Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Julian Richards
scr Michael Mahin
prd Jeannie McGinnis
with Barbara Crampton, Kayleigh Gilbert, Michael Pare, Rae Dawn Chong, Chaz Bono, Monte Markham, Alexa Maris, Bob Bancroft, Bob Levitan, Annie Quigley, Chris McGahan, Chris Valenti
release US 17.Sep.19,
UK 4.May.20
18/US 1h17

pare chong bono
fright fest

gilbert and crampton
With the tone of a vintage horror classic, this bonkers movie is a gleeful melee of grisly violence and sudden emotion. Michael Mahin's script builds an enjoyably soapy back story, with the nastiness growing in the background. And director Julian Richards overcomes a low budget with trashy atmospheric touches that cleverly echo those lurid Stephen King/Brian DePalma movies in which tortured relationships are expressed in supernatural carnage.
It's been 16 years since Los Angeles coroner Ken (Bono) rescued a baby left for dead, but now Tess (Gilbert) wants to know who her biological parents are. Unleashing her telekinetic power, she escapes Ken's confinement. Tess' mother is actress Lena (Crampton), who thinks her daughter was stillborn. Still struggling with her past, she's seeing a therapist (Markham) at the urging of her agent (Chong) before embarking on her biggest movie role yet, in a Peter Bogdanovich film. Meanwhile, detective Marc (Pare) is following a trail of bodies Tess is leaving in her wake.
The filmmakers pack scenes with knowing references and witty moments that riff on Hollywood and the movies, blurring lines between fact or fiction, performance or real life, artists or divas. The story is punctuated by a series of wildy gruesome set-pieces that hilariously nod to movies from The Fury to Christine, with extra doses of Carrie. Composer Simon Lambros even recreates a wonderfully florid pastiche horror score. And for the audience, there's wicked satisfaction in the fact that everyone who feels Tess' wrath deserves it.

The great Crampton effortlessly gives Lena a vivid inner life, throwing away barbed dialog while adding subtext as a woman who is unaware that she has found the answer to her deepest, darkest questions. Crampton has several big emotional scenes with Gilbert, who brings an eerie innocence to the confused Tess, even as she lashes out murderously if anyone crosses her. And Pare is amusing as the gruff, wooden cop who takes his time working out why everyone around Lena meets a freak accidental demise.

This old-fashioned storytelling style might alienate viewers more accustomed to faster, choppier filmmaking. But there's a refreshing kick to the way the narrative evolves through character development and pointed events to the requisite over-the-top finale. Richards and Mahin keep the audience a step ahead of these people, while their inner thoughts and feelings provide a steady stream of revelations. So even if there isn't much to it thematically, it's packed with engaging moments and some riotously funny schtick: a glorious celebration of 1970s B-movies.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 4.May.20

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