It’s October, Chewers, and you know what that means! The leaves are falling off the trees, everything smells like smoke, candy corn once again seems like a viable foodstuff, and it’s horror marathon time. We all know the classics and we’ve all got those movies that we like to stick to year after year, but I think it’s time we all broaden our horizons and look a bit off the beaten path. This year I’ve decided to look at a bunch of movies that get continually pushed aside in favor of the Evil Deads and An American Werewolf in Londons of the world and I’ll be reviewing one for each day of this month.
Lengthy preface time. This year I have decided that my theme is going to be movies released by Full Moon Pictures. Full Moon is a production and distribution company started by b-movie schlockmeister Charles Band after the collapse of his previous studio, Empire Pictures. Full Moon became one of the top direct-to-VHS producers in the country putting out a pretty steady release of films until it closed its doors in 2002 only to be revived in 2004.
Currently Full Moon has a streaming service, Full Moon Streaming, which features the majority of their film catalog as well as some Empire pictures, and some old (mostly Italian) exploitation films. I signed up about 10 months ago because you get 6 blu-rays with purchase of a one year membership ($65, or 6 months and three Blu-rays or DVDs for $50) and I promptly never watched anything on it. So with my membership nearly up, I have decided to pick 31 movies out of the available online catalog and watch them and write about them.
Just so you don’t think I’m being bribed into doing this, let me briefly assess the quality of the streaming service. Titles are displayed on a sideways scrolling bar in increments of six at a time, the order is randomized and if you’re actually looking for something it’s a huge pain. There is a search function, but it brings up every use of the words you typed even if they’re just used in the synopsis of another movie or a news post. Often the link you’re looking for will be four or five entries down the page.
Assuming you find what you’re looking for or just pick one that looks interesting you are taken to the film’s page which is designed like a fairly adept Geocities page and often has blank spaces meant to be filled with information about the film. The actual movie can be watched in a plethora of picture qualities (with HD for many) but you’d better have a good latency if you’re going anywhere above medium. There are plenty of titles but unless you’re lazy like me you could clear out all the ones you actually want to see in that one year’s time, making continuous or repeat membership unattractive (though new content does come to the site periodically.)
Understandably but annoyingly, you can really only watch this service on your computer. I’m sure getting game console or even fancy blu-ray player support would be prohibitively expensive but I really don’t like watching movies on my computer and I’m sure you don’t either. I attempted to bypass this by watching it on my Wii’s broswer app but that was a fool’s errand. Full Moon Streaming IS available to watch on your TV if you have Roku or Apple Airplay but unless you already have these services, that means more money you’ll have to shell out. Full Moon Streaming is a good idea and it’s got a lot of movies I love, but it’s a long way from being a must-have service and it’s far too cumbersome and inconvenient to use regularly. Anyway, we’re here to review a movie.
I’ll confess that I’m cheating a bit with this entry. Sorority Babes is an Empire film that came out around the time that that studio closed and Full Moon opened. Officially it’s still Empire and is listed under the “Grindhouse” tab on the Full Moon Streaming site rather than the “Full Moon” tab unlike the other two Empire releases I’ll be covering this month. But since it exists in that limbo between studios and since its tone is closer to the increasingly more hokey tone of Full Moon movies rather than the relative seriousness of the Empire films, thus making this the prototypical Full Moon film, I’m going to count it.
The set-up is pretty much the set-up of a ’70s college sex comedy. We have a sorority that’s initiating two new sisters (Lisa played by Michelle Bauer and Taffy played by Brinke Stevens) and a particularly sadistic person doing the initiating (Babs played by Robin Stille.) This excites a group of nerds: Keith the horny one (John Stuart Wildman), Jimmie the fat one (Hal Havins, Stooge from Night of the Demons), and decent guy/wet blanket Calvin (Andras Jones). The nerds sneak to the sorority house to spy on the spankings and cool whip fights going on, but get caught by Babs and are sent with Lisa and Taffy to steal a trophy from a nearby bowling alley.
While at the bowling alley, Calvin has a meet-cute with Spider (Linnea Quigley), a young punk who is robbing the place. They find the bowling trophy but it gets broken and a small rubber goblin, “The Imp” (voiced by Duke Flyswatter), pops out and offers to grant wishes for them. Jimmie wants lots of gold, Taffy wants to be the prom queen, Keith wants Lisa to lust after him, and Calvin and Spider want no part in it. Naturally The Imp is malefic and their wishes turn sour, but not in particularly creative ways. Jimmie doesn’t get battered to death in a shower of gold bars, he just finds out that his gold bars are made out of wood. Taffy doesn’t wind up in some nightmare where she relives her senior prom for eternity, her dress just suddenly looks all nasty and torn up. Keith doesn’t get murdered by a violently obsessed Lisa, she just gets really clingy and he realizes how creepy his wish was.
After the lame bait and switch wishes, The Imp locks everyone in (including Babs and two of her sorority sister who have been monitoring the situation from the surveillance booth) and tuns some of the girls into demon-possessed psychopaths who begin murdering the few unpossessed. Suddenly it’s up to Spider and Calvin, with the help of a half-deaf janitor played by John Carpenter alum Buck Flower to recapture The Imp and escape the bowling alley with their lives.
Would it surprise you to find out that Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama was originally called The Imp? Yes, this is another Chopping Mall situation where a misleadingly title was tacked onto an inappropriate film to make it more marketable. While Sorority Babes does feature more bowling than Chopping Mall featured chopping, the only real references are the setting, the Imp’s imprisonment, and a memorable kill involving one of the possessed sisters bowling with a man’s severed head.
The Imp himself is the worst part of the movie, working as a clumsy mechanism to get the sorority sisters possessed as they are the actual monsters of this movie. The puppet is okay if rubbery, but the character sounds like Audrey 2 and every time he speaks it ruins the tension or comedy of whatever scene he’s in.
The acting is just different degrees of bad from mediocre to outright awful, particularly Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer who are really just in this movie because they allow nudity in their contracts. Surpisingly our central couple of Spider and Calvin work rather well. Linnea Quigley has always been the most talented scream queen who isn’t Jamie Lee Curtis (that’s not saying much, and that’s not a dig at Curtis) and though she tends to speak in a stilted monotone, she has a charm that can’t be denied. This is the only movie I’ve ever seen Quigley in that doesn’t feature a nude scene from her and that’s pretty impressive considering her chestal region got a generation of teenage boys to manhood.
Quigley has a nice friendly/antagonistic rapport with Andras Jones’ good-natured awkwardness and the romance that blooms in the 40 minutes they’re together feels more natural and real than some famous romantic pairings that took an entire series of films to bring together. It’s also fun that Jones fits more into the “girlfriend” role by being the one who offers support and advice while Spider is the “man of action” and does most of the fighting. The film even hangs a lampshade on the swapped gender roles by finishing the movie with Spider pulling up on a motorcycle and telling Calvin to get on as he hops on the back and wraps his arms around her waist. Spider is delightful and she’s now joined my pantheon of memorable horror movie badasses along with Ash, Reggie, and Seth Gecko.
Watch, Toss, Or Buy? Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is pure cheese, but it’s very enjoyable cheese. It has a terrible antagonist, it meanders, it has bad acting, but this is Full Moon so we’re obviously grading on a curve here. This is a buy in my book.
If You Liked This, Watch: The Convent (2000), Night of the Demons (1988), Night of the Demons 2 (1994), Night of the Demons 3 (1997), Night of the Demons (2009), Demons (1985), The Hazing (2004), Wishmaster (1997)