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Murder, Set, Pieces
Lions Gate Entertainment DVD

Say one thing about director-producer-writer Nick Palumbo, he never misses an opportunity to pound the offend button. According to this movie's press release, two Hollywood labs refused to even process the film. He brings to the sliver (yes, sliver) screen the tale of a Nazi fascist fashion photographer whose specialty is gore traits, dismembered hookers and strippers who won't sit still for the camera without a little help. Sven Garrett plays the crooked man with the straight razor that he puts to even more nefarious use than his Wolverine sideburns would suggest. After many flashbacks, swearing in German, killing giggly girls and weightlifting to sterile techno music, we get to the core of his Dr. Phil-worthy problem — "I am the bastard son of a goddamn whore!" Well, so was Richard Pryor, but I'll bet his basement had a lot less hemoglobin splattered around it.

If chainsaw violence against women isn't your nutbag, watch as our ass-clown forces his manhood into his victim's disembodied skulls. Even violence against children is fair game. The only gal who gives our bloody shutterbug any kind of a struggle is Jade, the 11-year-old sister of the killer's girlfriend who has figured what everyone else seems to have missed — that this creep's a few corpuscles short of a bloodbath.

For added controversy, Palumbo inserts actual 9/11 footage into the killer's open-ended dream sequence, either to assert that his motives are no different from that of the terrorists, or that the burning towers remind him of what he'd like to do to the Doublemint Twins. Anyone looking for a linear narrative or a thought-provoking study of a serial killer is barking up the wrong psycho. Palumbo's ego is the real character study here. (Garrett works at an adult video store here for no other reason except to plug the director's last straight-to-video snuffer, Nutbag.) —Serene Dominic

 

A Summer Place
Warner Home Video

More people remember Max Steiner's immensely popular score to A Summer Place than they do the film, and for good reason. Sinuous cinematography and overly affected performances guide this soap opera of gag-worthy romantic mush. At times it achieves unintentional camp hilarity, as when an inflamed Richard Egan prattles off a list of loveless wife Constance Ford's myriad of ethnic prejudices. But mostly, A Summer Place uses its story of young lovers' sexual awakenings as the basis for a didactic social-problem film: the effect of two sets of parents' divorces on their offspring-turned-lovers (Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue). The movie is very much a product of its time, historically relevant only for its daring foregrounding of nubile sexuality and Ford's deep-freeze performance as Dee's backward, tyrannical mother. Director Delmer Daves fared better at noir (Dark Passage) and war movies (Destination Tokyo). And Steiner's hit song is repeated ad nauseam, in countless variations, so that it loses its dramatic impact while eating into your brain like a termite. —John Thomason

 

Relative Strangers
First Look Home Entertainment

Relative Strangers is the perfect example of how not to make a comedy. Start with a worn-out premise that involves an anger-management author who learns he's adopted just before his wedding day. Add vulgar and broad stereotypes (his trailer-trash birth parents bicker; his adoptive parents are close-minded snobs). Then top it off with incompetent direction, poor editing and a lame third act that reeks of a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. Who could have possibly thought it funny to hear Danny DeVito and Kathy Bates (as carnies) bumpin' uglies like it's been declared rutting season? In lieu of character development, most of the actors declare war on the script and go histrionic with their performances. The exception is Neve Campbell (whose reaction shots change from total confusion to what have to be pleas for help). You might get some perverse pleasure from watching this all-star cast flail helplessly with a script this puerile, but by the time someone says, "Things are rarely as bad as they seem," you may call your worst enemy and tell them to rent this pile of shit. —Paul Knoll

 

Grim Reaper
Lions Gate Entertainment

Bet you thought limbo was supposed to be a place where nothing happens to you. Naw, it's actually a condemned mental institution where you get Tasered, stabbed, electrocuted, shot and decapitated — and that's just the waiting room. Haw! No seriously, here's the predicament: Just-killed stripper Rachel Wilson finds herself stranded between this world and hell, presumably because putting her boyfriend through med school with lap dance dollars didn't cut it on the "good deeds" list. With the help of some other lost souls, she hopes to change her fate and cheat You-Know-Who, depicted here as a guy who double-dipped at the costume store, dressing as a mummy under a grim reaper robe that's fresh out of the plastic bag, folded creases and all.

It's hard to fear the reaper when he's as intellectually challenged as a spook on Scooby-Doo, with depth perception challenges to boot. In fact, (spoiler alert!), they even actually manage to knock him out a few times, with no word of how his downtime is affecting the outside world. That would've been a better movie, all the people about to be executed but not getting killed, suicide leapers bouncing off the curb, dissatisfied killers returning guns to the stores — but this movie isn't budgeted for an outside world. Anyway, they already did that story on Family Guy. Natch, the reaper takes it all in the end; here, he just cheats you out of 82 minutes in advance. —Serene Dominic

 

Evil Animals Triple Feature
Shriek Show

Killer animal flicks from the '70s are usually good for a trip through cinema's cheesy underbelly, but aside from Amity Island's resident killer fish, where do you start? Look no further than the Evil Animals Triple Feature DVD box for guidance! With Collecting Grizzly, Day of the Animals and Devil Dog, this set has it all — a Jaws rip-off starring a killer bear, a demonic dog, and even the entire animal kingdom turning on a group of hikers. If your boat still don't float after that, how about this — the grizzly is killed with a fucking bazooka! Still not convinced? Then how about an over-the-top villainous performance from Leslie Nielsen? If you're still yawning, then just wait until you see the possessed pooch, complete with an Afro and devil horns. You might flinch when the discs eject, but at least you'll be prepared when that bear with the mark of Satan comes knockin' at your door. —Jeremy Wheeler

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