Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Beauty Queen Butcher (1991)
Camp Motion Pictures | Review by Mike Wood

A long film (about two hours), and one that takes a long time to get to any real action, this is essentially a riff on the CARRIE theme: high school ugly (and overweight) duckling is lead along by vicious hotties to believe that she is about to fit in with the popular folks. What separates this from the pack is the truly unsettling relish with which our heroine is picked on and how she enacts her revenge.

The plot is simple enough: all the popular girls at the high school are entered in the beauty pageant, and sure-fire winner Muffy Fairlane (Kathy Mensik) for some reason doesn't want any of her equally vain friends to finish last. So they invite Pyhllis (Rhona Brody), the obese nerd they love to torment, to enter and fill the also-ran role. Yet they can’t resist humiliating her, in and out of school; in a final and uncomfortable scene, they microwave her cat, which has been causing allergic reactions for some of the beauties. This is the straw that seals Phyllis’ turn into an enraged killer, and she bumps off the girls one by one until she is, by default, the beauty queen.

While the acting is over-the-top – particularly that of Jim Boggess, who plays pageant chairwoman Betty Prunish with an Ed Woodian, three-day old shadow relish in his own outrageousness – there is a somber overall tone to the film. It's as if all involved know that what they are portraying, however exaggerated, is based on a sad truth of teen life.

For a no-budget flick that apparently wasn’t even released on VHS back in the day, the camerawork is effective and the transitions between scenes are smart and seem to have design. Director Jill Zurborg deserves some love for the attention to detail. Given all that, this is a hard film to watch at times, and without a lot of the loveable amateurishness aspects of some other Camp Motion Picture releases is for completists only.


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