February 6, 2010

Gregory Lamberson's Naked Fear (1999)

Naked Fear is a 1999 film by the always humorous and talented independent director Greg Lamberson. It brings together the main leads from his previous two films, Robert Sabin (of Slime City) and Tommy Sweeny (of Undying Love), to create an intertwined movie existence with an opposing tension unlike any other.

OMINOUS MUSIC blares during the credits as we're taken past the dreaded laundry room and up the stairs of what seems to be a high rise apartment building. Mom and Pop are all dressed up and ready to paint the town... red that is. Knowing that of course in films like this, yuppies never do seem to make it to their 'little soirées', at least without a bit of trouble coming their way. Trouble in the form of a black Jack Napier, as it would be. The dark skinned fellow hiding around the corner lunges forth with gun in hand and demands they hand over the cash. Even though they're all too willing to do so, shots ring out and pops is out of commission, much to the dismay of his wife who begins screaming at the top of her lungs. A single bullet to the forehead takes care of that however, as our villain for the time being spouts a catchy little number that goes a little something like this: "Try screaming now, bitch." Our young soon to be hero opens the door to find his parents laying there dead. The evil man looks down upon him and with grin on face says something or other about the devil in a pale moonlight. [Actually, he ran off.]

Fast-forward something like thirty years later and cue the 'you knew it was coming' nightmare as Camden (Robert Sabin) awakens in a cold sweat, again. He does what he normally must in this situation and starts to lift weights! He's working out, sweating like a prison inmate, looking at the picture of his dead parents on the table in front of him and getting flashbacks of their deaths. This shit is getting intense!! His eyes bulging, you can tell there's a fury inside of him... but wherever it is inside, it must be pretty deep.

See, Camden has (as we come to find out) agoraphobia, which is a rare condition where a person develops a split personality, dresses up as a bat and furiously pleases himself to late night 1-900 commercials on the tube. Actually, Camden never leaves his home. His whole life since his parent's deaths, he's been taken care of by his (their?) lawyer / adoptive protector Donald, and raised on their trust funds. He has his food and groceries delivered to him by the same Asian guy each week (who he has come to trust) and the third and only other person he lets into his apartment is the super (who seems to have an obsessive compulsive desire to change batteries in the smoke detectors every three god damn days).

He goes to the door one day to get his groceries, and through the peephole he finds not his regular guy, but instead some scraggly looking dude in a black bandanna. He opens the door slowly and cue the OMINOUS MUSIC. This metal-head doesn't seem the most trustworthy guy on the job, as he doesn't stay outside the door as directed while Cam goes to get his money, but instead comes in and proceeds to f'n case the joint. Here we get a great scene of acting on Sabin's part as when he comes back and finds the guy in his apartment, he closes his robe with a displeased and puzzled look on his face - classic. Is this just another one of those daily things that agoraphobics go through, or it is something more?

We're introduced now to one of Cam's favorite pastimes: Watching from his telescope down at the prostitute in front of the theater, her pimp standing not too far behind as she offers tricks to turn. Those wacky New Yorkers sure do crack him up.

Lawyer Donald comes by the house on one of his regular visits, and greets Cam with a stack of magazines. "You must be on every mailing list in the state. Is there anything you don't read?"

"Yeah, street signs." he responds with a giggle. They sit down and have a chat about how things are going. Donald thinks that Cam needs to finally get out, or maybe start seeing a head doctor. But Cam has other plans, he wants.... a Roommate! Hey, it's a step. They come to an agreement and Cam will be the one doing the screening. After going through a few of New York's finest and brightest (right), he finally meets the man of his, err, roommate of his dreams: Randy (Tommy Sweeny). This scary looking fellow (below, right).

The interviewing portion of the meet and greet doesn't seem to last too long as Randy tells Camden that he's an Orphan. Which of course, upon hearing the news, Cam's eyes light up. The sooner he can move in, the better.

This is the point where we hit that magical interlude when Randy is shown to us and not the film's protagonist as the evil being he truly is. He makes his way back to the place where he was squatting with (who you'll recognize as) the metal-head grocery delivery guy(!) and some drugged up girl who's kept around for kicks. Or at least, that's what Randy thought, before he gets into a minor squabble. As she's told to go powder her nose, Randy exclaims that he is displeased with having her around, but metal-head isn't having any part of it. The girl stays, and they're going to carry out their nefarious plan to completely hallow out Camden's apartment. "The guy's a total shut-in. There's no way we're getting him out of there." Randy says. Metal-head is up for suggestion and Randy devises a plan so ingenious, so diabolikal that it would make the freakin' Riddler blush... he's gonna get Cam wasted, get him laid and build up the guy's confidence. It's brilliant, man!

