Thursday, October 06, 2011

31 Days of Fright!: Linda Blair in GROTESQUE (1988)

When the package for ROGER CORMAN'S CULT CLASSICS: Vampires, Mummies & Monsters All-Night Marathon showed up in my box it was hard to hide my glee. Not only was the four flick set – now simply known as DVD Release of the Year – top-lined by the long-awaited DVD release of LADY FRANKENSTEIN (review to come) but it also included the trippy-looking THE VELVET VAMPIRE (whose poster art I'd seen in many trash film books and zines) and TIME WALKER (an alien-meets-mummy mash-up of which I had some vague recollections).

But it was the late 80s Linda Blair/Tab Hunter flick GROTESQUE that intrigued me most. How many times had I passed by the box in video stores? And why had I always assumed that the artwork featuring a trio of screaming faces indicated some sort of Native American monster movie a la MANITOU?

So imagine my surprise that GROTESQUE turns out to be the set's mind-blowing, head-scratching hidden gem of kitchen sink cinema.

Blair plays Lisa, the daughter of Orville Kruger (Guy Stockwell), a Hollywood special effects whiz known for his gruesome big-screen wizardry. When Lisa and her friend Kathy (played by ANGEL herself, Donna Wilkes) head to the family cabin in the mountains, it seems like the perfect getaway to relax and recharge the ol' batteries.

What they didn't anticipate was that a vanload of leather-clad, overly-made-up punks including guys named Scratch and Ear Box was on their way to the cabin as well, intent on cashing in on Kruger's big "secret". Was it money? Jewels? A mountain of coke?

I'll give you a hint. The flick is called GROTESQUE and it's none of the things mentioned above.

Once Scratch and his gang (which also includes future MANIAC COP star Robert Z'Dar) begin their traumatizing assault on the cabin's residents, director Joe Tornatore (probably better known as a 70s tv/movie bit player) doesn't seem sure where to go. Is GROTESQUE a monster movie? A home-invasion thriller? A black comedy? A chase film? Cinema's worst police procedural? A taut revenge tale?

Guess what? It's all of them! From lumbering mutants and cackling, over-the-top punks (one gal simply screeches like a chimpanzee!) to faux shocks, multiple-movies-within-a-movie, inept cops, brazen kidnappings and endings so offbeat and out-of-nowhere it'll leave you scrambling for the remote, GROTESQUE has something for everybody. Okay, so it's pretty light on the nudity and gore so sleazehounds might want to think twice, but for fans of offbeat cinema GROTESQUE is a must-see. – Dan Taylor

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