Slasher Month: Dead Girls (1989)

Back in the early ’90s, when it came to SOV productions released direct-to-VHS, writer-director Dennis Devine (2020’s Camp Blood 8 and 2019’s The Haunting of La Llorona) was a name you could trust to give you the goods. Problem was, his stuff was impossible to find on video store shelves—surely not at a Blockbuster, but shockingly, not at many, if any, mom ‘n pops. As was the case with most of the ‘80s-’90s SOV cannons—even after Christopher Lewis, with Blood Cult, proved you could successfully distribute movies shot direct on 3/4” tape direct to retail-rental outlets—you had to buy Devine’s works via mail order via ads in the back of Famous Monsters. (Well, not Famous Monsters; that was a bit too slick, as I recall. But it was one of those pulpy, black & white horror mags from back in the day.)

Ah . . . the dot-matrix cover tucked behind the plastic-sleeved clamshell I remember/courtesy of critcononline.com

So, being a sucker for and a collector of rock ‘n’ roll-oriented films of any genre—including horror—and the fact that all of the pulpy, underground critics raved about Dead Girls—I sent in my little grocery store money order to Something Weird Video (I think it was them; it was one of the those mail-order film studios-distributors). And as is the case with most, if not all, Dennis Devine productions (several of which I picked up over time; to date, he’s directed 31 and wrote 23 films), Dead Girls was a pretty decent flick that lent to replays over succeeding Halloweens. That is, until—as is the case with all mail-order film studios procuring low-grade VHS tapes in multi-packed, shrink-wrapped bricks and churning out copies via high-speed dubbing machines—my copy of Dead Girls caught a bad case of the molds. (And the mold grew . . . and spread to and took out Alice Cooper’s Monster Dog cataloged next to it; why that cataloging? I don’t recall the reasoning that paired the two. I think I was just messy-lazy in my alphabettin’.)

If only Dow came up with a video tape cleaner!

So, why am I waxing nostalgically sad over an admittedly obscure ‘80s (well, ’90s) SOV? Well, we have to blame Sammy P, B&S About Movies Chief Cook and Bottle Washer (again, I am just the fry cook, grease bit scrubber, and dumpster pad cleaner around ‘ere) for reviewing ALL of the Scream movies (in one week; the last week of August/first week of September) and yeath proclaiming all review slots for the month of October be forth dedicated to Slasher Movies—so say we all (moan) from under our cloak and cowls (and fedoras, hee hee). And since fans of the horror blockbuster Scream, which itself is a mock-slasher parody-homage, will recognize the plotline similarity to Dead Girls, which was completed several years prior to the later, 1996 Wes Craven hit, we’re reviewing it. So thanks, Mr. P! (For the uninitiated: Scream had deaths according to horror movies; Dead Girls had kills by songs.)

Yeah, I love it when the analog stars align at B&S About Movies and inspire a review. I wonder if Dennis Devine will drop us a pissy note in our “Feedback” section, decrying us for “how dare” we review their masterpieceshite without “permission” forthwith. . . . Nah, Double D’s not a maniacal, “Oscar bound” auteur. And his stuff isn’t shite. Oops, I’m getting pissy and off point, again. DOWN BOY! Good boy. . . .

Who da frack are these girls? That’s not Diana, Angela Eads, Kay, and Angela Scaglione . . . wait, is it? Curse you, art department!

The retail-rental slipcase reissue that I don’t remember/courtesy of 112 Video via Paul Zamerelli of VHS Collector.com.

So, anyway . . . the Dead Girls are a female death metal band . . . but their low-grade rock is neither “death” nor “metal” and reminds of the Cycle Sluts from Hell . . . remember CSFH’s freak, ‘90s metal-parody hit “I Wish You Were a Beer” . . . and its members Queen Vixen, She-Fire of Ice, Honey 1%’er, and Venus Penis Crusher . . . only the Dead Girls aren’t that good . . . where’s Gord Kirchin’s gag-studio project Piledriver (music newly featured in Girls Just Want to Have Blood) when you need ‘em?

Anyway, I digress . . . the Dead Girls come complete with the “evil aliases” of—an idea that, I bet Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson, swiped (just kiddin’ Manson, had to work your aliases-band into the review)—Lucy Lethal, Randy Rot (the male “pussy” of the group on drums; brother of lead singer Ms. Lethal), Bertha Beirut, Nancy Napalm and Cindi Slain. Their collective shticks, which we learn through journalistic expositional babble (ugh): Cindi Slain (aka ex-magician-illusionist Susie Striker) is into self-eviseration, Bertha Beirut likes to strangle herself on stage with the American flag, and Nancy Nepalm is the para-military “Lemmy” of the group; a “weapons expert” who adorns herself in camo and “live” ammo-bullet belts and jaggling explosives as she slings a custom “machine gun guitar” (on loan from mid-’80s Alice Cooper guitarist Kane Roberts).

