Monday, April 14, 2014

Christina's House


I am very grumpy this afternoon. Things have just not been going well on the set of my new spectacular, Goodfollies, a musical melodrama about lady mobsters in New Jersey. I have been forced to costar opposite Margo Channing, a person (and I use that word in the loosest possible context) whom I utterly despise. We were scheduled today to film a sequence in which my character, Toni Soprano, argues deeply with her character, the psychiatrist Dr. Duchess Malfi. This was supposed to lead to a stunning gun battle on the roof of a Hoboken meat-processing plant and Duchess taking a swan dive off the roof into a pen of bacon on the hoof. The thought of Margo covered in offal had me humming lightly for days. Unfortunately, the sequence was cut at the last minute for budgetary reasons, something about an inability to find appropriately trained swine; it was replaced with a rather dull scene in which Toni and Duchess engage in some mindless batonnage while trading quips about Jungian cultural archetypes. 

On returning home to Chateau Maine, I was greeted with news from Joseph, my manager. The Carducci family, who operate the plant which produces my fabulous 'VickiWear' clothing designs, are having trouble with the help. Apparently the Indonesian seamstresses are unhappy with that generous $1.95 an hour they're receiving and they've been causing sabotage at the plant. A whole shipment of cotton King and I holiday ball dresses somehow went into an industrial size dryer and have been shrunk to XXXXS. Vito Carducci promises to deal with the situation but, in the meantime, we have orders and no product ready for Wal-Mart's pre-Christmas rush. 

In a black mood, I strode into the home theater, flopped down on one of my Turquoise fainting couches and started to channel surf, hoping for a film to take me away - preferably something with lots of gratuitous violence and nudity. I settled upon a film entitled Christina's House from 1999, a Canadian film from Gavin Wilding (director) and Stuart Allison (writer) of whom I had never heard. After viewing the film, I'm not likely to hear of them again. 

Christina's House is one of those young female in jeopardy thrillers that pop up in spurts. In style, it's not unlike The Glass House or Jeepers Creepers only on a much lower budget. Allison Lange, sort of a Leelee Sobieski manqué, plays the titular Christina. She has moved with her father and her kid brother to a new town in order to be closer to the asylum in which her demented mother resides. The family has rented a large old house in an isolated area and Christina soon becomes aware of odd noises, a feeling of being watched, and the occasional improbably placed object like a sandwich or a half eaten Oreo cookie. As her paranoia increases,  she becomes afraid she's inherited her mother's insanity while other nubile teens around her start to disappear and bodies start turning up. Who is the psycho? Is it her father with the incestuous longings (John Savage), her new boyfriend (Brendan Fehr), the sweet but odd handy man (Brad Rowe) or the decidedly odd sheriff (Jerry Wasserman)? Anyone with half a brain will guess long before the answer is revealed and the cast spends the last half hour running around the house, covered in blood and impaling each other on various useful household implements. 

This is one of the films in which the plot requires everyone to act like a complete moron in order to work. Young Christina runs around in clingy little rayon tops despite her father's obvious lust. The sheriff, even when confronted with dead bodies, refuses to actually engage in any police work. One character throws another through a plate glass window in a store and no one seems the least bit perturbed. We must believe that two adolescent children are so ignorant of their own home that someone could construct hidden corridors, booby traps and some inventive uses of buzz saw blades without anyone noticing. 

Miss Lange, as the young Christina, is not untalented, although the script does call for her to get naked occasionally for no good reason and she has to utter some absolutely inane lines. She has a nice camera presence and makes the most of the ludicrous plot and situations. John Savage, who was once one of Hollywood's most promising young actors, seems to have morphed into the William Shatner of the Priceline commercials and over emotes at every opportunity. The effect is a bit like the older George C. Scott as James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. The two pretty boys, Brendan Fehr and Brad Rowe, look nice and Rowe has a couple of good moments late in the film but aren't given characters as much as devices. 

The movie has no inspired directorial or storytelling touches except for a wordless epilogue that completely changes the motivation of the earlier events and which sends a couple of chills to the spine. Otherwise, it's pretty run of the mill stuff. The writer and director seem to have no conception that their characters are acting like idiots and therefore the kind of humor that could make this an eventual camp classic is completely missing. I've seen worse films and I've seen duller films. I'd recommend this most for late night viewing if the Sominex hasn't yet kicked in. The film it reminds me most of is Silent Scream, one of the deadly dull slasher films of the early 80s unleashed by the success of the original Friday the 13th. It had Yvonne DeCarlo as a scary landlady and Avery Schreiber, of all people, as a police detective. 

Dead rat in box. Misplaced journal. Gratuitous nubile teen bath. Weatherized windows. Pizza stuffing. Body in pond. Body in attic. Body in dining room. Body in basement. Gratuitous knife grinding. Implied lunatic sex. Pink hair braid. 

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