Skip to content

Plot: troubled young woman is beset by ghouls and ghosts.

Very much a transitional piece between the glorified cosplay of Little Red Riding Hood (2016) and his earlier European fairytale adaptations and the later Playing with Dolls (2015-2017) sequels The Obsidian Curse is rank horror pulp that barely ever generates so much as a pulse. As a remake of Perez’ earlier Demon Hunters (2012) (released domestically as Obsidian Hearts) it recombines props, creatures, locations, and plotlines from the early Perez canon and reconfigures them into something that hopefully will elicit a reaction and sway a few into watching. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about with The Obsidian Curse. Overall it looks more like a technical exercise than a real attempt at crafting a horror movie. It truly is sad that Reggie Bannister and Richard Tyson ended up in the warped world of Rene Perez.

The Obsidian Curse is not your typical Perez fare which is about the best that can be reasonably said about it. It eschews much of the plot-free meandering of his earlier fairytale adaptations and at this juncture his expertise wasn’t at the point where it matched his ambition. As such The Obsidian Curse is a strange nonentity that is neither here nor there. It starts as a conventional human interest drama, but quickly abandons that in favor of stereotypical ghost movie shadows and jumpscares before attempting to sell itself as an exercise in the open-gateway-to-hell subgenre that was popular in Italy in the nineteen-eighties. Suffice to say it succeeds in neither and very much recalls the bygone days of Little Red Riding Hood (2016), Sleeping Beauty (2014), and The Snow Queen (2013). Unfortunately Natasha Blasick, Irina Levadneva, Nadia Lanfranconi, Aurelia Scheppers, and Jenny Allford are nowhere to be seen. At this stage in his career Perez had a thing for the petite Nicole Stark and Swedish svelte Karin Brauns. Brauns would reunite with Glackin, and Tyson in Playing with Dolls: Bloodlust (2016) and with Stark in Playing with Dolls: Havoc (2017) a year later. The biggest name present is Reggie Bannister of the Don Coscarelli horror classic Phantasm (1979) and Richard Tyson from Kindergarten Cop (1990), There's Something About Mary (1998), Battlefield Earth (2000), and Black Hawk Down (2001). Nicole Stark and Karin Brauns currently count as the most recurring Perez babes of this period.

Newly released after a year in federal prison for felony drug charges 25-year-old single mother Blair Jensen (Karin Brauns) is struggling to make ends meet. In the year that she was incarcerated her estranged husband Roberto (John Caraccioli) remarried and is now with white picket fence Donna (Julia Lehman) who keeps tabs on Blair’s daughter Linda (Leia Perez), much to her dismay. She has found temporary housing with her friend Kitty (Nicole Stark), but she will have to find a legal source of income and suitable housing of her own if she’s to retain visitation rights with Linda. A social worker (Marilyn Robrahn) is assigned to her case to monitor her progress in getting her life in order. In her desperation to find employment Blair is lured into a cave by a Mr. Cobb (Robert Koroluck) on the promise of an interview for a possible tourist guide job opening. In the darkness she has a hex placed upon her by a witch (Jessica Koffler) but Blair won’t be realizing that until much later. Before long she’s under assault by ghouls, ghosts, and the denizens of the dark. While everybody thinks Blair’s losing her mind, paranormal investigator Professor Reginald M. Sydow (Reggie Bannister) and his associate Arthur (Richard Tyson) are drawn to her case for their own personal reasons. Also on the prowl is psychotic serial killer Rudolf Masterson (Charlie Glackin) who has a thing for girls like her as his captive Yvonne (Cody Renee Cameron) attests to. Will Blair be able to break the curse of the Obsidian Heart that was bestowed on her?

