Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hungry For Some 90s

When a film with a mildly interesting premise (such as today's)  is listed as “Long Wait” on the third arm of mine I like to call Netflix Queue, I immediately bump it to the top in fear that a) it might be special if others keep stealing it or b) it may disappear as discs get damaged or stolen. Sometimes, this yields great things like Brotherhood of Satan. Others, we get Deadly Little Christmas and I die a little inside (until I find that defibrillator I like to call writing). 
Quick Plot: Meet Monica, an attractive 28 year old (who makes me look young, so rock on, late '90s fashion) who thinks she's found Mr. Right. Sure, he's a tad creepy, what with the whole meeting-women-at-bars-by-videotaping-them-until-they-display-wit thing, but hey, he also sends a dozen roses, rocks some Dylan McKay height hair, and offers to cook dinner on a fateful second week date. Clearly this tale will end with a montage at David's Bridal and honeymoon at Sandals.

Or more likely, with Monica chained in a dank basement as she wilts down to the chic Kate Moss skeletal look while Scott plays out a sadistic game of starvation and memory wipe on our plucky career woman. Meanwhile, Monica's best pal (whose name I didn’t write down and can't quite navigate the IMDB page successfully enough to guess) takes the investigation into her own hands when the police seem way more concerned with perfecting awfully odd accents that don't really fit the Vermont setting. Damn pigs.
Starved calls to mind more recent man-taking-woman-hostage films like Shellter and Broken, with an interesting twist in that Scott has no sexual interest in Monica. Instead, he's simply a sociopath who seems to enjoy the power he has in rewriting her identity, slowly trying his best to convince her that she is someone else. As I often say when excusing my habit playing Internet Boggle or spanking my cat, we all have our hobbies.

Poor Monica, on the other hand (played decently by Cinemax veteran Lee Anne Beaman) doesn't have many options. With a morsel of rice every once in a while, she simply isn't physically strong enough to attempt any sort of escape, a good trick that keeps the audience from the inevitable "just hit him on the head!" shouting that is so often instinctual with these kinds of premises. Co-directors Guy Crawford and Yvette Hoffman do a good job of capturing her hell, never shying away from making an attractive woman into a yellow toothed stick of malnourishment and showing through some delusions where our victim's head is at. Unfortunately, they also see the need to cut away from Scott and Monica to follow her friend on her quest. While the main supporting actress pulls off her role, virtually every other supporting character (from a beefy private investigator to Scott's next would-be victim) comes off as if auditioning for walk-on roles in a softcore porn. It takes a little away from the far more effective basement narrative and ultimately prevents Starved from achieving a true sense of disturbing.
Though IMDB lists Starved's release date as 2000, the film feels incredibly 1996, from its camera style to oversized blazers. That definitely helps to keep things interesting, but maybe also weighs any sense of seriousness far down. Then again, there have been far superior films made about psychological torture and at the end of the day, Starved needs anything it can get to last in your memory.
High Points
The unglamorous attitude towards Monica helps to make her entrapment fairly believable
Low Points
Did we need scrolling text to inform us that men like Scott exist because society lets them? Absolutely not, and the obvious preachiness of the last beat forced Starved into something far less interesting and subtle than its previous 90 minutes led us to believe
Lessons Learned
When you wake up chained in a basement, you probably don’t have to tell the owner that you’re in there. You can safely assume he’s already aware
You should know you’re on a date from hell when your gentleman caller earnestly asks “Tell me more about your mother”

A search warrant takes an hour, two at the most
There are a lot better films made about mad men and the women they torture than Starved. That being said, this is a somewhat interesting take on the age-old premise made during a time when torture porn was not even gestating in the wombs of modern filmmakers. The bizarre PG13 rating is appropriate only for what is graphically not shown, but the ideas and mood are disturbing enough. So rent it if you’re genuinely curious about a mediocre take on this genre. Otherwise, just cue up any one of the many 90210 episodes where one of the pretty young gals was taken hostage by some dude or another.  


  1. I've never heard of this, so thanks for informing my brain. It likes that sort of thing.

    A very 90's indie thriller (that is, half 90's indie movie and half thriller) that I really liked is "Terrified", with Heather Graham. Shockingly, it currently has a 2.9 user rating on IMDB, but I'm an often out of step with "normal" people.

    That cat is already horribly ashamed about whatever evil it hath wrought. I think a spanking at this point would be superfluous.

  2. Thanks for the tip on Terrified. Sounds interesting enough, and I've never trusted those 'normal' people anyway..

    Regarding the spanking, Mookie actually loves it. Once you stop, he meows loudly and keeps snuggling his butt towards your hands asking for more. Clearly though, he's not proud of this fetish.

  3. Just read your It's alive remake and Friday the 13th remake blog posts and they're hysterical! You're an awesome blogger!
    And as for the supposedly upcoming Rob Zombie-less Halloween II, what do you think are the chances that instead of it having a cliched Michael Myers plot, it's instead a remake of Halloween III Season of the Witch. (And I've probably just gotten the silver shamrock theme stuck in your head...yeah, sorry, it won't leave your head for about another century yet)

  4. Hey Emily, I recently got a blog post up for a movie, Zombie Nation, and I'm not really feeling that it's very good, would you be able to take a read and tell me whether or not it's worth keeping up?

  5. The new Rob Zombie-less Halloween THREE, I mean, whoops.

  6. Thanks for the kind words Anonymous! Although I now hate you for getting the Silver Shamrock theme stuck in my--scratch that. I LOVE the Silver Shamrock theme. It's everybody around me that has to hear me sing it in falsetto that has to deal with it!

    And I would LOVE a Myers-less remake of Part 3. As much as I adore that film--it's one of the only must-watch-in-October movie I own--I would totally be open for a remake. The original makes me giggly, but it's still a great premise that could, I think, be re-attacked with good effect. It could also be It's Alive, so I'm clearly asking for trouble, but every now and then, it can work...

  7. If you're into 90's horror, then check out 1990's "The Guardian" directed by William Friedkin of "Exorcist" fame. Kind of a supernatural "Hand Rocks the Cradle" That decade produced some interesting material....much of it not worth commenting on unless you're making fun of the clothes and hair.

  8. Chris: That's a fine review! You're certainly doing a service to the world for making such a strong case about spending any energy on that movie. I'll leave a comment on there today, but I think you've done a fine job of describing a movie in enough detail for your audience while bringing your own style to the review. Sometimes those awful films are hardest to write about amidst your own passionate disdain, but when you're able to balance that with an actual review, they can really work.

    Marcus: The Guardian is one of those films that I've seen once in my childhood and have no actual memory of it, and yet that never stops me from citing it once a week because HELLO! it's a Hand That Rocks the Cradle ripoff with tree sex. I didn't realize it was a Friedken film until a few months ago and my mind was BLOWN. Methinks a revisit is in its future...

  9. 8 more days till halloween, halloween, halloween..8 more days till halloween...Silver shamrock...
    Its almost time kids.. the clock is ticking.
    Be in front of your tv sets for the big giveaway at nine.

  10. Turn it off. Turn it off. Turn it off. Turn it off! Oh god, turn it off! Turn it--