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Wednesday
Aug152012

The Hole (2009)

Dimension Film

A black void swirls at the heart of the movie business. Roiling inside it are countless bad ideas for blockbuster films. I imagine most of these begin as earnest pitches that are quickly eroded by the crushing influence of 3D gimmickry, brand recognition, and franchisability. The middle tarnishing ingredient (also known as "nostalgia") is relativley new, but has overloaded the void's capacity--causing a hard, smelly crust of cheap cash-ins to form along the rim.

I'd love to fill that hole with The Hole. Last Friday, director Joe Dante brought his unreleased family horror film to Chicago's Music Box Theatre for a rare screening, and it was one of the most thrilling experiences I've had at the movies all year. Within the first ten minutes, it became clear that all the recent attempts to bottle the magic of 1980s filmmaking have been cheap imitations of the real thing.

Ti West came the closest with The House of the Devil, but movies like Super 8 and Hatchet are fan films compared to the work of an era-defining master. Sure, Dante, Spielberg, Lucas, and others spent a great deal of their careers paying homage to the sci-fi and horror of their youth, but they worked hard to make these quirky passions relevant to contemporary audiences. In Gremlins, for example, Dante's reference to Invasion of the Body Snatchers acts as both loving pop cultural touchstone and foreshadowing--not as cheap padding for a weak script.

Mark L. Smith's script for The Hole is deceptively complicated as well as familiar: A put-upon single mom (Teri Polo) moves to a new, lame town with her grumpy teenage son, Dane (Chris Massoglia), and younger boy, Lucas (Nathan Gamble). She works all the time, leaving the kids at home to get into trouble. Very quickly, they discover a padlocked door in their basement floor. Underneath is a black, bottomless pit, which they explore virtually, by lowering a camcorder on some rope as far as it will go.

They can't see anything in the abyss, but the abyss sees them; soon, strange things happen in their neighborhood. Lucas battles a demented jester puppet scurrying around the house; Dane is haunted by feelings of being followed; and the cute girl next door, Julie (Haley Bennett) has visions of a bleeding little girl with a missing shoe. The novelty here is not in the horror set-ups, but in the relationship between the three young leads. Their quest to solve the mystery of the hole distracts them from deeper, secret problems, and brings them together in unexpected ways.

I won't go any further in my synopsis because you should really go into this movie cold. The film's surprises won't bend many adults' minds, but The Hole isn't exclusively for them. It's truly a family horror picture: one that's safe enough in language and graphic content to bring the kids to, but which will likely give everyone nightmares--or at least make them run for the door when coming up from the laundry room.

Unlike many contemporary horror movies, this one is full of solid laughs. Sure, many of them are cat-in-the-closet jump scares that lead to "I can't believe that got me" chuckles. But these are cool short-hand reassurances on the part of the filmmakers that we've signed up for a cinematic carnival ride: as scary as a demonic, teleporting puppet may be, it's still just a puppet.

Half the film's strength lies in Massoglia, Gamble, and Bennett's performances. Their chemistry is perfect, and I was reminded of how the child actors from The Goonies always seemed like a gang of genuine lifelong friends. Though the characters in The Hole are thrown together, Dante and Smith capture teenage timidity and the warmth of making fast friends. You may recognize more than one emotion from your own childhood--not in anything that's written down, but in a look between actors; in an awkward pause; or in a springy step that devolves into a shuffling walk.

The second strength is the way the movie was put together. It's a hard alchemy to describe, but aside from Dane's Killers t-shirt and the characters' modern wardrobe, The Hole feels like it could have been filmed in 1984. Cinematographer Theo van de Sande and production designer Brentan Harron make Dante's world of basements, diners, and the dimensions below expansive, creepy, and tangible. Watching this film is like reading one of Stephen King's novels about childhood, where the scenery is informed by the golden hues and ink-black shadows of nostalgia.

Towards the end of the movie, we're treated to a fantasy sequence that recalls Dante's segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie, in that most of it was filmed on real sets with honest to goodness props. It's so odd to see a team of artisans figure out how to film bendy floors and disproportionate set pieces in ways that will best evoke a sense of Alice in Wonderland delirium; as an audience member, I'm so used to having these things handed to me through unrelatable digital effects that my brain had to work overtime while watching The Hole: first to take in the action of the scenes, and second to marvel at how the filmmakers achieved their vision without leaning on a "do it in post" crutch.

