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rochefort [Celluloid 05.18.10] movie review horror comedy

Year: 2010
Directors: Joshua Grannell
Writers: Joshua Grannell
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 8 out of 10

Deborah Tennis is the borderline-crazy inheritor of the Victoria, one of San Francisco's last single-screen theaters, left to her by her recently-deceased father. When her vicious stepmother tries to force her to sell the theater to make way for a Bed, Bath and Beyond, Deborah loses it and stabs her to death in the Victoria's lobby, and the security cameras catch the whole thing. Through a wacky mix-up of the sort that only happens in the movies, the audience in the Victoria gets to watch Deborah's murder moments later... and it's a hit. Thus begins her rise to power as the Warhol-like maestro of a gruesome clan of uber-verite' (snuff) filmmakers, including goth twins Veda and Vera (Jade and Nikita Ramsey) and cross-dressing sociopath Adrian (Noah Segan of "Deadgirl"). Can her former buddy and horror fan Steven (Thomas Dekker) stop Deborah (now pronounced "Duh-BOR-uh") before she completes an epic masterpiece of murder?

You'll have to excuse the slight over-the-topness of the above synopsis. I didn't just watch this movie; I saw it as part of a three-hour extravaganza featuring Cassandra Peterson, Mink Stole, and local drag queen M.C. Rebecca Havemeyer, and man what a difference a presentation can make. By the time the lights finally went down for the main feature, the audience at the Alamo Ritz had already been treated to an hour of drag zaniness and a pretty lively Q & A with the aforementioned stars and director Joshua Grannell, who hosted as his alter-ego Peaches Christ, one of S.F.'s more notorious mascara-obsessed entrepreneurs. Grannell and company are touring the country old-school style with "Evil", his latest pic as director, and no matter the particulars of my review, I can easily plug this one as an event you should catch if they come to your town. I laughed my ass off for a good hour straight, pardon the pun.

As for the movie itself, it's a genuinely fun mix of referential geekiness and John Waters throwback, and I mean that as a major compliment. If you know who Ted V. Mikels or Herschel Gordon Lewis are, or you've ever owned any of the RE/Search books, then you'll probably feel right at home. Equal parts "Cecil B. Demented", "Eating Raoul", and "Fade To Black", director Grannell has obviously made "All About Evil" as a sort of love letter to the single-screen filmgoing experience, and packs the flick with multiple references to underground film culture, posters, homages (both subtle and not), you name it. And while lots of movies attempt this sort of thing (usually due to a lack of anything actually new to say), "Evil" manages to do so while feeling like a worthy modern post-take, and as such belongs alongside such modern meta-movies as "House of the Devil" and "OSS 117", films that nail the aesthetics of their respective, dated genres while simultaneously giving us something bizarrely new (as well as a good reason to go back and rediscover their influences). Normally I'd be a lot more reserved about the meta-defense; one out of five genuinely bad filmmakers could probably accurately ape John Waters' early work even by accident, but Grannell gets a whole lot more right than wrong.

The first ten minutes or so have a very peculiar rhythm, one entirely consistent with that of the underground movies it calls to mind. And just like many of those films, "Evil" skimps on a production value or two here to beef it up over there. Some of the sets/locations are pretty sparse and the camera sometimes stays locked a few seconds too long, but the gore, while not Savini-brilliant, is still plenty good. Everybody's playing things at least slightly over-the-top, and there's a lot of flamboyance on display in the last act, especially with the frequent appearances by some of S.F.'s drag contingent, but there's proof throughout that everybody involved is not only having a really good time, but they're also bringing something a little more polished, a little more savvy to the proceedings. The script has bits of brilliance here and there, and the cast is uniformly a whole, whole lot better than we're expecting. There's a lot of camp, some black humor, and even a (very) slight underlying sadness to the whole idea that theaters like the Victoria (and the movie/audience culture to which they gave birth) are dying off. The only major flaw I found with the whole thing was, oddly, Grannell's extended cameo as Peaches, his/her every line falling so flat that he/she should have resisted the urge to pull a Tarantino, and left those scenes on the cutting room floor.

Ultimately, there's a refreshingly traditional work ethic to it all, and of all the recent, retro/meta/whateveryoucallit type movies that seem to pop up in pretty much every film festival these days, "Evil" is easily one of the most consistently entertaining of the bunch. At one point, during a scene between Dekker's Steven and Peterson, who plays his mother, she points to a poster on the wall as an example of the kind of pop culture she's worried will damage her son's mind. And the poster she's pointing at is that of her own alter-ego, Elvira's own "Moonbathing" poster, pretty much the goth equivalent of that famous Farrah Fawcett bikini pinup. The moment manages to be corny, funny, and fascinating all at once. Which is, I suppose, the best way to describe the movie as a whole. Check it out.

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Daryl Serrett (12 years ago) Reply

I have to disagree with the Peaches Cameo comment. I felt SHE brought much focus and determination in the scene. Go see All About Evil. Truly fun and twisted.


Natalie (12 years ago) Reply

A new 'All About Evil' Poster has just been released featuring Peaches Christ. Check it out here:

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