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CineSchlock-O-Rama: It Came From The Vault #4

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CineSchlock-O-Rama: It Came From The Vault #4

Old 06-09-09, 08:42 PM
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CineSchlock-O-Rama: It Came From The Vault #4

Dance with the Devil

4 of 5 stars / 1997 / D

Rosie Perez is pretty goldang talented. In Dance with the Devil (1997, 121 minutes, Perdita Durango), she gets REAL naughty three or four times, but manages to keep most of her clothes ON during the frantic diddling. Apparently, director Alex De La Iglesia didn't have the sort of dinner-o it takes to get Rosie to unleash her talents. But he's smart enough not to give her too many lines, saving us the inhuman torture of her squawky voice -- scientifically proven to make babies cry. Since its release, this movie takes on added curiosity because a huge TV star has a small, but amusing role. That'd be James Gandolfini of HBO's &"The Sopranos.&"

The movie: Despite its kinky-voodo sex and hiney-kicking violence, deep down in its little black heart the picture's a love story between the fiery Perdita Durango (Perez) and her witch doctor Romeo (indie heartthrob Javier Bardem). When he isn't digging up wrinkled corpses for his Santeria sideshow, he's robbing banks (groping gals in the process) or otherwise being a real mean son of a gun. Perdita is into bad boys it seems, but she's badder than most. While sucking on Romeo Dolorosa's toes she suggests that after their bath, they go out on the town and kidnap a couple gringos for a late night snack. No, she ain't taking them out for El Baskin Robertos. She means to eat THEM! Yeah, struck yours truly as weird too, but Romeo just grins that chilly grin of his and off they go.

That's when the fresh meat arrives in the form of two all-American sweethearts, Estelle and Duane (Heather's delicious sister Aimee Graham and Harley Cross who played a pre-teen Martin Brundle in The Fly II). They're pretty good at crying and looking frightened, as hostages tend to do. Some more plot gets interjected when a crime boss by the name of Santos (Don Stroud) decides he wants Romeo to haul a 18-wheeler load of frozen fetuses to a Nevada cosmetics plant. Yuck!

Meanwhile, Tony Soprano is a mustachio'd DEA agent from Dallas (yeah, right) fast on Romeo and Perdita's trail. De La Iglesia mixes in great character actors such as the late Screamin' Jay Hawkins as Romeo's sidekick, Adolfo -- who sorta sounds like a over-the-hill (and black) Bobcat Goldthwait -- and quirky Repo Man director Alex Cox -- who could give Agent Smith of The Matrix diction lessons. The roller coaster of evil finally comes to rest at the happiest place on Earth. That's right, Sin City itself, Las Vegas.

Notables: Five breasts. More than 21 corpses. Grave robbing. Pistol whipping. Rosie Perez fu. Head-on car crash with explosion. Bank robbing. Santeria deviltry. Multiple diddling. Corpse dismembering. Toe nookie. Gratuitous Ab Flexing. Cigar-smoking grannie. Crucifixion. Cigarette to the hand. Knife through the cranium. Exploding ranch. Boot licking. Human fetuses tumble. One road pizza (extra gooshie). Strobe light footage. Yard monster birthday party. Multiple gun battles. Hair pulling. Brain splattering. Electrocution. Broken bottle to the face. Gratuitous urination.

Quotables: Romeo's portly partner in crime worries about their debts, &"If we don't pay him soon, he'll kill us! And make a belt with our nipples!&" Perdita feels communication is important in a relationship between homicidal maniacs, as she tells Romeo, &"We should kill someone. We should kill them, and then we should eat them!" and "I have one or two holes that I need filling myself."

Time codes: Romeo orders bank teller to show her balance (8:50). The great James Gandolfini (as Woody Dumas) joins the movie (17:40). Dumas fails to look BOTH ways before crossing the street (23:40). Estelle explains the evils of smoking to her captor (1:13:40). The legendary Johnny Cash sings &"I Walk The Line&" on the radio (1:14:40). Dumas tells a &"dead baby&" joke (1:22:00). Estelle jumps Duane's bones (1:43:28). &"Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas&" sign (1:49:20).

Final thought: Probably THE best Rosie Perez action flick EVER made.

What's New?

