Tuesday, September 20, 2005

THE HALFWAY HOUSE

Kenneth J Hall's THE HALFWAY HOUSE (2005) is an entertaining amalgam of drive-in exploitation genres, with generous helpings of squirting blood, rubber monsters, sexy bad girls and corrupt clergy, all mixed together into something close to the ultimate B movie. Casting exploitation legend Mary Woronov in major part doesn't hurt either.

The plot: young women are disappearing in and around the Mary Magdalene Halfway House for Troubled Girls. In an attempt to discover what became of her missing sister, Larissa Morgan (Janet Tracy Keijser, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL) infiltrates the Catholic institution with the aid of police detective Dick Sheen (square-jawed Shawn Savage). Once within the house, she meets a priest with a passion for corporal punishment, a sinister nun (Mary Woronov, EATING RAOUL, DEATH RACE 2000), a bunch of over-sexed bad girls, and a creepy custodian named Lutkus (Cleve Hall, the director's brother).

So, what did I like about THE HALFWAY HOUSE? Well, there are lots and lots of boobies. That's always good in an exploitation film. There's also lesbian sex scenes, decapitations, a kinky priest, a cool non-CGI rubber monster, and a Madonna covered in Vaseline (and I don't mean the singer). Mary Woronov is great as the evil nun, and the production values and photography are light years better than in most contemporary vidflicks. The script is pretty sharp and smart, too.

The unrated special edition from The Fright Factory/Skouras Ventura features a great 1.85:1 widescreen transfer with Dolby Digital. 5.1 sound. In addition, there are deleted scenes, an entertaining making-of documentary called "Gut Eating Monster From Hell," and a music video by Insecto Circus. There's also a commentary track by director Hall and producer Ed Polgardy. Unfortunately, about thirty minutes into the movie, there's a gap in the commentary recording, and when it resumes, it's several minutes out of sync with what's on screen. Too bad, because it's an interesting track. Fortunately, the documentary covers much of the same ground.

The movie aims for that precarious balance of humor and horror that made 80's films like RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2 so much fun, and, most of the time, it hits the target. If you like your horror laced with laughs and gratuitous nudity (and really, who doesn't?) THE HALFWAY HOUSE is a good bet.

Recommended.

BUY: Halfway House