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Killer Barbys (1996)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/26/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/24/2017
I've often wondered what it would be like if
the gang from Josie and the Pussycats (the cartoon, not the live-action
film) wound up in a story which combined elements of The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre and the legend of Countess Bathory. OK, so I've never thought of
anything even close to that, but apparently Spanish cult-film director Jess
Franco has, and thus we have the very bizarre film Killer Barbys, which
comes to Blu-ry Disc by way of Kino.
The Killer Barbies (Note the spelling difference from the title. I'm thinking that somebody didn't want to get sued.) are a power-punk band led by sexy singer Flavia (Silvia Superstar). The group is on their way to a gig when their mini-van breaks down. (Which doesn't stop two band-members from having sex.) Heeding the advice of creepy butler Arkan (Aldo Sambrell), the group seeks refuge in the castle of Countess Olga Luchan (Mariangela Giordano). The band only wants a place to stay for the night, but the Countess has other plans. She is actually over 100 years old and lives off of the blood of the young. The Killer Barbies don't know it yet, but they are to be the Countess' next meal.
To say that Killer Barbys is an odd film would be a vast understatement. On the one hand, it plays like an episode of The Monkees, as we have a silly, over-the-top band who gets involved in a odd adventure. The band members search the mansion and recoil in horror at its odd inhabitants. But, on the other hand, the movie is filled with sex and violence -- coming off as oddly unbalanced next to the almost absurd nature of the rest of the movie. But, that's Jess Franco for you.
Killer Barbys really isn't a bad movie (although, relatively speaking, it's a really bad movie). The problem with the film is that it simply doesn't know what it wants to be. (As if you couldn't guess that from the above description.) The film offers some mildly gory violence, some mild sex, and little else. The movie is never very scary, funny, or suspenseful. But, there is something mesmerizing about it. Franco is known for making his movies quickly and on the cheap, and Killer Barbys appears to uphold that tradition. (Although, it is shot on film. The only other Franco film that I've had the pleasure of seeing "Lust for Frankenstein" was shot on video.) The story here is wafer-thin, and there is zero character development. At times, the movie almost has a documentary feel -- that is, no one seems to know what they are supposed to be doing.
But, like a train wreck, there is something hypnotic about it. The band members certainly have an interesting look, and appear to be up for anything. As with many Eurohorror films, the locations are nice as well. If nothing else, the movie is fun for its eccentricities. Killer Barbys features two murdering midgets who appear to play soccer with a body part. One of the band members is French, but he speaks English while everyone else speaks Spanish. (What's up with that?) (SPOILER) And any movie where a man can't outrun a steam-roller must be seen to be believed. (END SPOILER)
If nothing else, the musical number which opens the film, a track called "Love Killer", is a really catchy tune. Those who enjoy the weird and the wild should love Killer Barbys. The film's blending of genres makes it unclassifiable, and at times, nearly unwatchable, but it's all in good fun. And I understand that a sequel Killer Barbys vs. Dracula has been made. I can't wait.
Killer Barbys convinced me that I know nothing about the music scene in Europe on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino and Redemption. The film has been windowboxed at 1.66:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The transfer here is inconsistent at best. The image is clear in some shots, showing only slight grain. Other shots are very grainy and notably soft. Overall, the picture is dark, with some scenes having the appearance of "day-for-night" shooting. Within one shot, some actors look overly lit, while others are in darkness. This does not appear to be a theatrical print, but there are some scratches from the source materials in some shots. Given the almost cartoon-like nature of the plot, one would expect bright colors here, but the darkness of the images results in muted tones. In addition, the image is somewhat flat. The Disc carries a DTS stereo audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 755 kbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I couldn't help but wonder if Killer Barbys is one of those Euro-horror films which was shot MOS and then had audio added later, as the sound effects, especially footsteps are notably louder than the dialogue. That aside, the songs in the movie (which, again, are surprisingly good), sound fine.
The lone extra on the Killer Barbys
Blu-ray Disc is an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Troy Howarth. (This is
unfortunate, as the previous DVD release contained some fun extras.)
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long