Hard To Die
U.S.A. / 1990
Directed by Jim Wynorski
Robyn Harris
Melissa Moore
Forrest J Ackerman
Color / 81 Minutes / R
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
New Concorde Video
Dialog from the film
Legendary Soul Box
MP3 format - 0.7 MB
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    5   10 = Highest Rating  
While working after hours in a high-rise office complex, five female employees of the Acme Lingerie Company find themselves trapped inside during a fierce storm and besieged by a supernatural serial killer. One by one the gals are picked off... but not before each has the opportunity to shower and try on the latest in sexy underwear. Though they don't realize it, the man they mistakenly think is stalking them — fat, unkempt janitor Orville Ketchum (Peter Spellos) — knows the true nature of the evil loose in the building and does his damnedest to protect them. He never gives up, never waivers — even after the panicked women repeatedly beat, stab and shoot him, still believing him to be the killer. Nothing can stop Orville from his showdown with the real culprit. He's very hard to die...
    Okay, so Merchant-Ivory it's not.
    Representative of the "everything but the kitchen sink" school of low budget exploitation filmmaking, this is one of those Z-grade rarities that actually achieves what it strives to do: provide all-encompassing entertainment for drunks and stoners flopped on the sofa at 2 AM in the morning. Like a good TV dinner, it's over quickly and you get a variety of the staples. You've got your naked women — five of 'em, all of whom at least get topless — taking a succession of showers then running around in high heels and lingerie screaming their heads off; an evil spirit-possessed serial killer (for a cheesy special effects shot and an injection of slasher elements); a much-abused but indestructible Wile E. Coyote type to absorb comedic punishment (only he's a good guy); copious submachine gun fire (when the two surviving gals find a cache of fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles in the office tower's gun shop!); and, in lieu of John Carradine, the flick even has Forrest J Ackerman in a plot-relevant supporting role as an occult expert. (Forry Ackerman? Yes, "Dr. Acula" himself, original publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland and the Granddaddy of all American 'Monster Kids' over the age of 40.) Hard To Die is moronic and dumb but kind of funny in parts — even when it's trying to be. (Can you believe Forry as an elderly anthropologist who's also a combat veteran of Khe Sahn?)
    B-movie auteur Jim Wynorksi, directing under the alias "Arch Stanton" (a cheeky reference to The Good, the Bad & the Ugly), knows he isn't making art here, putting the emphasis firmly where it belongs: exploitation. The running gag of the unstoppable Orville is milked for all its worth and, surprisingly, actually works most of the time. (This Human Timex — who takes a licking and keeps on ticking — is repeatedly kneed in the crotch, stabbed with a knife and a paper spindle, tumbles down a flight of stairs, plummets 15 stories from the roof of the building and is shot at least a hundred times!) The ladies are attractive, if not exactly great thespians, with cute 'n' spunky Robyn (aka Gail) Harris and tall, buxom blonde Melissa Moore (Samurai Cop) the most recognizable brea— ahem, faces among them. Virtually the same cast appeared in nearly identical circumstances in Wynorski's Sorority House Massacre 2 (also 1990), which Hard To Die is a direct sequel to. However, the actors don't all play the same characters they did in Sorority House Massacre 2. Adding to the confusion, SHM 2 is itself a 'fake' sequel to the original Sorority House Massacre (1987), which Wynorski had nothing to do with and featured a completely different cast... Believe me, I'm as confused as you are at this point. (Perhaps future reviews will be able to clarify this conundrum.)
    All that's really missing in this potpourri of schlock is gore, probably because their wasn't enough money in the budget for any serious effects. (Blood is splashed and squirted on a wall; that's about it.) Maybe they thought getting too squishy would detract from the comedy... In any event, Hard To Die is a fun, silly time-waster that doesn't require very many functioning brain cells to enjoy. A few good bong hits and/or stiff drinks make the ideal viewing accessories.

New Concord isn't exactly known for tricked-out DVDs and its new edition of Hard To Die is no exception. You get the movie, its trailer, and trailers for other direct-to-video New Concorde titles (Concealed Weapons, Don't Sleep Alone, and Exposé, which all give a distinct impression of suckiness). The film itself looks pretty good. It's grainy — nothing at all unusual for such a low budget flick — but relatively free of print damage. Apparently shot open matte, it's presented here fullframe, which I'd think is the correct aspect ratio. I found it amusing that, when viewing the disc on my computer's DVD-ROM drive, I could clearly see that two of the ladies were showering with panties on! (This was not visible on the 32" TV in my living room.) Sound quality isn't stellar but is more than adequate to the task... Your speakers aren't going to get a workout, even with all that gunfire and screaming. 7/13/04
UPDATE This DVD went out of print in 2006 or thereabouts, and is now going for ridiculous sums. Wouldn't it be great to have a new (proper) release of this film from say... Shout! Factory?