Thursday, March 4, 2010

In short: Terror at Tenkiller (1986)

It's summer vacation time, so Janna (Michelle Merchant) drags her best friend Leslie (future stuntwoman Stacy Logan) to a place called (not suspiciously at all) "Lake Tenkiller", situated right next to the just as dreamily named Gore. The latter is as much gore as you'll see for the whole movie.

Leslie truly needs the change of place to get away from her abusive boyfriend Josh (Kevin Meyer). So the friends are chattering away, swimming, waitressing, getting threatening phone calls from someone who might or might not be Josh. This leaves just enough time in their calendars for flirting with local mechanic ("among other things") Tor (Michael Shamus Wiles).

From time to time, which is to say not very often, Tor kills someone. He is the resident serial killer without motive, after all, and there doesn't seem to be any police around, so he just has to.

Of course, Tor falls for the oh so meek and charming Leslie, and we all know what happens when serial killers fall in love.

More balanced minds than mine call this attempt at making a slasher movie without much in the way of sleaze, violence or quality a misguided snoozer, and I can't exactly blame them for it. For the average viewer - or even many not so average viewers - Terror at Tenkiller will be a test of patience, because (and I have to stress this) nothing ever happens in it. And those long, long moments when nothing at all is happening are really the good parts of the movie.

Whenever the film comes to a (supposed) action scene or something like a (theoretically) spooky dream sequence, it just collapses on itself like a white dwarf. One-time director Ken Meyer (who, if the IMDB is to be believed, now provides "legal services" for softcore films) really has a perfect eye for how not to film a scene. The stiffness of the camera work transcends "point and shoot" and at times reaches beautiful extremes of stasis usually reserved for experimental cinema.

While it's all nice and relaxing for a friend of not very good films to cherish a bit of boredom in his films, even I might have lost my patience with Tenkiller if not for the weirdly compelling "acting" of Logan and Merchant. There's a wide-eyed, talent-free innocence about their performances that's difficult to resist. Somehow, the actresses transform the boring blandness of what they say and do and how they say and do it into, well, not exactly an exciting experience for the viewer, but something more akin to that feeling of love for humanity you get when you turn the sound of a really inane TV show so low that it turns into the touching chattering of human voices.

So, objectively, this is a terrible film with nothing to recommend it, not even much to point and laugh at, but subjectively I loved it. Take that as a warning or as an recommendation.


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