The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Christina’s House (dir by Gavin Wilding)


This 2000 straight-to-video film opens with a shocking and effectively violent scene in which an innocent girl scout is yanked into a dilapidated house and bludgeoned to death.  There’s even a slow-motion shot of crushed cookies falling to the floor.  It’s excessive, tasteless, and so ludicrous that it actually makes you think that Christina’s House could actually be, if nothing else, an enjoyably self-aware exploitation film.

Unfortunately, everything pretty much goes downhill after that scene.  The rest of the film deals with Christina (Allison Lange), a teenage girl with an annoying father named James (John Savage), an annoying brother named Bobby (Lorne Stewart), an annoying boyfriend named Eddy (Brendan Fehr), and an annoying admirer named Howie (Brad Rowe).  That may sound like a lot of annoying people for one person to deal with but Christina actually manages to be even more annoying than all of them.  Absolutely no one in this film comes across as being someone with whom you would want to be trapped in a murder house.

Anyway, Christina’s mom has been institutionalized in a Washington mental hospital so James, has rented out a nearby house.  (Naturally, it’s the same house where that girl scout was previously killed.)  James appears to be almost absurdly overprotective of and strict with Christina but it’s also possible that he might just be an asshole in general.  He’s certainly not happy that she’s dating Eddy, who is the local bad boy and who does stuff like hang out on the roof at night.  James would probably be happier if Christina was dating Howie, who has been hired to help fix up the house.  Howie’s so respectful and such a hard worker.  He’s a man who really knows how to handle a hammer.

Christina, however, has other things on her mind.  For one thing, young women are being murdered and the creepy sheriff (Jerry Wasserman) keeps coming by the house and asking strange questions.  Add to that, Christina sometimes thinks that she can hear someone or something in the attic.  Of course, every time that she tries to investigate, her father comes out of his bedroom and yells at her.

(It could just be that James doesn’t want his daughter spending her nights wandering around in her underwear and searching for a vicious killer, in which case James probably has a point.  Still, he’s kind of a jerk about it.)

Who is the murderer?  Is it Eddie, Bobby, or Howie?  Or could it maybe be James?  What if the sheriff’s somehow involved?  Well, don’t worry!  The identity of the murderer is revealed about an hour into this 90-minute film and it’s exactly who you think it’s going to be.

If not for the extremely odd performance of John Savage, this film would be totally forgettable.  Savage was the film’s “prestige” actor, a performer who previously appeared in films like The Deer Hunter, the third Godfather, Do The Right Thing, and The Thin Red Line before finding himself in Christina’s House.  John Savage attacks the role of James with all of the ferocity of an actor who has gone from co-starring with Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken to playing second fiddle to Allison Lange and Brendan Fehr.  Savage yells every line and glares at his co-stars with the fury of a man on a mission of vengeance.  As a result, both the actor and the character that he’s playing come across as if they’re always just one annoyance away from putting his fist through a wall.  James may be written as an overprotective father but Savage plays him as being a borderline sociopath.  It’s such a totally inappropriate and misjudged performance that it becomes oddly fascinating to watch.  It takes a great actor to give as entertainingly bad a performance as the one given by John Savage in Christina’s House.

With the exception of Savage’s over-the-top theatrics and Jerry Wasserman’s memorably creepy turn, the rest of the cast is largely forgettable.   The problem is that, as written, most of the characters are fairly unlikable and you really don’t care whether they die or not.  When the killer eventually trapped Christina and Bobby in their new home, I found myself more worried about the house than either of them.

Christina’s House is available on YouTube and sometimes, it shows up on late night television.  (I saw it on This TV.)  It’s pretty dumb but if you’re  fan of good actors bellowing in rage, you might want to watch it.

Film Review: The Cutting Edge: Fire and Ice (dir by Stephen Herek)


 

Right now, like all good people, I am totally obsessed with the Winter Olympics.  The skiing, the figure skating, the bobsleds, the luge .. even that silly speed skating thing that they do.  For the next two weeks, I’ll be loving all of it.  Last night, I not only watched the Opening Ceremonies but I also watched two movies about figure skating: Ice Princess and The Cutting Edge: Fire and Ice!

The Cutting Edge: Fire and Ice tells the story of Alex Delgado (Francia Raisa) and James McKinsey (Brendan Fehr).  Alex used to be a champion figure skater until her partner (both on the ice and in romance) retired.  This led to Alex not only retiring but also breaking up with the man who she thought was the love of her life.  Now, she spends her time teaching children how to skate and not going out on dates.  Her mother worried about Alex.  Not only is she throwing away her dreams but she also appears to be destined to be alone forever.

