The DVD case of SNAPDRAGON claims to offer a "psycho-sexual thriller." I was immediately intrigued as the term "psycho-sexual" offers up all kinds of questions. After all, if we buy into any Freud, isn't "psycho-sexual" kind of redundant? Actually, I guess if we buy into Freud anything modified by the word sexual is redundant, so nevermind.
SNAPDRAGON wastes little time getting to both, though frankly, it executes the sexual much better than the psycho. The film opens with a little girl in a tent witnessing the murder of two other women; I'll just assume for now one of them was the girl's mother. So young girl, mother stabbed to death before her eyes, yeah I'd say that's at least Anna O. worthy.
Then comes the sexual which opens in Chinatown with a woman have sex with a man and then biting him on his neck and killing him, a la Dracula. She then writes some Chinese symbols on the wall with blood. Spooky.
The police assign their best, Sargeant Peckham (Chelsea Field), an undercover officer who pretends to be a prostitute to entrap white collar businessmen. Peckham (who is generally just called "Peck," talk about thankless…) is the lover of David (Stephen Bauer), a psychological profiler kinda guy who doesn't enjoy rough sex but loves him some screwdrivers (we're not talking about hardware). Actually as the film goes on we learn that this relationship consists of nothing other than unsuccessful sexual encounters (from David's perspective) followed by rounds of screwdrivers. Oh, and it's also, let's be clear NOT EXCLUSIVE, at least in David's opinion. David, ever reminding me of a prettier Sly Stallone, hypothesizes that the killer is ending these guys' life on a "sexual high," almost as if she were doing them a favor. We then learn that the victims ejaculate after their deaths, with the murderer still on top of them. Huh. See, now you thought my little Freudian intro was irrelevant didn't you?
David is assigned to analyze Felicity (Pam Anderson), a patient at your neighborly mental ward. Felicity is a beautiful Jane Doe, no memory, found a few days ago on the beach. David is clearly the master of psycho-therapy "She got something buried deep, deep inside her and we've got dig it out again." Good plan!
We learn more and more about Felcity. She likes a thing for flowers. And she also has nightmares in which she makes love to men and then spits a razor out of her mouth and uses it to slit their throats. Huh. Coinkydink? It's funny, of course, that her dreams appear to be quite literal. No compression, displacement, revision, etc. In other words, she ought to be the easiest patient to crack ever. Too bad David is her psychologist.
Here is the Interpretation of Dreams according to Dr. David:
David: "In the subconscious, dreams are experiences. We feel pain, sadness… as if it were really happening….Dreams are just the inner mind working out every day problems. It's normal."
Felicity: "Is it normal seeing yourself having sex with faceless strangers and then killing them?"
David: "Well you just have to keep telling yourself that it's only a dream, nothing more… Quite possibly the result of some deep seated childhood experience."
But the trick of it is, Felicity's dreams keep coming true. The guy she dreamed about murdering? Well, he turns up dead the next day. Ladeeda, Dr. David grows increasingly obsessed with the case and, of course, Felicity. But is his attraction psycho… or sexual?
While this film still exists because it was Pam Anderson debut pick, the camera spends most of its time with Dr. David, and there really is no encapsulating this guy. He finds Felicity in a flowershop, picks a flower, and gives it to her saying "This is for you… " Oh, and it's $3.99 at checkout. But if he's not flirting with her, he's trying to crack her unlock her hidden memories using tried-and-true psycho-analytical methods like fortune cookies and walks on the beach followed by nighttime bonfires. Meanwhile he's still dating Sargeant Peckham (didn't forget about her did you?) and, and, and just who the hell is this guy?
And by the way, is any of this plot line sounding at all familiar? You know, police detective/psychologist feeling sexually attracted to his suspect/patient who just happens to be a serial killer circa 1992…? Naw, nothing's coming to mind at all…
Anyway, the plot takes us into the intrigue of Chinese prostitution which the film insists is really kuh-razy: "I know it seems cruel to the Occidental mind, but being a concubine was far better than dying of a swollen stomach." So just what is this movie a case of: Orientalism or Occidentalism? Yeah, that's right, I'm trying to generate some kind of insight from the film's exposition. Importantly (ish) we learn that in ancient times the Emperor's concubines would use special razors hidden in their bodies to assassinate the Emperor's enemies while they made love. This is the film's murder weapon of choice, and it can be best described as a kind of retainer with a razor attached to it.
What? This isn't interesting enough for you? Would you rather me just describe the sex scenes you perv?
Anyway, I'm writing this review while watching the films and rather than stick around to recap the conclusion, I'm just going to posit this possible ending:
Sargeant Peckham, a brunette who for sport occasionally wears a blonde wig, is sexually unsatisfying for David. David, meanwhile, grows sexually attracted to the blonde Felicity who is rather heavy-handedly projected as the killer. Now is this the kind of movie which is going to break sexual archetypes of dark/bad light/good or is it going to reinforce the norms all the while claiming a "trick ending?"
As I said, I haven't gotten to the film's end yet, but I have a hunch…
[P.S. If I'm right, then that means SNAPDRAGON violates one of Roger Ebert's movie glossary rules which states that the heroine of the film always shows less skin than the villain, so if I'm right about how this movie ends, then the brunette/blonde rule will apply while the skin/no skin rule will not because we see way more of Felicity than we do Sgt. Peckham. So… I guess I'm just gonna hope that it runs out Dr. David is the killer. Or maybe it's all a dream…]
Well I made it to the end of the film, and BOY was I WRONG. Curse you movie! Your idiocy has only highlighted mine! I've clearly been away from the bad movie reviewing business for too long. I noted prior that the film sets itself up between two archetypal conundrums. On the one hand you have the brunete/blonde dichotomy and on the other we have the Ebertian skin/no skin dichotomy. How on earth can this plot be resolved? The answer…
IDENTICAL TWINS! AAARGH! HOW COULD I NOT SEE THIS COMING??? What really happens is that Felicity actually has a twin who is the id to her ego. The evil twin goes around murdering guys while the good Felicity just screws around with David. Sgt. Peckham is actually just a regular detective in an incredibly thankless part. The climactic scene involves David recklessly following Felicity to an Asian bordello where he discovers her held hostage by her own twin. There's a scuffle and in the nick of time Peck shows up and blasts the evil twin. Pamela Anderson wrestling Pamela Anderson and then getting shot in the boob by Chelsea Field? NICE!
The next day Dr. David takes Felicity back to her apartment and pathetically tries to screw her again (this guy really puts the ID into idiot… that's not even really a pun, is it?), but she declines. Felicity goes to the bathroom and there, hidden discreetly in her medicine cabinet, is the retainer razor used to murder all of the victims. Which I guess means… well… I'm not sure. So Felicity was the killer? She's just another killer? She knows how to kill but doesn't?
Well, honestly it's a bit beyond me. But what can I say? I was wrong. As Freud would say, some times a retainer with a razor on it is really just a retainer with a razor on it.
Oh Snap! (dragon).