Friday, October 12, 2012

Worth Mentioning - Murder is how he has sex

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody enjoys a new twist and porn stars go mainstream-ish.


Sometime in the mid-to-late '90s, I caught a quick glimpse of something that was showing on one of the cable movie channels. Some kind of horror movie, it seemed, with a cast that included a monstrous cartoon character and an actress called Stacey Nix who I recognized as '80s porn star Barbara Dare.

A movie that mixed cartoon monsters and familiar porn stars was a movie that I needed to watch. But I never did see this movie called Evil Toons turn up on the program schedule again. For years I waited for my chance to see it to come around. Then, at the spring Cinema Wasteland, I finally found a copy of it for sale.

Described as "Roger Rabbit meets Evil Dead", Evil Toons follows four young women who are dropped off at a creepy old house, hired for $100 each by a man played by the great character actor Dick Miller to spend the weekend there and get the place cleaned up before its new owners move in. They go about their cleaning duties rather lackadaisically, spending most of their time just sitting around and hanging out, doing things girls apparently do, like one performing a striptease to show her friends how she landed her football captain boyfriend.

Eventually, they find themselves in possession of an ancient spell book bound in human skin, its cover a face much like the Necronomicon of the Evil Dead series. Since one of the girls is the Latin whiz of Miskatonic University (Re-Animator reference!), she's able to read one of the passages from the book aloud - accidentally bringing one of its illustrations of a lascivious wolf to life.

The cartoon monster really only has a few minutes of screen time, quickly attacking one of the girls and possessing her, using her flesh and blood body to set out on its mission to rack up a bodycount, sending souls to its evil master in exchange for its freedom from the pages of the book as well as the release of its fellow illustrations. It's up to the scantily clad girls and the spirit of a man who had experience with the spell book (David Carradine) to stop the escape of the evil toons and save the world.

As it turns out, Stacey Nix/Barbara Dare isn't the only porn star in the cast. Three of the four lead actresses in the film also worked in the adult industry, hired by director Fred Olen Ray because he knew they wouldn't have any trouble providing the nudity required for the roles. Joining Dare are Madison Stone and Monique Gabrielle, with the fourth girl being played by Suzanne Ager, who as far as I can tell did not ever do hardcore. Scream queen Michelle Bauer also has a brief cameo as the wife of Dick Miller's character, who for some reason is as disinterested in sex with her as Stanley Roper was with his wife.

The porn actresses do good work in their roles, Stone providing some comedic moments before she becomes the monster, Dare's innocuous lines often seeming to still have a seductive edge to them, and Gabrielle being the most impressive in her performance as the group's geeky, repressed girl.

It's an entertainingly ridiculous movie, worth checking out if you're into the work of Fred Olen Ray or similar movies from Jim Wynorski.

A cluster of houses on South Harvard Boulevard in Los Angeles have been the filming locations for many movies, primarily low budget genre films. The house Evil Toons was filmed in was also featured in movies including The Immortalizer and Rob Zombie's Halloween, the house next door was the setting for Sorority House Massacre II, Teenage Exorcist, and some Witchcraft sequels, the house across the street is also a Witchcraft house and the home of The People Under the Stairs.


Writer/director Drew Barnhardt's feature debut covers some very familiar territory, with a set-up that has been used to varying degrees of success many times before: a group of youthful friends head off to a remote location for a weekend getaway and find themselves getting picked off by a slasher one-by-one.

In this case, Barnhardt delivered one of the rare modern indie slashers that totally works. He and cinematographer Kevin M. Graves have great eyes for visuals, for a movie of its type it looks really good, with some impressive camera work. The location is awesome and they make the most of it. Paired with the images is a cool score by Ryan Franks. The cast assembled all do well in their roles, with Allen Andrews being especially noteworthy as a character called Big Stevie. The movie has a fun tone and a fast pace - on the way through its 70 minute (not counting end credits) running time, we get the first kill about 10 minutes in and the group of youths has already been whittled down to the final girl around the 30 minute mark.

Following a lengthy cat and mouse sequence, we finally get to know the killer who's been stalking and slashing throughout the movie, and that's when Barnhardt takes his story in a fresh direction. The twist here is actually something that I've been thinking about for a story myself, but Barnhardt has beaten me to the punch and done something quite entertaining with the idea.

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