Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Census Bloodbath: Pieces Of April

Year: 1984
Director: Claudio Castravelli
Cast: Pamela Collyer, Jack Langedyk, Walter Massey
Run Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Plot: Evil Judgment follows young waitress Janet (Pamela Collyer) as she begins to experiment with prostitution, following the lead of her friend April (Nanette Workman). On her very first job, a ménage à trois with the rich and mysterious Ron (Walter Massey of Happy Birthday to Me, Zombie Nightmare, and Eternal Evil), she begins to get a bad feeling and tries to back out, but not before a shadowy assailant murders both April and Ron. When the police, particularly Special Inspector Armstrong (Roland Nincheri of Terror Train, Visiting Hours, and Eternal Evil) insist that the attack was brought on by a drug stupor, she decides to take the investigation with her own hands, enlisting help from her mercurial, mobbed-up boyfriend Dino (Jack Langedyk).

Analysis: So between Evil Judgment and American Nightmare, mid-80's Canada really was obsessed with making films that were surprisingly forward-thinking when it comes to sex work. It's not like films that depict the murders of sex workers can be called feminist tracts, but positioning the lead characters as sex workers (or, in this case, someone who dabbled in sex work) and not specifically punishing them for that is a super fascinating choice for the time period. This particular entry holds up less well under the scrutiny of a modern lens, but it earns points by first and foremost telling a story about how the police actively support the rich and powerful rather than defending the poor or disenfranchised, especially women.

It's less focused as a slasher than as a conspiracy-lite thriller, though it does have more than its share of solid enough kills. They're all the same M.O., which does get a little repetitive, but when the slit throats are shown onscreen, the prosthetics that bring them to life are quite well done, with multiple gushes of blood coming from a single wound rather than the de rigueur "knife makes red line on neck." Luckily, the non-slasher parts of the movie sing in their own way, with snappy dialogue that watching over 200 low budget slasher films has not led me to expect. It's especially charming whenever it's delivered by Nanette Workman.

There is also an appealingly scuzzy nature to the side characters and the settings of Evil Judgment. The interstitial scenes involve people, say, turning the bar TV to the porn channel, or trying to solidify deals with various members of the mob. It's deeply peculiar, but if you like a grotty deep dive into what Canadians imagine are the sordid dealings of the American metropolis, it's something of a blast.

I think I ultimately would have liked the film even more if it had any sort of intentional aesthetic style. It's a blandly mounted thriller with only one deep focus shot (of Janet hiding around a corner from the killer) that's doing anything remotely interesting. And even that is compromised by a piss-poor color palette that makes the shadowy corner blend in too much with the beige tiling of the background. However, in spite of everything, it's an entirely charming little scuzzy movie that could, and I kind of had a blast sitting down with it.

Killer: Robertson (Walter Massey)
Final Girl: Janet (Pamela Collyer)
Best Kill: The nurse at the institution is almost fooled by the killer's doctor disguise, but notices that he's barefoot. She panics and tries to hit the emergency alarm but is killed before this can happen.
Sign of the Times: When Liz is closing the diner for the night, she has to use an adding machine.
Scariest Moment: Janet spies a sliver of a hulking figure reflected in the mirror in front of her.
Weirdest Moment: A disgruntled customer hates how the soup at the diner tastes so he unzips and pees in the bowl.
Champion Dialogue: "I know this great surgeon who'll give you back your virginity."
Body Count: 8
    1. Doctor is strangled.
    2. Nurse has her throat slit.
    3. April has her throat slit.
    4. Ron has his throat slit offscreen.
    5. Cop has his throat slit offscreen.
    6. Housekeeper has her throat slit offscreen.
    7. Liz has her throat slit.
    8. Robertson is shot to death.
TL;DR: Evil Judgment is a weird, scuzzy little movie, but in a way that is entirely appealing.
Rating: 6/10
Word Count: 722

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