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Shock, 94 Mins
Writer/director John Waters (not the Aussie actor!!!) was well on his way from legendary gutter-auteur status with gross-out anti-classics like Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble under his belt to Bad-Taste Living Treasure (a sort of campier Baltimorese Stephen Fry) when he turned out this OTT 1994 charmer which features real actors, a bumper collection of Waters touchstones and a mocking (if hammy) obsession with True Crime that looks surprisingly modern all these years later.
In suburban Baltimore (where else?), we meet Beverly Sutphin (played with gleeful gusto by Kathleen Turner), a well-to-do, conservative and pious sort with a nice dentist husband (Sam Waterston), a beloved daughter (Ricki Lake after Waters’ original Hairspray and on her way to talk-show fame) and son (Matthew Lillard in his first pic and just before Wes Craven’s first Scream), and a barely-contained murderous rage that starts bursting out right from the word go. Graduating from early obscene phone calls (to a long-suffering neighbour played by Mink Stole, one of Waters’ favourite freaks) to fully-fledged mayhem, as she takes on anyone who upsets her family or behaves in socially inappropriate fashion, this culminates in a wildly wrong sequence that somehow features Tomorrow from the musical Annie, a lethal leg of lamb, a licking dog and feet fetishistically smeared with butter.
A bit tawdry-looking (no surprise there) and lop-sided in structure (ditto), this Cinema Cult release is worth watching for the spirited appearances by other Waters’ faves, including former underage porn princess Traci Lords and, believe it or not, no less than ‘70s Stockholm Syndrome sufferer Patty/Patricia Hearst as Juror #8. And for a film with the Australian M Rating it’s surprising to see clips from the recently-late Herschell Gordon Lewis’ fake-gore-drenched Blood Feast, Tobe Hooper’s original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and even Deadly Weapons, starring (no joke) Chesty Morgan, but hey, it’s a sick world. And John Waters loves it.