Saturday, October 22, 2011

WHODUNIT? (1982) - a punk rock film-within-a-film Ten Little Indians that fails to live up to the hype, a hype that only exists because of my review

This movie is aka Island of Blood and Scared Alive, but my VHS copy says "Whodunit?", so I'm going with Whodunit?.

A bunch of young, relatively inexperienced, and utterly pitiful actors (played by not-quite-so young, relatively inexperienced, and only mildly pitiful actors) are sequestered to shoot a movie in an abandoned school located on an isolated island (no wander it’s abandoned). The plot of the movie is the whole “let’s put on a show, and sell tickets to everyone in the neighborhood, and save our high school even though we’re all in our late twenties” type of deals, famously featured in Breakin’ 2 - Electric Boogaloo, albeit sans bright neon robotronics.

The reasoning for such a hackneyed, family friendly plot is stated outright when an executive espouses the opinion that movies being made nowadays are presenting the negative idea that “everyone will die in one big holocaust”. They fail to mention that plenty of wholesome movie fare was produced while the real holocaust was going down, so maybe that kind of pessimism is warranted after all. Either way, I’m not quite following the logistics of the school's money making scheme, considering no one else lives on the island, but what the shit do I know about show business (I mean the show business plot of the movie-within-the-movie, if you follow).

If that isn’t enough plot, there is also a real estate agent who wants to take control of the island. So, we have a group of actors warding off an island craving, slime bag realtor, while trying to film a movie about actors that put on a show to fend off an agent that wants control of their decaying school. Already, by 1982, we are starting to see some so called “post-modern” flourishes, otherwise known as “innovation” (or “outright confusion”). However, the film doesn’t really do anything with these flourishes. You don’t get any situations where the scene they’re rehearsing overlaps into the reality of their situation and the two become blurred, thereby commenting on the relationship between the reality of filming and the filmed reality. It’s just a useless gimmick.

There is also another gimmick, in that each murder is accompanied by a tape recorder playing the same song over and over and over and over and over and over again (and some more, and then during the fucking end credits). It’s a punk rock song called “Face to Face“, and not a very good one, where-in the lyric is “blank me, face to face”, repeated ad hoc nauseum. The first word coincides with a method of murder (stab me, boil me, nail me, etc.). Not terrible mind you, maybe an okay filler track on a Black Flag album, but when this repetitious song is played repetitiously, and supplemented by someone going to town on a keyboard with a ball pean hammer, it creates a hypnotic, glazed over effect on the brain. Imagine if you hacksawed the top of your cranium off, pulled your brain out, and filled your skull with donut holes. You get the idea.

To further cement its status as a punk rock Ten Little Indians, we get a couple of actors dressed in punk garb, the main one being the angry, Brando-esque Rick Dean (who also doubles as a red herring, with his twitchy method mumbling and all). His signature role was probably as the psychotic antagonist in the titty-bar invasion flick Stripteaser, and he doubtlessly would have enjoyed being rediscovered during the titty-bar flick renaissance of 2013 had he not died in 2006. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

The other relatively “interesting” character is a female dancer, solely because she calls the producer a “honkey fishface”, a phrase all of us would like to use given the proper opportunity and context. She suffers through the affection of the token geek, materialized in a “dressed-in-a-scary-mask-and-robe-and-swinging-a-humongoloidal-sword-Freudian-sex-act-substitution" false scare (one more reason he never gets laid). She eventually succumbs when she accidently takes a shower in battery acid. A nude shower scene is a nude shower scene, and we’ll take what we can get.


In the end, there is actually a nice twist ending I didn’t see coming, involving snuff films (always a plus). I take back that thing about the movie within a movie gimmick being totally useless. The real "useless gimmick" is that the murderer plays a tape of that song right before killing someone. If you need it as motivation in order to murder somebody, use a fucking pair of headphones. Asshole.

P.S. Review #5 in the lazy baker. Six more to go! That's almost half. How god damn exciting.

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