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observation notes: Wildflower

For this one we've got to get in The Asylum Way-Back Machine, and return to the year 2000 and the studio's early days when original productions were far fewer than they are now. This film - a steamy and twisting erotic thriller - is of particular note, as it was directed by Asylum producer David Michael Latt (Megafault, War of the Worlds).

After the death - by a prostitute-induced heart attack - of a wildly successful L.A. businessman, his three grown children - a cuthroat and selfish son (Dean Stapleton), a snarky and empowered daughter (Kim Little) and an unraveling alcoholic/gambling addict younger son (Chris Hoffman) - head for the family's remote cabin to negotiate the division of Daddy's empire. When the youngest son picks up a nympho hottie fleeing a dickhead boyfriend (despite having his lady on the trip), she helps incite a spellbinding and sensuous struggle for power, control and - most importantly - money. Intrigue, eroticism and peril ensue.

On the surface, this might come across as just another low-budget flesh fest, a flimsy story to support ample displays of nudity. And don't get me wrong, there's a lot of nudity in this, a Solid A for nudity, but the story is anything but flimsy. The script, by one Angel Orona, his only effort to date, is intricate, thrilling and sound, a story with hints of Basic Instinct, Indecent Proposal, The Last Seduction, Double Indemnity (I said it) and, of course, Daddy's Dying, Who's Got The Will? There are twists and turns (that I won't reveal) that while sensational are not at all outlandish or contrived, and help to deliver a solid and in fact superb B-thriller. 

Another element helping elevate this above the pack is a capable cast with good chemistry, especially among the three siblings. Dean Stapleton plays egomanical douchebag "Ethan" as a stern and dickish philandering asshole you can't help but hate, while at the same time strangely respecting his will and ambition; Kim Little (Supercroc, Princess and the Pony, Killers 1 & 2) as "Audrey," the sister, undergoes an intense and surprising character arc, an evolution pulled off flawlessly by Ms. Little, who reminded me here of an actually intelligent Bridget Fonda; and Chris Hoffman as weakest link "Dennis" does an excellent job making us believe he is the sort of young, rich sleaze with drinking and gambling problems who would pick up an extra chick for the weekend then try and get his other girl to sleep with her (which, SPOILER, she does), while simultaneously making the same character sympathetic and even endearing.

Other notables include CC Costigan as the nympho hottie that joins the team - sultry and sinister, the film's femme fatale, oozing wicked sensuality - Kristina Edlund as Ethan's embattled and embittered trophy wife, "Jackie" - a rigid, modest, cold woman, the result of a debasing marriage and the realization she may not be the only trophy in the case - and Tammie Sheffield as Dennis' original girlfriend, "Zooey" - the film's sweetest eye candy.

Overall then, allow me to reiterate what I said earlier: this is a tense erotic thriller, heavy on the "erotic," rife with impassioned performances that elevate this above the usual D2DVD fare. Is it campy? Yeah, sure, a little bit. Is it low-budget? Oh hell yes. Is it exploitative? Absolutely. And in addition to all this greatness, there's an actual film here, with a strong, intriguing narrative that doesn't fall apart at the end, quite the opposite, it keeps escalating, raising the bar, each level more thrilling than the one before. I'm not just whistling Dixie here, puffing smoke or kissing ass. This is a solid movie, an actual thriller, erotic, yes, but more than that, it's intelligent, effective, suspenseful and just plain fun. 

And that's all I'm ever looking for.

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