A group of sorority girls are having a slumber party at their house. One of the new sorority girls is Leslie Borden, a descendant of the infamous Lizzie Borden family
Never before has the query “What the hell did my editor get me into?” raced to the forefront of my thoughts so quickly as during the initial seconds of “Lizzie Borden’s Revenge.” A logo that looks like its most recent upgrade occurred sometime in the mid-80’s informs us the name of the production company as TomCat Films. Hmm. That moniker didn’t exactly scream legitimate horror outfit to yours truly, but it lustfully whispered a few things.
The pre-credit establishing shot left little doubt in my mind that I may be taking notes left-handed for this one. Though claiming these opening moments occur in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892, we are shown the exterior of an obviously renovated tourist trap and/or bed & breakfast, complete with historical markers in plain view. A few fake bushes propped in front of the signage could have helped the illusion. Of course, disguising the tropical palms (I believe they’re the Massachusetts state tree) surrounding the building would’ve been a bit more daunting.
Once inside, we are introduced to our titular alleged murderer (Jenny Allford, demonstrating her best attempt at “crazy eyes”) as she argues with her father over the division of the estate in his passing. This conversation actually did happen prior to the incident, and that small drop of accuracy was a glimmer of hope. Also promising was the presence of former scream queen Brinke Stevens in a cameo as stepmother Abby. Facts of record are forgotten almost instantly from there, as Lizzie strips down to her nightie and goes through with the dirty deeds, starting with Abby (nineteen whacks, not forty) and then offing Dad when he arrives home to find his wife slaughtered. The computer-generated spurting blood is laughable since the axe comes nowhere near the victims during the attacks, but at least there’s no dearth of it. I’d decided early on to take what I could get from this offering, friends.
This being micro-budget horror schlock, we’ll forget that Lizzie was actually acquitted and modern forensic science tends to favor the family’s housekeeper as the primary suspect, and just go with the flow. The film then fast-forwards to present day via lackluster opening credits straight into the middle of a lingerie shoot. Pervy photographer Bobby (Michael Beardsley, whom I haven’t seen since the sublime “Freaks and Geeks” was cancelled years ago) overhears Mallory (Shanalynne Wesner) on the phone discussing plans for a sleepover with her sorority sisters that weekend. His sly smile at this news tells us that we’re going to eventually have to listen to this guy talk more.
The females in question are the usual multi-cultural band of scantily-clad hotties, including the nerd (because she sports glasses and pony tail) Cindy and, in a bizarre addition to the personality casserole, Dee, whose anger management issues border on schizophrenia. Also on board is newest pledge Leslie Borden (Veronica Ricci, an actress with a dossier that reads like my viewing lineup for the week my girlfriend dumped me), a descendent of you-know-who. There are a few others, but . . . Well, there are a few others. Cindy gives the girls a quick lesson in Lizzie’s possible lesbian tendencies and her relationship with actress Nance O’Neil, which is also based directly on educated speculation.
A game of Truth or Dare leads to a seance in an attempt to contact the spirit, with Leslie placed in the circle’s center. She becomes frightened when she feels an unseen force touch her, so the exercise is quickly disregarded. Soon after, she begins acting strangely, reciting the famous nursery rhyme at the others. Meanwhile Vanessa, younger sister of Amanda (one of the aforementioned “few others”) secretly stalks around the house, popping out of shadows to scare the others and offering cryptic responses to questions of why she’s there. Amanda then tells of their parents’ unsolved murder, and how Vanessa was the unfortunate one to discover the bodies. Did she do it? Was it the ghost of Lizzie, as a slightly-possessed Leslie suggests? Is the entire existence of the Vanessa character merely an unnecessary red herring?
Finally, forty excruciating minutes and approximately five gratuitous breast shots later, the crimson flows again. Unfortunately, the brunt of the mayhem in the final third plays it incredibly tame, abandoning the goofy yet gratuitous CGI nonsense for practical cut-aways and death rattle reactions. Mallory finds the body of her boyfriend as she goes into the basement for a secret rendezvous, and is forced to team up with Bobby, who had also snuck in to shoot some clandestine footage for his web site. I don’t think I’ll be pissing on any parades when I confide that nearly everyone dies at the hands of Allford’s Lizzie, brandishing a fire hatchet and the best makeup effects money can buy at Halloween U.S.A. One very amusing moment finds her sparing Bobby’s life after he tearfully confesses to latent homosexuality.
“Lizzie Borden’s Revenge” does make several attempts at humor, most of which fall flat but are appreciated nonetheless. Writer/director Dennis Devine has been plugging away at this kind of dubious material for twenty years, and his experience around a cheap camera and a pair of silicone cans is clear. The performers, though not a single one destined for bigger and better things, are fair game and appear to be having fun despite the lack of collective talent. I’ve experienced far worse in larger productions, and it doesn’t hurt that these ladies are incredibly easy on the eyes.
One quick question: If Lizzie Borden did indeed get away with murder and inherited enough money to live out her years comfortably with an actress girlfriend, why is she seeking revenge for anything? Perhaps they’re saving that reveal for the sequel. Damn it, I think I just jinxed myself.