Saturday, June 16, 2018

Baby-Face And The Robertson Family: Star Time (1992)

Star Time (1992)
Starring: John P. Ryan, Michael St. Gerard, Maureen Teefy

Looking at this movie's VHS box, one cannot help assume Star Time is going to be an obscure early 90s slasher featuring an admittedly creepy looking baby-masked killer. As producer-writer-director Alexander Cassini have it though, this is going to be anything but a straight bodycounter.

Disturbed TV fanatic Henry Pinkle (Michael St. Gerard) decided to end his life one night after finding out his favorite TV sitcom The Robertson Family got cancelled, but gets a change of heart when a mysterious old TV veteran Sam Bones (John P. Ryan) talked him out of it. Promising TV stardom should Henry be determined enough to do what is needed to be done, Sam have him express his emotion through "art", which in turn involves a  half-face baby mask, a hatchet ad breaking into people's homes to murder them. In short, Sam turned Henry into a serial killer for reasons that sum up to, well, nobody really knows.

Caught in this madness is Henry's social worker Wendy (Maureen Teefy) who at first assumed she messed it up after receiving a videotape of Henry informing her of his suicide, but later learns he is not only alive and well, but also "working" at a studio for a personal "manager". Intrigued by this, as well as worried for Henry, she went on to look further into his new job only to find something's amiss and it's not too long before she discovers the bloody trails of hacked-up bodies and who could be what the media dub as "The Baby Mask Killer".

Developed from a 30-minute short made at the American Film Institute, Star Time is pretty ambitious for what it is. Mostly a neo-noir satire of television stardom and the lengths of some people would go just to get their 15 minutes of fame, it's very light in violence despite having some slasher tropes thrown in from the side, focusing strongly instead on Henry and the strangely macabre dilemma he got himself into, thus making this film closer to an art house drama suspenser. It works well enough with actors Gerard and Ryan's often paired performances as a broken and gullible psycho and a mysterious yet obviously demented mastermind respectively, weaved strongly along the movie's disjointed and nightmarish direction that hammers down its overall tone as a weird yet philosophically honest dark parable, but its upmost interesting strength lies within the fact that nothing is ever assured.

As Star Time strongly suggests that it mostly takes place within our psycho's perspective, a lot of the oddly placed jump cuts to flashbacks and a few creepy imagery were never made clear whether it happened for real or if it was all in Henry's head, this including most of the first half wherein it slowly burns and preps Henry up for his debut performance. Visual set-pieces including a room full of TV screens that enlightens Henry into murder work a level of eeriness despite the obvious low-budget put to these bits and a good bulk of the scripting from this half are even hammed a bit or two in a probable attempt to reflect Henry's TV obsession and lack of his own certainty as a person, resulting to an out-of-place cheesiness that does nothing but unsettle knowing the state of mind that may have created these scenes. The creepiness of this direction, though, falters a bit once our caring social worker ultimately gets roped in at the second half. While we have moments questioning the believably of a couple of scenes (Like Henry seen lying fully nude on the floor next to a sleeping Wendy. Did that really happen?), the fact that it now has an outsider looking into Henry's reality should warrant better dread, intrigue and scares as said outsider may become a potential victim.

This, of course, was the case for a good while with Wendy trying to rationalize the situation to the best of her understanding, but one would expect she'll react more differently once she saw the freshly hacked corpse of a woman in an apartment Henry has access to. In all things fair, she did suspect Henry at first, but horror cliches are abound and we get to spend a bulk of the climax of her being persuaded that somebody else apart from Henry is after her and doing murder, thus leading us to this movie's cat-and-mouse chase and remarkably dumb moment. Things, gratefully, went on full circle as Henry finds himself atop a building again, now donning his mask and in for the kill, his psyche completely gone loony. Its around this finale 'where we get some depressing implications to what we may have suspected all along, again presented to us in an artistically macabre manner with a message to boot.

At most, Star Time is an odd duck that plays its stream-of-consciousness plotting that definitely delivers, whether it works in your favor or not. Personally, the only other thing I wish this movie did is show at least some onscreen violence, especially since it is more or less preaching the dangers of fame and the terrible effects of obsession, whatever it may be. It would honestly be a far darker and effectively more memorable film with the shock value it could have provided by doing so but, with what we have right now, I guess the "did-he-did-he-not" ambiguity could work just as fine. Not entirely the best example of a psycho-drama but its obscurity should entice hardcore collectors and those who have an eye for strange cinema.

1 male hacked with a hatchet, murdered offcamera
14 or 15 victims mentioned murdered
1 female found hacked to death
3 males found hacked to death
1 male falls off a building, left for dead (?)
Total: 20 or 21 (?)

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