The Dead Want Women Review
Since issuing their first disc in March of this year, new British horror label 88 Films have been steadily working their way through the back catalogue of the prolific producer and director Charles Band. As the man behind Charles Band Productions during the seventies, Empire Pictures for much of eighties and Full Moon Entertainment - and all of its various spin-offs and offshoots - since 1989, that’s quite some back catalogue. Full Moon continues to this very day and so, inevitably, 88 Films are now turning their attentions to one of their most recent productions. Indeed, The Dead Want Women comes to the UK DVD just three months after making its Stateside debut.
Despite the massive filmography (IMDb currently lists 255 credits as producer alone) Band is generally associated with his eighties. This was the decade that brought the comic splatter movies typified by the Re-Animator series plus his finest directorial effort, Trancers, and the first in the Puppet Master franchise. The years since have been dominated by such series (the Puppet Master films alone have to date prompted nine sequels and one cross-over feature), oftentimes to determinedly less serious ends. Thus we’ve had the Evil Bong movies or the second Gingerdead Man instalment coming with the subtitle Passion of the Crust. Consequently the name of Charles Band doesn’t quite mean what it once did and, unfortunately, films such as The Dead Want Women aren’t going to help the cause either. It may not be quite so silly as Evil Bong 3D: The Wrath of Bong, but it’s still a far cry from his mid-eighties heyday.
The set-up, at least, is an interesting one. The Dead Want Women opens in Hollywood during the late twenties, just as talking pictures are beginning to make an impact. Leading lady Rose Pettigrew has a penchant for debauchery and a voice that won’t make the transition out of the silent era. She learns of her contract termination just as she’s in the middle of an orgy with some fellow names of the time, including a big name comedian, one of L.A.’s major cowboy players (played by Eric Roberts) and a Lugosi-alike horror star. Taking the news badly she kills them all and then turns the gun on herself. Sadly any hopes that this film will combine elements of Singin’ in the Rain and Kenneth Anger’s classic gossip tome Hollywood Babylon (the comic star has been clearly fashioned on Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, albeit with the voice of Curly from the Three Stooges) are quickly dashed as we fast-forward to the present day…
For reasons unexplained the mansion in which the deaths occurred has remained unoccupied all these years, only to be discovered by our two blonde leads who also happen to be in the real estate business. Their presence soon prompts Pettigrew and the rest to return as ghosts, now with a taste for rape and torture, eager to persecute the new occupants. And that, pretty much is that - there’s no mystery, no twists, no plot or character development, just an increasingly nasty feeling to events. The gore is kept relatively quiet save for a couple of splatter effects, the emphasis instead falling on the nudity. Hardly surprising, perhaps, given that two of the actresses are more commonly found performing in hardcore pornography.
The flimsiness of the plotting is underscored by the off-kilter pacing. The Dead Want Women barely scrapes past the 70-minute mark, yet never quite knows where to concentrate its efforts. What should be the prologue takes up almost half of the running time despite having so little to establish whilst the ending seems almost ridiculously rushed. Oddly enough it’s Band himself behind the camera, a man who should surely know how to handle this kind of material given his years of experience. And yet I suspect that this is just another movie of the production line for him, one that has enough aspects to highlight on the DVD sleeve in order to lure in the unaware customer. It’s got a ‘name’ actor in Eric Roberts, plenty of nudity and the promise of some gore, but nothing more than that. As said, it’s a far cry from the films that put him on the map.
The latest disc from 88 Films is pretty much in line with their now established standard: a solid presentation backed up with a brief ‘making of’ featurette and a whole host of trailers. The only difference here is that we also get a bit of DVD-ROM content in the form of the complete screenplay. The Dead Want Women was made with digital cameras and, admittedly, looks a little on the cheap side. The period detail feels somewhat lacking in atmosphere as a result whilst the second half’s combination of nudity and torture cannot help but seem all the more tawdry. Nonetheless the image remains crisp and clear throughout - as we should expect from such a recent production - and there are certain no issues caused by the transfer. The soundtrack is similarly on the low-tech side thanks to a fairly ordinary stereo mix. It handles William Levine’s score well enough, though don’t expect to be too impressed. (There are no optional subtitles, English or otherwise.) With that said, the soundtrack is in a much better shape than that found on the ‘making of’ piece. A typical EPK fluff piece this intercuts a series of interviews with various cast members as they discuss their characters and praise Band’s skills as a director. There are also a grand total of eleven trailers, one for the main feature and the rest for Band-related pictures from across the decades.