Generally speaking, when Quentin Tarantino is credited as the screenwriter on a film, you can rest assured that you’re in for a good time (even if he didn’t direct it)… but if he’s only credited as a producer, then you’re advised to proceed with caution. Hell Ride, My Name Is Modesty and the Dusk Till Dawn sequels are unlikely to be hailed as overlooked genre classics by future generations of film buffs… and neither will the black “comedy” Curdled (1996), which was shown in the wee small hours of Sunday morning on BBC2.
For those who don’t know, the story follows a chipper Colombian immigrant named ‘Gabriela’, who cheerfully clips murder-related articles from the local newspapers, and sticks them in her scrapbook. Driven by the nagging suspicion that she isn’t getting the real story behind the sensational headlines, she takes up a job as a crime scene cleaner, so that she can get a little more up-close and personal with the carnage. While mopping up after an infamous serial killer dubbed the “Blue Blood Killer”, whose MO is to seduce and behead wealthy female socialites, she discovers a vital clue to his true identity… and chooses to keep it all to herself. Basically, the entire movie is one long tease, as you wait to see what will happen when Gabriela and the handsome, sophisticated maniac of her dreams finally meet… and, I’ll grant you this, when the two of them do get together there’s a fair amount of scary sexual tension and dark humour to enjoy… unfortunately this rendezvous doesn’t actually occur until somewhere around the sixty minute mark, and it’s a long, boring trek to get there. The fact that they don’t even hook up after all that foreplay, was also a total anticlimax for me (no pun intended). Not that anyone asked, but I think the story would have worked a lot better as a sort of twisted rom-com, with them first meeting somewhere around the ten minute mark, and then slowly starting to trust (and love) one another as they plan and execute a series of murders together… then a final twist where they have a big falling out (kinda like the row Mickey and Mallory have over the hostage in Natural Born Killers, I guess), and she snuffs him, only to get away scot-free.
The one thing working in the movie’s favour, and keeping the boredom at bay during that early, event-free hour, is the central performance by Angela Jones… who’s probably best known for playing ‘Esmarelda Villalobos’, the heavily-accented cab driver with a morbid interest in boxing, in Pulp Fiction. She’s very engaging here, and looks quite fetching in her bright red coveralls… but, much like the movie itself, she doesn’t really come alive until the final twenty minutes or so. One of the things that Tarantino’s detractors tend to overlook when they’re mocking his films for being facile and derivative, is how many other filmmakers have tried to imitate him, and failed miserably. If it’s really so easy to write a Tarantino-esque script by ripping off a load of crackly old B-movies, then why hasn’t anyone else actually managed to do it? Clearly the man has some talent and craft to call his own… and you really start to appreciate that fact when you’re watching something like this, which is apparently set in the same fictional universe as his movies*, but never manages to stir anything like the same admiration, amusement or excitement.
* Kelly Preston reprises her role as Newscaster/True Crime Reporter ‘Kelly Houge’, as seen in From Dusk Till Dawn, and she refers directly to the mysterious disappearance of the Gecko Brothers.