The idea of blending porn and slasher pic has surely been thought of before, but as far as I know it hadn’t been realized as a feature film, and director Ti West deserves credit for thinking through the concept with more care than others might have. First of all, he sets it in the late 70s, when porn had finally reached commercial viability and slasher films were coming into their own in a big way. He’s also quite technical about the making of the film within the film, a quickie stroker called The Farmer’s Daughter, showing how these things are actually put together, and grounds the various characters motivations in behavior that feels of and about its time. The producer, Wayne (Martin Henderson), knows his small crew well, but West makes sure his sexism shows through, even if he thinks he’s not a sexist. His girlfriend and business partner, Maxine (Mia Goth), seems to have more together as a filmmaker than he does, but, of course, she’s relegated to lesser billing both in the credits and on the set. The cameraman, RJ (Own Campbell), pretends toward being an artist, while his girlfriend, Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), who is also the sound engineer, is the only person on hand who seems to have a clear head about things in general, and at one point she asks to appear in the film performing sex, mainly to bug RJ, who clearly isn’t into it.
The setting is the key. Wayne finds an old boarding house attached to a farm on a backroad in Texas where he plans to make the movie. The couple who own the farm are old and know nothing about the purpose of the crew’s visit, and while they’re a strange pair they don’t seem that interested in finding out at first. But when the wife, Pearl (also Goth, heavily made up), who is clearly not well, stumbles on the set and sees the actors getting it on something is triggered in her—at one point she starts moaning about how her husband can’t get it up—and she starts stalking the crew members with various farm implements. There’s also an alligator involved.
All the action takes place during one long night, but once the killings start the film loses whatever distinction it had initially offered through the porn connection. The suspense is rote and the bloodletting conventional. Even the subtext that sex can provoke murderous impulses—something that undergirds probably 90 percent of the slasher genre—seems pretty weak here, which seems like a missed opportunity. Maybe West should have just made a regular movie about creating quickie porn in the late 70s. It certainly would have been more interesting that what he ended up with.
Opens July 8 in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Shibuya Parco White Cine Quinto (03-6712-7225), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).
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