As Valentine's Day rears its ugly head to mock us who have nothing but a restraining order, the world of cinema offers relief. For here there are plenty of movies about jilted lovers, psychotic boyfriends/girlfriends and people with different, misunderstood tastes. We can indulge in and live vicariously through these characters as they go about their day hacking and slashing and burning and exploding and making an impromptu phallus out of a broom handle. Sure, we may never be able to violently unleash our inner rage without winding up behind bars with a person bigger then us fixing up a salad for us to toss, but fictional characters can and there's no crime in rooting for them.
With that said, we offer up a smattering of cinematic sour grape romances for your Valentine's Day approval.
VALENTINE (2001) -
Pathetic loser gets his ass kicked because some plump girl didn't want people to know she was so desperate. 13 years later her and four friends start getting threatening cards and are pursued by a cherub mask-wearing killer who possesses not only more than a passing resemblance to Mike Myers but also a chronic nose bleed. As the body count starts to pile up the remaining girls begin to believe that the pathetic loser from way back when may be the culprit; perhaps he's had plastic surgery and changed his identity. Perhaps he's become one of their boyfriends! What to do, what to do? How about throwing a big house party where the killer will have lots of cover to do his dark and shamelessly stolen from early '80s horror film deeds?! Don't expect to be surprised by this homage to the slashers of yore (Did I say homage? More like theft.), don't expect to be scared, and most of all don't expect to enjoy yourself. Jamie Blanks shamelessly cribs from the likes of John Carpenter and Dario Argento, but has no idea what makes their films work. This box of un-sweets contains ugly cinematography, horrendous acting (a nod to Argento?), routine by the numbers killings, and the cliché eleventh hour surprise ending. Another case of carob trying to be passed off as chocolate. Available on DVD from WB.
FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)
Poor Dan Gallagher, all he wanted to do was have a nice quiet affair and look at the trouble it got him. Perhaps if he lived in France he would have had a comical mistress instead of the psychopathic monster that comes raging at him after he decides to call it off. Of course this women, Alex Forrest, could simply be a metaphor for the weight of his guilt and its effect on his family while he keeps it sublimated. Once the bunny's boiled and the pot spills over it's time to confess and get closure, plus a good bullet to the loony lady wouldn't hurt. To fulfill a little perverse sexual impulse, the husband is positioned in such a way at the end that his lovely wife gets to give the other woman the last thrust. Good old-fashioned '80s sleaze worthy of every Oscar nod it got. Soon available in a special collector's edition DVD from Paramount come April.
BASIC INSTINCT (1992)
Verhoeven's attempt at Hitchcock manages to go over the top with sex in the same way the director managed to go over the top with violence in his sci-fi epics ROBOCOP and STARSHIP TROOPERS. Popular writer Catherine Tramell is under suspicion of murder and the guy they have following her is one tough cop that's about to be pushed over the edge, Detective Nick Curran. The boy in blue may think he's a ladies man, but this is no lady. A cunning, manipulative praying mantis whose soul knows no compassion and whose stunning body leads many to death, Tramell is virtually Satan. What the devil wants with Michael Douglas is beyond me though; perhaps it saw one too many episodes of THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO. Plenty of dead lovers, male and female, lots of nudity and the worst ad campaign for ice picks in history, BASIC INSTINCT is pure Verhoeven insanity tempered only by the MPAA. An excellent version is available on DVD from Artisan that includes a silly ice pick shaped pen; try stabbing somebody with that.
THE PROWLER (1981) [IMG8R]directed by Joseph Zito
Say you're a GI during World War II and you get one of those "Dear John" letters from your sweetheart? Well, when you get home what should you do about it? How about kill her and her lover in a gazebo?! Sound good? Then rather than let things stop there how about killing more people on the anniversary of the double murder! What could be more awesome you say? Well, what if FX wiz Tom Savini handled these brutal killings?! Sounds like an instant rental, no matter how slow, insipid, poorly paced and just plain god-awful the final result is. As they've always said, "Who cares about story when you've got a girl being stabbed to death with a pitchfork?" And I'm not one to argue. Not available on DVD but there's this thing called VHS I've heard some talk about.
As far as I'm concerned all high school losers should be given telekinetic powers, not just the ones with overly repressed, devoutly religious mothers. Poor Carrie - she's such a nobody, all the kids hate her, her mother hates her and even the ugly shirt-wearing boy riding a bike hates her. Then one day she starts to menstruate and all hell breaks loose. (Uh oh, looks like a metaphor for puberty.) The local popular girls start to take an even more intense dislike to the poor thing when their brutal shenanigans wind up getting them in trouble. When the one compassionate soul in the in-crowd decides to try and reach out to the unfortunate one by having her boyfriend take Carrie to the prom, she upsets both Carrie's enemies and Carrie's mom. Though the evening starts off well, a brutal prank sets off an act of vengeance that will have body bag salesmen everywhere drooling and audience members questioning the mercy date concept. Available in a special edition DVD from MGM.
All Robert wants for him and his girlfriend is dead corpses so they can have sex with them. Is that so bad? Sadly, his less then stellar people skills, backed with a tendency not to clean up after himself, lead to his removal from his accident clean up job. Now no longer making money, or having the means to get ripe love, his woman bolts, leaving the terribly sad man to slowly lose his grip. Surprisingly moving little film is actually much better than it looks. Director Buttgereit is able to capture the sensation of loneliness and inability to fit in that doom Robert. Concludes with a shocking scene of love and death that has all the ladies talking. A human drama that just happens to involve necrophilia - get past that and you've got a minor classic here. Released on DVD by Barrel Entertainment (www.barrel-entertainment.com) with tons of extras. A great film for snuggling.
NEKROMANTIK 2 (1991) [IMG7R]directed by Jorg Buttgereit
As the tagline says: "The return of the loving dead." A different necrophiliac is featured this time, Monika. Monika has a dilemma: she's got a killer dead boyfriend, but now a living one has come knocking on her door. What's a poor corpse fker to do? Well don't worry, she resolves the issue with typical female ingenuity. What she doesn't resolve is the film's poor pacing and lack of engaging story. The only "lousy" film in Buttgereit's tiny oeuvre. Still worth a look for the porn film dubbing scenes and a creepy moment when Monika's friends come over to watch an autopsy video. Just keep your finger on the fast forward button. Plans for a DVD release from Barrel Entertainment are in the works. What a great company. I wonder if they need somebody to wait motionless on their front lawn?