Reviews

Debbie Does Damnation (1999)

A very naked woman is hogtied while disemboweled, gory bodies hang around her. A demon with giant white eyes and a 90s skater haircut ambles through a door with a sign that says “Hell.” It reminds me of the “Keep Out!” sign on my bedroom door that no one in my family obeyed.

He leers at the woman. “I’m gonna get my knife and cut you up slowly!” His plan is to eat her. 

Debbie is less frightened and more annoyed. “What the fuck? Where am I?” That’s not the typical response to a cannibal demon and it is refreshing. It’s similar to a dream I had where a lion was on my lawn and I got exasperated because I had to use the side door to get into the house. I don’t know what this dream means. I don’t even have a lawn. Or a lion. 

Now a skull sitting on top of spider legs scuttles up to her. They cut a deal to get her out of there. She must retrieve some horns and return them to the Supreme Being. At least that’s what I think the mission is—it’s hard to understand with the pitch-shifted demon voices. Debbie grabs a sword and escapes. She runs away from a two-headed monster and gets gobbled up by a dragon-like beast. Welcome to hell.

Soon we get transported to a lengthy quest and fighting scene, filled with buxom ladies wearing armor and swinging swords. Torsos get slashed, chests get impaled, and heads get cracked and explode. If the “M” in S&M stood for medieval, then we’d get this scene.

It’s easy to cast off Debbie Does Damnation because of its nudity, simulated sex, bondage, spanking, peeping, and other pornographic elements. Debbie is naked for half the movie, front, back, side to side. It’s clear that director Eric Brummer (Electric Flesh) comes from the adult film industry and, in fact, he still continues today under the name Slain Wayne, which sounds like the name of a Garbage Pail Kid because it is, in fact, the name of a Garbage Pail Kid. But sleaze aside, Debbie Does Damnation is a feat in DIY filmmaking. The make-up effects, stop-motion animations, and character designs are nothing short of fantastic. Talking skulls fly with wings, a beastie dog drags victims away, and a man has giant rat traps hanging from his gory cheeks. There’s a combination of live-action sword-fighting and stop-motion deaths using dolls, severed mannequins, and effective miniature sets. Cardboard was used to create brick walls, and linoleum was sculpted into armor, with paper fasteners holding it all together. The swords were hand carved out of wood, and there’s a whole lot of papier-mâché heads which burst with gore. This is painstaking arts and crafts practical effects, all shot on black and white Super 8 for a grand total of a single G. While the sword play does get repetitive and droning, the dialogue—when you can understand it—keeps it from totally stalling.

“You graduate from being an asshole to being dead.”

Who’s got some ice for that sick burn?

I love the visuals and the ambition that fuels Debbie Does Damnation. I appreciate that the hour-long runtime is really more of a flex of practical effects than an exploitation of sex. Sure it’s sleazy and there’s definitely flashes of peen, but we don’t have to be uptight about it. That’d prevent us from appreciating the incredible decomposition scene where a demon melts into a pile of clay.

At some point a winged guardian angel tries to whisk Debbie away from hell, but her sins pull her down. The angel pleads with Debbie, “You must stop struggling.” This sums up the movie. If you let down your puritanical hair and stop clutching your pearls, hell will be an enjoyable place.

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