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Larry Cohen Collection: “Perfect Strangers”

Perfect Strangers

perfectstrangers

Today, I am continuing my spotlight on the career of notable b-movie writer/director Larry Cohen, who I interviewed earlier this year. Next up is 1984’s Perfect Strangers.

The plot of Perfect Strangers is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A hit-man tries to seduce the mother of a child who witnessed his most recent kill.

Perfect Strangers was both written and directed by Larry Cohen, and was released in the same year as another of his films, Special Effects. Perfect Strangers was Cohen’s follow-up directorial feature after the 1982 cult classic monster movie Q: The Winged Serpent.

The cast of Perfect Strangers includes Brad Rijn (Special Effects, A Return To Salem’s Lot), Anne Carlisle (Liquid Sky, Desperately Seeking Susan), Stephen Lack (Scanners, Dead Ringers), and Ann Magnuson (Small Soldiers, Glitter, Panic Room).

The cinematographer for the film was Paul Glickman, a frequent Larry Cohen collaborator who also shot The Stuff, Special Effects, God Told Me To, and See China And Die.

Perfect Strangers was edited by Armond Lebowitz, who also cut Larry Cohen’s films The Ambulance, Full Moon High, A Return To Salem’s Lot, Special Effects, The Stuff, and Q: The Winged Serpent.

Currently, Perfect Strangers has a 5.3/10 user rating on IMDb, from just over 230 submitted user reviews.

When I first heard about Perfect Strangers, I thought that the concept sounded pretty promising. The idea of a hitman needing to take out a child witness, and doing so by initiating a relationship with the mothers, creates an interesting atmosphere for tension. Unfortunately, this movie never really goes anywhere with that idea, and never feels much like a thriller or a romance.

The biggest issue with the movie is, surprisingly, the writing. Cohen has written some interesting and thoughtful screenplays, but this definitely isn’t one of them. I’m not sure if this was just rushed, but the characters don’t have any depth to them, and their dialogue and interactions all feel and look incredibly forced and unbelievable. Worse yet, there are a number of subplots that range from being uninteresting to being mind-warpingly ridiculous, like the presented local feminist action group members in that story who all behave like one-dimensional, man-hating caricatures written to life from the darker corners of the internet.

It doesn’t help that Cohen just doesn’t seem to have anything to say with this movie. His stronger stories have typically had roots in satirizing elements of culture, or understanding popular anxieties. Perfect Strangers comes off like the entire film was an excuse to rail against modern feminists and new-age mothering techniques, which he had mysterious personal vendettas against. The result is a straw man dressed up like a romantic thriller, and it shows.

perfectstrangers2Another huge problem with Perfect Strangers is the cinematography. The entire movie was filmed in pretty extreme soft focus, like it entirely takes place in a sitcom flashback or a shitty sex scene. I actually thought that something was wrong with the transfer, but apparently the movie was intended to be filmed in blur-o-vision. It is not only distracting, but it makes the entire movie look less rich and detailed, and almost supernatural. For a movie that should be grounded in a grim and gritty reality, the technique just doesn’t fit at all.

Last but not least, and I can’t emphasize this enough, Perfect Strangers has some of the most obnoxious, shitty child acting I have ever seen, which is particularly impressive because the child character is essentially a mute. I can’t totally blame this on the child, though: I’m pretty sure this was an inevitable outcome for casting a two year old. For the life of me, I don’t understand why Cohen didn’t write the kid as just a little bit older, so that they might have been able to find a child actor capable of pulling it off. The child could just be a mute or something, and the story could have worked almost exactly the same.

I’m pretty sure that Perfect Strangers is the worst Larry Cohen feature I have seen so far, but I still have a few left to get through before I’ve gotten through his primary filmography. I certainly can’t recommend it to anyone: this was a career misstep on Cohen’s part for sure if you ask me.

