Still-Hot Winona Plays Death Nell in Sex and Death 101

Running Time 116 minutes
Written and
Directed by Daniel Waters
Starring Simon Baker and Winona Ryder

With a stinker called Sex and Death 101, you tremble going in. Not from the title. I mean, this jejune junk was written and directed by the same Daniel Waters who went down in Hollywood slag-pit history as the man who wrote the disastrous Hudson Hawk (not to mention the insipid Batman Returns) and miraculously survived them both. Hudson Hawk has pretty much become the criterion for Hollywood bottom feeding. When interviewers get around to the inevitable question “What do you consider the worst movie ever made?”, the answer is invariably “Hudson Hawk.” The best thing that can be said about Sex and Death 101 is that it’s not quite as bad as Hudson Hawk. That is not a recommendation.

Daniel Waters is another escapee from the same refugee camp that produced David O. Russell, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson, a few of the other hacks in the current crop of overrated purveyors of incoherent cinematic gibberish. In the film’s production notes, he describes his latest horror as “a sex farce for people who have actually had sex,” whatever that means, neglecting to add “but lost their I.Q.’s doing it.” Worse still, he calls his style “Bunuel Meets Caddyshack.” If this kind of pretentious third-grade blather doesn’t make you run for the hills, the actual movie will. Top-billed Simon Baker, the suave Australian from the defunct TV series The Guardian, plays Roderick Blank, who lives up to his name when he receives a mysterious e-mail that lists, in chronological order, the 101 names of every woman he has ever—or will ever—sleep with, and can’t remember half of them. The idea of 101 orgasms intrigues him enough to start the experiment with renewed stamina, but the fact that his current fiancée is not the final entry dooms his future to dirty games without much promise of either love or security. No matter. It gives a varied clientele a chance to get naked fast—centerfolds, schoolgirls, threesomes, a lesbian astronaut. Halfway through this routine of endless ejaculations, is it any wonder that our hero grows bags under his eyes?

While this is going on, there’s a serial killer called Death Nell on the loose, marking the dubious return of Winona Ryder. (Get the jokes? Mr. Blank? Death Nell? And don’t forget Alpha, Beta, Barbecue Brat, Bambi and Thumper.) Death Nell’s goal is to kill every man on the planet who has ever wronged, abused or deceived a member of the opposite gender. Death Nell seduces them, then stabs, poison, and guns them all down, including the entire college fraternity that invented the date-rape drug. Between violent, lip-licking mayhem, people say things like “Love is more than a sloppy fusion of genitalia” and “If someone wants to have sex with you, they’re gonna have sex with you—the rest is just dinner theater.” For anyone doomed enough to have seen Hudson Hawk—not to mention I Heart Huckabees, The Darjeeling Limited, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Solaris, Borat, Apocalypto, Lucky Number Slevin or anything with Adam Sandler—this kind of stuff starts to sound like literature.

Long story short. The 101 slot turns out to be Death Nell, but who can resist sex with a serial killer who now calls herself Gillian De Raisx (the comic wordplay is as clever as knock-knock jokes, but c’mon, don’t make me explain that one)? Neither a feminist tract nor a vulgar sex farce, this movie just lies there waiting for Tuesday and garbage collection day. Mr. Waters says in the press notes that his writing “filters out the non-believers pretty quickly.” If this is true, Sex and Death 101 should be playing to empty theaters in no time.

Still-Hot Winona Plays Death Nell in Sex and Death 101