Creatures of the Night

The primary linking element between these two movies should be instantly apparent, but it turns out that they have more in common than the titular professions involved...


Dead Hooker in a Trunk - 2009
Written & Directed by Jen & Sylvia Soska

After the brilliance of the Soska sisters' American Mary and the crime against humanity that was See No Evil 2, I wanted to check out their ultra-low budget debut to see if I could figure out more of the equation.

One of the last lines in the movie is "I can't believe there aren't any repercussions for all the things we did."  That goes a long way toward describing what kind of movie Dead Hooker in a Trunk is.

While it's classified as "Horror" on IMDb, it struck me as much more of a dark comedy crime thriller, but that's essentially semantic.  Rather than making their movie despite a $2500 budget, they embraced the low budget, squeezing every penny out of it, and more.  Dead Hooker in a Trunk is all about DIY, both as an aesthetic and a value.  It is exactly the punk rock exploitation flick that it set out to be.

In addition to writing, directing and probably making sandwiches, Jen & Sylvia star as Geek & Badass, respectively.  That's not me calling characters by their type, as I am wont to do, but the Soskas naming all their main characters according to type.  While running errands with their friends Goody Two-Shoes & Junkie (after another hard night of partying for Badass and Junkie, natch) they all discover -- you guessed it -- a dead hooker in the trunk of their car.

The ordinary logic of human behavior does not apply in this film.  Badass refuses to go to the police because, frankly, she and Junkie can't remember much of the night before.  Even less logically, everyone else goes along with this, albeit some more begrudgingly than others.  What follows is a spastic black comedy of (t)errors.

The girls and guy (Goody Two-Shoes is a guy, just a really wussy, religiously inhibited one) have to evade horny cops, a perverted hotel manager, various drug dealers, a cowboy pimp and the real killer while they try to figure out what happened and what to do about it.  Geek loses an eye, Junkie loses an arm (stitched back on, it's surprisingly resilient), Goody Two-Shoes loses his lunch (repeatedly) and Badass loses her clothes.  Considering her role in making things much, much worse, Badass gets off pretty easy.  Despite discovering that they didn't kill the hooker (the first time anyway) they do kill several people, only most of whom tried to kill them first.  All things considered, there were very few repercussions for all the things that they did.  As Badass says after surprising everyone by being alive after a run-in with the real real killer, "Death can't kill me!"

I cannot in good conscience recommend Dead Hooker in a Trunk in a general sort of way, but I liked it for what it was.  This is very definitely niche viewing for fans of exploitation film.  It's a bleakly funny, no-budget wail of pure street fighting adrenaline.  Like a first live gig for a punk rock garage band, they probably could play it again the same way if they wanted to, but they played even the flat notes with total commitment.

Despite my disappointment with See No Evil 2 (if a dry-heaving sense of loathing can be classified as "disappointment"), DHIAT gives me hope that they will indeed redeem themselves one day.  It really highlights the importance of them writing their own material.  No amount of glitter could gild the turd that was the SNE2 script, and no absence of budget could still the primal scream that was Dead Hooker in a Trunk.

Call Girl of Cthulhu - 2014
Written by Jimmy George & Chris LaMartina
Directed by Chris LaMartina

If Dead Hooker in a Trunk was a no-budget homage to the grindhouse cinema of the 70s, then Call Girl of Cthulhu is a low-budget homage to the splatter features of the mid-80s that you'd never really hear about until you saw them at the VHS rental.  If you want to be negative about it, you could say that it's crude and gruesome, but if you want to have fun, you could say that it's hilarious and raunchy with a bounty of the things that you rented videos (or stayed up late watching cable) for in the 80s.

The film is remarkably generous in most everything that it has to offer.  It combines Lovecraft mythology with raunchy sex comedy and splatterrific practical effects, often at the same time.  It's filled with inside jokes for Lovecraft fans.  My personal favorite is the condom brand, Deep Ones, but real fans are apt to catch more than I did.  The humor is silly and will make your inner 12-year-old-staying-up-late giggle until your parents tell you guys to tone it down in there.  Where so many movies from back in the day had to be stingy with their effects budgets until the finale, Call Girl of Cthulhu is able to keep 'em coming at a furious pace, and it's packed with silly, gross and raunchy creatures and mutations.

The premise is that our protagonist, Carter is a 20-something artist so socially inept that he can barely even talk to the women he knows, much less make of the lovin' to one.  Then one day he runs into call girl Riley (R'lyeh to you, nerds) on the street and is instantly smitten.  He decides to hire her for a little help with a certain matter.  Meanwhile, a Cthulhu cult is searching for a prostitute with a very particular birthmark and killing off the ones who leave them disappointed.  I'll give you one guess who has the birthmark.

Meanwhile that same meanwhile, a small group is working to prevent the cult from getting exactly what they want, and they steal the sacred Necronomicon from the cultists.  Seeing Carter's work in the weekly indy paper, they go to him to copy the book so they can give a powerless decoy back to the cultists.

Carter is so timid that he can't seal the deal with Riley, and she, moved by his vulnerability and contrast to her usual customers, takes a shine to him as well.  They start dating, but once the cult catches up with her, she pushes him away to protect him from the terrible thing inside of her.  She doesn't push away her regular clients, and all sorts of horrors befall them.  Riley has become one big walking STD from Hell -- more or less literally.

Of course the big climax involves the birth of Cthulhu and the opening of a portal to wherever it is that portals open to in Lovecraft's world; Tentacle City, evidently.  It's gory and hideous and triumphant and doomed and NEVER NOT FUN.  Except for the one part that's a total bummer, but that's kind of what you sign up for with Lovecraft.

Cheesy?  Sure.  Corny?  What else?  Light on characterization?  Not as much as you might think.  Poorly acted?  Only where it's funnier that way.  Tacky?  Look, there are boob-eel monsters AND a mutant dick creature.  If you can't enjoy that, that's on you, my friend.

Between these two prostitute-themed low-budget throwbacks, I definitely preferred Call Girl of Cthulhu.  It's still a case of taste whether this is something you can be open to enjoying, but buy-in is much lower and the reward much higher for the willing viewer.  Unlike poor Riley, it delivers something you won't want to kill as soon as it wriggles free.

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