 

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Bargain Bin(ge): Tape Ape VHS Swap Meet

Tape Ape VHS Swap Meet

Yesterday, I decided to check out a local VHS market that I heard about recently. Tucked away in the back of a semi-dilapidated building, boxes upon boxes of VHS tapes were laid out on tables, brought in from people all around the region. I usually stick to DVDs, but I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity to find some rarities and flicks that haven’t made the jump to a disc or streaming release. And, sure enough, I found some cool stuff.

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On to the actual haul: here is a shot of all of the tapes I procured together. You can look forward to a good number of these popping up here on the blog for full reviews before too long, particularly the Larry Cohen flicks (“Deadly Illusion” and “Perfect Strangers”).

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Santa With Muscles

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I’ve covered this Hulk Hogan holiday flick before at length, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally snag a physical copy of it. This might be the only Mila Kunis movie worse than “American Psycho 2.”

Carnosaur

carnosaur

“Carnosaur” was Roger Corman’s answer to “Jurassic Park,” and is a flick that I have been meaning to catch for a long time. I’ve seen a bunch of clips from it over the years, and can’t wait to see that adorable little dinosaur in action. Interestingly enough, I also almost picked up “Tammy and the T-Rex,” but decided against it.

Stay Tuned

staytuned

I first heard about “Stay Tuned” from an episode of “We Hate Movies,” and the concept behind the story sounds pretty interesting to me.I mean, of course Satan would be involved in show business somehow, right?

Space Camp Adventure

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This is a promotional video for Space Camp from 1994. From what I can tell, it was made at least in part in my home town of Huntsville, AL. At the very least, this is going to be packed with some solid nostalgia fuel. If it is anywhere near as ridiculous as the movie “Space Camp,” I will be very happy.

House

house

“House” is a bit of a horror-comedy cult classic, but it is one that I have never actually gotten around to before. I’m expecting it to be very much up my alley, though. I mean, Steve Minor directed “Lake Placid” and “Soul Man,” so surely this is going to be on point! /s

Body Parts

bodyparts

This is another flick that I know thanks to We Hate Movies. It sounds like a bizarre little body horror flick that I knew I had to track down after I heard about it. It reminds me a little of the Christopher Lambert “Se7en” knock-off “Resurrection,” which is another flick that I absolutely need to hunt down again soon.

Shark

shark

“Shark” is a Samuel Fuller flick with a lot of interesting back story. A stunt worker was killed by a shark during the production due to a tragic error, and Fuller ultimately abandoned the production entirely due to the producers’ shenanigans. The film is supposedly awful as a result, in spite of a hefty dose of Burt Reynolds in the lead role.

Perfect Strangers

perfectstrangers

“Perfect Strangers” is a Larry Cohen movie that I don’t know much about, but it has not been easy to track down thanks to the immensely generic and oft-used title. The fact that it has been such a pain in the ass to find leads me to believe this is probably one of his lesser films as far as quality goes, but I might be surprised.

Communion

Communion

I didn’t know anything about this movie until after I bought it. You have to take risks in life sometimes, and I am willing to gamble on a movie about Christopher Walken being abducted by aliens. The director was apparently responsible for a couple of the sequels to “The Howling,” as well as something called “Pterodactyl Woman From Beverly Hills,” so I think I may have a winner here.

Deadly Illusion

deadlyillusion

“Deadly Illusion” is another one of those Larry Cohen films that has been a pain in my ass to track down. It stars Billy Dee “Lando” Williams and Vanity (which is awesome), but it is apparently not about a serial killer magician like I had initially hoped. Still, I always have high hopes for Larry Cohen to pull out the stops to create an interesting story. Maybe a magician will be involved after all.

1990: The Bronx Warriors

broxwarriors

I have heard an awful lot about “1990: The Bronx Warriors,” and all of it leads me to believe that I am in for something special with this thing. Fred Williamson’s presence gets my attention for just about anything, but just look at that ideal box art. It is “The Warriors,” but with less money and more nonsense. Perfect.