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.

Palatable: Rampage

Rampage (1987)
Directed by William Friedkin
Written by William P. Wood, William Friedkin
Produced by David Salven, William Friedkin
Starring Michael Biehn, Alex McArthur, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Nicholas Campbell, John Harkins, Art LaFleur, Billy Greenbush, Grace Zabriskie, Royce D. Applegate, Roy London, Andy Romano, Donald Hotton
Four adults and a child fall to the mad appetites of a hematophagous murderer (McArthur), whose grisly atrocities prove judicially thorny when his prosecution’s assigned to an assistant district attorney (Biehn) doubly averse to capital punishment since his daughter’s demise. From a confirmation of legal insanity and permutations of temperament and opinion, this sober, unsettling thriller creepily ramifies to provoke moral and juridical questions submitted to both its fictional jury and audience’s informal panel. Largely restrained by Friedkin’s standards, his last quality feature showcases his typical tautly scrupulous style and proper ensemble at their very best: Biehn forcibly emanates as much tense indecision in silent close-ups as upright ire when grilling dubious expert witnesses (Harkins, London) on the stand; in gentle contrast, his grieving wife’s tenderly rendered by Van Valkenburgh; goggling Zabriskie’s surprisingly understated, typecast effectually as the defendant’s oblivious mother; vacillating from insouciant iniquity to vulnerable hypochondriasis to maniacal violence, McArthur’s feels more real than any of the dramatized representations of serial killers that glutted theaters in the ’90s and aughts, be they misadapted from Thomas Harris’s novels or contrived in their slipstream. Fortunately, this histrionic caliber compensates for both an unexplainable overuse of the main theme from Morricone’s memorably moving, minatory score that diverts the viewer from and suffocates the still dramatic tension of several scenes, and some daft dialogue verifying that Friedkin’s unfit as a sole screenwriter, such as an awkward equation between the NSDAP and McArthur’s bloodletter propounded by Biehn’s D.A. in court to comparatively exemplify the alleged sanity of both sanguine parties. Yeesh. Equally baffling is an unresolved, strangely foreshortened subplot involving the separation of Biehn’s and Van Valkenburgh’s couple. His faltering instincts spoiled this less than the veteran filmmaker’s next ten flicks, but it’s still reduced for its defects from a potentially exceptional fictionalization of an actual criminal case (that of outrageous “vampire killer” Richard Chase) to a mere curiosity. The bankruptcy of De Laurentiis’ DEG dashed plans for this picture’s North American distribution, and Friedkin recut its conclusion for a limited engagement courtesy of Miramax in ’92. Mirroring Chase’s fate, its original ending is more challenging for its refusal to interpret its tortured antagonist, and poignant for a suggestion that filial love might heal the most scathing trauma.