Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format warthe motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.

Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD. 

Title: Slashdance
 Save the last dance… for Hell! 
Released by:
 R Entertainment
 James Shyman

click to embiggen

Plot: A female cop goes undercover as a dancer at an old Hollywood theater to catch a hooded killer who has been murdering women auditioning for a new musical.

Thoughts: Piggybacking off of last week’s review of the aerobicsploitation masterpiece Pulsebeat, I decided to take a look at another film in that genre featuring hot young 80’s girls dancing in skintight spandex and leg warmers. This week I finally sat down and watched Slashdance, an odd little slasher/aerobics hybrid that was one in a long list of cheap ass horror movies to be exclusively shot and released on video.

The horror SOV market was flooded with back yard mini-epics in those days, where anyone armed with a camcorder, some friends and a little imagination could slap together a feature film that might possibly get released onto home video. Stuff like Blood Cult, 555, Sledgehammer, Things, The Burning Moon, Boarding House, The Ripper and The Abomination were just a sampling of the uber-low budget splatter fests that hit the home market during this glorious era. They were sometimes highly entertaining, ridiculously grotesque and excessively violent films that were “enhanced” by the video aesthetic in a way that made them look and feel exceptionally sleazy and bizarre. I often felt like I needed a long, hot Silkwood shower after watching a number of those movies.

Slashdance has many of the staples of a good SOV horror flick. There’s cheap computer graphics for the opening titles with a repetitive musical score that was obviously performed on a Casio, which sets the tone for what follows beautifully. A young, attractive dancer shows up to a creepy, old theater for an audition. She starts performing an aerobics routine to warm up, when her neck is suddenly cut by a hooded killer dressed entirely in black.

Cut to sexy, female LAPD undercover officer Tori Raines (Cindy Ferda), who has just busted an illegal steroid ring at the beach by posing as an aerobics trainer. Unfortunately, her inept Captain doesn’t like her constant showboating and is afraid she could cause a scandal that will destroy his promotion plans, so he sends her undercover to audition for the musical at the theater where the girls are being murdered. Not only does Tori get the part, she also starts a romantic relationship with the famous Broadway director, Logan Bridger (James Carroll Jordan).

But as one dancer after another begins to disappear, Tori realizes the killer could be someone from the production. Is it Amos, the man-child son of the former theater owner, who enjoys eating live goldfish and creepily spying on the girls while they work out? Or could it be his older brother Edison, who despises his mentally challenged sibling and his father’s old theater with a passion?

There are a lot of red herrings tossed around, along with a lot of big hair, acid washed denim, horrible acting and downright retarded storytelling. This movie also tries to inject a lot of really unfunny, inappropriate humor throughout, which gives it a schizophrenic feel as it switches back and forth from wacky highjinks to musical montages to serious violence, all without batting an eyelash. The gore is at a minimum here, as well as the nudity, which is very brief at best.

The highlights for me are that the film is very camptacular in the insane way that only an 80’s movie can deliver. The fashion, music and style is enough to get your attention alone because it’s so tweaked out, but the acting and ridiculous plot twists are what had me glued to the screen. The male characters in the film are all chauvinists of varying degrees and the women are very attractive, vapid and dumb, including our lead that doesn’t realize that the killer is the guy she’s been fucking.

In all honesty, this isn’t really an aerobics film per se, but there are a lot of gorgeous, big haired girls in some really AMAZING aerobics outfits working out and dancing throughout the film. It also has a very low body count for a slasher movie, but I’d say that this film is more Giallo-like in its style. The killer is dressed all in black (including the signature black gloves), there are red herrings all over the place, and the murders are being committed because of some early childhood psychosexual trauma. That’s what Slashdance is like: a cheesy American Giallo with chicks in aerobics outfits getting bumped off in a neon-bathed Hollywood to an uplifting synth beat. What a feeling!

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