Cult Filmmakers You Should Know #12: David DeCoteau

Cult Filmmakers You Should Know: David DeCoteau

By Michael Varrati

Devil-worshippers and arcane voodoo cults are pretty commonplace in the world of horror cinema. From ancient orders to modern-practitioners of the occult lurking in suburbia, audiences have pretty much seen it all when it comes to indentured service to the forces of darkness. However, if said servants just so happen to be muscular, college-aged men clad only in their underwear…there’s more than a passing chance that they’ve been brought to sinister life by B-movie icon David DeCoteau.

Through a lens of Abercrombie model villainy, the work of this prolific filmmaker has long reigned over the world of home video homoerotic horror. Yet, for all the gratuitous boxer brief butchers that DeCoteau has made flesh, there exists a more important element at play in his presentation than mere ogling of Adonis actors. Like any truly good exploitation filmmaker, DeCoteau has found a subject to exploit for the audience’s voyeuristic pleasure, often executing his intent with gleeful aplomb. That said, rarely does DeCoteau ever truly cross the line into the true subtext, merely teasing the audience with the implication and using it as a crux for the horror inherent in the story.

…and really, why not?

All DeCoteau has truly done is inverse the formula. For far too long audiences have gathered to see the bodies of the latest “scream queen” flaunted across the screen, women being objectified and exposed for the pleasure of flesh hungry audiences. DeCoteau has merely taken this formula and applied it to the boys for a change, observing the fact that if many horror films were made to take advantage of the female form, why couldn’t he do the opposite?

From this notion has sprung a line of successful movies, mostly produced for the direct-to-video market, featuring a slew of scream kings taking on the oft exploited roles once held by their sisters. One of DeCoteau’s most popular titles, The Brotherhood (about a Fraternity of boys who become blood-sucking vampires), has been so well-received that it has spawned no less than five sequels.

DeCoteau’s explorations into this genre of sin cinema he almost single-handedly created have been numerous. From attacking well-meaning dudes with sinister wildlife in his animal swarm movie Leeches to giving a fresh spin on the works of Edgar Allan Poe in a slew of flicks that apply the DeCoteau formula, the man has created a veritable empire for himself in the world of horror.

Yet, for all these films that carry his remarkable hallmark, to assume that DeCoteau is simply a niche director or one-trick pony would be a most grievous error. You see, long before he established himself as the man who wrangled the muscle, DeCoteau was already a force to be reckoned with during the boom of 80s horror.

Having already directed nearly a dozen films in the mid-80s, DeCoteau first rose to cult prominence with 1987’s camp masterpiece, Nightmare Sisters. Proving that he knew how to play with the girls long before he brought the boys to the yard, Nightmare Sisters is an exercise in everything that makes a legitimately fun 80s horror flick. Featuring stand-out performances from three of the genre’s reigning women in horror- Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer- the film tells the story of a trio of geekified college girls who turn to the forces of darkness to help get a date. Possessed by demons and insatiably sex starved, Nightmare Sisters is the kind of horror movie that late night cable was made for and a perfect example of a master of the craft just getting started.

The same year as Nightmare Sisters, DeCoteau unleashed another soon to be cult masterpiece in the form of Creepazoids, a tale of alien survival featuring a returning Linnea Quigley. Becoming a popular rental choice in the VHS horror-era, Creepazoids served to cement a budding fan base for the emerging filmmaker, and remains an enduring classic at horror conventions and in the hearts of B-movie aficionados.

In the year following Creepazoids, DeCoteau released what remains my favorite of his early works, the suburban bowling terror flick breathtakingly titled Sorority Babes in the Slime Bowl-O-Rama. Reuniting his three iconic leads from Nightmare Sisters, DeCoteau utilized Sorority Babes to unleash an impossibly fun tale of blood and gore in a bowling alley, throwing into the mix a devilish troll demon and ample screen nudity for the audience member who demands more for their schlock buck. Occasionally forgotten in the pantheon of modern mainstream horror, Sorority Babes in the Slime Bowl-O-Rama remains a heavy influence on a bevy of indie flicks, ranging from the works of Troma to former cult filmmaker Mike Watt’s own tale of bowling alley shenanigans, Demon Divas and the Lanes of Damnation.

Further lending to DeCoteau’s cult credibility is the fact that the maestro of fleshy exploitation has directed no less than four of the iconic Puppet Master films (one of which, Retro Puppet Master, stars All About Evil’s own Jack Donner). Collaborating with franchise creator Charles Band (a cult filmmaker in his own right), DeCoteau’s involvement has been instrumental in keeping the franchise alive in the hearts of its fans, delivering some of the most beloved installments in the series’ long run.

From killer babes, bodacious boys, evil puppets, and all that’s between, David DeCoteau is one genre master who has truly done it all. But time and achievement show no sign of slowing the always busy filmmaker. Having directed over 80 feature films, DeCoteau continues to forge ahead, his production company, Rapid Heart Pictures, creating new fright flicks on a near consistent basis. These days DeCoteau has seized control of his fan base, crafting many horror films for direct play on the here! TV network.  Movies such as the The Invisible Chronicles (DeCoteau’s take on the H.G. Wells’ classic, featuring a scantily clad invisible boy) and the savage killer flick The Beastly Boys ensure that a whole new generation of genre fans will have no problem discovering and accessing DeCoteau’s work for years to come.

As of this writing, DeCoteau’s latest feature, 1313: Nightmare Mansion is poised for release in little over a month’s time. Though the tagline declares it to be “A Supernatural Thriller for Girls,” one look at the poster indicates that the film will stick to the tried and true DeCoteau formula and please all audience members…

…provided that they like their scares with a side of beefcake.

Of course, that doesn’t bother us here at Peaches Christ HQ, because whether that’s your thing or not, we have always respected filmmakers with a style and substance all their own. For all of his contributions to horror, let alone for creating his own veritable sub-genre, David DeCoteau has all that and more…

…and is truly a Cult Filmmaker You Should Know.

So, grab some popcorn, a DVD, and BVDs…and have yourself a DeCoteau night.

Until next time!

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