Engaged happy couple Mary and Charlie want to dip their toes into debauchery before tying the knot. When they patron a dive strip club, looking to unwind a nervous Charlie down a notch with a sultry, on-stage lap dance, the club is suddenly seized by three well-armed Satanist strippers looking for quick cash and a virtuous sacrifice to conjure a demon. Kidnapped for the dark ceremony, Mary and Charlie find themselves in their grip with Charlie being murdered to complete half the ritual, but Mary is able to escape when a rival gang claims rights over the territory that sidetracks the Satanists summons. Mourning over her fiancé’s death, Mary is taken under the wing of a junkyard sensei who trains her to fight and to be fearless against all those in her path for vengeance.
From horror enthusiast Joe Bizarro comes the filmmaker’s first written and directed feature film, the pastiche grindhouse revenge-thriller “Brides of Satan.” Bizarro, who co-produced “Another Plan from Outer Space,” the Lance Pollard offshoot homage to the Ed Wood Jr.’s iconic science fiction-horror “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” co-writes his 2021 exploitation with “Take Shelter” cinematographer and first time screenwriter Noel Maitland penned to be a wild-and-strange ride through the various territories of genre landscapes. Film in and around the greater Los Angeles area, “Brides of Satan” stitches the perceived strange and unusual charisma of L.A.’s alt-scene offerings around a familiar framework with a few arbitrary bits of bizarre. Along with Bizarro and Maitland is fellow executive financier Lance Pollard, who we mentioned had previous dealings with Bizarro, and the jacks of all trades Victor Formosa (“Iron Sky: The Coming Race”) along with William Wulff, Celeste Octavia, Lisa Mason Lee, and Mike Ansbach serving as producers on the Joe Bizarro Studios labeled production.
Right off the bat, the montage introduction of the tri-gang strippers, played by Alice McMunn, Joanna Angel, and Rachel Rampage, with sizzling eroticism and skin, seductively gazing into the camera and pole dancing captured in slow motion immediately sets the tone for the rest of the story. Laden from their colorfully neon-dyed hairstyles to their fishnet-led leathery platform heels with body ink, their focal opening is a bit of Joe Bizarro in a nutshell as well as an eclectic look into a cast comprised of goth, burlesque, body-mod, and fetish aficionados. I was also hoping for a cameo from adult actress Joanna Angel’s husband Aaron ‘The Small hands’ Thompson, but alas, no such luck. Though McMunn, Angel, and Rampage get the juices flowing and motivate the narrative into a plot point of character deconstruction, reconstruction, and revenge, neither of them are the top bill for lead role. That responsibility falls solely on the “Evil Bong” franchise – wait, there’s an “Evil Bong” franchise? – actress Mindy Robinson that, through a (Joe) bizarro world, adds an interesting element of casting for the outspoken Republican commentator who happens to also be the girlfriend of former mixed martial artist and “Expendables” actor Randy Couture. Robinson amiably plays a loving fiancé Mary to an equally amiably, yet unresolved, Charlie (Michael Reed, “The Disco Exorcist”). Eventually, Mary’s woman scorned vengeance becomes a juggernaut of kickass, learning geriatric kung-fu from a junkyard hobo, but Robinson disingenuously leaves her fluffy and bubbly self into a character who’s supposed to be this badass that beats half-naked Satan acolytes in one blow and can vanquish netherworld demons in the bat off an eyelash. Much of the film is Robinson promenading provocative and oddball locales, meeting more provocative and oddball characters, to track down her fiancé’s murderer in a forfeiture of commanding the scenes with scene-stealing presence. Though she bests an array of stud-cladded, garage punk baddies armed with arm drills, nail bats, and switchblades, their brief moments on screen leave more of an impact than the principal protagonist and much like the gang of three strippers, in which two-thirds of them cease to exist after approx. 15 minutes into the film, they’re built up as more prominent players in this psychos-ville showdown yet fizzle to literally just a passing moment in the narrative, giving way to a film full of nothing but near essentially cameos from Anatasia Elfman (“Shevenge”), Ellie Church (“Frankenstein Created Bikers”), Sarah French (“Art of the Dead”), and Damien D. Smith (“The Purge”). There are also true cameos from “Blood of the Tribades” filmmakers Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein, professional burlesquer Olivia Bellafontaine, and Madelyne Cruelly from the pirate punk band Yours Cruelly.
“Brides of Satan’s” gimmick is to live up to representing the yield of grindhouse cinema and for the most part, Joe Bizarro cultivates a passable resemblance by borrowing from the constructs and the ideals that came from them of the golden age of independent cinema decades between the 60’s and early 90’s and reworked them into his own passion project. “Brides of Satan” is undoubtedly derivative in most of designer elements, but I did find Bizarro’s concept of uniting the alternative network and B-movie troupers into a singular movement to be refreshing in it’s something you don’t regularly see or experience too often out of the shadows and living in the daylight. As disparaging as it may sound, the sensation becomes that carnival sideshow effect where the societal outcasted abnormalities entrance and pluck at your curiosity strings much to the same effect that ostentatious or surreal horror and sci-fi movies are a way to escape the harshness of one’s own bleak day-to-day reality. However, Bizarro didn’t quite achieve the paragon of his idea not because of his cast, who are mostly stupendously talented in their own rites, but rather more with a watery script barely sustaining flavor to its revenging aspects and supernatural rifts, the imbalance amongst characters, and a dialogue so intrusively oversaturated with hackneyed one-liners that the next words out of their mouths are predictable ones. That tiredness, that sparkless originality, that familiar taste again and again is what ultimately quells “Brides of Satan’s” fetching title and it’s weighted of promise.
Rowdy and burning with streaks of fluorescent colors, “Brides of Satan” is a come Hell and high-water tribute for exploitation film lovers and the Joe Bizarro debut is now on high-definition Blu-ray home video from Dark Side Releasing. Presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio on a BD25, Bizarro and Maitland, whose technical trade in director of photographer is implemented here, opt for a tenebrously smoky and shadowy obscured grindhouse-noir that innately secretes tactile details but do offer that sense of mystique danger and a carnivalesque veneer at times, using lighting techniques to accomplish the desired look. The English language Dolby Digital stereo has lossless quality from a 384kps bitrate that, despite its dual channel limitations, outputs decent robust tracks. Dialogue is crisp and clear, ambient background noise and ransacking has ample range and depth, and the original soundtrack from Ausie Jamie Coghill (Jimmy C) of The Jimmy C Band offers a lounge-grunge-like Rock and Roll score hitting all the right notes apt to the narrative. The opening monologue from Rick Galiher doing his best Vincent Price vocals. If you closed your eyes and just listened to the tracks, you can distinctly hear every tone and note in everything from a wonderfully broad audible spectrum. The special features include an audio commentary with the director Joe Bizarro, a handful of deleted scenes and bloopers, a photo gallery of stills and alternate posters (which there are a ton of), and a short skit entitled “Rad Roommates,” a pseudo-sitcom produced by Bizarro about a man and his monstrous hairball of a lowlife roommate. If you’re lazy and don’t feel like navigating through the menu options to the special features, wait until after the feature’s credits roll through as the special features will follow, beginning with “Rad Roommates.” The Dark Lord takes a bemusing backseat that drives “Brides of Satan” more toward solely being a revenge thriller with few incomplete spidering out subplots that belly up by its own creator.