In its defense The Obsidian Curse is a cut above the cinematic LARPing of Little Red Riding Hood (2016), and Alien Showdown: The Day the Old West Stood Still (2013) but that is faint praise. Indeed, there’s a lot that will look familiar to the Perez faithful: the woods and cabin from Playing with Dolls (2015), the castle and Eye Creature from Little Red Riding Hood (2016), the bar from Playing With Dolls: Bloodlust (2016), the caves from Playing With Dolls: Havoc (2017), and the witch attire from The Snow Queen (2013). What mostly kills The Obsidian Curse is that it’s all over the map. It begins as a ghost horror or demonic possession movie, briefly toys with the idea of turning suburban gothic horror before throwing in a modest legion of the living dead and a serial killer to facilitate some form of action. That it never decides what it wants to be is perhaps its biggest undoing. Somewhere in The Obsidian Curse there’s a decent little fright flick but under Perez’ direction nothing ever comes of it. Even by Perez standards it’s curiously low on both blood and boobs. Nicole Stark and Cody Renee Cameron both have brief topless scenes and the gore isn’t as abundant and gratuitous as it would be in Playing with Dolls: Havoc (2017). It’s also marred considerably by rather dubious looking visual effects from Perez regular Ignace Aleya. Rene Perez certainly has a penchant for making the most of what is very little, but not everything is defensible.

More than anything it’s unclear what the point of The Obsidian Curse is supposed to be. As a human interest drama it isn’t very interested in the human aspect and not the drama isn’t explored beyond general contours. As a horror movie it borders a bit too much on the fantastic to be scary or tense, and for a very late fantastique (a genre typically practiced in France and Spain) it has none of that deeply intense oneiric quality that the genre requires. It has superficial elements of it and it will occassionally wander into a fantastique moment or scene by mistake, but that’s the extent of it. You never get the impression that Blair’s life as a former felon in any way poses a challenge. Almost immediately she finds appropriate housing and access to fashionable clothes, a cellphone, and transportation. Certainly it’s not the focus of The Obsidian Curse but had that subplot been better developed it would make Blair’s subsequent plight a whole lot more believable. The stakes are never clear either. She obviously wants to be reunited with her daughter, but Donna’s opaque motivations are never made clear why she visits the Obsidian Heart curse on Blair, or how that forwards her objectives. Whether the Obsidian Heart is supposed to be an inversion of the Catholic devotion of the Sacred Heart of Christ is another thing entirely, but not within the purview of this review. That Kitty, Roberto, and the social worker completely disappear and are never mentioned or seen again in the second half only makes matters worse. Thankfully Rene Perez has improved in leaps and bounds in his writing since The Obsidian Curse. Not that that is saying much, but regardless...

Cody Renee Cameron

As a technical exercise The Obsidian Curse is good enough. Perez has mastered aerial drone shots, mobile and moving camera set-ups; and the whole thing is not nearly as static as some of his earlier productions. The rubber monsters refurbished from Little Red Riding Hood (2016) look the part as does the witch attire from The Snow Queen (2013). The remainder of the monsters and the cave witch do look like the cheap Halloween costumes that they are and the handful of zombies were recycled wholesale from The Dead and the Damned (2011-2015).

For the most part The Obsidian Curse feels like a patchwork of mostly disconnected scenes that Perez was dying to commit to film and that he wrote a perfunctory story around. In other words, the various elements in The Obsidian Curse never gel and the only remotely good thing here is Nicole Stark and the movie completely forgets about her halfway through. Cody Renee Cameron on the other hand is too good for inane cinematic swill like this. The Obsidian Curse is more of an experiment in camera set-ups and moving shots than anything else. For all intents and purposes it’s one of those features that should have remained in Perez’ personal vaults, but we somehow got it anyway. The only good thing that came from The Obsidian Curse is that it begat Playing With Dolls: Havoc (2017), Death Kiss (2018) and Cry Havoc (2019). Unless you’re a Rene Perez completist there’s no reason to rush out and see this mostly uneventful exercise in horror banality.

Plot: in a post-apocalyptic wasteland two starlets seek a sacred stag reel.

