Monday, June 29, 2009

Nightmare Sisters (1987)

Directed by David DeCoteau
Starring Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer
Rated R

"You guys queerin' off down there?"

Nightmare Sisters is the 80's equivalent of Universal's last-gasp 40's monster mash-ups, when ideas were running so thin they'd just throw Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman into the same film and let them mindlessly duke it out. In this case, our monsters are much comelier, but the intent is the same. Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley, and Michelle Bauer were the reigning scream queens of 80's era B-horror, and if you liked watching one of them in a movie, well, perhaps your head would just fuckin' fall off if you had all three of them jammed together - naked in a bathtub, no less. It's not the worst idea David DeCoteau has ever had, but then again, we are talking about the man that brought us Voodoo Academy (2000) and Leeches! (2003), so adjust your expectations accordingly.

In comparison to some of DeCoteau's other notable films of the era, like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl O Rama (1988) and Dr. Alien (1989), Nightmare Sisters is cheaper, grubbier, and uglier than usual, with hastily pasted-together sets, a hap-hazard script, and clothes dredged up from the dusty corners of the actresses' own closets . This is mostly the result of its Corman-esque origins: Nightmare Sisters was shot in four days, for the measly sum of $40,000, using whatever was left of the cast, crew and film stock from Sorority Babes.
The payoff of the film - the ugly nerd girls are actually gorgeous - requires that you slosh around a z-movie dead zone for nearly an hour, watching Michelle Bauer frump around in a "fat suit" (sweat pants, a headband, cotton balls in her cheeks) and Linnea Quigley chatter nervously through dimestore buck teeth. Sure, the girls all act their hearts out, but without anything else going for it, it starts to strike you that it may not be worth it to sit through the tedious set-up just to see the triple-threat of scream queens naked when, even in 1987, there were dozens of other places to see their ripe, bare flesh, without wasting an hour first.

Ah, but maybe I'm being too hard on the film. Let's poke around a little, see what we've got to work with.

A woman named Amanda (Sandy Brooke, Star Slammer) visits an oddball fortuneteller named Omar (Dukey Flyswatter). She spins him a spooky tale about her missing husband, Clinton. The story goes that Clinton went away on business and never came back. After some digging, she found out he was last seen at a hotel with a mystery woman. He never checked out, and when they searched his room, all they found was a pile of ashes - and his wristwatch - in the bed. The trail went cold from there.

Omar channels Clint via his crystal ball, and Amanda finds out that he did, in fact, pick up a strange floozy, take her back to the hotel, and have sex with her. But then something horrible happened, which included, but was not limited to, penis dismemberment.
And then the foul spirit reaches right through the crystal ball, grabs Omar's head, tears it off, and taunts Amanda with it.

Roll credits.

So, there's three unlikely sorority sisters, Melody (Linnea Quigley), Marci (Brinke Stevens), and Mickey (Michelle Bauer). They are not popular girls. Melody has buck-teeth, Marci's pack-rat nerd, and Mickey is fat. Well, you can tell she's supposed to be fat, but clearly isn't. She wears oversized sweats, at any rate. When we meet our homely heroines, Marci has just come back from a yard sale, where she's picked up, among other treasures, a monkey head carved out of a coconut, an upside-down skull goblet, and a crystal ball. The last item, it turns out, was once owned by a medium. He's dead now. Mysterious circumstances.

The rest of the sorority girls are gone for the weekend, so the nerdy trio decide to throw a party. Melody recently had a disastrous date with a shy fratboy named Kevin (Richard Gabai). Since she's the only one who knows any boys at all, she tells her friends she'll call him and demand he come over with his two of his buddies.

Kevin agrees and then talks his two geeky pals Freddy (Marcus Vaughter) and Dwayne (William Dristas) into going. After tangling with their alpha-male frat brothers, the fellas make it over the girls' house for the awkward get-together.

Kevin and Melody play the piano and sing together, very badly. Marci bores Dwayne into a stupor with her family photo album. Freddy and Mickey just shovel junk food into their maws. After everyone gets to know one another a bit, they settle in for a sexy game of Twister in the backyard. It ends when Mickey lands on top of everybody, squishing them. So that was over quick. Scrambling for ideas to keep the party going, Marci suggests a séance. Everybody agrees, so she whips out her crystal ball and her copy of "The Compleat Witch", and before you know it, Omar pops up inside the ball, telling the girls they're in grave danger unless they grab the crystal with both hands. They do, and suddenly the room fills with smoke and flashing lights. When the dust clears, the nerdy college girls have been transformed into gorgeous topless supervixens.

The boys are, naturally, confused, but since they have penises, they roll with it. The girls lead them into the kitchen where they all share some peach pie. I'm not speaking metaphorically, they really do eat pie. But they do it sexily! And then they suggest everybody go upstairs to take a bath.

The fellas decline, even after Marci suggests that they can "Soap our backsides." What a bunch of maroons. The girls go upstairs and goddamn it, they all fit into the bathtub. They giggle and lather each other up. And then, suddenly, the previous 47 minutes of tedium is completely forgotten.

After their bath, the girls all adopt seductive new personas. Marci becomes a lollipop-licking Lolita in pigtails, Mickey a leather bikini clad jungle girl, and Melody, a slutty punk rocker.

She actually performers a crunchy, Runaways-esque number, "Santa Monica Blvd Boy", an old chestnut from her days in LA punk band The Skirts, while she stomps around the room topless.

Initially, the girls aim to launch their demon-fury on the geeks, but the fratboys kidnap them and toss them in a closet and take their place. She-demons are not historically picky when it comes to victims, so they go ahead and seduce the alpha-males instead.

After the girls are done gulping down the jerks, they turn their attentions back to the geeks, so they wisely call up an exorcist - he was in the Yellow Pages - who manages to bully the demon-spirit out of the girls, but then it manifests itself as one of those 80's cheapo-horror hand-puppets (with a platinum blonde wig), and now they've got a whole new problem to deal with.

Will the boozy old exorcist and the trio of spazzes defeat the demon?

Will Michelle Bauer wake up from this savage dream to find herself fake-fat again? Will Linnea warble her way through another tune?

Only one way to find out, right?

Nightmare Sisters was a huge cult item in the late 80's, mostly because it was so hard to find. The company that originally released it went tits-up, and only a couple thousand VHS copies ended up in circulation. Thanks mostly to the star power of the scream queens and rumors of its lavish nudity, it was on every sleaze-beast's wanted list for many years. I dunno, we weren't that sophisticated back in the 80's, and I do remember thinking it was pretty incredible the first time I saw it. It was released on DVD in 2003, a good dozen or so years after Nigtmare Sisters Mania passed, but what the hell, better late than never. It's a curiosity item, for sure, but it's also much junkier than most of the era's scream queen flicks, of interest mostly for the infamous bathtub scene and the rare Linnea musical performance.

That being said, the 1987 version of myself wants you to know that this movie is "Fucking awesome", and that Haunted Garage also "Fucking rule, man."

Nightmare Sisters is available on DVD.

- Ken McIntyre

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