Thursday, April 26, 2012

B-Movie Review: “The Majorettes” (1986)

Just how bad could a slasher movie written by the other guy behind “Night of the Living Dead” (and directed by one of its most famous zombie actors) be?


Over the years, I have seen a ton of slasher movies, and generally, I think the entire subgenre is pretty underrated by both cinema snobs and horror fanatics alike.

Yes, there is a ton of crap out there, but I also believe that some of the best, most influential and flat out fun genre pictures out there just so happen to fall under the domain of the “dead teenager” film. As before, not EVERY movie in the subgenre is worth watching, but for every flat out abomination of celluloid out there, I think there’s probably two or three decent to kinda’ awesome slasher flicks for the adventurous moviegoer to comb through.

Of course, it is fairly difficult doing something new with the genre, which, for all intents and purposes, really hasn’t structurally evolved since the days of “Twitch of the Death Nerve” and “Black Christmas.” But in that formulaic simplicity, I think, is the overall brilliance and charm of the slasher movie; the entertainment isn’t so much in figuring out what’s going to happen, as it is in figuring out how the expected is, well, expected to play out.

The tropes and clichés pretty much go without saying nowadays, as the subgenre has been deconstructed to the point where it’s hard to even think about the slasher genre as anything other than a self-ridiculing, 1980s anachronism. The big positive here, I suppose, is that there is an absolute wealth of slasher films at our disposal, stretching back from the early 1970s up until the post-“Scream” neo-slashers of the mid-to-late 2000s. As such, it’s pretty easy to find a slasher movie from any epoch, and the odds of finding a good (or at least, moderately entertaining) one on any blind dive into a DVD bin is relatively decent.

That said, for every foray where you end up with something truly awesome and underappreciated, like “Intruder” or “Christmas Evil,” there’s probably at least one or two cinematic sojourns where you end up watching some pure slasher shit, like “Psycho Cop” or “The Sorority House Massacre 2: Nighty Nightmare.” As any long term B-movie aficionado will be quick to tell you, hunting for old-school slasher flicks is like playing the VCR-version of Russian Roulette - win you win, you win big, and win you lose…odds are, your brains will have to be scraped off the adjacent wall at some juncture.

On a purely superficial level, “The Majorettes” - a 1986 release - seems like a “can’t lose” prospect. It’s written by John Russo, who was the other mastermind behind “Night of the Living Dead,” and it’s even directed by the guy that played the iconic “cemetery zombie” in the 1968 masterpiece. Additionally, the movie is loaded with gore and bare assets (if you get my drift, and I think you do), so how could the flick suck in any possible way?

Well, let’s fire up the Sanyo, and see if this thing still has legs after a good quarter century of molding., why don’t we?

Eye certainly have a feeling this thing isn't going to be on par with "Fanny and Alexander," for some reason...

The movie begins with a bunch of high-schoolers (played by a menagerie of 30-year-old actresses, of course) doing aerobics in gym class while some dork takes pictures of them. Meanwhile, there’s some weirdo janitor that’s drilled a glory hole into the girls’ locker room, so I reckon that’s psycho-killer-suspect numero uno for us.

In the next scene, we’re introduced to a creepy German nurse, who’s giving insulin to an old broad that lives in a gigantic house - who we are told has just had a stroke, and is the grandmother of the head majorette. Well, I’m sure that won’t be a plot point later on or anything.

Up next, we have two kids making out in the woods (uh-oh). The chick tries to give her dorky comrade a pep talk, and she tells him that she’s been knocked up by the neighborhood dope peddler. Not seeing this as a reason to abandon ship, the dorky dude decides to play a little tongue rugby with her, before she cuts herself off at second base for, and this is in her own words, “being too easy.” That, of course, is our cue for a dude in camo to jump out of the shrubbery and slice both of their throats open, which concludes with the killer dumping their bodies in a nearby stream - a shot which is clumsily edited into a transition scene involving some kid getting baptized.

Only one man stands between the killer and certain doom for the neighborhood. Too bad he spends half the movie eating a never-ending breakfast, apparently. 

Things take a turn for the more horrible, when we meet the detective of the film - a guy who looks like Donald Sutherland, if Donald Sutherland was really, really poor. He and his wife have a really awkward discussion about religion, and we jump straight into the film’s first investigation scene, which is accompanied by a bookend sequence in which the retarded janitor with an eye for the juniors gets bullied by the neighborhood biker gang/drug runners.

Time to meet your standard high school slasher movie cast! In a brief diner scene (which was not at all shot in a grocery store - I mean, doesn’t your neighborhood greasy spoon have bread shelves all over their walls, too?) we find out that the head majorette is having some relational difficulties with her boyfriend, which, of course, gives him a M.O. to be slaying all sorts of people. Hey, it is a biological fact that if a dude goes more than a week without poon, HE will turn into a psychosexual mass murderer, after all. One of the kids says he thinks the ringleader of the biker gang is behind the mysterious rash of murders, which leads into a scene in which some cheerleaders walk home from school, while music that doesn’t sound ANYTHING AT ALL LIKE the theme from “Halloween” plays in the background.