John Michael McCarthy is probably the closest America has come to having a Josh Collins. Collins was the master of ceremonies behind Pervirella (1997) (with Emily Booth) and Superstarlet AD is cut from a very similar cloth. Pervirella (1997) was a Victorian steampunk cosplay extravaganza with enough boobage and bounce to make Jim Wynorski proud. Superstarlet AD on the other hand is a monochrome tribute to the Russ Meyer and John Waters repertoire, 1950s science fiction, and 60s drive-in exploitation fare (delinquent youth, nudie-cuties, roughies, various countercultures) complete with colored The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) campy musical numbers and comedic interludes, striptease routines, and lesbian histrionics. In other words, Superstarlet AD is a mostly forgotten nouveau retro antecedent styled after Barbarella (1968) pre-dating Anna Biller’s exquisite feminist manifesto The Love Witch (2016) (with Samantha Robinson) by over a decade and a half. It premiered on the 2001 SXSW Film festival alongside Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros (2000), Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000), and Lukas Moodyson’s Together (2000) and it was part of the seventh annual Chicago Underground Film Festival at the Fine Arts in Michigan in 2000. Since then it has become a beloved cult item no matter how much of an obscurity it might be.

Shot alternating in color and black and white in and around Memphis in just 16 days on a miniscule budget of $16,000 and promoted with the tagline, “when man turns to ape woman turns to womanSuperstarlet AD is a curio even in cult circles. Like Eraserhead (1977), Begotten (1989) and 964 Pinocchio (1991) it’s pervaded with that cold industrial feel of stark alienation and dystopian desolation. The cast consists of enthusiastic amateurs with Kerine Elkins, Gina Velour, and Michèle Carr in the principal roles. All three ladies fill their bras more convincingly than their roles, although nobody can be accused of not bringing any gusto, vigor, and enthusiasm to their respective parts. While there are planks of wood with more acting talent the trio throw their all into the roles, most of which are dialogue-heavy with Velour providing near-constant narration. Despite, or rather in spite, of obvious budgetary limitations Superstarlet AD is very artsy and quirky at times. For a no-budget indie it’s custodian to number of beautifully composed shots and frequently looks far more expensive than what it cost. Very much like Galaxina (1980) before it this is a spoof that plays its humor completely straight.

After an unspecified extinction level event simply referred to as, “the Cataclysm” has reduced to the world to a smoke-shrouded barren post-nuclear wasteland and what little remains of the male population has literally reverted to Neanderthals. As the “homosexual” fashion industry was obliterated during the Cataclysm ammunition, clothing, and lipstick are in short supply. This is Apocalypse Meow. The women of this wasteland have flocked together in a make-shift gyno-centric society always on the brink of war. “Beauty cults” or violent gun-toting all-girl gangs of a specific hair color and dress code roam the streets. Three major gangs have emerged from beneath the remains of yesterday’s world. First, there are the Satanas (modeled after Tura Satana) presided over by Verona (Michèle Carr, as Michelle Carr). Then there are the Phayrays who fashion themselves after Fay Wray and Mamie van Doren and are led by Ultramame (Rita D'Albert). Lastly, there are the treacherous Tempests (as in burlesque dancer Tempest Storm) who congegrate in the Replay Lounge and worship a sewing machine that they don’t know how to operate. Velvet (Katherine Greenwood, as Odessa Greenwood) is the only of the clan who can, but she adamantly refuses. Not even a good whipping from resident dominatrix Cathy X (Kitty Diggins) can sway her. Jezebel (Kerine Elkins) is the 13th mistress to rule the gang. All three engage in open war and territorial disputes are commonplace. The Phayrays and Satanas desire nothing else but to topple the power-hungry Verona and claim her crown and its attendant power as their own.

