprisal, by David Wittlinger

Literary rating: starstarstarstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2action2

reprisalAlthough this book was just published on Jan. 3, I actually had the privilege of beta reading it last month, so this review is based on that read. (The final text has some minor additions, and a slight re-working of one incident.) This sequel to The Strong One is set about six months after the events of the first book, and our principal setting is Vineland, New Jersey (which is a real city, population 54,800).

Author Wittlinger didn’t originally intend to create a series character in Brianna, but he found her so captivating that he had to explore her story further. That’s an understandable reaction; I noted in my review of the first book that I was invested in her myself, and eager to see more of her personal growth. She’s one of the more interesting characters I’ve encountered in modern fiction, and the author brings her to well-rounded life with impressive skill. Despite her potty mouth, misguided sexual attitudes, and the emotional baggage she carries from a childhood and young womanhood that no human being should have had to suffer through, she has a basic core of kindness and honor, with a gritty pluck and will to better herself, that makes you naturally tend to root for her. The woman she was at the end of the first book had grown significantly from the person she was at the beginning. Her journey will continue in this volume, and it will take her to a crossroads where she has to make a crucial moral choice. How readers will feel about her decision will depend on the person –it’s a thought-provoking dilemma that forces us to put ourselves in her shoes and ponder how we’d react, or how we should. But whether you agree or disagree with her choice, you’re apt to continue to care about her.

The strengths of the first volume ate present here, too: lifelike characterization, well-handled prose, suspense, plotting that’s credible but that has some serious twists and surprises, good handling of action scenes, and considerable evocation of real emotion. While there are still a couple of sex scenes, there’s less explicit sexual content here than in the previous book –though this tale also explores another facet of the slimy underbelly of America’s illicit sexual culture, this time the horrors of human trafficking in sex slaves. (And yes, this goes on in real life in the good ol’ U.S.A.)

IMO, the series should be read in order. This book makes reference to events of the previous one that you won’t really be familiar with without having read it, and to fully understand who Brianna is, you have to follow her development and story arc from the beginning. (Both books are quick, compulsive reads –I read this one in three days.) Neither book ends with anything like a cliffhanger –there’s resolution of the particular events depicted– but both set the stage for a succeeding volume; Brianna’s adventures will be at least a trilogy. I’m committed to following them for the long haul; and if you read this far, I think you will be, too!

Author: David Wittlinger
Publisher: Self-published, available through Amazon, currently only as an e-book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.

Kyoko vs. Yuki

“Dead boring. Note: that is not just a critical opinion, it’s a statement of content…”

kyokovsyukiThe ultimate high school girl assassin Kyoko (code name 2029), who was raised by a mysterious underground organization finally became active. Meanwhile, the high school girl Yuki (born in 1983) with a reputation for being the strongest fighter in town, was living carefree every day with her girlfriend. And then, when the two met, a bloody battle for the title of “strongest high school girl” began…

Well, it sounded promising. Unfortunately, even though this lasts 52 minutes, the execution is so woefully inept, that you would be much better off watching half of Half Revenge Milly. The plot sees Kyoko (Fujikawa), having completed her training, sent on a mission to retrieve a suitcase of drugs which has been stolen from the organization that employs her. The Yakuza who stole it is currently living it up with what he thinks is a schoolgirl prostitute, but is actually Yuki (Satomi), who is intent on rolling her “compensated dating” boyfriend. She does so to help her lesbian lover, Miki (Satô), left deep in debt after acting as guarantor for a loan taken out by her sister, who has since vanished. However, when Kyoko finds out the pair now have her employer’s possessions, her revenge is swift and brutal, setting up a subsequent confrontation between her and Yuki.

Director Yamanouchi apparently has a bit of a “reputation” for sleaze, and that certainly seems justified here. Not so much for the lesbian sex, which pretty much par for the course: it’s the subsequent excursion into lesbian necrophilia for which this one will be remembered. It certainly won’t be for the fight scenes, which are feeble in the extreme, poorly-staged and possible even more badly edited. Sure, it’s clear that none of the actresses here were employed for their martial-arts abilities – even if, curiously, Fujikawa keeps her clothes on. Yet given the premise, you’d have thought those involved would at least have made some effort, albeit a token one. Nope. It’s wretched on just about every level, and even the splatter seem unenthusiastic, save for a mildly effective umbrella through the face. Oh, and I did laugh at Yuki taking her bra off and using it to try and choke Kyoko.

Maybe that’s really what this is: a parody of the genre, deliberately made to be piss-poor. However, from what I’ve read about Yamanouchi’s other work, it seems unlikely: satires doesn’t appear to be his bag, and this is described, in more than one place, as relatively restrained by the director’s own standards. That probably isn’t a good thing: if you don’t have production values… Or good actors… Or a script… Then at the very least, you should go full-throttle and embrace the madness, and it’s what the best of these J-film entries do. This one? Not so much.

