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Plot: teen is targeted by a deranged serial murderer

Some movies just defy description. Others never deliver on their promises. The most fascinating are those that are so defiantly weird that they become their own category. I Know Who Killed Me is bad. Showgirls (1995) bad. The Room (2003) bad. 12 million dollars, 4 months of production, a former Disney child star in her first grown up role and a host of embarrassed television actors can’t possibly salvage what by all accounts was shaping up to be one hell of a trainwreck. I Know Who Killed Me is an affront to anyone’s sensibilities; cinematic and otherwise.

How is it possible that a movie trying so hard to be slick and sexy can be so unbelievably unerotic at the same time? I Know Who Killed Me wants, at any cost, to be sleazy. It yearns, no, desperately craves, to be trashy – but somehow manages to be more prudish than the average syndicated TV show. The thrills are never thrilling, the sexy scenes are so terminally dull, badly staged and unerotic that peeling your own eyes out becomes a tantalizing prospect, and the screenplay is so nonsensical and convoluted that they might as well have started filming without one. A rookie director, a first-time writer and a name-star well past her due date. Was there any way this could have ended well for anybody? I Know Who Killed Me was a failure of such collosal, epic proportions that it killed Lindsay Lohan’s career.

That I Know Who Killed Me was even greenlit for production is largely thanks to the then-still relative bankability of freckled redhead Lindsay Lohan. Lohan first broke to the big time with her dual role in the 1998 remake of Disney’s The Parent Trap (1961). That streak continued with another remake of a classic Disney staple in the form of the 2003 reimagining of Freaky Friday (1976), a role that earned her the award for Breakthrough Performance at the 2004 MTV Movie Awards. Lohan’s star truly rose with Disney’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004) and the sleeper hit Mean Girls (2004). From that point forward Lohan’s off-set shenanigans started to catch up with her as she was involved in a series of car accidents in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Her last Disney project Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), the fifth (and, so far, last) installment of the Herbie franchise, was a production fraught with problems from Lohan’s side. Her on-set diva behavior and hard partying ways had become the stuff of legend and she had to be hospitalized with a kidney infection. Disney on their side spent a good fortune on visual effects artificially reducing Lohan’s famous bosoms because they apparently would distract too much from a talking car. Just My Luck (2006) put a dent in her career, overtaken almost completely by tabloid press and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and not even the Robert Altman comedy A Prairie Home Companion (2006) and the Emilio Estevez drama Bobby (2006) were able to pull LiLo from the path to self-destruction she had embarked on.

In 2007 production on I Know Who Killed Me, Lindsay’s much-publicized first grown up role, was halted as she had to undergo appendix surgery. Around the same time LiLo admitted herself to the Wonderland Center rehabilitation facility in Los Angeles for a month-long treatment. Her legal, personal, and substance abuse problems became so grave that during production she either showed up very late, or failed to show up at all. For the climax director Chris Sivertson was forced to use a body double to complete the project. Sivertson’s only prior credit of note was co-directing the 2004 remake of The Toolbox Murders (1978) and this remains Jeff Hammond’s first (and, likely, only) screenwriting credit. I Know Who Killed Me was nominated for a grand total of nine Razzies, or Golden Raspberry Awards, eight (Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Excuse for a Horror Movie, and Worst Rip-off, among them) of which it ended up winning. It was not screened in advance for critics for a very good reason. I Know Who Killed Me is terrible.

Sivertson knows his classics and desperately wants to mimic the style of Brian DePalma, Dario Argento, and David Lynch and fails spectacularly. I Know Who Killed Me is simply so uniformly and universally terrible on all fronts that you’d wish Jess Franco had directed it. Suffice to say I Know Who Killed Me all but killed Lohan’s once promising career. It heralded LiLo’s spectacular and very public fall from grace and her subsequent spiral into irrelevance. Almost immediately the ill-repute from I Know Who Killed Me spread like wildfire in the bad cinema blogosphere. It wasn’t until 2010 when LiLo hit absolute rock bottom as she alternated between time in jail and in rehab. In 2012 the inevitable spread in Playboy followed. In the decade-plus since I Know Who Killed Me, LiLo’s career, or what little that’s left of it at any rate, has shown no signs of improving. Chris Sivertson, inexplicably, remains active as a screenwriter and director.

