Directed and Co-Written by Steve Balderson, starring Starina Johnson, Karen Black, Mink Stole and Jane Wiedlin.
Assemble all the cliches that spring to mind when you read these four words: Women-In-Prison Flick. What do you think of? Cute girls in torn prison uniforms? Butch cell-mates? Shower scenes? Perverted wardens and billyclub wielding guards casting inmates into solitary after molesting them? That’s all good lecherous fun for tons of drive-in movies from the 1970’s and 80’s. Balderson however was taking his inspiration from earlier noir-tinged movies from the 40’s and 50’s, such as I WANT TO LIVE from 1958, hence the black & white photography and Rob Kleiner’s cool jazzy score. During the post-screening Q&A Balderson admitted to not having seen many of the best and worst films in the women-in-prison genre. His honesty drew breathless gasps from an audience of nerds who fully expected him to have a Tarantino-esque command of every movie ever made in any country that featured incarcerated ladies.
Enough about what STUCK! is not — what is it? It’s an enthusiastic ode to the earlier days of the genre, and while it is far from perfect, it has enough happy surprises to keep it interesting. Daisy (Starina Johnson) is an innocent girl sent to death row after being implicated in her mother’s suicide by a mistaken neighbor (Karen Black). As Daisy’s cellmates help her embrace and challenge her fate, the solitary Neighbor Lady spirals into doubt and regret. An imaginative depiction of the warden is one of many strengths that STUCK! exhibits. Even when cliches appear, ’cause what’s a women-in-prison movie without a blossoming sapphic affair, Balderson and his committed cast handle them in fresh and unusual ways. While STUCK! is no classic, there are rewards to be gleaned from watching a cast and crew sincerely give it their best shot, especially on a reported $300K budget in a climate where a movie can cost $10M and still be regarded as “independent.”
SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT THE DOOR Directed & Co-Written by Chad Ferrin, starring Noah Segan, Andrea Rueda and Elina Madison.
SPOILER ALERT! — It is very difficult to discuss what is good about SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT THE DOOR without giving away the ending — stop reading before the 2nd paragraph if you don’t want the end ruined. The story focuses on a group of medical students who spend far more time on pharmaceutical experimentation than attending class. After a group trip to their school’s drug closet, one of the students is murdered, leaving rest of the peanut gallery to figure if their paranoia is a side-effect of their trip or if they are really next. This being a horror movie, of course someone is next, but it is in the depiction of the murders that SOMEONE’S KNOCKING slips off the rails.
The murders involve the victim being raped to death by a gruesome couple: a woman who looks like a groupie from a Norwegian Black Metal band, and a guy who looks like a coked-up Lance Henriksen. These are not only vile sequences, they actually distract from what could have made this a really good movie. The big trick is that none of these kids ever left the drug closet; the murders are a shared hallucination as each succumbs to an over-dose. That big trick was almost a very cool reveal, but after sitting through 75 minutes of wannabe torture-porn mayhem, I didn’t really care about sorting through who’s nightmare I was in or what the exact effects of the drug were. The sad part is that SOMEONE’S KNOCKING could have been a breakout sleeper on the order of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY if they’d focused on the cool unique idea rather than slumming in a neighborhood that had made so many other films worth forgetting.