The only really interesting thing about Debbie Rochon’s directorial debut MODEL HUNGER is that it’s Debbie Rochon’s directorial debut MODEL HUNGER. It’s no different from thousands of other no budget horror flicks (see: Troma) with a star or two off the convention circuit (see: Lynn Lowry, Tiffany Shepis) and a director who’s made her bread and butter acting in this type of fare (see: Ms. Rochon). It’s got poor special effects, a meandering script, and some acting so far below the Quality Equator that it hits the pole and starts to make its way back up the Southern hemisphere of horror. Other than Lowry’s comical attempt at a Southern accent (at least I hope it was comical), there’s nothing in the flick that loudly yells, “This is Debbie Rochon’s directorial debut MODEL HUNGER!” and that’s a shame. If only this flick had been a lot more in the vein of TEEN APE VS. THE MONSTER NAZI APOCALYPSE.
The flick starts out with a disparate group of characters. A cheerleading coach bitches at her squad to sell cheer-related paraphernalia; an old dude refuses to buy; across the street from said old dude, Lowry’s Southern oldster Ginny is happy to invite in the young ladies, then kill and maybe eat them; oh and Tiffany Shepis’ unhappily married Debbie and her husband are moving into the neighborhood, just in time for bloody shenanigans. The only binding element in any of this is what I believe to be an infomercial in which a bizarre hostess goads a fat cross-dresser who is just begging to be the next Divine (yet falls quite a bit short, if not in the waistline). According to this flick, I’m supposed to believe that every single person watches this same infomercial at 2 a.m. That’s quite a cross section of lifestyles drawn into an extended ad that would more likely repulse your average viewer. Most important, Ginny has a connection with the show that lies somewhere between radical feminism and rampant psychosis.
Rochon plays all this with a straight face, shockingly. In my review of WINNERS TAPE ALL, I mentioned how the two directors that were at the heart of the faux doc should have had a wild gleam in their eye; I expected much the same out of Rochon, and that it would reflect in her project. But it’s relatively devoid of any nutzoid humor, as if Rochon left all her zaniness on the set of RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH VOL. 2. Without it, the flick becomes maudlin very quickly, and is no fun at all. Some levity could’ve saved it, but that’s not Rochon’s approach.
And then it occurred to me: instead of following in the style of Hell of Famer/ Rochon mentor Lloyd Kaufman, perhaps DE’s reigning Queen of Queens was angling at making a John Waters film. After all, such elements of filmmaking as focus pulling, proper framing and coherence of plot never got in Waters’ way, and he’s a trash legend on par with Kaufman. And hey, making an homage to Waters worked for Richard Bates, Jr. But don’t let the nod to Divine fool you, MODEL HUNGER shares very little DNA with Waters’ catalogue. Whereas his films seek the landfill that is the underbelly of American society, Rochon merely presents eccentric characters, plopping them down and letting them slowly meander until they cross paths with Ginny.
Without much humor, lacking any real raunchiness (there’s very little nudity), with about 20 minutes left MODEL HUNGER wants to be a message movie. It drops its point with sledgehammer subtlety. As Ginny is lopping off body parts of yet another victim, she launches into a tear-driven speech about how men have always exploited women. Though she’s right, this point fails on many levels. First, this is an exploitation flick that revolves around the murders of several young women. There’s lots of bloodshed, which culminates in a female circumcision. So it’s using the very tropes it’s attacking. Then there’s the fact that Debbie Rochon has spent a good portion of her onscreen career naked, and she even told me in an interview that she doesn’t think nudity is a big thing in film. So I have no idea why she would choose to preach about this in her directorial debut. And finally, Ginny is a psychopath. Her way of balancing the playing field is by tearing a gash through her neighborhood, slaughtering pretty much anyone who comes to her front door without a badge and a gun. This flick’s message could be made and made powerfully. A shame that MODEL HUNGER fails to deliver it so.
The one shining part of MODEL HUNGER is Tiffany Shepis’ portrayal of Debbie. She’s come a long way from TROMEO AND JULIET, and she gives the only credible performance in the flick. I don’t know if, given the name, she’s an avatar for Rochon (Rule #1 about fiction: Never name a character in your art after yourself). All I know is that I wanted to see her character triumph, if only because Shepis sold her so well. I probably should have wanted to see her play Debbie in another movie, because Shepis deserved better. Kudos to her for not playing down to the material.
You only get one chance at a directorial debut, and as much as I love Debbie Rochon, I did not enjoy hers. Given some experience and a much better script, I hope she’ll create a more fun project with her sophomore effort. And that instead of MODEL HUNGER 2, maybe she’ll turn her eye to MULVA vs. SGT. KABUKIMAN.
Kind thanks to Justin Cook and Wild Eye Releasing for providing this screener. MODEL HUNGER hit Digital HD and DVD earlier this month.