Monday, May 10, 2010

Chainsaw Cheerleaders (2008)

Directed by Donald Farmer
Starring Tiffany Shepis, Debbie Rochon, Michele Gray, Jackey Hall
Unrated
USA

"I wish I was Anna Nicole Smith."
"Why is that, dear?"
"Because dead people don't get sent to cheerleading camp."

I'm not sure which event happened first - Donald Farmer's acquisition of several porn starry cheerleader outfits, or the life-altering epiphany he experienced when the cockamamie-but-irresistible phrase "Chainsaw Cheerleaders" popped into his skull - but obviously one followed quickly after the other. Everything else that happened after that was largely irrelevant. I mean, his job was already 99% done at that point.

As any self-respecting sleaze hound surely knows by now, Tennessee's own Donald Farmer has been churning out shot on video splatter flicks on a consistent basis since the mid '80's. His high water mark remains 1987's Cannibal Hookers, a tawdry, hairspray-abusing bit of heavy metal horror dreck, but he has dozens of similarly-titled and themed weekend wonders under his belt, including Demon Queen (1986), Scream Dream (1989), Red Lips (1995), and his last magnum opus, 2006's Dorm of the Dead. While not officially a sequel, Chainsaw utilizes most of Dorm's cast, and like Dorm, the film is littered with gum-snapping mean girls and psychotic goth chicks. So what's the difference? This one's got chainsaws, man. And cheerleaders.

Chainsaw Cheerleaders begins, sensibly, in 1508, somewhere in Europe. This affect is achieved mostly by putting Tiffany Shepis in a Ren Faire dress. Tiffany is Lucinda, an evil witch who torments some chick with a low-rent CGI pemis monster and then tears her heart out and eats it. Then a bunch of dudes in robes show up and burn her at the stake. The end.


Not really. Fast-forward to the present day. Sally (Erin Bushko) browses around a tacky giftshop, looking for props for her high school drama club's production of Macbeth. Angelique (Harmony Xanix), a heavily-pierced punkette that runs the joint, suggests a gnarly-looking hunting knife, which she says is 500 years old and once belonged to - you guessed it, Lucinda the wicked witch. Angelique tries to convince Sally that together, they can bring Lucinda back from the dead. I am not sure how that benefits anybody, but whatever. Sally tells her she's nuts, so punkette licks her face.  This does not convince her otherwise. Sally decides to split, but then some dude shows up and drags her off.


Meanwhile, Dawn - who's also sort of punky, but also sort of Lesbian-y, as well - is having a rough day. Mom finds the sex tape she made with her goth-y boyfriend Dax (Christopher Shaw), and goes suitably bananas. Dawn decides to take a walk until things cool down, and she runs into her BFF Ciara (Ciara Richards) who informs her of Dax's infidelity. Right on cue, Dax shows up with another girl on his arm. Dawn chases her away and then breaks Dax's nose with her boot.


Clearly, Dawn needs some change in her routine. The school guidance counselor (Debbie Rochon), drops by and suggests Dawn join the cheerleading squad to help her with her IED - Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Sounds valid. For whatever reason, Dax agrees not to press charges if Dawn becomes a cheerleader. And so she does. There are three other cheerleaders (this must be a very small town), all of 'em bouncy and blonde: Bambi (Misty Marie), Chassy (Jackey Hall), and Jessica (Rabecca Lee). So, you know, this is not going to go well.

The cheerleading team's trip to regionals is supposed to be funded by magazine subscriptions, but the squad is too lazy to bother trying to sell any. They convince Dawn that if she sells one subscription - at the spooky old house everyone's afraid of, naturally - then she can slip their strict Red Bull diet. She goes for it, figuring possible kidnapping and murder is still preferable than hanging out with a trio of anorexic blonde bubbleheads.
Dawn knocks on the door, and Angelique answers. Stalling for time, she asks for a glass of water, and when Angie goes to get it, Dawn sees a body on the floor, flailing away in a plastic garbage bag. Freaked, she bails and catches up with her cheer squad in the school's locker room.


Sadly, none of them are in a state of undress. Dawn tells the girls she thinks some sort of criminal mischief is afoot at the creepy house. After promising to be head cheerleader Bambi's slave if they don't find anything, the girls agree to check it out with her, so off they go, Scooby Doo style.


