Director: Monsour Pourmand
Year of release: 1992
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 90 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "From the dead of night comes the face of pure evil" and "You can't hide the face of fear".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: During an armed hostage situation in the California town of Palm Springs policewoman Lisa saves the day by shooting the offender dead after he grapples with one of her colleges. As recognition for her good work in the line of duty the mayor Angela Harris who has an election coming up promotes Lisa to the rank of detective. This doesn’t sit well with some of Lisa’s male counterparts who are disgruntled to see a female rise above themselves and credit the promotion as a ploy from the mayor to help carry favour with female voters. Facing opposition in the office Lisa is paired up with the more friendly officer Harry Shine. The duos first assignment is to get to the bottom of a series of murders currently ongoing involving a bondage style killer of the kinky variety whom has been offing beautiful young prostitutes within Palm Springs. Under pressure from the mayor to shut the case before the election the investigation appears to be heading towards disaster when Lisa falls in love with one of the chief suspects.
Good points: *The killers mask is really cool and being bondage themed at the time would have been quite unique. The bondage S&M world offers quite a lot of scope costume and mask wise and is maybe something that hasn’t been tapped into as much as it could be in the world of slashers but Zipperface makes a decent stab at it. Blackout being the only other one I can think of from around this time period of the late eighties/early nineties. The outfit which is mainly just leathers is okay but it is the mask with the zipper of the title across the mouth that enables the killer to stand out with a distinct look. The murderer probably doesn’t get as much screen time as the effective garb deserves but when we do see him the villain certainly looks the part.
*This is a slasher which includes a large amount of talking and more drama based scenes which may frustrate some but I found it to be entertaining. A lot of focus is put on the police force, most specifically Lisa and Harry but also on some of the higher ups such as the chief of police and away from the force the mayor and members of her cabinet. I enjoyed these character building scenes and I felt invested in Lisa and Harry and found myself liking and rooting for both of them. True, Lisa is seen as being a bit naive and silly but also borderline adorable at times so I felt charmed by her character. Most important is that these talky segments throw up a good number of suspects which is essential for the success of a whodunnit style slasher such as this. In this case we have the mayor’s publicist, the photographer and one of Lisa’s jealous colleges as the lead suspects. I was happy with the reveal scene at the end as well as it proved to be a more than satisfactory conclusion to the mystery.
*I liked the location used to bookend the movie near the beginning and end which appeared to be some sort of abandoned warehouse or boiler room type building. I thought it was a creepy venue for some of the more dramatic scenes and I particularly liked the lighting in the corridor which worked well with the pipes along the walls. Nice how the girls were shown almost in silhouette in these moments as well.
Bad Points: *The murders are all tame and don’t deliver much in the way of inventiveness, excitement or gore. There is very little in the way of blood or special effects so the film is definitely lacking in any kind of pizzazz in this area. There was one murder involving someone being thrown off a roof that I liked but that aside it’s dismal fare indeed. I have read however that there is an uncut version of the film floating around so perhaps that would deliver more. (I assume I own the watered down version if indeed two versions exist).
*Very minor spoilers: It was unrealistic that Lisa fell so easily for Michael to the point that they were seemingly head over heels in love. He came across as a bit sleazy to me initially and certainly pushy so it seemed unlikely that Lisa would give him the time of day especially taking into account that she met him through work. With the promotion so new and with several male co workers looking for a chance to sully her name you would think she would be careful not to give them any ammo to use against her and canoodling with a suspect would do just that. He was quite slimy with his photoshoot pickup gambit as well so it was rather far fetched that she would fall for that and actually grant him a photoshoot. It just made her look kind of stupid. Similarly I thought it was unrealistic that he grabbed her around the neck at one point as if to choke her only to pull her in for a kiss. Even if she was submissive herself and liked it rough given the nature of the murders it seemed a bit much and on the nose that he would do that and she would be okay with it. It was designed to solidify him as a suspect to us of course but it was heavy handed and clumsy.
*Spoiler: I didn’t think the plot completely added up on a couple of occasions specifically when the reverend was found killed. Given what we learn at the end with the killer trying to cover his tracks after the first accidental murder I was unsure why the reverend was targeted. It’s not like he knew anything about the killer. Maybe just because he was in contact with the girls and was trying to persuade them to turn their backs on the lifestyle thus depriving the killer of victims/playthings but it should have been made more clear. More importantly it was stupid that neither Natalie or Sherry went to the police after Janet was killed and then attempts made on their own lives near the start. They were worried they would get in trouble for being prostitutes I guess but I would imagine the police would be more concerned with catching a killer than to be too bothered about that.
Verdict: Despite this having a lot of bad reviews here on the web I rather liked this obscure nineties slasher and though I can’t go overboard and say it’s really good I had an enjoyable enough time with it. I was kept fairly entertained by the police procedural parts which perhaps put others off and I liked most of the characters, the mystery elements and the look of the killer. The low budget is in evidence with the deaths however and the plot maybe too far fetched in some areas. Better than I was anticipating though overall.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Criminal with hostages: Shot dead by Lisa.
2)Janet: Neck broken by whip. She was killed by accident and it was a weird looking death.
3)Elizabeth: Throat slashed with machete.
4)Natalie: Thrown off a roof.
5)Sherry: Killed in the theatre. Wasn’t 100% sure how it happened but probably strangled.
6)Other female at the theatre: Run over by the killer in a car.
7)Reverend Dimsdale: Found dead with his throat cut.
8)Brewster Harris: Shot by his wife Angela after she discovers he is the killer.