“I bet it’s worse than I think! It’s probably unsafe sex!”
WHAT IS IT?
An aging model will go to any lengths to secure victory in a beauty pageant.
Boring director Stephen Hopkins (Judgement Night, The Ghost and the Darkness) helms this one, with a cast headlined by Mimi Rogers (Austin Powers, The Rapture). In supporting roles, Jennifer Rubin and Kathy Ireland appear as rival models, and comedy legend Buck Henry (writer of The Graduate and To Die For) has nice little role too. The script, like None But the Lonely Heart, is attributed to Donald Longtooth, a vampire character from a season three episode. No word on who actually wrote it, but I bet it was A L Katz and Gil Adler, the produces driving the show at this particular point.
HOW IS IT?
Tales from the Crypt was never a show known for its originality, but Beauty Rest would probably have to be the most derivative episode yet. Naturally it hits all the familiar marks, but then, so do most episodes. What makes this one so familiar is that is almost a beat for beat remake of the Season Three episode Top Billing. Trade modeling for acting, Mimi Rogers for Jon Lovitz, and casting couch sluttery for selling out and you’ve got Beauty Rest. And while Top Billing was one of the better yarns thus far, Beauty Rest grudgingly carves out a relatively boring spot somewhere in the middle tier.
Beauty Rest starts with its worst moment, a fake 80s commercial for women’s cologne (‘Ballbuster’) that makes the 6000 SUX spot from Robocop look like a particularly trenchant bit of Mark Twain satire. The spokeswoman is Helen (Rogers), an aging model just starting to realize she may have wasted her life with nothing to show for it. Turns out the spot was just an audition, but the director, an agonizing foreign caricature, all but guarantees her the role. So of course she doesn’t get it, as her disinterested agent shortly tells her.
Just like Lovitz, Helen has a pet nemesis for all her problems that she can impotently rage against. In this case what’s holding her down is a bunch of sluts sleeping their way to the top and stealing her roles (p.s., she’s actually just getting older). Turns out it was her roommate Joyce (Ireland) that got Ballbuster. After a round of catty girl-bickering, Helen decides that knocking Joyce out with sleeping pills = profit. So she brings in some drugged tea to bury the hatchet, but the sleeping pills are apparently made of cyanide, because Joyce is stone dead in about fifteen seconds. Helen then gets to scream to Crypt-y villain dialogue (“You’re not important enough to go to prison over!) and falsifies a suicide. As a bonus, she steals a letter of recommendation guaranteeing Joyce a victory in an upcoming beauty pageant.
Armed with this letter, Helen shows up and passes it on to the emcee/guy in charge of everything? George (Henry). Everything seems to be going according to plan, until some other bitter model (Rubin) overhears them and threatens George with exposure. And so Helen learns what Ned Stark learned last weekend: words on a piece of paper ain’t worth shit. But Helen’s tasted blood and found she likes it. Realizing that you either win or you die, she chokes the life out of Rubin, righting the status quo and making herself the presumptive winner again. So she’s bustled off to a shitty dark room where a carny-looking make-up artist manhandles her unceremoniously until a grinning George encroaches upon her, glowing syringe in hand. Cut to the stage, where it’s revealed the title she’s won is Miss Autopsy 1992. Split open down the front and vivisected, the unseen audience ogles her goods while George warbles a cheeky death ballad, off key.
It’s as a stupid and nonsensical an ending as you’ll find, although it’s mitigated somewhat by Buck Henry digging into the song he’s been forced to sing (Henry’s a joy throughout here, in fact). It would be nice to know even just a bit more about the society that values this sort of thing. Serial killers, or more ghouls? Whomever it is, I’m sure their story is more interesting.
There’s a bunch of elements to this script that should play better than they do, especially in that the characterizations have some layers to them. Helen’s ugly bitterness is well drawn, and it seems clear the whole I-hate-sluts routine is a self-justifying defense mechanism. I think we were supposed to sort of empathize with Lovitz’s sad sack, where here, we’re invited to see through Helen’s bullshit. Another nice structural trick is the Rubin character, another bitter model beating her head against the wall, who comes to judge Helen the way Helen judges Joyce in Act One. But most of this seems to go over the head of Stephen Hopkins, who would much rather film risible push-ins and make sure everything is badly lit. Also, the cast just doesn’t compare to the Lovitz piece. Aside from Henry, everyone kind of misses the fun in this, from Rogers looking bored to Kathy Ireland, whose casting is either a giant mistake or a brilliantly meta statement about sleeping your way into acting roles. It would stand as a missed opportunity if they hadn’t already done a pretty good job with this story a year earlier. But they did, so it stands as a waste of time.
HOW EVIL ARE THE WOMEN?
I can clearly imagine what the comic book version of Helen would have to have been, a whining, self-hating caricature of the feminist movement intended for mockery by pussy-dreading adolescents, winkle lines and all. So it probably could have been much worse. But it doesn’t change the fact that every character is a bed-hopping slut or secretly jealous of bed-hopping sluts.
ALSO WORTH NOTING:
*It’s a well worn Crypt trope that the road to fame is lined with the crushed dreams of broken failures. It’s here again, adding to the sameness
*The usually dependable gore and death scenes are really terrible too.
WORST CRYPT KEEPER JOKE:
“Will she make it? Only her scare-dresser knows for sure!”
Yeah, aside from a few points, I pretty much agree with everything John said here. I actually like the opening, which climaxes with a tracking shot that tracks the busy commercial set right after it cuts. There’s a couple little flourishes like that (another is a long Raimi-esque pull-out into a dank hallway when Helen realizes her fate) but it’s nothing that redeems it. It’d almost be a total loss if not for the delirious ending which, even with bad gore effects, is so bizarre it justifies the episode’s existence.