In the idyllic upper middle class town of New Salem (Massachusetts? North Dakota? Illinois? New York? Pennsylvania? Does it really matter?) a young woman called Aubrey Fleming (Lindsay Lohan) - an aspiring young writer, naturally gifted pianist and grade-A student - has gone missing, causing great consternation to her parents Daniel (Neal McDonough) and Susan (Julia Ormond). Jennifer Toland (Stacy Lynn Gabel), an earlier abductee, was found horribly mutilated, tortured and very much dead. Fleming’s disappearance prompts an investigation by an FBI taskforce led by agents Phil Lazarus (Spencer Garrett) and Julie Bascome (Garcelle Beauvais, as Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon). One night a bloodied, mutilated girl named Dakota Moss (Lindsay Lohan) is found in the middle of nowhere. The agents, Aubrey’s parents and a psychiatrist question and later try to jog Dakota’s memory believing her to be a fabrication on Aubrey’s part as a defense mechanism to deal with her obvious trauma. As Dakota gathers the clues revealing a long-hidden sordid family secret Moss is able to ascertain who is the perpetrator behind the terrible slaying that continues to haunt New Salem, allowing her to at long last meaningfully mumble: "I Know Who Killed Me." No, it wasn't the butler, cos that is the only cliché that I Know Who Killed Me avoids.

To see beloved television actors as Gregory Itzin, Neal McDonough, Michael Adler, Brian McNamara, and Paula Marshall slumming it up waiting for the paycheck to clear, trying to maintain a straight face while sputtering their way through some of the most hackneyed Ed Wood-ian, near Tommy Wiseau-ian dialog imagineable is heartbreaking to say the least. Itzin, McDonough, Adler, McNamara and Marshall one and all are reliable television actors well above and beyond this kind of cinematic crapshoot. The other name star in I Know Who Killed Me is British expat Julia Ormond, who is under the mistaken impression that this is a serious movie. To see her cringe her way through the “mister Gervais” scene in the hospital is actively pain-inducing. Ormond, the poor thing, was in Legends Of the Fall (1994), Sabrina (1995), and First Knight (1995) in just the decade prior. Thankfully she redeemed herself with David Fincher’s multiple Academy Award nominated The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008) with Brad Pitt the following year.

Apparent YouTube sensation of the day Jessica Rose, “lonelygirl15” to the demographic this was no doubt marketed towards, plays a bit part as one of Aubrey’s friends. The rest of the no-name cast are either wooden or sleepwalking their respective roles. The screenplay is an epic display of undiluted incompetence. Jeff Hammond obviously looked at Planet Terror (2007), Captivity (2007) and Saw (2004) (on to its second sequel by 2007) for inspiration as I Know Who Killed Me features a pole-dancing lead character, loses itself in endless (and, frankly, tedious) montages of torture-porn and has a serial murderer antagonist with a predilection towards punishing his victims through elaborate revenge schemes and contraptions. Characters and plotpoints, big and small, disappear or are not followed up upon with alarming frequency and the symbolism is as subtle as a bull in a china shop. Rank desperation, that’s what it is. Chris Sivertson is a competent director, there’s no contesting. Not even he can save this hot mess of a screenplay.

