In Mansionville, live 5 sisters, who the townsfolk love for the contributions they have made to the community: the Van Houtens, a doctor, a lawyer, a pharmacist, an engineer, and a foot model. Each year, the Van Houten sisters take their annual month long vacation. Mysteriously, at the same time, several men from Mansionville happen to leave as well. A film maker has come to do a documentary about these disappearances.
The Good: This independent, low budget film has a ton of potential. The soundtrack is really good! There are certain scene/song combinations that are very reminiscent of Goblin (The kings of the horror soundtrack.) These set the perfect sinister ambiance. The music style changes for each scene, depending on what atmosphere they’re trying to set, though it doesn’t always flow smoothly from scene to scene and that can be a little distracting.
The cinematography was very nice, excellent use of color and lighting. The choice of setting was interesting and thought provoking. The dialogue implied that the location was well researched, which makes me wonder if the ladies felt that they were putting on a piece of live performance art, perhaps as an offering along with their trophies. Or was the theater incidental, only a large open space needed, and no extra meaning intended.
The cast is full of eye candy (including Playboy model Rachael Robbins, as Leslie Van Houten, the town’s only doctor; Suzi Lorraine, as Candy Van Houten (that laugh was one of the best things about this movie), the foot model with a foot fetish; Melantha Blackthorne, as Susan Van Houten, the engineer; Seregon O’Dassey, as Rosalie Van Houten, the fiery pharmacist; and Jamie White, as Patricia Van Houten, the town’s public defender). Though I would not call this movie feminist or empowering for women (it’s a rape/torture porn with the male/female roles reversed), the demeanor of these actresses, whether or not they were clothed, is absolutely comfortable and confident, and make it clear that the women are not the ones being objectified.
There are some great cameos and bit parts from such horror icons as Tony Todd (as freaking God), Charles During (as Santa Clause), Frank Loggia (as the town sheriff), and, though not a horror icon, an icon none the less, Randy Jones. Dustin Diamond was Oliver Jaffe, the documentary film maker.
Also of note, the movie features an entertaining little film-within-a-film about Jesus, Santa, and Satan living in an apartment together, snippets of which were shown strategically throughout the film. It is irreverently, blasphemously funny.
The Bad: The story is confusing. I couldn’t really tell which story is the main plot. Is it to tell the story of the sister’s sadistic vacation habits? If so, I’m really not clear what the point of stressing the “month-long vacation” when the story’s timeline lasts only a week. Maybe it’s to tell what happened to the documentary film maker, Jaffe, when he runs afoul the Van Houtens. In which case, they needed to make him a much more sympathetic character, because he is rather an uninspired, arrogant jerk. His interview scenes felt like filler (Except Frank Loggia, who is always awesome). I can typically suspend my disbelief, but really struggled with this film because of the plot holes, lack of likable characters, and continuity issues.
The Ugly: WTF is up with the “kissing”? Is that “satire”? The close ups of tongues doing battle were just weird.
The movie is paced well and moves along nicely in most places. I just didn’t know who to cheer for in this flick. I did not find anything likable in any of the characters and that made the whole experience unique. Overall, this movie is worth watching, though it is definitely not for everyone. If you’re an exploitation or torture porn fan who likes low budget, indie movies, you may enjoy this.