Mediocre: Devil in the Flesh 2

Devil in the Flesh 2 (A.K.A. Teacher’s Pet) (2000)

Directed by Marcus Spiegel
Written by Richard Brandes
Produced by Betsy Mackey, Richard Brandes, Alicia Reilly Larson, Robert E. Baruc, Marc Forby
Starring Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Jsu Garcia, Katherine Kendall, Jeanette Brox, Christiana Frank, Todd Robert Anderson, Bill Gratton, Sarah Lancaster, Rel Hunt, Todd McKee, Alex McArthur, Wendy Worthington

Synopsis

Within a week, a pretty mental patient and aspiring poet (O’Keefe) murders a sadistically perverted nurse (Worthington) and the psychiatrist (McArthur) with whom she was obsessed, escapes from her psychiatric hospital, assumes the identity of a rich, dead collegian (Lancaster) who she resembles, flouts and outfoxes her dorm’s dictatorial, prematurely frumpy housemother (Frank), befriends and beautifies her nerdy roommate (Brox), seduces a studly professor (Garcia) of creative writing, undermines his unlikable fiancée (Kendall), and excels in his class by penning passionate poetry. Can the local sheriff (Gratton) and his dimwitted deputy and son (Anderson) apprehend this overachiever?

Script

With his former co-producer Kurt Anderson and a quartet of screenwriters, producer/second assistant director/author Brandes is credited for the previous picture‘s story. He reputedly wrote this goofier, glossier subsequence alone as camp invested with improved, precipitate plotting and snappier dialogue.

Direction & cinematography

Only a few ostentatiously skillful close-ups (some of which are in deep focus) draw attention to Spiegel’s otherwise ordinary oversight and M. David Mullen’s toasty photography.

Histrionics

Brandes reserved all of his best insults, retorts, witticisms and felonies for strutting, orally contorting O’Keefe, who hits her marks a step over the top with hysterically hammy panache. While Rose McGowan played a high school senior as a blithe vicenarian slow to slay, O’Keefe’s bouncy, butcherly bedlamite seems like a freshman of high school, not college. Among others, remarkably handsome Garcia and gawky Brox (a poor girl’s Clea DuVall) are fair foils who embody their archetypes as palatably as their castmates. Alex McArthur’s cameo corresponds to his unwilling objet du désir in the first movie.

Score

For a quarter-century, Steve Gurevitch’s music has primarily supplied tonal emphasis, as here. Some of his programmed percussion occupies.

Highlights

O’Keefe nails all of her rejoinders as amusively as she seethes spitting demented invective. Moments after this lovely, lovelorn lunatic screams, “Where the hell is my Prince Charming?!,” Lancaster’s spoiled brat accidentally kills herself with priceless inelegance.

Flaws

Not two minutes prior to her untimely demise, Lancaster spies coitus between disgusting hicks. Evidently superhuman hearing empowers O’Keefe to surveil her unwitting inamorato.

Conclusion

Its sex, criminalities, and gallows humor outshines that of this melodrama’s predecessor, and it was destined, sanitized, and almost too good for telecast via Lifetime.

Execrable: Devil in the Flesh

Devil in the Flesh (1998)

Directed by Steve Cohen
Written by Kurt Anderson, Richard Brandes, Michael Michaud, Kelly Carlin, Robert McCall, Steve Cohen
Produced by Kurt Anderson, Richard Brandes, Marc Forby, Alicia Reilly Larson, Betsy Mackey, Robert E. Baruc, John Fremes
Starring Rose McGowan, Alex McArthur, Peg Shirley, Phil Morris, Robert Silver, J.C. Brandy, Sherrie Rose, Ryan Bittle, Julia Nickson, Krissy Carlson, Schultz, Wendy Robie, Philip Boyd, Milton James

Synopsis

Logophilic police detectives (Morris, Silver) conduct an inquirendo into a possible arson that killed her mother and teacher while a sultry student (McGowan) chafes at residency with her abusive, overbearing, fundamentalist grandmother (Shirley), and attendance at a new high school where her crush on a handsome teacher (McArthur) turns erotomaniacal. Corpses accrue.

Script

Their residual capitalization on the sleeper’s success of Poison Ivy and its sequels (themselves variations on Fatal Attraction‘s scenario) isn’t without wit, but Anderson and Brandes should’ve held their four screenwriters to one standard of black humor, and weeded this flick’s shooting script of some badly barbed lines.

Editing

Michael Thibault’s final cut would be unexceptionable but for excessive and successive dissolves, and some intolerably interpolated whoosh cuts, none of which evoke fond nostalgia for the ’90s.

