In 2008 documentarian Mark Hartley scored an unanticipated film festival hit with Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, an examination of obscure Australian exploitation movies of the 70s and 80s. (Striking while the iron was hot, Hartley rolled out a spiritual sequel of sorts with Machete Maidens Unleashed!, which braved the even more bizarre jungle of Filipino exploitation cinema). 2009 saw another surprise critical success in Best Worst Movie, the story of the disastrous making, and triumphant cult legacy, of the ultra-ridiculous vegetarian-goblin horror movie Troll II, which managed to score an astonishing 95% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. Whatever the reason (maybe its the flowering of seeds planted by Quentin Tarantino), at this moment in time mainstream critics seem eager to recognize, examine, and even embrace the pleasures of schlock. Since the last horror/exploitation doc cycle—the duo of The American Nightmare (2000) and Mau Mau Sex Sex (2001)—came about a decade ago, it appears the time is ripe for another down-home survey of the dark and shady sides of American cinema.
FEATURING: Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, America Olivo
PLOT: Three chesty babes fight punk interlopers, each other, and the screenwriters’
over-infatuation with flashbacks while searching for a treasure in the desert.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s postmodern pretensions and post-Memento plotting show an ambition for the offbeat, but the producers ultimately understand that it’s cleavage shots and catfights that pay the bills. An absurdly overdeveloped plot, exaggerated B-movie archetypes, and crazy flashback set pieces staged before unconvincing but imaginative green screen vistas turn Bitch Slap a slightly weirder, but not weird enough, version of a typical late night cable jigglefest.
COMMENTS: A Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! homage made with a sub-Tarantino snarkiness, Bitch Slap plays fine if you go in with the right (i.e., low) expectations. The three actresses do well and tackle their roles with relish—Olivo is particularly memorable as Camaro, the pill-popping psycho—but the metaphysically threatening sexuality of a Tura Satana is missing from this batch of castrating Amazons. Great satire it is not, and at times too much winking self-awareness threatens to sink it, but in the end the correct spirit of silliness almost always prevails. It’s one thing when a sleaze rock anthem starts playing and the camera goes slo-mo and split-screen while zooming leeringly on the ladies’ sweaty bosoms and provocatively cocked hips as they shovel in the desert dressed in tank-tops or tattered evening gowns. It’s another level of goofiness altogether when the gals temporarily forget about the crime kingpin who’s hunting them down so that they can cool off by throwing jugs of ice water onto one another. Back stories are revealed in frequent flashbacks, but these serve little function other than allowing the filmmakers to set up crazed green screen set-pieces. There’s a magical realist scene where a sparkling angel-winged dancer takes stage as the strip club DJ improbably spins “Ave Maria,” a nunsploitation interlude, and a ridiculous shootout on the Las Vegas Strip (which plays Continue reading BITCH SLAP (2009)→
PLOT: A plane carrying team of eight dancing girls, along with one male and one female manager, crash into the ocean en route to Singapore. There they find a cabin with the body of a man hanging in a giant spiderweb. The lone male is bitten by a spider and turns into a spider-human hybrid, who then briefly terrorizes the girls at a party to celebrate their impending rescue after two men row ashore.
With some brief nudity included, this German/Yugoslavian co-production was originally released in the US as a sexploitation feature under the title It’s Hot in Paradise. After the nudity was clipped out, the movie was re-released under the present title and marketed as a horror film.
The movie was featured in the tenth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (show 1011).
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The puppet-like evil spider, with it’s large, shiny, almost cute eyes and clawed hands.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Horrors of Spider Island takes place in an alternate universe that’s nothing like our own. The poor dubbing, including a mangled deep south accent, immediately takes us out of reality and makes suspension of disbelief impossible. The plot is thin as a wire, made to hang chauvinistic male fantasies on, and often seems to be improvised on the spur of the moment. Horrors of Spider Island already seems like a half-remembered bad dream, even as you’re still watching it.
4 minute clip from the film, including spider attack, courtesy of Something Weird video