Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Dead Want Women (2012)

It had been ages since I saw one of Charles band’s movies, though I’d grown up on many of his features. However, my tolerance for his work waned in my latter years. Still, when I heard about his latest release, THE DEAD WANT WOMEN, I grew interested again. I have nothing but admiration for Band, one of the surviving independent filmmakers still in the business. And I have the utmost regard for Full Moon’s greatest achievement, RE-ANIMATOR. It wasn’t their only successful movie, or movie series (PUPPET MASTER, SUBSPECIES and GHOULIES spring to mind), but it’s easily one of the best horror films of the last thirty years. And because of RE-ANIMATOR, I can forgive Band a great deal that I’ve seen since from his studio. Even GINGERDEAD MAN. Would THE DEAD WANT WOMEN point towards something classier? Its synopsis, and its opening title sequence featuring genuine clips from the silent movie era, promised something different from their usual fare.

He’s the comic relief. In that when he leaves you feel relieved.
It opens on a Hollywood mansion in 1927 (cineastes will recognize this date as the year talkies arrived and began kicking silent movies in the balls), where movie star Rose Pettigrew (Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver) is hosting a party to celebrate her latest film release that night. But that’s not enough for a woman like Rose, who sneaks off to a secret grotto on her mansion grounds to meet some gentleman friends: lecherous horror star/magician Eric Burke (Robert Zachar, SHARK HUNTER), the Fatty Arbuckle-inspired Tubby Fitzgerald (J. Scott, ZOMBIES VS STRIPPERS), and cowboy star Sonny Barnes (Eric Roberts, SHARKTOPUS, and the only recognizable name here). By the way, don’t expect to learn anything trivial like names, identities or other details; Charles Band’s script is about as threadbare as the Emperor’s New Clothes, and while I’m not a fan of needless exposition, given that this movie clocks at just a little over an hour (and cost just half a million dollars), I’m thinking Band could have spared just a few seconds of film to give us some *needful* exposition.
This Won’t End Well…
Rose arrives, and the men bring out their gift to her: two naked women (porn stars Jeannie Marie Sullivan and Misty Anderson) who proceed to get up on a slab and Sing a Song of Sappho to each other’s naughty bits, while Rose and the men watch and get horned up. At first I was expecting the girls to become sacrificial victims and Rose would drink their blood or eat their skin or something, but no, it’s just a prelude to an apparent orgy, though the scene plays with all the eroticism of an exchange of business cards at a plastic cutlery convention, and about the best I can say is that Band retained enough verisimilitude to make sure the naked women’s breasts looked real for the period rather than as silicone balloons.
Apparently ghosts like it rough!!
Anyway, the orgy is cut short with the arrival of Rose’s agent (or butler, or friend) Norman (Circus-Szalewski, EVIL BONG 3), who informs her that: a) her movie is a flop, b) the studio are ripping up her contract, c) the studio have barred her from entering studio property. What? All that, and the film has only just been released? Even the guy who greenlit MARS NEEDS MOMS stayed in his job for a while before he fled! And the implication, only revealed later, is that Rose’s voice is unsuitable for the talkies, which I have to call bullshit on, because she sounds perfectly normal to me; there were some genuine unfortunate stars of this era who looked great, but had voices like Mickey Mouse. At any rate, Rose takes it badly – she shoots her gentleman friends, the nude women, her agent/butler/friend, and then cuts her own throat (the wound is already there thanks to some bad editing).
Never bring a knife to a ghostfight…
Fast forward to the present day, and we meet Danni (Ariana Madix, KILLER EYE: HALLOWEEN HAUNT) and Reese (Jessica Morris, DANGEROUS WORRY DOLLS) who arrive at the Pettigrew mansion to do a clean up of it in preparation for a visit from a mysterious potential buyer who only communicated with them via letter. Apart from this chunk of clunky Plot Point, we get nothing about these two women. And the impression is given that this prime piece of Hollywood real estate has somehow gone unsold in over seventy years, and that the girls are just getting round to cleaning up some of it. One of them finds a necklace in the fountain outside, and after their potential buyer fails to show, they break out some wine and share in the story about the murders/suicide which took place there (for their own benefit, since we’ve seen what they’re talking about, though I would expect something that infamous would be a fact that not only both of them as realtors to the property would know, but one that would actually be a strong selling point).
Eric ‘Julia’s Brother ‘ Roberts
Then Rose’s Friends With Benefits appear from green mist, and one of the realtors mistakes them for unemployed actors who’d been squatting there. Then all hell breaks loose- ha ha, just kidding, we sort of trundle along towards the climax. The ghosts return looking human at first, but then for some reason take on zombie-like makeup (which admittedly looks good). And there are sequences when they get stabbed, get their heads blown off, and even get kicked in the balls, but then they come back 30 seconds later. The men (and only one of the nude women for some reason) return and tie up the surviving realtor (I swear to God I couldn’t remember which one she was, and didn’t care) as Rose made her reappearance, in order to possess the last girl and leave the grounds. Now, some might call that last bit a spoiler, but this is only a spoiler if you were born three days ago and were dropped on your head every hour since you slid out of your mother’s chocha, and thus had never seen a ghost movie before.
As I said before, the movie is short, and thus plays like an episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, with tits and ass to try to keep you interested, and just a slight bit of gore. But for all its brevity, Band’s script veers between insufficient and inconsistent (the ghosts seem to lose their human appearance if they step outside the bounds of the house, though they died in the grotto outside, not the house, and anyway they appear in their dead guy masks within the mansion anyway). Why does only one of the naked ghosts appear in the second half of the movie? How does Rose get the ability to kill her fellow ghosts? They appear ignorant of modern ways, commenting on the girls’ clothing, but were smart enough to identify the realtor and send a written offer to buy the place (and if that really was another surprise for you, I have shares in a social networking site I want to sell). And there’s an attempt at a knife fight between Robert Zachar’s ghost character and one of the modern women, which ends up looking as ridiculous and unthreatening as two kids acting up at the dinner table.
I guess for ghosts, “No” means “Go”!!
Look, don’t get me wrong. I really appreciate Band’s attempt to do something different; there was certainly the promise of something decent and different here. In an age inundated with shoddy found footage films, I enjoyed the old-school feel to it! The performances were good, for what we saw (again, I would have loved to have seen another twenty minutes or more added to expand the story and characters). But a show like AMERICAN HORROR STORY tapped into these themes with greater success. Still, I’d like to see more like this from Band.
The trailer for the movie is here if you want to have a look at it, but I’d recommend it only for those slavishly collecting gratuitous softcore lesbian scenes.
Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Charles Band (and writer)
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien

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