Hideous! was my first Full Moon movie, I caught it on TV years ago when it was being aired on William Shatner’s Full Moon Fright Night, a series of Full Moon movies hosted by William Shatner a la Elvira that were aired after Full Moon folded to try and make some money off old properties. I didn’t even know what Full Moon was or what I was watching, though I was vaguely familiar with the Puppet Master movies, my exposure to horror movies had not been particularly off-the-beaten-path and seeing something as deliberately off-kilter as this movie when my only perspective was with stuff like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Halloween ignited a flame of interest in the bizarre and esoteric that has grown to this day. In many ways I can say Hideous! was the movie that led me here now where I am addressing you, dear readers, and I’ll always owe it a debt for that but the question is… is this movie actually any good?
Hideous! is another horror movie that isn’t really a horror movie like Head of the Family. Where Head was about two idiots who thought they were geniuses, Hideous! is about a bunch of weirdos who think they’re normal.
We open on a sewage treatment plant where a man discovers a giant mutant fetus, which he sells to a broker who deals in medical oddities. The broker, Belinda Yost (Tracie May) sells it to collector Napoleon Lazar (Mel Johnson Jr.), but her bubble-headed secretary Elvina (Rhonda Griffin) tips of Lazar’s nemesis Dr. Lorca (Michael Citriniti.) Lorca’s assistant Sheila (Jacqueline Lovell) decides the best course of action would be to steal the specimen from Lazar so she waits at the mouth of his private road and hijacks it, so Lazar hires private detective Leonard Kantor (Jerry O’Donnell) to get it back.
Kantor, Lazar, Elvina, and Belinda all go to Lorca’s castle (yes, he lives in a castle and it has a security system of metal shutters that shut off all exits and a giant trap door in front of his desk that empties into an acid bath) but it turns out that Lorca’s new specimen is alive and it re-animates his three other human freaks which try to escape.
The characters of this movie are ridiculous from the ruthless business-woman Belinda, the dangerously stupid Elvina, the absurdly pretentious Lazar and Lorca (whose weird nearly sexual obsession with tiny mutants probably hits a bit close to home for Charles Band), but the two best characters are Kantor and Sheila.
Sheila is one in a long line of thankless b-movie roles for Jacqueline Lovell. Her roles require a lot of nudity but generally there is a reason for her to be nude, Sheila just is for no reason at all. When she hijacks Lazar she does so in Doc Martens, leather shorts, a pearl necklace, and a gorilla mask and nothing else. When Lazar asks her why she’s topless (a very fair question given that it’s winter, among numerous other valid reasons) she simply responds “What? I’m free. I am woman.” I have to Citizen Kane clap for anyone who has the hubris to use an actress for eye candy and then justify that use as feminist in the context of the story. Even when she’s “clothed” she simply wears a leather vest that covers her nipples and not much else. She mostly just makes catty comments of a sexual nature and lays around on furniture like a centerfold. The character is fun but since Lovell is a genuinely talented actress I feel really bad for her because well, there’s no context where this whole thing doesn’t feel skeevy.
Kantor is funny because he’s the only sane person in the movie. O’Donnell plays the private detective as a gravel-voiced no-nonsense sort with a heavy New York accent. Kantor’s whole purpose is to hang lampshades on how fucking weird the movie is being and to serve as a reasonable and likeable voice in a cast of otherwise ridiculous and unlikeable people.
The freaks are, other than Kantor, the heroes of the movie. They’re creepy looking and gross but they really just want to leave, and when things take a turn for the violent you really can’t blame them for reacting the way they do. The puppet work on the freaks is quite good and they have a lot of personality, but then Charles Band build his empire on the backs of puppets so that’s no surprise.
The acting is all a little overdone but I think that’s a point, there’s a very theatrical quality to the movie and like Head of the Family it has a very stage-play quality to it. Unlike Head, it’s got a bit more substance.
Watch, Toss, Or Buy? I’m kind of on the fence on this one, it’s a hard watch or a soft buy. It’s unique and fun, but not rapturously good.
If You Liked This, Watch: Basket Case (1982), Basket Case 2 (1990), Basket Case 3 (1991), It’s Alive (1974), It Lives Again (1978), It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987), Head of the Family (1996), Ghoulies (1984)