I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Deadly Obsession

tn_deadlyobsessionslashersearch15DEADLY OBSESSION is not the hidden gem I’m always looking for in a Slasher Search, but I suppose it deserves credit for seemingly trying copy other works in the stalker/slasher subgenre while also not really fitting the mold at all. So at least it’s different. Kind of.

The obsessed individual of the title is just credited as John Doe (Joe Paradise) and he’s an openly crazy maintenance man who gets yelled at for not doing his job. Instead of, you know, maintaining stuff he spends his shifts doing experiments on rats, then collecting their corpses neatly lined up in his refrigerator. He has a plot to poison ice cream as a way of extorting money from Gotham College president Brickley (or Brinkley according to IMDb, which informs me that actor William Klan also played “Interviewer” in THE TOXIC AVENGER). John Doe is extremely bitter about “rich brats” and always assumes that college students think they’re smarter than him. I mean just because he’s working class and because he plays with dead rats doesn’t mean he’s a dummy.

Also in my opinion John Doe from SEVEN is the same character. This is MANHUNTER to its SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

Denise (Darnell Martin) is a freshman who gets the poisoned ice cream, but doesn’t eat enough of it to die. Shoulda chose a more delicious flavor, asshole. The police are worried that the poisoner will become deadly obsessed with Denise and stalk her and what not, so they put her under the protection of young police officer Dino Andretti (Jeffrey R. Iorio, AMERICAN KICKBOXER 2). He goes undercover as a college student, which means he spends half of the movie laying on Denise’s couch making sexually suggestive comments to her and her roommate Pamela (Monica Breckenridge, DIRTY WAR).

mp_deadlyobsessionHalfway through the movie the mad poisoner meets law enforcement expectations by switching to a completely different m.o. where he personally stalks and attacks the poor woman. He finds Denise and Pamela alone in a closed gym with the lights out. It does seem like it would be kind of a fun place to sneak into at that age, though not as much when you know a guy is trying to kill you. The suggestive way Pamela talks to Denise and cuddles her when begging her to get into the swimming pool seems to imply that this may be the rare horror movie featuring a black lesbian character. But unsurprisingly that means she (spoiler) won’t (I guess you already knew this) last much longer.

There’s an unusual way he scares her that’s very simple but effective. She’s swimming alone in this dark pool and suddenly he starts throwing basketballs at her, nailing her in the head at least once. She can’t see who’s doing it and thought only Pamela (who just bumped her with a ball to scare her) was in the building with her, but why would she be this aggressive?

Well, Pamela is actually dead, and now the killer resorts to the goofball technique of puppeting her hand to be gesturing “come here” from around a corner. Then he jumps Denise in the bathroom stall and tries to strangle her with a chain.

For a moment it seems like this Final Girl knows what she’s doing, because she runs straight for the fire ax. Sadly, she just went there to stop and pose in front of it for the camera, catch her breath for a moment, then run away without the ax, so that the killer can take it instead. In my opinion this is poor strategic thinking. I know sometimes you make poor decisions in a high stress situation like this, but still, I’m disappointed in her. I mean, what was she thinking? “If I draw attention to this ax then he will stop to break it open and that will slow him down”?

Fortunately she wises up and starts shooting baseballs at him with a pitching machine. If I were him (which I would NEVER be because I’m against murdering – just my two cents) I would use the ax handle as a baseball bat to ward off the balls. Instead he gets nailed in the balls. She then climbs up a rope, which is a poor move on her part but a good use of gym equipment on the filmatists’ part, so it’s a win.

In fact I will give this one high marks for use of location. She hides in a locker, a head gets dunked in a mop bucket, these are all things using available gym items.

Paradise gives a very self conscious “scary crazy guy” performance, with lines that are maybe supposed to be funny in that way that Freddy was supposed to be funny? I don’t know. This guy at one point quotes Hall and Oates (“One on one,” he says, bouncing a basketball and smiling. “I wanna play that game tonight.”) He threatens to make Denise into “abstract art” or to stab a guy’s head with a needle “so many times you can read a book through it.” He’s better when he shuts up and, I’m afraid, is covered in shadow, because his evil smile is also too forced. But when you can’t see him and he just drags his ax on the floor as a way of taunting Denise while she hides in a dark gym, that’s kinda scary I guess.

One thing that’s nice about being in a city instead of a rural community, a summer camp, a wooded area, a mountain cabin, a swamp, a remote island or an ancient castle is that there are people around to help you when a crazy fucker is trying to sport you to death. In this case it’s the cops who show up and then it turns into a cop movie complete with protective custody, card playing, a cop dressing up as a janitor, a sting operation involving ransom money, but most of all angry cops yelling “Damn it Andretti!” and shit to each other like dialogue in the kid from RUSHMORE’s stage version of SERPICO. It’s somewhat Sabotage-esque as they run around with their holsters, pointing their guns around corners and kicking doors without trying the doorknob.

Unfortunately after the chase in the gym Denise turns back into a wimp. She goes crying into the arms of Dino and starts kissing him as a reward for rescuing her. Then she waits around as bait for a long time until she gets captured, does alot of crying and screaming, has her mouth taped shut, almost gets raped and other unpleasantness. I will say this for her, she is good at climbing. First the rope at the gym, now she uses a ladder to climb into a vent into a boiler room, once she gets some fight in her again.