On a related note, you should know that The Hole was filmed as a 3D movie. I only saw it in two dimensions because the Music Box isn't set up to run the movie as intended. However, the artistry and care that went into creating full audience immersion renders the artificial enhancements practically moot. A couple of the "made for 3D" scenes are unreasonably conspicuous, but for the most part, this thing has an amazing, consistent depth of field that comes across really well in a traditional presentation--largely thanks to the old-school filmmaking techniques I mentioned earlier.

Now that I've gotten all the drooling hyperbole out of the way, let me take a moment to discuss the downside of The Hole: chances are, you won't be able to see it in the way it was meant to be seen. In September, Big Air will release the movie in Atlanta and possibly on Video on Demand. Dante's masterpiece has been in the can for three years, and has failed to get the major studio/distributor push it needs to reach as many theatres as possible.

If there's such a thing as grand cinematic injustice, this is surely it. With all the sequelized, productized, generic, flashy garbage clogging up the multiplex, you'd think there'd be an executive or two willing and able to recognize a genuine hit in the making. Just throw together six of the film's dozen trailer-ready shots and slap "From Joe Dante, director of Gremlins" above the title, and watch the midnight ticket sales go through the roof.

Audiences hunger for new entertainment. Even though The Hole feels like it could have been made thirty years ago, its quality, themes, and imagination are timeless. I laughed, I jumped, I got goose bumps (both warm and icy)--none of which happened while watching Battleship, The Avengers, or The Dark Knight Rises.* True, The Hole is a different kind of film, which is precisely why supporting it is the only way to plug that terrible, black void. If someday you have the chance to see it in a theatre, do yourself--and the movies--a huge favor and check it out.

Note: In a post-screening Q&A, Joe Dante lamented the fact that his entire movie has been posted to YouTube. I mention this by way of a plea: do not watch this movie on-line. The Hole deserves the big-screen treatment; in lieu of that, it should be seen on the largest available TV, in the highest available resolution. I watched a few seconds of the YouTube version; it's small, fuzzy, and completely magic-free. Have some respect for the filmmakers, and for yourself as a film lover, and avoid the temptation. You may have to wait awhile, but your patience will pay off in spades.

*Okay, Battleship was pretty hilarious.

Monday
Aug132012

The Campaign (2012)

Dummy Poo-Poo Sillyheads

Conservatives, especially Republicans who live in the South, are idiots. They are proudly ignorant, morbidly obese, Jesus-loving gun freaks who speak as if they have severe brain damage. Worse yet, the racism, sexism, and homophobia that unites them is so absolute, it's a wonder America's first Gay Pride parade didn't spark a second Civil War.

I imagine this mantra ran like a Wall Street ticker through the minds of director Jay Roach and screenwriters Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell while developing their new comedy, The Campaign. Working through actors Will Ferrell and Zack Galafianakis, this team of unhinged Hollywood liberals have perfected a gross cultural caricature that I like to call "Redneck Face".

The Redneck Face stooge is always bumbling and ignorant, falling into either the Evil Greedy Horndog or Cuddly Backwards Innocent categories. They have no dimension beyond the mental image conjured by their titles, and therefore in no way resemble anyone you're ever likely to meet.

What's the point of The Campaign? Ostensibly, it's to make people laugh, but there's something more insidious at work here. Ferrell stars as Cam Brady, a four-term Congressman from North Carolina who's set to win number five; despite a slew of sex scandals and inappropriate behavior, he has run unopposed for nearly two decades. Into his life stumbles Marty Huggins (Galifianakis), head of tourism for the small town of Hammond, who, at the behest of his well-connected father (Brian Cox), has decided to compete for the seat. Turns out dad owes a favor to the sinister billionaire Motch Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow), who want a more pliable candidate than Cam in play.

Right off the bat, the filmmakers establish their movie as a weird critique of Bush-era/Tea Party Conservatism. Ferrell modifies the George W. Bush impression that helped make him an SNL superstar (occasionally detouring into Bush Sr. territory). Aykroyd and Lithgow play a not-at-all-veiled parody of the Koch Brothers. Marty's rich daddy forces his Asian maid to speak in an exaggerated black servant accent, to "remind him of the good ol' days".  And Marty's wife, Mitzi (Sarah Baker), is an overweight Christian girl who cheats on her husband with the first stud to bat eyes at her (of course, she's secretly into really kinky sex and feels terrible about the whole thing immediately afterwards--oh, pity those repressed believers!).

