Thursday, March 6, 2014

In short: Enemy Territory (1987)

Unsuccessful insurance salesman Barry (Gary Frank) thinks his luck is finally turning around when his boss is giving him the opportunity for some easy money by closing a life insurance deal with a Mrs Elva Briggs (Frances Foster). Unfortunately, Mrs Briggs is living in one of those nightmarish towers city planners thought were ideal for stacking poor black people in, and Barry quickly falls foul of the local gang, the Vampires, under their fearless leader, The Count (Tony Todd) who does everything in his power to kill Barry.

Despite being trapped in the building, Barry’s not completely out of luck, though: a very helpful Vietnam vet named Will (Ray Parker Jr.), Mrs Briggs and her grandchild Toni (Stacey Dash) are going far beyond the call of basic human decency to help him fight off the Vampires and escape. Also appearing are another, but racist, crazy and wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet (Jan-Michael Vincent), and the proverbial helpful little boy (Deon Richmond).

In 1987, Charles Band and his Empire Pictures wanted a bit of that tasty ghettosploitation money too, and because, one assumes, all actually serious and thrilling variations of this generally problematic genre had already been done, director Peter Manoogian set out to make this humungous piece of cheese that couldn’t even afford an actor to play Will and had to go with Ray Parker Jr.

In its own ridiculous way, Enemy Territory is a pretty fine time, though, at least if you’re the kind of person who finds joy in great moments in film like the scene where Jan-Michael Vincent explains that he’s housing his cat not as a pet but as food taster in case anyone should poison his spam, but that he needs to shoot his cat from time to time and get a new one because cats give people bugs like AIDS. Or the fact that the Vampires might be the least threatening gang ever put on film with their adorable vampire shtick, the least psycho guy called Psycho I’ve seen in a long time, and Tony Todd ranting nonsense towards his very bourgeois (and also quite bored) looking gang members without once breaking down laughing because of the idiocy of its all.

It is of course utterly impossible to take any of this shit seriously, but it is rather easy to be very entertained by it. Plus, curious enough for an exploitation film, Enemy Territory seems to lack any mean-spirited bone, resulting in a movie that really just wants to play around for ninety minutes, and then walk off with a friendly smile and the cost of a video rental. That’s alright with me.

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