While imprisoned in the cellar of the cathouse, Ralph and Jason are informed by the cult’s token fat girl Clio (Ina Rose Fortman) that, despite the fact that most members of the group have a visceral hatred of men, they have been selected as candidates for membership in the all-girl gang. Indeed, Hesperia and her lethal ladies decided after fiddling with tarot cards that the two weaselly worm farmers might have what it takes to become lowly underlings in her chick cult. While Jason describes the entire ordeal as “one large wet dream” where they have found themselves “involved with a group of sex starved women,” Ralph continues to complain little a beta-bitch, as he refuses to succumb to capture-bonding. Before being made official members of the cult, the two men are forced to take a couple endurance tests, including being sexually defiled by two hyper horny bestial babes who clearly have not felt a purple-head monster inside their venerable monosyllables in a very, very long time. Of course, Ralph and Jason pass the less than trying tests and are told by Hesperia that “you will be with us in body and soul” and that they will receive all the “sacrifices and privileges” of membership. While the two must give all their personal possessions to the group, they will “get a share of all communal profits.” Indeed, aside from being a cult, the group is also involved in organized crime, including arms dealing and weapon transporting, and they want Ralph and Jason to help them exact revenge against a malevolent mafia group called the Syndicate that apparently double-crossed them by stealing a suitcase full of platinum from Fate and burying her in the desert. Of course, things are much stranger than they seem.
As members of the gang Ralph and Jason are forced to do pointless things like move crates from one place to another for no reason like concentration camp prisoners following the orders of SS-Sturmbannführer Paul Otto Radomski, but it does not take long for the latter to receive carnal benefits, including being involved in various threesomes with different girls from around the house. Indeed, like any semi-serious cult, so-called ‘free love’ and drugs are a regular occurrence at the cathouse. Unfortunately, Ralph is not so lucky as the fat girl Clio incessantly mocks him by randomly yelling “bug farmers” and laughing obnoxiously to rub his curious choice of profession is his face, not to mention the fact that a butch bull dyke constantly threatens him by stating things to him like, “I’m gonna waste you” and “I’m gonna cut you up.” Indubitably, the most curious girl around the house is a pale-faced and black-haired Gothic babe named Vampiria (Alexis Alexander) who sometimes acts as a ‘living portrait’ when she is not attempting to scare Ralph by saying threatening things to him like,“Every man I’ve touched has died a violent death.” When a bodaciously bitchy butch babe named Pepper (Cheryl Gamson) attempts to get in Ralph’s pants by staring him directly in the eyes and declaring, “Hey, I’m trying to communicate. I’m into sunshine, awareness, good karma, vibes, and witchcraft. I’d like to mix our blood” and he tells her to go away because he is watching a show on a clearly broken black-and-white TV (!), she becomes so exceedingly enraged that she takes an axe and smashes the television to bits. While Ralph would love nothing more than to escape from the cult and go back to watering his worms, he still proves he is loyal to the girls by getting in a slapstick style brawl at a bar with New Romanticist style pinball machines after Jason saves one of the more big bosomed members of the gang from being harassed by a super sleazy Mestizo-like fellow. Although Ralph has not touched a single member of the gang, that does not stop latent lesbo Pepper from stating to him, “If you don’t stop molesting these girls I’ll see that you suffer before you die.” Indeed, when it comes to women, Ralph is completely and utterly hopeless as demonstrated by the fact that a seductive dame named Torchy (Jody Lee Olhav) licks a large chess piece during a game of chess like it’s a cock and says to him “It’s your move. You can take me,” but he does nothing but stare at her with a somewhat scared expression on his face, as if he has Castration anxiety and is afraid that she might suffer vagina dentata. In fact, Torchy makes another attempt to get Ralph to demonstrate his manhood while she is showering with a couple other girls, but all those gorgeous naked women somehow don’t get the protagonist’s blood going.
The only girl that Ralph demonstrates even the slightest affection towards is Fate, who reveals to him that Hesperia is really a spoiled rich girl and trust fund brat whose followers are nothing but a bunch of badly brainwashed fanatics that she easily manipulates for her own financial gain while pretending to be a spiritual guru of sorts. When Fate asks Ralph to runaway with her after they get revenge against the Syndicate, the protagonist seems somewhat interested but little does he realize that she is a two-faced bitch and psychopathic femme fatale with ugly ulterior motives that involve mass murder and treachery of the most heinous sort. When it finally comes time for the cult to seek revenge against the Syndicate so that they can get their priceless suitcase of platinum back, Hesperia assigns Ralph and Jason the job of being decoys. Ultimately, the cult successfully raids the Syndicate’s warehouse and gets the platinum even though Ralph causes an alarm to go off after botching breaking a window, but it does not take long for the mafia to strike back and attack the girl gang’s headquarters. When the Syndicate raids the cult’s home, a number of girls, including super chubby chick Clio, are killed in a gun battle, but most of the girls manage to escape via helicopter. Since they apparently cannot fit everyone on the helicopter, Jason and Ralph are left behind, with the former evading capture by hiding in a chimney and the latter soon being caught by the guido gangsters.
