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.