Thursday, February 12, 2009

Inner Sanctum 2 (1994)

Reviewed by JM

God only knows how this lost screen gem fell into my hands. Never released on DVD in America, I had only seen it one time. I had been in high school and my brother and I watched a VHS copy that we had picked up from DJ Video, in Muncie, Indiana.

Never has there ever been such a video store. The horror selection was incredible. Over the years, though, my brother and I had pretty well exhausted its expansive collection. We had watched all of the Halloween movies. We had seen The Haunting of Morella. We had made the conscious decision to ignore the many Faces of Death videos.

Somehow or another, we finally came across a copy of Inner Sanctum 2. We rented it hoping for copious nudity. What we got, was much, much more.

The nudity, though somewhat tame by today’s Unrated standards, was more than satisfying to a couple of kids used to late night Cinemax. The movie, though, had it all. A monster. Nightmare sequences. A revenge plot. A central character with a lisp.

Obviously, we loved it.

But, we never owned it. It lived only in our memories.

Fast forward 15 or so years later. While walking through Hear Again CDs in Gainesville, Florida, the unimaginable happened. On my way to the checkout with a copy of Woman in a Lizard’s Skin in my hand, I glanced over the “new arrivals” section when what to my wondering eyes should appear?

A region 3 asian dvd of Inner Sanctum 2.

Incredible. I don’t even know how I spotted it. The only logical explanation being divine intervention.

The question, though, is would it hold up to the movie of my memories?

Yes. Oh, hell yes.

Directed by Fred Ray Olen, the movie opens in Ed Wood style, with a visit through a cemetery in which a blonde is startled by a cemetery worker who says, “…sorry, Miss, I didn’t mean to scare you. It’s just that, uh, we close at sundown”. The blonde apologizes and explains that she lost track of time.

Now the thing that sticks out is, it is not even close to dark outside. It appears to be about 2:30 in the afternoon. As the woman walks toward the cemetery gates, in broad daylight, they close on her. She has a wonderful overreaction, repeatedly screaming “wait!” and really hamming it up in ways that I cannot aptly even begin to describe. Suddenly, it is dark outside.

Now, to be fair, this is somewhat explainable because, as we soon find out, it is a dream sequence. However, having the day to night shots not line up sure seems like a nod to Plan 9 From Outer Space. Or bad editing.

During this dream, we are introduced to the monster in this movie. It is a zombie of the recently deceased Baxter Reed. He speaks with the low, electronically altered voice of monsters in kids cartoons. The makeup, however, is pretty top notch. We will see plenty of Baxter throughout this film.

While in the graveyard, we also have a woman dancing around for no reason whatsoever. I cannot help but think of Orgy of the Dead, though, and hope that this is a reference done intentionally.

So, what exactly is this movie about?

It focuses on Jennifer Reed (the blonde from the dream). Jennifer killed her husband… because she had to… it is never explained. The back of the DVD says it was self defense. So, I will go with that. Anyway, she is recovering from some sort of injury where she had previously been confined to a wheelchair (now she just kind of limps) and is plagued by nightmares.

Jennifer employs a nurse to help care for her. But, as far as I can tell, this nurse is nothing more than a servant. She makes her breakfast and is constantly responding to Jennifer’s screams every time Jennifer wakes from a nap. In fact, she finally buys Jennifer a bell to ring to call her. Jennifer sort of limply protests. The nurse, however, insists it will make her job easier (my guess is she was sick of all of Jennifer’s yelling). The next thing you know, Jennifer starts screaming and ringing the bell at the same time.

Jennifer is a really hard central character not to hate.

I’ll bet that this poor nurse is really questioning why she spent anytime training for nursing in college. Was this why she got her degree? To just be a servant responding to a whiney, middle-aged twit who can’t handle bad dreams? On the other hand, she gets to where short skirts and is frequently having sex with the sleazy gardener. So, maybe those perks make it worthwhile to her.

This gardener is a real winner, too. The guy is approaching his forties and doesn’t really do a lot of gardening. Mostly, he waits on Jennifer Reed. He seems a little slow, to me. But, he does have sex pretty regularly with the best looking woman in the movie. So, maybe his character is more complicated than I realize. At the very end we find out he is undercover or something.

Baxter’s brother and his wife are both around trying to get to Baxter’s inheritance. The brother is also trying to sleep with Jennifer, who he was apparently in love with before she married his brother. It is a weird relationship.

Jennifer also has a psychiatrist who is always doing borderline therapy with her. My favorite scene has him dropping by the house for a visit. He convinces Jennifer to tell him, and everyone else having breakfast in the room, about her scary dreams. She finally does. He just walks out and everyone around her thinks she is nuts. Way to go, doc.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned a lot of names to this point. That is because none of these characters are very important. For the most part, they are all interested in getting to Jennifer’s money and having soft-core sex.

The only names that you need to know are: Jennifer Reed, Baxter Reed, and Anna Rawlins.

Anna Rawlins played by Margaux (or Margot to the less pretentious) Hemingway. Anna is having an affair with Jennifer’s brother in law. They are plotting to get to Baxter’s money.

Most importantly, though, Margaux acts as though this is her first time in front of the camera. She seems like an excited little kid on stage who is on the verge of forgetting each line even as it comes out. She also has an incredible speech impediment that should leave first time viewers completely confounded.

Here are a few examples:
“Bagshter manedged to create a neysh little shtash of hisz wife’sh money.” (“Baxter managed to create a nice little stash of his wife’s money.”)
“Bagshter had two keysz. One to open the shafety deposhit boksh and one to open up what’sh inshide the shafety deposhit boksh.” (“Baxter had two keys. One to open up the safety deposit box and one to open up what’s inside the safety deposit box.”)
“I jusht brought a few bokshiz of Bagshter’s from the offish.” (“I just brought by a few boxes of Baxter’s from the office.”)

Now, let me ask you this: Is there any possibility that this dialogue was not written on set? I mean could any more soft c’s be packed into Ms. Hemingway’s lines? It sure seems like Fred Olen and the boys were having some fun at Margaux’s expense.

The murder mystery part of this movie only really begins in the last ten minutes. The killer, though, is a great one. I will say, for whatever reason, I did not see it coming. So, I will keep quiet about it. Maybe it will also surprise someone else.

Of course, Baxter Reed shows up at the end as kind of a Freddy figure. That was almost a requirement of any horror movie that was released straight to video during this time period.

What is not to like?

Three fingers.

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