SPINE – 13 Days of Shot on Video! (#6)

With 13 Days of Shot On Video I’ll be reviewing a new shot-on-video horror film every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

2I’ve sat here at my keyboard for awhile now, wondering how to start my review of the 1986 shot-on-video baddie, Spine. I’m having trouble putting it all into words. I have my notes next to me (I always take notes using the Notepad feature on my iPhone — a must), and they are helpful but, still, I’m left with a sort of desperate, helpless feeling as I grasp for the right words to summarize the movie and my reaction to it.

The plot is basically this: a deranged murderer has recently been released from an asylum, and he immediately starts murdering again — attacking only nurses, believing them all to be a mysterious woman named “Linda” from his past. Meanwhile, the local police are frantic trying to figure out who is doing the killing, but they always seem to be one step behind the unknown assailant. The movie follows the killer doing his stalking and killing, the police hunting him, and two nurses who are good friends — and who you assume are going to end up the killer’s next victims.

Honestly, the movie is rough. I’m talkin’ The Room style bad. (Which may not be such a terrible thing nowadays, seeing as how The Room has become a cult hit and midnight movie success story.) Still, Spine seems to transcend general shoddiness and creates its own level of putridity. There is rampant overacting; one scene early on wherein a cop searches an apartment complex sees him doing the cliche “swing your gun around the corner before double-checking” bit, but in a hilariously over-exaggerated manner. And when the acting isn’t over-the-top, it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum — being summoned with only the slightest effort the players can muster; one scene shows the actor portraying the police chief clearly reading his lines off a paper on the table in front of him. Lastly, several scenes are (for whatever reason) completely dubbed — in one of these instances, the voices don’t even bother trying to match what they’re saying with the mouths of the actors. Naturally, this makes the scene twice as bad as it was originally (and therefore even harder to watch.) Really, the whole movie almost feels improvised.

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Spine tries to ratchet up the titillation factor with a few nekkid women, but it just ends up feeling super sleazy. There’s even a brief (extremely brief, thankfully) rape scene that feels totally unnecessary considering it comes in right near the end of the movie and the killer had never done anything like that with any of his prior victims. That’s something that always blows my mind with these shot-on-video horror flicks: I’ll never figure out how the directors ever convinced any of these actresses to do nude scenes. These things had no budget, no fancy equipment, no skilled crew — yet here were these actress — most of whom would never act in anything ever again — baring it all on tape! Ladies: I salute you for being so brave.

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The end of the movie comes swiftly, mercifully — but the expedited and strange ending feels rushed and tacked on, and I immediately regretted the time I put in watching it. I felt robbed, essentially. Duped! Now, the back of the DVD says the movie is 90 minutes long, but the insert inside of the case says the movie is only 62 minutes long — and IMDB clocks it at 72 minutes long. Whichever one of these is right, it doesn’t matter: it still feels way too long while watching it, and the copout ending is a disappointment. Truly, it’s a very strange ending to a very strange film.

Oh, one final thing: at certain points in the movie, the killer sounds exactly like Lorenzo Music, the guy who provided voices for the cartoon version of Garfield and Peter Venkman in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. So I suppose that is a plus.

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