Histrionics

Her bitchy chill was honed for years in compulsive trash like The Doom Generation and Lewis & Clark & George, and McGowan’s as fetchingly flirty here as in any of her other vehicles, if less interesting than certain co-stars. Morris and Silver play their cross-quizzing inspectors with pleasantly understated comic timing, and Faheyish McArthur emanates charisma as the object of her sensual seductress. Oddly, not too much of this this devil’s flesh is on display, despite McGowan’s penchant for onscreen nudity. Sherrie Rose is instead twice in the buff during sexy scenes with McArthur, and while her figure is easy on the eyes, the absence of McGowan’s gymnomania may have disappointed purchasers of this video.

Score

From their first of many collaborations, Michael Burns’s and Steve Gurevitch’s music tugs the ear, unlike the tones-by-numbers that they’ve since been turning out for scores of Lifetime’s features.

Highlights

Darling schnauzer Schultz charms as the pet of Shirley’s loathsome beldame. Whether this satisfies is largely incident to its audience’s sexual orientation; McGowan was so stunning in her prime that she’s sure to transfix anyone tending to the slightest interest in the fairer sex.

Flaws

Painfully lame quips during and after several homicides (two of which are frankly justifiable) aren’t meliorated by McGowan’s cutesy delivery.

Conclusion

For McGowan’s longsuffering, remaining fans — who might’ve noticed that she’s only half this crazy in reality — this is essential viewing. Addicts of Johnson/Shadowland’s sordid crime dramas may deplore this as extreme, but it’s likely a touch too tame for aficionados of erotic thrillers.

Sublime: Immoral Tales

Immoral Tales (1973)
Directed by Walerian Borowczyk
Written by Walerian Borowczyk, André Pieyre de Mandiargues
Produced by Anatole Dauman
Starring Fabrice Luchini, Lise Danvers; Charlotte Alexandra; Sirpa Lane; Paloma Picasso, Pascale Christophe; Florence Bellamy, Jacopo Berinizi, Lorenzo Berinizi, Philippe Desboeuf
In converse chronology, an abundance of beauties inhabit the miasm of this sexy, sinful quintet: a domineering young boor (Luchini) in the ’70s lures his pretty, teenage cousin (Danvers) to a beach where he forces her fellatio at high tide so that its climax concurs with his own; a busty, lusty, pious young woman (Alexandra) aroused by religiosity and libido over eighty years prior fetishizes in a sacristy ecclesiastic accoutrements before she’s confined by her aunt for an unspecified infraction in a storeroom, where her devotion and nympholepsy commove onanistic abandon before an escape results in calamity; leaving her harpsichord to pursue into a forest an extravagating lamb loose from its tether, a noblewoman (Lane) of 1765 encounters a shaggy, enormously endowed monster of notoriety before yielding with her horror to an interspecific concupiscence; a village in 1610 is visited by the forbidding Countess Bathory (Picasso) and her retinue, who expropriate its population of damsels to supply her sanguinary ablution; fecund Lucrezia Borgia (Bellamy) visits the Vatican in 1498 to bawdily cavort and relish a threesome with her father, Pope Alexander VI (J. Berinizi) and his son and cardinal, Caesar (L. Berinizi) while a Dominican friar (Desboeuf) fulminates from the pulpit against the church’s iniquity. Equally allusive and gratuitous in style and substance, Borowczyk’s interpretation of Mandiargues’ precursory short story and anecdotally historical degeneracy contrasts libertine rapture with violence and murder to emphasize the former’s hedonic virtue. As captivating as the carnality are its intervallic caesurae: a slow pan to a lingering shot of floating, perching seagulls against the backdrop of a promontory signifies a post-coital detumescence; in her boudoir, sylphs surrounding the countess’ bed pose provocatively in a tableau vivant foretokening forthcoming delirium and doom; shot with lubricious sedulity, every fine, fair figure strikes a discrete attitude of salacity. Rohmer’s, Breillat’s and Picasso’s fans are likely to be amused by the presence of their respective recurrent star, first leading lady and enterprising daughter in an especially pert and photogenic cast, attractively lensed by four(!) DPs to impersonate the vital beauty of passion and its consummation. After initial screenings, the bestial third segment was deleted from posterior reels and reused by Borowczyk as the nucleus of his next feature, The Beast.

