Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Def by Temptation (1990).

Suddenly I find myself with some film-watching time on my hands, having had a drunken accident with some steps and now my ankle is twice the size it should be. Clever girl. Anyway, now is theoretically time to watch all those DVDs I promised myself I would, "one day". Starting with:

The Troma distributed film charts the adventures of the two main protagonists: a sexy "temptress" (Cynthia Bond) who preys on wrongdoing men she picks up in a New York bar, and a naive young man named Joel (the amazingly named James Bond III who also wrote, produced and directed) who is studying to be a minister. Def By Temptation introduces them, then shows us what happens when their paths cross.

It boasts Samuel L. Jackson but it won't come as a shock to discover that he only has a couple of scenes, dying 11mins in. He plays Joel's father, a fervent clergyman haunted by visions of a woman in black. In flashback we see him send his young son to live with grandma, shortly before dying in a car wreck along with his wife - the accident having been caused by the mysterious and admittedly rather sinister entity that appeared to plague him.

Well, it was sinister, until this moment late on...

Oh dear.

I didn't recognise anyone else in the cast apart from Bill Nunn, for whom I have a soft spot though I'm not entirely sure why. Surely not because of Sister Act?

The temptress, although undeniably sensual, could have been painted as much more evil. Sure, she lures men back to her dry ice filled apartment, has sex with them, toys with them and then violently kills them... but the very first victim we see her take is the first person to utter dialogue in the film, and what does he say?
[on the telephone] "Look, we had a good time right? So just get an abortion, what's the big deal?"
A real nice guy! Actually this actor lucked out on memorable lines, having both the above and the following to say, during his tiny amount of screen time:
"You are one hot-natured freakazoid. You can't wait to jump my bones as you know I've got the key to your pleasures."
He is one smooth dude. In any case, he ends up as mincemeat just like the rest of them (apart from the one she infects and then sends back to his wife). So she's something of a feminist succubus, it seems, but this is never explored or explained.

When country-boy Joel arrives in the big city to experience life a little, before dedicating his life to religion, she sets her sights on him. It soon transpires that she is the current incarnation of an ancient demon; she needs to seduce Joel as he is the last in a line of holy men and as someone who is still truly innocent, she must conquer him. Or something.

Joel's streetwise friend "K" and Nunn's character provide some light relief as they discover the danger Joel is in and attempt to help him. K was my favourite character in the movie, therefore his death being the only one that bothered me. However, the entirely random way in which he is dispatched was ever so slightly distracting.

Obvious parallels to Videodrome of course, but what the...? I can't decide if I like it because it's so arbitrary to much else in the film, or despite this fact.

A less confusing and more "I wish more of it had been like this" moment is a nightmare Joel has after a date with the temptress. He walks into the local bar to see a zombiefied selection of her previous victims.

I can appreciate that the vibe the makers wanted was more one of sexy horror rather than gooey gore, but I'd be lying if I said the latter didn't appeal more.

Rather like the previously reviewed Amityville film, this one starts with simple enough effects (eg: a LOT of bright red high gloss paint)...

...but ends with crazy Brundlefly smooshy heads and bugged out eyes. Again I feel the need to say that there was no need to get so carried away; the sexual knifeplay and plumbed-in blood shower sufficed to make this an interesting - if cheesy - little flick. Introducing tonnes of latex at the eleventh hour was too jarring. It made the climax into something of a disappointment. The very final twist did alleviate this a little, but not altogether.

James Bond III hasn't done anything since.


  1. I remember this hitting the shelves when I worked in Blockbuster Video. Which makes me realize that 1) I did not grow up in a golden age of horror movies and 2) my age is scarier than anything in this film.

    Please, please, please follow this up with a review of either Snoop Dogg's Bones or Vampire in Brooklyn.

  2. Seeing as you asked so nicely and made me giggle with your comment, I will do as you request - thank you for not giving me a deadline though :)

  3. The one main thing I like about Def By Temptation is the awesome cinematography...Spike Lee's cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, who wound up moving on to the director's chair. Dickerson has gone on to direct some cool movies and some shows that I watch nowadays.

    The colors, look and feel to the movie is impressive, but the movie falls flat towards the end which is unfortunate.

    Glad you mentioned the television scene!