ALL ABOUT EVIL **** USA 2010 Dir: Joshua Grannell. 98 mins
While the title riffs on one of the greatest Hollywood movies of all time, the prologue of this delicious slasher / pastiche directly nods to the backstory of another iconic Bette Davis movie, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? A grotesque showbiz mom forces her tuneless kid on stage, where the humiliation begins even before she pisses herself and is electrocuted in front of a barfing juvenile audience. To highlight some major influences for writer-director Joshua Grannell (better known as Peaches Christ), the title sequence is accompanied by vintage posters for classic B movies including A BUCKET OF BLOOD, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and WASP WOMAN.
Cut to modern-day San Francisco (Grannell’s home town), where downtrodden librarian Natasha Lyonne takes over her late father’s old movie theatre and, with the help of ageing projectionist Mr. Twigs (then-octogenarian actor Jack Donner), shows old gore movies like BLOOD FEAST. She also savagely kills her gold-digging bitch of a mom (Julie Caitlin Brown) with a gleeful cry of “Oh God, Mother, blood blood!”), using the CCTV footage of the act as a short supporting film for the main feature. This is rapturously received by the regular audience of oddballs and Goths and, with the help of Twigs and nice wannabe animator Thomas Dekker (whose prudish mom is played by Cassandra Peterson), Lyonne begins filming her own gory murders to pull the crowds in. Among the amateur gems: a boob-guillotining effort named ‘A Tale of Two Severed Titties’, designed as a cautionary tale about using your mobile phone during the movie.
Grannell gives himself, as Peaches Christ, some of the best lines while paying spirited homage to (among others) Herschell Gordon Lewis and John Waters. The cast (including Mink Stole and Noah Segan) help nail the glorious, affectionate tone and the script riffs on enduring attitudes to horror films, music (a teacher blames Marilyn Manson for Columbine) and women. It all pays off with an outstanding Jonestown-inspired climax showcasing plentiful spurting, bloody stumps and decaying cadavers.
Channeling Kathleen Turner and Bette Davis and relishing an array of wigs, accents and outfits, the long-underrated Lyonne soars as the acid-tongued anti-heroine (there’s a fabulous scene on a chat show), while Donner is hilarious as the old fart relishing the chance to grope his much younger / homicidal co-worker and kill obnoxious townsfolk. Best of all are the glimpses of Lyonne’s snuff films, with pithy titles like ‘The Maiming of the Shrew’, ‘The Scarlet Leper’ and ‘The Slasher in the Rye’.
Review by Steven West