Friday, April 03, 2015

Runaway Nightmare – review

Director: Mike Cartel

Release Date: 1982

Contains spoilers

There are some moments that take your breath away for all the wrong reasons and this film adds up into just under an hour and a half of such moments. This is pure grindhouse without the grind. A film that hints at violence but fairly much avoids it, a film with nudity but that depends on the version you see – as it seems to have been added in by a vhs distributor to spice up Mike Cartel's vision.

As for the vampirism aspect, as that is why we are here… well, let us just say it is casually strange and potentially non-existent! You’ll see what I mean.

burying the crate
Anyway we start with two blokes sat out in Death Valley. Ralph (Mike Cartel) and Jason (Al Valletta), Jason is trying to catch some rays as Ralph surveys the desert, rifle in hand. Jason is bored, he wants to head back to LA for a bit and see people. The two men are ranchers – worm (and snail) ranchers to be precise. Unbeknown to themselves, behind them two men are carrying a large crate into the desert and burying it whilst Jason bemoans that nothing ever happens out there.

Fate in crate
Ralph catches site of this just as they finish burying the crate and he and Ralph go and take a closer look. They don’t think it’s dumping garbage as they wouldn’t take the trouble to bury it and so uncover the lid and open it… to reveal a woman, Fate (Seeska Vandenberg). They establish she is still alive but unconscious and so decide to take her back to the ranch and phone the cops. Little do they know that some other women are watching them.

Ralph and Jason
They get back to the Ranch and Jason goes to get some water as figures flit past the window. The scene is shot like he doesn’t see them but he then says he suspects someone is out there and suggests Ralph gets his gun. They are, however, captured by three gun toting women. They take Fate and force the guys to go with them at gunpoint. They arrive at the hideout of an all-female cult and are told that cult leader Hespiria will decide their fate (Cindy Donlan). When Ralph tries to walk out Hespiria punches him unconscious with one well-placed hit.

held at gunpoint
He comes round in a cellar and the door mysteriously opens – so they make a run for it and, in a way that makes the scene pointless, the two men are recaptured almost immediately. They are then threatened with s&m and branding but Hespiria puts a stop to it. This is challenged by the sadist Sadie (Debbie Poropat) who asks for a dual – apparently she is the best shot and Hespiria is rubbish with guns – so the latter doesn’t draw. Sadie takes her time firing and – off screen – the gun explodes (as Hespiria gave her an exploding one) and blows her head off. The cult them decide to make the men cult members and test them by tying them to poles and then shagging them (apparently, again its off screen).

Alexis Alexander as Vampiria
And then we get a massively long section where Jason starts to fit in – treating it all like a great adventure and being rather popular with the ladies – whilst Ralph wants to escape, is generally disliked and accused (unfairly) of molesting the girls willy nilly. They even get taken to town where Ralph ends up at the end of a bar fly’s fist. So, where are the vampires? One of the women is called Vampiria (Alexis Alexander) – she wears a cloak, has a greyed face and hisses a lot. Not much to go on. Other antics include pretending to be a portrait and playing hot foot jokes on Ralph. At one point she lays a hand on him and says that every man she’s touched has met a violent death. However, is she anything more than someone dressing as a vampire?

strange ending
Plot wise, Fate reveals she was buried by the mob because the girls run guns for them and she had taken a briefcase of platinum. Eventually the guys are forced into raiding the mob's warehouse (in the most pathetically easy raid ever) and then defending as the mob come for revenge. However – beyond all that silliness – I do want to spoil the very end, where we get a “where are they now?” section for the characters and it is suggested that Ralph succumbed to a rare genetic disease (and was taken to a radiation test laboratory). We see him in a straitjacket and suddenly he greys, develops fangs and rips out of it – escaping into the night where Vampiria awaits.

posing as a portrait
Bizarre. For two-thirds of the film very little happens, it’s almost like a very tame bedroom farce. But with cults, worm ranches and the mob the film veers across genres like a drunk staggering home from a late night bar. The acting is rubbish, the dialogue daft and the plot strange, to say the least. Yet I can’t detest it, it had a strange charm – in fact Ralph had a strange charm. I feel positively mean giving it 3 out of 10, but know I have been positively generous in reality.

The imdb page is here.

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