Tag Archives: horror

My Demon Lover

MDL cover

My Demon Lover / 1987
85 minutes
Dir.: Charlie Loventhal
Starring: Scott Valentine, Michele Little, Arnold Johnson

Movies that cram in as many genres as possible are the best. What could be more special than a movie that wants to cover so much ground? And what could be more fascinating than watching that fail? Enter My Demon Lover, a romantic comedy with an OUTRAGEOUS twist: its main character Kaz (the attractive male lead played by attractive male human Scott Valentine) is secretly a hideous monster. Even TWISTIER? His grotesque features only show themselves when he is sexually aroused. But he still believes in LOVE, goddammit, and he’s seeking it out the only way he knows how: groping women on the street.

My Demon Lover is a massive failure, but not because of the wild concept – this is obviously a great idea for a movie. It’s the execution. There’s a fun way to do the classic “man-turns-into-ugly-beast-when-horny” trope and there’s My Demon Lover’s way, which makes Kaz out to be a sexual deviant and serial killer for half its runtime. The movie could be amusing and cute; instead the inconceivably vulnerable Denny (the attractive female lead played by attractive female human Michele Little) always appears so desperate that it comes off unsettling and cruel.

The film opens with Denny’s boyfriend Chip dumping her via burglary, leaving her with nothing but garbage and a tin of tuna (but no can opener – HA!). “I could’ve made it work…I can make anything work,” she says to her man-eater Sassy Hispanic Friend, who probably has a name, but whatever. From the opening montage, you can tell this movie is meant to be A Real New York-style Rom-Com! – cute, with a little bit of artistic edge, but super cute – but Denny’s weakness and submissiveness is more suited to a Lifetime Original Movie about a chronically abused girlfriend holding on to unrealistic ideals of love who just doesn’t understand that before a person can be happy in relationships, she must be happy…with herself.

So, when Denny chases down Chip’s van shouting, “I think this relationship isn’t working!” it’s not cute, it’s depressing. When she blames herself and makes excuses for Chip, who, she explains, left her because he didn’t want to come to her birthday party, you’re not on her side, and you’ve already thrown your VCR out the window. HEY but look at her kooky outfits!!!

Kooky!!!

Kooky!!!

Cut to Kaz, busking in a subway car, apparently homeless, coated in a fine layer of sexy movie-grime and dressed like a reject from a Hall & Oates-themed Sears catalog photo shoot. He plays the saxophone, perhaps a metaphor for the yearning that drives him, or maybe just a funny instrument for a guy in a surprisingly well-lit New York City subway car to be playing at the beginning of a movie about a gnarly sex monster.

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Filed under Comedy, Horror, Romance

Dead Heat

Dead-Heat
Dead Heat
/ 1988
84 minutes
Dir.: Mark Goldblatt
Starring: Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Lindsay Frost, Darren McGavin, Vincent Price

Scary movies are great because what happens in them doesn’t matter. Even at their worst, when you leave the theatre shaking and every little sound makes you jump and you have nightmares for a week, you’re aware they will fade into memory and nothing in your life will change. This is a strength as much as it’s a weakness. The greatest dramas and comedies put characters in situations that viewers see themselves in and ask people to think about how they would handle them. But horror movies are rated on different scales, like how many people died, how gruesome were the deaths, how insane and/or relentless was the villain. And already everyone knows what to do if you’re approached by Leatherface: run.

Since I’m deeply rooted in reality yet emotionally weak, the scary movies that really get to me have heavy psychological themes. Alien is one of the only films that can still scare me, but not because the aliens still freak me out. (Though I did have a phase during which I was TERRIFIED of extraterrestrial life, UFOs, “The X-Files,” and, by extension, Mitch Pileggi.) It’s Ripley’s loneliness and helplessness that frighten me the most. Recently, I saw The Conjuring. The fact that it’s based on “true events” is meant to get under your skin right off the bat, but it’s not the thought of vengeful spirits and witch-curses that bothers me. No, I just have a general fear of home invasion. You can haunt me or whatever, but don’t barge into my house uninvited, alright?

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How does that relate to Dead Heat, a movie about a murdered cop who’s been reanimated and is out to solve the mystery of his own death? Vaguely, at best. It’s primarily comedic, but has all the makings of an old school sci-fi thriller, a screwball buddy comedy, a low-budget action movie, and a makeup-heavy horror flick. Though they’re never frightening, its attempts at horror work, in part because a lot of its jokes really land. If it wasn’t funny, the “scary” parts would stand out for being dumb and jarring, rather than for offering a change of pace.

Most shitty movies are shitty because they have no idea what they want to be, but Dead Heat is totally self-aware. The story is uncomplicated, the two main characters are great together, the effects (by Steve Johnson, a protégé of Rick Baker who worked on An American Werewolf in London and Videodrome, now launching his own company with Dead Heat) are gross and excellent. As the murder is investigated, a strange and elaborate conspiracy headed up by Darren McGavin (The Old Man in A Christmas Story) and Vincent Price is uncovered. If it was any longer than 84 minutes, it would collapse into itself. Thankfully, it’s perfect.

dead heat

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Filed under Action, Comedy, Drama, Horror