For some the capsule review comes easy, but for me it’s an exercise in pure frustration. As a means of self-discipline I have decided to confront that which tortures me through this continuing feature—B-Movie Bullsh*t in 50 Words or Less.
With Nightmare Sisters, Z-Movie auteur David Decoteau proves what you can do if you film 10-minute masters without any coverage—make a terrible movie very cheaply. Despite this the movie succeeds thanks to the best special effects Decoteau could buy—scream queens Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer.
It’s said that the term “Scream Queen” was coined in reference to Jamie Lee Curtis, whose run of 70s-80s horror movies (Halloween, Prom Night, The Fog, Terror Train, Road Games, and Halloween II) more then earned her the nickname. Since then, though, the term has been co-opted to apply to any attractive actress who has spent a significant portion of her career running away from masked maniacs baring lethally sharp instruments of bloody impalement.
The one difference between the original SC and her future descendents is that Curtis famously made her way through horror movie stardom without once giving up the goods (she saved that for her big time Hollywood debut, Trading Places), while a modern SC generally spends more time naked than otherwise. In fact, their open attitude regarding their bodies is generally responsible for the ubiquity that will eventually earn them SC status.
Take for example, Michelle Bauer. Never a particularly talented or convincing actress, she still managed to work a lot throughout the late 80s and up to the mid-90s (and even now makes the occasionally appearance here and there), largely because she was a trooper who low budget filmmakers understood was a guaranteed commodity. Casting her meant not having to worry about the sudden cold feet that sometimes affected less experienced actresses just before the film was about to roll on the nude scene for which they were specifically hired. Michelle would drop her top anywhere, anytime, for as long as you wanted and she looked great doing it. So what if she wasn’t that great at delivering her lines?
Throughout the 21st century the role of the SC has declined significantly from its 90s peak. By the turn of the century many SCs had either aged out of the roles previously available to them or had ended their careers prematurely by refusing to do the only thing people previously hired them to do (see Jewel Shepard for the best example of this).
But the biggest factor in their fall from prominence is the diminished presence of low-budget independent genre films in popular culture. A present day SC like Tiffany Shepis, for example, may have almost 100 credits to her name, but even the most dedicated genre fan is unlikely to get the chance to see more than a handful of them. This stands in contrast to an 80/90s equivalent SC such as Linnea Quigley, whose most obscure films could still be found in the majority of video stores of the period. It was easy to be a SC fan back then. It takes a lot of work to admire them now.
Five famous “Scream Queens” (Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, Roxanne Kernohan, Monique Gabrielle and Kelli Maroney) are invited to the home of Count Byron Orlock to attend a seminar on" How to Make A Good Horror Film." But when they get there, they find the house is empty and decide to pass the time by stripping down into nighties, consulting an Ouija board and then getting into a very small hot tub. While they sit crammed together they discuss the lectures they planned on giving had the seminar actually occurred. Then they take their tops off and lather each other up with soap. (Archival footage) blood is shed, breasts are bared (more often than they are covered), stuff explodes (once again thanks to the archival footage) and the film doesn’t so much as end than run out of video tape.
From a critical standpoint there’s really not a lot to say about Scream Queen Hot Tub Party. The title pretty much says it all. There are Scream Queens. They get into a hot tub. And they proceed to party. Run credits. In a way it’s an even more reduced version of the already bare bones Sorority House Massacre II and Hard to Die, stripping away all notions of character and plot and simply providing the nudity and lame jokes.
Running just 46 minutes, minus the credits, half of its running time is taken up by clips from other movies, meaning it only features about 20+ minutes of original material, the majority of which features its cast in a visually pleasing state of undress. Because of this you would think it would be a relatively easy film to sit through, especially if you fast forward past the scenes from movies you’ve already watched, but the truth is SQHTP is interminable and proves that gorgeous nude bodies alone are an important b-movie side-dish, but virtually impossible to digest as the main course.
And this is not a lightly made statement. SQHTP features five of the hottest b-movie actresses of the 80s and 90s, all of them at the peak of their physical attractiveness, yet the effort is an embarrassing, unwatchable mess that perfectly illustrates the point that it is actually possible for a filmmaker to aim for the Lowest Common Denominator and still manage to miss the target.
According to the commentary track (yes, SQHTP has a commentary track) the project originated when Wynorski and his cinematic doppleganger, Fred Olen Ray, got together for dinner and Wynorski proposed they do a film that eschewed a plot and consisted of nothing more than “Scream Queens” doing striptease routines. It was Ray, inspired by a classic Eddie Murphy SNL bit, who added the hot tub angle. The whole thing was shot on video in the course of one long Saturday. Within 15 years, this kind of production would represent the bulk of both of their careers.
That the film actually proved quite successful when it was released on home video speaks volumes about the affection b-movies fans of that era had for these actresses. With the exception of the previously reticent Maroney, it required no effort at the time to see any of these performers naked, so that alone doesn't fully explain its apparent appeal.
In fact, during this period Michelle Bauer’s name in the credits was a virtual nudity guarantee, as she was frequently cast for no other reason than to remove her top. Probably the most egregious example of this being David DeCoteau’s Deadly Embrace in which she is credited as the “Female Spirit of Sex”—a role that consisted entirely of shots of her staring into the camera while caressing her naked body, which were then intercut with the film’s abundant sex scenes simply in order to pad its minimal running time.
What this means is that SQHTP is a film that exists only to showcase several attractive bodies that were often harder to find clothed than otherwise. So, yeah, it’s pointless and I’m clearly struggling to come up with anything more to say about it.