(The following article first appeared in 2019 in The Important Cinema Club Journal)
“Eric Roberts as a talking cat.”
Few movies could hope to match such a pitch, but 2013’s A Talking Cat!?! is like few movies. Described by The A.V. Club as “The Room of anthropomorphic animal movies featuring Eric Roberts,” its plot (two families are brought together by a magical cat who can only talk once to whoever he encounters) sounds like a typical Disney sitcom, but its rock-bottom special effects and otherworldly, vaguely porn-y ambience have made it one of the defining cult oddities of the decade.
Anyone who sees A Talking Cat!?! leaves with question, “Who made this?” Though credited to “Mary Crawford,” it was actually the work of David DeCoteau, one of the most prolific exploitation filmmakers of our time.
DeCoteau’s B-movie credentials couldn’t be stronger: he worked as a production assistant for Roger Corman, cut his teeth in the porn world, and eventually landed his first mainstream directing assignment, Dreamaniac (1986), from legendary producer Charles Band (head honcho of Empire Pictures and Full Moon Entertainment). Since then, he has worked nonstop. If you spent any time at a video store in the ‘90s, you’re probably familiar with a few of DeCoteau’s dozens of eye-catching titles: Creepozoids (1987), Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), Nightmare Sisters (1988), Beach Babes from Beyond (1993), Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000 (1994), Retro Puppet Master (1999), and many more.
There’s plenty of fun trash in that list, but for me, DeCoteau really gets interesting in the 2010s, as shrinking budgets have turned his films into strange Hollywood dreamscapes. For starters: in contrast to the jiggly boobfests he made in the ‘80s and ‘90s, DeCoteau’s own queerness pervades his post-2000 output. His signature latter-day franchise is the 1313 series—bizarre, no-budget PG-13 homoerotica in which hot dudes in tightie-whities are terrorized by aging scream queens (Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, Helene Udy, etc) in haunted mansions. Running parallel to these, and often using the same sets and actors, have been his family films, including A Talking Pony!?! (2013) and An Easter Bunny Puppy (2013); period action films like Bonnie & Clyde: Justified (2013); horror films like Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper (2014); and more recently, holiday fodder like A Husband for Christmas (2017) and A Christmas Cruise (2018). He is credited on IMDB with directing 11 movies in 2017 alone… but for all the disparate genres he works in, his 2010s work blends together into one long, weird, slightly homoerotic movie. The only other filmmaker who compares to him is Jess Franco—another exploitation auteur whose films were like a free-associative writing exercises, with his personal fetishes bleed into his work.
In October 2014, I had the privilege of conducting a phone interview with DeCoteau, tied to the release of several of his then-recent films (including Doc Holliday’s Revenge and Bonnie & Clyde: Justified) by Lionsgate. This interview was the basis for a profile in Flavorwire (bearing the accurate if slightly unpleasant title “Meet David DeCoteau, the King of Homoerotic On Demand Schlock”), but is presented here for the first time uncut.
DeCoteau is a true cinephile: he has recorded DVD commentary tracks for films by Andy Milligan and Ed Wood, and contributed trailer commentaries for Joe Dante’s Trailers From Hell website. What I like most about DeCoteau is a quality he shares with Wood: his unabashed love for movies, moviemaking, and the stars he works with—even (or especially) when they have fallen out of fashion.Continue reading “David DeCoteau Talks!?!”