Review: “All About Evil” (2010)

Natasha Lyonne and Mink Stole are "All About Evil"

It’s not every day that a gore comedy with heart rooted deep in the grindhouse tradition written and directed by a popular drag performer and starring an assortment of genre faves makes its way to screens. And that may be a good thing, because if it were an everyday occurrence, a movie like the cheeky, spunky, and wonderfully sick All About Evil probably wouldn’t feel like the bloodstained gem in the rough that it is.

Evil tells the story of Deborah Tennis (pronounced “De-BORE-ah Tuh-NEESS”), who has inherited her father’s San Francisco moviehouse and is struggling to make ends meet. Once an aspiring performer, Tennis (Die Mommy Die‘s Natasha Lyonne)  suffered a humiliation-slash-electrocution in the theatre following a presentation of The Wizard of Oz, and has since been … well, let’s just say she’s a few Raisinets short of a box.

When Deborah’s cacklingly evil mother threatens to shut down the theater, she retaliates in an act of violence that is accidentally caught on tape … and then projected to an unsuspecting audience. With the help of ancient projectionist Mr. Twigs (Jack Donner), she covers up the crime and launches what becomes an insanely popular series of cult short films that attract an eager audience.

To trap her victims and shoot her mini-masterpieces (which bear brilliantly bad titles like A Tale of Two Severed Titties and The Diary of Anne Frankenstein) Tennis enlists the help of a ragtag group of psychopaths that includes a lunatic gay vagrant named Adrian (Noah Segan from Cabin Fever 2 and Deadgirl) and a pair of twin teen murderers (wonderfully dead-eyed Jade and Nikita Ramsey).

One of Deborah’s biggest fans is Steven (Thomas Dekker from the recent Kaboom and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake), a high school film buff fascinated by Tennis’s gruesome work and oddly attracted to her, to the chagrin of his beleaguered (but adorable!) mother, played by Cassandra Wilson (Elvira) out of her usual vamp drag. As Tennis’s crimes (and films) become more and more ridiculous, Steven gets closer to the truth behind them, and his friends and family find themselves in danger of finding themselves on the business end of a Deborah Tennis close-up.

Throughout, first-time feature director Joshua Grannell keeps the tone light and the jokes more clever and off-beat than one might expect from a low-rent horror comedy. There’s a wonderful sense of ghoulish glee throughout that feels like what you might get had Marilyn Manson and John Waters produced those old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland “let’s put on a show!” movies. There’s a clear affection for the cinematic tradition that fortunately doesn’t supersede a clear desire to play with its entrails.

Along the way there’s plenty of camp to be had (Grannell himself appears as his drag alter-ego Peaches Christ), and Segan’s psycho gay usher becomes increasingly unsettling as things develop. Segan is something of a poster-boy for the new indie horror scene, and it’s fun to see him mix it up here. Lyonne commits completely to her role as the unhinged auteur/cult-leader (particularly in one scene where she has a steamy make-out session with the ancient Mr. Twigs) and her trademark deadpan delivery works well with the over-the-top material, particularly in the films-within-a-film.

The cast is rounded out by a smattering of “hey, it’s that guy/gal!” faces, including Ashley Finke (now making a splash on Glee as self-assured plus-size wrestler/sexpot Lauren Zizes), Patrick Bristow (Ellen, Showgirls) and Julie Caitlin Brown (Babylon 5‘s Na’Toth), which lends a nice cult community feel to the proceedings.

Anthony Fitzgerald, Ashley Finke and Thomas Dekker are not all about evil.

All About Evil isn’t perfect: the main love interest didn’t really do it for me, the highschool scenes were pretty dull compared to the goings-on at the theaterand there were clearly limitations in terms of budget and resources that couldn’t be remedied with can-do spirit. But overall the clear love for genre entertainment (no matter how scrappy) shines through – I’m looking forward to seeing what Deborah Tennis – er, Joshua Grannell – and his band of twisted sisters come up with next.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

All About Evil is Unrated but would probably make your mother cry real tears. It contains boobies (both attached and severed), blood, foul language, bad drag, and severely tasteless puns on classic works (which are GENIUS). It’s now available on DVD.


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