Of course, “death rock” is “on the way out” (don’t tell that to King Diamond and Cronos of Venom), with their manager urging them into a more “commercial” Into the Pandemonium-to-Cold Lake Celtic Frost fuckover as he sends the girls into the “Cherry Orchards” (no pun intended, I swear!) and be the friggin’ the Go-Go’s with friggin’ Wall of Voodoo covers. Do you remember when the record executives eviscerated Motley Crue’s collective gunny sacks and went from Shout at the Devil bondage leathers to day-glow the Bangles biker pastels, stopped singing about Satan and gave us songs about girls and friggin’ motorcycles and doctors and “going home” ad nauseam, ala Poison? Yeah, like that . . . all the world needs another “Clowns,” by golly! Or maybe we’ll get lucky and Artie the manager (Brian Chin, who became a voice actor then became an animation storyboard artist) will turn them into Vixen and rock us with “Edge of a Broken Heart” or Lita Ford with “Kiss Me Deadly,” perhaps? Nah, Artie’s a dipshite who thinks touring the warzones of Russian-occupied Yugoslavia is a smart career move.

Kane Roberts; courtesy of Floyd Rose.com/Celtic Frost; Metal Addicts.com.

As was the case with the dippy-dopey Champaign, Illinois, new-wave poppers the Names not finding any success until they transformed themselves into a low-rent Kiss-cum-Phantom of the friggin’ Opera (not) “metal” band the Clowns slicing up mannequins in Terror on Tour (Am I the only one who remembers “Lonely” and the Queensryche-ish album Transcendence from the phantom half-masked Crimson Glory hailing from the metal wilds of Tampa, Florida?), the gals of the Dead Girls weren’t finding much success with their dippy-dopey, new-wave synth-droning, so they went (not) death “metal,” complete with images of death that were devised as a marketing gimmick to sell records—no one was supposed to take them seriously, so says lead lyricist, sweet Gina Verilli, aka Bertha Beirut. (Now, I know this is sexist, but I got those boilin’ hormones—actress Diana Karanikas (as Gina) is the most heart weeping, prefect mix of “hot” and “cute” to ever bless the screen. And she friggin’ quit the biz after this film. Heartbreaking. Also quitting, after doing Things II for Devine: Angela Eads as Dana/Lucy Lethal; is it just me, or does she look like the perpetual Lifetime damsel-in-distress Alexandra Paul of Christine fame? Just sayin’.)

Anyway, the (coke) mirror, that is, “image” cracks when a group of teenagers, led by Gina’s sister Brooke (sexy/creepy Ilene B. Singer in her only film role; why did everyone quit the biz after this movie) commit a mass suicide to the soundtrack of the Dead Girls. Uh, oh. Career over? Nay, it’s time to hop into the Mystery Machine, Shaggy! We need recuperate Sam Raimi-style in the not-so Norwegian Wood. (Speaking of the Beatles . . . and death rock, did you ever hear Coroner’s cover of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” well, you just did.)

Hmmmm . . . seems someone in the Dead Girls band camp paid attention to the James Vance and Ray Belknap Judas Priest “subliminal suicides” of 1986 (which became an hour-long PBS segment, Dream Deceivers in 1992) and the three Ozzy Osbourne heavy metal suicide trials of 1985 to 1990. (Dream Deceivers is on You Tube; you can find Ozzy trial clips HERE and HERE.)

Anyway . . . yeppers, it’s more dopey rockers of the Blood Tracks and Monster Dog variety driving right into the mayhem as they head off to a secluded country retreat for rest and relaxation—and for Gina to take care of her sole-surviving sister, much to the chagrin of her bible thumpin’ aunt who cared for them after their parents died in a car crash. (That’s gratitude; Auntie takes you in, gives you room and board; you form a death metal band in spite; while little sis has metal posters on the walls.) Oh, and get this: Gina has E.S.P abilities, so she foresees all this coming . . . but still goes to the wooden retreat (fuck, not Spine, again?) . . . where, in a Friday the 13th twist, a psychotic fan—cloaked in a black cape, fedora, and skull mask (the “Scream” part) goes “Billy Eye Harper” and unfurls the Rocktober Blood, murdering managers, boyfriends, fans, and musicians in short order, using the lyrics as a “how to” guide.

