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November 13, 2011

Supremely Cheesy Cinema, Vol. 9: The Carpenter

If I were making a list of things I love far less than I should, the films of Wings Hauser would clearly be a contender.  Aside from former MMOTW Vice Squad - in which the domineering actor plays the baddest of L.A's cowboy pimps - and this year's kooky indie hit Rubber, I've never had a lot of exposure to Hauser's work.  Which, based on his roles in those two films, is clearly a bad thing.  Thankfully, the folks over at Scorpion Releasing have just released a rare '80s treat on DVD - The Carpenter. (BTW, all images below are captured directly from that DVD, so anyone who's wondering about the transfer can get a decent sample here. Just click the pics to biggify.)
The Carpenter - as evidenced by the image of a growling Wings on that old VHS cover above - is partially a movie about an angry, power-tool abusing, carpenter played by Wings Hauser.  But it's not exactly what that image advertises, and not just because Wings never wields a drill that large in the film.  Though the image sells the film as a slasher/psychopath-with-tools flick, that's not quite a whole picture view of this story.  There's a lot more quirks to The Carpenter than I expected.
The Carpenter is actually a film that's mostly about a crazy young woman named Alice, played by Lynn Adams. We know Alice is crazy partially because she is in a mental hospital for cutting up suits early in the film, but also because she has crazy person eyes.  She's a frail woman with cat lady hair (surprisingly, no cats are involved in the film, a rarity for late '80s horror) who is living in a big 'old house that needs a lot of fixing up, with her husband, whose face appears to make him the boringest looking man of all-time.
He's like a boring French Saul Rubinek.
Alice's life is mostly craziness and awkwardness - check out her job interview, in which she admits to being in a loony bin and seeing things she knows can't be there - until she wakes up late one night and meets a carpenter who isn't one of the lazy bums that surround the house during the day that's just hammerin' away in the middle of the night.  She seems to take an instant liking to him, even though he looks like a guy would make an awesome cowboy pimp and can no-scope a rat on the other side of the room with a nail gun.
But hey, at least he's not as '80s weird as THIS GUY.
While the lazy and stereotypically male carpenters get some work done during the day, mysterious carpenter played by Wings Hauser keeps showing up at night and getting plenty of work done.  The daytime crew aren't extremely happy about this - they get paid by the day, after all - and start to get really confused as to why all this work is getting done in the middle of the night (The crew's foreman seems to think "students" have been coming after hours and getting the work done, which is one of the most "WTF?" ideas I've ever heard. They had carpentry students who did charity work in Canada in the '80s? Really?)  Alice begins to take comfort in the visits from The Carpenter, partially because he teaches the groping daytime crew to keep their hands to themselves.
So begins the formula of The Carpenter. Alice feels crazy or faces danger, Carpenter shows up, someone gets a power tool to their person.  Along the way, the bond between her and the Carpenter becomes stronger, and she seems to find inner peace when he's around and not dismembering dudes.  A late film scene turns into a romantic dance scene between the two, which allows Wings to get dolled up in a nice white suit and Adams to do some googly eyes while still not keeping her hair in check.
The possibly supernatural romance between the two unhinged leads - I almost forgot the part where Alice is told about the man who built the house and was also a mass murderer before his death - slows the film's pace down pretty well, creating a distance between kills that might be too far for most slasher fans, but I found the film's attempts to be dream-like kind of charming.  I don't necessarily agree with the advertising for the film that claims it is a hallucinogenic horror either - there's a little bit of medication involved in the plot and a couple of odd dream sequences, but nothing too trippy - and I'm not sure there's a good balance between the splattery side and the mental side of the film.  But I like what writer Doug Taylor and director David Wellington were going for with Alice and the Carpenter's characters.
Pretty sure she gets her hair done the same place Selma Bouvier does.
It also should be noted that this film is Canadian, if only because there is more than one occasion when one of the characters says "aboot".  For example, when the fact that Alice's husband's suits were destroyed is brought up, he says "I don't care aboot the suits", which I found unintentionally hilarious.  And since I'm clearly trying to give you a thorough picture of The Carpenter, I'd be ashamed if I didn't mention it.
But with all this talk aboot crazy ladies and Canadian dialects and stuff, you're gonna wanna watch The Carpenter because of Wings Hauser.  And you should watch The Carpenter because of Wings Hauser.  He doesn't get a chance to be quite as frantic as he was in Vice Squad, but you can see the dual sides of his personality clearly throughout this film.  He manages to turn on the charm when he needs to, but at the same time we know he's obviously someone who will murder people with the contents of his tool kit.  There's not a lot to the nameless and ominous character, but it's a role that an actor like Hauser can have fun with.
And it's the swagger of Hauser - contrasted by the stiff character of Alice - that elevates The Carpenter for me.  I had a lot of fun with this catchy little piece of Canuxploitation, and am excited to give it another go sometime in the future.  The DVD presentation in its new form certainly presents a watchable transfer of the film - it's far from perfect, but is probably as good as this film could get at this point - which means that any fans of Hauser or power-tools-as-weapons shouldn't delay before checking this one out.  Goofy tales of mental chicks and saw-carrying madmen don't get much better than this.


R.D. Penning said...

how have I never heard of this movie?!!!

viagra online said...

hahaha this movie is the essence of the crappy cinema from 80's what a classic.