Switch Killer

Switch_Killer_posterIn the 90s GLAAD objected to The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill on the grounds that the character was “a cross dressing, misogynistic serial killer.”

Well, don the fish nets and pumps as here comes Switch Killer (originally titled Transamerican Killer), an incredibly sleazy yet highly effective and affecting exploitation slasher set in Sin City.

Cara Jo Basso is extraordinary as Jamie, a woman abused by and trying to escape from an obsessive idiot who is leaving her threatening voicemails and sending her flowers. And that’s pretty much it plot-wise. Switch Killer’s narrative is as skimpy as the outfits.

Jamie takes refuge at her grandmother’s place, a charming old-timer who’s moved to tears by Bogey in Casablanca. On the side, Jamie takes a job as a stripper, becoming romantically involved with an attractive colleague while explaining away her nightly absence to granny as “a job in the restaurant business.” Because we’re better than that, you’ll get no “job” yuks on this site.

Meanwhile, a very svelte trans/cross dressing killer is stalking Jamie and her fellow pole dancers and spreading panic in Vegas around New Year’s Eve.

Switch_KillerSwitch Killer is a total grindhouse throwback, a film which has more in common with the likes of Maniac and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer than any of its 80s final girl progenitors.

Director Mack Hail is obviously well-versed in what makes the horror genre great.

It’s interesting to see a stripper played so sympathetically, and the use of the uber-sleazy Nevada hub of gambling and prostitution as a horror backdrop makes for some captivating visuals.

For a film that’s this (some would say) nonredeemable in its sordidness, there’s surprisingly not much in the way of gore. Sure, a few dancers are gutted like freshly-caught trout and shoved into oncoming trains, but the tension comes from the build-up and the highly realistic depictions of the strip club scene (don’t ask how we came by this knowledge).

As is often the case, didn’t expect much from the title; Switch Killer delivers in spades, and all for a modest budget.

As for as depictions of the transgendered…well, this ain’t Dallas Buyers Club.

*** (out of 5).

The Crazies


The Crazies is the kale of horror movies. It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s good for you.

Bio-horrors are a terrific social experiment where citizens have to band together to fight off an external force, usually a virus that threatens to kill us all. And to compound matters, communication has broken down, especially between those tasked to protect us, and how they convey said message. Spoiler alert: not very well.

Rounding up people for quarantine, not telling them why, and doing so very violently, doesn’t do much for social cohesion. And there’s an immediate push-back.

Here, a secret bio-warfare weapon (Trixie) is released after a plane crashes in western Pennsylvania. The pathogen is in the water supply, so the government has to prevent its spread by any means necessary. (Including, after a call to the President, the contingency of just nuking the whole place to be done with it. It’s a real life example of what philosophers call The Trolley Problem. Do you kill a bunch of people intentionally, to save a bunch of other people?)

George Romero’s The Crazies follows two stories:

thecrazies31) Efforts by a stentorian researcher to find a cure, using makeshift conditions of a high school science lab and trying to secure blood samples from the increasingly rabid and sociopathic townies to send back to Maryland for processing, and….

2) survivors/resistors/militia who are trying to escape the clutches of NBC suit-wearing soldiers with shoot-to-kill orders, by fleeing to a neighboring town.

It’s the science part of the tale where things break down, much like the social cohesion and the institutions that are meant to make people safe.  It’s simply not as compelling a tale as a survivor’s fight for their very survival.

There’s something undeniably creepy about NBC/Hazmat suits, gas masks and a bunch of men running around doing the unquestioned bidding of higher ups. However, at the end of the day there are serious pacing issues and, despite the inherently interesting survival tale, the survivors themselves are not particularly compelling.

Much like zombie threat movies, they’re forced to close ranks when one among them is thought to have been afflicted.

It’s hard to separate out one’s critical response to The Crazies given when it was released, as these kinds of films have been done to death so often now. But it’s important to start somewhere, in this case 1973.

*** (out of 5)