Dennis Hopper is lawman Krebs, one serious wacko with deep issues. One of his hobbies is puppeteering at regional gradeschools, a Punch & Judy sort of shtick with Deputy Rock beating the crap out of criminals while screaming "You're busted!" which excites the screaming children.
A television producer, Ruth (Helen Shaver), gets a crush on Deputy Rock whom she can't tell apart from Lt. Krebs, & wants to make him a local, then a national children's television personality. The more he balks at allowing her to make him a star, the crazier Ruth gets, drinking herself blotto & doing whatever it takes to get Krebs in her clutches.
When she convinces the mayor to instruct Krebs to do a Saturday morning kiddy show, he has no choice, & Ruth is pretty sure she's on the right track to fame for the puppeteer cop, & romance for her lascivious self.
Alas, Krebs has another hobby which he prefers above puppeteering. His isolated country house has a soundproofed basement with a mock jail wielded together. He brings a stripper to his basement intent on keeping her captive for as long as possible, psychologically tormenting her into submissiveness by awarding & denying "points" for appropriate & inappropriate behavior.
Captive Gina (Asia Argento) is a rebellious sort who after a few months has learned what it takes to build up "points," trying for enough points to be allowed out of the cage for a while, working out in the meantime so she can keep her strength up for the great escape.
Fine upstanding Crazy Krebs insists, "I'm doing this for you, Gina. Not for me." He has judged her a whore, but an intelligent pretty whore whose presence in his life makes him less lonely, & he has not kidnapped her but rescued her from her evil life.
Over time she learns the origins of his madness in childhood trauma, but she never really takes pity on him; she never goes Stockholm Syndrome; she retains a deep abiding hatred for Krebs while attempting to hide her feelings & earn "points."
Meanwhile down at the police station, young Sgt Burns (Lochlyn Munro) won't let go of the case of Gina's disappearance. Eventually his suspicions will fall on fellow officer Lt. Krebs, but it's a hard possibility to face.
Ruth, too, is closing in on the truth, because she indeed has a stalker mentality & becomes convinced Krebs is having an affair with some whore. Though he has never shown any interest in her she has nevertheless become possessive & jealous.
One drunken afternoon she breaks into his house & finds the captive Gina. Rather than help the young woman, Ruth tries to use her newfound knowledge to gain greater control over Krebs. She thinks she has the perfect plan to protect herself, & hopes that he'll realize she's the best thing for him. But hooboy will that not work out so well.
It'll come down to a day when Gina is scheduled to be hacked up, after first being treated to a very special slasher puppet play about a husband (Kreb's brutal father) who killed his harlot wife (Kreb's ex-stripper mother). Gina's then bundled into the trunk of the car (shared with a corpse) to be taken to a particular location Krebs had months before promised to show her.
It looks like Sgt Burns is arriving in the nick of time. But anyone who watches a lot of this sort of exploitation film knows that nowadays it's not much of an exploit if a victimized girl merely gets saved. Rather, she has to get her personal revenge. When it comes, it's fairly impressive, because Asia Argento is impressive. It's also alas a little perfunctory. It's not the fairest balance to get revenge in one minute, after having been tormented for a full year. But it's a bazillion times better than just having to be saved by some guy.
Plotwise the film isn't much & since it's a Showtime cable movie, it's not even as vicious as a direct-to-video treatment would've been. But what it has going for it that most such films do not is Asia Argento giving nuance & complexity to her character so that we're on the edge of our seat waiting for that moment when she gets the upper hand, & it has Dennis Hopper who is no slouch in the psycho department, lending a layer of pathos to the disgust.
The two support performances are also very appealilng, but it is Asia & Dennis who make the movie so good of kind, though not quite the equal of The Collector (1965) which it imitates.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl