Fatal Exposure (1989)

A guy (mullet, topless) and a girl (no mullet, topless) are making out in a pick-up truck. A stranger comes out of the misty woods. He’s wearing black boots—a sure sign that he’s up to no good. He’s also brandishing an ice pick—yet another sign that he’s up to no good. He’s also wearing a beret—the preferred accessory for Beatniks, mimes, French New Wave directors, and other insufferable people. What I’m trying to say is that there’s no good happening all over the place.

The killer menaces the girl (no mullet, still topless). 

“What do you think about when you hear the word ‘blood’?”

He doesn’t get the right answer, so the ice pick goes through her mouth. 

Jack T. Rippington (yes, that’s his name) is a professional photographer and he’s just moved to Prairieville. In his living room, which can comfortably fit three of my apartments, he arranges the lights and adjusts his camera on the tripod. Now all he needs are models. He’s been struggling with staging death scenes for a magazine story about murders—wouldn’t you know, mannequins just don’t look like real dead people! Luckily, a couple drops in to welcome Rippington to town and invite him to church services. He politely declines and instead chops the man’s head off. The bloody stump of his neck squirts blood.

Meanwhile, the woman has conveniently changed into a lacy bodysuit. She makes out with Rippington. He ties her to a chair and holds up a syringe. She screams. 

“What do you think about when you hear the word ‘blood’?”
“I think of mosquitoes.”

That wouldn’t be my first answer, or hundredth answer, but it doesn’t matter because the answer is incorrect. He gives the woman a lethal injection. Her skin bubbles and dissolves off her chest.

Turns out, Jack T. Rippington is the great-great-grandson of—gasp—Jack the Ripper. He’s continuing the legacy of grisly murders, but with a few twists. He breaks the fourth wall and addresses the camera directly. He holds up a Thermos full of his victims’ blood.

“It’s blood that keeps a man potent—sexually potent, I mean.”

He asks the same questions to all his victims because he’s looking for the right answers, which will come from the right lady. This lady will be the love of his life and will bear him a son who will continue the family profession. Eventually, a woman answers correctly. Her name is Erica and she likes to chill in cemeteries. They make love for a very long time. Butts are grabbed. Breasts are shown. There is a bearskin rug. 

Erica, of course, has no idea about Jack T. Rippington’s crimes, even though his name is literally Jack T. Rippington. Might as well call yourself Murder McMurderface and use your mugshot as a driver’s license. Soon Erica gets ensnared in Rippington’s murderous schemes.

At first glance, Fatal Exposure seems like a standard “erotic” horror movie. It’s got a lot of topless ladies in trashy lingerie and a guy who obviously waxes his chest. Women are exploited and killed; there’s nothing new on that front. But what makes Fatal Exposure special is the ambitious practical effects that aren’t typically seen in erotic horror films. Usually the focus is on nipples that escape from bras and endless sex scenes set to whiney saxophones and pan flutes—don’t worry, Fatal Exposure certainly has plenty of this. But the film focuses on the murders as much as it does on the sleaze. There are electrocutions, gunshots, and power tools, and someone gets acid thrown in their face. Heads get kicked, hammered, severed, and melted. Director Peter B. Good (yes, that’s his name) combined all that we love about erotic thrillers with all that we love about ambitious practical effects. The goopy artistry is the work of Scott Coulter, who did effects for Slime City, Street Trash, and Nightmare on Elm Street 4, among many, many others. The effects are so accomplished that the camera can stay focused on them without having to cut away from something that isn’t 100% camera-ready or believable. As a result, we can truly take in and appreciate the skill behind the severed heads and the bubbling skin. While the plot does drag in the middle and Jack T. Rippington’s voiceover narration gets taxing, Fatal Exposure never sputters out and fades away. It’s a winning combination of sleaze and bloody entrails. It also has a dad-rock soundtrack that would make Kenny Loggins proud. In fact, the song that plays over the end credits is so fist-pumping, it’ll turn you into a dad. I’m now the proud father of a serial killer.

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