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SELF DEFENSE [a.k.a. Siege] (1983; Just For the Hell of It).

Spanning one long, bloody, lawless night, this dollop of low-budget Canadian urban violence dem-onstrates that our Northern neighbors could be just as gritty, visceral and idiotically entertaining when it comes to grindhouse fare. Directed by Paul Donovan (DEF-CON 4) and Maura O'Connell, this early effort from the Halifax-based Salter Street Films (who struck paydirt in the 1990s with the sci-fi cult television-series LEXX) is spot-on, low-brow Canucksploitation that celebrates defending your home from assholes. Set "sometime in the future," when Halifax's cops go on strike and leave its citizens unprotected from the scum of their city (ingeniously incorporating actual footage from the crime-ridden first weekend of Halifax's 1981 police strike, which lasted 53 days!), a pack of pissed-off, right-wing, armband-wearing miscreants named "New Order" use this opportunity to bust into a gay bar, roust the clientele ("Sit down, tinkerbell!" "I'm thirsty, homo-boy!") and kill the sailor-suited bartender during an attempted rape, using a steel rod. "N.O." leader Cabe (Doug Lennox) then cold-bloodedly guns down every witness in the joint, with one customer escaping from these half-dozen vicious thugs. Meanwhile, do-gooder couple Horatio (Tom Nardini) and Barbara (Brenda Bazinet) are at home with two of their blind students -- a mini MEATBALLS reunion of nerdy "Spaz" (Jack Blum) and hot dog eating champ Larry "Fink" Finkelstein (Keith Knight). When they give refuge to this fleeing witness, the well-armed "N.O." cut their phone lines, surround the building and lay siege. With no help coming from the "labor dispute" M.I.A. police, it's up to our altruistic good guys (including Darel Haney, who later scripted DTV-schlock like XTRO 3 and ANIMAL INSTINCTS II, as a handy survivalist-neighbor) to man up and fight back in the dark, with limited weapons (a Korean War era rifle, only two bullets and a compound bow) but loads of creative survival skills. That's when the real fun begins, with our heroes setting intricate booby traps (gotta love that trick medicine cabinet!) and building a makeshift shrapnel-rocket!... All of this is wonderfully stupid and without any redeeming values, with Donovan's script piling on the cheap thrills and corpses in its second half, particularly once Cabe finally enters the fray. Nardini (a veteran of late-'60s, American-International drive-in fare like THE YOUNG ANIMALS and THE DEVIL'S 8, but best known for playing CAT BALLOU's Jackson Two-Bears) plays it tough; Bazinet (in her first feature) is one-note as the obligatory whiny pacifist who hates guns and thinks a peaceful solution is possible, plus there's plenty of abysmal acting from the "N.O." jerks. The filmmakers keep the set-up simple and suspenseful, which makes it perfect, no-frills, six-pack action fodder, complete with an '80s synth-heavy score and nicely cynical denouement.

© 2013 by Steven Puchalski.