I’ve gotten thousands of letters from aspiring straight-to-video filmmakers asking for promotion and advice. I give them a big middle finger when it comes to promotion; you gotta prove classic status before I even think of giving your movie an internationally published “thumbs up.” But I am ready and willing to dish out the advice.
Most letter writers want to find that last missing piece of the straight-to-video-classic puzzle. Well I got it. So I am going to reveal that secret piece, because frankly I’m sick of seeing flicks with filmmakers as clueless as the ones who write to me. The secret is:
The title of your movie should be spoken by the film’s central character within the first 20 minutes of viewing.
That’s it. It’s so simple, yet it is a glaringly absent part of far too many movies. “The Perfect Tenant” didn’t forget, so I gotta give it and director Doug Campbell props.
The film begins with a man walking around his living room on Christmas Eve. He surveys his various “Teacher of the Year” awards while Christmas carolers sing sweetly outside his door, but that tear in his eye and Jack D in his cup tell you that something is terribly wrong. He makes good use of the rope that happens to be lying neatly in his garage, constructing a makeshift noose on a hook in the living room’s ceiling. His son is awoken by the carolers, and as the boy moves from the door to celebrate he notices his father hanging dead. A close-up of the boy’s pained expression made me pause the VCR to get Kleenex.
Fast-forward 20 years and David Summer (Maxwell Caulfield, who played Michael the British guy opposite Michelle Pfeifer in “Grease 2”) is on a mission to avenge his father’s suicide. He is staking out the house and guest house of Jessica Michael (Linda Purl). Jessica was a student of David’s father when she was in high school and reported to the police that he sexually abused her. Thus, David believes that she is to blame for his father’s demise.
David waits for the current tenants of Jessica’s guesthouse to leave their door unlocked, and then he sneaks in and murders them with a knife. His next move is to become the new tenant so that he can get inside Jessica’s life and make her suffer like he has the last 20 years. What a perfect setup for throwing the title into the dialogue!
After a wonderful interview and inspection of the guesthouse, David leaves Jessica thoroughly impressed. She tells him that she will think about his application and give him a call. David pauses, smiles and then says those wonderful words, “You have to take me, I’m ‘The Perfect Tenant!’ ” Boo-yaa!
To be honest, the film goes slightly downhill from there. But with such a beautiful example of flawless writing and filmmaking, “The Perfect Tenant” deserves its classic status.