You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...
'Runaway Nightmare' - 1982, Directed by Mike Cartel
There has NEVER been a film like this, and most likely there will never be another.
If you have any appreciation for cult cinema at all, you should check this out by any means necessary. It defies categorization, and somehow manages to be so bad that it's a work of art.
For one thing, there is some of the absolute WORST acting I've ever seen going on here. Unsurprisingly, main actor Mike Cartel also served as director and writer. What IS surprising, is that there wasn't an assistant director or writer, because this film literally feels like two people fighting over what it's going to be.
Granted, Cartel is the best actor in the film. His lack of skills somehow transcends him and turns him into a likable and memorable character. This is probably because nothing comes out of his mouth but corny jokes, but his lack of enthusiasm and emotion makes it seem like he means them as sarcastic non-jokes. He also gets shot at quite a few times, and always keeps a cool head, sometimes even LAUGHING (which he does NOT do during any of his 'jokes.')
The other actor is supposed to be a suave ladies' man, but much of his dialog sounds improvised and is filled with space-fillers like 'umm' and 'well.' This makes his lines (also filled with corny jokes) come across as almost sinister at times.
The other actors are all mediocre, but the emotionless, spaced-out vibe works since they are a gang of insane women kidnappers.
So, let's get into the plot of this insane piece of film-making.
A couple of bored worm-farmers(!) see some gangsters burying a woman, and they dig her up to find her still alive. Turns out, she's part of an all-female crime syndicate that illegally sells weapons, and her gang members find and kidnap the two farmers. They find out that the women were trying to get hold of a suitcase full of platinum.
Clearly, they meant to say 'plutonium,' but none of the people involved in the movie realized this, or it was intended to be a joke but instead came off as demented. Who knows.
The gang decides to initiate the two guys, since they need help fighting the guys who buried their member earlier. They do a bunch of weird stuff, and there are a bunch of incoherent shots that somehow manage to look really artistic and cool.
There are plot twists and turns you will never expect, but they don't come off as 'stupid' in an Ed Wood kind of way, but genuinely suspenseful.
Some of the jokes are so poorly timed that they are creepy. Others are so completely awful that they are actually funny. It's really hard to explain all this, because I've never seen something that's so technically bad but so intriguing and amazing. If you have any knowledge of films and how they are made, you can guess as to how most of the things went wrong here, but that makes it all the more great.
Seriously, this is an unsung classic of cult films and needs to be experienced.
VHS photo by Toby Hudson.