Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cinemasochism: SAVAGE VENGEANCE (1993)

If there is one subgenre of horror films that I particularly don't like, it is the rape-revenge flicks.  They tend to reinforce any misconceived notions about the genre being overly mysoginistic and I visibly cringe when someone says they “enjoyed” something like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978).  But we have to remain professional here at Video Junkie and take the bad with the good.  And who am I to pass up something described as "not worthy of spit" on the IMDb?  So while most horror neophytes were going nuts over the recent remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (“oh man, it is so much better than the original and I love hardcore horror”), we decided to take in writer-director (I use those terms lightly) Donald Farmer’s shot-on-video semi-sequel SAVAGE VENGEANCE (aka I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE PART 2), where he somehow managed to convince Camille Keaton to reprise her role from the original film. Yeah, we're talking true hardcore horror here you sissies!

The “film” opens with Jennifer Hills (Keaton) pulling her car off the side of the road and trapsing through the woods so she can go read a magazine by a waterfall.  Really (there’s gonna be a lot of those)! For some odd reason four dudes in a Volkswagen pull off the same road and park next to her car.  What is it with this place?  They then head out into the woods as well, spot Jennifer and then rape her. Before you have flashbacks to the griminess of the first film, I should tell you this is the tamest rape ever as the guys just tend to dry hump her.  In addition, director Farmer actually captures shots where you can clearly see Keaton still has her jeans on.  Yeah, we’re dealing with this kind of sophisticated filmmaking.

When the ordeal finally ends, we get a graphic that says “5 years later” and cut to skuzzy Tommy (Farmer, proving to be a triple threat and looking too much like Randy Quaid) trying to pick up a chick in a bar (with future scream queen Melissa Moore badly lipsynching on stage). When his “can I buy you a Slim Jim” line doesn’t work, he stabs her outside the bar when she leaves. Cut to a college law class. The professor wants to test the knowledge of his class and asks if anyone can name a famous case from the past few years.  One girl mentions the case of Jennifer Hills and the professor recounts the details of the rape, her subsequent revenge and the not guilty verdict.  Yup, the opening rape was supposed to be a recreation of the first film.  Even better, the professor says he heard this famous female vigilante is even in this very class (they never actually show Keaton in the classroom).  Really!  The next scene has Jennifer running into her friend Sam (Linda Lyer) in the student union and saying she is quitting college on the first day because of that professor.   “I need to get away,” she says and invites Sam with her to a rented house in the country (did she rent this house between leaving class and now?).  Sam is reluctant until Jennifer says she will buy some beer. Really!

"Can I buy you a Slim Jim?"
On their way to the rental house, the ladies stop at a gas station where Sam runs afoul of Tommy, who is thrown out by white knight Dwayne (Phil Newman).  Such a chivalrous act results in Sam inviting Dwayne out for a visit at their place, but she doesn’t know that Tommy and Dwayne were doing the ol’ good rapist/bad rapist routine.  Jennifer and Sam make it to the house, but Sam is offened by the condition of it and says she is going for a walk in the woods. She gets lost and ends up at Dwayne and Tommy’s cabin where they rape and kill her.  Really!  Jennifer goes looking for Sam, who she claims has been missing for a few hours even though we went from day to night and back to day.  She meets Dwayne and Tommy back at the gas station and they say that Sam is back at their place and invite her back for some pork belly pie to which she agrees. Really!

Once at the cabin, Jennifer sees that Sam is dead and splits into the woods with our two killers in pursuit.  She fights off Tommy and proceeds to beat Farmer with a big stick; an act I am truly envious of.  Dwayne finally catches her in the world’s worst cinematic sneak up. Seriously, watch this clip and tell me how he snuck up on her.

We get another full-pants rape scene that ends with Tommy cutting Jennifer on the chest.  For some reason they think this has killed her and go about their small town lives again.  They get a visit from the Sheriff, who just wants to warn them to “stay clear of them new girls.”  Too late, we’ve already killed them.  But Jennifer has survived and stumbles out of the woods (with no cut on her chest) and stops a passing motorist. No joke, the next scene has Dwayne at a country and western bar where his buddy Bulldog says some redhead was asking about him while she was at the hardware store buying a shotgun and chainsaw.  She said to meet her in the woods tomorrow at noon. Really!  Anyway, Dwayne shows up and Jennifer slices his head in half with a chainsaw (the only worthwhile FX).  We then cut to Tommy in his house playing with his corpses.  Jennifer shows up with a shotgun, calls Tommy out and then shoots him in the balls (they never actually show it). The end. Really!

Sorry if that summary is all over the place, but that is exactly how this movie monstrocity unfolds.  Watching this gave a new meaning of cinemasochism and this epic launched right into my top 5 of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Hell, this might be top 3!  How director-writer-star Donald Farmer convinced anyone, let alone the star of the first film, to appear in this is beyond me.  It was shot in the late 80s but didn’t hit video until 1993.  Original GRAVE director (and Keaton’s ex-husband) Meir Zarchi apparently sued Farmer over it and this resulted in changing Jennifer’s name.  How did they do this?  By blanking the audio any time someone says her last name!  Of course, this is a "film" that opens with a title card that reads SAVAGE VENGANCE.  Yup, you know you are in for a good time when the capable filmmakers misspell their title.  Don't believe me?  Check it out:

But copyright infringement is the least of this film’s worries.  It is so horribly shot that you will be begging for the sophistication of SOV epics like BLOOD CULT or THE RIPPER.  The plotting is also so bad that you have to wonder if Farmer is touched in the head.  I mean, he can’t even properly convey how many days this action unfolds in. Plus, he couldn’t even arrange to have a scene where Jennifer is actually shown buying her instruments of revenge? Instead we get a guy named Bulldog giving us plot exposition!  I never listen to guys named Bulldog.  Of course, this might be because rumor has it Keaton apparently walked out on the filming, er, videotaping.  She took the pseudonym Vickie Kehl on the "finished" product.  I don’t know if that makes me happy or frightened.  I'm sure Farmer wanted this to be hard-edged and shocking like the original.  But, in fact, the only thing that made my jaw drop in this flick is Jennifer getting ten gallons of gas for $10.50.  Really!  The only positive thing about this “film” is that the thing runs 65 minutes, which is still pretty tough to endure.  Well, that and the misspelled title.  I'm just glad my saintly name, William Wilson, has never been associated with something this bad.  Oh, goddamn it, Farmer!

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