Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cinemasochism: CRYSTAL FORCE II: DARK ANGEL (1994)

The original CRYSTAL FORCE must have made a profit of over $700 bucks on video so prolific producer Jerry Feifer (aka Mr. WITCHCRAFT) got this sequel rolling through his Vista Street Entertainment.  He is like Roger Corman on chemo.  And how do you make the positively anemic first film look amazing?  Why you shoot the sequel on video!  After having viewed this follow-up, I suddenly look back on CRYSTAL FORCE with fond memories. Oh, that beautiful film look.  Those semi-professional actors. Damn you, CRYSTAL FORCE II, damn you!

Sad sack bartender Jake (Chris Zawalki) pines for waitress Allison (Betsy Gardner), who is abused by her boyfriend (“Joe may be a son of a bitch, but he’s my son of a bitch”).  He loves her so much that he says he would give his soul for her.  Uh oh. Enter Virgil Starkweather (Paul Brewster).  Yes, Starkweather, this is about as subtle as part 1’s Mr. Beazel.  Anyway, this messenger for Satan drifts into the Royal Oak Bar and proceeds to befriend our lonely spirits slinger.  Virgil uses mind control on a patron via the tiny crystal (yay semi-continuity!) around his neck to start a bar fight which he clumsily breaks up (let’s just say he ain’t no Jackie Chan).  This so impresses owner Big Slim (who is fat, LOL!) that he immediately hires Virgil as a bouncer and gives him the keys to his brother’s place to stay at. Damn, he good.

Of course, Virgil be bad too.  After all, he does have a goatee.  And, for some odd reason, this minion from hell has fangs and we see him bite into a rat and a dude in an alley.  Ol’ Virg here starts working overtime on his Satanic Make-a-Wish foundation for Jake.  He gets him to drink a potion made of his blood and suddenly Jake is full of confidence, even having the amazing courage to tell Allison his favorite movie is THE GODFATHER.  That totally gets her into the sack. You go, boy!  Naturally, this comes with a price and Virgil wants Jake to sign away his soul. The deal is 25 years of Charlie Sheen-esque “winning” on Earth in exchange for your soul burning in eternity.  Hmmm, something seems a bit uneven there.  When Jake refuses, Virgil takes him to hell’s waiting room (the same bar with red lighting) where they play a game of cards for his soul.  THE SEVENTH SEAL this ain’t.

Goddamn, son, this is some rough stuff.  I mean, the WITCHCRAFT series didn’t start doing shot-on-video until WITCHCRAFT IX (1997). To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen (too highbrow?), “I served with WITCHCRAFT IX, I knew WITCHCRAFT IX, WITCHCRAFT IX was a friend of mine.  CRYSTAL FORCE II, you’re no WITCHCRAFT IX.”  I know it is a cliché line, but I really have seen pornos with better production values.  And porn filmmakers often have the sense not to let a dog walk into the frame to ruin a "sexy" scene.  You’ll notice a majority of the screen shots involve the nekkid ladies on display and that is probably because that might be the only thing this “film” has going for it. And even there you are a bit starved as this is like GIRLS GONE WILD minus the production values. How cheap is this film?  I’m not kidding there are two instances where someone where someone is supposed to hear a voice in their head and the filmmakers have someone whispering behind the camera!

Even worse is the connection between the two films.  Since Virgil is only seen rubbing his crystal every now and then, the plot point about it being a satanic instrument is completely reliant on one having seen the first film.  Of course, I knew that because I (foolishly) watched it the day before.  I really shouldn’t be too demanding though.  After all, this is the kind of movie that has Virgil describing average, useless non-Alpha males as guys who “watch a lot of sports but give money to public television.”  To quote our good buddy Jack Burton, “I don’t even know what the hell that means!” The acting is about what you’d expect.  Zawalki is actually decent in the lead, but Brewster’s voice started to annoy me, sounding like an Ambien hopped up home shopping host while looking like Kevin Dillon’s evil twin (goatee!).

Director James MacKinnon is a vet of the WITCHCRAFT series, having served as the make-up department head on parts IV-VII (“throw some blood on her breasts!”).  He also plays the “beast from hell” (meaning: werewolf costume day rental) that shows up for about 30 seconds to try and attack the comatose Jake in the hospital (see pic). Believe it or not, he might give the film’s most spirited performance.  He has since gone on to work on big budget Hollywood fare like THOR (2011) as a make up guy and I couldn’t be happier for him.  Whatever keeps him away from the video camera is good in my book.

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