Dir: Daisuke Yamanouchi
Star: Kyoko Fujikawa, Yôko Satomi, Kinako Satô

The Strong One, by David Wittlinger

Literary rating: starstarstarstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2action2

Full disclosure at the outset: David Wittlinger and I are Goodreads friends, and in a couple of Goodreads groups together. Despite some off-putting aspects of the book description, I was impressed by his attitude toward his writing, as expressed in his comments in these groups; so I wound up accepting his offer of a free e-review copy. (As yet, there is no print edition.)

strongoneProtagonist Brianna is a young ex-stripper who’s now the live-in girlfriend of tough thug Wade, the shady bouncer at the mob-connected Cleveland strip club where she used to work. Brianna sees herself as pretty worthless, and doesn’t expect to be loved; but she doesn’t know that Wade is secretly video-recording their sexual encounters, and that he’s done this to other girls as well. When she accidentally makes that discovery and he finds out she knows, he chokes her half to death, and locks up her car keys so she can’t escape when he’s called away temporarily. But he’s underestimated her resourcefulness, and she manages to escape with her car, his laptop (and its sexual contents), a bag of his cash and his revolver, which she’s grabbed for her protection though she’s never held a gun before. Since he wants that computer back badly, and has a vengeful disposition and a long reach, she’s in for a dangerous time.

Readers definitely need to be warned here about sexual content and bad language. We get a look into the ugly world of the porn industry, with some graphic descriptions of porn videos. We also have a couple of explicit sex scenes outside the porn context. Brianna’s had a terrible upbringing that no child and teen should have to endure (but which huge numbers DO endure, in real life!), and her sexual attitudes are wildly misguided, at several levels, IMO –and I don’t think the author would disagree. (Related to her view of herself as worthless, for instance, she likes being spanked, having her hair pulled and being called a “slut” during sexual activity.) That kind of thing doesn’t make for pleasant reading. She also has, as another character observes, “a mouth like a sailor;” she uses the f-word a lot (as, she points out, everyone else in her world does as well) with some other bad language and occasional religious profanity, and we hear the same speaking style from Wade and his low-life associates..

None of this material, though, is gratuitous. The author has immersed us in Brianna’s world to provide a realistic picture of what it’s like –not to promote it, but to give us the motivation to change it. The immersion is graphic; more graphic than I’d have made it, but that doesn’t mean the author’s decision was wrong. He’s created Brianna as a fully-fleshed, realistic person and given her the freedom to be who she is, warts and all, as he shares with us the story of her personal growth, which is the core theme of this novel. (And like any baby learning to walk, she’s going to have to crawl first.) For me, this book earned its stars in the degree of artistic and moral integrity the author showed in handling difficult material; in the quality of his character development, in the strength of his message of growth and empowerment, and in the degree of complex emotional engagement with the characters that he was able to evoke. (A day after reading it, I was still sorting my emotions out!)

Wittlinger writes with a great deal of craftsmanship –not just for a first novelist, but for any novelist. His plot is tight and linear, ably constructed. Violent action doesn’t occupy relatively much of the text (though when it happens, it’s gripping, intense, and nail-biting); the stress is more on character development and human relationship. (I considered this a plus.) Nonetheless, there’s a high degree of suspense throughout; and the author’s particularly adept in heightning it by cliffhanger chapter divisions and changes of viewpoint character between chapters. His level of description and detail is, as Goldilocks might have said, “just right,” and he makes adroit use of symbolism in places. The western Pennsylvania Appalachian setting is brought to life very nicely (I passed through the region once, so have some personal acquaintance with it). Both Brianna and Brandon are living, breathing characters you like in spite of their faults. And the ending is one that’s particularly powerful, evocative and gut-wrenching –but no spoilers here!

Like many self-published novels, this one was only proofread by the author before being published (and most authors will agree that it’s hard to effectively proofread your own work). I promised him I’d proofread this one, and was able to identify a number of minor typos and editorial issues, which will be corrected later. But these didn’t interfere with my understanding of the text, or ability to read it easily.

The Strong One is the first novel of a projected series. I’m now invested in Brianna, and interested in watching her future growth!

Note: As mentioned above, readers should be STRONGLY warned about explicit sexual content and bad language issues. (The book earned its stars in spite of, not because of, these factors.)

Author: David Wittlinger
Publisher: Self-published, available through Amazon, currently only as an e-book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.

