Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Suburban Secrets (2004)
Seduction Cinema | Review by Crites | Available from Amazon

You know a film is in trouble when the promo sheet’s main selling point is, “Campaign evokes TV smash hit Desperate Housewives…”

Fashion photo boob shots lead us through the opening credits, and from there the sleazy soap opera kicks right in, bad, bad dialogue, bad, bad acting and all. During a breezy magazine photo session, plus-size model Laura Spencer (Isadora Edison) gets a call from her sister Winnifred (Chelsea Mundae); it seems that her aunt Cynthia (Tina Tyler) is going to be moving in with Laura’s ex-boyfriend, and Winni’s boss, “that eminent local attorney” Nelson Nighland. This prompts Laura to return to her hometown of Walden Springs, but not before satisfying in the most forced softcore of ways the “awful schoolgirl crush” of her younger, slimmer, hotter female photographer Jennine (Andrea Davis).

When we finally meet legendary lover Nelson Nighland (John Samuel Jordan) he turns out to be a pasty, weak-chinned, haggard-looking fuck. But that doesn’t stop him from being quite the local object of desire – even his sister and law partner Judith (Kay Kirtland), a more severe-looking Genevieve Bujold type, wants a piece of that ass. Nelson manages to dodge her affection for the time being however, in order to meet up with Cynthia and indulge in a little lite lovemaking.

Arriving in Walden Springs Laura meets up with Aunt Cynthia even as Nelson re-kindles his childhood incest with his obsessive older sister (who does have perfect tits for a middle-aged broad, it must be said). As Nelson bangs Judith stupid, the other girls get together for some catty dinner conversation.

The next day Nelson confesses all to his fiancée, who reacts like she’s heard it all before but is still frigidly pissed. When he hits the office Nelson finds sis waiting for him, and when he tells her their shenanigans have got to stop the ensuing argument is so loud and raunchy that Winni’s gossipy co-worker Louise (A.J. Khan) is encouraged to get every juicy detail down on paper.

Soon Nelson meets up with Laura, and cue the cheesy afternoon drama music because it’s time for a little afternoon delight. Which Judith’s private dick just happens to catch and report back to her. Dick keeps tabs on Laura for the rest of the day, and when she’s finally alone Judith pays her a surprise visit. And, what do you know, they get it on. (For a big girl who really doesn’t possess any notably attractive qualities, Laura sure has magnetism; her own gravitational pull, so to speak.)

Afterwards (while we’re still grimacing a bit over the aural foreplay the ladies indulged in regarding sucking Nelson out of each other) Laura goes straight to Aunt Cynthia to confess her indiscretion with Nelson. The unflappable Cynthia remains calm, but she does provide an unhealthy reminiscence about a childhood experience with Laura’s mother Susan; soon Cynthia’s deep in detail about getting it on with her own sister, an intimate relationship that would last for the next two decades.

This in turn leads to Laura’s confession about her fascination with Aunt Cynthia’s nipples. Does the forecast call for more shitty softcore? You bet your numb ass it does, although this time there are more folds than usual. (Shudder.)
While all of …that is going on, Winni goes out to dinner with Louise in an attempt to sabotage her damaging work-in-progress on the family by coming on to her. An awkward, awkward touching of “you know whats” follows (made more awkward by awkward dialogue; awkward, awkward, awkward – now I just can’t stop saying it), all caught on tape just as Winni’s journalist boyfriend Johnson planned. But in the end Louise wasn’t writing the gossipy expose Winni feared, she just liked scribbling down dirty tidbits to frig off to later. Johnson joins the girls for a token three-way, and… holy fucking goddamn hell, is this fucking thing not over yet?

Anyway, Nelson goes home, finds Cynthia in bed, and they fuck and make up. Laura goes home to Jennine, and Winni and Johnson go home to “schtup.”

And I suppose that all of that was supposed to be ‘naughty’ and titillating, in a middle-class white trash sort of way, but instead it’s all just really fucking boring, man. It’s not at all as John Waters as it wants to be (seamy side of the soccer mom slice of life, etc.), which means that it’s not as grossly enticing and lowbrow as it needs to be. I really, honestly, cannot tell what the filmmakers were thinking, except that maybe they really wanted to produce a little finger fodder for the kind of shut-ins who read romance novels and watch Oprah all day, then get a randy at night after a couple glasses of box wine and a few Whitman samplers.

Honestly, even fast forwarding through most of this the picture is still painfully long. Like slide a red-hot needle into your hemorrhoids long. This is some of the flattest acting you’re bound to see outside of a Pac-Man cocktail console; so staged and superficial is this that even the cork-pulling scene in a restaurant is faked. The characters somehow manage to be both lifeless and obnoxious, with gossip and clichés comprising most of the storyline, and this combined with the cheap useless sex all makes for a picture whose only saving grace would be some wild conflagration of mass murder. Unfortunately this beautiful conclusion is never reached.

And to beat the proverbial dead horse yet again, until it bursts, if you will, there is really no reason in the world to indulge in the effort of softcore pornography. That is, unless you’re planning from the get-go on selling your project to cable in order that thirteen-year-olds might be able to catch a glimpse of skin when the folks are out of town. Which is exactly what just happened to happen in this case (what’s happening?): this double-DVD set comes with a second “Hot Late Nite Cut” specifically designed to play on cable television alongside other Seduction Cinema anti-classics such as PLAYMATE OF THE APES and LORD OF THE G-STRINGS.

As an “Ode to the feminine orgasm,” as director Sarno puts it, this is an insult. Cattle-call starlets getting a lot of face time with each other’s vaginas during simulated 69s doesn’t do a lot for any demographic, except the aged self-satisfied filmmakers and young boys who’ve circumvented the parental control lock. Creepy, huh?

There are bonuses, and I’m not watching them. These include the “mini-documentary” Inside Suburban Secrets, the previously mentioned cable version of this atrocity (with, let me guess, less bad sex and more bad chatter), a “Lake Placid Film Festival Mini-Documentary,” a “Behind the Scenes Mini-Documentary,” trailers to other “Joe Sarno Classics” (no.) and a “Full Color Booklet with Liner Notes.”

Given the evidence, there is really only one conclusion to which we can come: this thing is fucking lousy. I’m sailing the DVD out the window and using the box to house my promo copy of Midget Porn.

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