While in captivity at the Syndicates headquarters, Ralph conveniently finds a time-bomb lying around the building that he sets to go off when he goes under interrogation. When interrogated by the Syndicate’s leader Mr. X (played by the film's art director J. Christopher Senter), Ralph is informed, “You’re already dead…The question is, how early do you want to die?,” so the protagonist stalls until the time-bomb goes off by asking why they double-crossed the cult and he is somewhat startled to hear that it was actually Fate who double-crossed both groups and attempted to flee town by herself with the platinum. Right after Ralph cries “Oh, God” after wrongly assuming the time-bomb failed to detonate on time and Mr. X responds to him by saying, “There is no god. Nothing can save you now,” the explosive goes off and magically the protagonist is the only one that survives the blast. After becoming all discombobulated as a result of the large explosion, Ralph decides to call his prospective ladylove Fate and she informs him that most of the gang members are dead and that she needs to speak to him in private. Ultimately, Fate picks up Ralph in his own van and brags that she has double-crossed “everyone” and that she has “lost count” of how many people she has killed. While Fate predictably shoots Ralph with a powerful weapon that causes him to fly out of the van, he manages to survive because he is wearing a bulletproof vest that Hesperia had given him when the Syndicate raided the cult’s compound. Meanwhile, Fate attempts to open the suitcase full of platinum and is blown up in an extravagant explosion. As it turns out in a cute twist that seems to express the stupidity and lack of literacy of both organized crime groups, the suitcase was actually full of plutonium and not platinum.
When Ralph meets up with Jason and the surviving girls, he is quite happy to learn that his worms are as now as big as hamsters. On top of that, the girls declare him, Mr. Beta Bitch, their new leader, with one of them stating, seductively, “We’ll do anything you tell us to.” Of course, instead of demanding hot sex, Ralph merely has the girls do odd jobs like getting him cold cans of Coke when he is engaging in target practice outside. Notably, Ralph also reveals how resentful he is by psychologically torturing the girls that used to torture him by shooting bullets only a couple inches away from their heads. In the end, Runaway Nightmare seems to come full-circle, with Ralph shooting his rifle from the same rock formation as he did at the beginning of the film, albeit this time he has the added bonus of ruling over a collective of sexy and big bosomed broads who slavishly do whatever he says, but the fun does not last long. Indeed, after Ralph and Jason find two dudes (one of which is played by director Cartel’s father, who also acted as the film's main financier under the pseudonym Eldon Short) dumping a barrel with a label reading “Danger – Nuclear Waste” at the very same place where Fate was buried at the beginning of the film, the film cuts to an epilogue that reveals regarding the characters' fate: “Hesperia lives in Marin County where she publishes a feminist news magazine. Members of a female desert cult were exposed to radiation and had to be quarantined. Side effects of all women included increased sexual appetite. Jason survived and was confined in the same room with the other females. Ralph developed a unique genetic disorder.” In a second twist ending of sorts that surely demonstrates director Cartel's obsession with screwing with the viewer's expectations, Ralph is depicted transforming into a vampire and breaking free from a straitjacket while being held at a place somewhere in Nevada called the U.S. Government Radiological Research Facility. Of course, one can only hope that Ralph is more of a lady’s man in vampire form as he surely would make for an awfully pathetic bloodsucker if he sucks at seducing ladies.
Of course, it would probably interest certain cinephiles to know that Runaway Nightmare director Mike Cartel comes from a family of carnies and that the famous midway that his father owned, Crafts 20 Big Shows, was featured at the end of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Strangers On A Train (1951), as well as the Godard favorite Some Came Running (1958) starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and the Elvis Presley vehicle Roustabout (1964). While Cartel has never directed another film, he is apparently currently working on a documentary on carnivals. Aside from working as a film director, screenwriter, and actor, Cartel has also done stints as a soldier (he’s a Vietnam war veteran who who engaged in combat), reserve officer in the Los Angeles Police Department, owner and editor of a weekly newspaper (The Valley Vantage), and Los Angeles Unified School District teacher, thus making him not only the creator of one of the most patently preternatural motion pictures ever made, but also a filmmaker with one of the strangest and most eclectic employment histories. While Cartel once jokingly complained regarding Runaway Nightmare, “I'm still desperately fighting to make sure that this will not be the film I am remembered for,” it will indubitably be the single thing he will be best remembered for, which is certainly more than most people can say about their lives. As demonstrated by the fact that he set up a website for the film, it seems that Cartel is finally able to appreciate and enjoy the fruits of his labor some 30+ years after he created the film, thus confirming the old truism that it is ‘better late than never.’
Of course, one also cannot forget that Runaway Nightmare is probably the best satire on the rotten fruits of feminism and the so-called women's liberation movement since Paul Morrissey's Women in Revolt (1971). Indeed, while absurdly goofy and seemingly hardly serious, the film casts the fairer sex in a distinctly dichotomous light where they are both feared yet fetishized, evil yet erotic, brutal yet beautiful, homicidal yet horny, cunning yet careless, and sadistic yet sweet, with protagonist Ralph symbolizing one extreme male perspective on women and his pal Jason symbolizing another. Naturally, it is probably no coincidence that Jason becomes a total moron after he gives into his carnal cravings while Ralph manages to figure out that the woman who portrayed herself as the biggest victim is ultimately the most evil and predatory of femme fatales as a woman who slaughters her own sisters for financial gain. In his pathological use of cinematic cock-teasing where he sets up a sexual scenario but never delivers the disrobed naughty bits, director Cartel manages to highlight the tricks of the trade when it comes to hypnotizing and, in turn, cuckolding men in a film that one might best describe as the ultimate work of ‘anti-exploitation’ disguised as pure exploitation trash. If you're looking for the best of psychotronic cinema, you probably cannot do better than Runaway Nightmare, which ultimately alleviates cinematic wackiness to a carefully cultivated art form that people seem to either love or love to hate (I fall into the former group).