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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

VHS Vednesday: Tainted

TAINTED (1988). Directed by Orestes Matacena. Starring Shari Shattuck, Park Overall, and Gene Tootle.

Shari Shattuck Month continues with another tape salvaged from Versatile Video's clearance sale: The 1988 thriller Tainted. The movie starts off very slowly (appearing more like a domestic drama than a thriller) as we're introduced to our heroine Cathy (Shattuck), a small-town schoolteacher happily married to a successful funeral director (Gene Tootle). About a half-hour into the movie, the plot finally takes a turn when a would-be rapist (Blake Fowler) breaks into her home. In the ensuing struggle, her husband kills the assailant before succumbing to a heart attack. In her panic (exacerbated by the fact that her husband blamed her for the assault just before his death), she attempts to cover up the crime by burying the rapist's body in the backyard, and arranging things so that her husband's death appears completely natural. Needless to say, that's not going to turn out well, especially after she tries to enlist her husband's sister (Park Overall) in maintaining the cover-up.
Writer/director Orestes Matacena (a familiar character actor) brings a bit of visual flair to the scenes (including a memorable shot framed through a fallen lampshade), but shows little control of pacing or mood. I'm disturbed by how the screenplay treats the husband's reaction to the attempted rape--was Matacena trying to make a comment on the "blame-the-victim" attitude, or was he unthinkingly accepting it? The optimist in me wants to think he was going for some sort of social commentary, but my cynical side tells me it's just another aspect of an exploitative B-movie. The cynic wins out.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
In spite of the screenplay's shortcomings, Shari Shattuck delivers an effective performance, lending conviction to even her character's more implausible actions. Park Overall is less successful in justifying her character's contradictory actions...she goes from barely tolerating her sister-in-law to becoming her willing accomplice in the cover-up. Quite apart from this inconsistency, Overall's characterization is annoyingly shrill and shrewish in general. Fortunately, she has gone on to better projects (The Critic, Reba, etc.) more suited to her comedic talents.

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