Dawn shows up just in time to see Angelique slash Sally's throat. Her gushing lifeblood opens a portal to another dimension (ball of light video effect) and Lucinda the witch plops though, still wearing her purple Ren Faire dress. But wait, shouldn't the dress - along with the rest of her - be a pile of cinders? Yep, except she managed to go through the portal right before the burning, so now punkette has to take her place. That's cold-blooded, Lucinda. You really are a wicked witch!


Lucinda turns the still-gurgling Sally into a zombie. And then she sets her sights on Bambi, who is loitering outside in her SUV. Lucinda uses some witchy mumbo-jumbo to take over her body. Not sure why, although Bambi is a good 4 inches taller. Maybe that's it.


Meanwhile, at the 50 minute mark, we finally get to see some boobs. The good news is that they belong to Debbie Rochon, and they are pretty spectacular. The bad news is, she's getting raped by some dope in a Halloween mask while they're out. Anyway, it turns out to be some role playing scenario anyway, so I guess we break even there. The faux-rapist splits and Debbie settles in for some relaxing self-pleasure, but Lucinda sends in her penis monster and...well, the results are suitably grotesque. By the way, the splatter gag here is well above average for a Farmer flick. I'm not sure why Lucinda would have any beef whatsoever with Debbie's character, but what the hell.


The proceedings liven up significantly in the next scene, when Bambi lets her over-ripe melons out for a soapy shower. She even gets Jessica to gently wash her back for her. And then she makes out with her a little. So that was good.


But them Bambi sprouts Star Trekky spikes on her suddenly swollen forehead. That is not so good.


Oh, remember sex-god Dax? He's still banging the chubby chick. He's got a nasty surprise coming. Even nastier than whatever he's already up to.


Later on, Dawn shows up to find the mutilated corpses of her ex-boyfriend and his plus-sized lover. And then a detective shows up and finds her standing there with a fuckin' chainsaw, and that's pretty much it for her. But then Bambi shows up and pulls some kind of brain-whammy on the detective.


Bambi convinces the other two cheerleaders that all this mayhem is Dawn' s doing. They don't handle it too well. One of 'em pees herself.  But then they rally for an epic cheerleaders plus witch in cheerleader outfit VS. goth chick in cheerleader outfit battle to the death.


Well, one of 'em runs away and she eats the other one. So really just the witch and the goth chick. Plus her friend Ciara. Who, incidentally, was the same girl Lucinda killed 500 years ago. Logic was clearly tossed right in the garbage can around this point.


Oh, and then Chassy shows up again. She gets a chainsaw too. This, I imagine, is to justify the plurality of the title. Chainsaw Cheerleaders are go!


Good thing, too. Because Bambi's down at the Hot Spot Lounge, and she's just about to skin the waitress.


The climax is prime Farmer splatstick, with lots of goo, decapitated head gags, and screaming metal guitars. The end.

It should go without saying that Chainsaw Cheerleaders does not live up to its ecstatic title. I don't think anyone, including Farmer himself, ever expected it to. The problem, then, is that Chainsaw Cheerleaders does not fail as spectacularly as you'd like. Over the years, Farmer fans have come to expect certain glaring inadequacies that make the whole ordeal worthwhile - especially shoddy dimestore effects, perhaps, or woefully shaky acting. His previous film, Dorm of the Dead, had fistfuls of both, including a howlingly off-kilter performance from bratty Jackey Hall.


While it still wasn't a badfilm classic, it was close. With Chainsaw, everybody's acting is one notch closer to presentable - Hall even shows a knack for rubber-faced comedy. Likewise the effects, while still shoddy, are never quite as Ed Wood-y as you might like. And so you're left with a film that never approaches good, but doesn't wallow in its badness either. It just sort of rolls wobbily along, giving you just enough incentive to stay with it, but never delivering the goods.


Still, the film is called Chainsaw Cheerleaders, so there is a certain segment of the population - you and I being prime examples - who are going to watch this, whether we want to or not. We will be rewarded by two sets of boobs - both well-worth the effort - and the surprisingly effective comic mugging of Jackey Hall. Is that enough? No, of course not. But it's got chainsaws, man! And cheerleaders!


- Ken McIntyre

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