I Know Who Killed Me desperately wishes it was an Italian giallo murder mystery. It has the sadistic killer in gloves targeting nubile women, it's more transgressive in its portrayal of sexuality than is usually the norm for Hollywood, one of Aubrey’s closest relatives and her family harbors a dark secret, and the red-blue lighting obviously takes after the best works of both Mario Bava and Dario Argento. To even things out there’s also a premature burial and the killer gets really creative upon his captive victims. It opens with a strip routine that looks like it was recreated wholesale from Jess Franco’s The Devil Came From Akasava (1971) and Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and then continues with more elegiac static strip routines that seem to take more after Diana Lorys in Nightmares Come at Night (1972) in the sense that they go nowhere and show nothing. Where old Jess had a chronic problem getting women into their clothes, I Know Who Killed Me found itself saddled with a diva who through contractual stipulations refused to get out of hers. It's exactly the sort of problem you'd never have with starlets like Misty Mundae.

La Lohan duly researched her all-important grown up role, taking up pole-dancing lessons in preparation and gloriously shot herself in the foot and into the hearts of sex workers everywhere with such eloquent, sensible and carefully worded declarations as, They're all whores, they're all whores . . . xcept for some obviously!", “strippers dude, I tell you, I really respect the cunts now. . . I'm not gonna lie to ya and letting candid bits of wisdom as rehab was a sobering experience escape her mouth. Even The French Sex Murders (1972) was more sleazy and, relatively speaking, there were far more sleazier gialli that decade. At least it had Barbara Bouchet. Lohan’s amputated extremities are probably the worst in a moderate budget Hollywood production in living memory. Her severed arm in particular is, somehow, less convincing (despite the obvious and expensive green-screen composit shots that it took to produce the effect) than Pier Luigi Conti’s not-really-a-stump in Jess Franco’s Eurociné jungle epic White Cannibal Queen (1980). The line “people get cut. That’s life” is on par with Everybody got AIDS and shit! from Showgirls (1995) and Tommy Wiseau’s “I did not hit her!” non sequitur from The Room (2003).

Who casts Lindsay Lohan and has her not take her clothes off? LiLo plays a stripper who wears far too many layers of clothes and whose routines seem to take ages. Lohan is given a shower scene and we’re not even treated to a lingering ass shot or a glance of sideboob? The average Andy Sidaris movie was spicier, Tinto Brass (who is a master technician) is sleazier through his innate artistry. Not to mention that the late Jess Franco had Romina Power, Susan Hemingway, and Katja Bienert suffering all sorts of unspeakable indignities and humiliations before they were even old enough to drink! Marie Liljedahl was barely 18 when she bared all in Joseph W. Sarno's Inga (1968). Mary and Madeleine Collinson had been flaunting their twins for a good two years before they landed the titular part in Twins Of Evil (1971) and they were barely 19. Renato Polselli and Luigi Batzella made entire features during the wicked and wild 1970s wherein Rita Calderoni barely wore any clothes. It’s depressing on how many levels that I Know Who Killed Me fails in the most obvious of ways. It’s certainly an achievement when the works of Jess Franco and the Eurociné repertoire become a viable alternative. I Know Who Killed Me is such an awesome concentration of pure wretchedness that, somehow, some way, the alternate ending is even worse than the theatrical one. I Know Who Killed Me is a Lovecraftian monstrosity of such staggering proportions that if you gaze into it long enough, a glassy, empty-eyed Lindsay Lohan will stare right back at you…

little-witches

Plot: Catholic schoolgirls dabble in witchcraft…

The Craft (1996) was a lot of things. It proved that Neve Campbell could do more than look misty-eyed as she did in Party Of Five (1994-2000). It was her other big movie of that year next to Wes Craven's self-reflexive Scream (1996). It confirmed that Fairuza Balk was destined for bigger and better things. It proved that Rachel True probably deserved a bigger career than she ended up getting and that Robin Tunney - who would all but bury her Hollywood career with the double-whammy of End Of Days (1999) and Vertical Limit (2000) - was better served on the small screen. Thankfully her career was resurrected by a guest role in the House, M.D. (2004) pilot and her role as Teresa Lisbon in The Mentalist (2008-2015). It also inspired several knock-offs including Little Witches and The Coven (2015).

