Monday, July 19, 2010

TAINTED IMAGE (1991) - it taint happening folks

these visions haunt our heroine Kate, perhaps symbolizing that she is totally batshit crazy or whatever

Here is another uber-obscurity that's not even listed on IMDB (as of this writing), a la A Dozen Ways to Die. It rests in the astonishingly narrow "regional psychological horror" category, along with Disconnected (1983) and maybe The Disturbance (1990) (and possibly nothing else). Unfortunately, where as the other two beat the odds to be somewhat effective little thrillers, Tainted Image fails in the Roman Polanski ripoff sweepstakes (insert joke about the rape of a comatose 13-year-old girl).

Well, Kate's mother just died, and she has since been experiencing "visions", like seeing her mother's tombstone bleed for some reason (I guess it symbolizes that death is super creepy and stuff), and some flashbacks to a troubled childhood (pay attention for some exciting plot info). Her boyfriend with the horrible fro-mullet tries to console her, but as the film is a ripoff of Repulsion, she remains frigid in the face of uncouth groping. Then again, maybe she's just honestly repulsed by this schmoe. On top of his hair and general annoyance factor, he tries to sound smart while reading the newspaper, decrying that "Bush is a Communist!". I don't know what paper you're reading pal. Maybe you meant "Bush is a pussy". Worst of all, her neighbor is the most annoying human being in the hell that is her daily reality, a fat faux-southern whale of bitch who looks like she just got kicked out of an audition for a John Waters movie. She constantly yells at her not to have sex and "live in sin", yet constantly hits on her boyfriend. I say let them have each other and move to California, or at least murder the fat cow for the sake of your own sanity.

Kate works as an art gallery guide, droning on about abstract expressionist form or whatever. She's also taking a painting class, concocting banal sky scapes and what have you. Her pretentious teacher chimes in with some good advice, telling Kate that she should try and channel some of that negative energy into her work (maybe a cool painting of a tombstone covered in blood). He also pontificates on and on about Munch's "Scream" painting, setting up later plot developments (and a somewhat righteous Carrie ripoff). Whenever a movie forces you to sit in on a class, the lesson always relates to future plot points somehow (especially in horror films). It's sorta like the reward the film gives you for suffering through school again.

So, it's clear that Kate is starting to crack. She's becoming paranoid that her boyfriend is cheating on her, she stares outside of the window at a giant Motley Crue sign carved into a basketball court, and the soundtrack of her inner mind combines low rent chanting, tuneless organ noodling, and some other music that sounds like one of those new age tapes played backwards. Her teacher tries to console her by offering to "help" her (i.e. some nookie), and her boyfriend suggests she and him go see the new Woody Allen movie to get her mind off of things (that is, distraction through nebishness). Thankfully for characters in these N.Y. area films (although usually ones that take place in Manhattan), there's always a new Woody Allen movie playing. Boy, the Woodman keeps churning 'em out.

I know I'm supposed to share in Kate's mental dissolution, but it's hard to take her seriously with such a brutal goomba accent. She might work as a bad blind date for Costanza on Seinfeld, but unfortunately, you need to be able to take her seriously within a slow burn psychological horror film. In effect, the movie has to sell the reality of Kate's surrounding, in order to sell the crumbling of her reality. Not only that, but, alone on an island, she has to sell the crumbling of her interior world. Unfortunately, amateurish performances destroy this reality across the board (and slack editing further undercuts the actors). In other words, every actor annoyed my pants off, and I wasn't even wearing pants at the time.

Tainted Image is a great example of a movie that sounds great in theory, but is completely lifeless in execution. It's (mostly) not interested in providing any B-movie thrills, but solely trying to build off of Repulsion and The Tenant, a colossal task for even an experienced crew with an actual budget. A much better example of a similar tale would be the previously mentioned Disconnected, starring C-movie goddess Frances Raines in the Catherine Deneuve role. While still ultra cheap, the lack of a budget somewhat works for it instead of against, creating a drab world that Frances is completely alienated from. She tries to engage in normal human behavior but fails, in scenes acted out in real time. Tainted Image, on the other hand, is more symbolic in nature, which is always dicey territory for any film. Her dreams symbolize her crumbling mental state, instead of providing psychological insight into a real character. In other words, it's better to show someone honestly coping with a lack of marbles, than to just show that they have increasingly less and less marbles. If you follow me. You know what...I need to work on my metaphors. I really do.


  1. Thomas,

    For your comment on my review of THE DISTURBANCE. Nice write up and blog! Never heard of this one but sounds and looks amazing.

  2. @Will

    That video represents the highlights, as much of the film is awkward dialogue, although the twist ending is pretty good I guess. I wouldn't exactly call it amazing ;)