Rena Riffel, I really want to get to know you better. Like seriously, I want to buy you a nice lunch and discuss your life and learn more about it. I want to know how this movie came to be, what got it made and what you’re doing now. Because man, this movie…I’m not frequently surprised by movies, but you’ve punched me repeatedly in the head and my brain hit my skull and everything is swimming.
A movie concussion.
You’ve given me a movie concussion.
Showgirls is either a movie that you absolutely hate or completely love. You’ll not be surprised to know that I fall in the later camp. So when I learned that Rena, who plays Penny in that movie, had made her own movie, I just had to devour it.
But how did it come to be?
I got the chance to ask Mike Justice, who played Bob — Beer Drinker 1 and the assistant editor on this movie, to shed some light on it.
B&S About Movies: So how does a movie like this happen?
Mike Justice: Because Carolco was bankrupt and the rights reverted back to Paul Verhoeven and she asked him and he just sort of chuckled and said, “Go for it.”
B&S: And why?
Mike: Rena just had TONS of fringe Hollywood friends; like sub-sub Dr. Drew Rehab/Surreal Life types. Horror hosts and strippers and ex-junkies and shit like that. She’d made a DIY musical called Trasharella that was a minor hit, so she thought her best course of action to get one of her adorkable home movies starring all her weird friends noticed was to make a “sequel” to Showgirls. And I guess she was right.
B&S: But how did she get the cash — beyond a Kickstarter — or the money to think that she could do this?
Mike: She was managing an apartment building in Hollywood and didn’t have to pay rent. She also didn’t really like fixing things or managing the apartments, so she had tons of free time to make DIY WTF “movies.”
Rena was sort of like a nicer, less aggressive, non-drug-addicted Anna Nicole Smith; everyone around her was to varying degrees obsessed with her/in love with her/willing to do anything for her. And she was pretty smart.
B&S: So what was it like being part of it?
Mike: I remember when some extras showed up responding to an ad looking for people for the sequel to Showgirls. They walk into this cheap Mexican restaurant and are met by Rena and a guy in a paper mache devil mask. They almost ran away.
I was on that set for a few weeks doing data management. It was surreal.
What I love is when the artist becomes the auteur, so not only did Rena direct, write, produce and edit this movie, but she stars in it as Penny Slot, a girl with a dream. Isn’t that always the way?
And what if — in a sequel to Showgirls — the movie stars with Penny being ripped off by the same drifter (Dewey Weber) who robbed Nomi Malone? Everything seems normal but then she’s nearly killed by the MILF Murderer and barely makes it to Hollywood, where she’s either going to get on Stardancer, star in Showgirls 2 or die trying. After all, she has a Hollywood producer interested in her who has Hollywood producer right there on his business card.
Somehow, violinist Godhardt Brandt wins her attention — for some time — before she learns that he’s an occult devotee of theosophist Helena Blavatsky who makes snuff movies and is given to pimping her out and then dragging her over the fact that she’s selling herself for money when he himself set it up. Ah, negging, the classic move of every antagonist.
Also, at some point Penny becomes Helga, she gets a maid who works for free, there’s a plot to kill her, a double boiled hot dog eating scene, she gets trained to dance by Godhart’s ballerina fiancee Katya, a cocaine tooth brushing scene, a makeup meltdown, she tries out for the TV show but has to get naked and she finally decides to go to Broadway before running into the drifter again, just like Nomi, tomatoes for dinner, a moebius strip of remake and remix that lasts two and a half hours or more while having the canny ability to repeat the pool sex scene but with two ladies of a certain age all set to the music from Birdemic.
This either feels like a mid-90s Rinse Dream movie without penetration or the unsexiest sex movie ever or if Bruno Mattei had replaced Paul Verhoeven or if we’d sent Showgirls on the Voyager Probe as an example of our finest art and years later, Kirk and crew touched down on a world that treated a Joe Eszterhas script as a holy tract and based their entire culture around it and Spock was like, “How fascinating, Captain. It would appear that they are doing a ritual where they shove the oldest woman down the steps and initiating another to take her place. Most logical.”
A Dark Brothers movie where no one is slapped in the face with a fish.
A David Lynch movie on a $30,000 budget without David Lynch or a trip to Bob’s Big Boy.
A movie about a fallen angel, as Penny’s From Heaven suggests a divine origin for our heroine, which given what happens here with all the talk of Seven Sisters and rituals, I can completely believe.
An episode of Real Housewives of Tarzana gone wrong, so wrong, but so right.
What happens in the customer lounge of a Pottery Barn after three mimosas.
A film that demands a sequel.