Anyone growing up in the public school system probably had to suffer through a health education class at some point during their adolescence. As if puberty wasn’t awkward enough, I remember learning about the mysterious concept of sex from a teacher old enough to be my great-grandmother. She also made us practice CPR on a creepy-looking mannequin, but that’s a story for another day.
Anyways, I’d like to think that instead of preaching abstinence or discussing the dangers of STDs, she could have showed my class Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and achieved the desired effect. Sure, maybe it wouldn’t have persuaded me away from the opposite sex, but it would have been a nicer alternative than having to endure graphic photos detailing the long-term effects of chlamydia.
At least that was director Fred Olen Ray’s intention, or so he says in the making-of featurette off the new 20th anniversary special edition DVD. Ray tells the interviewer he wanted people to view the film as a cautionary tale, and think twice before having sex with someone they didn’t even know.
Now it sounds very noble of him, although I’m not completely convinced that the same guy who made such classics as Genie in a String Bikini and Scream Queen Hot Tub Party had some underlying motive to promote responsibility in young adults and steer teenagers away from losing their virginity to a sleazy prostitute - but hey, who am I to judge?
Hard-hitting social commentary aside, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers succeeds on a much more basic level. The film follows detective Jack Chandler and his quest to find runaway teenager Samantha at the request of her worried mother. During his efforts to locate her inside the city’s seedy underbelly, Jack gets more than he bargained for when he crosses paths with a chainsaw-worshipping cult of whores.
It’s fairly obvious that after reading the movie title alone, you won’t go into this expecting high art. Shot over five days and on a shoestring budget, the film’s flaws are undeniably apparent if you want to nitpick: the blood looks like orange water, the acting is atrocious and the production values are non-existent.
But if you can’t stand these types of no-budget affairs without rolling your eyes, you really shouldn’t even put this movie in your hands in the first place, never mind your DVD player. For those that do enjoy a nice slice of grindhouse cinema every now and again, there are some aspects to Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers that’ll be the bread to your butter.
Now just because the acting sucks, doesn’t mean the cast isn’t fun. B-movie staples Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons, Return of the Living Dead) and Michelle Bauer (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama) bring their usual flare (a.k.a. "breasts") to the proceedings, while cult leader Gunnar Hansen shows why he had no speaking parts in his legendary role as Leatherface – the man’s wooden line delivery is deadlier than his chainsaw.
The script has a few bright spots, however, with some of Jack’s voiceovers adding genuine humor to the mix. Sure, he’s a poor man’s Humphrey Bogart, but fans of noir films from the 1930s will dig the vibe of the tough-talking, womanizing private eye. He also not-so-subtly provides valuable insight into Quigley's more noticeable attributes (pay attention to the last line of the film in particular for a good laugh).
Obviously the film doesn’t take itself quite seriously, especially when Jack and Sam uncover the cult’s hideout by finding the huge Egyptian statues with the sign “TEMPLE, THIS WAY” out in the open. But that’s why the film is so fun; there’s a campy appeal to it that allows you to turn your brain off and just be entertained – and what’s wrong with that?
The movie’s supposedly infamous scene at the end is “The Virgin Dance of the Double Chainsaws,” which is really just Quigley’s character struggling to look sexy while awkwardly swinging around two chainsaws and gyrating – kind of like my junior prom experience, but without the weapons or body paint. I hate to say the scene is anti-climactic, but unfortunately it is - an example where the name is a lot cooler than the execution of the concept.
I won’t ruin the final battle’s outcome, but I did gain a greater appreciation for it after I found out that the participants used actual chainsaws for the bloody showdown. I’m not sure if the people willing to risk their lives for this type of movie should be admired, or slapped for being so damn stupid.
At a whopping 75 minutes, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is a fairly harmless endeavor. Of course there are a thousand films out there that are better – ones that provide scenes of nail-biting suspense, showcase realistic special effects, etc. – but sometimes you don’t feel like eating filet mignon every night; fast food burgers can be just as satisfying and tasty.