Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Strung Out on Slashers: BLOOD SISTERS (1987)

I have a confession to make – I love Roberta Findlay!  Well, I love her movies.  The strange this is I’ve never seen the “big” films she has been associated with. Somehow the late 1960s FLESH trilogy (THE TOUCH OF HER FLESH, THE KISS OF HER FLESH, and THE CURSE OF HER FLESH) made with her husband Michael has never passed before my eyes.  And, at the risk of losing virtual street cred, I’ve never seen SNUFF (1976), their reworking of a South American film that fooled both deviants and na├»ve protestors alike.  So what is the source of my affection?  It is Findlay’s 1985 works TENEMENT (“Tenement…it’s the place to be” goes the theme song) and THE ORACLE.  An action and horror picture, respectively, both of these films have a unique feel all their own.  Filmed in real New York City locations with mostly unknown actors, they sidestep the artifice of soundstages and sets; production design courtesy of real life.  Naturally, Findlay’s further excursion into low budget horror in the late 1980s (BLOOD SISTERS, LURKERS, and PRIME EVIL) drew my interest.

BLOOD SISTERS opens with a young boy being ridiculed by a young girl for 1) asking to cop a feel for some candy, 2) having a whore for a mom and 3) not knowing who his father is.  Damn, that little girl is cold and she's quite the gossip too. Her actions soon send the little tyke over the edge.  He runs home to a big house on the hill, which also happens to be a whorehouse, and blasts a woman and her client with a shotgun (it is unclear if this is his mother or not).  Haha, that’ll teach that little girl.  Okay, Freudian death openings aside, the film proper picks up 13 years later at a college during Hell Week. A group of 7 girls are pledging Kappa Gamma Tao sorority and this involves them drinking red liquid from a big ass cup and attending the lamest dance you’ll ever see.  And this is quite a happening party, let me tell you.  You know it is a wild night when the token fat guy grabs an orange slice out of someone's drink with his teeth.  Someone stop that party animal!

What they don’t know is the biggest part of their initiation lies ahead.  Sorority leader Linda (Amy Brentano) apparently has seen HELL NIGHT (1981) and decided the girls need to spend the night at the spooky old house where the murders took place as part of their hazing.  But she is going to make them work for it as she has planned a scavenger hunt where the girls have to find various items, not knowing that the house has been rigged with a bunch of scary gags by Linda’s jock boyfriend Ross (Dan Erickson) and his pals.  Naturally, we get every stereotype in the book with this crowd.  There is the snotty rich girl, the nerdy girl with glasses, the athletic girl, the constantly horny girl (who sneaks her boyfriend in, of course), the lesbian, the fat girl (who always has food in her hands), and the girl with no noticeable quality.  The one girl no one expected to show up is the hulking “girl” in drag who starts killing off our hapless sorority babes one-by-one.  Who could it be?  Hmmm, that boy in the opening was about 7 or 8 and 13 years have passed.  Hey!  I think I might know who is killing these lovely young ladies.

You can’t really hold a Roberta Findlay movie to the normal standards of the horror genre.  Her work won’t hold up against a classic like FRIDAY THE 13th (1980) and her style would get smoked by Sam Raimi.  So don’t take my endorsement of this film as an indicator that it is a “good” film.  The film, however, has a unique low budget charm that endears itself to me.  And, honestly, can you really hate on a film with a big scary house (perhaps the film’s best asset), prostitute ghosts, a slasher in a big silk nightgown, and a bevy of babes who are willing to get topless?  Okay, that last line really lets you know how cheap and easy I really am.  But I just love this type of movie.  It is the kind of movie where a girl can become possessed and sexually aroused by finding an old nightgown hanging in a closet.  Seriously, who hasn’t that happened to in real life?  It is the kind of movie where three girls see ghosts walk right in front of them, yet in the very next scene one girl is adamant that the house isn’t haunted (“Visions? Haha, I might have to die from laughing.”).  It is the kind of film where the final girl asks the killer the classic “why are you doing this” line and the reply is, “I’m crazy.” BLOOD SISTERS works with its own logic, not giving a damn about, well, logic.  I’ll take it.

Besides, Findlay reveals during an interview on the Shriek Show DVD that the only reason this movie was made is because TENEMENT and THE ORACLE had made a lot of money and they wanted to elude the taxman.  Has a film born in order to escape tax levees ever turned out badly? Wait, don’t answer that. There are inspired moments in the film (some of the ghostly flashbacks are well done with effective lighting and mirrors) and there are bits where you could tell Findlay didn’t give a damn (like when the cops pull away in the end and you can see the intersection and houses near this “isolated” mansion; or the killer’s right hand alternating between holding a knife and the victim’s shirt between shots). Also on the DVD is a great Joe Bob Briggs commentary where he goes into detail on Findlay’s career and even lets you know all about the careers (or non-careers) of the players and production folks.  BLOOD SISTERS ain’t going to change your world.  Hell, it probably won’t even enter your world.  But if it does, make sure to treat it like you would a beloved family pet - with love, honor, respect and the ability to laugh at it when it does dumb things.


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