MAY 28, 2012
Today I finished reading a book about slashers titled “The Slasher Movie Book”, which sounds lazy and half-assed, but if you think about it is actually a perfectly fitting title for a tome covering this particular sub-genre. The entire history of slashers (particularly the “Golden Age” which the book covers in great detail) is built around being kind of lazy, copying other movies and working the basic formula down to some sort of science, where a careful viewer can spot the Final Girl even if they’re introduced in a wordless group shot. So after, I was in the mood for a slasher, and thus looked around on Instant until I came across Bikini Girls On Ice.
Right off the bat I kind of loved it, because like the book title, it was remarkably straightforward, promising nothing but what it has to offer. The movie is literally about a group of Bikini Girls who are killed one by one by a killer that puts them On Ice when he’s done. That’s pretty much it; there’s no real backstory or motive, and the non-Bikini Girl victims aren’t around long enough to disrupt the promise of the title.
As a bonus, the Final Girl is instantly set apart in the most obvious way possible – she does not own or even want to try on one of the eponymous bikinis, unlike her pals, who are all too eager to don bikinis (the sluts!), and thus die (on ice) while she escapes. At least, I think she does. The movie has the vaguest ending I’ve seen since Chain Letter; the killer is about to get her when the local creepy old man character returns and tells her to run. She does, the killer turns his attention to him, and then… we flash forward to sometime later. We can assume the killer got the old man because he pops out and lunges at one of the epilogue’s featured characters, but the fate of the Final Girl is left unknown. Did he find her/kill her after fighting the old man? Did she escape? Is she still hiding? DID SHE KEEP HER BIKINI? We may never know.
Now, obviously this is not a very good movie, but I was kind of charmed at how simple it was. Despite the fact that we’re not currently in a slasher revival, this movie seems like it was designed quickly in order to cash in on one. The closest cousin I could think of from the Golden Age would be Final Exam, where the killer had no motive or costume (this guy has a gas station jumpsuit, but he lives/works at one so that doesn’t really count) and the film was probably pitched as “Quick, make a slasher somewhere we haven’t seen too much yet”. So Final Exam became one of the first college set slashers, and this is the rare one set in a gas station. There’s a house nearby, and a field filled with broken down cars, but the primary setting is just one of those out of the way stations with a single pump, the sort of place you’d think wouldn’t be big enough even for a short let alone a 80 minute feature. The recent Exit 33 had all that goofy backstory and a never ending supply of fresh customers to mix it up (plus TWO pumps instead of this film’s single one), but this almost admirably doesn’t try to complicate things.
So why are they there? Would it surprise you to learn that their bus breaks down en route somewhere far more exciting? It should not. Anyway, while the driver tries to fix the bus, the girls decide to have a car wash right there at the gas station, even though the place seems to be deserted, nor does it seem to be a very busy road. Yet without any advertising, they manage to get a ton of cars, which results in a goofy montage of the girls soaping the cars/each other to raise money for whatever it is they were planning to do (it doesn’t matter so I didn’t pay attention). One girl even manages to convince a customer to drive his car around back so she can fuck the shit out of him, a scene that comes out of nowhere and is seemingly just there to get the obligatory sex scene in the first half. It’s hilariously mercenary.
Some of it was hard to swallow even when factoring in the fact that the movie was mindless junk. At one point the group’s bitchiest (and sadly most attractive) character unplugs a phone because she doesn’t want the team’s mascot (who was in love with her) calling her from his hiding spot. Reverse engineered plot points (in this case, the need to disable the phone) always bug me; I’d rather the phone simply didn’t work, like usual. Also, too many of the kills were of the “swing something toward camera and cut to black” variety – it needed 2 or 3 more on-screen kills, in my opinion.
But there were a few things I genuinely liked, without any irony. For example, it didn’t try to hide its Canadian-ness. Roughly 1200% of all modern horror movies are shot in Canada, but they try to pass themselves off as one of our 50 states, so I was actually surprised when I saw a bunch of Quebec license plates. Even better, there’s a French speaking couple who happens upon the gas station, and of course our Final Girl is the only one who can understand them, because she took French class instead of drinking or fooling around. This also makes the accents less of a bother; if they were trying to claim that this was some Texas or West Virginia back road, it’d be annoying – but if they’re in Quebec, fine. “Aboot” away!
Also, the male character was surprisingly smart and focused. He fixes the bus, he notices something is amiss even before the Final Girl does, and he rebuffs the advances of not one but two of the hot Bikini Girls (before they were On Ice, obviously) so he can focus on the job at hand. It’s like they are perfectly content to follow the slasher template, and he’s all “no, let’s actually try to get the hell out of here before anything bad happens”. It’s endearing, and I was kind of bummed that he got offed. Given the lack of humor and simplistic plotting, I’m guessing the filmmakers never got to the later 80s slashers when it was pretty standard to have a Final Girl AND a Final Guy at the end, so they didn’t know to copy it (or if they had the idea to let him live, assumed that’d be thinking too far out of the box). Oh well. Maybe in the sequel.
Now, keep in mind – this is the exact sort of movie that I’d probably hate if I wasn’t in the right mood. It’s mindless, plot-free, and isn’t notable in any important area (kills, cool motive, iconic killer – though his cackle is pretty fun). But there’s something about how earnestly upfront it was that charmed me, and again, I had just finished a book that celebrated the genre, warts and all. You lucked yourself into a free pass, Bikini Girls On Ice.
What say you?