Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie House Massacre (1984) dir. Rick Sloane

a.k.a. Blood Theatre

Logline: An opulent old theater with a smoky past is being prepped for re-opening as the latest location of a hyper-commercial exploitation movie theater chain. Unfortunately, a stab-happy ghost and the chain's reckless employees are determined to make tickets for the grand re-opening "First Come, First Sever."

Crime in the Past: Theater owner goes crazy because, ugh, the economy, and no one appreciates art anymore, bunch of heathens, so lights the theater on fire (sort of) and all the theatergoers die of smoke inhalation, and then he stabs the ticket-seller because she really ought to have tried harder to fill those seats.

Bodycount: 10 + 18 movie house patrons of smoke asphyxiation + my brain of fatigue.

Themes/Moral Code: Movie House Massacre bemoans the sad fate of opulent luxury theaters and movie houses being replaced by bland, mechanized commercial chains. The beautiful theater from the prologue has been bought by the Spotlite Theatres chain, which specializes in installing talking popcorn machines that routinely malfunction and screening classy fare with titles like Amputee Hookers, Chainsaw Chicks, and The Clown Whores of Hollywood. (The deplorable Spotlite Theatres brand standing as a snide jab at crass commercialism is only slightly complicated by the fact that those titles listed are some of director Rick Sloane's own short films). The fact that the majority of Movie House Massacre was filmed in the historic Beverly Warner Theater in Beverly Hills, which was bulldozed shortly after production ended to be turned into a bank, only adds to its lament. In our current age of mall-based Regal Cinemas and Digital Projection replacing 35mm, it's a sentiment that's not hard for the devoted cinephile to feels the pangs of.

Killer's Motivation: I have no clue. He's a ghost. But he's not, like, the ghost of a character we've seen before. And what do ghosts want anyway? A laundered bed sheet? This one wants an old timey gal to be his one and only. I think. Please, move on.

Final Girl: In a better world, the final girl would have been Selena (Joanna Foxx), the gold satin pants-wearing, patron-flashing, cheerleader-mocking, employer-tormenting usher. She's the sort of girl who stands in front of the movie screen, shows the crowd her goods, and snarls "I am the next feature"-- in other words, the sort of girl you'd want as your more-progressive-than-usual heroine. Sadly it was not to be, as Selena succumbs to our inexplicable killer near the film's end. (Cause of death: a blast of bright light and a trash bin blowing in her general direction). The real final girl, who lamely tussles with our geriatric ghost of a killer, is some bland cheerleader moonlighting as an usher. I didn't bother to learn her name.

The Good, the Bad, & the Cheese:  Rick Sloane is a John Waters devotee who, if not able to match the talent, at least captures his idol's perverse enthusiasm. As a puffed up student film made on the sly by a 21-year-old Sloane (who would go on to direct Hobgoblins (1988) and the Vice Academy series (1988-1998)), Movie House Massacre certainly displays a youthful vigor in its rambunctiousness to throw whatever was available at the screen (spoiler: not much) with a wanton disregard towards continuity. Yes, this makes the films intermittently charming (generally when we're in the presence of Ms. Foxx or the always tremendous Mary Woronov as the boss' catty secretary), but make no mistake: this is a relentlessly stupid movie. It's lame duck horror elements are, when not frightfully inept, totally incoherent. The artless inclusion of these elements makes a sort of sense when you take note of the film's pretensions of being a horror spoof, but the intentional laughs produced would barely register above a blip on an audio recorder and more often than not the film appears to lapse into being exactly the sort of early-'80s slasher film that it's lampooning. I admire parts of Movie House Massacre for working against the grain of its era--and against common sense and logic--but there's no hiding that it's a bit of a chore to sit through.

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