Canadian-American production Little Witches was bankrolled to capitalize on the success of The Craft. It was shot in 18 days over a three-week period in Santa Barbara, California and it was released direct-to-video and in foreign markets a month after The Craft (1996) hit cineplexes. It features a bunch of fresh, young faces. Young actresses hungry enough that they didn't mind taking their clothes off. Among these a very young Clea DuVall, Jennifer Rubin and designated bad girl Sheeri Rappaport. The screenplay by Brian DiMuccio and Dino Vindeni is endemic of direct-to-video shlock in that it's so incoherent and bad that not even the frequently naked Rappaport can save it. Little Witches was written, directed, and acted so poorly that director Jane Simpson has since come out and disowned it. Lalaneya Hamilton, who has since understandably quit the acting profession and apparently found religion, denounced it by saying, “In my life... I would have to say that acting in Little Witches is one of the most regrettable things that I have ever done. I am very sorry that I took part in it. As a Christian I would not recommend this movie.

Simpson started out in animation, moved into commercials, and later music videos. She had directed one movie prior to Little Witches, and has returned to her work in commercials, and music video since. Prior to Little Witches writing duo Brian DiMuccio, and Dino Vindeni had penned the screenplay to The Demolitionist (1995), a flagrant, and low-rent RoboCop (1987) plagiate that sold itself with the tagline, “Hell hath no fury, like a woman transformed!” and had none other than Baywatch star Nicole Eggert in the lead role. Producer Donald P. Borchers was responsible for a swath of exploitation cult favorites including The Beastmaster (1982), Children Of the Corn (1984), Tuff Turf (1985, the screen debut for Cat Sassoon) and the Drew Barrymore thriller Doppelganger (1993). Special effects and makeup men Gabriel Bartalos, Clayton Martinez, and John C. Hartigan have since worked on a multitude of big-budget Hollywood productions. Most of the teen cast, or at least those that weren't either Clea DuVall or Sheeri Rappaport, didn't do much of interest after. Most of them quit acting altogether.

Little Witches opens in a Santa Carlita Academy classroom in California where Sister Sherilyn (Jennifer Rubin) teaches English class. Asked whether they can identify a Latin phrase, resident brunette Jamie (Sheeri Rappaport) blithely remarks that she, “doesn’t speak dead language!” In her stead a nearby blonde blurts, “It’s Virgil from the Aeneid”, in response Jamie offers the non-witty repartee, “kiss-ass nerd!” “Knowledge is power!”, the still unnamed blonde quips, “but ignorance is bliss” retorts Jamie. “Is this your idea of a ten-page paper on Plato?” asks Sister Sherilyn “If you assign us cooler stuff, I might get more inspired”, when asked what “cooler stuff” entails Jamie replies with, “Macbeth”. Her grievances duly noted the class receive an assigment for a ten-page paper on Macbeth. Shakespeare’s Macbeth also had witches – but the exchange is of no importance to, and will have no bearing on, the plot. Rising from her chair Jamie, now visibly inspired or agitated, gabbles “Fair is foul, and foul is fair, hover through fog and filthy air.” Cue a jump-scare. Well, no. In fact Little Witches opens with a prologue set 100 years in the past involving an orgy of naked girls around a smoke-filled cauldron. The orgy comes to a halt when men of the cloth barge in, and kill the heretics. After the carnage, a mostly-unclad woman imparts, “I am the Lord’s guardian. The Horned Demon cannot come as long as I’m alive!” This will become of some importance later, and expose a glaring plothole.

Along with five others Jamie is sent to confessional with Father Michael (Jack Nance). Just like in The Craft the students wear plaid skirts, knee-high socks and half-open shirts. At their weekly confession it is learned that Jamie is the queen bee of the school’s resident misfits clan. Next to Gina (Lalaneya Hamilton), the prerequisite sassy black girl, there's also the token chubby student. “Do you have any sins of a non-dietary nature to confess to?” inquires Father Michael after Erica (Melissa Taub) catalogs that week’s list of culinary transgressions. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” says the still-unnamed blonde as she settles in the booth. After a few sobby lines about parental abandonment and the passing of her father, the nearly comatose Father Michael notes that, “Faith, you must begin to realize that you’re a part of God’s plan!” Oh, great. So Little Witches not only rips off the decidedly secular and better The Craft, but it pushes a Christian agenda to boot. How lovely...

