Grotesque (1988)

Sometimes, you encounter things on Amazon Prime that you feel were made for just you. Take this 1988 forgotten horror movie, which stars Linda Blair and Tab Hunter as family members at war with a gang of street punks while something even more terrifying waits in the wings.

An insane woman tells a deformed man that he has two choices: to kill her or make love to her. He then bites her neck, murdering her as we soon learn that this is all a movie within a movie, the latest from horror special effects master Orville Kruger (Guy Stockwell, younger brother of Dean).

After finishing the movie, Orville plans a family get-together in the San Bernardino Mountains with his wife, daughter Lisa (Blair, the main reason I picked this movie) and her friend Kathy (Donna Wilkes, Angel herself!). His brother, Rod (Hunter), will join them later. But before any of hat can happen, Lisa and Kathy run afoul of a gang of punks led by Scratch, who are coming back from Nevada where their last home invasion led to them killing off an entire family.

Lisa asks her mom her Patrick is. Her mother cryptically mentions that he has good and bad days, then later mentions feeding him.

The movie then gives us jump scares galore, as Orville frightens Kathy with a sea creature and a series of his props. He wonders if she’s able to tell the difference between his effects and reality.

Lisa and Kelly go to bed, only to awaken to the punk gang arriving and holding everyone hostage with threats of rape, torture and worse. They’re convinced that Orville is hiding a fortune in the house, but when he tells them he doesn’t have one, they beat him to death. We notice two eyes watching everything.

The girls escape, but Lisa’s mother isn’t so lucky. The gang catches up to Kathy, who is stabbed by a female member of the gang that thinks that she’s in La Venganza de los Punks. Lisa jumps through a window to escape, running through the snow, as the deformed man appears, takes out most of the gang and saves Lisa.

The police soon arrive, as does Uncle Rod. They start looking for suspects and come upon the deformed man attacking Scratch and Shelley, the last two punks. The police shoot first and don’t really ask questions later, killing the mystery man and taking the gang members into custody.

This is where — in a normal film — we’d be close to the conclusion. But not here. Nope. Lisa has a blood clot and a 50/50 chance of survival, but ends up on the bad half and dies. Since she was the only witness, Scratch and Shelley are due to be released. That’s when Uncle Rod explains that the deformed man was named Patrick (is he Australian?) and that he was an abandoned child that the Krugers raised as their own son.

Rod takes the law into his own hand, forcing Scratch and Shelley back to the Kruger home and explaining how he has the same facial deformities as Patrick because (dramatic music) he’s his father! This Tourist Trap twist kind of makes sense, if only for the meta reason that Chuck Connors and Tab Hunter were both cowboy actors who did horror movies at the end of their careers. It turns out that Orville created the special effects that allowed him to live in normal society. But now, even Rod’s horrifying face is beautiful compared to what he’s done to the two villains.

You’d think that this twist is also where the film ends, but nope. Yes, in a movie of pre-meta meta, this has all been another movie. But that’s still not the end. No, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolfman are in the projectionist booth, arguing over the film. The lycanthrope states his case that the film doesn’t accurately depict monsters by smashing the projector while Dr. Frankenstein’s greatest creation gives this one 8 out of 10. They agree to disagree and attack everyone watching the movie because after all, they’re the best.

I’m not certain that the makers of this movie had any clue what they were doing at any moment in its production, but that’s OK. The end result is so totally strange that you can’t help but adore just how off the rails it goes by the end. There’s no way you can sum this one up in a setence. It really is a movie that not only jumps mood but also main characters and even genre by the end of the film.

Want to see this for yourself? You can get it from Shout! Factory or watch it on Amazon Prime.

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