Barn of the Naked Dead Review (1974)

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Barn of the Naked Dead Review (1974)

Horrorific content by penguin_pete on October 17th, 2018 | Movie Review | Survival, Psychological, Confined, Maniac, Isolation

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It’s about a psychopath ringmaster in the desert who keeps women locked up in a barn and forces them to perform sadistic games.

Barn of the Naked Dead was directed by Alan Rudolph (who also directed Endangered Species and Premonition) and stars Andrew Prine (from Sutures), Manuela Thiess and Sherry Alberoni (from Sisters of Death).

AKA: Nightmare Circus

Captive young girls... chained... abused... by a Madman!

Barn of the Naked Dead Review

The Difference Between Exploitation And Misogyny...

Our discussion topic for today is “exploitation vs. misogyny.” Some who would argue that there is no difference - porn, softcore porn, and exploitation are all inherently misogynistic. Present Author isn’t going to argue too hard against that, because we have much more crappy ground to cover with this movie.

But I will point out that a line can be drawn between the two. Porn and exploitation might portray women as vapid bimbos and ogle them like pieces of meat, but still not take away their core humanity. They are usually depicted as consenting, albeit like horny polecats, but owning their decision process nonetheless.

The horror genre gets accused of misogyny a lot, and I’m not going to defend it much here. But even in most exploitation flicks, there’s either a pretense of female empowerment when the bawdy tart gets her head-rolling revenge, or some moral point is made however crudely, or at least humanity in general isn’t portrayed too negatively. Horror’s business is to horrify us, and the source of the horror is typically some foible of humans. The genre is inherently moralist overall.

Misogyny goes out of its way to be crueler to women than it has to be. It’s the difference between disposing of mice with a quick, efficient mousetrap and slowly torturing them to death with boiling oil. Misogyny brings all genders down with it; it holds women in revulsion and holds men as soulless monster psychopaths who automatically prey on all women equally. When a movie is blatant, unfettered misogyny that revels in itself, that’s when we get The Cell, Bloodsucking Freaks, or...

This Sick Bastard

Barn of the Naked Dead AKA Terror Circus AKA Nightmare Circus is about Andre (Andrew Prine), a warped circus ringmaster who lives in the back desert of Nevada and preys on traveling women for sick little games involving his menagerie of captive animals including a cougar, a snake, a wandering mutant, plus a cracking whip. Women having car trouble end up in his clutches.

The women are passive prey. They either meekly stay chained to posts in the hay, or if they’re not restrained yet, they simply stand around like clucking hens waiting for Andre to capture them. Andre can apparently overpower women three-against-one with nothing but his trusty whip and some meek orders. Once captured, the women sit around with chains around their necks with ample room to slip them off, in a barn of rotten wood that would collapse with one kick, and regale each other with stories of Andre’s cruelty, not even scared or angry but just mildly peeved. Dinner for them is a slop-bucket poured into pie pans.

There is some back-story with people out looking for all these missing women. An agent who booked three women in Vegas who never showed up takes to the road to search for them, in a B-plot that yawns through motel rooms, bars, diners, and dives with idiotic patrons and pointless, ineffective cops. There’s lots of phone calls, padded out so we see each stop, each number dialed, each full conversation. The agent gets pulled over for speeding and then thinks to file a missing-persons report in mid-traffic-ticket.

There’s also hunters out in the desert encountering Andre’s compound. One hunter in a Southpark knit cap sees the mutant coming for him and gently sets down his gun before turning, tripping over a bush, and rolling onto his back like a turtle while giving a half-scream, half-yawn "aaaaa."

Andre gets half a back-story about mommy issues (Gosh, really? Never would have guessed!) and fixates on one captive as a mommy stand-in. Guess where all of the above goes? *NOWHERE!* The mutant kills everybody at the end, the cops show up too late to help and “My God!” at the scene, then they leisurely escort the last catatonic survivors away. Nothing explained, nothing tied up, just "f*** you for watching": The End.

It’s hard to tell what’s really going on anyway, given director Alan Rudolph’s complete lack of story-telling ability. His scenes have no beginning, middle, or end, they just happen like farts. Tense scenes randomly cut away to pointless driving shots and then back to the previous scene. One positive take-away with his films is that he’s unintentionally educational, because you never have a true appreciation for film grammar until you see the work of someone 110% illiterate in that study.

It Sounds More Fun Than It Is

Barn of the Naked Dead doubles down on its problems by wasting what little intrigue its premise could have stirred up. Despite the title, there’s only one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bathing scene for nakedness, and there’s actually very little action shown, just implied. It is not even mildly scary. There is not an inch of thrill to it. The whole movie is a big downer; a depressing, boring, pointless, hateful mess. There is no characterization or motive for anybody, no logic to any action. Everybody in this movie is stupid as a rock.

At one point, Andre even carelessly leaves a key lying around which the women eventually manage to conspire to reach, only for the first one who grabs it to unlock herself, throw the key away while the rest of the women reach for it instead of letting them all escape at once, and then she runs right into Andre. All together now: “What a moron!” Record that and play it on a loop for the whole movie. Andre punishes the escapee, so each crack of Andre’s whip is punctuated by funny saxophone stabs, because it’s funny laugh goddamn you. One of the other captive women laughs at the whipping. Ha ha, that’ll teach the bitch for doing what we’re all hoping every day to do!

The whole movie has dully sadistic scenes set to cheery, boppy jazz music and filmed on a shoestring budget with junkyard sets. As mind-blowing a feat as this is, it even manages to make the wild Nevada desert look ugly as hell. I do see people sometimes praise Andrew Prine’s performance here, but I just don’t see it. He’s got a few hammy monologues, but he’s far from a memorable villain. He’s nowhere near the Hannibal Lecter level of alpha male it would take to maintain a barn of chained women. When he tells them they all belong to him now, I expect him to add “if, uh, it’s alright with you.”

Most hideous of all to contemplate, director Alan Rudolph has some fans out there! I’m sorry, but I’ve seen several Alan Rudolph movies now and can not think of a single director I loathe, with every ounce of marrow in my bones, more than this talentless sewer troll. No amount of incompetence could explain such malice; Rudolph repeatedly teases with ideas that almost have potential, scenes that almost complete, and characters that almost act like Earth-based life forms, and then deliberately ruins them. Do not be misled by Hanlon’s Razor here. Alan Rudolph hates movies, people who watch movies, himself, and all that is good and happy in the universe.

This Movie Is Society’s Fault

Barn of the Naked Dead is so much more than merely a bad movie! Other bad movies just lie there and stink; this one is in the special class of movie that make you stink when you watch it. You feel guilty for being here, and guilty that we, as a society, allow things like this to run loose. You get suspicious that maybe this was the artist’s intent, that it’s actually a deep, profound masterpiece about why God needs to smite man with a flaming comet of extinction, and then you’re left questioning who you even are anymore.

If you choose to behold this abomination for yourself, a recovery period of aftercare cuddling with your significant other, a nonjudgmental pet, or even the biggest, fluffiest stuffed animal on your bedspread is prescribed. Perhaps enjoy a refreshing alcoholic beverage or two brewed with yeast that’s smarter than this director. Listen to some upbeat music. Restore your faith in humanity. We can improve; we have improved.

It is for this outstanding achievement in rottenness that this movie gets zero stars: Normally the worst of the worst are prime candidates for “So Bad It’s Good” hilarity like Plan 9, but "Yawn of the Brainless Head" crosses the line so many times that it plummets beyond “ Star Wars Holiday Special bad” into its own crater at the bottom of Hell.

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