Musically this goes almost the full range: HALLOWEEN-copying synth, cheesy love music, action movie keyboard jams, hair metal end credits. I guess one of the songs in the movie is by Jon Bon Jovi’s cousin. No rap though. That would’ve been part 2 or 3 I guess.

I’m pretty sure a poster in her dorm room had the Monopoly logo on it. I’m hoping it’s a McDonalds Monopoly poster.

There’s a doorman character who has a good five or six scenes that are supposed to be comic relief, but of course are not at all comic or relieving. The one funny part is that this useless character absconds with the ransom money at the end. That never happened to the bumbling cops in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.

DEADLY OBSESSION is the directivational debut of Jenö Hodi, who went on to make several non-horror b-pictures including AMERICAN KICKBOXER 2 with Dale Apollo Cook, GUNS AND LIPSTICK with Sally Kirkland, Evan Lurie, Wings Hauser, Robert Forster and James Hong, TRIPLECROSS with Michael Pare, Billy Dee Williams and Ashley Laurence, BLACK SEA RAID with Daniel Bernhardt, and METAMORPHOSIS with Christopher Lambert as Constantine Thurzo.

The most surprising twist of the movie is that Final Girl Darnell Martin went on to become a filmmaker. She only acted in one other movie (Cinque Lee’s NOWHERE FAST in 1997), but the same year as this movie she was second assistant camera on DO THE RIGHT THING and DEF BY TEMPTATION, two years later was directing a Samantha Fox video and by ’94 had her feature directing debut I LIKE IT LIKE THAT. Today she is best known as writer-director of CADILLAC RECORDS (the one where Beyonce plays Etta James and Jeffrey Wright plays Muddy Waters). Like many directors she’s worked more in television, with episodes of Homicide, Oz, ER, various Law & Orders, etc. She has not returned to genre other than directing one episode of Masters of Science Fiction, one of The Vampire Diaries, and four of Grimm. But she did put her stalker Joe Paradise in her movie PRISON SONG, which she co-wrote with Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest.

She might be happy that DEADLY OBSESSION is only on VHS. Or maybe she thinks it’s funny and she’d show it off to her friends and collaborators. They’d probly get more out of it than we would, to be honest.

vhs

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015 at 1:17 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Responses to “Deadly Obsession”

  1. The Original Paul

    October 28th, 2015 at 5:39 am

    Ok, we need a name for this:

    “For a moment it seems like this Final Girl knows what she’s doing, because she runs straight for the fire ax. Sadly, she just went there to stop and pose in front of it for the camera, catch her breath for a moment, then run away without the ax, so that the killer can take it instead. In my opinion this is poor strategic thinking.”

    I’d call it a “two helicopters” moment. After that scene in TERMINATOR: GENISYS where Our Not-So-Smart Heroes make their escape onto a rooftop that houses exactly two (2) helicopters. They’re being pursued by the guy who taught one of them to fly a helicopter (one of them remarks about this while they’re on the freakin’ roof.) They have enough time and weaponry to blow up helicopter #2, yet they just leave it there so their pursuer can use it to follow / shoot at them.

    Or in other words: if you happen to exist in the movieverse, and there’s a conspicuous thing that your enemy is plainly going to use to kill you, don’t leave it there for him to get at, idiot!

  2. I think this title is redundant. Like, if you’re making a movie about an obsession, shouldn’t we assume it’s a deadly one? “Oh my God you guys, I just got caught up on SCANDAL and I am like totally obsessed with it” would not make a very interesting premise for a film in my opinion. You need some deadliness in there. De Palma made a movie called OBSESSION and the deadliness was just implied. He trusted your intelligence on the matter of what kind of obsessions are worth making movies about and what kind are worth unfollowing people on Facebook about.

    I’d never heard of this one so I looked into it. Does anyone know if there’s an earlier black Final Girl than the one in this? You still don’t see that kind of thing very often unless its a specifically black-marketed movie, which this doesn’t seem like it was. Might be kind of a milestone here.

  3. I’m not sure her background, but watching the movie I thought she was white. I don’t know who that is on the cover, either, I don’t think it’s her friend from the movie. I have also considered that this could be another Evan Lurie situation where two different Darnell Martins are being combined on IMDb, ruining the most interesting trivia about the movie, but I’m gonna assume it’s the same woman.

    Actually the weird thing is that the picture on the cover does kind of look like modern pictures of her, but I did not think it was her in the movie. I could be getting the character names mixed up and maybe she’s not the main character, but the other reviews on IMDb agree with me. Maybe I need to rent this again.

  4. Her IMDB page identifies her as the first black American woman to direct a studio feature film so black is how she identifies. I guess it’s a baby step to have a black Final Girl who looks white, but shit, man, we can see where we’re at even now. I’ll take any progress I can get.

  5. In her bio on IMDb it says, “With her debut feature, I Like It Like That (1994), she was reputedly the first black American woman to write and direct a film for a major Hollywood studio.” I don’t know how she looks in the movie, but in her pictures on IMDb she looks mixed race, so it’s not immediately apparent that she’s black. Or IMDb is full of shit.

  6. I think that must be the case, but I would be embarrassed if I was mixing up the actress’s name and she was actually a different character. But I think I got it right.

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