For this week’s edition of Movie Madness Madness I decided to throw caution to the wind and get one of my picks from their pumpkin of chance. I ended up with Grotesque, a movie that I was not previously familiar with. After my initial viewing, there’s really a lot to unpack with this one. On the surface this is your basic “punxploitation” film, but the more you get into it the more it turns, incorporating themes of revenge as well as comedy, for some reason. Like most of the films of this era, the punks in the film are sloppily dressed and bloodthirsty in their lust for flesh and money. My main gripe with these kinds of movies though is that they never seem to make the punks look cool, they just throw them in some biker gear and give them a shitty haircut and call it a day.
For what it is, the cast is surprisingly good. You’ve got Robert Z’dar (who you may remember from Maniac Cop) and Brad Wilson (best known as ‘Scared Customer’ in Good Burger) heading the gang of punks & Tab Hunter (Grease 2), Donna Wilkes (the Angel series) and Linda Blair (some movie called The Exorcist) playing members of the innocent family that falls prey to the “dangerous” delinquents. Given the fact that it is a stalker film, you would expect that the violence and gore would be bountiful, but its kept to a minimum, leaving a lot of that to the viewer’s imagination. There are several scenes where a ‘surprise’ member of the family shows up (I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum) and the special effects makeup (which I’m sure was scary as hell at the time) comes off like a half assed Elephant Man. There is a great easter egg in this too, where a Silver Shamrock mask makes a guest appearance during, of all things, a rather tame sex scene between two of the gang members.
Overall, I would say that it was worth the $3 I spent to rent it, but it was certainly not what I thought it would be. I went into it expecting something along the lines of Alone in the Dark, but I got something that was tamer and honestly kind of silly (especially the ending). Since I don’t have much more else to say about this film, I’ll end this with a fun fact: The director, Joe Tornatore, has background parts in such hit films as Planet of the Apes, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song AND Cleopatra Jones. Quite the resume if I say so myself.
Rats: Night of Terror (1984)
This was by and far my favorite of the two films I picked this week. Directed by Bruno Mattei (you know, the guy behind Cruel Jaws), this film really hits all the sleazy Italian film notes that I love. Taking place in a time “After the Bomb”, as the credits explain, it follows a gang out outrageously (one would say, fantastically) dressed biker gang survivors. They come across an abandoned storehouse (or a bunker) and that seems to be a good place to hold up, as it offers food and shelter, but it also offers one thing they didn’t expect: a fuckload of mutant rats. Stylistically it reminds me a lot of other movies of the era, 1990: The Bronx Warriors & Escape from the Bronx, specifically (but, all of those Italian post nuke movies blend together).
At it’s best, it delivers some great special effects gags, like when a rat crawls out of a dead woman’s mouth, or when a dead man walks up to some of the gang and falls forward, only to explode open with more rats. The actual plot of the film however, is pretty sparse and it seems as if they were just kind of writing as they went with no real resolution in mind. The lack of the synth heavy soundtrack these Italian films usually have gets some points removed from me as well, since that is half the fun of these films (this has some of that, but it’s very minimal and seems to be only for effect). I will say that they probably could have done more with the set dressing or backgrounds as well, the idea of an abandoned and ravaged city opens you up to so much, but it is barely explored in the film.
If you’re a fan of all things trashy and Italian, then I would be sure to add this to your watchlist. Is it better than the Bronx trilogy, or Warriors of the Wasteland? No, but does it deserve a due place within that lexicon? Absolutely. I don’t know about y’all, but after watching this I’m adding rat traps to my post nuke go bag….