Wednesday 21 January 2015

Eaten Alive! A Tasteful Revenge (1999)

Director: Gary Whitson
Stars: Debbie D, Barbara Joyce, Tina Krause, Sunny and Dean Paul

Index: Weird Wednesdays.

Leaping forward seventy years from The Fireman of the Folies Bergère, which felt ahead of its time, here is a bizarre movie that feels notably behind its time. While WAVE Productions was started to make films like the serials of the forties and horror and sci-fi movies of the drive in era, they didn't have the budgets or the acting talent of the studios that inspired them, so became something else entirely. They're still in business today, with what is now a huge archive of fetish films, made to satisfy a whole variety of fetish needs. There isn't any sex in WAVE Productions movies, but there are usually many girls getting naked or at least stripping down to their panties, along with a threadbare plot that involves another niche fetish activity. They're the folk behind titles like Thunder & Lightning 3: Chloroformed Heroines, Hypnotized and Cloned Models and Cannibal Island: Jungle Girl Barbecue, though some are far more mundane, such as Test Shoot, Love Object or Burglar. And let's not forget compilations like WAVE's Best Drowning Clips 3!

Eaten Alive! A Tasteful Revenge dates back to 1999 when it was one of thirteen releases that year, after sixty or so previous titles dating back to the company's founding in 1987. As you might expect from the title, it's a cannibalism fetish video, running around half an hour and featuring cheap sets, topless girls and horrible special effects, though the green blast from Stacey's shrinking pistol is surprisingly capable. In fact, the effects work gets better throughout the film, as if the crew didn't quite know how to handle a greenscreen set up early on but started to figure it out by the time the film wrapped. Most of all, though, it has an astoundingly inane plot with stunningly inane dialogue that never ceases to amaze, however under the influence you happen to be at the time. Lead actress Debbie D grins her way through the film, even though she's supposed to be running through emotions like jealousy, rage and satisfaction. She's one of the WAVE mainstays, nowadays a producer herself, but this is far from her finest hour.

As we begin, she's working as 'an executive in a cosmetic and fashion company', according to the WAVE Productions website. We wouldn't be able to tell that otherwise, because the sets are stunningly generic: what could be a doctor's walk in cupboard, the corner of an executive office and a shower, used without the shower curtain drawn, of course. Stacey is excited because there's a promotion up for grabs and her friend, Dr Baines, he of the wildly inconsistent accent, has mastered a new invention, which the pair will keep secret for now. It's a rather bulbous grey gun, which looks like it was 3D printed but was probably a NERF weapon with a sextoy attached, all painted one relentless colour. It has the power to either enlarge things or to shrink them, which opens up all sorts of possibilities like giving cows more meat and making Fantastic Voyage a reality. I wonder how that's going to get used in a movie called Eaten Alive! Answers on the back of a postcard, please.
Now what scenario could be conjured up that might prompt Stacey to use such a dangerous weapon? It's not merely that she doesn't land the promotion she wants, it's that Trish, her boss, lets her down in such an evil fashion. 'You're an attractive woman,' she suggests, 'but I needed the most attractive woman in the company.' Ouch! And that's Stacey's roommate, Lisa! Double ouch! And Robin would have been the second choice! Triple ouch! And... you get the picture. So what's a poor overlooked cosmetics executive to do? Well, what else but to steal Dr Baines's secret new invention, go home, stand there grinning while Lisa takes a gratuitous shower, then shrink her, bind her with string and eat her, slowly and sadistically. You had a different idea? Well, you don't work for WAVE Productions, so what do you know? Of course, it couldn't be more appropriate for Stacey to verify that Lisa is prettier than her. Of course, on noticing her, Lisa would cover her boobs not her bush. Of course, she'd eat her as a little naked snack. Why not?

Actually my biggest problem with these scenes is the dialogue. I can deal with the fact that the rest of the plot is just repetition; after devouring Lisa, Stacey only has to work her way through the rest of the cast in similar fashion until the end credits roll. After Tina Krause's nude shower scene, which highlights how Lisa is definitely more attractive than Stacey, I'm OK that nobody else actually gets naked; presumably Sunny, who was introduced here, and Barbara Joyce just have different contracts. I'm fine with the stunning story progression that has Robin and Stacey try on bikini after bikini, because hey, this is a fetish video. Frankly I'm even accepting of the outrageously awful greenscreen work that makes the swallowing scenes rather reminiscent of tenth generation VHS copies of Terry Gilliam animations. People don't buy fetish videos for their budgets, they buy them because they have the drowning/asphyxiation/cannibalistic/insert personal fetish choice here enacted by half naked ladies. But the dialogue... how is that not a turnoff?
I honestly think this would play better with the sound off. Then we can't hear Dean Paul switch from some sort of Alpine accent to blustering British and back like he's been shot by some other secret gun. Talking of accents, it would save us from Debbie D's accent getting broader every time she gets angry, like when she screams at her boss, 'We done here!?' Mostly though, it would excuse us from cannibalism puns that vary from cheesy, such as, 'This job would eat you alive!' to oddly inappropriate ones that sound horribly wrong, like, 'I'm not an ass kisser any more; I'm more like an ass eater!' Oh, and let's not forget just how poorly these non-actors mumble the lines that they should scream. For some reason, when stripped half-naked, shrunk to action figure size and about to be eaten, all anyone can say is, 'Don't drop me.' I'm not expecting Tennessee Williams dialogue or Marlon Brando delivery, but this is stunningly awful. I could do better, but I don't want to writhe around in my undies in a huge fake mouth being sprayed by saliva.

I have to say that I had a blast watching this film, though it's probably less for the movie itself and more for the fact that I was nursing a white Russian and watching with family. Their reactions were even more priceless than the bad CGI, the worse dialogue and the flamboyantly awful acting. I'm fascinated to see how some of these folk progressed over the years, because a few are major names in this scene. Debbie D has made over three hundred movies, including The Deepening, alongside Gunnar Hansen and Debbie Rochon, which played the first Phoenix Fear Fest, and Bill Zebub's gleefully titled The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made: The Re-Make. Tina Krause is actually not awful here and has also racked up a filmography full of outrageous Z movie titles. The catch is that WAVE Productions films are often short but expensive (like the $25 for this 30 minute DVD). Even a skimpy 287 MB WMV download of a 2014 title like The Dream Killer! Chapter 1 runs $20 and longer films can be more expensive still. What's your credit card limit?

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