So begineth the male bonding! They're sitting on the couch when another one of those creatively made 1-900 number commercials comes on the tube. "You ever call one of those things?" Randy asks. "All the time..." "Camden, you ever get laid?" There's an awkward silence. "I came close once, in high school.. then my parents died and it didn't work out." They share a bit from that moment on, talking about their parents, and of course, chicks...

"Chicks are great, as long as you keep 'em in line. But friends are forever."

Pretty soon you'll start to notice a bit of a trend concerning Randy. He never lets something as menial as a chick come between a friendship. Later in the middle of the night, Camden awakes to strange noises, only to find the window shades crackling in the wind. When he closes the window and turns around, grocery delivery guy pulls a gun and the planned robbery is in full effect. Well, at least it would have been, if not for Randy, who jumps out from the shadows and stabs his former partner in crime to death.

This brings us to the single best bloodied underwear shot in cinematic history! Move over Schramm, Naked Fear got your number and just gave it to every single automatic dialer in town.

"He was gonna... kill me. Huh. If you'd moved in one day later I'd be dead now." Camden has a new savior and now they're best friends till the end. But what in the hell are they going to do with this dead body? Randy hates cops, of course, but Cam can't at all get his beauty sleep with a corpse in the middle of the living room. So they wrap him up in a carpet and Randy tells Cam that everything is going to be fine. He grabs a bottle of pills, pours a few into his disgusting looking blood covered hand and offers Camden a few.. which of course, he takes. [The audio commentary has a blast during this particular moment, as it is so absurd: "Don't worry that these pills are covered in blood. I'm sure the guy who I killed is clean."]

So Randy takes care of things there, and decides to get some unfinished business done. First on the top of his list, head to the local cinema to buy cocaine for the young lass back home waiting. Of course, this is no regular drug as he heads off to the bathroom to mix rat poison into it. Suddenly, two strapping young lads(arm in arm) come busting in. "Get the fuck out of here!" yells Randy and they take off. [Another hilarious audio commentary moment: "We'll just go to the ladies room instead." ... "Yeah, they're not mixing rat poison and coke in the ladies room."] So one former friend and his girl are snuffed at the hands of our anti-hero. Now it's off to make good with his new buddy Camden, what better than a present to tide things over?

All the while Camden is trying to expand his social life, by of course calling up more of those naughty 1-900 numbers. He starts talking with a girl, but this time he makes a rainbow connection, decides to come clean and tells her who he really is. They're both unsure but he tells her his number, and surprisingly she calls him back. He's all smiles at this point and heads to bed happy. That's when Randy returns with his gift: A hooker with a heart of gold, who (finally, in one of Lamberson's films), gets naked. Alright.

Of course later when Randy asks how it went, Camden says that they talked for a while and well, he couldn't exactly rise to the occasion. Was it nervousness from being a virgin? Is he in love with the girl on the phone and that distracted him? Is it... something else? In any case, Camden's got a real date with Julie (Peggy Crow), and asks Randy to go out for the night. And Randy goes out alright... out for Revenge!

[After all, he payed her to sex him up, not talk his ear off.]

Julie, a former telemarketer and as we come to find out, rape victim, isn't all too comfortable with closeness, but she takes a chance by meeting Camden in his home. They chat for a while, share an ale together, and dance for a short bit before Cam goes in for a kiss and she has a bit of a freak-out. She leaves the apartment and Camden in despair, though later Randy comforts him saying "Maybe she's damaged goods. I wouldn't let it get you down."

Later, while watching the news, Camden is horrified to hear that the hooker he was with just the other night was found whorribly murdered. He gets up and runs to the telescope, only to see the pimp looking rather pissed off and staring back.

Camden: "Gloria's dead!"

Randy: "Who?"

Camden: "The PROSTITUTE you brought me the other night!"

Randy tells Camden that everything is going to be OK, the pimp doesn't even know him, and there's nothing to worry about. Cam accepts this and they go on with their lives. Julie calls up Camden later and apologizes for rushing off like that. They both meet up again and discuss their lives. Both of them have personal demons they want to get past, and perhaps they can do that together.

While walking her to the door, Randy comes home suddenly and startles her. They shake hands, and Randy is less than willing to let go, considering he is rather creepish.

