Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS: Get to Know Your Friendly Neighborhood Scream Queen

I have just watched a movie that warms my heart. Yes, it is true. I am one of those damn pubescent teenage boys who must have been at absolute war with the big three scream queens over their right to wear clothing in movies. Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer have emblazoned themselves into my still twelve year old retinas. I refuse to let the image of these amazing actresses leave my mind's eye. Sure, there are more important things in life than B movie, 80's horror films featuring naked women, camp gore and humor with absolute ridiculous plots.. Oh wait... there's NOTHING in my life that is as important as those aforementioned gifts from eyes under-Hollywood, at least not in the world of cinema. Screaming in High Heels may be a documentary about the rise and the fall of the scream queen era (as per the subtitle), but I can assure you that it is a history of my formative years. This review will be a little bit personal for that reason, but occasionally we'll include some objective observations as well.

Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen Era is a documentary directed by Jason Paul Collum is a history of three of the most famous scream queens, the environment that lead to their success and the lead up to the golden age of VHS and then the maturation of the priced to own market leading to the bursting of the home video bubble. Crafted from interviews with are aforementioned trio of titillating thespians, interviews with directors and writers of the era and numerous video clips from some of their finer film exploits and convention appearances, Screaming in High Heels tells the very real human story of some very legendary and influential horror movie actresses. Collum has a history of doing some pretty spiffy documentaries including Something to Scream About which also focuses on the ladies of horror and Sleepless Nights: Revisiting the Slumber Party Massacres. He offers some pretty fantastic commentary throughout the documentary and provides key narrative to the history of the queens.

Formal Documentary Synopsis from Breaking Glass (who you may notice is one of my favorites):

Three girls living in Los Angeles, CA, in the 1980s found cult fame when they "accidentally" transitioned from models to B-movie actresses, coinciding with the major direct-to-video horror film boom of the era. Known as "The Terrifying Trio," Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead), Brinke Stevens (The Slumber Party Massacre) and

Michelle Bauer (The Tomb), headlined upwards of ten films per year, fending off men in rubber monster suits, pubescent teenage boys, and deadly showers. They joined together in campy cult films like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) and Nightmare Sisters (1987). They traveled all over the world, met President Reagan, and built mini-empires of trading cards, comic books, and model kits. Then it all came crashing down. This documentary remembers these a
ctresses - and their most common collaborators - on how smart they were to play stupid.
You might expect that this kind of thing is right up my ally. I'm a documentary junkie, not more then some, but I'll watch a doc on just about anything. I even watched parts of Gasland... no really... Take that and combine it with the video age when movies like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers could find a place on a video store shelf and be ready and waiting for the delicate, impressionable eyes of a youthful, pre-MD Jimmy Terror. I can assure you that from the moment I set eyes on the softer side of Linnea Quigley in Return of the Living Dead I have been a fan. One step further and you have one of my all time favorite kills with her impaled on a set of antlers on Christmas in Silent Night Deadly Night.  You'll have plenty of footage from all three actresses catalogs. It won't just be low budget gore and tit fest though. You'll have a mixed bag of elation and nostalgia to deal with but make sure to keep it in your pants fellas. Let's practice a little thing we call, self control.

The choice of non-scream queen interviewees is really a who's who of B/VHS horror royalty. David DeCoteau (Creepozoids), Richard Gabai (Nightmare Sisters), Fred Olen Ray (The Tomb and who was also recently featured in our IT CAME FROM 1980X, Scalps entry. These are some smart filmmakers who took advantage of a special time in the life of Hollywood and media formats. They're interviews are smart and funny. These are the wise men that horror filmmakers of the here and now need to listen to in order to get the whole "entertainment" part of film making. Combine that with a host of bonus features, DVD interview bonus material on the DVD and footage form the Flashback Weekend of Horror Q&A make this worth your pennies. It's unrated (fuck the MPAA).

What you'll love about Screaming in High Heels is the historical context in which the director lays the history of scream queens. From the fall of the Drive-In era and the rise of the VHS boom came a great moving, voluptuous force. While video tape had been around for quite some time, the 80's finally brought it into the homes of the average Joe. With the availability of VCR's came the video store, mom and pop stores only please. Good consumer/Capitalist Americans drove the need for more content on the shelves and then BLAM, a new generation of filmmakers found themselves with budgets with boobie girls who were stunningly gorgeous, intelligent and filled with comedic timing that was one step off a rail of cocaine off the latest issue of Swank magazine. It's this story in words, interviews and footage that will take the VHS dorks to task and put a text book behind their fetish.

The interviews are endearing. Each of our featured scream queens has a unique history, industry and acting related story and personal story that leads to either the downfall of their career or the continuation of their own legends. I won't give too much away because I want to give you something to enjoy, but you'll probably leave the movie with a little less pubescent boy running wild and a little more, mature young adult who appreciates talented actresses who may also have amazing physiques. While some might argue that this documentary doesn't explore the entire culture of scream queens, that many are left out and that it has a more pop appear to it, there isn't a horror fan who won't get something out of it.

I'm not going to lie when I tell you that the downfall of the scream queen and VHS era have plagued me with a hole that has never been filled. Watching the end of this documentary may just bring a tear to your eye as it did mine (real men also cry... doubly so for whiny doctors of terror). If you dislike the chain video stores and have seen fit to celebrate their demise then I can assure you that this end sequence will fill you with a bit of rage. You'll be happy that that damn Blockbuster down the street finally went out of business even if it was replaced by a vending machine or turned your postman into the video store clerk.

I want you to keep an eye out for the next edition of IT CAME FROM 1980X on LIBERALDEAD.COM as I'll be featuring a scream queen related picture that is mentioned in this film.

Screaming in High Heels comes out on DVD August 28th. You can buy the DVD HERE.
Make sure to like them on FaceBook HERE.


Note: I through a movie marathon in my eighth grade year or so and managed to get enough pixy sticks and candy to turn my friends into giant piles of walking testosterone fueled by near diabetes inducing sugar intake. We then watched Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and I believe Return of the Living Dead both in one night. Linnea Quigley made a pile of fans that night. While I respect, admire and enjoy the work of Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens Ms. Quigley is my scream queen star crush (I use that term way too often these days). I often speak of the forbidden movies that I was not allowed to watch as a kid. Well, Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama was one of them. Bless her and hope her family is well. 

No comments:

Post a Comment