Appellate Judge Tom Becker is revisiting one of his dark places: Toronto.
More fun than you can shake your stick at!
It's sometimes hard to pinpoint the first time I saw a particular movie on broadcast or non-premium cable TV. Carnival of Souls, for instance, was a Creature Features staple, but I couldn't tell you the first Saturday afternoon I caught it. I know I saw Easy Rider on ABC light night when I was too young to really get it, but I couldn't tell you exactly when that was, either.
On the other hand, some films I remember vividly seeing on for the first time on television, such as Citizen Kane, channel 9, a late Sunday night showing, that I'd convince my mom to late me stay up and watch and miss school the next day—an event somewhat marred, ironically, by a Peanuts cartoon published that Sunday morning that gave away the ending. My first exposure to Psycho was also a late-night TV showing, one I conned an unwitting babysitter into letting me stay up for; cut though the film was, she was in a state of hysteria watching the Hitchcock horror show, while I thought the whole thing was cool and pretty funny.
And then there's Loose Screws, which turned up sometime in the early '90s on the USA channel's "Up All Night" series of terrible movies hosted by Rhonda Shear and/or Gilbert Gottfried. I don't recall why I was home on this particular Friday night, or why I even bothered with this stupid sexcom, but I do remember sitting through the entire mess like some cinematic penitent. The lower-than-an-inbred-hillbilly stupidity of it etched itself into my brain, refusing to dissipate, evoking the same kind of trauma I might have experienced had I watched my parents assaulted and killed by a psychotic Santa on Christmas Eve. So potently lame was this film that rather than tuck it away in my subconscious as some personal bad-taste experiment gone wrong, I actually discussed it the next day with friends, trying to make sense of a debacle that featured characters name Hugh G. Rection and Mona Lott. I can actually pinpoint this as the very moment when some of my friends stopped taking me seriously.
Like a still-traumatized victim of an animal attack stumbling into a Bideawee pet adoption event, I found myself once again face-to-face with the horrors of Loose Screws when it showed up in my mailbox in plain brown wrapper as a DVD begging—no, defying me—for review. Would I discover that, after nearly 20 years of considering this the standard bearer of all that was foul about sexploitation that perhaps this cult item had charms I was just too shallow to embrace in my past personage? Or would I, like Father Karras, find myself confronting demons that might better have been left unearthed?
Facts of the Case
Four morons flunk 12th grade for like the 18th time. They are shipped off to summer school at the hilariously named Coxwell Academy, where they proceed to attempt sex with anything that moves. Hilariously named French teacher Mona Lott becomes Cet obscur objet du désir as the goons outdo themselves trying to do her. Venereal hijinks ensue.
Loose Screws: Screwballs 2 is, as the long-form title suggests, a sequel to a film called Screwballs. It's pretty much a given that sequels rarely live up to the promise of their predecessors, and Loose Screws is no exception. Unfortunately, Screwballs proper wasn't much of a film to begin with. Judge Christopher Kulik succinctly described it as "beyond bad." With that pedigree, Loose Screws drops the bar so low that a family of paper dolls couldn't Limbo it. Of course, since Screwballs tells of the sexcapades of a group of guys in the '50s, and Loose Screws gives us the sexcapades of an unrelated group of guys in the '80s, you have to wonder how this thing fits into the whole sequel genre at all.
What is it about Loose Screws that makes it such a dreadful viewing experience? Certainly, there are worse films out there—South American snuff movies, department store surveillance camera footage, and the various incarnations of Loose Change 9/11 all come to mind.
It's just that everything here is asinine. This Toronto-lensed drek is not stupid funny, or so dumb it's funny, or so funny it's dumb, it's just bottom-feeding moronica that's uncomfortable to sit through.
All the characters have funny-funny names. Besides the aforementioned "Mona Lott" and "Coxwell" (say it r-e-a-l-l-y slow), you have: Brad Lovett, Hugh G. Rection, Marvin Eatmore (and he's a fat guy!), and Steve Hardman—who's played by a guy whose real name is Lance van der Kolk! Serious, I'm not making that up. How ironic to have a guy whose name sounds like a penis joke playing a guy whose name sounds like a penis joke. The gods must be puerile…
Appealing actors? Nope. While a few of these folks went on to fairly successful careers—particularly Bryan Genesse who plays "Brad" and has appeared in plenty of direct-to-home-video projects through the years—the performances here are well below C-level. The men are uniformly obnoxious, and the women are distinguishable only by their cup sizes.
Clever situations? You tell me. A guy dresses in drag to infiltrate a girls' dorm. Someone mixes up a magic potion to make girls' bathing suits melt away. Guys pretend to be doctors to get girls to undress. The irony, if you will, is that the women seem perfectly agreeable to stripping down and making hay anyway, so all these machinations are just a waste of everyone's time. There's a horribly stupid climax involving home-made porn and aphrodisiacs, and everyone dances on the beach to the title song.
What about '80s nostalgia? Well, if by "nostalgia" you mean, "Find me a doctor who can carve out a piece of my brain so that I can forget that I actually lived through the decade represented by the hairstyles, clothes, aerobics classes, and power-pop ballads about things like condoms on display here," then I guess this is as good a trip down memory lane as any.
I'd talk about the script, but I don't know if this was written so much as it was grafittied. Economical, if you think about it—no need to waste good paper when you can simply send your cast out to various bus station bathrooms and have them memorize what's been pen-knifed in the stalls.
Given that this is such a wretched film, Severin comes through with a pretty top-flight release. The image here looks very good for what it is, sharp and clear for the most part with only a few hints of damage and some weak blacks. Audio is clean and consistent. Supplement-wise, the good folks at Severin have knocked themselves out to produce a genuine special edition. We get a moderated, feature-length interview with director Rafal Zielinski, who went on to direct Screwball Hotel, which I'm guessing might have been the third leg in what could horrifyingly be the Screwballs trilogy. We also get interviews with the producer, Maurice Smith, and the production manager, Ken Gord. If you skipped the movie altogether and just watched the supplements, you'd think Loose Screws was a far more engaging experience than it actually is.
For completists, Severin has included the 88-minute "International Version." Yes, that's 11 more minutes of Loose Screwing, and the fact that it's the "International Version" suggests that the onscreen screwing might be even looser than what we frustrated North Americans were left with. Down periscope, guys. Sorry to burst your moist bubble, but the added minutes are not filled with unbridled breasts and boinking or even some heretofore unseen hysterically funny adventure; rather, it's just a few seconds here and there tacked on to existing scenes to stretch the running time to what is considered acceptable for a feature in some foreign markets. Severin presents this in "Authentic VHS-Vision!" Translation: it's a crappy full-frame transfer pulled from an old VHS tape, so if you'd taped this off Norwegian TV in 1988, left the tape in a sweatbox for 20 years, converted it from PAL, and popped it in your ancient VCR, it would look something like this.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
uh…I got nothing…
Calculated stupidity, view if you must.
Do I have to say it? Coupable! J'accuse!
Yeah, and guilty…
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Studio: Severin Films
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