Saturday, October 9

VHS Face-Off: Grotesque (1988) - U.S. MEDIA Entertainment vs. Japanese AV NEC Avenue

A group of punks break into the Aspen home of a too-old-for-the-character Linda Blair in search of money only to brutally murder her parents and college friend. Blair escapes and retreats, in bare feet and silk nightdress, into the mountainous snow-laden forest surroundings. Upon finding a secret room behind a book shelf, one of the punks (Robert Z'Dar) unwittingly lets loose a frightened, deformed young man who animalistically dispatches any of the invaders he crosses. Eventually, Blair "leaves the picture" as screen vet Tab Hunter arrives with the police playing the brother of Blair's slain father and then proceeds to run rings around the acting ability of everyone else. The cops blast doughboy's face off as Hunter cries out in anguish (foreshadowing!). The surviving punks come up with a bullshit story about the freak killing everyone and appear to be getting away with their carnage, but Hunter has other "grotesque" plans...

Schizophrenic, much? We basically have bland horror, exploitation, police procedural filler, and revenge thriller elements collapsing in like an unwatched cake made by someone baking for the first time in their life. I've heard the cavalcade of mediocrity heaped upon this aborted Linda Blair vehicle for quite sometime. While this malcontent is justified, Grotesque would make one hell of a study tool for beginning film editors. A good portion of the match cutting between different shots is timed so horribly that flow feels nothing short of awkward. It's like slivers of footage was trimmed off basic dialogue exchanges, not to mention jumpy violence, that only acts to constantly throw the viewer off. An outstanding example of the importance of film editing; so bad that even any Syfy Channel feature handily schools this excuse.

There's no nudity to help this one go down smoother, including Blair who was smokin' in Savage Streets, probably due to her role as one of the film's associate producers. No real gore either with the only exhibition being an aftermath shot of a shotgunned face (seen on the Japanese cover). Grotesque indeed sucks, but if you're in one of the those extremely rare moods, it might somehow hit the spot. If only for how patchwork stupid the entire thing is. A film that barely qualifies as belonging to the horror genre that should have been radically reaccessed during production to instead shoot a hardboiled revenge/action picture starring Tab Hunter blowing the piss outta punks. The actor seriously makes the last reel watchable and makes one wish the last misspent hour hadn't occurred.

Thanks to David Z. over at TOMB IT MAY CONCERN, I grabbed the Japanese VHS above last week. David said it was uncut but he had only seen that tape. I was eager to check out this edition upon seeing the cassette listed a 93 minute runtime; or thirteen minutes longer than the 1987 U.S. MEDIA release. After near-gruelingly checking out both, the version presented on both is identical. All the dumb editing, jumpy violence, no nudity, and reel change burns. Except for the Japanese tape featuring an extended ending.

On the stateside 81 minute MEDIA, the final shot freezes, shrinks towards the middle of the screen (like an old school music video), and the credits roll. On the 84 minute Japanese, the final shot flutters and then burns away. On the white screen we then see producers standing and arguing while Frankenstein (Mike Lane of The Monster Squad TV series & Frankenstein 1970) and the Wolfman argue in the projection booth about the film's depiction of monsters. The two decide to go down and scare the audience comprised of Grotesque's cast and crew. After the crowd runs screaming they both hug, agree they're still the scariest, and then the credits roll. Uncertainly not what this film needed to be better, but there it is. If anything that extension only adds to Grotesque's wildly herky-jerky nature. Unfortunately, the edited American VHS actually has better picture quality and considering the film's quality--your choice depends on preference. That's if you care enough anyway...


Explosive Action said...

Sensational covers!

stonerphonic said...

Asian cover over US cover any day.

Damn shame about the lack of Linda Blair nudity. Otherwise it def sounds like falling into the "so fucking terrible it's not even so bad it's good".

bummer... you dare tread upon the staircase?

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