Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Spine (1986)

SPINE (1986)
Directed by John Howard and Justin Simmonds

Review by Michael Hauss

     Since I’m on a roll of watching shit-on-video releases, I figured one more go at it wouldn’t retard my fucked up brain any more than seeing Thor all naked in "ROCK AND ROLL NIGHTMARE"  (1987) already did. All this to appease the savage editor Erok Hellhammer here at Theater of Guts, who keeps recommending these shit-fests for me to review, saying “it takes a special and I emphasize Special kind of person to understand these types of films.” Erok would go on to save his ass by saving that I was the “Jerry Warren” of the film reviewing world, pretty solid compliment right there I’d say.

     This 1986 shot-on-video (aka 'shit-on-video' or SOV) boasts a nutbag who goes around killing and exposing the spines of nurses, hence the title. The lead in this film, R. Eric (don’t call me Aldous) Huxley, plays slasher Lawrence Ashton and I'd swear it's actually old’ Bocephus himself, Hank Williams Jr. This dude could be his twin.

Hank Jr.'s evil twin demonstrates the "do's"
and "dont's" of the swinger lifestyle.

     The film is, on the technical side, a piece of shit which has the camera shoved right up the actors' asses or in their faces. The sound is like listening through a set of cans with a string through them, the way Alfalfa, Spanky, Buck Wheat and I used to call each other back in our gang days.

     Back to Hank Williams... I mean, R. Eric. He has this psycho thing down pat. He does a lot of emoting and acting angry, but also tries to be the cool composed spree killer we’ve grown to know and love, like Jason but without the hockey mask. Or that fucknut from SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1988).

These bitchin' shades are my hockey mask,
and this luxurious mane is my tragic deformity.

    The thing about this film is that it actually has a very good exploitation actress in it. She deserved much better than this fate. The actress Janus Blythe appeared in a number of low budget exploitation and horror films including Ruby in the Wes Craven classic "THE HILLS HAVE EYES" (1977). She would follow up that film with a small part in the gooey but fun exploitation flick "THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN" (1977) and would appear again as Ruby in the sequel "THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2" (1984). Unfortunately, Janus would see her on-screen career end in 1991, but not before she accepted a part in this stinker. I could see the producer of this film saying to Janus, “We’ll give you one hundred dollars for the three-day shoot, free Shoney’s down on route 6 for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and book you into the Motel 6, and, We’ll leave the light on for you!”

Motel 6? I've hit the big time at last!

    I'm not sure how they got an actress with any credits at all to appear in this mess, but some notable hacks have slunk to SOV appearances. Erok Hellhammer’s favorite actor Michael J Pollard appeared in "SLEEPAWAY CAMP 3"(1989), and there's porn star Amber Lynn’s star turn in "THINGS" (1993).  The rest of the cast seems to have no other credits to speak of as far as I can ascertain except R. Eric Huxley, who has a few credits listed besides this. Surprisingly, not in any biopics of Hank Williams Jr.

     John Howard, one of the two directors listed on this film along with Justin Simmonds, does have a few other directorial credits on his resume. He has some porn credits and did a handful of films starring Linnea Quigley, including "SCORPION" (1986), "STALKED" (1986), "AVENGED" (1986) and FLASH (1987), which need further investigation.

"Is it that much fun to hurt someone / Oh please tell me why, dear!"

     The killer, all decked out in his reflective aviator glasses and brandishing a switchblade knife he strokes at times, is killing only nurses. He hog ties them and as they struggle, the rope from their feet to their neck tightens and it strangles them. Then he knifes them a bunch of times and cuts the back open to expose the spine. The killings are all related and identical except when the killer raped one of the women. Each murder scene has the name “Linda” written in blood on a wall. 

Alice in Bondageland.

     The police and forensic units in this film are laughably generic, and it’s like the actors who played the cops had no clue on how to author the parts. It's as if they were children playing a game of Cops and Robbers. The police presence is nil and the crime investigation units consist of one or two guys. The police struggle with finding the name of the suspect until their computer spits out the name of Lawrence Ashton. I mean damn, couldn’t the makers of this film watch an episode of Streets of San Francisco, Quincey, or Police Story, to figure out how police procedure and crime scene investigations go? 

The crime computer says she was killed by
someone named Bocephus, and it's never wrong.

     Carrie Longan (Janus Blythe) and Leah Petralla (Lise Romanoff), whose home the killer has invaded, are in danger from this bloodthirsty maniac. Will the fuck-nuttedly stupid police get there in time before he kills two more nurses? Better yet, who cares?

     This movie makes the SOV "555" (1988) look like it belongs in the horror hall of fame. It is just plain awful, no two ways around it. R. Eric Huxley turns in a decent enough performance but the rest of the cast just stinks the place up, including Janus Blythe. Even at seventy-three minutes this film was overlong and taxing on my brain. I think in closing that if I didn't hate Hank Williams Jr. so much then I may have enjoyed this a bit more. Shit, who am I kidding, I hated it as much as old Hank... not more, but damn close. 

This is spinal tap.

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