Rabid Grannies (1988)

MAY 9, 2011


Like a lot of Troma releases, Rabid Grannies the title is much better than Rabid Grannies the film (the actual title is Les Mémés Cannibales, however, that is also better), but even with those expectations the film is still a disappointment, lacking the outrageousness and splatter of the best Troma movies, but retaining the low production value, amateur actors, and pace-challenged script. Add in a disappointing transfer, and you have a movie that should be stripped of its Troma ties, remastered/re-edited, and released on its own.

I mean, you literally can’t even watch the movie without Troma getting in your face. The DVD structure makes the Memento special edition look user-friendly, starting with a main menu for the main menu, where selecting “Creature Presentation” takes you to Lloyd’s traditional intro, where he claims the movie is the remastered special DVD director’s cut” of the film regardless of what’s actually on the disc (in this case, a cropped version that certainly doesn't look remastered in any way), before you finally get to the movie’s main menu, where you can pick the chapter and turn the commentary on if you like. And Lloyd’s intro is all about how the filmmaker wrote to him in the 80s telling him that he wanted to make movie in Troma’s style, so it’s not like Stendhal Syndrome (a movie that inexplicably found itself on Troma’s label) - this is SUPPOSED to be a Troma style movie!

But apparently, the director opted to cut most of the gore out of the movie, resulting in a kind of tame flick. The footage he shot is available on the disc, but the movie itself lacks what folks are presumably tuning in to see. And that would be fine if the pacing was improved, but it takes forever to get going, and then when it does you don’t really get a lot of splatter to make up for it. Plus, the rest of the movie is little more than a repetitive series of disjointed gags; someone runs into a room, and gets killed by one or both grannies, followed by a few minutes of the various protagonists arguing, moving about the castle, and then the cycle restarts.

Plus, there’s no escalation to the plot – the grannies don’t get stronger (though one puts on a suit of armor for some reason), and there’s no race against time or anything like that. And since the characters are separated for most of the time after the big dinner scene, it just adds to the movie’s slapdash feel; more than once I’d lose track of a character because they hadn’t cut to him or her for a while. Basically, it just made it hard to get drawn into, as there was no clear main character, no sense of geography, and a lack of anything resembling suspense. Whether you look at it as a Troma type movie or a regular horror movie, it doesn't really work.

So it’s basically a movie you throw on in the background and hope to catch a few of the inspired gags. I like that a little girl was one of the first to die (balls!), and they make good use of those impossibly high ceilings you find in castles by tossing a guy Looney Tunes style up and across one of them. There’s also a cool bit where the grannies tell one family member (a priest) to choose between being tortured by them and going to heaven, or shooting himself and going to hell for suicide; a wonderfully grim ‘no-win’ situation that is too rich to waste on a movie called Rabid Grannies, if you ask me. And unlike most family oriented horror movies, most of them die, which DOES fit into the Troma vein (of course, that they are all horrible people makes it a bit more PC).

But it’s just a bore for the most part. I was losing interest by the time the grannies finally turned, and again, it simply wasn’t exciting or even that fun. And with frequent direct “homage” to Evil Dead and the “Father’s Day” segment of Creepshow (plus Grannies’ long nails and even their makeup somewhat resembles Freddy Krueger), it just kept reminding me of better movies I could be watching. And director Emmanuel Kervyn really shot himself in the foot by opting to cut the gore; an occasional excess splatter bit is precisely the type of jolt that the movie needed. I was reminded of talking to Alex Aja for Piranha 3D and realizing he was trying to make a real suspenseful horror movie (something I assume John Gulager will know not to bother with in the sequel), as if he didn’t get that everyone else (on or off camera) was there to have fun. Give us our gore, you monster!

Perhaps he explains why he cut so much of the gore on his commentary; his accent is very thick (he also pronounces castle as “cass-tell”) and I didn’t have time to give it my full attention, but I could tell he’s got a dry sense of humor and is proud of his work (he’s also a bit weird, at one point he says solo commentaries are boring and begins using other voices to pretend he has others with him). Plus he never shuts up, so if you’re a fan of the film and can deal with the accent this will probably be a treasure trove of fun trivia for you. The deleted gore bits are also included (twice, under gore and “outtakes”), though they lack the source audio, so instead we just keep hearing the same 60 second piece of music looped over and over. Then there’s a producer interview and a cute bit where a young Joe Lynch (!) interviews the “original” granny and ends up beating her to death.

The rest of the extras are all Troma-centric, and are placed ABOVE the extras that actually pertain to the movie. Most of it is the usual shit: a plug for Lloyd’s book, some girl getting naked for some reason, trailers, a tour of the Troma office, random nonsense that belongs on other discs (a Sgt Kabukiman PSA, an interview with Argento about Stendhal Syndrome), all presented in a confusing layout that includes options that are crossed out and thus un-selectable, for whatever reason. I mean, take a look at this, from the deleted gore menu:

You have the next page/previous page arrows laid out in different vertical space, which looks more like they are there to select those specific clips. The ACTUAL pointer for that clip is the little skeleton hand at the bottom, which took me a while to find. It also took me a while just to find the extras menu period, as it was at the bottom of the main screen next to credits, instead of up at the top with all the Troma extras. Now I know someone is thinking “What do you expect, it’s Troma!” but they usually can get this much right at least (and I’m still baffled by the full frame presentation). But in a way it sort of fits the movie itself; the elements are there but they are put together in a highly unsatisfying and clunky way.

What say you?


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