Murder Weapon (1989) Murder Weapon (1989) -*½

     In my last update, I reviewed Deadly Embrace, the first of eleven “soft-smut for straights” movies that David DeCoteau directed under the alias, Ellen Cabot. Now let’s have a look Murder Weapon, “Cabot’s” second film. Like Deadly Embrace, Murder Weapon bills itself as an erotic thriller, but was made at a time when that phrase was still merely a description, rather than the label for a recognized genre. That’s an important point, because Murder Weapon is not at all the kind of movie that the term would conjure up in people’s minds today. I would be inclined to call it instead an erotic slasher movie, something much rarer and weirder than any mere knockoff of Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct. Furthermore, the overall vibe of the film is stranger even than that. It’s as if Brian De Palma had remade Slumber Party Massacre with the gender ratio inverted, after suffering a cognitively debilitating stroke.

     This is one of those movies where the filmmakers try to be all clever by presenting things out of chronological order, but just end up confusing the fuck out of the audience because they seem to have lost track of which bits of the story they have and have not gotten around to telling. I don’t like to treat my readers that way, however, so I’m going to attempt disentangling the narrative as much as possible here. For a more accurate simulation of what it’s like to watch Murder Weapon, print out the following synopsis, cut it up into individual sentences, and then hurl the resulting scraps of paper into the air, reading each as you pick it up off the floor. That surely won’t yield quite the same scrambled order as DeCoteau and screenwriter Ross A. Peron used, but it probably won’t make any less scene-by-scene sense, either.

     Dawn (Linnea Quigley, whom DeCoteau also directed in Creepozoids and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama) and Amy (Karen Russell, from Memorial Valley Massacre and Shock ’Em Dead) are both LA mafia princesses, but I don’t think that’s how they originally know each other. At the very least, it isn’t how they became friends. No, that happened in the mental hospital where both girls spent their transitions from adolescence to adulthood. Most of what I’m about to say is somewhat conjectural, because the incomplete bits of back-story we’re given never quite add up, but I think we’re supposed to take it that their fathers belonged to rival organizations. I also think we’re supposed to take it that Amy’s father (explicitly identified as an assassin) set the fire that burned down Dawn’s childhood home, killing her father (explicitly identified as an incestuous child molester). If that’s true, though, there’s little indication that either girl is aware of their dads’ acquaintance, so to speak.

     Be that as it may, it wasn’t the incest, the fire, or the fire’s direct aftermath that sent Dawn to the nuthouse. Rather, Dawn suffered an even more lurid tragedy while she was in college, when she was the sole survivor of a mad slasher attack that claimed the lives of her friends, Vicky (Victoria Nesbitt, of Dream a Little Evil and Deadly Reactor) and Al (Time Burst: The Final Alliance’s Allen Tombello). The authorities never figured out, though, that the main reason why Dawn lived through the horrid experience was because she was also the perpetrator. If the dreams she continues to have about the event are any indication, the most likely motive was romantic jealousy; it seems she caught Vicky and Al in bed together when she stopped by the former’s house for a visit, and then stabbed the both of them in turn while Al was taking a post-coital shower. Amy, in contrast, is just your garden-variety nymphomaniac with a taste for violent, criminally inclined guys.

     Dawn befriended Amy at the instigation of her psychiatrist, Dr. Gram (Lenny Rose, from Manhater and Witchcraft V: Dance with the Devil), but the bond between them is real enough by now. While in the loony bin, they made a pact that whichever one got out first would throw the other a huge homecoming party upon her release. That onus wound up falling on Dawn, but not because she was anything like the institution’s star patient. Instead, she blackmailed her way out of the hospital, capitalizing on Gram’s habit of fucking her while she was under hypnosis, and luring asylum director Dr. Randolph (Lyle Waggoner, of Love Me Deadly and Journey to the Center of Time) into some comparable sexual impropriety. Amy, meanwhile, finally secured her release the old-fashioned way some time later. (Possibly as much as four years later, but that’s one of the pieces that don’t quite add up.)

     Anyway, now that Amy is back on the outside, Dawn has arranged the welcome of every nympho’s dreams. The party is scheduled for her place while her dad is out of town on mob business, and the guest list includes no fewer than four of Amy’s former boyfriends— including her very favorite, a real hood named Eric (Mike Jacobs Jr., from Terrorgram and Die Watching), who sings lead for a heavy metal band called the Chainsaws. Dawn has also invited Kevin (Vice Academy’s Stephen Steward), who once beat Amy up when she tried to set fire to his car; Cary (Allen First), who snorts enough cocaine to think that poodle mullet is a good look for him, or for anyone else; and Jeff (Eric Freeman, of Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2), who enjoys the distinction of having dated both Amy and Dawn at various points in the past. Kevin, meanwhile, brings along his dorky sycophant, Billy (Richard J. Sebastian, who turned up alongside Victoria Nesbitt in Dream a Little Evil), and Dawn rounds things out just a little by including her own current boyfriend, Bart (A Crack in the Floor’s Rodger Burt). Obviously Dawn’s vision for this gathering is something between a conga line of cock for her long-absent friend and a fully full-on orgy, and all the lads seem more or less willing to do their parts. Alas, there’s also a black-clad, black-gloved killer hanging around the house, and the only reason ever to suspect the maniac of being anybody but Dawn (spoiler alert: it’s her) is because it isn’t physically possible for Dawn to have committed one of the murders, even by the extremely lenient standards of slasher-movie physics.

     What a stupid, limp, pointless movie Murder Weapon is! For most of its length, its ornery defiance of the very concept of structure is the one slightly interesting thing about it. DeCoteau’s handling of hetero eroticism is as hopeless as ever (“Straight men like to watch women put on suntan lotion. I’m sure I read that somewhere. More lotion, Victoria! KEEP IT UP!!!!”), so once you get past Dawn’s early dream of murdering her friends, the whole first half sort of melts into an undifferentiated blob of 20-something doofi hanging around one of Hollywood’s tackier wannabe mansions. Worse yet, the audio mix is so inexcusably inept that it’s frequently impossible to make out the dialogue over the dismal cacophony of late-80’s pop-rock by a variety of anonymous bands no doubt featuring the likes of the gaffer’s cousin, the wardrobe mistress’s boyfriend, and Rodger Burt’s agent’s daughter. Boring as they are, you start looking forward to Dawn’s and Amy’s flashbacks to their days in the psych ward, because at least in those you can follow the fucking conversations. Also, Lyle Waggoner is an actual actor, whether or not he’s an especially good one, and too much time in the company of Mike Jacobs Jr., Stephen Steward, and the rest of those losers will leave you inordinately appreciative of that fact. For that matter, although I confess that I’ve never taken Linnea Quigley’s thespian prowess very seriously despite all my affection for her as a screen presence, even she is on an altogether higher plane than the most of the cast.

     I will give Murder Weapon a smidgen of credit once the slashing gets underway, however, insofar as the murders show a certain amount of imagination. A couple of them are even quite well executed. Indeed, I’ll put Billy’s clobberation by sledgehammer up against any kill in a Friday the 13th movie made without the involvement of Tom Savini. I’m past the point in my slasher fandom, though, where a couple unusual stabbings and a really terrific headsplat are, by themselves, enough to satisfy me. I’m also past the point, as a connoisseur of softcore smut, where I can be bought off solely with the periodic display of Linnea Quigley’s tits. There’s got to be something worth watching in the parts of the movie surrounding those things, and Murder Weapon simply has nothing to offer there.



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