Starring Jessica Morris, Ariana Madix, Jean Louise O’Sullivan, Circus-Szalewski, Eric Roberts, J. Scott, Robert Zachar, Jeannie Marie Sullivan
Directed by Charles Band
Expectations: None. Hopefully it’s better than Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt, and something more than a simple softcore film.
On the general scale:
On the B-Movie scale:
“Boys, that’s the thorniest rose I ever met.”
So speaks one of the many party guests during the opening scene of The Dead Want Women, and while it’d be easy to say that the line was a great analogy for the film, it just ain’t. See that would mean that despite the thorns and the discomfort and the blood, you’d have delicate beauty and sweet fragrances. Well… shit, the movie does kind of have all of that (except I’m imagining the sweet fragrances)… so what’s the matter? Through all the smoke and mirrors (and nudity), there isn’t much of a story here—but that’s OK, because it’s remarkably more of a movie than the last couple of Charles Band’s films were! Hurray!
Where his last film, Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt, was nothing more than an exercise in seeing just how boring he could make a movie about girls getting naked, The Dead Want Women is something slightly more. While it does feature a character that is completely nude in every scene she’s in, there’s actually a lot more substance here than you’d expect from Band’s recent track record. The film opens in the late 1920s when *GASP* a silent film star is being put out to pasture as the talkies take over. Fuck me running, if I have to watch another movie with this plot, I’ll kill someone, then make a silent movie about my experience but set it in the late 20s so that my character could be replaced by a plucky newcomer with a great voice, then watch that film and then kill myself. That should be enough to put that tired, old cliché to bed. Are all the film industry’s touchstones to the 1920s gleaned from Singin’ in the Rain? Anyway, our raspy-voiced silent film star isn’t too happy and one thing leads to another and she’s in an underground cave watching her actor friends fuck a couple of nubile females. Oh, these Hollywood types! They so crazy!
So much to my surprise, this strongly gratuitous and perversely erotic sex scene is actually the film’s only major softcore moment. Instead, the film is kind of concerned with telling a story. Imagine that! I thought for sure after Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt this would be literally cave-wall-to-cave-wall softcore fucking. But nope, taint the case, and I for one am glad of it. As I mentioned in my review of Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt, I can get hardcore films if I so desire (and so can anyone else with a “brain” and a search engine), so there’s no need to stir it up so thick into my horror movie.
The Dead Want Women feels like a considerably bigger budget film than both Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt and Evil Bong 3D. It’s got a big name in Eric Roberts (and don’t tell me he’s not a great get, the dude was nominated for an Oscar many years ago—and I’m incredibly surprised Full Moon isn’t milking the shit out of that on the DVD cover)! It’s got a big mansion! It’s got like three times as many people in its opening scene than were in Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt! It’s close to actual feature length at seventy-three minutes, even if roughly seven and a half of those are credits! All kidding aside, the film does feel like its got some money behind it, and if there is anything to be taken from that, I hope it’s that Full Moon is doing well and hopefully will begin producing higher quality films again. OK, who the fuck am I kidding? The glory days are over and never to return, but The Dead Want Women does, at least in parts, feel somewhat akin to the old-school vibe that made Full Moon awesome. I can only hope that over the next couple of movies the trend will continue.
With a bigger budget comes better actors and The Dead Want Women is not doing too bad in that department. The girls are gorgeous, the dudes are hamming it up, what else do you want? Jessica Morris is the standout actor, but Eric Roberts is delightfully fun in such a depraved role, and Jean Louise O’Sullivan fits the bill perfectly as the 1920s silent diva. What I found interesting about the three actor friends of O’Sullivan was that they seemed to be based off of actual silent actors/archetypes. Eric Roberts plays the western actor ala Tom Mix, J. Scott is our Fatty Arbuckle stand-in (complete with a Curly from The Three Stooges voice), and Robert Zachar plays a horror icon like Lon Chaney, specifically in the role of The Phantom of the Opera. This is all rather subtle too, for the most part, so I found it encouraging that they even took the time to give these guys any character depth beyond: Fat Guy, Skinny Guy and Tall, Handsome Guy. Oh, and did I mention the girls, especially Jeannie Marie Sullivan, are fuckin’ smoking hot? Holy shit, they really knocked it out of the park on this one. Just sayin’.
You might ask, do these subtle strokes of depth translate beyond these characters and influence the filmmaking at all? Why yes, it seems they do! There are lots of long takes and thoughtful glances, but while a newcomer to Full Moon might interpret these moments as artistic flourishes on the part of Band, I know them for exactly what they are—stalling. His recent films all barely crack the hour mark, and while this one does run a full seventy-three minutes, god only knows how much time is lost by hanging on the shots of the meaningless painting, the pool grotto, the forlorn actress, or the cherub that kinda looks like Richard Nixon (I’ll admit, I could have used more shots of him). Or maybe I just don’t “get it”. Please someone enlighten me if you see some artistic beauty here.
I thought so. That being said, these delicate moments of padding, and the very well-done musical score by William Levine (who also wrote the scores for the entire Subspecies series), help to create one of the best modern-era Full Moon films. Yes, that’s what I said: one of the best modern Full Moon films. The Dead Want Women is still full of shitty padding and the plot is a step below threadbare, but what is here is well-crafted and remarkably better than their other recent offerings. Regardless of the negatives, the film still remains entertaining and somewhat enjoyable—and that’s not just the naked ladies whispering in my ear.
One of my major disappointments though was with Robert Zachar’s character. In an early scene they show him with this gigantic scar/boil/growth (It’s not a tumor!) on his chest, which suggests that perhaps he was a self-mutilator or slowly rotting corpse or zombie or something, but unfortunately they never reference or explain this strange visual. I’m just glad they saw fit to waste the few bucks on the latex for the appliance though, because it made the scene far more interesting, as I wondered what the hell it was supposed to be, and what it might mean.
The Dead Want Women isn’t much of a horror movie, and it isn’t anything spectacular, but it is far better produced and more enjoyable than Full Moon’s other recent films. It does get rather tedious towards the end, but then, completely unexpectedly, you get a wonderful, ripe head explosion and, at least for me, a head explosion paves the road to forgiveness pretty damn quick. Don’t believe the RedBox reviews, the ending is cool and its ambiguous nature is one of the best things this film has going for it. While Band’s artistic muscle is obviously atrophied from lack of exercise, The Dead Want Women does its best to be slightly artful among the depravity. It’s kinda fun and shitty at the same time. It’s not camp, but I enjoyed it and I hope it signals a return to better filmmaking for Band and company.
The Dead Want Women is available now at your local RedBox! Go hit that shit up! It’s so fun to see a Full Moon movie alongside equally shitty, but much higher profile films, and then imagine some unsuspecting housewife renting them and expecting something else!
The next film I’ll be doing in the Empire/Full Moon series is a very rare flick, unreleased in the US and produced by Charles Band, JR Bookwalter’s Deadly Stingers!