Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Chiller (1985, USA)

When Craven goes slumming, he really goes slumming. One of five television movies he has made to date (excluding his involvement with various television series), Chiller was filmed a year after he made his third horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and the same year that he made his first, truly unredeemable piece of crap, The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985). (Remember how even the dog had a flashback in that turkey?) Guess in which direction Chiller leans. Want a hint? Well, Michael Beck once stated that "The Warriors (1979) opened a lot of doors for me which Xanadu (1980) then closed." Chiller definitely didn't help reopen any again, for aside from displaying how bad a film Craven can actually make when he doesn't want to, the movie also reveals that Beck really cannot act. Rather unlike his co-star Beatrice Straight, who emotes rather theatrically (thus revealing her true roots) but at least actually makes an impression. (Some might remember Straight from her 5½ minute long Oscar winning performance in Network (1976), others from her reoccurring role as the Queen Mother to Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman in the 70s, but most will recognize her as the paranormal researcher in Poltergeist (1982).) The horrendous sound quality of the video version viewed here really doesn't do too much damage to the movie on the whole, as everything else is so lousy that the crappy sound seems somehow fitting. In general, Chiller isn't as painfully horrible as having cattle prods stuck up your butt, but it does come close.
When the cryogenic container of Miles Creighton (Beck) has a technical snafu, his wealthy mother Marion Creighton (Straight) decides to have him thawed out, especially since the illness that caused his death ten years ago is now treatable. All is okay and he soon is alive and kicking, ready to take back control of the family business. The only thing is, aside from suffering chronic hypothermia, he also seems to be lacking a soul. Coldhearted and emotionless, he now likes to drink brandy, beat women and kill an occasional dog or human. Furthermore, he no longer makes charitable contributions! The movie dawdles eternally onwards like Route 66 but with much less exciting visuals and not enough toilet breaks (at least this is so on the video version; when originally shown on television, the viewer was given the luxury of commercials to help elevate the tedium). Eventually there is a big showdown in which Marion must save her adopted daughter Stacey (Jill Schoelen) from the lecherously murderous advances of Miles. Of course, this takes place in a big walk in freezer… As to be expected, Craven tosses on one of those short shock-endings before the real ending, but it isn't enough to wake you up….
About the only decent scene in the whole movie is some idiotic special effects scene in which the skin of the then still comatose Miles does the boogie just prior to his awakening. (The nurse in the room, of course, doesn't do the sensible thing of calling the doctor but simply stares and watches, mouth agape. Regrettably, she doesn't die from her stupidity. But then, what should boogieing skin even indicate? The devil inside or the onslaught of acne?) And after Miles awakens, just how nasty is he? He kills a dog. He kills one kindly old man by instigating a heart attack (murder by walking up the stairs quicker—really terrifying, ain't it?). He beats a blond haired corporate slut willing to fuck her way up the corporate ladder (Laura Johnson, her acting as bad as her jaw is square). Okay, he has a bit more fun with Reverend Penny (character actor Paul Sorvino), but methinks any nut who goes walking around the parks of the Rampart/6th Street area in Los Angeles at midnight deserves everything that happens to him. (Hey! Let’s go for a mountain stroll in Afghanistan.) Oh yeah, though Miles be cold, he still got that testosterone: like some aged pervert he lusts after Stacey, spying on her at night through a peephole in the wall. (He nasty!) Stacey, being the fine young lady that she is, doesn't even seem to go naked in the privacy of her own room. (Jill Schoelen, in the meantime as equally a has-been as Michael Beck, had a brief shine a Screaming Starlet: after Chiller, she went on to important and/or lead parts in such flicks as the excellent thriller The Stepfather (1987), the laughably entertaining piece of trash The Curse II: The Bite (1988), the forgotten remake of The Phantom of the Opera (1989), the early embarrassment from Brad Pitt's filmography Cutting Class (1989) and Popcorn (1990). Since the mid-1990s, however, she hasn't seemed to have left her family home in Encino, CA.)
A truly awful film with no redeeming features, Chiller won't do much more than leave you pissed-off for having wasted your time. Indeed, seldom is there a movie that improves with the inclusion of commercials, but Chiller stands out as one such production.

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