Friday, August 19, 2011

Second Age Reviews: Caged Heat

One of the hardest things I'm forced to tell people of a certain film persuasion, particularly devoted Tarantino worshippers, is that while exploitation and grindhouse films may be indicative of the time they come from, they themselves are almost never good films. That isn't to mean that there aren't films that can trace their roots to exploitation films or concepts (Freaks, Straw Dogs, Deliverance), but that the films themselves are almost never good (the only exception I can think of off the top of my head is Shaft and even that's kind of iffy).

The roots of this can be in the way exploitation films come about, as low budget films with low budget hooks to draw in as many people in before people figure out it's shit (the fact that people to this day insist that they aren't is deeply disconcerting to me). This doesn't necessarily mean that the films HAVE to be shit. After all, lots of films have their roots in junk movies: Star Wars, Jaws even The Godfather are all based on old trashy films that their directors were fond of. But they treated said concepts with intellect and care, which is something exploitation films are most certainly not interested in doing. What most exploitation films are interested in doing is shoving as much blood and tits as they can into the margins.

Technically there are about 1,000 different subgenres of exploitation films, classified by everything from what precisely their exploiting (which can range from Blacksploitation to Dykesploitation to even Hixploitation) to the times they came out (Grindhouse films were primarily from the 70's drive in scene, whereas Cautionary Films were popular in the 30's and 40's) but they all more or less share these elements.

Today the exploitation films have been more or less split off into multiple groups. The overly sexual aspects split into the softcore porn you see on cinemax at 1 in the morning (although how that maintains financial viability in the face of, you know, the internet is something I'll never know). Another companies, The Asylum, alternates between absurdly silly giant monster movies (most notably Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus) and incredibly low budget ripoffs of blockbusters with marketing and stories so close to what they're ripping off that I'm surprised they don't get sued more often than they do.

If you want to see the closest thing the modern film has to a direct exploitation film (as opposed to films like Hard Candy which in another age would have been an exploitation but manages to skip out on it with a fantastic mix of good direction and great acting), go check out the works of Takashi Miike. I don't outright like his movies half the time, but he's a near perfect example of what I'm talking about, putting out 5-10 films a year, most of them completely formula with an injection of some absurd elements or his signature insanity.

This nearly full page introduction is meant as a long form defense against how short this review is going to be otherwise, because reviewing exploitation films is ultimately pointless. I could have spent that page pointing out all the straightfaced cliches in Caged Heat, or commenting on the more or less useless script and paint-by-numbers direction, but it's pointless. Caged Heat is a women in prison film, which means you can probably predict everything, from the character arcs to it's directorial choices to it's stories, from the moment you see the fucking poster.

So how is it as such things go? Eh, not so bad. There's surprisingly little lesbian sex and what little there is is clearly consensual, which puts it head and shoulders over most women in prison's portrayal of lesbians, so there's that. The plot's free of any major holes, save for one 'wait, what?' moment of character action. And while there's a disconcerting amount of rape (seriously, I'm pretty sure every male character in this damned movie rapes someone or tries to) at least it's played for drama rather than titilation (yes there are exploitation films with rape played for titilation, still wondering why the genre itself isn't good?) Oh and hey, Linda Blair is in it. Remember she was the possessed girl from The Exorcist? Well yeah.

I can't really recommend you seek out Caged Heat, and if you wanted to I have no idea where you'd start. It's not really any better or worse than a dozen other women in prison films, but if you have a jonesing to watch one for whatever reason, yeah I guess you could do worse than this one. Or if you have some burning desire to see Linda Blairs tits.

Next time on Second Age Reviews: Heavy Metal

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he kept hoping Linda would insult one of the other prisoners with 'Your mother sucks cocks in hell.'

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