Archive for January, 2013

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When I told you that Bill Zebub’s thoroughly rancid Kill The Scream Queen wasn’t his worst movie, I wasn’t in the least bit joking — 2006’s Rape Is A Circle is actually a damn sight worse. How can this be, you ask? Well, as it turns out, when Zebub left things like plot, motivation, characterization, and even basic story progression out of his debut feature, he was actually doing us all a huge favor, because by the time he got around to making this cringe-worthy feature, he figured he had a pretty solid handle on all those things, so they’re all present and accounted for — and it makes everything soooooo much more painful. Plus, he throws in a massive insult to his audience’s collective intelligence for good measure (certainly no small feat given that this flick wasn’t exactly marketed to the cultural elite).

First off, as far as the bare-bones production values go, Billy had $15,000 to play around with this time, not that tripling his budget did him any good. He’s still stuck in New Jersey and he’s still hiring the kind of actresses who frankly would probably appreciate it if I didn’t mention them by name, so I won’t. Needless to say, they’re all better off back at whatever shoe store, strip joynt, fast-found counter, or unemployment line Zebub found them in. He also still displays nothing but the most rudimentary understanding of simple things like how a fucking video camera works, where to place his “actresses” in the frame, how to get competently-delivered lines out of them, etc.Circle08

The “story,” as far as it goes — two women hitch a ride with another woman, automatically assuming she’s “safe,” only to find that she’s as sadistic and brutal as any guy whose car they might have gotten into — isn’t nearly as clever as Big, Bad Bill thinks, and really is nothing but a threadbare disguise to (again, less than cleverly) obfuscate his real motive, which is, plainly and simply, to show three women verbally and physically humiliating each other (and themselves, by even being in this thing) for the better part of 75 minutes. There’s some poorly staged softcore-style sexual violence, nudity aplenty, and a smattering of thoroughly unconvincing movie-of-the-week-style sermonizing about how, ya know, “rape is a circle,” — hence the insult to our intelligence I mentioned, as if any of us are stupid enough to think that Zebub’s point is anything other than getting his rocks off by putting his unfortunate “actresses” through all kinds of lamely-executed degradation — and then we dive head-first into the thoroughly anti-climactic finale in which  the intial two victims plot their revenge and become victimizers themselves (oh, the humanity!).

 

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A lot of the so-called “unspeakable torment” these ladies are out through in this one is only hinted at rather than shown — although the dialogue is dripping with misogynistic ugliness — and that’s definitely more a product of lack of ability rather than lack of intent. Simply put, if Zebub had enough money to even unconvincingly stage some of the shit he implies these women have to go through, not to mention “talent” willing to do it, I have no doubt he would love to give it a go. But I guess he’s learned a few lessons from Kill The Scream Queen, at least when it comes to being made aware of his (rather sizable, it must be said) limitations. Thank God for small favors.

If you absolutely must be a contrary bastard, though, and sit through this wretchedness just to spite me, I again implore you to not do Zebub the favor of buying it as a stand-alone release (either in its original form or its shorter, re-worked version, titled Catherine’s Pain, which I haven’t seen and can’t fairly comment on — but I bet it sucks at least as badly) for ten or fifteen or whatever bucks — instead pick up the Tomb Of Terrors 50-movie, 12-disc set from Mill Creek’s Pendulum Pictures label for maybe $20-$25 and at least get a lost weekend’s worth of shittily-made horror flicks for your money, all with perfectly-serviceable full-frame transfers and stereo sound.

 

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To tell you the truth, though, I’m not so sure it’s fair to refer to the pablum that Bill Zebub churns out as being horror movies, per se, even though sitting through them can be a horrific experience. He actually doesn’t even strike me as a horror fan — he is, however, a rape fan, a torture fan, a humiliation fan, and not at all a fan of women. I dunno. I guess there’s an audience for this kind of shit out there somewhere. I’m just glad I’m not a part of it.

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The renaissance in home-made filmmaking that’s taken place in the late 90s and early aughts, and is picking up even more steam these days thanks to HD and streaming video and  what have you, is something of a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s exposed the work of unique amateur auteurs like Todd Sheets, Dave Wascavage, Ryan Cavalline, Jeff Leroy, and others (not all of whom are in any way , shape, or form talented, but that’s not really the point) to a wider audience than they ever could possibly have dreamed of.

On the other hand, it’s also given rise to the likes of Clifton, New Jersey’s Bill Zebub (ha ha, get it?), who really ought to consider looking into factory work at this point.

