FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Dec 21, 2010

Film Club: Sugar Hill

Sugar Hill (1974) proves at least one thing: if Jodie Foster had employed the use of zombies to exact revenge on her man's killers in The Brave One as Diana "Sugar" Hill does, then The Brave One would have been about 77% better. Why use a gun when you can voodoo up some undead, amirite? The same can really be said for flicks both rife with vengeance, like I Spit on Your Grave, or those with just a dash, such as Fried Green Tomatoes. It's just common sense.

Oh, and by the way- that's pretty much the entire plot of Sugar Hill up there, but to elaborate:

Nightclub owner Langston is kicked to death (rather gently, actually) by a bunch of mobsters who want protection money and the nightclub itself. When the police prove ineffective, Sugar Hill turns to voodoo priestess Mama Maitresse for help. Mama conjures up a posse of zombies and smiling ringleader Baron Samedi to do Sugar's bidding, and soon Sugar's new gang takes out the bad guys one by one.

That's really all there is to it, but when it comes to Sugar Hill, the parts are indeed greater than the whole. I'm not sure if that makes any sense, really, but what I mean is that it's the details that make this mediocre movie great. To wit:
  • Baron Samedi reminds me of Coffin Joe.
  • There is a theme song that plays over the opening and closing credits called "Supernatural Voodoo Woman" (courtesy of Motown Records).
  • The zombies have weird silver ping pong ball eyes, they're covered in cobwebs, and they smile.
  • There are two fight scenes- one where Langston is kicked to death, and one where Sugar gets in a slap fight with Celeste, the mob boss's moll. Both fights are more gentle than a springtime shower.

  • Celeste is reminiscent of Edy Williams, which makes me think about Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which is always a good thing.
  • There is wanton cantaloupe abuse. That is not a euphemism.
  • Mama Maitresse is Mother Jefferson. I repeat: MOTHER JEFFERSON.
  • As this is a blaxploitation flick, whitey is the real bad guy and all manner of racial stereotypes and epithets fly, including "honk". Not "honky", but "honk".
  • There is a proliferation of pantsuits. Langston's suit has a giant, scalloped collar. The 70s rule.
  • There are angry, carnivorous pigs.
  • When she's in "Diana" mode, Diana has regular hair and an air of Lynda Carter about her. When she's in "Sugar"/voodoo mode, Diana sports a fro and a low-cut jumpsuit. She's so superhero!
  • The swamps of Louisiana sound like the jungle, complete with those movie monkey sounds- you know, "ooo ooo ooo AHH AHH AHH"
  • Lots of broken glass and a defenestration.
  • There is a man named Fabulous.
  • Sugar Hill comes from exploitation powerhouse American International Pictures, and just seeing the name Samuel Z. Arkoff onscreen is enough to excite a nerd like me.
Despite what you might think or expect, Sugar Hill is actually rather tame. The violence is gruesome in theory (someone is hacked to death with machetes!) but takes place offscreen, sex and nudity are nil, and while charming, Marki Bey simply doesn't have the bite to make Sugar a terribly memorable character- she's overshadowed in her own movie by Don Pedro Colley's Baron Samedi, who chews the scenery with rotten teeth. It seems that AIP was trying to make Bey the next Pam Grier, when they should have simply, you know, hired Pam Grier.

Still, it's a fun time and the zombies are fresh- err, fetid enough to thrill even those among us who are zombied out. Voodoo-style undead are woefully underutilized in horror, but Sugar Hill shows just how creepy they can be when employed effectively. And if that ain't enough to make this movie worthwhile for you, don't forget- MOTHER JEFFERSON.

Film Club Coolies, y'all!
Maynard Morrisey's Horror Movie Diary
Dave's Blog About Movies and Such
Soresport Movies
I Will Devour Your Content
The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense
Things That Don't Suck
strange spanners
Pearce's Horror Movie Reviews
The Agitation of the Mind
Mermaid Heather

Thanks to everyone who participated!


AnomicQueen said...

Oh! Joyness! This is on Netflix on demand! Thanks for "tip"!

Mikey Sarago said...

I love the actress's name — Marki Bey. Sounds like something Nell would say.

Robert H. said...

One more reason to like this movie: it was made by the man who produced the POLICE ACADEMY movies and RETURN TO OZ.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ha! You're so right! "Don' wor' marki bey, tayna winnn..."

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Sugar Hill has one of the best trailers ever, too.

Matt Farkas said...

If only "wanton cantaloupe abuse" were a euphemism....

Bill Walsh said...

If only they had had a crossover with the Sugarhill Gang. "Rapper Zombies’ Delight" would be Stacie's favorite video ever.

Anonymous said...

If you like zombie revenge movies, then you should see Zombie Nightmare. It's kind of awesome in a horrible way. I first saw it on MST3K, so that kind of tells what quality it is. A beefy teenager is killed in a hit and run so instead of going to the hospital, his mom has the local voo doo lady reanimate his corpse for vengeance. Adam West is in it as a corrupt cop and the movie features songs by Motorhead and Girlschool.

Thomas Duke said...

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to write about SUGAR HILL. Therefore, I have failed to live up to my promise of contributing to the Final Girl Film Club, like a deadbeat dad promising his kid that he'll take him to Disneyland, only to never show. Well, maybe it's not THAT dramatic.

However, if it's any consolation, here is my two word review of SUGAR HILL:

Zombies?!? MUTHAFUCKA!!!!

I also had previously written a review of ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE, which is pretty much the honky Canadian version of SUGAR HILL, minus the So...close enough I say.