Director: William Hellfire
Alternative Cinema/E.I. Independent

Fans looking for modern-day exploitation have to wade through a glut of shot-on-video trash to find anything worth watching. Any schmuck with a video camera can now hire girls to simulate sex in his badly lit make-a-quick-buck efforts, or drench the screen with non-stop grue to give Hollywood a run for its money. But are there any worthwhile independent exploitation films being made today? DVD Drive-In is putting the spotlight on a group of films, all made within the past few years, that deliver the goods and hark back to the good old days of drive-in cinema.

After a perverse encounter with her blonde roommate sends the poor girl packing, Goth-look beatnik Christine welcomes fresh-faced South African Karen into her apartment. Karen’s wallflower look and attitude is a stark contrast to Christine’s lifestyle, provoking a wardrobe change and a brutal introduction into Christine’s form of art: shooting hidden camera shows of an erotic fashion, including barging into the bathroom while Karen uses the toilet! When she catches Karen masturbating to an old 60s erotic paperback (“Sex and the Supernatural”!), the domination begins as Karen is forced to change from being the innocent roommate to a submissive slave, following Christine’s bidding and testing the limits of her sexuality and her sanity.

If Doris Wishman was still alive and well and making films in New York, THE DEVIL’S BLOODY PLAYTHINGS would be her finest work. Because it’s the work of William Hellfire, a director responsible for some truly horrendous direct-to-video softcore fare, it’s surprising that such a nasty 42nd Street gem came from the same man behind LUST IN THE MUMMY’S TOMB and THE VIBRATING MAID. Taking writing and directing duties on this one and shooting in the Garden State, Hellfire has unleashed an incredible mother of a movie, and seems to have a firm grasp on what makes grindhouse cinema so appealing. PLAYTHINGS will remind some viewers of Gigi Darlene’s plight in BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL, or the sadistic poker game-turned-sex slave crisis in LOVE TOY. It’s a battle of wills between two very different women, spiced up by sadistic sex games, a mental breakdown, and a gory, despairing finale set in the green wilderness. There’s some superb cinematography (nice depth of field shots pop up as Karen is forced to massage Christine), an impressive jazz-rock score, great hateful dialogue that would give Andy Milligan an orgasm, and best of all, the whole film plays like a Distribpix roughie, shot in apartments with sparse location shooting and a minimal cast of uninhibited performers.

The key to the success of this film is the pairing of Seduction Cinema girls Zoe Moonshine and Ruby Larocca. Moonshine has appeared in several films, including the abysmal BIKINI GIRLS OF DINOSAUR PLANET (also by Hellfire, and with Larocca), but it is here that she begins to show genuine talent as an independent actress to keep an eye on. She is a unique performer, who delivers her dialogue convincingly, but it is her facial expressions that really make the audience sympathize with her character. She transforms from adorable innocent, to terrified victim, to somnambulistic sex slave, and is believable throughout in each role. It’s amazing what she agreed to do for the cameras, including a realistic “clean up” scene after a sexually satisfied pervert, masturbating for a hidden camera, and indulging in a lengthy freak-out scene, highlighted by wild cinematography. With her multiple tattoos, jet-black hair, and professional line delivery, Larocca seems to be channeling the spirit of Audrey Campbell’s Olga, or perhaps Mistress Candice of the Avon films. Like Moonshine, Larocca has been stuck in some pretty terrible videos for a few years now, and seems to have chomped into this role to prove what she’s got. And she’s got a lot! Hellfire’s written a number of incredible monologues for her, and she spits them out with a venomous anger and hungry passion that displays an incredible range. Larocca seems to realize that the character of Christine is most probably a closet lesbian, driven to these sadistic mind games because she can’t act out her deepest desires. She also appears in a short clip, with red hair, from Hellfire’s earlier ORGASM TORTURE IN SATAN’S RAPE CLINIC, playing out on a screen as her PLAYTHINGS character watches it on TV! Also watch for Hellfire’s cameo as one of Christine’s hip group of friends.

Both actresses appear nude, but in an odd quirk, it’s never for a titillation factor. Every sexually kinky scenario is about as erotic as a Michael Findlay film (which this film bears a striking resemblance to, especially a fake cum scene which recalls A THOUSAND PLEASURES). Early reviews have mentioned comparisons between Polanski’s REPULSION and the films of David Friedman, but they are similar only in fleeting glimpses. As mentioned before, PLAYTHINGS seems to draw from the seedy roughie sinema of Doris Wishman, Michael Findlay, and surprisingly, hints of Ingmar Bergman (PERSONA).

Reuniting Larocca and Moonshine in a similar sexploitation feature, with a good script and perhaps role reversal to allow Moonshine to play the dominating femme, would be an interesting idea, and one hopes Hellfire produces another film as good as this one. Viewers who recognize his name from countless Seduction Cinema shorts and features may be wary to check this one out, but worry not: this is far and away his best and most professional work to date, and fans of NYC exploitation definitely need this modern-day homage for their collection. Hopefully there’s a lot more where this came from!

The extras on the disc are limited to a blooper reel, with footage of Hellfire directing both actresses, two trailers for ORGASM TORTURE AT DR. SATAN’S RIPE CLINIC and PLAYTHINGS, and a booklet featuring profiles of director Hellfire and star Moonshine. (Casey Scott )

The disc can be purchased at the following websites: