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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sugar Hill (1974) - Voodoo Revenge

This review is part of the Final Girl Film Club, run by the talented and awesome Stacy Ponder. I do not think I would have ever found this film on my own. It is a mid seventies, blaxsploitation voodoo revenge story and I have to say they are not my main focus. The story goes like this; Langston (Larry D. Johnson) owns the hot Club Haiti and is doing well in his business. Local underworld crime boss Morgan (Robert Quarry) is trying to get Langston to sell the club at a thieves price. Lanston the cool operator tells him to step off. So Morgan has his men beat him to death in the parking lot of his club. This happens quick almost right after the opening credit. I have to say the theme song that plays in the credits is... Just fucking excellent it was "Supernatural Voodoo Woman" by The Originals you can here it on YouTube here.
Fine and fierce girlfriend Diana 'Sugar' Hill (Marki Bey) sees this and wants revenge. She inherits the club and while pretending to be subordinate in her relationship with the aggressive Morgan she secretly heads home to set up her revenge. She gets aide from Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully) an aging voodoo priestess. Together they do a ceremony to call upon the the king of the dead Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley). He agrees to help her get her revenge by raising a zombie army to do Sugar's bidding. She then uses the very cool metallic half ping pong eyed zombies to kill Morgan's thugs one by one.
The rest is pretty standard revenge flick as the setup of each killing , then the killing take place and the pressure on Morgan grows. There are subplots, and ex boyfriend cop, Valentine (Richard Lawson) who reconnects to Sugar after Lanston's death and investigates the killings. He is a lost plot point in this and never quite catches up to the goings on. There is also the racist girlfriend Morgan constantly belittles and verbally abuses, Celeste (Betty Anne Rees), her ending is the strangest of all.
Overall this is a good movie, the story is straight forward, the zombies are creepy, the bad guys get what is coming to them. Still there is something missing, it is too straight forward. It never challenges, to question if revenge is right or wrong. It does not explore, nor seem to have negative effects. Getting revenge with zombies is just how things happen and the price is not very high for this kind of help. In this story Sugar is right to do what she does and there is never a question of whether she should. Then the ending really gives Sugar a free ride and for me, at least, it took away from the impact of the film.
The whites in this film are the bad guys and boy being a progressive open accepting person it is very difficult and disturbing to hear the misogynistic bully Morgan does with Celeste and even harder to see and hear such racist dialog. It may fit their characters and certainly the messages of this genre are not lost on me, but my hair was on end with some of this.
Performances are good in this film and it was really cool to recognize a couple of the players. Zara Cully would later be Mama Jefferson on the show The Jeffersons, I loved her on that show and here she does a fine job with her crazy white hair and time worn look. Then on top of it Count Yorga himself Robert Quarry, as a kid one of the scariest things I remember from movies, is Count Yorga running straight at the camera with his bloody red eyes and claws up. That's the way you scare a twelve year old.
Rating ( 5.3) 5.0 and up are recommended, In the Zombiegrrlz rating system I would say Rent it!

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