Monday, December 14, 2020

“Change Our Name and Live on Beans” - Deadly Love (1987) - Film #193

Let us now return to the world of Michael S. O'Rourke, writer/director of Moonstalker (1989) and writer of Hellgate (1989). We will take up his earlier film Deadly Love (1987), a supernatural tale of romance and revenge.

Some of your universe's critics fail to appreciate Mr. O'Rourke's work. For example, reviewer robynheavner writes, "Don't waist [sic] your time with this one. Poor wooden acting. Poor executed story line. I feel [sic] asleep." Reviewer it001k0306 writes, "Poor acting, poor lighting, poor sound, poor script. A ridiculous amount of boring flashbacks - this is bad!" And reviewer future_imperfect writes, "Slow-moving enough to induce a coma, uniformly wooden acting, with a take on the supernatural that usually only appears in bad Gothic literature and 'Scooby-Doo'. I want my 90 minutes back."

Please read on for the truth about Michael S. O'Rourke's Deadly Love...

In Nevada in 1965, a motorcycle rider pulls into the town of Pine Grove. In the middle of the woods, he meets a young blonde woman and gives her a red rose. “Where’d you get it?” the woman, Annie, asks him.

“Oh, I have my sources,” the motorcyclist, Buddy, replies.

Unfortunately for the couple, they are being watched by Clint, the caretaker/farm hand who works for the woman’s father. Sitting alone in the cab of his pickup truck, Clint starts cutting his palm with a knife. He carves the woman’s name into his hand.

The couple agrees to run away and get married. “We’ll have to change our name and live on beans,” Buddy warns.

Annie drives back to her house to pick up some things before their elopement. After confronting Clint outside, she goes to her bedroom and wishes on a red candle that the couple will be together forever. Her plans are thwarted, however, when Clint and Annie’s father meet Buddy at the door and Clint shoots him when he tries to run.

“Annie, I love you,” are the motorcyclist’s last words.

The filmmakers allow us to watch Clint hide the motorcycle and bury Buddy, along with the red roses he brought for Annie, in an unwisely shallow grave on the farm.

The film cuts to “Present Day,” where Annie still lives on the now decaying farm, and where red roses grow beside a white fence. She keeps a book in her room called The Encyclopedia of Ancient and Forbidden Knowledge by the author Zolar. She turns to Chapter 8: Using the Magic Mirror. This inspires a flashback to the good times with Buddy. It also inspires Buddy’s ghost, dressed in motorcycle leathers and helmet, to appear in the mirror. She embraces his ghost.

Elsewhere, a group of young adults sits in a Jeep committing the traditional defilement of the wilderness by listening to rock music and tossing beer cans. To continue their anarchic fun, they drive to Annie’s farm and ask, “That boyfriend of yours come back yet?” Then they make fun of her by dancing with her while her favorite song plays at high speed.

Fortunately for Annie, she is rescued by a newcomer wearing a leather jacket and carrying a shovel. The newcomer, who sports a mullet and an underdeveloped mustache, asks if Annie is okay, then climbs onto his motorcycle and rides away.

In her bedroom, Annie remembers her days with Buddy, but she realizes, “I waited for you, Buddy. I waited too long. I’m old.” She adds, somewhat less coherently, “You never told me. I was wrong to making you come to me [sic]. I can make it up to you, honey. I’ll show you the way.”

She draws a bath and then stares at a straight razor. Blood pours into the bath water. A man dressed in black with a motorcycle helmet, presumably Buddy’s ghost, enters the room and cries out.

Later, two mourners stand in front of a grave. The man, Mr. Briscoe, explains to the woman, Ann’s niece Hillie, that local teens used to drive up to her house to tease her. Hillie asks why she was buried “like this.” The man explains “She left a very brief note describing the stone and the specifications for the burial plot.” (Presumably, the note described a stenciled tombstone that would not be out of place in a junior high school play.)

He drives her to the farmhouse she has inherited and informs her Ann killed herself in the house. “It seems there’s a lot I don’t know,” Hillie says. “Why, for instance, wasn’t I notified about my aunt’s mental condition until after her death?”

“Unfortunately, Ms. Butler, nobody even knew you existed. If it hadn’t been for a letter found by a cleaning woman inside the house, why, this property would have been sold a long time ago.”

Hillie announces her plan to live at the farmhouse, to Mr. Briscoe’s shock. “Look,” she tells him to prove her toughness, “I’ve lived alone in Los Angeles for three years. I think I can take care of myself.”

Hillie explores the house, immediately finding a revolver in a desk, and then she hears Buddy’s ghost whisper, “Annie.” She picks up the gun and climbs upstairs to Ann’s bedroom, where she finds Ann’s record playing next to a cabinetful of lit candles. In the mirror, she sees what might be Buddy’s ghost in the shadows. Then she unpacks her clothes to move into her dead aunt’s room. She also finds Ann’s diary, which helpfully explains that Ann believed she brought Buddy back by playing their song, lighting candles, and looking into a mirror.