Werewolf Woman

“Hungry like the wolf”

wolfwomanWhile there have been plenty of female vampires over the year, the number of female werewolves is a lot smaller. There’s the wonderful Ginger Snaps (and its not as wonderful sequels), the forgettable Cursed, TV series Bitten, and most infamously of all, Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf.  However, perhaps the closest relative here is a little off to one side: the remake of Cat People, made by Paul Schrader in 1982. It is not dissimilar in tone and approach, both taking a firm, if somewhat hysterical psychosexual tone to proceedings, and Giorgio Moroder’s musical score sounds like the synthesized one here. Both have heroines whose transformations are triggered largely by sexual excitement, and who eventually find a man happy to love them for who they are – only for that happiness to be short-lived. Of course, this one being grindhouse, the reason for its abrupt termination is her boyfriend being stabbed to death while trying to stop her from being raped, which triggers a rampage of revenge that justifies its inclusion on this site.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. It’s also a sexual assault which triggers the psychological problems for Daniela Neseri  (Borel). The psychological trauma and Daniela’s obsession with a family legend involving an ancestor who supposedly turned into a predatory animal, form a potent combination, and she develops a deeply-held belief that she also changes into a wolf at the full moon. That doesn’t appear to be the case, but it still brings tragedy down on the family, when Daniela gets all hot and bothered after seeing her sister (Lassander) making love to her husband. The resulting carnage get her committed to a psychiatric hospital by her aristocratic father (Carraro), only for Daniela to escape after an encounter with the facility’s local nymphomaniac. After some more brutal murders, which baffle the local police, she finally meets her soulmate, who works as a stuntman. And this takes us back to where this paragraph came in.

It’s pure exploitation cinema, not skimping at all on the nudity, and with a healthy amount of gore as well – what else would you expect from a director who, the same year, gave us Deported Women of the SS Special Section? This isn’t quite as sleazy, though certainly is not family viewing, and is well enough made to make for an interesting viewing experience for broad-minded spectators. Borel has a nicely lupine quality about her, and even if the transformation sequences [most notably the opening dream sequence] leaves a bit to be desired, the various elements – the heroine, her family, the cops who gradually realize the connection between the corpses – are tied together with a script that has had more effort put into it than you might think. They truly don’t make them like this any more.

Dir: Rino Di Silvestro
Star: Annik Borel, Howard Ross, Dagmar Lassander, Tino Carraro
a.k.a. La lupa Mannara or The Legend of the Wolf Woman

Blood Soaked

“Zombie Women of the S.S.”

bloodsoakedIt’s nice to see a horror movie which has women on both sides: not just the “final girl” trope, but as the entirely deranged pair of antagonists. This is equality at work, folks! In this case, the villains are sisters Sadie (Grendle) and Katie (Derryberry), who were apparently left orphaned by the unexpected death of their father who was… Well, if I’d to guess, I’d say he was trying to continue the work of Nazi scientists, with the aim of creating an army of undead slaves through the use of a resurrection serum, who can then be used to bring about the Fourth Reich. I’m kinda assuming this, from the use of copious public-domain Nazi footage during the opening credits, and the swastikas hanging around their desert bunker. Meanwhile, peppy student Piper (Wilder) is starting at college, and before long is exploring her sexuality with fellow student, Ashley (Corona). The pair head out into the desert, but a roadside encounter with our psycho sisters kicks off the horror part of proceedings, with Piper in particular being stalked, captured and dragged into the Naziettes lair where even worse things await.

There are two main problems here: one stylistic, and the other an issue of pacing. The former is the decision to switch into high-contrast black and white, when it first becomes clear to Piper, the trouble she’s in. While it certainly adds impact to the that moment, the film-makers apparently forgot to flip the switch back on their camcorder, and any impact is lost. You give your film a title like Blood Soaked, and we expect to see… well, blood. Here, however, it might as well be chocolate sauce, as used by Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho. That’s when you can see it at all, as the high-contrast mentioned tends to wash everything into the two ends of the spectrum: all or nothing.

Equally problematic, is the film taking too long to get to a point where it is even attempting to justify the title. It barely runs an hour between opening and the end credits rolling, which should be an incentive to get cracking and have things moving on at a fast pace. We do not need to see Piper showing up to college with her mom. We do not need to see Piper and Ashley meeting and building their relationship. We do not care. I’d have been a lot more interested to see what Sadie and Katie were up to over the decade after their father died, though quite how such a pair of certifiable loony tunes were able, not just to survive but flourish, escapes me. In the end, it commits the single, unforgivable sin of both original grindhouse cinema and modern films which attempt to reproduce its philosophy: it’s mostly dull. By the time the mayhem eventually showed, I was already trying to figure out if I could do household chores, while leaving this on in the background. Never a good sign…

Dir: Peter Grendle
Star: Heather Wilder, Rachel Corona, Hayley Derryberry, Laina Grendle