Although the script indicates lyrics to songs such as “Drown Your Sorrows,” “Nail Gun Murders,” “Hangman,” “Angel of Death” and “You’ve Got to Kill Yourself,” none of the songs appear in the film, nor does the band perform on screen. So, while we’re denied the “death metal,” what sets this Devine production heads and shoulders heads above most (well, all other) SOVs is that make-up wizard Gabe Bartolos, who also worked on the Basket Case and Leprechaun film series, handles the special effects and gives us a film that is as fun as—and significantly better than, but not as revered as, the rock ‘n’ horror, “No False Metal” classics that are Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare and Shock ‘Em Dead. All in all, Devine’s go-to scribe, Steve Jarvis (Things II and a dozen other Devine productions), gives us decent film noirish twists, double crosses, dream-within-dream fuck yous, floppin’ red herrings (bitchy aunts, pussy-whipped uncles, creepy preachers in need of an eyebrow trim, Christian ex-boyfriends, mentally-challenged caretakers, Yugoslavian reporters, graduates from the Josef Mengele School of Nursing, pseudo-lesbian uber fans, beefcake bodyguards, Ms. Lethal and Mr. Rot are into incest and bondage), and you-didn’t-see-that-coming moments to keep you entertained.

Now, remember in our review of Spine, when I mentioned a fellow con-freak discussion where I “learned” that star Janus Blythe was “in the running” for the Janet-role on ABC-TV’s Three’s Company and “lost out” on the part of Lynn Starling in Rocktober Blood? Well, in a con-conversation about Dead Girls: I also “learned” that the reason you never heard from any of these actresses ever again—sans one, maybe two, Dennis Devine flicks—is that all of these actresses were actually incognito adult film stars, you know, like Michelle Bauer (Beverly Hills Vamp! Witch Academy! Evil Toons! Sorority Babes in the Slime Bowl-o-Rama!), who aka’d as adult star Pia Snow, and Linnea Quigley, who aka’d as adult star Jessie Dalton (Linnea’s out with two new ones: The Good Things Devils Do and Clownado). As with the Janus Blythe rumor: I can’t confirm these assumed adult identities, if any, of the cast of Dead Girls.

And since we’re dredging up all of these old movies, let’s talk The Redeemer (aka The Redeemer: Son of Satan, aka VHS Class Reunion Massacre; You Tube/trailer)*. You’ll recall that masked killer dispatched victims wearing . . . a skull mask under a cape and cowl (sans fedora). So, while horror connoisseurs call out Wes Craven for “pinching” Dead Girls, can we call out the Dennis Devine-Steve Jarvis-Gabe Bartolos collective borrowing the skull mask idea from Constantine S. Gochis (Cochis shot it in ’75 and released it in ’78, so it predates Carpenter’s Halloween)? Just sayin’.

And major kudos to the gang at The VHS Apocalypse over on You Tube for taking the time to rip those faux hard-rock ditties of the SOV-era and uploading them. Here’s the Dead Girls end-credits tune “You’re Gonna Kill Yourself” to enjoy.

And alright! You Tube comes through in the clutch! I haven’t watched Dead Girls in years (f-you, mold.) But I am now with a very nice, clean VHS-rip courtesy of The Burial Ground 5. (BG5’s got 1974’s Corpse Eaters? 1988’s Brainsucker? Yes! Now, that’s a motherf-in’ Halloween double-feature right there!)

And now . . . while we are on the subject of obscure tunes from obscure films—in this case, 1989’s Twister—that no one has heard or seen sidebar: Bless you, William Gibson You Tube, for VHS-ripping Crispin Glover’s “band” the Uncalled Four and their downer-rocker “Dance Etiquette (Daddy’s So Mean)” off the film’s end credits. But here’s the scene where it was featured. (Crispin, what in the hell did your daddy, Bruce, do to you? Just kiddin’. Let’s get a beer!)

The schlub writer sucking up for acting work sidebar: Mr. Devine, I act. And I have a reel. Could I be in one of your movies? (Did you think I wrote this review out of the goodness of my heart? Nope. Pure sucking up for acting work!)

* Be sure to join B&S About Movies, in conjunction with Drive-In Asylum, every Saturday Night at 8 PM U.S. EST with your hosts Bill Van Rynof Groovy Doom and Sam Panico for the Groovy Doom Saturday Night Double-Feature Watch Party as they roll two “theme” movies every week and discuss them in a live stream/chat. They recently screened The Redeemer with Beyond the Door.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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