Palatable: Night School

Night School (1981)
Directed by Ken Hughes
Written by Ruth Avergon
Produced by Ruth Avergon, Larry Babb, Leon Williams, Marc Gregory Comjean, Bernard Kebadjian
Starring Rachel Ward, Leonard Mann, Drew Snyder, Joseph R. Sicari, Karen MacDonald, Bill McCann, Annette Miller, Nick Cairis
Their associations with a promiscuous professor of anthropology (Snyder) and his devious dean (Miller) link decapitated acquaintances and students sanguineously slain by a casqued motorcyclist armed with a kukri and familiarity with their respective schedules. This commonality and the aqueous deposition of the victims’ heads are the only leads on which an incisive detective (Mann) and his paltry partner (Sicari) can rely as they investigate murders committed with unmistakable animus in observance of an initially inexplicable M.O. Gorgeous but stiff as a subsidiary and cohabitant of Snyder’s instructor, Ward commenced her cinematic career where her director’s ended, and her radiant screen presence barely offsets wooden delivery in contrast to her costars’ charisma. Subtle suspense by misdirection was Hughes’ specialty in comedies and crime dramas alike, and it’s here as opulent as overlooked both by splatterhounds for whom this slasher was too moderate and cineastes seeking a serious psychological thriller. His careful composition’s complemented by Mark Irwin’s lambent photography, which blazons the beauty of Bostonian venues no less than the leading lady’s. Screenwriter/producer Avergon’s central theme — requisite rituals transposed to civilization to rationalize madness — is simplistically addressed, but that’s just as well. Too many lightweight genre projects are incumbered with pontifical purport.
Recommended for a double feature paired with When a Stranger Calls.

Mediocre: It Felt Like Love

It Felt Like Love (2013)
Written and directed by Eliza Hittman
Produced by Eliza Hittman, Shrihari Sathe, Laura Wagner, Tyler Brodie, Molly Gandour, Hunter Gray, Gill Holland
Starring Gina Piersanti, Giovanna Salimeni, Ronen Rubinstein, Richie Folio, Nugget, Kevin Anthony Ryan, Nick Rosen, Jesse Cordasco, Case Prime
Languishing in summer tedium and the shadow of her popularly promiscuous best friend (Salimeni), a pretty, pouty, terminally timorous teen (Piersanti) ravenous for amatory attention assumes orbit about a handsome, thuggish billiard hall’s clerk (Rubinstein) in pursuit of his affection. She’s as incoordinate in proximity to her crush as when flailing unsynchronized as a member of her friend’s silly terpsichorean quartet, and painfully obvious when professing the erotic experiences of acquaintances as her own to her closest confidant, a prepubescent neighbor (Folio) neither convinced by nor impressed with her flagrant falsities. Notwithstanding a few instances of stiff delivery, Hittman’s debut feature’s satisfactorily played, cut and shot, but adequacy can’t compensate for the climatic languor that suffuses her narrative, or the revolting condition of middle-class Brooklyn’s vapid degeneracy, manifest as parental neglect, troglodytic male posturing and ubiquitous hip-hop. A littoral metaphor on loan from Truffault’s estate hardly enlivens an affair merely (if capably) belaboring its tenderfoot’s boredom and heartache, without exploring the full detriment of her deceased mother’s absence. Hittman wrangles her photogenic cast with varying success, generating the best of many contemplative moments when they’re muted. Still, Piersanti’s promise and presence almost belie her age; she may someday prove a reliable leading lady under the auspices of a better filmmaker.

Mediocre: A Teacher

A Teacher (2013)
Written and directed by Hannah Fidell
Produced by Hannah Fidell, Kim Sherman, Michelle Millette, Annell Brodeur
Starring Lindsay Burdge, Will Brittain, Jennifer Prediger
A consequential opportunity to analyze the psychologic ties of instructive berth and amatorian condition isn’t entirely compassed in this handsome budget production concerning a backstair affair between a high school’s mousy, lovelorn preceptor (Burdge) and her swaggering senior student (Brittain). Her passion and paranoia mount pari passu as a love the educator’s callow paramour hasn’t the depth to reciprocate ordains her to unrequited misery…regrettably, directress Fidell hasn’t much to convey beyond the relational incompatibility of adults and teenagers, even in the absence of satisfactory coeval suitors. Technically, nothing’s to be faulted here: Fidell’s direction is capable if customary, DP Andrew Droz Palermo lenses beautiful scenery and umbratile interiors in modish high contrast, Sofi Marshall’s crisp editing braces the picture’s steady pace and the cast is quite fine, especially in Burdge’s solidly evocative radiation of carnal thrill, enamored elan, forlorn ache and that terrible sting of ruinous heartbreak. If Fidell’s undertaking underwhelms for a deficit of ambition, it’s still commendable for its refusal to stupidly conflate ephebophilia and pedophilia, instead prudently intimating that the former is less an iniquity than an especially injudicious indiscretion.