I've been dipping into the sleaze-pool a little too much lately, what with recent reviews of The Taint, Hanger, Defiled, and Someone's Knocking at the Door. Yet I keep going back to the slimy well. This time I've come up with Sculpture, which might just be a bit like a 1970s grindhouse flick as filtered through SCTV or something. Mildly funny, nicely offensive, really stupid, never scary and loaded with super cheap gore, Sculpture really doesn't take itself seriously, and neither should you. If you ignore any hyperbole on the DVD box - this is not "intense, gory brutal and disturbing" - you just might find yourself enjoying this silly rental.
Ashley (Raine Brown) is a troubled artist with body issues - male body issues. Yet she sometimes struggles for inspiration. Luckily, she's got a secret past compelling her to come up with something really unique for an upcoming gallery show, offered to her by the Dame Edna of Cheap Jack, Ohio or somewhere. In need of 'models' for her piece, Ashley cons every piece of beefcake at her brother's gym into providing her with subject matter for a sculpture of the 'perfect man.' Anyone who's ever seen Pieces knows what's up; but it soon becomes easy for pretty much anyone to guess how Ashley makes her sculpture. Laughs and lopped off limbs ensue.
Producer/director Pete Jacelone seems to know his way around a goof-off horror movie, and studio Camp Motion Pictures understands cheap exploitation. Together they've made a truly schizophrenic junker able to deliver plenty of the things you love from sleaze. You get incest, intestine fondling, lame soft-core sex, catfights, crotch stabbing and more! None of it really holds together, however, what with the farcical tone stirring things up. Ashley's background could certainly rouse anger against men, since every male in her childhood home was the worst kind of predator. But when she's mugging for the camera holding what looks like a bloody, severed mannequin leg, it's pretty hard to take the movie seriously.
With wildly uneven quality keeping you on your toes, Sculpture delivers deleteriously delirious entertainment. It might offend those looking for nothing but fun; Ashley's suffering in her childhood home is awful and severe. It also might annoy those looking for a hardcore ride, as the rest of the movie is unbelievably cheap and campy. As far as realism is concerned, forget it: it's possible the Sculpture production team did the best within their budget, but what shows often doesn't cut it. From nightclubs that look to be made over auto-shops to an art gallery that might be set up in a high school gymnasium, sets and settings constantly remind you what you're watching. Throw an ineffective and intrusive soundtrack into the mix, and you've got little to hold on to, except for Misty Mundae. As Ashley's no-nonsense ho of a girlfriend, Mundae straddles the line between her straight-acting nom-de-reality Erin Brown and her exploitation roots. Though the scream queen does indeed lose the threads at one point, she anchors the film through sheer self-confidence.
You'll have to decide if Mundae is enough to make this film a keeper. Absent her charms, this truly schizophrenic exploitationer seems to stretch itself a little thin. Truly sleazy exploitation elements mingle with laughably low-rent production values and smirking gore scenes - with a little soft-core sex thrown in for good measure. Ordinarily that would sound good to me, but in the case of Sculpture these disparate elements just don't gel. What you get just seems kind of cheap; cheap jokes and cheap shots mixed with cheap blood and cheap boobs.
Sculpture's 1.78:1 widescreen ratio presentation indicates a standard strived-for but missed. Shouldn't everything released on DVD be presented in widescreen by now? Maybe they could provide a 'view in fullscreen' option for those with 4 X 3 sets. But anyway, while Sculpture gets the ratio right, it makes up for this by providing an image marked by digital hoo-ha: aliasing and motion blur are the most notable problems, but the overall image - while crisp and with almost-OK detail levels - just looks at little too Digital Video for my tastes.
English Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio is even more unimpressive, though in part due to source audio. Echo-filled room sound often makes dialog sound hollow and insubstantial, and there's a generally 'off' quality that permeates throughout. Don't ask me to explain it, just understand that with the low budget, you often get the low quality. Here it is.
On the plus side, Camp Motion Pictures throws down plenty of extras to enrich your experience. Hell, after observing this bounty of behind-the-scenes bluster, you just might like the movie a bit more. But first, we get the usual Camp Trailer Vault with trailers for three other releases plus a link to get the catalog. Next up is the Sculpture Trailer, and then a fun 20-minute The Making of Sculpture featurette. Six-minutes of Behind-the-Scenes of Sculpture are more informal at times, but easily could have been included in the previous featurette. Seven minutes highlight the Sculpture NYC Premier with interviews and suchlike, while five minutes of dudes flexing in the Body Builders Video may arouse some of you in the audience. A one-minute Steele's Gym Promo is just a goofy way to promote the movie, apparently. Rose's Fantasy delivers a tedious ten-minutes of B&W silliness, as the title character fantasizes about killing body builders. Four minutes of Deleted Scenes round out the offerings.
My goal here is to be concise. Sculpture mixes disparate exploitation elements in fairly unsatisfying fashion. Nasty incest, bargain gore, clunky humor and sucky soft-core, while enticing, fail to gel into a cohesive or compelling whole. (Gee, really?) Instead of a shamefully good time, we're mostly left with the shame. I'd rather skip it, but the indiscriminate and degenerate among you might get some cheap thrills if you Rent It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com