Zebub’s gotten a bit of notoriety on the fringes of the horror scene for luridly-titled shot-on-video works like Jesus Christ : Serial RapistRap SucksZombiechrist, and his latest, Antfarm Dickhole, but before he discovered the value of not actually taking himself too seriously, he specialized in thoroughly pointless half-assed torture porn along the lines of his 2004 debut effort, Kill The Scream Queen.

Now, normally any flick shot for $5,000 in a titty bar in the armpit of New Jersey during its off hours is one that I would be predisposed to liking, and things like total lack of plot, laughably bad “gore” effects, and risible acting wouldn’t deter my enjoyment of the proceedings in the least. I  have a pretty strong stomach for misogynistic sleaze, too (sorry, mom) so don’t think my distaste for this flick rises from some prudish sense of moralistic outrage. I assure you, I’m capable of finding enjoyment in some of the most depraved shit ever committed to film (or video, as the case may be), from Cannibal Holocaust  to Salo.

So what reservations could I possibly have about a poorly-staged, poorly-acted, largely (I hope, or there’s really no excuse) unscripted SOV movie about a guy who wears a stupid mask and lures unsuspecting females (I know, I know, you expected that to read “young females,” but given that the first victim on offer here is played by Deborah Dutch, who I remember from Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave  back in the day, it’s a safe bet that age wasn’t of nearly as much consideration when it came to Billy-Boy’s casting as was, perhaps, availability and/or a willingness to work on a project that some might shy away from for any number of reasons, be they personal, moral, or financial, all of which is my semi-polite way of saying it’s probably not easy to find actresses willing to take these type of roles, especially considering what little Zebub could probably afford to pay them) to star in his “real-life snuff film” by putting out a casting call for horror movie actresses? Well, let’s take a closer look and examine just where things go wrong here —

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First off, this movie’s complete and utter plotlessness actually does it no favors : literally nothing  happens here apart from women showing up to be raped, tortured, humiliated, and killed. Not a one of these gals can act, and even worse, neither can the killer, played by Zebub himself. A quick look at the credits reveals that none of these characters actually have names — they’re listed as “The Killer,” “First Victim,” “Rape Victim,” “Humiliation Victim,” etc. — and frankly that’s appropriate, because they’re all just there to either do bad shit or have bad shit done to them. What we call them is of no importance, rather like this movie itself.

Problem number two is the flick’s aforementioned complete and utter humorlessness. Mr. Zebub quite obviously takes his work here very seriously — he just doesn’t happen to be very good at it. If you don’t have enough money, talent, or both to stage convincing rape, torture, and murder scenes, then your only possible way to make things at least mildly interesting is to try to be somehow tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing. Zebub eschews that option in favor of a kind of bland and clinical earnestness that places this movie firmly into the category of “There’s No Actual Audience For This Shit,” since it’s too tame and phony-looking for the hard-core S&M crowd, who would be better off trying to score their — uhmmm — “entertainment” from one of the more extreme porn vendors (who shall remain nameless for purposes of this review) littering the internet or reading the latest Peter Sotos book, and it’s too free of tension, characterization, atmosphere, and drama for the horror crowd. Zebub doesn’t even know  how to make his characters so fucking boring that you can’t wait to see them killed. They’re just interchangeable pieces of meat, and he’s just a butcher knife who wears a mask and delivers a few lines.

And that brings us to the cardinal sin committed by Kill The Scream Queen — it’s just plain dull. Yes, folks, when completely stripped of anything even resembling context, the fact of the matter is that rape, torture, humiliation, and murder is some straight-up boring shit. You’ll be looking at your watch before Zebub  finishes off his first victim. Hell, you’ll be looking at it before he even starts in on her, so listless and tepid is the point-and-shoot style of “direction” on display here. I can sit through some pretty excruciatingly monotonous crap, but this flick was a chore even for me. Watching the flagpole rust or your toenails grow would be more involving.

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Anyway, if all this relentless criticism still isn’t enough to put you off this thing, or if you’re really fucked up and it’s somehow managed to actually firm up your resolve to survive its non-stop stream of mean-spirited tedium,  then by all means, don’t buy it as a stand-alone release — get it as part of Pendulum Pictures’ (a Mill Creek sub-label) six movie set Crazed Killers, which can usually be had for about five bucks. All the films are presented full-frame with passable-enough 5.1 sound and while not a one of ’em is what I’d call a good movie, the whole package does, at least, represent decent value for money.

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As wretched as Kill The Scream Queen is, though, there is one genuinely amazing thing about it — this is not, believe it or not,  Bill Zebub’s worst movie! I’ll get to that in our next review.