Despite its title, this offbeat, low-budget romantic comedy is not a spoof of Paul Mazursky's ENEMIES: A LOVE STORY. It is rather an original production of director Sam Raimi's (EVIL DEAD, DARKMAN) independent Renaissance Pictures, produced by and costarring Raimi regular Bruce Campbell.
LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY's lineage is worth noting mainly due to its similarities to the EVIL DEAD movies, here played for laughs instead of shocks.
Theodore Raimi (Sam's brother; he played the thug who met a grisly end in DARKMAN by being thrust headfirst up through a manhole cover into heavy traffic by the terminally ticked-off title character) stars as nerdy Hank, a former mental patient and aspiring poet who hasn't left his downtown LA
apartment since moving in six months earlier. Besides rampaging agoraphobia, he is also tortured by debilitating hallucinations of doctors trying to inject him with huge needles and perform lobotomies on him. Other hallucinations are less unpleasant, such as a lingerie model on a billboard across
from his apartment who comes to life and pays him an afternoon visit.
Newly arrived from Iowa with boyfriend Ray (Campbell), Nancy (VALLEY GIRL's Deborah Foreman) meanwhile has come to think of herself as a jinx to everything she touches, including a cute puppy that immediately runs into the street and gets flattened by a truck only seconds after she pets it. After
Ray abandons her, taking all her money with him, Nancy gets thrown out of her seedy hotel for getting behind on the rent and is left to wander the streets. She immediately gets in trouble with a menacing street gang after shooting off the toe of the gang leader with his own gun. Hiding out in a
phone booth from the vengeful thugs, she gets a call from Hank, who has misdialed while trying to reach a 976 sex line. To get off the street, she offers to come and see Hank but, despite their shared love of poetry, she flees almost immediately when confronted by Hank's eccentric habits, like
papering his entire apartment in tinfoil to keep the imaginary doctors from getting to him through his walls. Lovesmitten Hank conquers his fears, albeit not before wrapping most of his body in tinfoil, to follow and find Nancy in the nick of time, just as the gang leader, complete with his toe
cast, is moving in for the kill.
Despite being credited to writer-director Josh Becker, LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY is easily at its best when it most resembles Raimi's own EVIL DEAD pictures, in which Campbell was plunged into a multi-sequel world of illusionary horrors after reading aloud from the Book of the Dead. Hank's
hallucinations here are a running gag, made funnier by the filmmakers' making their obviously microscopic budget part of the gag. The results include some of the most unabashedly cheesy stop-motion effects since "Gumby," when Hank imagines tiny spiders popping out of his brain, and some of the
most blatantly artificial rear-projection sequences since MARNIE, when Hank gets chased by a garbage truck he imagines to be a giant spider. At their best, also in common with the EVIL DEAD series, the hallucinations take on a riveting intensity that help to cover up a shaky screenplay. One scene,
in which Hank imagines a city street splitting open under his feet, would look impressive in a film with many times the budget of LUNATICS. Next to scenes like these, however, the love story can't help but seem like pretty tepid stuff. And, in fact, there's barely enough to it to carry a
Still, LUNATICS, which is never less than intelligent throughout, is smart enough to end before it wears out its welcome entirely. And, along the way, Raimi keeps his hysteria likably low-key and Foreman, especially, brings a real sweetness to her character that gives the film a warmth it might
otherwise have lacked. Though hardly a low-budget breakthrough, LUNATICS is nevertheless an agreeably imaginative change of pace from the usual B-movie exploitation fare, made more so by some of the most original genre filmmakers currently working. (Violence, profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Despite its title, this offbeat, low-budget romantic comedy is not a spoof of Paul Mazursky's ENEMIES: A LOVE STORY. It is rather an original production of director Sam Raimi's (EVIL DEAD, DARKMAN) independent Renaissance Pictures, produced by and costarri… (more)