Wet, Wet, Wet: The Rain Killer (1990)

It ain’t a total wash out, but this Roger Corman-produced thriller leaves a lot to be desired. Grab your brolly and let Matty tell you why.

Produced under his fleetingly used Califilm imprint, THE RAIN KILLER is one of a handful of flicks from Roger Corman that represent the uncharacteristically diffident position the B-movie titan was in as the ‘80s bled into the ‘90s. Though he’d quickly transform into a prolific supplier of straight-to-video and made-for-cable fare, at the start of the decade, Corman was unsure of the home entertainment market’s viability as a sole source of distribution. So despite the likes of Stripped to Kill (1987), Not of This Earth (1988), and The Terror Within (1989) doing phenomenal business on tape and becoming classics of the video era (or, at least, recognisable and associative titles), it’s important to remember that, in the US, they played theatrically as well, typically in shopping mall cinemas and on a few big city screens. 

Now, how this relates to the actual entertainment factor of The Rain Killer is at once kind of persnickety and ludicrously vital. As Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson noted in his typically well-penned (and far more positive) review of the film, The Rain Killer hit a couple of metropolitan theatres before landing on cassette and laserdisc via RCA/Columbia in spring 1991, where it was lumbered with a dreadful, murky hash of a transfer that “did no favours to the work of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who’d go on to become Steven Spielberg’s regular director of photography and rack up Oscars for Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998)”. Thankfully, Ronin’s (now OOP) 2015 Blu-ray and resulting HD scan that, as of this writing, is currently streaming on Amazon Prime corrected this issue — and it’s tough to imagine being able to tolerate this laborious non-thriller as much were it not for experiencing Kaminski’s full-bodied visuals as intended. 

Emphasising deep shadows and candy-coloured neon, and almost certainly influenced by both classic American noir and the Italian giallo, in their original form Kaminski’s aesthetic touches are The Rain Killer’s greatest boon. There’s always something nice to look at, and, atmospherically, the rhythmic downpours that prefigure every murder ooze an effective, reality-splintering quality that, when coupled with the deliberate fakeness of the film’s street sets, tip The Rain Killer into near De Palma levels of stylised brilliance. Alas, these dynamic violent crescendos are few and far between.

Sure, the sorely missed Terry Plumeri’s grandstanding score — all swirling sax and pounding piano keys — is excellent. And true, the macho chest-puffing of Ray Sharkey’s gruff ‘tec and David Beecroft’s suspiciously motivated fed (which, interestingly, was a dynamic Sharkey would find himself performing again, opposite Leo Rossi, in Dead On: Relentless II (1992), albeit with his role reversed) makes for a decent bit of drama, their already fraught pairing completely disintegrating once the former starts wham-bam-banging the latter’s estranged wife (model/actress Tania Coleridge). But helmer Ken Stein gives too much credence to the wearying procedural claptrap of Ray Cunneff’s predictable script, and focuses on a very obvious red herring when, really, he’d have been better served piling on the carnage and sleaze as some slicker-wearing wacko carves up a bunch of ex-junkie rich girls during Los Angeles’ monsoon season. 

Still, if it’s T&A you’re after, The Rain Killer has two further bright spots. In addition to Coleridge whipping out her slangers while she clatters around her apartment’s living room with randy Sharkey, my fellow mouth-breathers will be delighted to know that slinky Corman mainstay Maria Ford gets plenty of derma on display in her brief turn as a doomed stripper.

Sharkey’s Wired (1989) co-star, Michael Chiklis, also appears. Mercifully, he remains clothed.

USA ● 1990 ● Thriller ● 93mins

Ray Sharkey, David Beecroft, Tania Coleridge ● Dir. Ken SteinWri. Ray Cunneff

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