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Entries in Fair Game [1988] (1)


Fair Game (1988)


Here’s the second Crypticon Edition Home Video Review. It’s also the second film to feature future dinner guest Bill Moseley; though it’s not what could be called a “Bill Moseley movie”. Hell, it can barely be called a movie.

There are only three reasons to watch Fair Game (aka Mamba):

1. To prepare for some kind of “Cinema Worsts” test
2. To take a shot every time a character says “game”
3. To live, should someone put a gun to your head and say, “Watch this!”

This movie is so bad, yet so infinitely enjoyable that everyone should see it; if only to provide a new standard against which to measure shitty cinema.

Fair Game tells the story of Gene (Gregg Henry), a video game designer who plans to murder his wife, Eva (Trudie Styler), who’s left him. He meets with a snake specialist named Frank (Bill Moselely) to procure a mamba that, when released, will die within a few hours from the dangerous amount of venom in its body; the venom overload, Gene is told, also makes the beast more aggressive—perfect for stalking and killing other animals and ex-wives. Gene buys the snake and then kills Frank by locking him in an SUV with the mamba, via remote control. You see, Gene is both game designer and supervillain, and now he possesses the ultimate weapon: a hissing time bomb!

Cut to Eva, who lives in the weirdest movie apartment I’ve ever seen. It’s a sprawling wood-and-metal Escher playground with no windows and stairs that lead nowhere; at first, I thought the harsh angles were simply the result of shoddy camera work, but, no, the place is simply jacked. It’s also the only kind of place one might imagine Eva living, seeing as she’s a flighty mess of off-angles herself.

She bops into her home carrying bags full of groceries, listening to music that is apparently only audible on the film’s soundtrack, but whatever. Eva’s the kind of late-80’s free spirit that can spill a bag full of apples on the floor and leave them be to watch television. Her intro scenes play like a lost Olivia Newton-John video, and for a while it’s unclear whether this storyline will connect with the film’s opening at all.

Gene eventually comes knocking. He’s all neckties and seriousness; Eva is aloof and oblivious to the long black document tube he’s carrying.

After Gene leaves, the rest of the movie plays out like Extremities with snakes. Eva is locked in her apartment (or loft, or whatever the hell it is) with the mamba, who slithers and stalks and generally makes like the creature from Alien. Meanwhile, Gene monitors both hunter and prey from the comfort of his truck, thanks to a charming suitcase computer (he should have hired an artist to create the “snake” avatar, which takes up about a quarter of the apartment in his virtual floor plan). I won’t give too much away regarding Eva’s epic struggle with the mamba; there are things in this movie that need to be seen to be believed—not only bad character choices, but weird edits, out-of-context zooms, and some truly bizarre sound design (why is the snake-POV-cam accompanied by a chorus of screaming monkeys?).

I guess there’s a fourth reason to see this movie, and that is to witness the early careers of two really interesting actors and Trudie Styler. Gregg Henry went on to star in movies like Slither and United 93, and television shows like The Riches and Gilmore Girls; it’s cool to see him construct the prototype for his delicious brand of sleazy smarm in this movie. Bill Moseley became one of Rob Zombie’s stable of actors; he’s almost unrecognizable in Fair Game, due to his not playing an overt psychopath. And Trudy Styler, of course, is married to Sting.

I can’t say enough about Styler’s acting. It’s the perfect compliment to director Mario Orfini’s awful, awful “style” and “story”. Her choices make for a grating portrait of a mentally deranged artist, as unsympathetic a heroine as I’ve seen; at one point, considering Eva and Gene’s failed marriage, I wondered aloud, “Wait, she left him?”

Orfini deserves a lifetime Razzie Award for Fair Game. I’m not at all familiar with him or the film’s production, but the end product is like a dream collaboration between Ed Wood and Dario Argento. This is the rare movie that is so terrible and unwatchable that it becomes fantastic, required viewing. I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed so hard at a thriller—or a comedy, for that matter.

Note: The Fair Game DVD maintains the low-fi spirit of the movie. The menu looks deliberately un-designed, and the theatrical trailer plays like something out of Grindhouse.