Color, 1989, 83 mins. 30 secs.
Directed by James Shyman
Starring Cindy Ferda, J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner, James Carrol Jordan, John Henry Richardson, John Bluto, Jackson Daniels, WIlliam Kerr, Queen Kong, Shari Blum, Susan Kaye Deemer, Vinece Lee, Kelle Marie Favoia

Color, 1988, 76 mins. 29 secs.
Directed by James Shyman
Starring Bobby Johnston, Francine Lapensée, Joe Balogh, Martie Allyne, Al Valletta, Lynne Pirtle
Culture Shock (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Verboden Video, Brentwood (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

Any horror fans Slashdancewho were still rummaging through the wilderness Slashdanceof shot-on-video quickies at their favorite video store by the end of the '80s had a reasonable chance of stumbling on the only two films from L.A. filmmaker James Shyman. Now you can own his entire oeuvre in one handy package with Culture Shock's double feature Blu-ray, which presents them in reverse order but works no matter how you program it. Headlining here is Slashdance, whose title sells it as a very belated cash-in on Flashdance even though it's really more of a comic slasher take on A Chorus Line. Shot on 16mm but completed on video, it looks a lot better than most of its ilk but hasn't won over tons of fans thanks to its wacky approach to the material and relatively limited horror content. If you love spandex and late '80s kitsch though, it's a real buffet of absurdity.

At a rinky-dink Hollywood theater, someone is calling in dancers to audition only to murder them on the spot (in a very Mario Bava-inspired opening). Assigned to the case is plucky cop Tori Raines (Ferda, a.k.a. Cindy Maranne a.k.a. G.L.O.W. wrestler Americana), who's frustrated by her sexist superiors who won't prosecute her illicit steroid busts. She Slashdancealso has a lot of personal baggage, particularly a desire for revenge against the drug dealers who caused her sister's death Slashdanceand destroyed her parents. At the theater she gets to rehearse a lot and tangles with some odd characters including dim-witted prop master Amos (future crime-busting celeb Ornsteiner) and testy director Logan (Jordan). Meanwhile the body count continues as the killer monkeys with stage props, leading to a final confrontation between Tori and the perpetrator.

How much you enjoy Slashdance will depend entirely on your appetite for SOV silliness, with several of the death scenes played for laughs (particularly one involving a strangled country singer) and some wild mugging provided by the supporting cast including fellow G.L.O.W. alumnus Queen Kong. The repetitive synth dance music is really something else, too, as are the rampant chauvinist dialogue at the police station and the hilarious method used to dispose of the killer at the end. The transfer here looks quite good, with the relatively high production values (for SOV anyway) shining through with good detail and lots of vibrant colors. It's still an upscale from the original source, of course, but there's no way this could look any better. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track is fine for what it is and features optional English SDH subtitles. An audio commentary with Shyman covers his entry into filmmaking thanks to a fortuitous jacuzzi meeting, the process of shooting without permits in Marina Del Rey and Hollywood, the rampant steroid Slashdancescandals Slashdancearound the time, his own cameo appearance, and other odds and ends, frequently with the movie audio cutting in and out whenever he takes a pause (to sometimes hilarious effect). A second commentary with Tony and Johanna from the Hack the Movies podcast finds them mostly giggling at the film and reading off credits from IMDb, so... Anyway, then you get a video interview with producer Andrew Maisner (37m12s) who covers the genesis of the film as Fatal Audition, his experience in the industry going back to 1974, his pride in the technical caliber of the finished result, his version of the jacuzzi story, and other various exploits in show business. Then you get a really fun interview with "Dr. Buzz" Ornsteiner (38m58s) covering his early days as a struggling actor popping up in low-budget horror movies (also including Robot Holocaust and Mutant Hunt), his fondness for Slashdance, his audition process for Hollywood's New Blood, and his memories of late '80s L.A. Also included is a funny capsule version of Slashdance (2m39s) from Everything Is Terrible!, plus bonus trailers for The American Scream, Death Collector, and Girlfriend from Hell.

But wait! The big extra here is Shyman's previous film, 1988's Hollywood's New Blood, which was shot on VHS in the woods just outside Los Angeles. Demon Wind's Bobby Johnston stars a Bret, the leader of an acting workshop being held out at a cabin in the wilderness where, as he informs them on the first night, a movie production disaster years before accidentally blew up a house on the same spot. Everyone wanders around a lot and tries to make out from time to time, while the three survivors from that explosion lurk nearby eager to kill any actors in the vicinity. With faces streaked in greasepaint, the trio of hillbilly avengers soon turn the second night into a bloodbath, albeit one we don't see in any graphic detail. Complete with bizarre jungle sound effects and ridiculous padding, this one really stretches to justify the "Hollywood" in its title and doesn't even feature much in the way of acting, either. That said, it does have that rough SOV charm in spades whenever the killers are running around including one truly wild death at the end that virtually justifies the whole thing. This one's taken from whatever video source the director had lying around and looks very VHS-y; for what it is this looks okay (albeit with no subtitles on this one), though a couple of scenes have some slightly jerky motion that may stem from converting the 30fps original to film speed here.


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Reviewed on April 2, 2022