So where was Randy all that time? Oh right, off murdering the pimp. When Camden catches the news and once again hears the late breaking story he's in freak out land, baby! Running to his trusty telescope he finds nothing now but a brick wall. Randy approaches him from behind and asks what he's looking at. Cue OMINOUS MUSIC. By this time Camden is becoming increasingly paranoid and scared, so the next day he calls up his lawyer pal to come over and escort Randy out of the apartment. Randy is naturally not too fond of the idea and lays waste to the lawyer friend with ease. Camden does what he does best and locks himself in his room, cowering in the corner, while Randy softly explains himself. "I'm not psychotic. Look who I killed.. a whore, a pimp and a lawyer. They're all parasites."

"You wanted a best friend. Well you got one for life. And I'm not going anywhere. You don't understand the responsibilities that go with friendship. You never dump a friend for a chick. Never." Camden isn't budging and Randy isn't leaving. After all, they're friends and why would Randy desert his best friend in his darkest hour? Randy even goes the extra mile and cooks a meal for him, only to leave it outside his door. But later in the night when Randy is suffering from nightmares of his parent's abuse, Camden wakes up to find him sitting on his bed, smoking a cigarette (or was that twenty of them?). This is where we learn the truly awful fate of Randy's parents. He killed them!

The nightmares were undoubtedly caused by the upcoming anniversary of his parent's uhh, death I'm pretty sure. To commemorate the occasion, Randy heads out to the local cemetery / town square and proceeds to urinate on his parent's graves. While doing this, Cam is back at home going through Randy's things. Inside the pages of the book Helter Skelter, he finds Shocking Evidence(!) as to who Randy truly is. But before he even has time to rationalize things, Randy comes to the door, pounding on it until the chain lock busts off. By this time Camden is hiding in the strangest choice of places.

"Nice try Cam.. But I think it's time for you to come out of the closet."

And he does, with a staple gun and a vengeance!

Stuffing Randy in the closet and nailing it shut, ("It's like a coffin in here man.. Let me out.. I promise I'll be good.") Camden is now filled with the confidence he always needed and decides to leave his apartment for the very first time since the death of his parents. Randy screams as he's leaving "I got you your first blowjob, don't let her come between us.", but that doesn't stop him. Camden is finally out... of the apartment that is, and it's rockin' walkin' good time as he heads off, with nothing but his bag, to find his lady love.


Or is it? Not really.

Well, I'll spoil the rest of it for you. Here's a bit of the dialogue, when Randy comes back for revenge and gives Camden the ultimatum only a true psycho could: "Rape this bitch or I'll paint the walls with her blood! Do it or I'll put a bullet through her head and fuck the hole..." Of course you know what happens next... surprise ending. But this ain't no Casablanca, baby... you know Randy is going to take a dive and Camden is going to get the girl. Right?

After watching Slime City I was left in awe as to how awesome it was. The next day I watched Naked Fear, and to my surprise, I may have actually liked the second film better. Which confused me a bit, since it's not nearly as gory or gross (though, yes, there are some gory and quite disgusting moments in Naked Fear), and it's more of a psychological genre entry. Not nearly as staight up outlandish as Slime, but all the while very uncomfortable, entertaining and well made. For some reason, its existance is hardly listed on the DVD package. The front of the cover does state that it is a double feature, but the back just blends the title in with the extras. A shame, as Naked Fear stands alone as a title to be owned and shouldn't have to take a backseat to Slime. Then again, Slime does have that amazing cover art so I can see why it was done this way. Still, these are two very different films, so don't go comparing the two of them too much. Try Naked Fear out for yourself sometime, when you're not in the mood to be slimed.

Naked Fear can be found in the extras for Lamberson's first film Slime City, which is released on the Retro Shock-O-Rama label. The film was shot on video (unlike Slime City which was shot on Film and is presented anamorphic) and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:33:1. Those who like their aspect ratios incorrect, when streched to 16x9 the picture doesn't look too bad, actually. There seems to be a slight video line across the bottom of the picture, but it's not distracting at all. Especially considering the film really draws you in. Both films are Progressive and look very good. Naked Fear (as well as Slime City) features an audio commentary by the director and stars. Lamberson and Co. are extremely funny during their chat sessions and give lots of fun information the whole way through. There are many moments of intersting vague comments dealing with male bonding, telephone cords being straight, being married w/ children, and quite a few in jokes that make you wonder....

Also, as a side note before I end, this is the first and only movie that I've seen where the final credits show a montage of funny outtakes, while a very offensive rap track plays over the whole thing. Greatness.

It comes highly recommended.

No comments:

My words are my own and as of posted from their creation forward I hereby claim originality to them. Pictures may prove to be promotional items and are the sole possessions of their respectful owners and/or companies. I do not sell, nor do I buy. I only rent, so therefore, nothing I own is truly mine.