A runt of the Tarantino litter, "Curdled" would have been better off remaining the short film it was to begin with. Godfathered by Tarantino himself, this bloody sendup of the serial-killer genre is a one-joke item protracted to untenable length and unlikely to survive much beyond cult-friendly specialized venues.

A runt of the Tarantino litter, “Curdled” would have been better off remaining the short film it was to begin with. Godfathered by Tarantino himself, this bloody sendup of the serial-killer genre is a one-joke item protracted to untenable length and unlikely to survive much beyond cult-friendly specialized venues.

Reb Braddock’s debut feature might go down primarily as an interesting footnote to the Tarantino legacy, in that its premise, involving a company that specializes in cleaning up murder scenes, appears to have inspired Harvey Keitel’s character and the entire final section of “Pulp Fiction.” Four years ago, when Braddock was making the rounds with his short, Tarantino was also touring fests with “Reservoir Dogs.” Latter liked what he saw and, after the success of “Pulp,” decided to back Braddock via his Miramax-sponsored A Band Apart label. As far as “Pulp” is concerned, Braddock publicly said post-screening in Toronto that he considered it “an honor” that Tarantino had “borrowed” his idea for his smash crime extravaganza.

With a shot that begins by looking like an homage to “Touch of Evil” but doesn’t go all the way, low-budgeter gets under way in Colombia with a little girl, Gabriela,becoming fascinated by a dead body that turns up in front of her family’s home.

Jump some years hence and Gabriela (Angela Jones), now living in Florida, is still fixated on death, executions and corpses. She finds a perfect outlet for her interests in the all femme-staffed Post-Forensic Cleaning Service, which is being kept busy by the Blue Blood murders, in which a serial killer is knocking off beautiful society ladies.

The murderer, shown from the outset, is debonair bartender Paul Guell (William Baldwin), a seductive Bluebeard who, in a protracted scene, dispatches the elegant Katrina (Lois Chiles) in her home. Before she dies, however, Katrina manages to write her killer’s name on the floor, after which it is obscured by her blood.

At this point, it couldn’t be more obvious where all this is headed, but it takes a full hour for the furiously scrubbing Gabriela to discover the name scrawled on the tile. Tale then mutates into a nasty little cat-and-mouse game and, finally, a literal dance of death, as Gabriela and Paul square off in a grisly tango with a particularly gruesome, and darkly funny, punch line.

Conceit is terribly thin, and Braddock generates a paltry number of actual laughs from his would-be comic material, although it must be said that he manages to maintain a consistent tone throughout and has a way with his performers, all of whom seem to take gleeful delight in their roles. Despite having desperately little to work with, Jones, who starred in the original short , manages to hold viewer interest throughout with a devilishly witty turn that promises much for the future. Baldwin has his smooth moves down pat, Mel Gorham comes on strong as Gabriela’s work mate, and Barry Corbin provides unalloyed pleasure as the unaccountably benevolent boss of the cleanup company.

Without being fleshed out considerably more, there was never enough here to justify making a feature film, so a surer judgment of Braddock’s talent will have to wait for a more substantial effort. In part due to the lively Latin soundtrack and sparky performances, pic has a distinct flavor, even if this doesn’t mean that it’s worth consuming.

Curdled

Production

A Miramax release of an A Band Apart and Tinderbox Films production. Produced by John Maass, Raul Puig. Executive producer, Quentin Tarantino. Directed by Reb Braddock. Screenplay, John Maass, Braddock.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color), Steven Bernstein; editor, Mallory Gottlieb; music, Joseph Julian Gonzalez; production design, Sherman Williams; set decoration, Karen Virgin; costume design, Beverly Nelson Safier; sound (Dolby), Peter J. Devlin; line producer, Shelly Glasser; assistant director, Melanie Grefe; casting, Yvonne Casas. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival, Sept. 8, 1996. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Paul Guell - William Baldwin
Gabriela - Angela Jones
Eduardo - Bruce Ramsay
Elena - Mel Gorham
Katrina Brandt - Lois Chiles
Clara - Daisy Fuentes
Lodger - Barry Corbin
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