Meanwhile, the mustachioed motorcyclist, Skip, who chased off the partiers before Ann’s suicide rides to the farmhouse after speaking with Mr. Briscoe. Hillie meets him with the revolver, but soon he explains he used to deliver groceries to Ann and he is now at the house to pick up the man who will be delivering Hillie’s car to the house. The man delivering the car turns out to be one of the jerks who harassed Ann, and a confrontation with Skip results in the man walking back home rather than riding on Skip’s motorcycle. To make matters even more complicated during this scene, Hillie gets some groceries out of her car—groceries, including a carton of milk, that must have been sitting in the trunk during the transactions allowing her to take possession of the house with Mr. Briscoe.

In a suspenseful sequence, Hillie explores the barn and hears creaking sounds. The sequence climaxes when a blanket falls on her head for no apparent reason.

Later, she reads more of the diary, in which Ann writes that Buddy’s ghost comes to her every night. “It’s so much nicer now that Daddy’s dead,” Ann wrote. As Hillie lies in the bathtub reading the diary, Buddy’s leather-clad ghost climbs the stairs, carrying a red rose. Hillie hears the doorknob rattling, and after her bath she sees a red rose on the carpet. She climbs downstairs, only to find Skip, dressed identically to Buddy’s ghost, at the front door. She invites him inside and they chat in front of the fireplace. He admits he aims to write the great American novel about Ann and Buddy’s love story. She invites him up to the bedroom to see the diary (not a euphemism) and Ann’s occult book (probably not a euphemism). They light the candles and play the record, and then they start kissing, oblivious to the fact that the nefarious young adults who teased Ann have driven their Jeep up to the house to spy on them.

All the chess pieces are in place for a spectacular, horrific third act. Buddy’s ghost, remembering the humiliation the young adults put Ann through, stalks the interlopers. He knocks one unconscious and sets up an elaborate rope-and-pully scheme connecting the young man’s head to the tow hitch of a pickup. Though the man appears unconcerned, Buddy’s ghost starts the truck and drives forward, lifting the man’s body into the air to hang him.

When the female member of the group investigates the murdered man’s disappearance, she finds his body in the barn, bleeding from the mouth for some reason. She runabout Buddy’s ghost finds her. After another flashback, Buddy slams the woman onto some spikes.

Instead of going after her, the final hoodlum enters the farmhouse and knocks Skip out by slamming a wine bottle into his head. When he tries to attack Hillie, she runs upstairs to Ann’s room. The hoodlum throws Hillie onto the bed but he is interrupted by Buddy’s ghost, who strangles the hoodlum and then, in a reference to Universal monster movies, picks up Hillie and carries her to the barn (in the middle of carrying her, she appears to become too heavy for the traditional carrying position so he simply throws her over his shoulder).

Once in the barn, Buddy’s ghost shockingly reveals himself to be, in actuality, Clint, the simple-minded and evil henchman of Annie’s father. He believes Hillie to be Ann. “Now I can take care of you just like you’re mine. There’s nobody else around now between us.”

Fortunately for Hillie, Skip finds her in the barn, but he is attacked by Clint. Just as Clint is about to puncture Skip’s throat with a pitch fork, however, the real ghost of Buddy appears, slips a noose around Clint’s neck, and drags him out of the barn with his ghost motorcycle. Skip and Hillie look out the barn door at the bed of roses where Buddy was buried.

In the film’s coda, Hillie takes a shower in Skip’s apartment in town. She hears Buddy’s voice calling her “Annie” while the romantic song plays on the radio. There follows a shocking and gory finale that I will not reveal here. Suffice it to say the climax is terrifying, though one might argue that it makes no sense at all.

Finally, the filmmakers add another coda where a gardener we have never seen before says, “Well I’ll be go to hell [sic].” He sees a motorcycle propped up against Buddy’s gravestone and a helmet sitting on top.

The End

While Deadly Love might not be as visceral as Moonstalker, and its slasher activities might be limited to a 10-minute segment near the end of the film, Michael O'Rourke's earlier horror film is more heartfelt, with its emphasis on the doomed love between Ann and Buddy. It might even cause the sensitive viewer to shed a tear or two, particularly in its use of the haunting song "Forever," which is played approximately three hundred times during the film, and is described by a radio DJ as "the song that beat the Beatles." "Forever" is an apt theme song for this film, as it perfectly captures the sense of Ann's waiting for her lover Buddy to return. It also describes the intelligent viewer's reaction to the film itself. For its romantic and horrific qualities, we, the grateful cinema audience, will be indebted to Deadly Love forever.