One of the seemingly countless "group of people in a single location deal with pint-sized creatures" movies released by Full Moon in the last 20 years, 1997's Hideous! (aka Deformed Freaks) is mostly business as usual, elevated by the performances -- and one performance in particular. It's a movie that makes me nostalgic for a certain kind of film the company used to make while reminding me that they've pretty much been making the same movie for the last 27 years, meaning I enjoyed my time with it but suspect my brain would lump it in with the rest of Full Moon's middleground output if not for the participation of Jacqueline Lovell, one of the best stars the company ever produced.
I wish I could say more about the plot of Hideous!, but I can't -- not because I'm afraid of spoiling something, but because there really isn't any more to the story than that. This is a film in which the majority of the running time is handed over to two collector's bickering over possession of some monsters that remain largely unseen, less the traditional Full Moon horror comedy than it is a deal being made in real time. It follows the template of most exploitation movies in that it's almost entirely dialogue save for a few moments of what we paid to see because that stuff is harder and more expensive to pull off. Unfortunately, even those moments in Hideous! aren't all they're cracked up to be thanks to some uninspired creature design and very little articulation of the monsters' movements -- the days of Dave Allen and his great stop motion animation appear to be behind us already in 1997.
Subspecies movies. Richard Band's score errs on the side of being a generic Richard Band score, but the main theme has enough personality to stand out. The film was made near the tail end of Full Moon's glory days, meaning that the budget was low and the resources limited but attention was still paid to ensuring that Hideous! at least functions as a film on a technical level.
What really sets something like Hideous! apart from later-period Full Moon output, however, is the cast. Some of the actors, like Mel Johnson Jr., are surprisingly grounded and play to the reality of the outlandish predicament. Others, like Citrinini and Rhonda Griffin, a veteran of The Creeps, go a little cartoony in a roles that are meant to be broad -- their performances are stylized in such a way as to play up the "old dark house" aspects of the film, once a staple of the horror genre in the 1930s and '40s. There are some scenes in which four or five different actors share the frame and appear to be acting in four or five different movies, but because they're all giving good performances in their separate movies it winds up being fun instead of distracting.
Trophy Heads, which she outright stole from underneath a cast of genre movie legends like Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer and Linnea Quigley. Like the great Debbie Rochon, Lovell is an incredibly talented actor who is unfairly dismissed for working primarily in B-movies. She deserves to be better known.
Hideous! is among the latest of Full Moon's expanding library of titles to receive the Blu-ray treatment, sporting an uneven but mostly acceptable HD transfer (in its proper widescreen format, one of the main reasons to upgrade these movies from their full frame DVD releases). It includes a couple of special features, including the original VideoZone piece that accompanied the original VHS, some bonus Full Moon trailers and a commentary track from stars Michael Citrinini and Mel Johnson Jr., who are in good spirits and clearly have fondness for the film and for each other. I might have preferred a track from director Charles Band, but I'm happy to see Full Moon including any bonus content at all.
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