07 August 2008

TTT: Epitaph (1987)

I was dreading having to watch another Joseph Merhi film immediately after the cinematic tragedy that was The Newlydeads. So, going into this film with the absolute lowest of expectations, I was surprised to find it not so bad. It has a decent The Stepfather vibe to it. In this one, the daughter's natural mother is the psychopath who can't seem to stop herself from killing everyone around her. Mom is, in fact, the best part of the movie. She's played surprisingly subtly -- considering she's a bipolar serial killer -- by Delores Nascar. The first person she kills on screen is a house painter she tried and failed to seduce. After stabbing him repeatedly, as he's dying against a wall, she gives him a quick slap across the face. I loved that little touch.

Natasha Pavlovich also puts in a nice performance as the abused daughter. Her screaming and crying are actually so realistic-sounding, it's borderline disturbing.

There is a lot of slow time in the middle of the film. We watch the daughter adjust to a new high school, Mom hanging out with a neighbor, and more than a few family arguments around the breakfast table (frustratingly shot with no coverage, so we're forced to see them from one angle only). I suppose the slow middle section functions as sort of a tension-builder: when is Mom going to snap next? When she does, it is a lot of fun. I don't think I've actually ever seen the "hungry rat chews through a human body to escape flames" gag in a movie before.

aka Mommy's Epitaph
d. Joseph Merhi