My biggest issue with the film (besides it containing four good laughs in ninety minutes--six, if you count the stuff that should've been left out of the trailer) is that it feels like more of a polemic than any three Michael Moore movies; at least Moore presents viewers with things he holds as truth in a way that might (might) compel them to do some research afterwards. For Conservatives, Christians, and anyone else who takes issue with so-called "Progressive" values, this movie probably comes off as a lecture on why everyone who doesn't fall in line is a doomed idiot (a hilarious irony, for sure).

Moore is most prolific during Republican administrations--which makes sense, given his targets. The filmmakers of The Campaign seem trapped in the Bush 43 era, convinced that the icons of their ire still rule with chicken-grease-smeared fists. Had this movie come out in 2006, it still would have been unfunny and unforgivably slanted, but it at least would have had a reason to exist.

For the record, I considered myself a staunch liberal until about a year ago. I'm now a political agnostic, and it's partially propaganda like this that made me tune out. Roach, Henchy, and Harwell have created a world in which liberals don't exist in North Carolina--possibly don't exist at all, outside of the distant mainstream media who occasionally check in to make fun of local hick shenanigans. Apparently, all the unscrupulous political behavior in America can be laid at the hands of immoral Conservatives and the brain-dead, fairy-tale-reading idiots who vote for them.*

By now--assuming you've stuck with me--you're probably wondering why I've hijacked my own review to stand on a soapbox. The truth is, The Campaign leaves me with nothing to talk about besides its overt and covert themes. The story is as feather-light as the laughs, following the template of every lesser Will Ferrell/Adam Sandler comedy: buffoon starts out on top; falls from grace; learns valuable life lesson from put-upon member of the opposite sex while appearing to lose some major competition to a suave, charming asshole; bounces back at the zero hour to save the day/win the race/become the world's best wedding singer. The laughs keep these movies from being absolute Play-Doh comedies (thanks again, Bill Hicks), but the righteous insistence here that the filmmakers have Something To Say drains all the fun out of the whole thing.

Despite looking great and having a game cast, The Campaign is a cheap, ducks-in-a-barrel comedy full of mostly unlikable stereotypes** whose sole purpose is to make the target audience feel superior to the people they assume are being represented in the film. This is Amos and Andy for Limousine Liberals--which is also a generalization, but it's the only way I can describe the breed of scared, self-satisfied creature that would glom onto this picture. If you're looking for genuinely funny satire with conscience and heart, I recommend Dave and Bob Roberts. They cover similar ground, but from an adult point of view--unlike this movie, which is the cinematic equivalent of playground bullying.

*Yet, when the philandering Cam gets into a fist-fight with Huggins during a televised debate, someone makes reference to his $900 haircut--two digs at fallen Democratic VP contender John Edwards.

**Galifianakis and Jason Sudeikis play the only characters I could stand to watch for more than two minutes.

Friday
Aug102012

Scalene (2012)


Trying Angles

Scalene, the new thriller from co-writer/director Zack Parker, made me extremely uncomfortable from start to finish--but not in the way he'd intended, I'm sure. Told in a reverse/double-back narrative style that recalls Memento and Tarantino, the film centers on the relationship between a frumpy, put-upon mother; her mentally challenged adult son; and the comely college student who takes a job as his caregiver. It's fitting that two-thirds of the movie works, considering its theme of triangulation; the challenge is wading through the first thirty-two of these weird ninety-six minutes to get to the good stuff.

I should kick off the review proper with a confession: I laughed a lot at the material involving the mentally challenged son. There's nothing funny about people with disabilities in the real world, but it takes a deft writing/directing/acting team to keep fictitious portrayals of them from straying into bad comedy. The problem here is that we meet Jakob (Adam Scarimbolo) towards the end of his story. He's a twenty-six-year-old man who doesn't speak; his bouts of distraction and nervous shaking give him the appearance of a cat constantly hunting flies.

Yet, he has a girlfriend--who he's been accused of sexually assaulting. As officers of the state drag him off to an institution, he screams and whines and flails about, as his mother, Janice (Margo Martindale) yells in horror. It's an over-the-top scene of over-the-top emotions that is uncomfortably hilarious, thanks to its utter lack of context. Having now seen the whole movie, I understand what Parker and co-writer Brandon Owens were going for, but this is a rare case of backwards storytelling hurting a narrative instead of enhancing it.

