|Index||4 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Female psycho movies -- "The Witch Who Came from the Sea," "Silent
Scream," "The Babysitter," et al . -- tend to possess an uncommon and
therefor refreshing sensitivity, going out of their way to depict their
troubled, murderous protagonists as people who were cruelly victimized
early in life and hence themselves have become spiteful, vengeful
victimizers. This eerie, unfairly overlooked sleeper, one of the few
distaff serial killer entries in the largely male dominated 90's psycho
movie genre, rates highly as a sterling addition to this unusual and
Daphne Zuniga, who began her film career with appearances in the college-set 80's slasher items "The Dorm That Dripped Blood" and "The Intitiation," delivers a striking, fantastic, scarily believable performance as an extremely pliant and puzzled, but still quite cunning and dangerous asylum escapee who assumes the personality of everyone she kills. James Wilder is solid and engaging as the feckless, irresponsible, swaggering cowboy loner who becomes Zuniga's latest victim. Willful, no-nonsense small country town deputy Alexandra Paul (who's also Wilder's understandably bitter former girlfriend and jilted would-be wife) and helpful nice guy FBI agent Don Harvey track Zuniga down, desperately trying to catch her before she racks up a hefty corpse tally.
Fleming B. Fuller's direction completely hits the bull's eye: a goodly amount of tension is deftly created and maintained, the steady pace never slackens, the characters are credibly drawn (the strained, regretful relationship between Wilder and Paul rings especially true), the lean, strong and compelling narrative doesn't overstay its welcome, the acting is uniformly top-notch (Harvey, who's usually cast as hateful sadistic villains, does a rare pleasant and appealing turn in an atypical decent dude part), the bleak, parched desert locations are nicely taken advantage of, and the occasional outbursts of violence are properly brutal and genuinely startling (the opening sequence in which Zuniga throttles a nurse with a wire coat hanger is particularly jolting). Zuniga's amazing, complicated, even pitiable and unexpectedly moving portrayal of the emotionally unstable and mercurial killer clinches the whole deal: she's alternately demure and sexy, fearsome and lethal, vulnerable and impenetrable, lucid and confused, a dizzying array of contrasting moods which makes her character in equal degrees frightfully unpredictable and wholly fascinating. More importantly, like the classic truly memorable and oddly affecting horror movie monsters of yore, Zuniga at heart is almost as much of a victim as the people she preys on, a tragic person who has to take on other people's identities because she can't live with the shame and the guilt she feels as herself after having killed her own abusive mother at a young, tender age. This latter element adds a stunningly effective dash of deeply poignant pathos which elevates this chillingly dead-on picture to the status of a surefire winner.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Prey of the Chameleon" (1992) is yet another lesser-known neo-noir
cataloged and brought to our attention by John Grant in his
The IMDb rating of 4.9 is about right; I'd go to 5.5. A good many of these more modest productions are satisfactory entertainment. They are like functional watches, not meant to be finely-crafted time pieces. They are ordinary metal, not platinum. Upon non-critical or undemanding attention, they tell time but without the added beauty, impact or satisfaction offered by a high-quality artisan. Upon closer inspection, various faults and defects will emerge. Such is the case with "Prey of the Chameleon".
The story opens improbably. James Wilder has left his prospective bride literally at the altar and moved to parts unknown for 4 years, communicating nothing to the stranded Alexandra Paul. She becomes a deputy sheriff. She still holds the torch for Wilder, remaining unattached so that when he suddenly shows up, she is in his arms that very day. However, he's off to California right away for a job, again leaving her in the lurch. Apparently he couldn't save a dime in 4 years. He helps out a female in distress, Daphne Zuniga, who goes after him with relish. His faithfulness to Paul vanishes in an instant of her seduction. He does not know that she is a serial killer.
Subsequent improbable moments occur when Zuniga is able to rob a bank and convince people she's a male, when an FBI agent enters a dangerous house by himself and exposes the presumed owner to danger by telling her to follow him (!), and when Wilder escapes from a locked trunk. Oh, yes, then there is the moment when he's smart enough not to lock his handcuff onto a gas pipe, but subsequently does exactly that when he doesn't have to! Still the story is predictable.
Apart from Zuniga who makes some attempt to rise out of the ordinary, it seems that, in accord with the mundane script, the director and actors actually have tried to be ordinary and boring. Is the idea that ordinariness is realistic? This doesn't work in movies. Characters should be interesting. They are modestly so in "Prey". Zuniga has some undefined issue that goes back to her mom whom she killed, and with the strange result that she kills and adopts the identity of the one she kills. Her costume and appearance changes liven the film. Paul is demoted into a secondary role when a boring FBI agent appears. Paul's boss has the interesting quirk of not wanting ever to do paper work. His best act is promising Paul to do some and then throwing the file into a random filing cabinet. Wilder's character could be a gigolo if he put his mind and body to it. Paul protests but she doesn't seem to mind all that much.
For some reason I thought this was science fiction and that the chameleon
exchanged bodies, but that is not what the movie is.
For what it is, this is a good movie; I do not know if it would be as good without Daphne Zuniga but with her and Alexandra Paul, who are both great actresses and beautiful women, it is certainly worth watching for those of us that appreciate them. There are parts that I did not understand, but probably I was confused about which body belonged to the killer or the victom. It would help to know that the killer is just one body that only changes in personality.
Alexandra Paul plays a sheriff whose former fiancee returns after a few years. He had left her on their wedding day and had never provided an explanation or any other communication prior to returning. Daphne Zuniga is the chameleon and the movie is about the sheriff's investigation of murders occurring in the small town and the search for the murderer. The details are somewhat predictable but the movie is entertaining. The movie is also a romance about the former fiancee's involvement with the sheriff and the chameleon.
Well, this one had some imaginative plotting for a cable movie. Though there were some good-sized holes in it. Such as Resnick going about in a leather jacket and no tie, something FBI agents NEVER do. Daphne Zuniga did a good job with her character(s) here, even if hardly anyone else did. She was awfully pretty, too. Red West is the only other cast member I can compliment. James Wilder wasn't terrible, but not very good either. Don Harvey was awful, and Michell McBride OK in a very small part. Alexandra Paul wasn't very good in this one. This surprised me, because I think she's done some good work elsewhere. I guess she got too involved trying to pull off the hick Texas accent and manner, and I think she missed it by a wide margin. This movie had some promise, but it wasn't really kept. Grade: C-
|Plot summary||Ratings||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|