3 out of 5
Directed by: David DeCoteau
80s T&A films make for interesting relics when viewed today, in 2020, with ‘interesting’ probably being the wrong word. Browsing through a wikipedia article on Hugh Hefner, for whatever reason, I was intrigued by a comment about how far back Hefner had managed to move the dial on women’s representation and gender balance. It’s an obvious, if overlooked sentiment – porn is such an acceptable thing nowadays, but how would we interact with it / view it without the way Playboy brought objectification into something of an “acceptable” spotlight for the distinguished “gentleman?” Hefner didn’t invent men ogling women, of course, but this is just a roundabout way of asking about the cultural “place” of movies like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, and what they could / should look like nowadays. I think you could maybe make an argument that the genre sort of “grew up” into 90s action sleaze, and playing in the major theaters, erotica, and then was reinvented as American Pie in the 2000s, and now…?
This is all preamble, but at the same time, I was trying to figure out how I felt about the merits of Bowl-O-Rama – of which there are several! – and whether or not it needed to also be full of naked chicks, and / or how we can “balance” a movie like this to update the scene once more. I suppose the frequency of penii in the current-er crop of raunchy comedies may be trying to establish that balance, and I haven’t had the chance to watch any recent female-led comedies of the R-rated variety, so maybe there’s already something brewing of which I’m not aware, but in the former case, penises are used for humor and not for “let’s pause on this shower scene,” and I haven’t read any exact Porky’s / Revenge of the Nerds comparisons in reviews of those R-rated comedies, so I don’t quite think we’re there yet.
Anyhow, I think it’s somewhat naive to consider T&A “innocent,” in the same way it’s easy to look back on Playboy and see it as pretty light fare compared to the hardcore porn slung about nowadays, and so I wanted to avoid referring to some of the flick’s sleaze in that context. And to answer my previous question to myself – I do think there’s some cheesecake in the movie that works, but on the whole, the more excessive scenes, of which there are only a couple, are highly unnecessary and were certainly only included to both get some of those Porky’s viewers in the seats, and also, eventually, to guarantee the film’s ranking as a classic.
Sorority Babes is a barebones-plot horror comedy about some horny youths who decide to spy on a sorority pledging, chuckling to one another over extended spankings and whipped cream spritzings, and then, chuckle chuckle, think it’s also funny to break in to the sorority and watch the girls shower. (Which is our requisite T&A moment.) While director David DeCocteau and writer Sergei Hasenecz aren’t above letting this play out in all of its full nudityness, the flick does allow for a modicum of awareness by referring to the boys as potential rapists, which is a pretty heavy – but accurate – word in the context of these kinds of “comedies.”
The boys’ punishment? They are to accompany the pledges in breaking in to a local bowling alley and stealing a trophy. They do so, and drop the trophy, and that’s where Bowl-O-Rama becomes a mostly entertaining, delightfully dumb movie thereafter, as the trophy turns out to be the prison for a wish granting imp. The wishes start in the usual ‘money,’ ‘sex’ categories – in the latter case, the wisher again offers up a dab of awareness by actually trying to turn away the girl he’s wished into lustfulness, realizing she wouldn’t want this if she were in her right mind (not that that doesn’t prevent Bowl-O-Rama from allowing her to get naked for the rest of the movie…) – but chuckling, pun-making imps are not to be trusted, and the wishes soon go wrong. And then, sure, people get turned into demons.
There’s no logic to the proceedings, and the deaths are hilariously low budget / no budget, but that actually seems like a wise decision to save some dollars for an impressive fire and car gag, so kudos to production for foresight. A “wise” janitor adds some good comedy to the mix, and our Final Boy and Final Girl make for an amusing odd couple. The movie is short – just shy of 80 minutes – so there’s a lot of good will earned back during this whole imp sequence, enough to realize that there’s a whole “film” there without the shower scene. Not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but one that knows it’s not a good film, and indulges in eye-rolling puns and poor imp puppetry because it’s fun.