In the abandoned city of Femphis dark-haired Naomi (Gina Velour) and her platinum blonde girlfriend Rachel (Alicja Trout) set out on a perilous quest raiding every movie theatre they come across in hopes of finding her grandmother’s sacred stag reel or some dye converts. During one such excursions the two find subversive, hot rod-riding, clothes-wearing redhead Valentine (Katherine St. Valentine, as Kate St. Valentine) - apparently an actress from the 1950s who was comatose when the world ended - and is understandably confused in and by the present day. Naomi is the pacifist leader of a new beauty cult, the Superstarlets, where hair color is of no importance. When Naomi learns from Valentine about a place called Retro Metro, the last in Femphis where dresses can be found, a turf war seems imminent. The Phayrays desire to recruit Rachel into their ranks and Valentine’s knowledge furthers the interests of the Satanas. Jezebel is wise enough to put her petty dreams of dominating all gangs aside and let the encroaching chaos do her dirty work for her. Negotiating a truce between the Satanas, the Phayrays, and the Tempests will clear the path for her future usurpation of all power and their fragile coalition will last long enough to destroy their clear and present problem, the dissident Naomi. In a world "gone nudie-cutie, Armageddon style,” and in a war waged by mostly by hair-pulling and jiggling over-sized busts will there be enough stockings, garter belts, suspenders, and vintage bustiers for things to come to a peaceful resolve?

All of the women are pretty enough, although they might not appeal to those not into that whole underground punk/retro pin-up aesthetic. Admittedly, we’re no fans of some of the thicker make-up that Kerine Elkins can be seen wearing either but other than that there’s very little to complain. The biggest and obvious references on that front are Bettie Page, Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren, Wendy O. Williams, Kitten Natividad, Betty Brosmer, Uschi Digard, Monique Devereux, and Tura Satana. Or full-figured, healthy-looking women who weren’t afraid to showcase their wealthy, natural curves and whom - at least by some of today’s unrealistic and unforgiving beauty standards that seem canonize the sickly and skeletal thin above all else - would either be described as plus-size or plain fat. As near as we can tell most of the cast seem to come from either the Velvet Hammer burlesque troupe, exotic dancer, or the underground punk pool. It does raise one question: why were the Julies, the late great Strain and K. Smith, not in this? Superstarlet AD was something right in their wheelhouse, boudoir, or lingerie closet rather. Strain had taken her top off for lesser filmmakers and on scanter budgets in those unrewarding post-Sidaris years. Those who love vintage lingerie will get an absolute kick out of Superstarlet AD as these gun-toting belles brandish more than enough stockings, garter belts, suspenders and such to satiate anyone’s craving. With that in mind, this is probably the greatest monochrome post-apocalyptic sci-fi Andy Sidaris and Jim Wynorski never made

Nostalgia. That most addictive of drugs. That’s indeed what propels Superstarlet AD forward. Pinpointing when exactly the nouveau retro movement started is anyone’s guess. Superstarlet AD is probably a good place to start. American horror was firmly in the post-modern grip of the self-referential and the meekly comedic, and Asian horror (specifically Japan) was experiencing some of a resurgence.

If something like this were made today it practically begged for curvaceous cuties as French Instagram sex bomb Green Cat From Hell, French-Canadian alt model Ardaeth, American go-go dancer and devil-do-all Toriikills, Ukrainian belly dancer Diana Bastet, Icelandic booty babe and Playboy Playmate of the Month (September, 2014) Arna Bára Karlsdóttir, Australian-British OnlyFans sensation Leah Wilde, or American adult stars as Natalie Monroe, Kayla Kiss, or Reya Reign, to name just a few. Karlsdóttir, Wilde, Kiss, Reign, and even Green Cat From Hell (despite the obvious language barrier) could very well pull it off considering the roleplay they all frequently engage in. With nostalgia stronger than ever before and the longing for simpler times the question is whether there would an audience for such a thing. It is another discussion entirely who would be best qualified to helm such a feature. Wynorski descended into caricature and parody around the time this came out, and it’s safe to assume he’s a lost cause at this point. Unless by some divine intervention he regains his composure suddenly. That leaves the younger generation to meet the demand. Benjamin Combes, Neil Johnson, and Rene Perez have all shown an affinity and knack for such a thing.