Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988): When men gave women chainsaws

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)
dir: Fred Olen Ray

How many times has it been complained that b-movies of the 80s were always about women getting killed in bloody, gruesome, graphic ways, and they always had a misogynistic point of view? There are always exceptions to that rule, and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers was one of those very big exceptions.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers was never a movie that was going to set the world on fire. This was a B-movie made for the grindhouses and VHS set that starred Linnea Quigley, a tiny scream queen. Sending up film noir tropes with self-referential winking, while also blending in horror and plenty of nudity, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers actually has developed a sizable cult following.

The story of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers follows a hardboiled detective, Jack Chandler, who is looking for a lost teenager from backwoods America. Meanwhile, there is an ancient cult of chainsaw worshipping prostitutes who are killing their clients with wild abandon. And, that's about all there is to Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. Hookers, nudity, chainsaws, murders, Fox Harris, overcooked hardboiled dialogue, and a climactic chainsaw duel!

When I mention that dialogue, Fred Olen Ray and T.L. Lankford didn't really scrimp on the quotables. "You could have knocked me over with a pubic hair." "The charge? Making McNuggets with a chainsaw." "Just what I need today, a private dick in my face." "Being a dick is a 24 hour a day job."

The dialogue is only matched by the set pieces. There is a chainsaw massacre scene that is all about Elvis. Elvis on the record player. A velvet Elvis painting covered by plastic wrap. A naked woman wearing nothing but a shower cap maniacally wielding a chainsaw chopping up a guy with body parts flying.

And, here's where Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is actually a different movie than most of the other 80s cult movies. The victims in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers are all men. The killers are all women, though let by The Stranger (played by Gunner Hansen). And, the women are wielding the second-most phallic instrument of death seen on screen (the first being the long drill in Slumber Party Massacre).

By giving women gigantic heavy cocks to penetrate men with, Fred Olen Ray is answering the feminist charges that all horror movies actually are intended to make women out to be victims. Now, the movie is still half a male story, with Jack Chandler taking a good half of the screen time, and being the hero. And, the killers are all under the power of another man, The Stranger, who is the leader of the cult. But, the women aren't the victims in this movie. They're the cock-wielding killers that is normally reserved for men.

Fred Olen Ray is a b-movie director, who works in the same realms as Jim Wynorski and David DeCoteau. Olen Ray even delved into the gay horror genre with the TV series The Lair, though he is straighter than straight. He also, at one point, had his own wrestling league, ACW, and was a wrestler in it. Olen Ray is a card, who knows how tongue-in-cheek his movies actually are. Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is definitely his idea of satire and subversion, and it works. It pays off in spades.

Required Viewing.

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