Saturday, January 4, 2014

In short: The Ripper (1985)

Mild-mannered college professor Richard Harwell (Tom Schreier) has just started his new, somewhat experimental (oh, 1985) class about "Famous Crimes in the Movies" when his pleasant life gets a bit more complicated. Richard discovers a mysterious (read: tacky) ring in an antiques store, and can't seem to be able to help himself but just has to buy and wear it, however much fun his dancing instructor girlfriend makes of it.

His new precious(sssss) has somewhat disturbing effects on Richard: he can't seem to sleep properly, when he sleeps he has nightmares in which he murders women and plays with their guts, and - probably most troubling - he has blackouts. I'm sure there's no connection at all to the series of Ripper-style (the movie says, though they aren't all that much) murders hitting the town, and the curious fact that Richard's new ring once belonged to Jack the Ripper himself?

Ah, the wonders of shot-on-video movies and the brains who can take watching them! Christopher Lewis's The Ripper is one of the entertaining examples of that particular style of filmmaking, with nary a minute going by that doesn't feature something to amuse or delight the patient viewer. Much of what delights about the film are of course what would be called flaws in the type of professional looking movie that attempts to tell a sensible story. But then, that's not at all what you should hope for when entering the wild and woolly world of SOV horror, where properly blocked scenes and even just mildly competent pacing are unexpected occurrences on the level of humane Objectivists or real-world sightings of the King in Yellow.

Instead you'll have to decide to accept The Ripper on its own terms, which is to say, find pleasure in the film's awkward, yet not horrible, acting that breathes a kind of honest naivety it would be like kicking a puppy to criticize, delight in decidedly fake looking gore (which is always the best kind), approve of some particularly stiff (sorry) sex scenes and fall in love with regular detours.

I found the relationship between Richard and one of his students particularly charming in the detour department, with the film buff student having somehow acquired his hero's phone number and now doing things like phoning him to remind him to tape horror movies, which obviously annoys Richard to no end, though he is much too nice to say so right out. This is, of course, the sort of business a film needs to get up to to get to feature length when it does only have plot for half an hour or so. Also, and just as of course, it's this sort of business that makes the better SOV horror films actually worth watching, the awkward charm of a film made by people just making movies instead of what is generally called professionals.

In The Rippers's case, I found myself quite taken with all those attempts at distracting me from the not very interesting main course, perhaps because there's a degree of self-consciousness visible here (what with all the horror movie love) that never gets in the way of the naivety, or perhaps because the film is able to turn its filler (which makes up about eighty percent of its running time) into a main course of its own.

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