I wish “The Crow” sequels took as much of an advantage with a creative premise as director Michael S. Ojeda does with “Avenged.” While his film isn’t exactly a revenge masterpiece, it’s a strong contender for one of the finer revenge films of the past five years, working as a tragic love story, and a vicious horror themed tale of vengeance. Amanda Adrienne Smith is rather compelling as the victimized Zoe, a deaf mute who ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Brenda is the leader of a pack of young girls in her town who spend their free time making trouble and raising hell. When they cross a male gang while partying and decide to wreck their car, they strike at Brenda by raping and violating her sister, Heather. Out of spite, they also murder her best friend. Having had enough, Brenda unleashes street justice on the bastards, with a slew of weapons, including her crossbow, switch blade and her street know how. Sure, Sure, Linda Blair. “The Exorcist” is a family drama, not a horror movie. No, we believe you. And “Repossessed” was a relevant Mel Brooks throwback. And “Chained Heat” was an indictment on the prison system. And “Savage Streets”? An honest look at the peril of American youths! What? Just because “The Exorcist” is my favorite horror film ever made doesn’t mean I’m at all bitter.
In either case, if you’re one of the few people that wondered what became of Linda Blair after “The Exorcist,” you’d be surprised to know that Blair became a B movie actress, and a bonafide grindhouse goddess. Once Blair went from adorable young kid to legitimately legal, Blair was a busty bombshell who could really dominate the screen with her curves and her fierce performances. Not to mention whenever she was on-screen, her gorgeous breasts seemed to act independently from Blair’s body. It’s shocking how much Blair’s bust seems to be their own character in “Savage Streets” as well as other noted films of hers like “Chained Heat.” Not that it’s much of a revelation, I mean I’m sure everyone seemed to notice this increase in bust size around “The Exorcist II: Heretic.” It just didn’t become kosher to point it out and enjoy it until Linda Blair began shedding her clothing and bathing with other women in grade A grindhouse fare. Her yaboes were only rivaled by the great Pam Grier. But enough about breasts for a while,
I digress. “Savage Streets” is that great youth gone wild film that would have been filmed in the fifties with a disclaimer in the finale, except it goes whole hog in to the dramatic revenge tale rather than calling attention to its ludicrous trappings. The film is inherently goofy, but you just have to love how Linda Blair takes charge in the finale.
Blair works very hard to own the role of Brenda, the alpha female of her school who runs a gang and gets in to spontaneous fights in the school showers in the near nude. Blair, with her cherubic face and warm smile struggles to convince audiences she’s this hard boiled no nonsense female hood, and likely spent hours in front of a mirror practicing her scowls and holding her cigarettes. But god help her, she just can’t pull it off. Granted, the woman is gorgeous, but not quite the street wise chick who leads a pack of young girls in to trouble and mayhem. Compared to the more realistic femme fatales in “The Switchblade Sisters,” Blair and co. are somewhat laughable. Her only salvation is her younger sister Heather, an innocent mute teenager who follows Brenda on her overnight adventures cruising stores and breaking laws.
Heather is played by the gorgeous Linnea Quigley in one of her earliest roles, where she is pretty much propped to be an angelic young girl who keeps Brenda from going over the edge in to full on criminal mode. Imagine the switch when Quigley would play the iconic punk goddess Trash in “Return of the Living Dead” years later. After crossing a group of guys in town by hijacking their ride and trashing it, they seek revenge by gang raping Heather in the lockers. Brenda of course was too wrapped up in a shower fight to notice her sister being tortured and sexually violated the entire time. And Heather is a mute, so she very well couldn’t scream for help. Angered and enraged, Brenda sets out on a path of violence, systematically eliminating the men that took her sister’s life, while the men retaliate by murdering Brenda’s friend. All of which culminates in a final showdown between Brenda–in full black leather regalia–and leader of the male gang that almost seems to be for a sequel.
Sadly, there was never a “Savage Streets II” and Blair went on to better–well–other things. No, but I kid Blair. All things considered Blair in her prime was a gorgeous curvaceous sight for the movies, and “Savage Streets” is a fine installment in the later repertoire of Blair’s career, where she embraced grindhouse and exploitation at every turn and looked for any excuse to show skin. And I thank her for that. Linda Blair never really could convince anyone that she was a hardcore gangster woman, but “Savage Streets” is still a tasty bit of eighties exploitation with a fun premise, and a one two punch of the almighty Blair and Quigley.
I’m personally a fan of revenge thrillers, and am quite surprised to see Stephen King of all people concoct a rape revenge thriller. Out of the sub-genre, they’re the most notorious of the sub-sub-genres. “Big Driver” is an often toothless and ridiculous rape revenge thriller about a writer who may possibly be going mad after being viciously and repeatedly raped in a road side gas station by a hulking driver. He’s known as “Big Driver,” and is a very menacing and horrific villain. That is until the narrative unfolds and then he becomes a cartoon. It’s not enough that he may possibly be a trucker that had an impulse to rape and victimize a gorgeous woman on an abandoned road.
