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Decay (1998)

Directed by Jason Stephens
Cinematrix Releasing VHS

Dr. Richard Puller, DDS has problems. He’s tired. He’s busy. His waiting room is packed. With skanks. Everywhere he looks, there are skanks doing skank things like wearing skank outfits and propositioning him for skank sex. On top of all that, his wife’s an alcoholic, and she’s cheating on him. Because she’s a skank. Life’s hard, man.

Meanwhile a body builder in a string bikini poses for photos. There’s murder. There’s a dramatic shot of her butt. There’s an even more dramatic shot of a set of keys.

Richard’s wife Katherine is fooling around with Ronnie, the owner of a topless bar called The Clubhouse, which is not actually a clubhouse. It’s a misnomer, the way koala bears aren’t bears, guinea pigs aren’t pigs, and seahorses aren’t horses. The Clubhouse is located in a strip mall in a part of the Valley so deep that even I don’t know where it is. But I do know that it’s next door to a place called Bakery #2. Side note: I live down the street from a place called Vegetarian Paradise #3. It’s also misnomer. Katherine and her lover hang out at The Clubhouse and make out. It’s hard to tell which is more repulsive, Ronnie’s tan, leathery face or Katherine’s crushed velvet top. Actually, no. You know what’s most repulsive? The strippers of The Clubhouse. They writhe clumsily in front of a whiteboard with today’s specials. They unleash their fake tits from their tacky lingerie and grind to some of the worst stripping music you’ve ever heard. Think Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ted Nugent getting rolled over by a garbage truck, but in a bad way. In the audience there is a man with a “Rock n’ Roll Taco” shirt. You may know him by his nickname—Best Guy Ever.

Robert Z’Dar—Yes, that Robert Z’Dar!—and his buffoons deliver a large metal tank to Dr. Richard Puller, DDS. Is it laughing gas? No! It’s meth. Not only does this dentist drill teeth and possibly drill whores, he also deals drugs. No wonder he’s tired.

A muffled television news report explains that the “TV Killer” is on the loose. He’s targeting young women. He carves letters into his victims’ backs. What letters exactly? No idea. It’s not important. Katherine decides she wants her husband out of the picture and asks Ronnie for help. Ronnie, in turn, asks the TV Killer for help. The killer is an unstable, scrawny fellow in coveralls. He proclaims, “Women are the cause of all problems. Wars, starvation, gang violence were all started by women.” Sounds about right.

Soon there’s one dead husband, one lost tank of meth, and one angry Mafioso. Also some guns. Also, skanks. Two things become quickly obvious in this movie. The first is that nearly all the men have ponytails—in fact, ponytails outnumber breasts 2 to 1, not that anyone’s counting. The second is that Z’Dar is underutilized. He plays the mafia muscle and looks dominating as he gets in and out of a stretch limo, but that’s about the extent of his contribution. It’s disappointing. In Quietfire, Z’Dar has about 14 minutes of screen time. In The Killing Game, he has about 12 minutes. In Decay, he only has a measly 9. And while we should value quality over quantity, sometimes you want both quality and quantity. Meaning, if what you want is a Z’Dar vehicle, then this is not the movie for you. If what you want is an erotic thriller with drug-fueled murder, a chain-smoking femme fatale, a brainiac stripper bound for college, and ambitious shootouts, then this movie is still not the one for you. If what you want is an erotic thriller that kind of has those things, then this movie is kind of for you.

Decay is not entirely a snoozefest, but it comes dangerously close. There are heavily explained plot lines, plodding conversations, and a lengthy scene where Katherine sits on the beach and contemplates her life. Still, there’s just enough fun to keep the movie moving. Of course, there’s Z’Dar, who never, ever phones it in, and at least one good kill scene. I also like that the actors are either grossly out of shape (Z’Dar) or are steroid-fueled muscle-heads kidnapped from Gold’s Gym (not Z’Dar). This is a film that takes itself very seriously, with the cast taking their roles very seriously. When you see the TV Killer stalk a victim across a parking lot, you can tell that director Jason Stephens is trying to milk the scene for every bit of drama—the dread, fear, and terror that comes with being a woman walking alone. But what you really get is a very long scene where two people walk across a community college parking lot.

Parking lots are featured heavily in this movie.