“GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL” – An ’80s Cult Classic!
So we’ve all been there…been in that one relationship where everything you did was for that someone special. Of course you later find out that you were just being taken advantage of…the relationship from Hell. There is nothing quite like being used for your kindness and generosity! And who can forget being set up with someone by your friend, only to find out they were not what you expected? This is where our movie, GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL (1989), comes in.
I first became aware of this movie when I was drawn to the cover art of the VHS release at a local department store. Back in the mid-80’s to early 90’s cover art was often the attraction of movies that saw little or no actual theatrical play (or got no coverage in magazines like FANGORIA or STARLOG). The image of the film’s beautiful female lead, Liane Curtis, was all I needed to buy this film! At this time I was a collector and fan of a lot of the direct-to-video releases, especially movies by Fred Olen Ray, and this film to me looked similar. My thinking was that at the very least this would be a great film to get drunk to and to goof on. Not only was I correct with this assumption, but the movie was also something more…it was a fun film you could watch without the addition of booze! Sure it wasn’t a multi-million dollar extravaganza but this movie had something lacking in a lot of the big Hollywood releases: charm. The cast is attractive, the story is fun (and laugh-out-loud funny at times) and the theme song is pretty damn catchy!
I would like to thank Paul Rawson for use of his video!
The story concerns a man named Chaser (Dana Ashbrook) who lived a less-than-perfect life and when he died he went to Purgatory. To redeem himself, and to be allowed into Heaven, God has made him his Devil chaser…yes THE Devil (who also happens to be Chaser’s ex-girlfriend). The Devil can pretty much inhabit anyone or anything and this is where the rest of the cast comes in.
David and Diane (James Daughton and Lezlie Deane) are trying to set up their shy friends with each other. Carl and Maggie (played by Anthony Barrile and Liane Curtis) are the epitome of shy people, to which I can certainly relate. The two couples are going to a birthday party for their friend Rocco (Ken Abraham) being thrown by his girlfriend Alice (Hilary Morse). Throw in Teddy and Freda (Brad Zutaut and Sarah Kaite Coughlan), their ultra-religious friends, and you have a great cast that has great chemistry. Cameos by James Karen and Alba Francesca (as Carl’s parents) add to the overall fun of this film.
The Devil, being pursued by Chaser, arrives at the birthday party and inhabits the body of Maggie, transforming her from an insecure and shy girl into an extremely sexy party girl who loves to drink. It is from here on out that wackiness ensues. Witness Maggie driving like a madwoman and trying to run down a group of nuns (whom she lovingly refers to as penguins) who fight back with weapons ranging for handguns to a bazooka! Witness Maggie, who is not willing to wait for a table at a busy restaurant, turn a patron’s food on him, freeing up the table!! Witness Maggie suck the life and souls out of the male cast!!! AND SHE LOOKS GREAT DOING IT!
The chemistry between the characters of Maggie and Chaser is what makes the movie. Even though Chaser is trying to capture her, it is obvious that he still cares for her (and that Maggie still loves him). The remaining characters are varied enough and quirky enough that it is easy to relate to them (and I am sure there will be at least one you can really relate to). That is what makes this film fun.
GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL, in my opinion, is one of those guilty pleasures that came out with very little fanfare and yet now has a decent cult following. Unfortunately it is only available on videotape but is worth seeking out for those of you who still own VCR’s. Hopefully one day it will be released on DVD…I know I will buy a copy!
Just recently I was fortunate enough to talk to Liane Curtis, the star of GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL and she was kind enough to answer some questions for me concerning the movie and her career.
DAVID: You started in the entertainment business at an early age, appearing on the pilot for Sesame Street when you were four years old. How do you get a job like that? Were you in any other episodes?
LIANE: Ummmm nope. I was already behaving like the possessed Maggie at the age of 4. The director blew up a balloon I had gotten from Mr. Hooper and I asked him to blow it up bigger to which he said: “sorry, they don’t get any bigger than this.” It felt like I was getting a brush off so I said: ” Well you’re stupid. They do get bigger. My mom blew up the same kind of balloon last night and SHE blew it bigger.” I was also not IN the pilot but have a nice picture.
DAVID: GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL is such a fun movie to watch. Was it a fun movie to make?
LIANE: Oh yeah. It was a blast. I shared my dressing room with Jeff the 2nd AD. It was crazy. He was as nuts as I was. Lezlie was a trip always being her animated self. The two of us in a room at the same time was probably daunting at times. Some of the cast…James Daughton, Anthony Barrile, Hilary Morse…had known one another for YEARS. As a matter of fact it was Anthony who worked for Gregory Cascante/August Entertainment at the time who is responsible for us all even being in it at all. LOVE YOU ANTOINE!
DAVID: Before doing GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL you appeared in one of the most famous teen comedies ever made, SIXTEEN CANDLES, playing the best friend of Molly Ringwald’s character Sam. What was it like working on that film. Did you ever expect it to be such a huge hit?
