Film Review: Singapore Sling (1990)

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SYNOPSIS:

A man searching for his long-lost lover is kidnapped by her killers, an insane, mother-daughter duo, and they force him to commit various sexual atrocities with them.

REVIEW:

If you watch just the first few minutes of Singapore Sling, you’d swear it was an old, noir-y detective film. It is shot in black and white, it is dark outside, and the rain is pouring down. Two women are digging a ditch/grave. A guy speaks in overdubbed dialogue, using witty language to explain that he’s a detective who’s been shot, and without other options he’s decided to hit the flask hard and try and sleep off the pain in his car. At this point, for all we know we could be looking at the work of any one of the top film noir directors, be it Otto Preminger or Fritz Lang or even Orson Welles. When one of the women drags a man toward the freshly dug grave and pauses to push his organs back inside him, the likelihood of that lessens a bit. But what follows is one of the most bizarre films I’ve had the pleasure to witness, a near-masterpiece of art/trash cinema.

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Written and directed by Nikos Nikolaidis, the story revolves around only three characters. We have a detective who seems to be looking for information on the disappearance of a mystery girl named Laura. He is named Singapore Sling (played by Panos Thanassoulis) after words on a note he had in his pocket, but what his actual name is remains a mystery. Then there are the two women, known only as “mother” (Michele Valley) and “daughter” (Meredyth Herold). They have just killed their chauffeur (the man dropped into the ditch at the beginning). We know from their fourth-wall breaking, camera facing monologues that they have killed many times before, starting three years earlier with a young secretary named Laura. So now we see the connection. Or do we?

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Singapore Sling is at once a crazy, perverted, taboo-filled slice of bizarro, and at the same time a beautifully shot, perfectly acted gem of a movie. It’s hard to describe what to expect from this one. Think along the lines of films like Thundercrack! or even early John Waters and you’re on the right track. Then take Mother and Baby Firefly from House of 1,000 Corpses, turn their crazy all the way up to 11, and you’ve just about got the mother and daughter here. Then add way more perverse sex, including, but not limited to, incest, Roman showers and golden showers, a human vibrator (seriously, it’s kind of crazy), and masturbation with fruit. Okay, now we’re getting closer to the story of Singapore Sling.

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As far as the storyline goes, it is steps away from total confusion. As I mentioned, the detective is searching for clues about the disappearance of a girl named Laura, and has been for some time in what feels very much like a Memento-style investigation. He had tracked her to the house where the two women live. According to the women, the husband/father used to kill people and bury them in the garden, but ever since he died they have been stuck with the task. And supposedly, they started by killing Laura. But they also play “games” where they pretend the daughter is Laura and the mother “kills” her. And at times, the daughter says rather convincingly that she is Laura, and she needs the detective to help her escape. Then again, the two women are pretty much insane, so anything they say could be fact or total fabrication. Once the detective arrives, they hold him hostage in their house, using him in twisted S&M style sex games and slowly breaking away his own sanity. By the end, it’s anyone’s guess as to who is who and what is real.

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Never before have I witnessed such twisted images shot so beautifully. There are scenes where the mother and daughter eat the nastiest of food, at times vomiting at the dinner table, and they are at once nauseating and amazing. Along with all of the visuals is a very meta- storyline. We get much of the backstory from the mother and daughter speaking directly to the camera (an approach Zack Morris came to love around the same time). At one point, the daughter starts to tell a story, then restarts it three times, as if trying to decide on just the right take. She also often begins to recite the three laws of servants, which are very similar to the three laws of robotics as laid out by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. Some stories are retold later in the movie, but changed around with new details of things that have just recently happened. And all of it done with a vision and an ability that is a rare find in movies of today.

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I can’t recommend Singapore Sling enough. It does run a little long, and is not a straight-forward, carefully wrapped up story, but it is so good. From the cinematography to the acting to the story itself, all the way to the extremes it goes to in order to shake us out of our comfort zones, everything about this movie is interesting and memorable. Well worth the two hours spent watching it.

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About seanofthedead

Sean has had a few short stories published and a few punk records recorded. If you watch a horror movie with him, he'll drive you crazy connecting the actors to their other movies and dropping useless bits of trivia. He thinks the Exorcist III is by far the superior film of the franchise, and believes Braindead was more deserving of an Oscar than Lord of the Rings.

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