Saturday, September 4, 2010

All About Evil

Last weekend I managed to catch Peaches Christ's directorial debut, All About Evil, as it stopped off at the Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta, Georgia.

The event, (described by Peaches as a "spooktacular"), includes a pre-screening live show that features a couple of song and dance numbers perfomed by Peaches Christ and an assortment of local drag-monsters. The film is touring through 20 or so stops across the country, featuring one or more cast members at each stop. In my case, I got veteran John Waters actress, Mink Stole...

and I can't say that I would've had it any other way.

For any not familiar with Peaches Christ, she is the stage persona of Joshua Grannell and regular host of "Midnight Mass" shows. In appearance, she's a sort of glittery drag-Elvira with just a dash of Divine.

Probably not a coincidence.

After the song and dance bits, "Gore Gore Girl" and "Female Trouble" (that was still stuck in my head when I woke up this morning), and a brief clip-show introduction piece revisiting famous Mink Stole scenes, the lights went down and the real fun began.

All About Evil is the story of a mousy assistant-librarian named Deborah (Natasha Lyonne) who has inherited her recently-deceased father's beloved old movie house, the Victoria Theatre. When we meet her she's grieving over her father, but is particularly upset that her father has died without getting to see her succeed at "the business of show," as she's never had any luck getting work as an actress.

When her cold-hearted mother (Julie Caitlin Brown) comes in to try threatening Deborah into selling the theater, she snaps, killing her with a stab to the neck... and then giving her a few more for good measure.

What she doesn't realize until later is that the murder has been captured by surveillance cameras and, as luck would have it, almost immediately gets accidentally played back to the entire theater.

The attending cult-horror fans mistake the CCTV snuff film for a well-acted homemade cult film and embrace it wholeheartedly. When Deborah realizes what's happened, she seizes the opportunity to rejuvenate the independent theater and, most of all, to finally get her moment in the spotlight.

Short after grisly short is filmed and screened like this, seemingly daily in a very quick sort of macabre Be Kind Rewind fashion and the theater's popularity swells nearly as quickly as Deborah's growing ego.

The diva-directress (now pronouncing her name De Bor'a) finds she can't do all this on her own however, so she and the projectionist (Jack Donner) round up the twisted twins, Vera and Veva (Jade and Nikita Ramsey)...

...and a murderous young drifter (played by Noah Seegan, who you've probably last seen in Dead Girl)... round up these victims a bit more efficiently. The shorts this little team produce really are brilliant, and with names like Gore and Peace, A Tale of Two Titties and The Diary of Ann Frankenstein I'm sure that will come as no surprise.


Their first team production takes them to the library Deborah had worked at earlier, to have a go at the librarian, Evelyn (Mink Stole), to create a very persuasive video about keeping quiet during movies. I'm not going to give away what exactly they do to her, but Mink Stole's version of the All About Evil poster gives a little bit of a hint...

Things eventually hit a snag for Deborah when her biggest fan, Steven (Thomas Dekker, from the Terminator TV series and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake), starts noticing that all the young folks appearing in her films happen to overlap with the growing number of students going missing from school. Steven doesn't have an easy time looking into this though, as he's constantly interrupted at school by the faculty who are convinced that his horror-interests mean that he's going to "Columbine" the place at any second... And things don't go too much smoother at home where he's got his concerned mother (Cassandra Peterson) to deal with.

Freud would have a field-day with this kid.
This is what's on his wall just to the right of the frame there.

The murder-movies get bigger and better until they culminate in the biggest show at the theater, which pretty much involves the whole town. I won't spoil any details regarding the climactic ending, but it manages to be even more over-the-top than the rest of the movie thus far.

Since the Victoria is in San Francisco, "the whole town" includes Peaches Christ herself in one of her several cameos.

Low-budget, independent horror movies are often either so horribly acted as to become unwatchable, or so financially restricted that their silly effects prevent the movie from being taken seriously... but All About Evil suffers from none of that. The production values really shine throughout, and with such a surprisingly strong cast, there's never any bad line-reads that take you out of the scene or anything of that sort.

Long-time Elvira fans may find themselves pleasantly surprised and impressed by Cassandra's Peterson's ability to change tones and actually play a "straight" character role for a change, but she makes the transition look easy. Vera and Veva, the evil twins, were even more surprising. They're genuinely creepy throughout, in a sort of slasher-Wednesday Addams way, but all their other work seems to be stuff like this:

Those "Brit twins" were not exactly an obvious choice for this sort of role by any means, but the result speaks for itself.

Ultimately, what I think I was most impressed with was the tasteful handling of wink/nod distribution concerning all the little genre references sprinkled throughout.

The logo's font is a derivative of the Evil Dead font for example...

While not everything is quite as subtle as all that, you get the idea. Considering that such subtlety usually seems out of reach to horror-comedies (and, come to think of it, drag queens too for that matter...) this reserved sort of homage-handling was one of the most surprising and appreciated aspects for me.

As I recall, there was only one small technical detail that bothered me with this movie. There were a couple of times (one of which I remember was in the very beginning when Deborah's mother comes by) when the hand-held camera shot was uncomfortably wobbly to me. That only happens about two or three times as I recall, but it just always bothers me when tiny things like that pull my attention away from a story that I'm really enjoying otherwise.

I don't think enough good things can be said about Joshua Grannell's first attempt at direction here. I left this thinking that it's pretty much exactly the sort of thing that any genre-respecting filmmaker trying for a horror-comedy should aim for, and that's certainly not a bad standard to set with your first try at making a film.

I can't wait to hear more about Grannell's possible upcoming new project that may be in the works. In the meantime, if the All About Evil spooktacular extravaganza comes through your area, be sure not to miss out. Tour information can be found at the film's website,

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I do hope I get an opportunity to see this.