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The Bare Wench Project   F

MTI Home Video

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Jim Wynorski
Cast: Nikki Fritz, Julie Smith, Lorissa McComas, Antonia Dorian.

Review by Mike Bracken

Blair Witch parodies -- haven't we all endured enough of them already? I mean, in the summer of 1999, it was nearly impossible to turn on the TV without seeing some lame ABC sitcom, some Target commercial, MTV, or even my beloved Sportscenter mimicking certain parts of that film (most notably the scene where Heather gives her tear-filled farewell monologue to the camcorder). I suppose it was only a matter of time before the softcore porn industry weighed in with their own parody -- The Bare Wench Project (there's also another one that I've heard of entitled The Erotic Witch Project -- however, that one seems to be a little closer to actual hardcore porn than this entry). Hey, what red-blooded guy wouldn't find the idea of women running through the woods naked interesting? It was with that thought in mind that I rented the DVD.

The film basically apes The Blair Witch Project, only making casting changes (we're treated to four buxom female sorority sisters and a male guide) and trying to create a comedy instead of a horror film. Nikki (Nikki Fritz: Hotel Exotica) is a young documentarian working on her class project -- a shot-on-video documentary where she goes in search of the mythical Bare Wench. Legend has it that the Bare Wench was some kind of local prostitute who was forced out a mining town and now haunts the local forest. Along for the ride are classmates Chloe (Julie K. Smith: Day of the Warrior), Toni (Antonia Dorian: Ghoulies 4), Lori (Lorissa McComas: Love Games), and their guide, Lunk (Lenny Juliano: Desert Thunder). After a meeting with a local shop owner, Dick Bigdickian (legendary softcore director Andy Sidaris), who claims to have actually seen the wench, they set out into the forest.

Once their, our scantily clad females (no clothes from REI for these ladies, no sir -- there's not one bra here, and Chloe spends the whole movie traipsing through the forest in nothing but a tank top and panties) begin to do two things -- bicker, and become increasingly more sexually aroused (which is a side effect of being near the Wench). This of course leads to lots of toplessness, a few really lame lesbian scenes (including one in which the Wench herself makes an appearance, played by none other than Julie Strain in a bad blond wig), and tons of corny parodies of some of the real film's better scenes (including one where the girls stumble onto a grove of trees filled with signs of the Wench -- bras in the trees, a blow-up doll suspended upside down, and some weird symbols made from dildos -- har har har). Personally, about 20 minutes in I figured out what this film needed -- cannibals. Had a tribe of jungle savages caught these women, made them slaves, then ate them this movie might have actually worked. Where oh where is Ruggero Deodato or Umberto Lenzi when you need them?

The film was directed by hack Jim Wynorski (who made the lame Sorority House Massacre 2 and Hard To Die, which was pitched as Die Hard in a building, with scantily clad lingerie models -- in other words, movies mainly designed to show buxom women in various states of undress before they wound up slaughtered). Wynorski definitely seems to like making these kinds of softcore films where he mixes horror and nudity (although, to be honest, there's no horror here), but unfortunately, he's not very good at it. No one expects to see brilliant filmmaking in a movie like this, or decent performances (because these women are generally chosen for their roles based on their physical attributes instead of their acting ability), but you do at least hope to see a few things that inspire a guilty giggle, and maybe a few titillating scenes of simulated passion. Wynorski doesn't deliver either here -- the jokes are largely unfunny (in fact, the funniest moment of the whole film occurs during the credits, where, in an outtake sequence, Antonia Dorian needs at least six takes to get the lines "I started it with a piece of paper" and "I got it out of backpack" right) and the few scenes of simulated sex are hokey, fake looking, and so short that they're not worth mentioning. If you're some Star Trek fan who's 35 and still lives in your parent's basement, you might find this film erotic -- if you've actually been with another human being you're guaranteed to find the sex scenes hilarious.

About the only thing the film does get right is the Blair Witch-style camera work. The film is shot on camcorder, most of it handheld -- so, you get lots of bouncing shots and whirling around. If you got a headache watching The Blair Witch Project, you might have the same thing happen here.

The performances are pretty awful, too, not that you'd expect anything else. Fritz is actually watchable in the scenes where she keeps her clothes on, demonstrating that she can actually deliver a line, and perhaps even improvise a bit (I'm not sure how much improvisation these ladies did in the film -- I don't think most of them would actually be capable of it). The other three co-stars are basically your stereotypical porn starlets/strippers -- they look quite appealing until they open their mouth. Chloe has one unintentionally hilarious scene where she tells a ghost story/monologue. My oh-so-observant girlfriend made the remark that the Robert Shaw monologue in Jaws might now have some stiff competition for best film monologue of all time -- I laughed more at that than anything in the film. Of course, you're not watching this movie for the performances anyway, so I'll cut to the chase. All four women are decent looking, and most guys should find at least one they find attractive out of the bunch.

I doubt that I even need to comment on Lenny Juliano's performance as Lunk. Lunk's basically like one of those lame guys we all know who follow the good looking women around making a jerk of himself -- the less said about that, the better (although, I found myself wondering how much of his performance was actually 'acting' -- I don't get the impression that it was a very high percentage).

I viewed the film on DVD -- the picture isn't very nice, and there are relatively few extras (a trivia game that I didn't have the heart to check out and chapter selections). The DVD's big selling point is that it's the unedited director's cut. Personally, there was nothing objectionable in this film, so I'm at a loss as to what was cut from the other version -- and I can't imagine how absolutely lame that version of the movie must truly be.

All in all, The Bare Wench Project was a major letdown. I didn't approach this film looking for anything other than pure cheese and naked women, and it couldn't even deliver the goods in those categories. Jim Wynorski turns in another turgid film that showcases the fact that he doesn't have the first clue about making an effective B-movie. What little promise is hinted at by the box and the plot synopsis is never realized. You can safely skip The Bare Wench Project -- there are at least a million other, better, erotic thrillers at your video store.

Review published 09.04.2000.

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