Entries in Christopher Walken (1)

Saturday
Dec152012

A Bad Case Of College Burn-Out: ALL-AMERICAN MURDER (1991) Review

Even though the giallo really isn’t my favorite of horror subgenres, I have to give it credit for sticking around as long as it did. It seemed to start in the sixties, and didn’t really die out until the nineties. While the later ones weren't going to reach the heights of quality that they had reached in the seventies, that didn’t stop some entries that came a bit late in the game to see release. One such film, while not a full giallo, also saw a straight-to-video release in the early nineties. Yes, I am talking about…

ALL-AMERICAN MURDER (1991)

Review

Artie Logan (Charlie Schlatter) is a troublemaker who has been kicked out of school multiple times due to his reckless behavior (and always being bailed out by his father, who is a judge), but now, he is determined to finish college. While at his new school, he meets and falls in love with the sweet and popular Tally (Josie Bisset). However, the romance doesn’t last long when Tally is set ablaze and burns alive. Naturally, Artie gets fingered, but loose cannon detective P.J. Decker (Christopher Walken) gives him an ultimatum: find the real killer in 24-hours, or get the chair. Artie sets out to find the real killer, but as he digs deeper into the mystery, he finds that Tally, as well as other people at the university, aren’t as squeaky clean as they appear…

While it may be hard to see under all the American early-nineties stereotypes (the hair! The music! The clothes!) this is indeed a giallo. We’ve got a lengthy murder investigation, a black-gloved killer, LOTS of red herrings, some vicious kills, scandals, and a twist ripped right out of an Italian murder mystery. My one real problem with the giallo subgenre as a whole is that they’re either going to be really, REALLY great, or they’re going to be boring and middle-of-the-road. While more entertaining than others of its kind, I would have to say that All-American Murder falls into the latter category. The film does have a lot of merits, but I feel it spends a little too much time, as most gialli do, on investigation antics.

The one reason I won’t completely shrug this movie off is due to one actor: Christopher Walken. Walken must have been strapped for cash (or maybe he thought the movie had potential), but nevertheless, he brings his deadpan charm to the role of the maverick detective. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there’s actually some really witty dialogue and the chemistry between him and Schlatter’s character is effective. Yeah, with lines like, “What’s Doug Sawyer doing on my coffee table with a knife in his back?” and “Any more surprises before I open the oven…find my Aunt Harriet?”, it’s hard to hate this movie. The rest of the cast do a fair job as well, and Mitchell Anderson, who starred in one of my favorite underrated slashers, Deadly Dreams, even makes an appearance!

But not even some clever writing and good performances can save this movie from its ultimate fault: tedium. The tagline for the movie (“He’s about to enter a jungle of sex, sleaze, and murder…he’s going to college”) is quite fitting, considering that for almost thirty minutes all we do is follow Artie as he uncovers that Tally wasn’t as clean-cut as he thought. The first twenty minutes aren’t very exciting either, with Artie putting the moves Tally before she is eventually set on fire. The last half-hour is when most of the murders come out, and they’re not very impressive. A lot of killings with little-to-no build-up to them, although one near the end was surprisingly gory (and awesome) when compared to how dry the rest of the movie was. The reveal of the killer wasn’t terribly surprising (I had considered it would wind up the way it did early on), but it does feel very much in tune with the giallo elements of the movie.

All-in-all, All-American Murder is far from terrible. It’s better than other thrillers from this time, with some funny writing, a solid cast (believe me when I say Walken really makes this movie), a twist that at least attempts to be original, and one great death. Unfortunately, the monotony of the rest of the movie anchors it in the sea of indifference and prevents it from continuing to better things. Despite Walken’s appearance, this one remains unreleased on DVD, but VHS tapes of the movie can be found very cheaply online. Or you can watch it on YouTube. Not too bad; not fantastic, either. If you enjoy '70s gialli, this is one I would definitely recommend you seek out.

The Verdict: Despite some very boring and superfluous moments, All-American Murder is still decently fun with some good Christopher Walken action and giallo elements. Check it out.

Score: 6/10