Actually, this DOES sort of remind me of my high school classmates.

Next up, a girl with a Rick Springfield poster on her bedroom wall decides to walk around the house in a bikini. Naturally, she gets her throat ripped open while going for a dip in the pool, which leads the town’s detective to mull the possibility that the killer…whoever he (or she?) may be…might have some sort of water fetish going on.

Up next, we have a ton of red herring scenes, including a.) a bar scene where the biker gang leader denies being the murderer, b.) a scene in which we find out the creepy janitor is also the groundskeeper for the head majorette and c.) a scene with the detective and the town priest talking about some religious nonsense. Then, the head cheerleader and her boyfriend break-up, which IMMEDITEALY leads to our next kill scene, where some generic majorette gets offed in the showers, while the pervy janitor watches through the safety of his glory hole. But not before he’s able to take a picture of the killer’s face, however…

AND STOP RIGHT HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHO THE “KILLER” OF THE MOVIE IS, BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO SPOIL THE SHIT OUT OF THE REST OF THE MOVIE NOW

It's a little known fact that extra large chin straps weren't invented until 1987.

So we get our scene where the bodies are discovered, and then a shit load of pointless bird’s eye view and POV shots (because John Carpenter did them eight years earlier, and THAT was what made “Halloween” the all-time classic it is today, of course.)

Then, the evil German nurse leads the sheriff into the gardener’s darkroom, where she shows a whole bunch of murder scene pictures. And then, the nurse shows the sheriff a picture of the killer, and the killer is…SWERVE! The sheriff himself! Apparently, he’s some closeted religious wacko that’s killing them for being sexually promiscuous. So yeah, in other words, he’s your typical Southern Baptist. From there, he strikes up an agreement with the nurse and the creepy janitor, who plan on killing the head cheerleader AS SOON as she turns 18, so they can inherit her granny’s estate.

So, we have some fairly pointless scenes in which the detective mulls the killer’s M.O., and then, this movie goes absolutely batshit insane. The head cheerleader ends up getting kidnapped by the local biker gang, which leads to the retarded janitor and her ex-boyfriend chasing them to an abandoned warehouse. There’s a brief fight amongst the gang members, and then the creepy janitor gets shot, and then…the head cheerleader gets killed! So, uh, I guess that eliminates the M.O. of the killers, no?

Either some bad stuff is about to go down, or that new model train set he just bought is ready for its maiden voyage.

The next ten minutes have absolutely nothing to do with anything that happened in the last hour of the movie, but I don’t care, because it’s easily the ten most awesome minutes of the movie anyway. Obviously, the ex is pissed about his girl getting done in by biker-drug-dealers, so he decides to yank his shirt off, load up on some assault rifles and GET HIS REVENGE.

He tracks down the biker gang (who live in a trailer with AC/DC logos and pictures of the devil spray painted on it), who are hanging out inside with some hitherto unmentioned skanks. To get the mayhem started, the ex decides to blow up one of their vans, which leads to the rest of the gang coming out to investigate. Two of them try to escape in an Oldsmobile, but they crash into a tree going five miles an hour and it somehow results in an inescapable fireball. Cue an almost “Mouse Trap” like sequence in which an exploding motorcycle results in an exploding trailer, and then a lengthy a cat-and-mouse scene in which the ex officially kills off the gang leader. Granted, none of this shit had anything to do with what happens next, but man, is it one of the coolest no-budget action movie sequences I have ever had the pleasure of screening.

And so, the movie concludes with the German nurse killing the old lady out of spite, and the nurse getting killed (and framed for all of the previous murders) by the sheriff. The sheriff and the detective then visit the ex-boyfriend in the hospital, and the flick concludes with this final scene that is one part shitty and one part brilliant, as a gaggle of sixth graders play with batons while the sheriff looks upon them with murderous distaste.

Well, if you ever wondered how those vintage tee-shirts ended up at Goodwill...

Well, all I can say about “The Majorettes” is that it strikes an almost perfect balance between being horrifyingly crappy and retardedly awesome. For half of the movie, you’ll want to chew your own eyelids off, and for the other half, you’ll probably be in absolute awe of the movie magic in front of you.

There’s now way in hell I would call “The Majorettes” a good movie by any stretch, but I would be equally erroneous if I didn’t say the flick was entertaining as all hell, too. As far as mid-1980s slasher movies go, you have to give director Bill Hinzman (whom, glumly, bough the farm earlier this year) and Mr. Russo some credit, because they at least tried to give it an atmosphere that was a little bit different than its subgenre contemporaries.

Yes, it’s a gloriously stupid, intelligence-insulting, jumbled mess of a movie, but you know what? It’s a gloriously stupid, intelligence-insulting, jumbled mess of a movie that is HIGHLY entertaining. This thing isn’t going to give you any profound insight into the psyche of the human spirit, but if you’re looking for something to just eat pizza and drink generic soda to, you could really do worlds worse here.


Two and a half stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out.

IN THE MOOD FOR MORE B-MOVIE MADNESS?
CHECK OUT MY REVIEW OF WACKO (1982) RIGHT HERE!

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