Without a doubt, this is the All About Eve of terror films! In fact, director David DeCoteau’s fun Knock ‘em Dead introduces viewers to not one or two, but a trio of retired and/or washed up actresses who know that survival of the fittest often depends on a quick barb from a sharp tongue. As always, who needs mace when you have wit? Of course, there isn’t a Bette Davis, Anne Baxter or Celeste Holm in sight – (all dead, you know!) – but the considerable charms and talents of Rae Dawn Chong, Anne-Marie Johnson, Jackee Harry and Madtv’s Debra Wilson are in full bloom here and will make audiences wonder why these divine talents aren’t continuously headlining major projects.
Plot wise, this horror comedy brings these sassy lasses together at a seaside mansion to film a sequel to Freakshow, a popular horror film that they starred in, years previously. Of course, the insults and the murder weapons soon start flying and everyone quickly realizes that someone on the island is recreating the death scenarios from their major claim to fame – and this time it’s for real. Finally, Jenny (Chong), now the sweet owner of a struggling dog shelter, Alex (Johnson), the superior princess who has become actual royalty, and Darien (Wilson), a recovering addict desperate to jumpstart her career, realize that they have to learn to trust each other completely and work together to survive the night. Of course, it doesn’t help that the motivations of suspects like Savannah (Harry), the sequel’s writer, Tommy (Preston Davis), a reporter covering the reunion, Harley (Phil Morris), the film’s producer, and Louanne (Betsy Russell), the company cook, are all vague and ever changing. Just like Scream, which is boldly referenced on the DVD cover, there are, also, several twists and turns in writer Barry Sandler’s often sharp script, even after the true killer is revealed!
Naturally, the film’s prime charm is its excellent cast and DeCoteau proudly lets them go for broke. No one downplays a line like Harry and Chong’s sunny demeanor is not only truly engaging, but a nice contrast to the more vicious elements on display, as well. Meanwhile, Wilson’s spastic drug stained reactions are hysterical and a delicious counterbalance to Johnson, still as stunningly beautiful as in her 90s Melrose Place days, and her icy smugness. Nicely, all are given a chance to eventually color within the lines of the characters, providing varying shades to the roles. In fact, even when the bitchiness gets too repetitive in the film’s first half, these ever nuanced wonders are able to keep the humorous bits flowing at a laugh out loud pace.
More information on Knock ‘em Dead and DeCoteau’s other projects is available at www.rapidheart.com.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!