Friday, April 29, 2011

Cinemasochism: CRYSTAL FORCE (1990)

One of the dumbest things you can ever do as a Video Junkie is trying to prove your bravery to others.  I did this a few years ago by vowing to watch all of the films in the direct-to-video WITCHCRAFT series.  Young and naïve, I thought if a series had reached 13 entries (the longest in horror film history) that it had to have some kind of merit, right?  Wrong!  It was a long and painful journey that left me a changed man afterward.  The sun no longer shined as bright and the world seemed darker.  How in the world could executive producer Jerry Feifer keep getting returns on such a diminishing product?  And when encountering something this bad, the natural reaction is, obviously, to check out every title from his Vista Street Entertainment.

CRYSTAL FORCE (isn’t that a porn star’s name?) opens with the camera swooping around a cemetery while a narrator goes on and on about an evil force that “strikes at a time of grief and mourning.”  Damn, this force might attack me while I’m watching this cuz I know my grief level will be through the roof.  The film proper begins with Beth (porn star Sharon Kane billed as Katherine McCall) and her mother recovering from the sudden death of her father.  She lets mom stay with her and vows to keep running her in-home beauty salon.  To give you an idea of how subtle this film isn’t, at the wake her bitchy friend Lurleen (Ash Graham) tells a friend that this is the best time to try and seduce Beth’s cop fiancé Jack (John Serrdakue).  Even better, this plot point is never returned to.

Beazel like rock candy!
Anyway, Beth and her friend Val (Ray McLikian) decide to get out of the house and go shopping.  They stop at the mysterious place Beazel’s One-of-a-Kind Shop.  Yeah, really, Beazel.  If you can’t figure this one out, you might be Feifer’s dream audience.  Beth buys a crystal from Mr. Beazel (Tony C. Burton) for $25 and you know this thing is bad news when she gets it home and visiting Rev. Peters (Dick Gammon) gets all queasy on the family.  As cinematic law dictates, priests are the vessels of good so anything that makes them ill is baaaad.  Some kind of demonic force is within this crystal, homeboy.  In her infinite wisdom, Beth decides the way to cheer up her depressed mom is to – wait for it – hold a séance!  So a gaggle of ladies settle in for a night of gossiping and palm reading.  Of course, Beth seems like a real good interior designer and has plopped the rock candy looking crystal right in the center of the table.  Everyone gets freaked out when some monster quickly flashes in and, later, rips off the alone Lurleen’s top (but no one believes her).         

Of course, after such a freaky experience the women all agree to never do this kind of stuff again.  Haha, yeah right!  They think another session the next night will be perfect.  Even with Beth having crazy dreams of being raped by a demon and hallucinating seeing the dead priest mauled by docile Dobermans on her beauty shop floor (“I’m telling you there were dogs in here drinking blood!”) isn’t enough to dissuade them.  Hell, even Lurleen being killed by the demon in an alley and not showing up doesn’t stop these ladies from having their séance.  Mama needs her psychic fix, y’all.  So we rinse-and-repeat the event from the night before and this time the demon emerges from a pentagram on the wall and proceeds to whoop some ass while Beazel looks in from a window and laughs.  Damn you, crystal force, damn you!

CRYSTAL FORCE was made around the same time as the Feifer-produced WITCHCRAFT II: THE TEMPTRESS where they decided to decrease the horror factor and increase the emphasis on sex.  After all, their demographic loves them some nekkid titties, right?  What does that say about me?  Anyway, if you are a “fan” of that type of film then there this is more of the same – positively undemanding semi-horror with an emphasis on silly Satanism and baring female flesh.  Somewhere I imagine a wannabe Satanic dude in his middle 40s dressed all in black who really digs these films.  Director Laura Keats focuses on the women more than a male director would, which means it is really boring with lots of talks of pedicures and stuff.  She also seems to have no idea how to unfold a plot.  We have that aforementioned bit with Lurleen talking about stealing Beth’s man.  It haunts Beth in an erotic dream even though she wasn’t aware of it and one assumes the creature kills Lurleen because of this jealousy.  But we can never know for sure as there is never a confrontation between these two characters over this matter.  You know you are in trouble when a top ripping is the film’s highlight: 

The only really amusing thing about this flick is the hilarious tagline “the door to hell swings both ways.” I don’t think the filmmakers thought that one through when they came up with it. Also, the demon monster gave me a laugh. When it first appeared (via Vista’s patented shoddy post-production video effects), I thought, “Damn, that looks a lot like the monster from the Roger Corman-produced THE TERROR WITHIN (1988).” With each passing glance, I realized it is the same monster suit from that film. That is hilarious. Even funnier, this might be the most sexual adventurous screen demon I’ve ever seen as, midway through its dream rape, it turns Beth over to get it on doggy style! I wonder if Kane – a veteran of over 600 porn flicks – found herself thinking “this is really degrading” during that scene. It is strange because, once again, a porn star proves to be decent in the lead. Everyone else in the cast appear to be one-and-done types. This is such dire stuff that little fun is to be had from it. Given how they went wild with the WITCHCRAFT sequels, I’m shocked they never did a follow-up here titled something stupid like CRYSTAL FORCE II: DARK ANGEL. Oh crap, they really did make that? Guess I know what I am watching tonight. Damn you, crystal force, damn you!

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