The Video Nasties #73 – Human Experiments (1979, Gregory Goodell)

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‘Sarah…she doesn’t love you anymore’

Human Experiments is one of those films that you watch and think ‘Who the hell is this even for?’ It’s a pointless, meandering waste of time – yours, mine, everybodys.

It didn’t have to be like this.

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The first 10 minutes are some of the strongest and strangest of any Nasty. Linda Haynes plays Rachel, a pretty rubbish country singer who only seems to have one song, about singing naked in the rain or somethin’. She turns down the lecherous advances of the promoter (played by Aldo Ray, prompting the important question – which is the shittiest 1979 Aldo Ray Video Nasty, this or Don’t Go In The Park?) and leaves town, only to nearly run over a crazy woman and break down near a farmhouse. Rachel investigates the farmhouse and, in a well-directed scene, she discovers the family inside has been murdered. The killer is a terrifying waxy looking young man, and Rachel shoots him in self defence.

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It’s a wild opener, but any goodwill built up is immediately flushed down the toilet as the police suddenly arrive, then Rachel is sentenced – via a voiceover – to life in prison! Now listen up, I am usually the last person on Earth to complain about a lack of courtroom scenes – we all remember I Miss You, Hugs And Kisses (though I’m trying to forget) – but really, how on Earth could any jury convict her? We really needed to see the kangaroo court in action to understand what just happened.

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But no, instead the movie becomes a women-in-prison movie, where the rules are simple – ‘No playing, wrestling, massaging, plucking eyebrows and so forth.’. As we’ve already seen, this is not necessarily a bad thing – Jess Franco’s Women Behind Bars was surprisingly fun, and films like Jack Hill’s The Big Doll House tackled the genre in a fresh, fun way. But Human Experiments decides to spin its wheels for an hour of utter, interminable boredom.

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It’s certainly not the cast’s fault. Linda Haynes as Rachel gives a strong performance, while still finding time to hit the exploitation bases of getting naked and being covered in giant fucking spiders. The prison doctor, and chief perpetrator of these Human Experiments, is played by the late Geoffrey Lewis, perhaps best known these days for Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, and he’s good as usual. In the Unexpected Sibling category, we’ve got Ellen Travolta, sister of John. This was the year after Grease and two years after Saturday Night Fever, so it’s surprising to see a Travolta in such a schlocky bit of garbage. Come on John, throw your big sister a bone!

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The last 20 minutes or so at least have a pulse. A very bizarre prog-pop band called Lucifer and the Archangels come to play for the prisoners (yeah, yeah, I know) and Rachel tries to escape, causing her to possibly lose her mind. The VHS print I watched was so dark it was hard to see, but there certainly appeared to be some creepy moments and haunting imagery during this scene.

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Alas, it’s too little too late. It’s no surprise that no one has bothered to re-release Human Experiments on an unsuspecting public, even though it could surely pass for a 15 certificate these days. There’s almost no violence to speak of, just some pretty matter of fact nudity. It’s hard to see why this film was singled out, but then, when it comes to Human Experiments, it’s also hard to care.

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