You see, even the girlfriend thing isn't true. Jakob allegedly raped his caregiver, Paige (Hanna Hall), a detail that would have been nice to discover in due time. Instead, I sat for the first twenty minutes or so wondering, "No, seriously, how did this guy get a girlfriend?"

And, guess what? The rape is also suspect. Look, there's a big difference between building a mystery whose answer is a giant carpet yank for the audience at the end, and yanking that carpet every step of the way, denying viewers a sure footing. One is a sure-fire path to blowing minds; the other is an invitation to scope out the nearest available exit.

Scalene's first half-hour is a mess, particularly the opening scene, which sees Janice showing up to Paige's home with a gun. They fight clumsily* and move throughout the house. Hall plays getting shot in the shoulder as if Paige is annoyed by a cramp that caused her to smear ketchup on her favorite shirt. The struggle ends with Janice tumbling down some stairs and Paige calling the cops. Of course, she turns around to hang up the phone and gets socked in the face by her not-dead attacker--which leads into the "Well, how did I get here?" portion of the story.

As we rewind, Janice and Jakob's story comes into greater focus; she's an insecure and thoroughly unpleasant woman who's tiptoeing into the dating scene (Jakob's father split years ago, sparing his family an abusive personality and the audience a terrible performance); he's her fitful source of frustration, and also her greatest love--a combination that usually results in verbal and physical abuse followed by terms of endearment. When Janice brings home a seemingly nice man, Jakob runs him off with a crazy freak-out.**

In the aftermath of this episode, we learn Jakob's origin story. No, he wasn't born with his disability. He fried a large chunk of his brain by huffing chemicals in junior high. The inciting incident is shown in a hilariously awkward flashback that begins with Jakob holding a towel up to his face, which becomes the towel that he was holding on the day he lost his marbles.

The transitional washcloth makes zero sense, and is an unwelcome bit of surrealism that takes us into Jakob's mind; I'm all for bizarre imagery, but this feels plain forced, an obvious ploy by Parker and company to trick-out a movie whose screenplay needs a lot of help. I would have gladly given up the cute swapping out of Janice for Jakob's doctor and all the muffled, drowning sound effects if it meant gaining coherence in the main plot threads.

But, no, the story meanders until Paige's introduction. It's here that Scalene gets interesting, and the middle forty-five minutes of this movie are the only reason I highly recommend it. Hall is note-perfect as the soon-to-be college grad who lives at home with her wealthy parents and enjoys a conflict-free life. When Paige meets Jakob and Janice, she's stunned at the mother's passive-aggressive (then aggressive-aggressive) behavior. Over time, she grows to love Jakob, platonically, and must cope with her own cowardly limitations when it comes to reporting his abuse.

Watching Hall and Martindale's tense games of emotional cat-and-mouse, I finally understood why some of my friends can't watch TV shows like The Office: they complain that the uncomfortability gives them the creeps; I'd always shrugged the notion off as ridiculous, until I saw these women get so raw that I felt like I was eavesdropping on my parents arguing. It's a drastic contrast to earlier in the film, where they were required to re-enact the climax to Fatal Attraction, which is obviously outside their wheelhouses. This stretch of the movie is also where Scarimbolo shines, bringing touching nuances to a character that had been nothing but a kooky spaz for so long.

Unfortunately, the movie must wind its way back to the beginning (or, you know, the end), and that means setting up a scenario by which Jakob is hauled away and Janice tries to kill Paige. If you want to avoid spoilers, I suggest backing away now and returning after you've watched the film.

Paige decides that the least complicated way to have Jakob safely removed from Janice's care is to fake being raped by him. One afternoon, while Janice is out on a date, Paige jerks Jakob off and rubs his semen into her crotch. She then punches herself in the chest and face, rips her clothes, and then forces Jakob to take off his shirt so she can administer some fake "attack" scratches. The plan works perfectly, allowing her to rest easy in the knowledge that she'd broken up a family and possibly caused irrevocable psychic damage to an already fragile mind--all so she wouldn't have to complete an anonymous phone call to Family Protective Services.

Unbelievable.

But not as unbelievable as the ending, which I was invested in only because I wanted to see what would become of Paige, following Janice's surprise assault. I'm still waiting. You see, in another brilliant bending of perception, Parker and Owens ditch that angle completely. Janice simply dies (we're led to believe) at the bottom of the stairs. I can only assume that the attack was a death's-door revenge fantasy on her part or...or something. Either way, Scalene ends with what I can only describe as a grand cheat.