Eight minutes in and we finally learn this character’s name! Since this is a movie called Little Witches and the blonde is called Faith it's safe to wager a guess that this will be our main character for the remainder of the feature. Things aren't exactly looking up as Mimi Reichmeister (later Mimi Rose) is a cut-rate Piper Perabo or Meredith Monroe and thus barely a decent television actress. If this was a sixties over seventies movie the blonde could've been Danielle Ouimet and we'd all be a lot better off. Alas, she is not just Faith, but Faith Ferguson cos alliteration is fun and Little Witches tries very hard to be educational whenever Sheeri Rappaport isn't deviously traipsing around the screen, often with very little clothes on. Not that we'd mind. Little Witches would've been a whole lot better if it focused on Rappaport's character instead of Reichmeister's. Rappaport can actually act too. Faith, as we just learned, is apparently having a crisis of faith. Cos she's Faith.


On that note Jamie steps into the booth with whorish aplomb and chirps, “Father, I’ve been a bad girl” before she unbuttons her shirt, spills out her left breast, lifts her skirt (a skirt longer than those that Gloria Guida wore in the 70s) and proceeds to writhe suggestively into the boot. “Jamie, you’re going to have to find another way of dealing with your family problems without these performances of yours. Continuing disrespect will only lead you into darkness!” Father Michael, now looking as if he’s recovering from a hangover, sternly advises. Barely two scenes in and Little Witches has revealed exactly what it is. A turgid and immensely belabored romp with a heavy-handed moralizing screenplay that is neither scary nor sexy enough to pass the muster by any reasonable metric you're willing to employ. The only good thing is that shortly we'll be introduced to Clea DuVall and her character.

In fact the group is slightly bigger than in The Craft but the make-up is entirely the same, including the token minority character: Faith is - as her name not-so-subtlely suggests - the wholesome, studious Christian girl and thus the Robin Tunney character. Jamie is not the brooding goth reject that Fairuza Balk was in The Craft. instead she has the look of a 90s Aerosmith music video girl. Lalaneya Hamilton stands in for Rachel True and DuVall's Kelsey is the closest to Neve Campbell's character. Daniel (Tommy Stork) - Faith’s designated love interest and this movie’s Skeet Ulrich - takes his shirt off several times, much to the delight of female audience members, to expose his washboard abs. To its credit at least Little Witches has a little bit for everyone. The depiction of witchcraft is, as expected of these kind of productions, goofy and cartoony. At least the Calling of the 4 Quarters is portrayed somewhat accurately. There are plenty of skyclad incantations recited from dusty, leatherbound Latin tomes around smoke-filled cauldrons in mouldy caves, should Little Witches not be enough of a hint for the especially dense.

Since Little Witches revolves around “sexy witches” it is at least consistent in its nudity, which is both gratuitous and demure. Every member of the group gets completely naked, even the rounder girl partakes in as much frontal nudity and sacrilege as her more traditional looking peers. Suprisingly, no spell is cast to make her thinner and more conventionally attractive. Probably because that cost money and that was one thing that Little Witches didn't have. A first act running gag involves Erica being at the receiving end of several food-related jokes and insults. In a similar vein does Angie, the token minority character, have less nude scenes than the Caucasian cast. Despite the Catholic school girl and witches angle, there are no sapphic allusions or suggestions, there’s not even implied lesbianism in the convent. The girls’ disrobing is used as a metaphor for gaining power and control, whether it is over nearby construction workers, or channelling power in an arcane ritual. There’s a distinct sexual undercurrent as at least one of the Little Witches is “penetrated” (death-by-impalement) by the very demon they desired to summon.