At age 12, Emily Hagins of Austin, Texas wrote, directed and edited her first feature, Pathogen, a zombie movie. Zombie Girl: The Movie is a wonderful tag-along documentary of Emily's two-year odyssey making Pathogen as well as a charming portrait of a mother-daughter relationship many would envy. Zombie Girl is on the festival circuit and due on DVD soon. Professionally mastered DVDs of Emily's film (complete with commentaries and bloopers) are available for the bargain price of just $8 at CheesyNuggets.com. Pathogen earned the 2009 Texas Frightmare Weekend Audience Award and there's zero doubt CineSchlockers will agree! Emily's next feature, The Retelling, is nearly complete. It's a ghost story.

Also at festivals is The Dungeon Masters, a warts and all, but mostly wart'd look at three "Dungeons & Dragons" role players whose passion for the worlds they create vibrate between triumphant and tragic. Elizabeth Reesman is the standout if only for her proclivity for donning Spock ears, a platinum mane and slathering every visible inch of her flesh with black grease paint. Think Mazes and Monsters meets Crumb.

As if proof were needed, Drag Me To Hell reaffirms Sam Raimi's mastery of all that is evil and dead. Especially the ooey gooey bits. Wormy maggot puke. Geriatric denture slobber. Projectile nosebleeds. Lorna Raver outshines Jason, Michael AND Freddy as a boogeygranny with an evil eye and a can-do attitude. Alison Lohman is the accursed eye candy who won't go down to H-E-double hockey sticks without a fight. ("Here kitty, kitty.") Lots of soundtrack scares to be sure, however what's on the screen is fiercely frightful fun too. Loved, loved, loved the ending. At last the curse of contemporary horror is lifted with this crescendo! There's no Bruce Campbell cameo, but the Delta 88's present, naturally.

While "torture porn" is an overused term, Martyrs more than earns the tag and must surely be the inevitable outcome of depraved and diminishing returns. It has style and Hostel-esque nihilism but frankly, the abuses the audience and the female leads are asked to endure simply aren't justified by the flick as a whole. Not by a tossed-off, religious zealotry ending presumably meant to provide some context to the carnage. Where I Spit on Your Grave answered its horrors with ruthless revenge shared by the victim and the audience, Martyrs inexcusably wallows in sick, senseless sadism masquerading as a brave masterstroke of hardcore horror.

On the surface, The Burrowers has promise as a spurs 'n' six-guns throwback blended with a subterranean creature feature. Below said surface, however, it's just a downright bore. Mostly due to the weird, chomp-now-eat-later modus operandi of the "burrowers" themselves. What little is eventually seen of them is hardly inspired critter craftsmanship as well. Gives The Mole People a whole new street cred.

Texas Frightmare Weekend: Post Script

Sweet baby Jebus, did we ever have ourselves a ball! Fantastic guests. Even better fans. Three frightful days at the southwest's premier horror convention couldn't be restrained by pig virus hysteria, our ever-beleaguered economy or even a flash monsoon. The convention went so well we're returning to the same venue next year on the same weekend: April 30-May 2, 2010 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel (north entrance of DFW International Airport).

Some of my favorite moments: Visiting with Marilyn Burns over obscenely delicious plates of nachos. Yes, shooting Eaten Alive was even harder on her than the notoriously arduous Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (Thanks in no small degree to Neville Brand's state of mind and domineering physicality.) Listening to Teri McMinn, an absolute doll, get the biggest hoot out of trying to pronounce "CineSchlock-O-Rama." (It was off the hook. Get it?) Chauffeuring the incomparable Barbara Steele hither and yon. (She's every bit as rapier sharp and elegant as a fan might dream.) Introducing Emily Hagins to Tobe Hooper who was both gracious and encouraging of the fangirl frightmaker. Finally getting to meet (and booze with) fellow schlockmeisters Rick Popko and Dan West. I discovered them through reviewing Monsturd, so it was a particular treat to host a midnight screening of their latest feature, RetarDead. (The audience loved it!)

Meeting the great Dick Miller ranks right up there too. He signed my Chopping Mall poster given to me by Jim Wynorski at our last show. "Jim Wynorski," he said with a smile. "The only director I ever had words with!" Seems Dick had himself a bit of a Christian Bale moment when Jim persistently gave direction while the camera was rolling. Regardless, the classic "Walter Paisley vs. The Killbot" scene drew cheers during a 20-minute retrospective salute to Miller's 50-year career. (Produced by yours truly.) Check it out on YouTube -- and don't forget Part 2!

More from The Vault

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(c) 2009 G. Noel Gross, CineSchlocker.com
Distribution courtesy Texas Frightmare Weekend (Dallas) April 30-May 2, 2010

Last edited by G. Noel Gross; 06-09-09 at 08:49 PM.

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