Tag Archives: exploitation movies

Swiss Cheese

Mad Heidi

by Hope Madden

Hard core, low budget genre films tend to seem cheesy: women in prison, boobs, torture, splatter, training montages, katanas. Filmmakers Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein embrace the budget constraints, embrace the genre, and absolutely celebrate the cheese with their opus, Mad Heidi.

Their genre sendup returns to Heidi, that cheery Swiss Alps legend, along with her grandfather and Peter the goat herder. But not all is well in Switzerland. The country’s Very Swiss Leader (played with relish by Casper Van Dien) is something out of a bad 1970s exploitation film. Swissploitation, if you will.

So, Heidi (Alice Lucy) must suffer, find her strength, and reclaim her country for the Swiss and the lactose intolerant.

One of the benefits of making a spoof is that no one can hold your ludicrous plot against you. Indeed, the more ludicrous, the spoofier. The plot – what there is of one – exists to move Heidi and her story from one recognizable genre beat to the next. The filmmakers clearly possess a sincere fondness for grindhouse action. Their film never feels mean-spirited, and more importantly, it never feels lazy. Instead, Mad Heidi delivers sometimes inspired set pieces, gags and jokes that land harder if you’re in on them.

It’s also sometimes shockingly beautifully shot.

While the filmmakers are obviously having fun with genre sensibilities, they also showcase genuine cinematic craftsmanship with a clearly low budget. The movie looks great. Gore effects strike the ideal over-the-top practical vibe. Hartman and Klopfstein make their chosen genre’s ludicrous nature, plot holes and unnatural pauses, cartoonish characters, and bloodlust work for them.

Van Dien – so good earlier this year in Daughter and mainly known for maybe the world’s greatest action spoof, Starship Troopers – delivers fun, exaggerated comic timing. In fact, the whole cast bad-acts quite well. Still, even at just 92 minutes, the film feels more than a little bloated around the midsection.

It can’t hurt to watch it, though, assuming you’re in the mood for an awful lot of goopy, sloppy, sticky – dare I say cheesy – action and you’re able to fully unplug your brain.

Don’t Call Her Foxy


by Hope Madden

A mid-budget action thriller sees a handsome couple alone in an isolated home suddenly at the mercy of a biker gang.

Well, hell, this could be just about any mid-to-low budget thriller from the Seventies. Writer/director Deon Taylor borrows some of the ideas and themes from Seventies exploitation, updating it with a more contemporary style, slicker editing, modern problems and Paula Patton.

That last one might be the real trouble.

Patton plays Brea, a Seattle journalist who may have just lost her job because she’s too interested in telling the whole story. She’s just not one to turn a piece around quickly enough for today’s 24/7 news cycle.

She takes her mind off things with the surprise trip her boyfriend (Omar Epps) planned.

Traffik builds slowly with overly familiar tension, and Taylor makes a handful of interesting choices. These bikers aren’t just racist and bloodthirsty (although they are that). They are the goons of an international human trafficking organization and Brea, her boyfriend and this pointless second couple are in for some real trouble.

The women in Taylor’s film get every opportunity to make a difference, participate in the action and make reasonable decisions—definitely not a staple of Seventies exploitation. Problematically, Paula Patton cannot act.

A lot of action stars can’t, that’s true, but the film really depends upon Patton’s emotional journey and the woman cannot emote.

Taylor makes up for that by simply ogling her body with his camera for 90 minutes. I have never in my life seen a film more preoccupied by one performer’s nipples than Traffik. It would be problematic anywhere, but in a movie where the heroine hopes to save women from sex slavery, it feels wildly wrong-headed.

Given a couple of turns in the script and the film’s overall Seventies vibe, you wonder whether Taylor sees Patton as the new Pam Grier.

She is not.

The film is not terrible. Dawn Olivieri’s turn as a truck stop druggie will haunt you, and even though you basically know what’s coming, Taylor’s game direction keeps you interested nonetheless. There are a couple of decent action sequences—nothing to write home about—and the pace is quick.

Take Paula Patton (and Taylor’s leering filming of her) out of the movie and it’s not a bad little piece of throwback exploitation.

Saturday Mornings Come to Life

Turbo Kid

by Hope Madden

For the 10-year-old boy inside us all, Turbo Kid opens cinematically and on VOD today. It takes us to the post-apocalyptic future of 1997, many years after the catastrophe that destroyed most of humanity, leaving a scrappy few to scavenge for water and survival.

The film is expanded from a short originally rejected by the ABCs of Death franchise (in favor of T is for Toilet – eesh). The short is worth a Google, but the full length film is a celebration of early Eighties storytelling and juvenile imagination.

It’s a mash-up of the Power Rangers and Hobo with a Shotgun. That is, it’s a perfectly crafted time capsule: a low budget, live action Saturday morning kids show – except for the blood spray, entrails and f-bombs.

The Kid (Munro Chambers) wheels around the wasteland on his sweet bike, picking up bits of retro treasure to trade for water, ever watchful for the henchmen of evil overlord Zeus (Michael Ironside). His one real solace comes from the Turbo Man comics he gets in trade for his scavenged booty.

When his only friend, Apple (Laurence Leboeuf) – an energetic, teal-wearing girl – is in danger, he becomes Turbo Kid. Together he, Apple, and a mysterious Australian arm wrestler take on Zeus to free fellow survivors from his oppressive, bloody leadership.

Writing/directing team Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell have crafted a delightfully absurd action comedy. Its 1982-ish panache is joyously spot-on, and the combination of innocence and gore perfectly captures the pre-teen cartoon watcher’s imagination.

And Michael Ironside! The feral Canadian makes a glorious Zeus, flanked by scoundrels and outcasts suited for a Mad Max film. (The early ones, before the budget and talent came in.)

Turbo Kid is not trying to be Mad Max, though. It’s trying to be the imagined Mad Max (or Indiana Jones or Star Wars or Goonines) game you and your stupid friends played in the neighborhood on your bikes, and it succeeds miraculously because Turbo Kid never winks or grimaces at its inspiration. This is a celebration, not a campy mockfest.

Yes, it has trouble keeping its energy for the entire 89 minute running time, but for those of us who took our Saturday morning shows out to the neighborhood streets every weekend, it’s a memory blast.