The Horror Honeys: 'Slam Dance' ~ IT'S NOT ABOUT DANCING, GUYS!


I told you. It's not about dancing. It says.
A Revenge Honey Erotic Thriller November Review with Linnie

Slam Dance (1987)

Only a special kind of film is awesome enough to kick off a month's worth of my favorite genre of film, and that film is Wayne Wang's Slam Dance. Released in 1987, Slam Dance is the precursor to the utter fucked-uped-ness of Wang's future erotic thriller, The Center of the World (before he directed Maid in Manhattan, which hurt my soul). Slam Dance is one of those severely overlooked 80s gems that is due for a little modern love, so let's make with the sexy times!

The Story: Cartoonist Charles Drood (Tom Hulce) has just ended an ill-advised affair with the beautiful and mysterious Yolanda Caldwell (Virginia Madsen). The affair is ill-advised because; 1) his wife (played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is pretty awesome and gorgeous herself; and 2) Yolanda Caldwell was just found murdered. Detective Smiley (Harry Dean Stanton) is hot on Drood's trail, and it's up to Drood, his wife, and his best bud (played by a dashing-as-hell Adam Ant) to prove our cartoonist is the victim of a first-class frame job.


Virginia Madsen: the face that launched a thousand erotic thrillers...
If you remove the Adam Ant and Tom Hulce's Richard Marx hairdo, Slam Dance could exist perfectly well within the world of a Dashiell Hammett detective novel. We have the femme fatale with the dark secret, the epic cover-up that goes all the way to the top, the reluctant hero, the feisty "good girl" dame, the red herring... Written by Don Keith Opper (star of the Critters films... seriously), Slam Dance is the kind of film that, if you removed the well, slam dancing, and various other 80s artifacts, could function as the perfect 40s noir.

The hair, the scruff, and you should hear the man sing! Oy!
It helps that Tom Hulce is such an unlikely hero for a film like this, making him utterly perfect, in a strange way. Most probably know him from his Oscar-winning role in Amadeus, but personally I fell in love with him in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and have remained so ever since. In Slam Dance, he brings the same semi-manic energy that he brought to Mozart, all kinetic playfulness and contagious laughter. But it is in his scenes with Madsen that he really shines. When we see the softer, conflicted side of Drood, we see too the inner turmoil of an artist. It's an interesting dichotomy that is performed beautifully, and leaves me stunned that Hulce wasn't a more sought-after actor post-Amadeus.

The hair in this movie really deserved a supporting actor credit.
The supporting cast of Slam Dance is spectacular as well. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio always brought sparkle to every movie she was in, and that's just as true here. This is one of her earliest films, made the year after The Color of Money, and while she is a touch green, she never plays Helen Drood as a victim, or a damsel in distress. She's clever, funny, and just the kind of spitfire you can imagine that a man like Drood would fall in love with.

Seriously. This woman.
Madsen plays her role as femme fatale to a T, and Harry Dean Stanton is the same spectacular character actor as always. What really makes Slam Dance crackle is the chemistry between the cast, as well as the smartly structured script. You can't just toss together the standard noir elements and expect that it's going to work; the noir requires dedication, respect, and love for the genre in order to create a story and characters that engage but don't alienate. If you love a good noir, and even more, a wonderful erotic thriller, you're going to love Slam Dance.

Adam Ant: automatically adding cool points to movies since 1978.
Fun (For Me) Fact: Tom Hulce has won and been nominated for a Tony award for his role as producer in the Broadway musicals American Idiot and Spring Awakening, respectively!

Throughout Erotic Thriller month, we are going to be working on a far more stringent rating scale than usual. That means that if I REALLY like a film, it will probably get a three star rating. If I love a film, four stars. If I want to take a movie behind the middle school and get it pregnant, that's a five star rating right there. So with that in mind, Slam Dance gets...

Erotic Thriller Rating: 4 dropped panties out of 5

Slam Dance is available via a recently released Kino Lorber blu-ray. Fortunately/unfortunately, that is currently the only way to see it.

Have you seen Slam Dance?
Have a suggestion for an Erotic Thriller Month review?
Tell me on Twitter: @linnieloowho