James was a champion speed skater, until his cocky attitude and his anger management programs got the better of him.  After punching out one of his teammates, James is suspended from speed skating.  However, James and his agent have a plan!  What if James becomes a … figure skater!?  He just needs a good coach and a great partner.  The coach is easy to find.  Zhen Zheng (Zhenhu Han) may not speak English but he loves a challenge and he travels with a translator (Russell Yuen).

But what about finding the right partner?  No one wants to skate with James, especially since everyone assumes that this is all just a publicity stunt until he’s able to get his suspension overturned.  When Alex is first approached about coming out of retirement and partnering up with James, she refuses.  But then, she realizes that, even if she doesn’t like James, she loves to skate and she loves to compete…

It’s not a match made in heaven, for all of the usual PG-13 reasons.  James is cocky and, instead of getting rest before practice, he goes to a party and then he has to skate with a hangover.  Alex is determined and disciplined but she’s afraid to take chances.  When James comes up with a spectacular move, Alex isn’t sure if they should do it or not.  At first, it doesn’t seem like they’ll ever be able to work together but then, things change.  Alex discovers that James loves children.  James discovers that Alex can shoot pool.  Add to that,  they’re the best-looking people in the movie and that means that they’re destined to get together.

The Cutting Edge: Fire and Ice is a film that is all about montages.  The film proves that you can learn anything in a montage.  As long as the right music is playing in the background, you can go from being awkward on the ice to a championship skater in one montage.  You can go from hating each other to being madly in love in montage.  Any questions you may have about the film’s plot can be answered by a montage.

This movie was made for Freeform, back when it was still ABC Family.  So, don’t expect anything too edgy.  At one point, James and Alex play strip poker and are both in their underwear when Alex’s mom drops by.  That’s about as wild as things get.  That said, this was a sweet if predictable movie.  Brendan Fehr and Francia Raisa had a lot of chemistry and the skating scenes were fun to watch.  I liked the fact that Alex refused to put up with anyone’s crap and the film celebrated her for that.  (Just compare this film to the original The Cutting Edge.)  I also liked the fact that James and Alex initially bonded during a bar fight.  Seriously, some of the greatest relationships in the world began with a brawl in a bar.

The Cutting Edge: Fire and Ice was a sweet, little movie.  It won’t change the world but I enjoyed it.

Cleaning Out The DVR: Wrapped Up In Christmas (dir by Peter Sullivan)


(Hi there!  So, as you may know because I’ve been talking about it on this site all year, I have got way too much stuff on my DVR.  Seriously, I currently have 193 things recorded!  I’ve decided that, on January 15th, I am going to erase everything on the DVR, regardless of whether I’ve watched it or not.  So, that means that I’ve now have only have a month to clean out the DVR!  Will I make it?  Keep checking this site to find out!  I recorded Wrapped Up In Christmas off of Lifetime on November 25th!)

It’s not easy being a single mother during the Christmas season, especially when you’re a young and ambitious professional who works as the general manager of a struggling mall.  You want everyone to have a good Christmas but your boss is demanding that you evict all of the locally owned stores.  You want to find a good man and a good stepfather for your daughter but every man you meet has nothing in common with you.  You’re sophisticated.  You have dreams.  You have ambition.  You have an education.  You don’t want just any slacker.

And then one day, you meet a man who seems like he’s perfect.  He’s a lawyer, even though he’s currently helping his mom run her toy store (a store that just happens to be on the list of businesses that you’re supposed to evict).  He seems to be interested in everything that you’re interested in!  It seems like he’s perfect but what you don’t know is that he’s putting on an act.  See, he not only works in his mom’s toy store.  He’s also been voluntarily serving as the mall’s Santa Claus and when your daughter told him that she wanted you to find a man for Christmas, she also told him everything that you’re looking for.

Meanwhile, all the lovable people who work in the mall are giving your new man advice on how to impress you and your boss is still demanding that you evict everyone the week before Christmas and suddenly, you realize that everything that could happen in a Lifetime holiday movie has happened…

Seriously, if there’s anything that distinguishes Wrapped Up In Christmas from other holiday Lifetime films, it’s just how complete it is.  There’s literally nothing that doesn’t happen.  It’s all here.  A workaholic protagonist who needs to learn the true meaning of Christmas.  A nearly saintly man who happens to have one secret that could possibly derail his otherwise perfect relationship.  A cute child.  Santa-involved intervention.  A family of matchmakers.  (Actually, this one has two families of matchmakers.)  It’s all here!

Anyway, I liked Wrapped Up In Christmas.  There was nothing really special about it but it had a sweet soul and Tatyana Ali and Brendan Fehr was likable in the leads.  It’s an enjoyable little holiday movie.