Dead Girls 1989 Review
Posted by luisitojoaquin
Directed by: Dennis Devine and Steve Jarvis
Starring: David Chatfield, Jeff Herbick, Brian Chin
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Dead Girls puts us back in killer stalking heavy metal group territory, only this time it’s an all girl gang of head bangers put to the sword…
With the amount of rock bands that have been stalked since the slasher became a grouping in horror during the early eighties, it’s amazing that there’s any of them left recording. It all kicked off with movies like Shock Evil Entertainment, Terror on Tour and Rocktober Blood, which were the first hack and slashers to feature a band as the body count material. Even the Australians got involved with the sub-genre giving us Ollie Martin’s insipid Houseboat Horror just before the turn of the decade. The theme ran extremely sporadically throughout the nineties, probably because the slasher grouping was phased out due to poor sales and even poorer production qualities. But after the Wes Craven inspired reinvigoration in 96, movies like Slash and Backlot Murders have given the category a new lease of life to build upon. There are even websites that are scattered around dedicated to the ‘Heavy Metal Horror Movie’ and include the likes of Rock and Roll Nightmare, Blood Tracks and other such intriguing pieces.
It was released by Cinematrix films, a Los Angeles based independent studio. Their story is great because they were nothing more than fans of horror like you and I before THE chance came their way. Denis Devine and Mike Bowler had run in to Jeff Hathcock, the director of Night Ripper and Streets of Rage. They had offered to help write some scripts and so Hathcock would give them ideas and they would take them away to work long hours in to making them viable for a film. Whenever they went back with their best efforts, Jeff would have already given up on that concept and would offer them something new and so the process would start again from scratch. This happened on four or five occasions until Steve Jarvis stepped in and said that instead of them trying so hard for no obvious gain, why don’t they all put their pennies together and finance their own feature. The result was the pretty decent Fatal Images and that launched Cinematrix, which would give birth to a fair few memorable budget hits. This is arguably one of the best of them.
Lucy Lethal, Cynthia Slayed, Nancy Napalm, Randy Rot and Bertha Beirut are all members of the heavy metal band Dead Girls. They have found notoriety with a gimmick that revolves around murder, death and lyrics that glorify suicide. Bertha Beirut is the lead songwriter and would like to try and move them in a more uplifting direction, but her band mates just don’t think it would work. “We’re the Dead Girls not the Shirelles,” remarks Lucy Lethal sarcastically. Looking at the clearly bemused songwriter, she continues, “You call yourself Bertha Beirut and strangle yourself with the American flag every night, so we’re not gonna break out in a chorus of Stand by your man!” I’m pretty sure that Tammy Wynette would certainly agree…
Just as the group are about to embark on a nationwide radio, television and stage tour, Bertha receives a shocking letter via special delivery. Her younger sister Brooke has attempted to commit suicide whilst repeatedly listening to their morbid album and she is currently comatose in a hospital bed. After visiting the youngster, Bertha decides that the band need to be alone together for a short time to clear their heads and maybe start afresh. They head out to a remote cabin in the woodland to find some peace and serenity away from the pressure of their superstar status. Meanwhile, an ominous stranger dressed in a black raincoat, gloves, fedora and skull mask has decided to follow the band to their retreat and is sadistically slaughtering the musicians one by one. It seems someone else has taken the death gimmick a tad too seriously…
Director Dennis Devine admits that Dead Girls is widely regarded as the best of his B movie output. He also notes that it was possibly the most difficult and frustrating project that he has worked upon. This was mainly due to the size of the script that he had to squeeze into a fourteen-day time-scale. Apparently the abysmal weather conditions didn’t help, as he had to shoot a lot of scenes outdoors and it kept snowing at all the wrong times. Snowing in California – now that was bad luck!
Despite these production challenges, Dead Girls is at least a highly enjoyable late entry to the cycle. It takes a little while to step up a gear, but once the victims are stranded in the realms of woodland wilderness – struggling to uncover the maniac’s identity – it provides a few cheesy thrills. All the essential slasher movie regulations are intact, including a tad of nudity, some tacky gore and a soundtrack of ear numbing heavy metal that seems only to be found in these kind of pictures. There’s even a gooey finger-lopping scene, which looks to have been inspired by Tony Maylem’s The Burning.(Although co-director Steve Jarvis swears blind that it wasn’t!) The killer himself looks pretty creepy in a decent rubber skull-mask and traditional Giallo-like psycho garb and there’s more than enough suspects to keep viewers playing the guessing game until the film’s lengthy climax.
The only real problems with Dead Girls are those that plague almost every other genre attempt from this period – uneven performances. It’s a shame that the dramatics continuously blow so hot and cold, because in this particular movie it really does hold back the chance of a higher rating. Some of the potential shown by the leads was hampered by unconvincing work from the supporting cast, which never allows the motion picture to go to the heights that it could have done. Some have also said that the film is too long and at an hour and forty-five minutes, it’s reaching omnibus status. To be frank, I didn’t really have too much of a problem with the runtime and I actually enjoyed the film quite a lot.
A while back, I attended a horror festival type thing in London. Some of the ‘stars’ in attendance were Alan Birkinshaw, George Dugdale and Caroline Munro to name but a couple and I watched Killer’s Moon for the first time on a big screen. On the way back I got talking to two guys about the genre that we love. The thing that sticks in my mind most about our conversation is that they really slated Dead Girls. I have also noticed that not many websites give this one the thumbs up and there’s a fourteen-minute long review on Youtube by a guy (bit of a Muppet) who tears it to shreds. But this got me thinking about my rating. Well let’s put it this way. What do you expect to gain from watching a slasher flick? A few bloody kills? A chance to guess who’s killing everyone? For me that’s what make these things so much damn fun in the first place and on both those counts Devine’s slasher delivers. It’s a bit over-long, it’s definitely not going to win awards for its dramatics, but it does exactly what you expect it to. Most importantly, I think it does it very well.
Dead Girls is hilariously cheesy and gratuitously gruesome in the same breath and adds just the right amount of both to end up as one of the better belated genre entries. Recommended to fans of rare-ish slasher movies that enjoy gore and decent killer disguises.
Final Girl √
Posted on July 16, 2012, in Slasher and tagged 1990, cheesy wotsit, Dead Girls, dennis devine, gore, heavy metal slasher, killer in the woods, masked killer, Rare Slasher, Slasher, Steve Jarvis, whodunnit?. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.