LIANE: It was amazing working on that set. John Hughes was amazing RIP. It was a scene. We had 2 weeks of rehearsal prior to shooting and I was so ready to say: “See ya!!” to my mom who was there until I turned 18 on the 1st day of shooting. Props dressed a locker with a watermelon which had 18 candles in it (I was off sugar and couldn’t eat cake) and I was so stunned I panicked and launched into my dialogue … the crew started singing Happy Birthday and I about passed out. Mom went home to NY and I went kook. Stories CENSORED!!! LOL!!! I really didn’t have any idea it would be. I was given THE BREAKFAST CLUB and SHE’S HAVING A BABY to read while there but was a little on the wild side. A theme, it seems … hmmm.
DAVID: You played the female lead in the 1988 genre film CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE. Were you a fan of the original film, which is also considered a cult classic?
LIANE: I hadn’t actually seen CRITTERS before I found out I was meant to audition for CRITTERS 2. My mom and I watched it and became fans – it was well done. Scot Grimes was awesome to work with – he’s an amazing musician BTW check out “Drive” on iTunes!
DAVID: What are some of your favorite movies?
LIANE: Shawshank Redemption, Up, Brain Damaged, Reanimator, Ghosbusters, The Quiet American, The Hunting Party, Fried Green Tomatoes, River’s Edge, Buddy Holly Story, Beverly Hills Cop, Godspell, Rosemary’s Baby, Iron Man, L Cage Aux Folles (original French version).
DAVID: Back to GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL. What was the shooting schedule like compared to other films you have worked on?
LIANE: It was pretty hectic … 18 day shoot, three 6 day weeks …. Dan came in early and under budget.
DAVID: The character of Maggie, after the Devil takes over her body, takes a lot of hits in the film, usually to the face and usually by Dana Ashbrook’s character Chaser. Did he ever accidentally hit you for real?
LIANE: You should have seen him after I was through with him the one time he accidentally clipped me…never again, Dana…no…he NEVER hit me nor did I ever get hurt or hurt him doing it…fun was had by all…violent as it may have looked.
DAVID: To me, the character of Maggie must’ve been fun to play, especially since there are two sides to her. First you have the insecure and shy Maggie at the beginning and very end of the film. Then you have the possessed Maggie who is a sexy party girl. Did you prefer playing one side over the other?
LIANE: Well because I had way more to do as psycho Devil Maggie I have to say that I had a blast doing that and it came pretty naturally. Dorky, nervous Maggie was a lot of fun though too…especially when Anthony stuck his tongue in my ear…really hard not to laugh EVERY time… more of a stretch for me…lol!
DAVID: I know you are still in touch with Lezlie Deane to this day (and I want to thank you for introducing her to me). Are you still in touch with anyone else from the movie GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL?
LIANE: Well I I talk to Dana but quite infrequently, Ken Abraham and I talk from time to time, Hilary Morse, Anthony Barrile have drifted their own ways but I keep tabs on them via mutual friends. I do talk to Dan Peterson VERY often since we have a child, Tyler Curtis, together. Tyler is a senior at SFSU majoring in Eng Lit/Journalism minor. My daughter has appeared in one or two of his recent projects and I am doing a small role in ANGEL FALLS IN LOVE, Dan’s MOST recent venture (which he shot at my house just a few weekends ago!!!).
DAVID: Did you ever think that GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL would have such a cult following?
LIANE: I can never really tell what is going to happen…no I didn’t. This business is so crazy. Great films get shelved never to see the light of day, blockbuster movies pretty much suck (doesn’t mean I wouldn’t LOVE to be cast in one though) so you never know…crapshoot is the word that comes to mind…
DAVID: What drew you to the script?
LIANE: Anthony Barrile did originally. I read it and loved it and thought it would be a lot of fun. It cost me my relationship with my then agency ICM though…they were none too pleased I wanted to do it. They almost blew the deal for me too and Tawny Kattan would have been Maggie…
DAVID: Do you have any inside information on a possible DVD release?
LIANE: I wish…
DAVID: Is there anything else you would like to share about this movie?
LIANE: I lit a lot of farts on fire in my dressing room for Jeff’s benefit…
DAVID: What are you doing now?
LIANE: Keeping WAY busy with shepherding my 11-year-old daughter and her career as well as auditioning for stuff myself. Developing a brand for her and an original series for us both called BORDERS. A very reputable company ordered a spec script for that and I am hoping we get it to NETWORK by beginning of 2011. Keeping my heart open and putting one foot in front of the other…and breeding birds! I was diagnosed with raging ADHD at 36 which pretty much explains (but doesn’t excuse) all of my nutty behavior over the years. I think, even though it may not have served me as far as getting more jobs, it served to earn me a rep for being out of control, that it serves me more than it hurts me. I LIKE the way I am wired and wouldn’t change a thing! Take heart all of you afflicted humans! It’s only wiring!
I really would like to thank Liane for her kindness and willingness to be a part of this piece. If you haven’t seen GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL I highly recommend it and hopefully it will one day see a DVD release!