What do you get when you put softcore characters in a slasher film?

If you've ever taken the time to watch the "other" parts of an adult film, you'll know a few things to be true. One is that the people who inhabit the central location have the flimsiest reasons for being there, and another is that nearly every conflict can be resolved not with violence, but with sex. So what happens when someone gets killed?

That's the central conceit of Deep Murder (which world premiered at the LA Film Festival), in which stock softcore characters (a jock, a babysitter, a bored trophy wife, etc) find themselves in the second least reputable of sub-genres: a slasher film. Knowing nothing but their (thinly described) job titles, and having sex with whoever happens to be closest to them at any given moment, they are at a severe disadvantage to figure out who might be offing them one by one, but they gradually become more aware that there's perhaps a world beyond bedroom antics.

It's a strange concept for a film - the characters aren't aware they are IN a movie, like the kid in Last Action Hero or whatever, nor are they trying to escape their trapped existence like in Twilight Zone's "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" - they just don't have much of an existence beyond whatever was originally in store for them before the murders. It takes a minute to get used to this; the closest recent approximation I can think of would be the NPCs in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, who only know their one line and have no idea what to do when confronted with anything else - but without an audience surrogate to point out those restrictions. When the first body is discovered and someone asks "What do we do?", Jace (Chris Redd from SNL) replies "Fuck?" and it's not the character trying to be funny - it's just literally the only thing the characters know how to do, and that includes the detective who shows up to solve the murder and the scientist who arrives just before the "major storm" traps them all in the house for the night. 

The storm, by the way, is depicted with the occasional sound of thunder/rain and lots of ill-fitting cutaways, a cheap but usually amusing gag at the expense of the low production value of these things. Indeed, what's most impressive about the film is how well it apes the style of your average Spice Channel offering - the overlit cinematography, the horrendous music, the "smart" characters who are just as stupid as anyone else (when she decides to try to help solve the mystery, the "scientist" character inexplicably makes a 3rd-grade style baking soda volcano) - while also functioning as a pretty decent slasher. There are no major chases or anything like that, and obviously nothing is played for scares, but the deaths are inventive and the killer's identity is kind of a surprise (thanks in part to the fact that it's slightly a cheat, but still). Even better, the pornography angle ties into it! Without spoiling the identity, the killer simply wants things to be more hardcore instead of the softcore existence that the others have settled for, which is relatively clever and hammers home the idea that the adult angle wasn't just a throwaway concept. 

It's also very funny, thanks to a game cast. Christopher McDonald is used perfectly as a businessman husband who is always on the phone with Japan and thus too busy to notice that his wife (Katie Aselton) is banging his brother (Jerry O'Connell) in the next room, and Redd gets a lot of mileage out of his character's inability to understand that women need to be pleasured too. I also loved the occasional appearances by other stereotypes, like a pizza guy who shows up with "extra hot meat" and is promptly written out; the characters' reaction to a late-arriving sexy plumber left me nearly on the floor laughing. But the leads hold their own: Stephanie Drake and co-writers Josh Margolin and Quinn Beswick are front and center for most of it and keep things engaging in between the murder/spoofy porn scenes (there's actually not a lot of sex in the film, and only one brief bit of nudity). Some of the running gags - such as Margolin's frequent out-of-nowhere attacks on Beswick - are amusing but serve no particular purpose, and of course some gags just don't land at all, but the hit/miss ratio is healthier than I would have expected, and I often appreciated how they didn't go for easy/meta gags. I spent a good chunk of the runtime convinced the killer would be Ron Jeremy or someone like that, showing up as himself and dropping meta dialogue, but it's played fairly "straight" in that respect. 

The unusual concept will be hard for some folks to wrap their heads around, and as with all comedies your mileage will vary depending on your mood and how much you enjoy this off-kilter brand of humor, but the niche target audience should have a good time with it. And if you're a slasher fan... well, you won't see much else like it, that's for sure, and if you're like me you can marvel that this goofy comedy actually has a better killer motive (at least, in context) than numerous more straightforward body-count flicks.

And none of those had someone get impaled with a dildo.