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  I'm Dangerous Tonight Dressed to Kill
Year: 1990
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Mädchen Amick, Corey Parker, Daisy Hall, R. Lee Ermey, Anthony Perkins, Dee Wallace, William Berger, Natalie Schafer, Jason Brooks, Mary Frann, Stuart Fratkin
Genre: Horror, TV MovieBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sweet young college student Amy (Mädchen Amick) happens across an ancient Aztec cloak which she fashions into a striking red dress. It immediately exerts an unholy influence. Transformed from mousy good girl to man-eating vamp, Amy attempts to seduce college football stud Mason (Jason Brooks) to the dismay of her cousin Gloria (Daisy Hall), aunt Martha (Mary Frann) and wannabe boyfriend Eddie (Corey Parker). Before things get out of hand, Amy comes to her senses and flees the scene. Later on, sinister Professor Buchanan (uh-oh, it's Anthony Perkins) warns Amy about the cloaks cursed history but the nightmare does not end once she gets rid of the dress.

Among the loveliest and most promising actresses showcased in David Lynch's landmark television series Twin Peaks, Mädchen Amick should have been a huge movie star. Heck, even Lynch admitted he had a crush on her. Though Mädchen carved a respectable niche as a dependable performer on television, her fim career was sadly hobbled straight out of the gate by a pair of slapdash horror vehicles. They included the Stephen King-scripted mess Sleepwalkers (1992) and this ropey effort from fast-fading Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973) maestro Tobe Hooper. Based very loosely on a story by pulp thriller writer Cornell Woolrich, I'm Dangerous Tonight was a made for TV movie, a medium that had served Hooper well in the past with 'Salem's Lot (1979) and now provided a refuge after a decade of ups and downs on the big screen. Mostly downs.

The hokey plot feels more suited to an episode from one of the many EC-comics inspired horror anthologies produced by Amicus throughout the Seventies or else something from Tales from the Darkside. Hooper clearly knows this sort of thing like the back of his hand. As such he goes for a goofy comic book approach with cheesy jump-scares and broad characterizations. However, Amick goes against the grain with an earnest turn that proves the dictionary definition of winsome. A significant portion of the plot plays like Tobe Hooper's twisted take on Cinderella. Amy is a put-upon orphan harassed by a glamorous aunt and cousin until whisked off to the ball in a magical dress, albeit with more sinister intent. Although Nicholas Pike's early Nineties dance music score is atrocious, scenes where a ravishing in red Mädchen Amick gets her groove on with guys with big Nineties mullets have a certain cheesy charm. Unfortunately Hooper does very little with this promising combination of Grimm Brothers fairytale and that old horror staple: the worm that turned. The film raises several plot threads, such as Amy's grandmother's (Natalie Schafer) with the red cloak, but fails to expand them.

Screenwriters Bruce Lansbury and Philip John Taylor seem to have set out to say something about female sexuality, acknowledging red as the colour of both danger and desire, but leave viewers at a loss to discern exactly what that is. Like Forbidden Planet (1956), I'm Dangerous Tonight has a problematic assessment of human nature as mere base instinct and bestial desires held in check by the thin concept of civilization. As a treatise on the subject it is one-dimensional at best. Rather than have Amy do anything that would cost her the sympathy of the audience the plot conveniently hands the dress over to several other characters that become the antagonists. These include a near-unrecognizable Dee Wallace who evidently relished the chance to break away from her mom image as a knife-wielding harlot. As such the plot grows increasingly safe, silly and predictable, losing whatever mild frisson the first third had and sadly reducing the talented Amick to shrieking, simpering and waving her arms a lot.

Iconic Psycho (1960) star Anthony Perkins essays one of his last roles, handling the kind of exposition heavy dialogue Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee used to do with their occultist know-it-all characters. We also have R. Lee Ermey, atypically restrained as a cigar-chomping detective. Trite jump scares, absurd contrivances and shrill acting reduce the third act to an unintentional laugh riot. At least the plot allows Mädchen Amick fans to feel a little less guilty about hoping she will take off her dress.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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Tobe Hooper  (1943 - )

American horror director who has spent his whole career trying to live up to his electrifying The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. After the similar but not as good Eaten Alive, he directed the miniseries of Salem's Lot, slasher The Funhouse, and blockbuster Poltergeist (despite rumours of producer Steven Spielberg's hands-on involvement).

Then a string of under-achievers: vampire sci-fi Lifeforce, sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and remake Invaders from Mars led to mostly straight to video or television work: Spontaneous Combustion, Night Terrors, The Mangler and Crocodile. In TV he has directed episodes of Dark Skies and Taken. A remake of The Toolbox Murders went some way to restoring his reputation with horror fans.

 
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