Sunday, August 8, 2010

'Shock-o-Rama' has old school chills, laughs

Shock-O-Rama (2005)
Starring: Misty Mundae, Rob Monkiewicz, Caitlin Ross, David Fine, A.J. Kahn, Julian Wells, Duane Polcou, Michael Thomas, and Sylvainne Chebance
Director: Brett Piper
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

I love anthology films, because even if I don't care for the segment I'm watching, I know there's another one coming shortly that will hopefully be better. Plus, a well-made anthology film is like getting three or four or even five movies for the price and time-investment of one! So, whenever I discover a new anthology film, it usually goes to the top of the Stack of Stuff.

Which brings me to this review of "Shock-O-Rama". When I sat down to watch this film, I had low hopes. I associate most of its stars with low-budget softcore lesbian porn with horror themes--and I think Misty Mundae has appeared in more films I've assigned Zero-ratings to than any other single performer--but my expectations rose with a nifty, retro-style opening credits sequence... and as tales unfolded, I found myself enjoying an unexpected treat.

"Shock-O-Rama" is a comedy-horror anthology film that consists of three stories that are kinda-sorta interwoven in a fashion that brings to mind great anthology pictures like "The House That Dripped Blood" or "Charade", and with a fun, light-hearted style that's reminicent of the equally great anthology picture "Creepshow".

The movie starts out with "Zombie This!", the main story that binds the film together, as it unfolds around and inbetween the other elements in the package. In it, low-budget Scream Queen Rebecca Raven (Mundae) is fired by the slimey executives (Fine and Thomas) in charge of the studio that has produced all her movies so far over creative differences and a dispute involving Rebecca's cup-size and her refusal to get surgery to make increase it. She's burned out on garbage horror movies anyway, so Rebecca is happy to for the vacation and retreats to an isolated country house for peace and quiet. The traquility is shortlived, however, as Rebecca accidentially animates a zombie (Polcou) that comes after her, hungry for flesh.

Meanwhile, back at the studio, the execs are realizing they don't have an actress to replace Rebecca in a film that starts shooting Monday--a pre-sold film at that! They watch a couple of movies from other studios, hoping to find the fresh talent (and breasts) to replace their former star. The films they watch are the other two stories featured, so "Shock-O-Rama" ultimately becomes an anthology film that features movies within a movie about a horor movie star for whom the horror becomes all too real. The rampant self-referentialism and mockery of the sorts of movies that Mundae and the target audience for them that it adds up to will either make you howl with laughter or become purple with rage, depending on your sense of humor.

The first film the studio execs watch is "Mecharachnia", a goofy sci-fi thriller where a tiny, psychopathic space alien crashlands in a junkyard and proceeds to toroment its obnoxious proprietor (Monkiewicz) and his shrewish ex-girlfriend (Ross).

They then check out "Lonely are the Brain", the segment that comes closest to delivering what I expect to see in a movie where Misty Mundae, Julian Wells, and A.J. Kahn have top billing. In it, a volunteer in a sleep study (Khan) comes to discover that creepy Dr. Carruthers (Wells) and her secretive research partner are is as dangerous in real life as they are in sexually charged nightmares about lethal lesbianism.

The quality level across all three segments is pretty consistent, with a decent acting and fairly light-hearted scripting throughout. The special effects are as retro as the feel of the movie--with stop-action animation and model spaceship battles the likes of which we haven't seen since "Return of the Jedi". (I'm not saying the special effects are par with what ILM created, just that the methods are the same and that it's nice to see the old standbys in this day of CGI overkill.)

Usually, in these reviews, I provide a rating for each segment, but that's not necessary here, because everything here rates a solid Six. "Zombie This!" is the strongest of the three stories on both the acting and writing front, but the movies-within-the-movie are almost equally fun.

The only real complaint I have about the film is that "Mecharachnia" could have done with a little more polish, both script- and editing-wise. It needed to be tightened up, as the bickering between the junkyard owner and his girlfriend get redundent (so much so that it feels as if both takes of an insult exchange were included when the director should have chosen the best one) and the running battles between Man and Space Invader feel sluggish because of repeative establishing shots, build-ups that needed to be trimmed.

However, these minor flaws are more than made up for by the zany humor and real moments of terror in "Zombie This!". Although Mundae's co-star in that segment--Duane Polcou, who vasilates easily from scary to funny; wait until you see the "zombie jig" that got me laughing so hard I paused the DVD so as to not miss the action that followed--Misty Mundae's performance is what really makes the segment stand out.

I saw that Mundae might posses a glimmer of comedic talent in the awful "Mummy Raider", but in this film she shows that she actually might have the talent for far more than horror-themed lesbian nookie fests. She proves she has range, comedic timing, and a healthy dose of charm and charisma that shines very bright when she has a good script to work with. (Up until now, the only "Seduction Cinema" regular that I thought had any dramatic talent--or even enough presence to succeed outside of low-budget skin flicks--was Julian Wells. Now, I need to add Misty Mundae to that list. I hope to see more of her in movies like this (even if she keeps her clothes on).

"Shock-O-Rama" is a fun anthology flick that's equal parts tribute to old-school horror movies like those Amicus and American-International used to produce, and send-up of modern low-budget horror/skin flicks. Lovers of both kinds of films should get a kick out of this one. (The only dissapointed viewers will be those who, as Rebecca Raven would say, live in their parents' basements and watch with the remote in one hand and their pecker in other.)

No comments: