“There’s no need to scream. I can hear you just fine.”
In the world of entertainment, whether it be film, television, music, or, most notably, modeling, youth and beauty are generally treasured over talent and experience, and that holds especially true when it comes to women. Of course, there are those – Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Tina Turner, Cheryl Tiegs, to name a few – who defy time, but, for the most part, when women reach a certain age, they are cast aside in favor of the next generation of youthful stars. Now, what happens when someone takes this rejection to heart and decides a little revenge will not only fill the hole in their soul, but the plate on their table? Ladies and gentlemen, may we serve up Model Hunger, which marks the directorial debut of B-movie legend and queen of the scream queens, Debbie Rochon.
Lynn Lowry stars as Ginny, a former model and actress living alone in the not-quite-right town of Fishkill, NY. Having been exploited in her youth and then discarded when her type wasn’t popular anymore, Ginny harbors a stomachful of pain and resentment, which she takes out on any nubile lasses that unfortunately cross paths with her. Her victims are summarily sliced, seasoned and sautéed into a variety of culinary cuisines which she thusly serves up to her neighbors. This includes newly moved in Debbie Lombardo (Tiffany Shepis) and her husband, Sal (Carmine Capobianco). Debbie is suffering from some mental health issues that keep her inside most of the time, so when she begins to suspect some strange goings-on next door, her husband, and ultimately, the police, are hesitant to believe her. Throw in a strange, old peeping Tom across the street, a pair of mechanics who unwittingly aid Ginny in her endeavors, and a weird television show called Suzi’s Secret that has the town mesmerized, and you’ve got the recipe for a tasty little indie film with plenty of meat on its bones.
“The thighs have some meat to them, probably tasty with a little bit of garlic and onion seasoning.”
With acting credits numbering well over 200 (including Tromeo and Juliet, Terror Firmer, American Nightmare, Slime City Massacre, and one near and dear to the Gore 4’s bloody heart, Paul Scrabo’s Dr. Horror’s Erotic House of Idiots, featuring the legendary Zacherley), Debbie Rochon has put her numerous experiences in front of the camera to skilled use behind it. This is not the work of a first-time director, even though it is, as Debbie clearly knows what she’s striving for and how to get that vision onto the screen. She uses extreme close ups at times where the camera centers on the actor’s eyes, a page out of a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, and which can often convey more than any line of dialogue could. There’s even a terrific wide-shot of the three neighbors standing outside, just staring at each other – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as Rochon notes in the DVD commentary. From POV shots that put the viewer in the victims’ shoes to flashbacks that add depth to the characters, Debbie employs a variety of techniques to tell her story. While the film is certainly goreriffic, it takes its time getting there, with each kill becoming more violent and bloody as Ginny becomes more unhinged, to an ‘oh no, they didn’t’ moment towards the end. But there’s plenty of humor too, for which the script by writer/producer James Morgart (who hails from New Brunswick, NJ) must be commended. Much of that humor is dished up by the incredible Lynn Lowry.
Lowry has an impressive resume, having appeared in such classic horror films as George Romero’s The Crazies (1973), David Cronenberg’s Shivers (1975) and Paul Schrader’s Cat People (1982). Ironically, after a relatively quiet period in the 80’s thru the 90’s, Lowry has been in demand more than ever since the turn of the century, amassing a slew of credits, a career path completely opposite that of her over-the-hill counterpart in Model Hunger. Here, Lowry gives a gore-de-force performance, playing a woman who has been misused and abused since a child, and is only now taking control of her life. The pain and hurt you see in her eyes is heartbreaking, all while juxtaposed with some of the most foul-mouthed, vile voiceover you can imagine. Watching her smile and nod as she listens to a potential victim go on and on, while we hear Ginny herself spout the anger and jealousy that rages within her, is a real hoot. Her pleasant, old-fashioned demeanor belies her dirty, perverted mind. It’s all done with a sense of dark humor, as when she shouts, “rah rah” prior to cutting into a cheerleader. She’s world-weary and intelligent, pondering Darwinism, at the same time she is planning her next kill. It truly is an amazing performance by Lowry.
“So we should be getting some fresh blood into the neighborhood soon enough.”
