Grotesque (1988)

grotesque_1Starring Linda Blair, Tab Hunter, Donna Wilkes, Brad Wilson, Nels Van Patten, Sharon Hughes, Michelle Bensoussan, Guy Stockwell, Charles Dierkop, Chuck Morrell, Lincoln Tate, Robert Z’Dar, Robert Zoller

Directed by Joe Tornatore

Expectations: I hope it’s… grotesque!

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
onehalfstar


Grotesque is not a good movie. It’s quite hard to get through, and even a cast boasting genre favorites like Linda Blair and Robert Z’Dar can’t spice it up past bland. I could barely stay awake, and took multiple breaks to slap myself in the face. Part of the film’s problem is that it has almost no tension whatsoever, plus it’s one of those movies that can’t decide what it wants to be. I’m chuckling to myself as type this, though, as the film’s identity crisis is also why I ultimately didn’t end up completely hating Grotesque.

Grotesque doesn’t obscure how boring it’s going to be either; right from the first second I immediately wanted to snuggle into a pillow and count some sheep. An elderly woman dreamily narrates while we take in a dark, nighttime exterior shot of a house. This lasts nearly three minutes and by the end of it I felt ready to start collecting Social Security. But Grotesque has a trick up its sleeve; this Gothic, dreamy opening was all a big ruse! We were actually watching a rough cut of a film being shown to some studio execs, and now the real movie can begin!

grotesque_2In attendance at this screening is the film’s FX artist, Orville Kruger (Guy Stockwell), and with the film complete he’s ready for a vacation. His whole family is set to converge on their cabin in Big Bear, CA for some rest, relaxation and shitty FX-based pranks! Everything seems to be proceeding as planned until his daughter Lisa (Linda Blair) and her friend meet up with some punks and their broken down VW Bus. Apparently, one of the punk girls grew up in the area and knows the Kruger family “has a secret” hidden in their cabin. According to her logic, that means money and dope (perhaps because FX artists were total fuckin’ illusion-creating rock stars in the ’80s?). Anyway, since drugs and money are the milk & honey of ’80s punks, so begins their plot to pillage!

Sounds like a home-invasion horror movie, right? Well, it is — for a few minutes. As seasoned filmgoers, we learn what to expect from films, and while there have been many films that blend genres, and even jump between them at will, Grotesque is the rare film that naturally morphs from one genre to another, completely seamlessly. One minute home invasion, the next it’s a straight-up slasher. But why stop there? Why not include a lengthy section of police interrogation drama, followed by full-on revenge film? It’s not a good film-watching experience at all, but it does culminate in one of the weirdest, WTF endings I’ve ever seen. It’s so bizarre, but for this bizarre, genre-bending film I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when it suddenly morphed again into an absurdist comedy. Yeah, like I said, it’s one hell of a WTF ending. If it was a better made film, it all might actually work… but, as I mentioned at the start, Grotesque is not a good movie.

grotesque_3I also realize that I might be making Grotesque sound far more entertaining than it is, so I want to stress just how insufferably plodding it is. There is a shit-ton of plot and genre changes, but there’s basically no story. The characters are REALLY unlikable, and the most interesting one gets shot in the face before he has a chance to really develop! Oh, sorry: SPOILER ALERT! Hahahaha, no one cares. The acting is also from the “Talking loud and with as much force as possible makes for Oscar-winning performances” school of acting, with the “best” performances coming from the leader of the punks, Scratch (Brad Wilson), and Tab Hunter, later in the film.

Grotesque came to my attention because Charles Band’s Empire International is listed on IMDB as theatrically distributing the film. Films like this are what you dredge up when you make a blood pact with the devil to review all of a company’s films. To further muddy the waters, Shout Factory released the film to DVD in a Roger Corman 4-pack: the Vampires, Mummies And Monsters Collection, but I’m not exactly sure what the Corman connection is on Grotesque. In any case, it doesn’t matter which B-Movie giant is responsible for unleashing this “masterpiece” on the world. What matters is that you avoid it, unless you’re in a real masochistic kind of mood!

grotesque_4And as a sidenote: for a movie featuring an FX artist character, there’s virtually no FX work in this one! WTF!

I’ll close out with some Grotesque dialogue that could only come from the script of a B-movie.

Male punk: “You got a choice. Face the maniac or freeze your ass off,” followed by a bout of maniacal laughter.
Female punk: “My ass doesn’t get cold.”
Male punk: “I don’t doubt it, Diana. That’s cuz you think with your ass and not your brain.”

Hahahahaha, Grotesque! It’s grotesque all right, just not in the way you were hoping!

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I think I’ll dip back into the Moonbeams… so The Incredible Genie it is! See ya then!

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