Thursday, March 22, 2012

Monster man to the Rescue!: Grotesque (1988)

Grotesque (1988)
rating: **
starring: Linda Blair, Tab Hunter and Donna Wilkes

What could be greater than watching psuedo-scream queen Linda Blair and genre-friendly Donna Wilkes in yet another slasher film? Make it a slasher film about home invasion, that's how! But then, the movie lacks the certain prowess that would have been a rather enjoyable piece of scare-flick, so what went wrong?
Hmm, two scream queens in one movie?!
In Grotesque, we have Blair as Lisa, daughter of a well-known makeup artist and special-effects imagineer Orville Krueger, who invites her best friend Kathy (Donna Wilkes) to her family's annual reunion. The gathering takes place on a snowy mountain inn, a property owned by the Kreugers, which unfortunately meant that help is far from reach when a gang of punkheads began stalking them in search of thrills and cash. As the punks tortures and murders most of the family, they weren't expecting a bloody twist to their escapade: the Kruegers are hiding a relative in that cabin, who happens to be a deformed monster who now thirsts for vengeance!

Now, plot is really okay on my book and the production looks quite nice overall. Where Grotesque fell flat was its direction as its uneven pace had the rest of the running time divided into three acts: the home invasion, the monster-slasher killings, and a comic book ending that felt a bit too silly for my taste.

First of, I am impressed with the villains. Though overacted, these punks did manage to be threatening to say the least, as plain ruthless bad guys who have nothing special but their numbers. I could say that, if it wasn't for my dislike for chain-smoking, drug-shooting street trash punks (no offense), I would have given the villains here some more favorable notes. But they are made to be meat, easy-to-hate meat as the twist calls for them slaughtered, so that's just as far as I will go for these hoodlums.

The first twist in the film, which leads to the second act, should have been a good one, too. Seeing these annoying bastards get their just desserts is all the fun for me to watch, but with a quick pace running through these parts and the kills being too clean and barely spark any satisfaction, frankly I prefer this revenge act to be done with at least some powertools. Still, the old monster have done a few good number so it still calls for some fair noting. (He snapped a punk girl's spine against a tree! I have to give him credit for that!)

The third act is where it shifts to a EC-comic style revenge plot, going through yet more twists and turns packed in the last running seconds that it all just looked too silly for my gullet to digest. While we all know the monster is a relative, the last act revealed that there's more to it than that and what would have been a satisfying way to get even with these effing punks, another twist comes and had it all wrapped up in a comical fashion. This last twist will either bring a sigh of relief and a few chuckles along the way, or have us feel cheated after all the patience-testing investigations and interrogations we have to sit through.

With all of these shifting and turning that resembles the driving skills of a schizophrenic, Grotesque comes out very flawed and unfocused, yet unintentionally funny. One minute we're cringing in fear as a poor family succumbs to torture, the next had a deformed freak killing the villains. It's crazy yet watchable if one's into crazy movies. (Crazy might be an understatement. How on Earth could a bigshot FX artists like Orville failed to own some fancy security system to save them from all these troubles in the first place?)

Slasher fans may easily recognize some faces here as Grotesque packs a few fames from the sub-genre; we have Robert Z’Dar (Maniac Cop) and Charles Dierkop (Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)) popping out cameos, and even art director Robert Zoller as the uncredited Sheriff who also handled this film's props. Horror enthusiasts can also find the cursed masks from Halloween 3: Season of the Witch somewhere in the chaos.

With a slight amateurish look and some slasher rules broken (no nudity?! LE GASP!), Grotesque might as well be a very long episode of Tales from The CryptTales from the Dark Side or, dare I say, Monsters. Some people might find this film a mishap (as I would) but as a time-waster, it has its moments.

1 male gets a firepoker buried into his head
1 female found with throat cut
1 female gutted with knife
1 male bearhugged to death
1 female had her head twisted
1 female had her back snapped against a tree
1 male had his face crushed
1 female punched through the gut
1 male had his neck broken
1 male shot on the face with shotgun
1 female dies from a blood clot
total: 11


  1. I remember watching this on VHS, then reviewing it for a hand typed movie review newsletter I then mailed to my friends. I had the same issues you did - it's like two different movies badly glued together at the halfway point. Still got to give them points for that ending!

    1. Ole hammer monsters scaring people? Yeah, that gave me a chuckle for once. haha.

  2. This has been on my Lovefilm list for about 3 years and NEVER gets sent!