And it’s not enough that perhaps he has snared his share of victims in the past. No, King has to keep piling on absurd twists and turns with our villain Big Driver, while pretending to say something about writers. Truly, the writers’ psyche can be a maddening and unusual place, but for Tess Thorne, she’s a woman who’s been victimized one too many times and has an odd selection of friends. She has her characters from her book series about knitting elderly women solving crimes, her GPS named Tom (the only trustworthy man in her life), a cat named Fritz, and a neighbor who may or may not be romantically involved with Thorne.
Nothing is ever really confirmed for the audience, as every element of the plot is thrown up in to the air and never really resolved. At one point it’s suggested the stylish revenge plot is all in Tess’s mind but it’s never confirmed. Then we’re told that her confrontation with Big Driver was planned. “That’s a little far fetched,” Tess thinks aloud. But lo and behold, it’s not too far fetched the primary narrative itself. And by god King goes all the way, with a dramatic confrontation, and an abrupt final scene that may or may not be one big imaginary sequence in Tess’ slowly unraveling mind. What is the horrendous life Tess had? Why does Tess come across another victimized woman? What insight does this moment lend her exactly?
Is Tom the imagining of an ex-boyfriend or just a creation of Tess’s to compensate for her lack of romance? If Tess really is so closed off to everyone, why does she live in such an open suburban neighborhood? And what of the loose ends like Tess taking a limo home after being raped? No one really reported her injuries? I’m not sure if “Big Driver” is supposed to be a meta-thriller about a writer who enacts revenge through means that seem almost too good to be realistic, and the almost ridiculous sequence of events are intentionally silly, but “Big Driver” is too haphazardly written and sloppily directed to really answer that for the audience. In the end, it’s a terrible thriller with more head scratching questions than answers.
Director Austin Chick’s “Girls Against Boys” is not just a polemic about the crime of rape and gender inequality, but is never afraid to depict men as anything but horny monsters that prey on women, when they’re not degrading them. Never has a movie been so hell bent on making men feel bad about their danglers. “Girls Against Boys” is a typical rape revenge movie, that’s also a mopey, whiny, and very homophobic thriller that can never seem to decide if it’s exploitation or melodrama. Sometimes it’s “Thelma and Louise,” sometimes it’s “I Spit on Your Grave,” and sometimes it’s “Ms. 45.” And never remotely as good as the aforementioned titles.
You can definitely look at director Eric England’s horror drama in two plains. You can either watch it as a gory tale of a woman rotting gradually in to something beyond herself, or you can look at it as a metaphorical tale of a woman rotting in to the ugly being she’s probably always been her entire life. When you cut it down, the character Samantha is the protagonist, but never really is an empathetic individual. She’s this lecherous, vapid, and utterly narrow minded being who does nothing but ride on people’s good will and expects big returns. That’s not to say she deserves what is coming to her, but who’s to say her final transformation isn’t what she’s been her entire life?
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost twenty years since the release of Brandon Lee’s final film, but here we were with a brand new release of his landmark film “The Crow.” In a long overdue treatment it deserves more than most titles out on the Blu-Ray format as we speak “The Crow” hasn’t shown wrinkles at all. “The Crow” is a film that garners a soundtrack with some of the most notable rockers of the nineties, along with some rather of the decade colloquialisms, and still manages to feel completely and utterly timeless. That’s because the world Alex Proyas shapes in his 1994 masterpiece is void of shape and time.
Was this remake entirely necessary? Actually no. Especially when you consider Meir Zarchi’s 1978 revenge film continues to be a widely revered, and critically reviled piece of volatile grindhouse cinema that not only set the stages for future revenge films, but was already remade subsequent its theatrical release where we saw no end of women on a rampage revenge films in the late seventies in to the eighties. “I Spit on Your Grave” is still one of the most heavily discussed and angrily debated cult masterpieces to this day inspiring hatred and praise from many film buffs and to this day inspires pure vitriol from iconic film critic Roger Ebert who despises Zarchi’s film so passionately, he banishes anyone who enjoyed it.
Like every bit of film and music today, Ryan Nicholson’s “Gutterballs” is steeped heavily in the eighties with his slasher setting down in the decade while even the score and soundtrack take from it with shameless glee. And while normally that may be enough reason for me to dislike it, I found that his nostalgic placement made sense in the long run and only added to the camp. Nicholson’s slasher wants to be from the time where slashers were common cinematic fare, but sadly it’s just more of a wish than a reality.