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Catherine's Grove Reviews

Despite being haunted by the ghosts of dozens of other direct-to-video serial killer flicks, CATHERINE'S GROVE is a moderately engrossing foray into perversity. Astute mystery buffs will anticipate the screenplay's curve balls, but the movie redeems itself with believable psychological underpinnings and some supple acting. In South Florida, hedonism on the the alternative bar scene is dampened by a series of hammer slayings. Busy with the homicide investigation, Detective Nick Pirelli (Andy Fiscella) turns over a missing person case to his partner Jack Doyle (Jeff Fahey), who moonlights as a private investigator. Doyle and Charley (Maria Conchita Alonso), his girlfriend and PI partner, search for Catherine, the missing sister of Thomas Mason (Jeffrey Donovan). It is revealed that Thomas maintains a close bond with Catherine and has suffered abuse at the hands of his father (Marc Macaulay). Doyle's queries lead him to Thomas's overbearing Uncle Joseph (Michael Madsen), who controls his nephew's estate, and Sally Willows (Priscilla Barnes), a glamorous party girl who had a crush on Catherine. Doyle mistakenly suspects that Thomas killed his sister to gain her share of the estate; Charley, on the other hand, responds to Thomas's sensitivity and believes him innocent. Uncle Joseph tells Doyle that Catherine actually died years ago as a child, in a fall from Thomas's treehouse. Since then, cross-dressing Thomas has occasionally assumed his sister's identity. Having embarked on a murder spree against female impersonators, crazy Thomas has planted evidence to frame Sally, because she wanted him to become Catherine permanently. During Doyle's interrogation of an unnerved Sally, she brandishes a weapon, so Pirelli is forced to shoot her. Having fooled Charley and Doyle, Thomas retires to his family estate, where he murders Uncle Joseph and assumes his identity. With its documentary-like footage of Florida's swinging bar scene and its cynical happy ending for a madman, CATHERINE'S GROVE offers thrill-seekers a walk on the wild side. Its principal debit stems from tedious squabbling scenes between laid-back Jeff Fahey and spitfire Maria Conchita Alonso. Also, although the split personality gimmick fuels the plot, the audience will quickly realize why pretty boy Thomas is so clean-shaven. At least its flashbacks cogently further character development; in most direct-to-video movies, they merely enhance the atmosphere or pad the running time. If the leads are only serviceable, the shrewdly cast supporting players expertly suggest ripples of madness in their methods. Structurally an old-fashioned detective story, this weird thriller draws energy from its twisted story line and forces the viewer to pivot in the stiletto heels of a transvestite who despises his own kind. (Graphic violence, nudity, extreme profanity, substance abuse, sexual situations.)