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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

Execrable: Runaway Father

Runaway Father (1991)
Directed by John Nicolella
Written by Richard Rashke, Stephanie Liss
Produced by Lee Levinson, Howard Rosenstein, Carroll Newman, Dennis Stuart Murphy, Donna Mills, Judith A. Polone
Starring Donna Mills, Jenny Lewis, J.C. Brandy, Amy Moore Davis, Jack Scalia, Chris Mulkey, Jane Daly, Nancy Lenehan, Chick Vennera
Weekly, extruded, semi-fictional hardship of single maternity #82,351: after siring three kids in as many matrimonial years and consummating one extramarital affair, an aeromaniacal pilot (Scalia) abandons his constant wife (Mills) and three daughters (Davis, Brandy, and Lewis, eventually) to pursue his dream of plying his present occupation. Every Republican’s nightmare is realized when this forsaken mother of three and welfare recipient procures subsidiary subvention to attend a state university and earn a degree in something or other, so to substantiate every sane human’s nightmare by obtaining a post as an office drone in the service of the IRS. Not too many years subsequent to the deadbeat’s reported death, a second wife he’s dropped (Lenehan) apprises her revived predecessor that he’s alive and flightier than ever! With the abetment of a P.I. and potential love interest (Mulkey, somehow never a guest star on Knots Landing) met at a congressman’s fundraiser and a Floridian attorney (Vennera) working pro bono, the tetchy trigamist is located and apprehended, but impecuniosity obliges her to act as her own prosecuting attorney…all the better to put him on trial herself!! Then she goes to law school! Charming stupidities abound in this soppy saga of weaponized desertion and prosecutorial vengeance, not the least of which include a lugubrious poem penned and read by Lewis bemoaning her absent pappy, his bizarre, momentary impression of Jimmy Durante whilst attempting to extrajudicially bribe her, and an obiter dictum phrased by a judge contiguous to a conclusive sentence, commending Mills’ single mommy for her feistiness and fortitude. Chintzy costumery and set design comprise skimpy, shabby ’60s period details as unconvincing as the motherly affection stiffly expressed by ice queen Mills, appearing nearly as fresh as forty in her “twenties.” Those of Lewis’ modest cult following won’t object to her hammy cuteness, and Lisanne Falk portrays in a cameo one of Scalia’s doltish lovers. It’s moderately distasteful as Lifetime’s features come, as much for its bureaucratic evangelism as the spousal and paternal dereliction of Scalia’s narcist. Whatever actually occurred is purportedly recounted in Rashke’s eponymous book.