J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

AHITH ’18: Amazon Hot Box


Call us traditionalists, but we don’t see the point in making a jungle women’s prison movie without Sybill Danning, even if it is a spoof. In this case, we are assuming the film in question is intended to be a send-up, but it is hard to tell from the tonal mish-mash. In any event, there is plenty of adult subject matter in James Anthony Bickert’s Amazon Hot Box (trailer here), which screens during the 2018 Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, in San Francisco.

Poor American college student Penny came to fake-sounding Rattica as part of a conservation project, but she was scooped up during the government’s latest crack-down, along with Jade, as revolutionary sex-worker and Ebony, a revolutionary revolutionary (obviously a reference to Ebony, Ivory & Jade). She will be tormented by the Isla-inspired warden, Inga Von Krupp (with her short of stature sidekick) and the sadistic lesbian gang leader Val. As it happens, Penny is not the only one trapped there. Country singer Jett Bryant, playing a fictionalized drug-running meta-version of himself, has been appointed president, but is still very much a captive of the revolutionary government (from the previous revolution).

Man, where’s Roger Corman and Sid Haig when we need them? Maybe someone could make an amusing mash-up of their old Philippines-shot women-in-prison movies, but AHB is way too unfocused and scattershot. There are zombies in here and references to voodoo that really aren’t appropriate, considering Vodun is a real religion.

The biggest problem is AHB never feels like it was made by someone who loves the genre. In contrast, Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy’s The Editor (produced by Astron-6, who are not exactly known as guardians of good taste) is a spot-on satire of Italian giallo movies that actually becomes a not half-example of what it is skewering.

Nevertheless, Bryant has some nice moments with Tristan Risk (who also co-starred in The Editor), vamping it up something fierce as Val. Their late scenes together make us wish this film had been totally re-conceived to better feature them.

So, this exists—and it is not very good. AHB is just way too gory, in decidedly not funny ways, to cut it as a comedy. On the other hand, the film does not respect its secret agent and zombie elements enough for it to be a serviceable action or horror movie. However, cult movie fans will probably excuse away its shortcomings, because it wears its influences on its sleeve. Not recommended, Amazon Hot Box screens tomorrow (12/3), as part of this year’s AHITH.

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