While Lowry is the main attraction, she is surrounded by a stellar cast, chief among them, Debbie’s fellow scream queen and past co-star, Tiffany Shepis, as Debbie (a role originally meant for Rochon, which she felt she couldn’t do justice to and direct at the same time, though she does make a cameo). Tiffany does do the role justice and more, oftentimes with little to no dialogue, as we watch her watch what’s happening next door. Whether it’s reacting to the maniacal TV show everyone loves or breaking down upon hearing some terrible news, Shepis displays a range of emotions leading to her ultimate confrontation with Ginny. Tiffany can now add Model Hunger to her imposing list of credits, which already include her early Troma work, Abominable, the Night of the Demons remake, Sharknado 2 and last year’s horror anthology, Tales of Halloween. Accompanying her in Model Hunger are Carmine Capobianco as her put upon husband, musician/actor/toy designer Aurelio Voltaire and Game of Thrones’ Brian Fortune as a pair of mechanics, and the bevy of young beauties who ring Ginny’s dinner bell, all bringing substance to their roles.
Interspersed throughout the movie is the aforementioned television show that has the town enthralled, Suzi’s Secret, hosted by the gorgeous Suzy Lorraine. She displays just the right amount of campiness, while at the same time, empowering women to take control of their minds and their bodies. That Rochon is able to take a seemingly silly TV show and utilize it in such a way that it furthers the overall theme of the movie, is quite exreaordinary. This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill, slice-and-dice gorefest. It’s a statement on what women go through everyday. striving to maintain an appearance that society expects them to have, just so they can get by in life. When age creeps in and their appearance doesn’t hold up to what others desire anymore, they are cast aside. Suzi’s freaky show, and the movie itself, is saying you can be yourself, and that the only expectations you have to meet are your own.
Wolfgang Meyer does a great job as cinematographer, and along with editor Daryl Leblanc (who also worked on the film’s F/X), keeps the movie, and the blood, flowing using a wide array of styles depending on what the script calls for. One scene, depicting a rather tawdry moment, rather than show it in all its luridness, Rochon and company instead go with a series of black and white photos with the audio over it, at once less exploitative, yet still disturbing because of what the viewer can imagine. Speaking of audio, none other than Henry Manfredini, infamous for his iconic music for the Friday the 13th films, handles the score here, a remarkable coup for the picture. From sparse strings leading up to a kill, to kitschy music accompanying Suzi’s Secret, Manfredini adds much to the film, and to his already lengthy film resume.
Model Hunger is available on Digital HD, but you’re way better off getting a copy on DVD with all the extras. (You can order here from Amazon.) The best feature is the commentary by Debbie and David Marancik, who plays Officer O’Bannon. While David has little to say, that’s OK, because Debbie, from her days at WBAI in NY and Fangoria Radio with Dee Snider, knows her way around a mic, and she offers an entertaining, humorous and informative discussion on every aspect of the movie, heaping lavish and deserved praise on her cast and crew. She talks about wanting the town and all its denizens to seem a little off, from the absence of electronics (a mechanic uses a rotary phone), to everyone having a seedy side lurking underneath. The DVD also includes some deleted scenes featuring Debbie herself, and the one and only, Lloyd Kaufman, co-founder of Troma, as unsuccessful door-to-door salespersons. There’s a music video by the Autopsy Boys, a short featuring the Divine-ish Babette Bombshell (who appears in the Suzi’s Secret segments) that you might want to forego because once you see it, you cannot unsee it, and the film’s trailer. You also get an extended interview with Aurelio Voltaire, who plays Verrill the mechanic (a name he chose for his character, as he wanted it to start with the letter “V”). Voltaire is charismatic and funny in answering a bunch of questions on his varied career and involvement with the movie. The same can’t be said of his sidekick, Orville Deadenbacher, who comes off as overly crude and rather stiff. You can check out Voltaire’s website to learn more of his many projects, including tour dates, his YouTube channel and more. Finally, for music fans, there’s a nice Easter Egg to be found to round out the package.
Model Hunger is an impressive directorial debut for Debbie Rochon, though not at all surprising considering her longtime genre career on camera, together with her hosting duties and writing for a number of publications, including her “Diary of a Deb” column for Fangoria Magazine, for which she’s won a Rondo Hatton Award. Model Hunger has also won a number of awards. with more sure to come. It’s Rear Window meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, if it were directed by Sergio Leone, yet would make John Waters proud. That’s an interesting combination, but Rochon is still able to make the film all her own. Model Hunger is more than a delicious treat for horror fans – it’s a satisfying, full course meal.
As for things to come, Rochon has several projects in front of the camera, including one all horror fans are salivating over, Death House, which brings together a slew of horror icons – Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Michael Berryman, Barbara Crampton, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Dee Wallace and plenty more. Debbie herself will play Leatherface, and Tiffany Shepis has a role as well. Learn more about Debbie on her WEBSITE, follow her Facebook Page, and also check out the Model Hunger website. Be sure to see Model Hunger, preferably on an empty stomach. And hopefully, we’ll see the below credit in a few more movies down the road.
— review by Brian de Castro