Friday, January 29, 2010

Dead Girls (1990)

Directed by Dennis Devine
Written by Steve Jarvis
Starring Angela Eads, Diana Karanikas, Kay Shaber

Well, it's got to be the mom. She looks like one of those outraged 'Citizens for decency' during the LBJ days with a face like a tin can and a voice like a lawn mower. She must be behind the ritual slaughter of the Dead Girls, the wildly popular death obsessed power pop band whose odes to carnage and murder have given rise to a rash of teenage suicides. The fact that her own daughter is the lead singer of the band is bad enough, but now her youngest has fallen prey to the Dead Girls as well, barely escaping from a wrist slashing attempt, the results of indulging in the band's subliminal death rock. But she's kind of old, and all that killin' is hard work, so maybe it's not her after all.

This is an early effort from no-budget, shot-on-video schlock factory Cinematrix , produced in 1989, the very tail end of the slasher era. As such, it's a distillation of all the industry standards- many, many possible suspects, just as many possible victims, a secluded cabin in the woods, an uncaring cop, a weapons obsessed weirdo, and red herrings galore. Dead Girls even features a host of snarky in-jokes and a killer in a white skull mask, pre-dating Scream by almost a decade, and the whole weird outing reminds me of why the genre was so popular in the first place- it's fun, quite frankly, to see annoying teenagers get sliced and diced, and it's even more fun trying to figure out who did it.

And who is killing the Dead girls? It can't be Brooke, can it? Poor Brooke, still recovering from shock and blood loss from her suicide attempt, who agreed to go on this ill-fated camping trip with her rock star sister to forget the horrible tragedy. It might have been a relaxing weekend, too, until the bodies started piling up. The Dead Girls' high-powered, Asian Rueben Kincaid of a manager, Artie (Brian Chin) gets nail-gunned. The super groupie in the Elvira wig gets strangled in the woods. Band member Suzy Stryker gets drowned at the beach. Jeff, the...well, I'm not sure what Jeff is doing there, besides looking like a gay Tom Selleck- poor Jeff gets stabbed in the neck. Somebody's obviously got it out for the Dead Girls. But surely, Brooke's too weak to go on a killing spree. Her weird, uptight nurse, though- she seems awfully attached to Brooke. Maybe she's up to the skull duggery. Or maybe it's the burly retarded groundskeeper. But is it ever the burly retarded groundskeeper in movies like this?

Dead Girls is a retro-blast of slasher mania. You won't figure out who the murderer is until the end, and even then you might not know what's going on. Let's just say that the record industry is a cut throat business in more ways than one.

Availability: VHS. Old school!

- Ken McIntyre

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