While Mimi Reichmeister is tolerable enough, she's clearly no Clea DuVall. DuVall clearly should've been the main character here, but Reichmeister was blonde. What it does prove is that DuVall was a burdgeoning talent. However, it is Sheeri Rappaport that Little Witches gets the most mileage out of. In a scene directly scribbled from The Craft a character asks about Jamie’s promiscuity and mischief. Faith answers with, “what didn’t she do?” - a slight variation on what Robin Tunney’s character said in The Craft. After a racy skylight striptease set to ‘Who’s Going to Make it Rain?’ by Mr. Jones and the Previous, Faith asks, "what if somebody saw you?" "That was kind of the point," Jamie dryly remarks. The only character arc worthy of the name is Faith’s meet-cute and gradual infatuation with Daniel and his washboard abs. To sabotage Faith’s date with Daniel one of the girls moves the clock back to 7:25 (when it was at 7:50), in the next shot it’s back at 7:50. Apparently there are no wrist watches in this universe. Jamie - not content to only corrupt seraphic men of the cloth and summon antediluvian demons - just fresh out of the shower, seduces hunky Daniel and his washboard abs by pushing him on Faith’s bed and dropping her towel. Daniel - an able-bodied, athletic construction worker and architect-in-training - is somehow unable to repel the bare-naked schoolgirl. Instead of resolving said conflict, Daniel becomes the subject of human sacrifice in the final ritual. Cos this movie is called Little Witches and human sacrifices is exactly the kind of thing witches would do to summon their infernal lord, right?

In lieu of having to replicate several of The Craft’s effects scenes Little Witches has three wicca scenes, of which only one involves practical - and creature effects. The first - and second act concern themselves with the girls involving themselves with witchcraft and preparing to invoke He-Who-Comes, or Lucifer. Coming to the conclusion that none of them understands Latin, Faith walks in. “Gee, what a coincidence. I can read Latin”, she shares. When He-Who-Comes materializes into the corporeal realm the scaly monster suit looks worse than that in The Loreleys Grasp (1974). He-Who-Comes must be stopped before Good Friday, before the supreme evil can be unleashed. Jamie acts as his designated licentious concubine. The eleventh hour manifestation of telekinetic powers in Jamie is simply shrugged off by the script as unimportant. The conclusion has Faith, who has since regained her faith in the Christian god, and Sister Sherilyn screaming “You are NOT the Devil’s mistress!” at Jamie in unison, and Kelsey experiences a different kind of penetration than the one she always imagined. "Lucifer himself is stealing your souls. Look in the mirror, you see what I say is true", Sister Sherilyn yells. Two of the girls are killed, a dessicated corpse is unearthed from the temple ruins, two/three members of the clergy die violent, unnatural deaths – yet none of it is important enough to warrant an investigation. "So who knows, maybe some other good little girls really did call the devil up from Hell. That's my confession, Father", we hear Faith say at the end.

Of all the criticisms that can be leveled at Little Witches its most egregious shortcoming is that it doesn’t go quite as far as you’d imagine. Aside from the blatant thievery, its heavy-handed Christian propaganda rherotic, and skewed view on wicca – there’s little, not to say nothing, that is even remotely transgressive about Little Witches. The nudity - frequently gratuitous and risqué compared to the average Hollywood production - is prudish and thus very much a product of its time. Lucifer is mentioned in name only once and even the Illuminati, who are all hot teens girls and act as protectors of the Church, make their not exactly hotly anticipated appearance during the anticlimactic, nearly incoherent conclusion. It all goes to show just how conservative and lamentably lame Little Witches actually is. It’s a miracle that DuVall and Rappaport were able to walk away from this cinematic abortion and maintain/build a career. If there’s anything redeemable about Little Witches, it's Sheeri Rappaport getting naked so much that you'd get the mistaken impression that this a 90s occult take on a Gloria Guida commedia sexy all'Italiana.