It always blows my mind how much pleasure I can derive from the shittiest of movies. Now, there are of course bad movies, and there are terrible movies. I have to somehow make a distinction between the two. One is a guilty pleasure, like Road House, while the other is a wretched piece of filth like The Mummy Returns that will burn your nose off with its putrid stench. Sanctimony is the former. Bad on every conceivable level, yet so wondrous in its preposterousness, that I was riveted; except for the few parts where I fell asleep.
Santimony is equal parts Se7en, American Psycho and Dirty Harry. There are also shout outs to Eyes Wide Shut and David Cronenberg. The later only because it was most likely filmed in Canada. It could have been staged in Australia, but like, really, it doesn’t matter and I don’t care. There is even some John Woo like gunplay at the end. Somehow Eric Roberts got suckered into this film. I must admit that aside from HBO’s promise of “Nudity” and “Graphic Violence,” the promise of Eric Roberts in a serial killer movie was the only reason I watched. Unfortunately, Julia’s brother only has four minutes of screen time, even though he got second billing. Must suck to be Michael Paréé and Jennifer Rubin, the two actual leads. But again, who cares? You watch movies like Sanctimony only for the laughs. And laughs there were aplenty!
Where to even begin…? OK, so there is this serial killer “the media” has dubbed the “Monkey Maker.” He cut’s some people’s ears off, some people’s eyes out and some people’s tongues out. Hear no evil, see no evil, ect. Want to take a guess at how many people? You got it, six of each. Get it? 666–SATAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course the actual serial killer never mentions Satan or anything even remotely nefarious. Instead, he is Patrick Bateman with a jaw implant [Ed Note: Patrick Bateman is the “star” of American Pyscho]. Oh my God! I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the evil day trader cum serial killer is none other than Casper Van Dien, Johnny Rico of Starship Troopers fame, one of the very greatest films of the past decade. He is just so ridiculous/amazing in Troopers that words fail me. And while it isn’t saying anything, he gives by far the best performance here in Sanctimony.
I’m just going to now list the absolutely beautiful and hysterical parts that make movies like Sanctimony so God damned enjoyable. So, here’s the good stuff.
- 15 serial murders have taken place in the last few months. When the cops ask the doctor examining the 16th corpse what he thinks, he says, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” I love it! Even more amazing, is that the cops then ask the doctor to develop the corpses’ film! While you’re at it Doc, pick up my dry cleaning and fetch me a fucking croissant. Brilliant!
- In the first scene of the film, the director goes out of his way to show how out of shape the male cop, Lieutenant Renart (Paré) is. The female cop, Detective Smith (Rubin), is out jogging, and Renart gets all out of breath after only four or five steps. He’s trying to talk to her or something, but she just won’t stop jogging. Then he goes to meet his 11-month pregnant wife who is doing some sort of photo shoot and the male model flaked, so now the Lieutenant has to pose naked and he is in better physical shape than 99% of the planet.
- Does the Lieutenant give his wife the speech about how she “married a cop?” Yes.
- Is there a stupid chief? Yes. Eric Roberts plays the stupid chief, and besides letting the killer walk free at one point, he constantly berates his two detectives with, “If you don’t solve this case in two days, the FBI is going to take over and you’re off the case.” He then of course takes them off the case, even though the two are making progress and basically have the killer cornered. Stupid chief!
- At on point, Lieutenant Renart gets a tip that something unsavory is going on at a club. The scene that transpires is perhaps the single stupidest looking rave I have ever seen. Yes, dumber (but not by much) than the Burning Man thing in The Matrix Reloaded. In this one, there is of course a DJ who is waving his arm over his head to a 256 beat count. Like so fast you can’t even handle it. There are dancing girls on platforms. Red lights, people with crazy hair and piercings, etc. But none of that makes it the stupidest rave in cinematic history. What does is the ultimate fighting cage in the center of the dance floor where two guys dressed as medieval samurais are beating each other to death with pugil sticks! Again, everyone else is just dancing.
- In the back of the club, the most indecipherable event in cinematic history is transpiring. Tom Gerrick (Van Dien) shows up to watch a snuff film being, well, filmed. Though what is actually happening is still totally unclear to me, even after thinking about it for the last twelve hours. There is a woman strapped to a table and being held down by two shirtless guys in gimp masks. Another semi-European spooky guy is trying to get her to sign a confession which states that she is guilty and therefore deserves to die. Obviously she won’t sign it, so he kills her! Meanwhile, our serial killer and some other wealthy dudes are watching and all are wearing party masks. Again, very Eyes Wide Shut. What makes the scene even stupider is that Lieutenant Renart is in the fricking room while the snuff is being carried out, yet he doesn’t get there in time to save the girl. Don’t ask. One nice touch is that there was a midget sweeping up after the snuff.
- Detective Smith decides to “use what [her] mamma gave her” and seduce Gerrick to determine if he is in fact their serial killer. She of course invites him over for dinner and while inside her apartment he shoots her in the spine and slits her throat. Great detective work there…
- So, of course the stupid chief kicks both detectives off the case, even though one of them is practically dating the killer. Gerrick then breaks into Lieutenant Renart’s apartment and schemes up this thing where Renart’s now 12-month pregnant wife is bound and gagged and perched in an open window with a noose around her neck. If the Lieutenant opens the front door, she will be forced out the window to hang. So, of course he opens the door and she plunges out the window to hang by her neck.Which would have been cool and pretty damn brutal. But, Renart, with the help of another cop who shows up a few minutes later, pulls her back inside and she is OK! Unreal.
- After Gerrick kills four or so people on live TV, he wipes the prints off his gun!! I just have no idea.
- Oh yeah, Lieutenant Renart, who is basically Dirty Hairy with a hair piece, drives a brand new Volkswagen Bug.
The very best part of the film (besides the fairly sexy but all too short rape/sex scene with Gerrick and his then fiancé, the lovely Tanja Reichert—nice boobies) is the finale. Gerrick is asked by a Today Show type of program to explain how he is so rich and successful even though he is so young. By this point Gerrick is losing his shit and he starts going off about how for some people to be happy, others must suffer and die. He mentions a sixteen-year-old girl with her tongue cut out in an alley. The host of the show, who is supposed to be Bryant Gumbel, then tries to cut to commercial. Gerrick says something like, “I don’t want to go to commercial. What can we talk about instead of going to commercial?” He then slits the Gumbel guy’s throat on live TV and begins blowing away all the camera guys. Then he wipes the fingerprints off his gun! I know I already mentioned that last past, but it is worth repeating!
Then, in a scene that rivals the police station shoot out in Terminator (OK, not really…), Gerrick murders everybody in the wedding tent. I need to point out that he dumped his fiancé, Eve, on let’s say Tuesday night and she is marrying this other guy on Thursday morning. Lesser movies would have had the killer waste a few people and then leave the bride and groom till the end, giving the killer one more chance to make some stupid speech. Not Sanctimony. The director knew that at this point the audience (me and maybe three other people total) are tired of listening to Van Dien’s longwinded and frankly sanctimonious speeches—he just gives us the gore. I think he shoots a caterer first, then the bride, then the groom, and then he kills the rest of the wedding guests. Bloody brilliant.
While I can’t actually recommend renting Sanctimony, if it is ever on HBO at say 2:00 am, don’t turn it off.