Friday September 27, 1996

     Judging from the crime scene, what we have here is a double case of arrested development.
     Gabriela (Angela Jones), the heroine of Reb Braddock's freely hemorrhaging "Curdled," has a thing about murder. She's not a "freak," we're told frequently. But just the thought of mass murder, serial killing and untidy dismemberment make her feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
     She's felt this way since her childhood in Colombia and, fortunately, now lives in Miami, where she can go to work for a firm that specializes in cleaning up murder scenes, and thereby indulge her fetish.
     Which, if I'm not mistaken, is what the filmmaker's are about as well. Braddock and co-writer John Maass--with the able assistance of executive producer Quentin Tarantino--have created a story in which they get to revel in bloodshed, slopping it about until we can virtually feel the texture of whatever syrup they're using. Strawberry? That we have time to wonder says something about the rest of the story.
     There's a mass murderer afoot among the moneyed of Miami, one who preys on older, richer women and then stabs them multiple times before lopping off their heads with a samurai sword. Played by William Baldwin, this cutlery-happy fellow likes to watch his ventilated victims crawl across the floor, and through their own gore, before administering his coup de gra^ce. The filmmakers seem to like it, too. In fact, they seem, well, obsessed.
     "Curdled" starts out all right, with Joseph Julian Gonzalez's hot music percolating, the quite plausible streets of 1977 Colombia steaming and a gunshot and a body falling out a window. People immediately crowd around it. I don't know about you, but I think if I heard shots fired, my impulse wouldn't be to run toward the gunfire. But they do, and then they run down the street, as if to chase the assailant, who by all indications is still upstairs.
     Like the movie, these people know no fear, or logic either. Take Baldwin's wide-roaming killer Paul Guell (ghoul?): Would a bartender cutting up members of such a small circle of people not be the first suspect? This is a comedy, ostensibly. "That's about the sickest thing I've ever seen" Paul says, after surreptitiously watching Gabriela do a dance of death around his latest victim's taped outline. Little else is either funny or easy to stomach. It has a frat house sensibility, a Showdown at the Gross-Out Corral kind of attitude that will probably leave you cold. Or very, very excited.

Curdled, 1996. R, for violence and gore, and for brief language. A Band Apart and Tinderbox Films production, released by Miramax. Director Reb Braddock. Producers John Maass, Raul Puig. Screenplay Maass, Braddock. Cinematographer Steven Bernstein. Editor Mallory Gottlieb. Costumes Beverly Nelson Safier. Music Joseph Julian Gonzalez. Production design Sherman Williams. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Angela Jones as Gabriela. William Baldwin as Paul Guell. Bruce Ramsay as Eduardo. Lois Chiles as Katrina Brandt.

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