Wicked Games 1994 Review
Wicked Games 1994
Directed by: Tim Ritter
Starring: Joel D. Wynkoop, Patricia Paul, Kevin Scott Crawford
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Before we get started, I’d just like to point out that in 1995 a film called Writer’s Block was released that attempted to be a sequel of kind to A Critical Madness. Back then, there was a lot of confusion as to whether Tim Ritter was involved or not with its production, because it lifted many elements from the series. Even though we soon learned that it had no official links, I may well post a review of it at some point if I feel that it has enough to warrant a place on a SLASH above – the web’s most dedicated stalk and slash site. I tried watching it just recently but had to rush out before it ended. I must admit that what I saw didn’t convince me of fact that it was even a slasher movie and therefore I am in no rush to post it here.
Anyway, I was actually quite impressed by the original Truth or Dare. It may have suffered from stinking performances and continuity that made ‘The Blazing Ninja’ look like Mensa staged it. Nevertheless, exploitation is also something of an art form and Tim Ritter’s ambition to go the extra mile made the whole thing seem exciting and fresh, which is all good. If you aren’t aware of his previous work, Ritter could best be described as an American Jesus Franco. His movies are usually always unrated and contain explicit sexual situations and violence that would never in a million years make it through classification for any kind of release in numerous global countries. After working on a few other projects and picking up experience, it was decided that Ritter should dust off the old copper mask and bring his unique sleaze-ridden perspectives back to the slasher genre for something that had been anticipated for quite some time in cult circles.
In the beginning a woman in kinky bondage gear (she’s got to be a porn star?) is seen straddling a bearded man and asking him to ‘beg for it’. A bespectacled middle-aged guy that looks like Queen guitarist Brian May’s deranged brother is watching them unnoticed from the doorway. We soon learn that his name is Gary Block and he’s just caught his wife sleeping with someone she works with (sorry I didn’t remember exactly who he was), a fact that’s emphasised by his threatening to blow their brains out with a handgun. Clearly distraught, he heads around to his buddy Dan’s place where yet another female (but the same actress?) in little but some pervy underwear greets him. Dan is a police officer that has been friends with Gary for some time, but has his reservations about him because his cousin is Mike Strauber, the maniac responsible for killing eleven people eight years ago. After hearing his tale of woe, the kind-hearted cop says that Gary can stay until he gets himself sorted, but later that night he finds him with a gun in his mouth playing truth or dare and threatening to take his own life.
Somewhat concerned about his pal’s mental-health, the detective takes a trip to Sunnyville mental hospital to discuss it with Dr. Siedow, the head psychiatrist. The shrink tries to calm the situation by telling him, `I think your friend is having some difficult times… but I don’t think he’s going to put on a Copper mask and go on a killing spree’ (!) As a form of proof, if ever it were needed, that you shouldn’t trust a Doctor that uses his stomach as an ashtray in his spare time (don’t ask); someone in an identical mask starts slaughtering sexually promiscuous individuals all around town. But is Gary Block the killer? He’s certainly proved he’s unstable by heavily drinking, smashing a bottle over the head of his love rival and urinating in a plant-pot outside a restaurant (please don’t ask!) As more bodies pile up, Detective Dan realises that it’s looking more and more like his mate’s gone too far off the rails…
Wicked Games’ exploration of rejection, sexual addictions and fetishes made for a deep and interesting approach. Whereas most mystery/slashers fall flat because their conclusions are far too evident right from the start, Ritter has managed to create a good puzzle that’s obvious when it’s resolved, but will keep you guessing all the way through. To be frank, it’s a superbly written story with an element of sleaziness that’s rarely seen to such extremity in the horror that we’ve become more accustomed to. Due to the lack of a censor rating, Ritter’s been able to chuck in a fair bit of gore that’s brightens up the kill scenes. Almost every murder spews buckets of blood, but the best would have to be the woman that’s impaled on a sprinkler, which starts spraying crimson all over the garden! There was also a decidedly nasty ripped can to the throat and a gory barbed wire strangulation to name but two.
Ritter takes all you know about ‘gratuitous flicks’ and shows you that really you know nothing at all. Basically, it’s the closest that you’re going to get to porn without heading over to Pornhub. Most of the female characters wear very little or nothing at all and the endless references to bondage and kinky sex are so frequent that they actually become quite irritating. It’s disappointing then that we’re not given much in terms of eye candy and the hottest chica is rubbed out almost as soon as she enters the screen. (A scene that is classically described by the first cop on the scene, `It looks like they came out for a little picnic, a little sex… got killed!) Every single personality in the story is either a bizarre nymphomaniac with a fetish for pain or fag-burns, a rapist or generally just a pervert; and it can get a little overpowering at times. But the thing that really prevents this from scoring a higher mark is the home movie like quality of the photography that is no less than atrocious. I’m used to accepting and enjoying SOV horror, but the main issue here is that the budget here is nowhere near as healthy as it was in the previous chapter. In fact, it was so minuscule that Patricia Paul played the two lead parts, which explains the agonising wig. Acting that would make day-time Soap stars look like Academy nominees is never particularly inviting and the fact that these guys are probably just folk from the street should be enough of a warning what’s in store for you if you hunt this out. Perhaps the only thing that’s improved since last time around is the killer’s guise, which is amongst the best of the genre
Tim Ritter could’ve taken the time to raise a bigger budget and made good use of the interesting premise, but I guess that we can’t criticise his ambition to stick with the ‘underground’ scene that he made his name from. Wicked Games is not without its charms, but you need to forgive some of the quality issues in the first place to be dazzled by them. Kudos for not softening on the shock-factor in a bid to go mainstream, but A Critical Madness still does it for me a tad better than this follow up. The biggest (and it’s a big un’) disappointment is that they couldn’t convince John Brace to return for the follow up. The film is seriously lacking his heinous acting and ‘I’m a psycho’ gurning 😦 Fans of John Brace are still left, ever hopeful, that he will return to the screen once more!
Killer Guise: √√√√√