Where do I even begin with this one?
Last year we happened upon a goldmine of Martin Tahse’s After School Specials DVDs at a Goodwill. Each set was about $4 and has since become one of my most treasured thrift store finds, especially as far as DVDs are concerned. We made our way through them one by one, whenever we were bored and didn't feel like committing to an entire movie. One day I came home to see that my husband was watching one. I had missed most of it but what I did see had me completely captivated for the remainder of the episode. It was so amazing I had to start it over to see everything that I had missed. I was completely blown away by its creepiness. I thought about reviewing it for a long time but it never happened amidst the business of last year. Only recently when I re-discovered the sets in a box of my most treasured cult movies did I decide to finally dust it off and give it a second look.
“What Are Friends For?” is about a 12 year old girl named Amy whose parents are divorced and has recently moved away with her mother. In their new apartment she meets a bizarre little girl named “Michelle Mudd”. Both having divorced parents, Michelle feels a connection to Amy and recruits the naive girl to be her new best friend. Despite the warnings from the other girls in the building. You can tell right away that Michelle Mudd isn't the kind of girl you want to get mixed up with.
As we get to know the characters we discover that Amy is a sensible young lady who collects antique dolls. Michelle is shop lifting, incantation chanting, magick practicing lunatic. She convinces Amy to make an unbreakable pact of friendship while reciting a Tibetan mantra in a smoke filled room with red candles. Amy doesn't seem to mind, she finds her to be a bit peculiar but harmless. Truth be told I wouldn't have minded either, everyone knows pre-teen girls love witchcraft.
…That is until your psychotic wiccan friend starts painting her face up like some kind Clan of the Cave bear KISS fan and bathing your antique dolls in blood.
Michelle is WHACK!
Amy is not NEARLY as put-off by this as she should be. She’s hurt that Michelle ruined the doll she gave her but she gives no mention to the Aleister Crowley symbols on the wall, her ghastly appearance, or “omfg, is that animal or human blood?!”
Even after this, Amy gives her another chance when she comes to her crying that she’s just upset that her father is marrying his bimbo girlfriend “Call Me Diane” – as she’s coined her. Amy, being from divorced parents, understands and forgives her. They go about their normal routine. It’s not long before Michelle starts in on her craziness again. Shoplifting and slipping the items in Amy’s back pocket.
What a douche.
Naturally, there’s a moral to this story. Michelle has "a problem". Yes "A" as in singular. That’s how they tie together anyway. Because of her inability to cope with her parents divorce, she steals earrings and dolls. I thought it was kind of weak to brush off all the lunacy with that kind of ending, but hey, it’s an After School Special.
I’m semi-obsessed with Dana Hill who plays Michelle Mudd now. I looked her up to discover that she became a voice actor for Rugrats, Duckman, Goof Troop, Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Sonic the Hedgehog, Darkwing Duck, Jetsons: the Movie, Tom and Jerry: the Movie, and Rover Dangerfield. The list goes ON and ON! She practically narrated my childhood. You may also recognize her as Audrey Griswold from National Lampoon’s European Vacation. I always had a soft spot for a truly talented and borderline sinister child actor and Dana Hill is definitely up there.
This is easily the best After School Special I've ever seen. Although not nearly as perverse, at times it reminds me of Bad Ronald. Possibly just because it’s campy, tasteless, features a mentally unstable young person and was made for TV. There’s a look and feel of this era that’s just priceless. I mean, take a look at some of the supporting cast…
"Call Me Diane"
You couldn't make something this entertaining now. After school specials are like these little time capsules. You open them, you revel in them and they’re inevitably shelved once again. “What are Friends For?” probably didn't serve it’s purpose helping kids cope with divorce or how to handle crazy friends, but it does serve as a twisted little teledrama that you won’t soon forget.