Has someone ever gotten on your nerves? Has someone ever slightly inconvenienced you? Well according to “How to Get… Revenge” from 1989, the solution is to get them arrested for serial robbery.
This hour-long “edutainment” film supposedly exists to teach you how to get revenge against anyone and everyone who wrongs you. Of course, it begins with a disclaimer telling you not to do anything mentioned in the film, but you can be sure that some people followed the instructions that this film provides to ruin people’s lives.
The host of this morally questionable adventure is none other than Linda Blaire, the girl in “The Exorcist.” This is probably around the time that her child acting money started drying up, because it’s obvious that she has not retained her acting abilities into adulthood. It is one of the most phoned-in performances I have seen in a while.
To accompany Linda, there is a collection of “revenge specialists” including private investigators, car mechanics, police detectives and an unnamed man censored by a sloppily placed mosaic.
Each one of them takes turns telling the viewer how they have gotten revenge for their clients in the past. With each story it becomes more and more clear that this is a collection of absolute psychopaths. Some of the revenge plans are pretty harmless: sign the victim up for a bunch of spam mail to inconvenience them, maybe even some pornographic magazines to ruin their reputation, but the rest are absolutely over the top.
One of the first ones is the story of Harold, an over-the-top nerd stereotype who got his Chinese food dumped in his lap by some trashy man. His revenge included using the man’s license plate to track down his address, buying hundreds of dollars of deliveries from different companies, and finally planting a fake gun, map and newspaper clippings from a string of serial robberies in his truck and notifying the police.
Forget an eye for an eye, Harold was out for blood.
The crimes committed in the name for revenge include thousands of dollars of damages, ruined vehicles, destroyed marriages, lost careers, ruined reputations and many more dubious outcomes that make me sympathize more with the receivers of the revenge than the people getting revenge.
The mechanic proposes the deadliest ones, such as removing the air from the front tires so they can’t turn correctly, adding sugar to the gas tank to destroy the engine and even throwing sand into the oil. All of his suggestions either seriously endanger the victim or cause their car to be totaled.
The police detective is obsessed with mail and all the ways to ruin someone’s life using it. He suggests signing a man up for gay porn magazines to ruin his marriage or signing him up for communist newsletters to get him on a watchlist. Using mail or a payphone, he suggests many ways to make it seem like the victim is cheating on their spouse, such as setting the victim’s address as the return address on a fake cheating meetup letter, or sending love letters addressed to the victim that the spouse will find.
What makes these horrible things even worse is the acting of the people telling them to you. None of them are good, so they just come off as creepy and scary in an uncanny valley sort of way.
Linda herself interjects between every revenge to add her own thoughts, but they mostly consist of her pretending to not be interested but actually being interested. This could be funny, but her acting skills are so poor that it just makes her come off as some sort of psychopath trying to end people’s lives.
At the end of one revenge story, the person who had gotten the revenge said the phrase, “no more Victoria,” who was the victim of the revenge. Her way of speaking and her choice of phrasing makes me feel like she is implying that she got Victoria to kill herself, which I hope is not what was intended because that would be beyond messed up. I don’t care about the warning screen in the beginning, if they are pretending that this is reality, that is not a thing to imply.
So how did this movie get made? Why does this weirdly specific film exist? The answer is simple: cost.
This was made at exactly the point in time where it became incredibly cheap and easy to make VHS tapes, meaning people immediately began pumping out as many new things as they could to make a quick buck. Thousands of new directors and filmmakers saturated the market with their obscure and overly specific content to try and fill a niche.
Whenever something becomes easy to do, it becomes abused and over-saturated for almost a decade before things finally calm down.
Think like digital editing in the early 2000s, leading to tens of thousands of cheap movies with too much editing. In fact, one thing I noticed was the fact that the picture-in-picture portions had their own separate VHS artefacting, meaning they actually just shrunk the film of that portion and placed it within the film of the main shots.
I rate movies from 10 to -10, with negative being so bad it’s good, and this movie gets a -6. It’s not good, that’s for sure, but it’s definitely fun to see the absolute insanity of these people and the ridiculous ways the actors attempt to recreate these awful scenarios.
This article was originally written for The University of Tennessee’s Daily Beacon’s Bad Movie Showcase.
Editing done by Evan Newell