Matty casts his eye over the metatextual shenanigans at play within David DeCoteau’s iconic Scream Queen flick.
As well as boasting one of cinema’s all-time great titles, SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA really ought to be mentioned alongside Scream (1996) and The Cabin in the Woods (2011) as a masterwork of postmodern comedy horror. The third ‘legitmate’ feature of cult auteur David DeCoteau (who, by the age of twenty-five, had graduated from calling the shots on hardcore pornography to working for B-movie maven Charles Band), the director has described Sorority Babes as “a fever dream” in interviews over the years; his intention was to create the kind of picture a sleep-deprived audience would lap up at a fleapit all-nighter. With a sizable chunk of his subsequent output fuelled by a similarly oneiric presentation, in Sorority Babes, DeCoteau laces his dream-soaked tapestry with visual and verbal nods to the type of raucous fodder he styles the film after. The end result is a knockabout romp as fascinating as it is infectiously silly; an unmistakably ‘80s mish-mash of frat house frolics and kitsch scare schtick that’s a fabulous entry into either bracket on one hand, and a quality piece of deconstructive and forward-thinking moviemaking on the other.
Positioning Sorority Babes as a history of camp genre fare, DeCoteau’s cheeky appropriation of James Whale’s eponymous Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is the most obvious example of the film’s kooky, metatextual riffery, while the helmer paying homage to his XXX beginnings (a character by the name of ‘Dave McCabe’, DeCoteau’s porn alias, is frequently mentioned) and his preceding horror flicks Dreamaniac (1986) and Creepozoids (1987) are the most audacious. It’s as if DeCoteau knew that these sorts of movies would, eventually, be held in at least some kind of ‘classic’ regard, be it conventionally or by trash lovers. As Uncle Impey, the evil, wish-granting goblin at the centre of Sorority Babes’ mischief, wryly says, “I bet all the boys are glad we’ve got these pretty girls in the audience today.”
Of course, DeCoteau’s savvy po-mo strut notwithstanding, Sorority Babes is all about, well, the babes. A watershed moment in the Scream Queen craze of the late ‘80s, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama was the first flick to unite the decade’s first ladies of VHS-era fright, Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, and Linnea Quigley. And though the slinky Stevens and Bauer (billed as ‘Michelle McClellen’ to circumvent a lawsuit from her ex-husband) happily fulfill the T&A quotient thanks to a gratuitous shower scene, DeCoteau and scripter Sergei Hasenecz ensure their comedic assets are celebrated as much as their physical ones. It’s a rarely discussed fact that Stevens and Bauer are excellent comediennes, and Bauer in particular elicits a slew of belly laughs with her bawdy gusto.
Quigley’s snappy and snarling role, meanwhile, is the performance of her career. Playing a feisty rock chick, it’s Quigley and her geeky beau (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4’s (1988) Andras Jones) who lead the fight against DeCoteau’s cut-price malevolence as they square up to the wise-cracking Impey (voiced by actor-cum-shock rocker Dukey Flyswatter) inside a bowling alley.
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