Thursday, February 22, 2018

Census Bloodbath: Guten Morgan

Year: 1982
Director: David Schmoeller
Cast: Morgan Fairchild, Michael Sarrazin, Andrew Stevens
Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

When you're reviewing a Morgan Fairchild slasher movie, do you really need to go much further than the phrase "Morgan Fairchild slasher?" It's not good, folks. But oh, we do find ourselves in a pickle when David Schmoeller's name pops up on screen. Attention must always be paid to the director of Tourist Trap, even if the highest peak his career did ever manage to reach was Puppetmaster. So here we're stuck with The Seduction, an early entry into the erotic thriller genre that is neither erotic nor thrilling, so is it even a movie?

Unfortunately, it takes 104 minutes to prove that yes, in fact, it is.

The Seduction takes a very familiar tack to anyone who has watched early 80's porto-slashers as closely as I have. Los Angeles news anchor Jamie Douglas (Morgan Fairchild in her first feature film) has found herself a stalker in Derek (Andrew Stevens of 10 to Midnight), a photographer who seems to be her neighbor but the geography of the movie isn't exactly clear on that front. And thus does the movie announce itself as a Windows-esque obsession movie rather than an out-and-out slasher. Although he does torment Jamie with knives in tow, and she is reporting on a chain of serial murders that have literally nothing to do with the plot, the body count remains resolutely, frustratingly low.

Among the cast members that Derek refuses to kill are Jamie's best friend Robin (Colleen Camp in an early role), a struggling model and commercial actress with the greatest outfits ever designed by cocaine; her assistant Bobby (Kevin Brophy of Hell Night); and her boyfriend Brandon (Michael Sarrazin), who seems positively elderly when placed next to Morgan Fairchild. So yeah, Derek makes threatening phone calls and follows her around and does stalker stuff. You pretty much get it.

Yeah, you get it.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Morgan Fairchild. I just think she only works as a reaction to who she used to be. She's great as a Chandler Bing's aging sexpot mother on Friends and in her cameo as maybe an actual angel in the gay comedy eCupid, and those roles wouldn't have existed if not for her early work, which they exist as a winking comment on. But let's admit that that early work isn't exactly the stuff of legend.

Transferring her skills from the TV drama Flamingo Road to the thriller genre involves a lot of sexy pouting in life-threatening situations and almost nothing else. She's easily outstripped by every other character, including Brandon - who is just a cardboard cutout of a vanilla extract ad. Honestly, Colleen Camp should have been the lead here, because she turns in a performance that's intriguingly prickly and angular, embodying the desperate need for attention and hardened, defensive exterior of someone who is totally failing at being famous. Even Kevin Brophy, who could rightfully call this a career high point, exudes charm and charisma in spades. They all run circles around Fairchild, who needed a couple more years under her belt to get perspective on what exactly her place was in the entertainment sphere.


The Seduction is at least trying for something in the scenes with Maxwell the cop (Return to Horror High's Vince Edwards), which comment on the fact that stalker situations weren't taken seriously in the 80's, just barely brushing up against how crimes against women were more normalized back in the day. But let's not pretend that The Seduction had some grand agenda here, it was just using real life facts to underscore how helpless and alone its sexy, sometimes topless protagonist truly is.

And there are a couple helpfully weird scenes that pique the interest every now and again. A pop psychologist character who appears randomly in one scene and never shows up again has a delightful turn, seeming to channel Zelda Rubinstein's future breakout role in Poltergeist. Plus. there's that line where Morgan Fairchild objects to getting a gun, because "what am I gonna do, pack a gun, take karate, and become some kind of street thug?" (Obviously her only reference for gang life is a bunch of early 80's TV movies). But these brief moments of incoherence don't make up for a total lack of interest in any of the proceedings onscreen.

I've already mentioned the fact that this film isn't in the least bit scary, and in spite of a couple nipples sprinkled in, eroticism is so far afield that it's sending postcards. There aren't even any kills to whittle down the surprisingly ample cast while we're waiting for the story to kick in! (spoiler: it never does) But on top of that, The Seduction isn't even particularly well-made. The final scene (AKA the only sequence where anything actually happens) is bizarrely edited, placing the killer inside the house to do a kill, then teleporting him back to his apartment so he can approach the house again to drum up some tension [sic]. It makes not the slightest bit of sense geographically or from a character standpoint, and the muddy cinematography elliptically swooping around to avoid showing gore they can't afford just makes the whole thing even more scattered.

If I wanted to watch a bunch of interchangeable men in tight pants and feathered hair run around not being scary, I would just watch an aerobics video. And if I want to watch an early 80's celebrity stalker slasher with an obnoxiously low body count, I would just put on The Fan. At least that movie has Lauren Bacall, a shirtless Michael Biehn, and some glittery musical numbers. The Seduction couldn't even dream of anything that interesting.

Killer: Derek (Andrew Stevens)
Final Girl: Jamie Douglas (Morgan Fairchild)
Best Kill: This really isn't much of a decision, so I shall abstain
Sign of the Times: Jamie has to use a phone booth to check her messages.
Scariest Moment: A threatening letter is slipped into Jamie's teleprompter and she automatically starts to read it aloud until she realizes what she's saying.
Weirdest Moment: A department store salesman attempts to sell Jamie a 55-pound solid silver cigarette lighter shaped like an elephant, and if it had come back in any capacity during the third act, this would have been a 10/10 movie.
Champion Dialogue: "What rattled your cage? Did you get a facial by mail or somethin'?"
Body Count: 2, oh so disappointingly
  1. Brandon has a knife thrown into his back in a hot tub.
  2. Derek is shot in the gut.
TL;DR: The Seduction isn't so much seductive as it is entirely stultifying.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 1122

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