Wednesday, 4 November 2009
SILK STOCKING STRANGLER
Directed by: Bill Hellfire
Produced by: Bill Hellfire & Cherry Moonshine
Distributor: Alternative Cinema
(This review refers to the 'Naughty Edition' DVD released on the After Hours Cinema label)
Lesbian lovers Olivia (Misty Mundae) and Jackie (Katie Jordon) are in a tight spot. Two months behind on the rent and facing eviction, they hit upon a scheme to keep the roof over their heads.
The two girls start to put on sexy shows for their lecherous landlord Richie (Joey Smack) in exchange for the rent. It seems like the perfect arrangement until Richie starts to demand kinkier and edgier shows, including strangulation and breathplay. Just how far are they willing to go?
This is ultra low budget filmmaking, shot in one day with a cast of three and a crew of four (one of whom also happens to be in the cast, so seven in all, including genre notable Johnny Crash). It's an amazing achievement considering how little time and how few people were involved. Indeed, you can't help but wonder how much better it could have been if they have shot it over 2-3 days with a little more money. In short, if I were in charge of the 48 Hours Film Project, I'd bar Bill Hellfire and the Factory 2000 crew from entering, because on this evidence they'd clearly piss it without breaking a sweat. Indeed, as I shall explain later, it seems he doesn't even need a full 24 hours to shoot a passable movie.
At just under an hour, it's not quite a feature, not quite a short, but the running time feels just about right. If anything, there are a few moments where the sex scenes begin to drag a little, something I think could have been remedied with a few more cutaways to Richie as he watches, using him as a sort of visual barometer for the scene's progress. This is done in one of the latter scenes where Richie gamely slaps, scratches and punches his face as the asphyxiation action unfolds before him, and it works like a charm.
It's a relatively simple tale (as the budget, schedule and cast would necessarily dictate) but told well and planned better. Of course, the key aspect that persuades the viewer to overlook the budgetary limitations is the inclusion of erstwhile Seduction Cinema figurehead, Misty Mundae (AKA Erin Brown, from the Masters Of Horror episode, 'Sick Girl').
The versatile quality of Mundae's face is such that she is able to seamlessly shift from being the seduced to being the seductress or just goofing off (as is so often the case in some of her more spoofy Seduction output) with no loss of believability. The fact that this is allied with a pleasingly natural figure reminiscent of classical sculpture makes for a heady combination and an undeniable screen presence. She's every inch the star, and none of those inches owe anything to botox, collagen or silicone. Her deal is real, so much so that she even has pubic hair. In short, the perfect antidote to the stereotypical softcore sirens who fall off the 'peroxide and plastic' production line.
In Silk Stocking Strangler, the producers have created an interesting visual dichotomy by having the Mundae, who looks like the archetypal girl next door (although I'm sure few of us have ever lived next door to a girl that was anywhere near her particular ballpark, looks-wise) play the pragmatic and somewhat avaricious character, whereas the decidedly more edgy and vampish-looking Jordon is cast as the reluctant moralist who is uncomfortable with the entire proposition. Appearances, it would seem, can indeed be deceiving, and that is a suitable metaphor for the film as a whole.
On the surface, one can choose to view it as what it is, namely a softcore stroke-flick wherein numerous sexual kinks and proclivities are acted out by Mundae and Jordon for the entertainment of the voyeuristic viewer, which is nominally Richie, but in reality us. Stockings and suspenders, smoking, sapphic sex sessions, strap-ons, and strangulation are all par for this particular course. A wide range of fetishes are catered for and duly indulged, and in fine style too.
Then there is the aspect of escalation in the sort of activities that Richie wishes to see the girls perform or partake in for him. Whilst it makes sense to increase the stakes from a purely narrative viewpoint, it also mirrors the oft-aired belief that consumers of pornography will ultimately become jaded with the level of a particular pornographic act in question and thus seek something more extreme, dangerous and degrading, ad nauseum, until they arrive at snuff.
Suddenly, we become aware that Silk Stocking Strangler is not in fact mere masturbatory fodder, but instead 'meta-pornography' which is to say it is pornography (albeit of the decidedly softcore variety) which passes comment upon pornography. The medium truly is the message here.
Of course, wherever and whenever the subject of pornography should arise, the question of exploitation is never far behind, and indeed who is exploiting who. Some (mostly hardcore misandrist/feminist types) would argue that pornography exploits women, whilst giving no thought to the male performers whatsoever. There are others who would argue that pornography exploits men (as consumers) and male weakness, and these themes are touched upon briefly in the film. Is Richie the exploiter? Are the girls the exploiters? Is Olivia exploiting them both for her own ends? The notions of power and control, in their varied forms, are present throughout, and it's only at the finale that we discover who's really in control as opposed to who thinks they are in control.
The climax of the film is a curiously satisfying one. On the one hand, you have the inevitable result of the constantly increasing level of danger injected into the sexual peccadilloes that Richie wants to see explored before him, yet there's an unexpected twist beyond that as well. In short, you're given exactly what you'd expect, and a surprise as well, but I'm not going to ruin it for you...leave us say that the viewer is left in no doubt as to who has really been using who.
One aspect of the film that really stuck out as being well done was the music, both incidental and the slightly-erotic-yet-still-creepy signature theme too. It compliments the onscreen proceedings to a tee.
In terms of extras, there are the usual features one would associate with releases from the labels under the EI Cinema (now Pop! Cinema) label, plus a revealing behind-the-scenes featurette, shot, I believe by Johnny Crash and Cherry Moonshine. As Misty Mundae is applying some makeup in the bathroom and chatting about how early she had to get up to make her call time, the camerawoman opines that she has got 'a long day ahead of her', to which Misty replies 'Well, Joey's Mom gets home around four, so we'll either be done by then or...who knows?'.
I guess we should thank God that Joey Smack's mother didn't get off work early the day they were filming...could you imagine your mother walking in as you filmed two scantily girls performing a variety of kinky sex acts, or perhaps while you were hanging a semi-naked masturbating girl by her neck? Me neither. Still, it would probably be slightly less embarrassing than a Jason 'Pie Fucker' Biggs scenario, as at least there are naked girls present.
So, is it worth the money? Despite the short running time, I'm very much inclined to say yes. It's a pleasingly detached, creepy and unsettling little oddity which isn't quite what you'd expect it to be. Failing that, there are naked girls too. Frankly, you can't lose either way.
On a final note, I should add that I am uncertain as to the legality of owning a film like this in the UK since the passing of the Criminal Justice Bill under the auspices of our former fat, corrupt, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (she's still fat and corrupt, just not Home Secretary any more). The asphyxiation scenes are not to dissimilar from the type of content you'd find on various 'Faux-Snuff' fetish websites which have since been proscribed somewhat under British law. So, if you do decide to order it, I've no idea whether UK Customs would allow it to pass (should they inspect it).
Having said that, the fact that you can order it from such mainstream outlets as Amazon should probably go some way towards getting it in 'under the radar', so to speak.
It should go without saying (but I'm going to say it anyway) that being a resident of the UK I totally do not own a copy of this film, either in a physical or digital format, and have never even seen it. The above review is just an astonishingly accurate guess as to the contents of the film and the themes tackled therein.