JANUARY 18, 2013
It's my own damn fault for having any sort of notion that The Dead Want Women would be a decent enough movie, but it's Charles Band's fault for managing to make something worse than average for his Full Moon productions. To be fair (not that he's deserved it), this is the rare FM production that doesn't involve miniature/toy killers, so he's a bit out of his element, but the best thing he's ever done is a killer car movie called Crash! (never released on DVD, sadly), so it's not too unreasonable to think he can make something good again. But alas, this makes Puppet Master 6 look like Puppet Master 3.
Oddly enough it starts out fine, with a fun (if overlong - warning #1) credit sequence that shows clips a bunch of public domain horror films alongside some pretty nifty titles. We then enter Hollywood, 1927, where a bunch of folks are simulating real stars of the era - there's a Fatty Arbuckle ripoff, a dashing Errol Flynn type (played by Eric Roberts - poor sod), etc. And the party is honoring Rose (the lovely Jean Louise O'Sullivan, who was Beth in Puppet Master X), a big time actress whose new movie is expected to break records. But alas, the numbers come in and it has tanked, with everyone going to see one of those newfangled "talkies" instead. Worse, the studio has terminated her contract, assuming she won't be able to survive in the sound era (why? She has a fine voice), so she does what you or I would do - shoots all of her friends dead and slits her throat in front of random partygoers.
Here's the problem - this is the "prologue" and it takes a full third of the movie's runtime. The movie's about the "Dead" and no one dies until the 25 minute mark of a 74 minute film. Subtract the (also long) end titles and you're left with about 45 minutes for the "main" plot, where the dead want women. Two, to be precise, a pair of real estate agents who come to the house over 80 years later to clean it up for a mysterious buyer. We're told no one has lived there since, and naturally as soon as they start poking around, the "ghosts" (more like fully cognitive zombies) return and... uh...
OK, I have no idea what they want. The girls' souls, I assume, but why they can't just take them is beyond me. Instead they muck around for a while, allowing Band to let his camera linger as the two lead actresses (both of whom are pleasant to watch and deserve better than this) wander around the mansion, discuss plans to clean, look at jewelry, etc. At one point one of them walks down a set of stairs after she hears a shriek, and the camera just sits as she walks off-frame (though we can still see her shadow, and thus can see when the actress rightfully assumes she is no longer required to act panicked - doesn't keep Band or his editor from cutting the shot, however!). You start to get the idea that Band would include the guy slapping the slate ("Scene 42 Shot 4... Take 1!") if he thought he could get away with it, since he clearly spent all of the budget on securing the costumes for the dead actors.
Because it was so dull and barely had a plot, I spent a good chunk of the run time debating whether or not to tell Clive Barker that a terrible Full Moon movie was cribbing from one of his novels. You see, "Coldheart Canyon" is about an actress from the 1920s who was involved in a very debauched group of fellow actors who would have orgies and do unspeakable things to wannabe starlets in a hidden area of the big Mansion, and how the spirits of those long dead folks come back when the house is reoccupied in the present day. There's even a scene where the lead looks at a big mural, another major plot point from Barker's novel, which suggests that Band thumbed through the book and had his writer do something similar without directly copying. And it just reminded me of what a bummer it is that Barker's adaptations had never found as much box office success as Stephen King's, because then it would probably be pretty easy to get something made (perhaps an HBO or Showtime mini series) from his novel, which is too long (and plain fucked up) for a feature, but at the same time is one of his more more theatrical novels, and actors love impersonating old actors! If you haven't read it, please do. You can probably only tackle 1/10th of it in the time it takes to watch this movie, but even if that's all you read, it'd be a far better use of your time.
I'm really at a loss here. I mean, he churns out terrible Gingerdead Men sequels and such too, but those have a "brand" to catch a few eyes, plus I'm sure they entertain the hell out of stoned 15 year olds. But who can possibly be the audience for this? There's not a lot of action or gore (though I must laud them for blowing up a paper mache head or whatever they did for when one guy's head is shot off, rather than use digital), the "monsters" aren't that interesting and barely appear anyway, and while there's some nudity, it's not like there's an absence of that in the market. The only people who'd be interested in this are Eric Roberts die-hards, who might be amused to see him cavorting around with Full Moon regulars like Robin Sydney (whose role was disappointingly brief - she can usually make this stuff tolerable) and what I assume are a few adult film actors. In fact that's actually one of the few times I found myself amused, when Mr. Roberts joined the others in wearing undead makeup. If you look carefully at the scene in Chillerama where everyone gets covered in Wadzilla jizz, Roberts' character disappears - he didn't want to deal with the gooey shit. So I'm glad he's come around on sacrificing dignity for art.
What say you?