There is more than one way to pay homage to campy entertainment. Quintessential examples of classic camp include the cheesy 60’s Batman series, Barbarella, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and pretty much every John Waters film. For nearly 20 years, indie filmmakers such as Larry Blamire (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra) and Anna Biller (The Love Witch) have been revisiting various avenues of vintage camp imagery and storytelling, through a respectable post-modernist lens. Deep Murder, which experienced a limited theatrical release last month (and can be streamed through Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and Vudu), is the latest entry into this arena.
Basically, Deep Murder is a satirical hybrid of a whodunnit murder mystery, a slasher film, and a vintage porno [without the sex]. In order for us to proceed, a mini-lesson about vintage porno may be in order [for kids]. Ya see, long before the age of internet pornography — wherein anyone with a computer or smart device had the ability to perform keyword searches to instantly view humans engaged in acts of procreation (and all variations / deviations thereof) — there existed a thriving industry of feature length, X-rated films. The title of one of the [if not the] most commercially successful of these films is Deep Throat (of which the title Deep Murder is a spin). Naturally, the main purpose of these films was to showcase sexual acts; however, in these films, the sex was presented through some semblance of storytelling. Thus, various porno tropes were born. These scenarios included: lonely housewives seducing the plummer, repairman, pizza delivery boy, etc.; the tutor / teacher seducing their student; brief nurse / patient relationships with happy endings; etc. Many of these scenarios were frequently piled on top of one another [no pun intended] and shot within a single filming location, like a mansion; thus, production expenses could be kept down. Deep Murder assimilates these scenarios, as well as the cornball scripting and acting styles of a typical vintage porno film, into an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, with horror film tropes and gratuitously gory murder scenes thrown in, as well.
The film works very well. Director Nick Corirossi handles with care the witty and zany script of Quinn Beswick, Josh Margolin, Benjamin Smolen, and Nikolai Von Keller. Through the classy lens of cinematographer Daniella Nowitz, Corirossi weaves a tale that bestows earnest storytelling chops to a ridiculously sophomoric concept. Had this story been told with an overt sense of self-awareness — especially the oafish nudge nudge, wink wink that typically strips retro films of their dignity [again, no pun intended] — it would not have been successful. This is not to say that the film contains no winks to the audience. For example, there is a wonderful scene in which Hugh, the nerdy young adult (Quinn Beswick) is being pursued throughout the house by the killer; in between his emasculated shrieks, he continuously cries out, “Why isn’t anybody helping me?!?!” Obviously, the gag is a take on those moments in a slasher film when one would think that someone else in the house would hear the tremendous racket of a killer attacking a screaming victim. During another horror trope gag, the killer stalks two characters inside of a glass shower stall; while the stall, itself, is around six cubic feet, the shower steam is so dense that all three characters become lost in it. But given that insider nods like these remain within the proverbial fourth wall, the film retains a sense of class within an otherwise loony universe.
Furthermore, the restrained narrative style benefits from a decent cast, led by Jessica Parker Kennedy (The Flash). The entire cast embodies their respective porno trope types very well — Christopher McDonald as the distracted husband / businessman, Katie Aselton as the unsatisfied housewife, Chris Redd as the sexually ambivilant alpha male, etc. — but it is Kennedy’s performance as the consummate ditzy, lollypop-sucking babysitter which sells this film as a sexy romp without any actual sex or nudity [save for some male genitalia, which seems to be showcased ironically].
There are plenty of charming moments throughout Deep Murder, and I found myself laughing out loud far more than I would have expected given the lowbrow concept of the film. If you can appreciate high-class silliness, if you are into retro camp, and / or if you want some quality entertainment that takes a delightful jab at a handful of genres, you might want to check this one out.