You may wonder how I can recommend such an inconsistent chore. The answer is simple: Scalene may be a wreck, but it's an infinitely interesting one. The quality ebbs and flows as much as the story does, with as many attendant frustrating twists as any three Christopher Nolan films. This is a textbook example of too much gimmickry and bogus-reveal suspense, a cautionary tale that's enjoyable on levels both ironic and not. I laughed, I winced, I rolled my eyes--often within the same scene. That kind of consistently intriguing badness is magical, no matter how you look at it.

*The filmmakers' attempt at creating "natural" awkwardness comes off as a dress rehearsal. As the women rolled around on the floor, I kept waiting for Martindale to say, "Now, Hanna, this'll be much more intense when Zack calls 'Action', but you're gonna be okay."

**Granted, this is mostly Charles' fault; given his poor judgment in telling a developmentally arrested kid a story about repeatedly shooting cattle on the side of the road, I'd say Janice is better off without him.

Monday
Aug062012

Holy Bouncing Boobies! A Batman Burlesque (2012)

Comic Stripping

In case you're wondering, Holy Bouncing Boobies! A Batman Burlesque isn't playing at a cineplex near you. The live stage show runs now through October 27th at Skokie, IL's Gorilla Tango Theatre. I can say with utmost confidence that there's no better use of your time, money, and airline miles than getting out to see this thing at least once.* Sell a kidney; defer Junior's college fund; ink a deal with Ol' Scratch if necessary. The pilgrimage is worth it. Hell, I'm even breaking my (mostly) inflexible "Movie Reviews Only" rule to endorse it.

The show, written by Jeremy Eden and directed by Juicy Lucy, is a racy send-up of the 1960s Batman TV series. Batman (Marie Curieosity) and Robin (Crystal Paradise) receive a cryptic clue from The Riddler (Vicki Van Go-Go) as to the whereabouts of their unseen, kidnapped partner, Batgirl. A mad dash around Gotham City pits our heroes against their rogues gallery, all of whom give up additional clues after being beaten into submission. Of course, "beaten into submission" translates to "stripping down to panties and pasties while being out-danced by the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder".

The first thing you should know about Holy Bouncing Boobies is that it's not just a gimmicky strip show. Eden's script is legitimate and legitimately hilarious, especially as performed by all the girls on stage. When Egghead (Bottom Heavy Betty) shows up, armed with dozens of puns and not much else, Robin has the first of two major existential crises: have the Dynamic Duo wasted their time chasing fetishistic nitwits, or does their routine amount to actual crime-fighting? In typical Bruce Wayne fashion, Batman dismisses the notion with some haughty aphorism--which somehow quells Robin's concerns. You see, Eden's Gotham City is populated solely by horny nitwits who take turns getting the best of each other while in various states of dress.

The script's loving deconstruction of the source material plays like a foul-mouthed Mad Magazine parody. But very few of the laughs are cheap. Most of the jokes and visual gags are clever, well-considered, and aimed at the head as much as the gut. They're also not limited to making fun of the Adam West-era Batman, which I'd long thought drained of comic potential. Eden gets in jabs at Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and--in a wonderful barometer of audience hipness--a nod to West's more recent endeavors.

I was also taken aback by the fact that, despite the cast being exclusively female, the characters mostly refer to each other in masculine terms. The age-old subtext of Batman and Robin's potentially homoerotic partnership is touched on here, but gets turned on its head due to the  gender reversal. Almost everyone comes out as at least bi-sexual by the end, with Batman lusting after "his" partner, while also pretending to fend off advances from Catwoman (Kali CandyKiss), The Joker (Baby Davis), and even Commissioner Gordon (Betty).

The second contributor to the show's success is its cast. Each performer's comic timing is spot on, and they rock the sultry (and often very funny) choreography. It was cool to see what I first assumed were supporting players show up in major roles later on--especially in the case of CandyKiss, who squawks and struts as one of the Penguin's (Phaedra Black) henchmen before taking over the stage as Catwoman a couple scenes later.

I won't deny that the show's sultry charms worked on me. Holy Bouncing Boobies features a bevy of attractive women with diverse body types who leave almost nothing to the imagination. But the biggest turn-on was the fact that they give their all in service of a rich, pop-geek-friendly comedy show. I could have probably sat through the whole thing blindfolded and had just as good a time (though I would have been robbed of Towanda Lust's deliciously schizoid Two-Face act and the crazy little glitter gag that the Joker pulls out of nowhere).**

This was my first Gorilla Tango Burlesque show, and it won't be my last. The company puts on several different movie and pop-culture-themed performances in the Chicagoland area, parodying everything from The Super Mario Brothers to The Lord of the Rings to Star Wars. If those shows are half as good as Holy Bouncing Boobies, that still makes them three times more entertaining than the last few summer blockbusters I've had to endure. If you're in the area between now and late September, I urge you to bring some friends and leave your preconceptions.

Note: If you're attending Wizard World Chicago this weekend, you can meet some of the Gorilla Tango gals at booth #2472. Yeah, this is a double-plug. What of it?

*This includes surgeons, government officials, astronauts, and missionaries. Sure you're saving the world, or whatever, but Holy Bouncing Boobies is a crucial reminder of why it's worth saving.

**"Nowhere" is code for "underwear".

Sunday
Aug052012

Screaming in High Heels (2012)

Horror 101

I love horror movies, but am reluctant to call myself a fan. Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era is a harsh reminder that even though I know a good deal about certain corners of the genre, there's still a wide, wicked world out there to explore. Luckily, this great little documentary provides as many starting points as reasons to care about low-budget 80s exploitation.

Writer/director Jason Paul Collum traces the birth and rise of the home video market, which gave horror enthusiasts unprecedented access to movies. Before the video tape boom, people relied on drive-ins or grindhouse theatres to provide their fix of cutting-edge, out-of-the-mainstream cinema. But as home entertainment became more affordable, so-called "mom and pop" video stores popped up all over the nation--and they needed content to fill their shelves. Quick and cheap to produce (and relatively easy to distribute), horror flicks became retailers' bread and butter--with a small cast of filmmakers and soon-to-be-genre-stars carving out their own niche empire.

Overseeing this empire were "Scream Queens" Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer, a trio of plucky, attractive girls whose work ethic and willingness to do anything for the genre landed them steady careers and legions of fans. With directors like Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau churning out movies in less than a week and a half, their leading ladies found themselves in high demand and gaining mainstream attention. Unfortunately, that attention didn't lead to mainstream jobs, with Hollywood studios looking on splatterific "junk" like Silent Night, Deadly Night and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama as barely a step up from porn.

Just as technology's penchant for eating itself created the Scream Queens, it also led to their decline. From the advent of the big-box video store to the ubiquity of household moviemaking equipment, the girls' novelty faded along with their youth. I found Screaming in High Heels' final section to be its most fascinating, as our three heroines talk about coping with a limelight they'd never even pictured themselves stepping into (Stevens has a Masters degree in Marine Biology, and fell into acting on the back of a brief modeling stint). While some owned their title and evolved with the times, one of the Scream Queens chose to all but bury her career after becoming a mother.

It's all fascinating stuff, and my only gripe with the film is its lack of diverse perspectives. Much is made of Hollywood's disdain for low-rent slashers and monster movies, but it would have been nice to hear from someone on the inside of that machine--especially since many studios launched glossy, mainstream franchises on the backs of these B-movie pioneers.

Similarly, there was a brief mention of other Scream Queens who tried to capitalize on the title without putting in the work; with the exception of a single comment, it is roundly suggested that Quigley, Stevens, and Bauer were the end-all/be-all of their particular niche. There's a troubling one-sided quality to the adoration presented here that made me wonder if there's more to these stories than catty gossip. Maybe it was an issue of time or resources. Maybe it's implicit editorializing on Collum's part. Whatever the case, these are curious omissions.

Like many children of the 80s, I cut my cinematic teeth on video rentals. From horror to sci-fi to sex comedies (and the occasional "legit" movie), I devoured my share of schlock in my formative years. But watching Screaming in High Heels made me realize just how much material I never even knew to seek out. How many chances to see Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers did I blow while lamely plotting to con my parents into buying me a Freddy glove?

The best documentaries don't tie their subjects into a perfect narrative bow. Rather, they set the viewer down a path. Collum and company have created a highly entertaining gateway drug into harder, dirtier cinema. If you're well steeped in genre lore, I don't know how much more you'll get from the film--aside from some really well-told stories and hilarious clips from way down memory lane. But for casual consumers of horror, like me, this is the curriculum for what's sure to be a nutty, bloody education in our quest to achieve legitimate fandom.