Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review: Killer Rack

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

Killer Rack
Directed by Gregory Lamberson
Crow-Nan Productions / River Ridge Reels / Slaughtered Lamb Productions
97 minutes, 2015

Before I start discussing the film on a deeper level, let me explain what we’re lookin’ at here: Betty (Jessica Zwolak) works hard for the Double D Collections company (“Proudly handling your assets”), but she is the only woman in the office with a low-end cleavage, so her chances of advancement by her boss (the irrepressible Michael Thurber!) fall kind of – er – flat. Her boyfriend Dutch (Sam Qualiana) is no longer interested, and even the horndog cat-callers on the corner won’t even give her the time of “woot.” She has such a low self-image, she can’t see that her friend and co-worker, Tim (Paul McGinnis) is in love with her. Even her therapist (Lloyd Kaufmann, King of Troma, plays an actual role, though it is a bit of an extended cameo, rather than his usual quickies) is on the snide side to her.

Debbie Rochon
She visits a shady doctor (who’s has the words “Plastic Surgeon” handwritten on a piece of paper and taped to the door) named Dr. Cate Thulu (Debbie Rochon, one of my fave queens of indie horror). Thulu has her own agenda, as she serves a Dark God by the name of Mammora (you heard me), and plans to help it control the world by… well, I’m guessing you’re already there.

This is a comedy on a few different levels. It is stupid and goofy as hell, but there is a very sharp intelligence that runs through it if you’re paying attention and can look up to it in the face. Similarly to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, you can get out of it what you want, but there is definitely more than it appears. I’ll get to that in a paragraph or three.

Most of the acting is expectedly just a bit over the top as well, but it’s definitely less demonstrative than the awful AC-ting work of, say, John Lithgow in 3rd Rock from the Sun. There definitely are some shining moments from most of the cast, especially from Rochon, who has a particularly good sense of comedic timing, even when her eyes are so emphasized; the brows look like they could be about six inches above her head. She and Thurber actually co-starred in one of my favorite films in the last few years, the very dark drama Exhumed (2011), though they share no scenes together in this one.

Shot around the Buffalo and Cheektowaga area (what, no Tonawanda?), City Hall makes its appearance in the first scene, a place I visited often in the 1980s when I would go and visit a record collector friend who worked there for many years. Most of the filming is actually indoors, but it is good to see some recognizable places. But, as I’m wont to do, I digress…

Jessica Zwolak,  Paul McGinnis
One of the great things about this film is the savviness of references that run throughout. Some are quite obvious, such as Betty showing up the first day after the enhancement saying “Tell me about it…stud,” but it’s the more subtle ones that made me laugh the hardest. For example, after the operation, Dr. Thulu’s assistant, Nurse Herbie (Robert Bozek) takes the exact same stance as Ernest Thesiger in the 1935 classic, The Bride of Frankenstein (see at 1:54 HERE).There is also a moment where some demonic-sprayed breast milk starts melting a businessman’s face, who whines, “Oh, no, not again!” This is particularly funny because he is played by Roy Frumkes, who wrote and produced the 1987 film, Street Trash.   

An alternative poster
Along with the bizarre non-sequitur musical showtune number in a dream sequence (“All you need is a pair of funbags”), there is a lot – and I mean a lot – of out-there humor. For example, there are take-offs of other films such as Tim saying “With great cup size comes great responsibility,” one frustrated co-worker of Betty snidely comments, about Betty’s enhancement, that for herself, “They’re real, and they’re spectacular,” and a great line at the end a comment made by two detectives that I can’t repeat because it could ruin the ending. Speaking of which, the two detectives? They are named Bartles and James.

Pay attention whenever Dr. Thulu and Nurse Herbie get together, because they are hysterical, and play off each other so well. For example there is this dialog:

Nurse: I don’t have any good lines! [he says breaking the fourth wall, reminiscent of a line from Monty Python during the mattress sketch, when Carol Cleveland laments, “But it’s my only line!”]
Dr.: You’re the assistant! All you need to say is, “Yes Mistress!”
Nurse: I refuse to be Igor; I’m way too pretty!

Rochon really does steal the film, and not just because I’m a fan. Just her reading of impatience at Betty’s getting undressed for an examination, saying “For the sake of the Dark One, would you take it off already?! C’mon, chop-chop!” gives some idea of her acting – er – chops.

One of the Killer Racks
I’m sure this will come into scrutiny as some heavy-handed killer female anatomy, but actually it’s quite a decent look at the way society views body image. Feeling inadequate due to small bust size is not male fantasy, but rather the way we are all mediated by prominence of the likes of the Kardashians and Kate Uptons. The film also addresses the male version of that at one point near the end of the film, which would lead perfectly into a sequel that I’m pretty sure is not in the plan (but would be welcomed by me). Speaking of which, stick through the end credits.


There actually is a history (subgenre perhaps?) of one aspect of the film, which is body extensions, be it for evil or not. On the not side, of course, there’s Marshall McLuhan’s image of technology being the extension of the body, such as the pen for the hand, glasses for the eyes, and computers for the brain. The evil side is more Cronenburg’s early work, such as Rabid (1977) and Videodrome (1973). More recently killer female anatomy could be seen in Teeth (2007) or appendages from transplants such as in Dustin Mills’ Night of the Tentacles  (2013).

I’ll admit I was looking forward to this as a bit of empty-headed fun. What I got instead was a multi-layered social treatise that was intelligent, psychotic, and yes, goofy. It was one of the more enjoyable films I have seen this year because it was so smartly ridiculous. And if you’re into it, as a drinking game, take a sip every time you recognize a reference. If you’re a film maven, I guarantee you’re gonna get smashed (not that I’m recommending that…).


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