Friday, July 10, 2009

Jason goes to Thrillville and sees SUGAR BOXX and ISLE OF THE DAMNED

So Thrillville was an institution at the Parkway (R.I.P. No, wait, rise from the dead and live to the end of time) and Will "The Thrill" Viharo and his wife Monica the Tiki Goddess would play crappy movies from the 50's, 60's, and 70's (okay, and sometimes the 40's and 80's). But last Thursday night in San Jose (conflicting with music in the park, making parking a fucking mess) they played new crappy grindhouse movies. In fact, it was a pair of world premieres.

First up was a Women In Prison (WIP) flick, SUGAR BOXX. A TV reporter gets a letter from an old friend who says her niece is in trouble in the Sugar State Correctional Facility, so she decides to go undercover. Almost all the inmates are there for prostitution and drugs, and almost all from Tallahassee (oh yeah, it takes place in Florida). So she dresses up like a whore, and drives there. She doesn't even get to town before the corrupt sheriff pulls her over, plants drugs in her trunk, and gets sent up for 15 years (with the help of a judge played by Jack Hill). Sugar State is supposedly not an easy place to survive, despite apparently not having an actual prison facility (she has the choice between either a camp or essentially a whorehouse). Yeah, the lusty warden is a corrupt, thieving lesbo. And so, apparently, are most of the inmates. Well, she survives, the plot progresses kind of predictably (i.e., there are lots of excuses for tits to come out on screen). This was not actually all that bad. It was cheap, sleazy, and I still can't quite get used to seeing a 70's style grindhouse flick shot on (rather poor) digital video. But at least it was a fairly faithful homage.

The second film I started out wanting to like much more. ISLE OF THE DAMNED is a "newly discovered" 80's Italian cannibal flick. And when it opened with text explaining how the director Antonello Giallo fled the country rather than produce proof that the actors were actually alive, and then it launched into the cheesy synthesizer score, I was all on board. The opening credits had me hooked, and then they started talking and quickly went full retard (you never go full retard). Okay, I'm fine with the bad dubbing, that's part of the genre, but don't dub such ridiculous voices. Likewise no need for the ridiculous fake mustaches or the semi-retarded kid. This is a perfect example of where less could be much, much more. The plot involves explorers--a greedy treasure hunter, his guide, and his (the guide's) troubled adopted son searching for the treasure of Marco Polo. There's only one island they haven't searched, and the guide refuses to go because it's inhabited by cannibals. But the greedy bastard forces them to go anyway, and havoc ensues. They meet one daughter who survived her father being eaten (and de-phallused) in front of her, and an eccentric aristocrat with a yakuza assassin sidekick who rescues them. The aristocrat is always talking about how "civilized" man is the real savage (another Italian cannibal flick cliche). More havoc ensues, lots of death, lots of ass-rape, and lots of tedium. I was just left with profound disappointment that the filmmakers obviously had the technical skill to make a good homage/tribute (some of the gore special effects were spot on), but instead chose to go too far in the campy/parody vein. And they decided to parody Italian cannibal movies without actually putting in any jokes. Hell, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was funnier than this (and I claim intentionally so). I'm left wishing someone would make a new Italian cannibal flick for real, instead of this half-assed crap.

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