Grotesque was one of the many hor­ror films dumped on home video dur­ing the late 1980’s.  For this kind of fare, it was high pro­file.  It was released on a major video label (Media), was adver­tised in the hor­ror mag­a­zi­nes of the era and has a decent ros­ter of exploita­tion flick names: Linda Blair, Tab Hunter, Donna Wilkes and Guy Stockwell all pop up here.  None of this makes Grotesque a good film — In fact, it’s pret­ty dread­ful despite its basic tech­ni­cal com­pe­tence- but it takes a very unique and con­vo­lut­ed path on the way to melt­ing the viewer’s brain.

The plot of Grotesque is a per­plex­ing mix of hor­ror, revenge movie and a twist-hap­py “fam­i­ly with dark secrets” premise.  Blair toplines as Lisa, a young lady who takes her pal Kathy (Wilkes) home to the moun­tain cot­tage owned by her fam­i­ly. A group of car­toon­ish “punkers” threat­en them on their way in but they make it home safe­ly.  Home is revealed to be a bit of kooky place because Lisa’s dad, Orville (Stockwell), is a make­up effects artist.  There’s also an unseen patron of the house, Patrick (Bob Apiza), who is dis­cussed but not seen.

The punkers attack the home when night falls… and that is where Grotesque flips its wig.  Without giv­ing away too much, there are some crazy plot sur­pris­es here as well as the intro­duc­tion of Hunter as Rod, the plas­tic sur­geon broth­er of Orville.  It lit­er­al­ly becomes an entire­ly dif­fer­ent film in its sec­ond half as it hurtles towards a gen­uine­ly wacked-out twist end­ing that is topped off by a sec­ond twist end­ing that reduces the pro­ceed­ings to pure, gib­ber­ing inco­her­ence.

Sadly, Grotesque is not as fun as it is weird.  It has a slow, talky and weird­ly quaint feel to it, per­haps because it is the cre­ation of a cou­ple of 1970’s exploita­tion flick holdovers try­ing to take the 1980’s hor­ror mar­ket by storm.  The writer was Mikel Angel, who is best known to exploita­tion buffs for writ­ing the sim­i­lar­ly bizarre The Love Butcher, and what he comes up with here is a high-con­cept plot that makes no sense and is told in a clunky man­ner that nev­er makes the most of its unusu­al ele­ments.  The direc­tor was Joe Tornatore, who made the odd­ball action/exploitation flick Zebra Force.  While he can cre­ate com­pe­tent t.v. lev­el visu­als, his direc­tion of actors and abil­i­ty to stage sus­pense or action is hope­less.

As for the act­ing, Blair and Wilkes are pleas­ant but obvi­ous­ly on autopi­lot in the­se dire sur­round­ings.  Most every­one else is pret­ty lousy here, espe­cial­ly the “punker” vil­lains.  In fact, the punks here are amongst the least con­vinc­ing in screen his­to­ry, with Brad Wilson giv­ing an oper­at­i­cal­ly awful per­for­mance as the ridicu­lous lead­er, Scratch.  Wilson shouts and grits his teeth in a way that sug­gests he was try­ing to bring the film down sin­gle–hand­ed.  The most enter­tain­ing bad per­for­mance comes from Hunter: with­out reveal­ing too much, his final sce­nes here are unfor­get­table.  The one oth­er cast note worth men­tion­ing is that Robert Z’Dar appears as a punk here, just a year before he would become the anti-hero of Maniac Cop.

In short, Grotesque is nev­er as enter­tain­ing as it should be given the cast and the crazy plot­ting but it’s weird enough for 1980’s hor­ror com­pletists to sit through once.  It is prob­a­bly best to watch it late at night, when its frac­tured log­ic will be less dam­ag­ing to your psy­che and you can write it off as a par­tic­u­lar­ly trashy bad dream.

Vampires, Mummies & Monsters Collection [4-Film Feature]

Vampires, Mummies & Monsters Collection [4-Film Feature]

Vampires, Mummies & Monsters Collection [4-Film Feature]      In The Velvet Vampire, a cou­ple accepts an invi­ta­tion from the mys­te­ri­ous Diane LeFanu (Celeste Yarnall, The Mechanic) to vis­it her in her seclud­ed desert estate. Unaware that Diane is actu­al­ly a cen­turies-old vam­pire, the cou­ple soon real­ize that they are both the objects of her seduc­tion and cravings…When Baron Frankenstein is killed by his cre­ation, his daugh­ter Tania (Rosalba Neri, aka Sarah Bay) cre­ates her own crea­ture using the bril­liant mind of her assis­tant and the body of her dimwit­ted ser­vant in Lady Frankenstein. She not only ends up with the per­fect lover, but one that can destroy her father’s killer. Also star­ring Joseph Cotten (The Third Man) as Baron Frankenstein.Lisa (Linda Blair, The Exorcist) was look­ing for­ward to a nice, relax­ing vaca­tion at the fam­i­ly cab­in, but instead she bears wit­ness to the bru­tal death of her friends and fam­i­ly at the hands of a group of mind­less punks in Grotesque. As the thugs close in on Lisa, they don’t real­ize they are about to come face to face with some­thing far more hor­ri­fy­ing than themselves.From deep with­in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, Professor Douglas McCadden ships the coffin of Ankh-Vanharis to the California Institute of Sciences, where X-rays reveal five dia­mond­like crys­tals hid­den with­in the coffin. Technician Peter Sharpe steals the crys­tals, but he doesn’t notice that the pow­er­ful X-ray has revived a green fun­gus. When the coffin is opened at a uni­ver­si­ty press con­fer­ence, the reporters uncov­er more than they bar­gained for. The mum­my has dis­ap­peared … the Time Walker is alive again!