Directed by: Paul Lynch
Starring: Janet Julian, David Wallace, Janit
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I must admit that Humongous was always a slasher movie that I had a certain fondness for. Not because I remembered much about its production quality (I’d only seen it the once, many years ago), but it always struck me as one that had been completely overlooked, perhaps unfairly. Personally, I love an underdog and that’s why I was keen to see if I could salvage some positives from giving it another blast on my Plasma.
Director Paul Lynch had come hot off making a major success out of a relatively average movie in Prom Night and therefore the odds were looking good for a similar return with this, his second effort. In the end though, his follow up turned out to be not very humongous at all and a bit of a cocktail sausage in the popularity stakes. Despite solid distribution from a major label, it failed to achieve the standing of titles like Madman or Hell Night, which are fairly similar in their concepts.
After a disturbing rape sequence in the pre-credits, we meet five youngsters who are planning to go sailing on a huge lake. When their boat explodes after an unfortunate accident, they find sanctuary on a remote island. Little do they know that the land is inhabited by a woman and her deformed son who are not the most welcoming hosts…
A lot of critics (myself included in an earlier review) have written about the film’s poor illumination, so to save you from reading the same thing, I have decided not to go over it again. It could be argued though that Lynch deliberately attempted to keep his antagonist off screen for the most part and reveal him gradually as the film rolled on. It’s a ploy that is used regularly in horror features and it reminds me of the anticipation of having a surprise present in a wrapped box and guessing what’s inside as you shake it. You only have to check titles like Halloween, The Predator, The House by the Cemetery or even Night of the Demon to see that it works. In the case of Humongous though, photos recently discovered by JA Kerswell over at Hysteria Lives show that not only was the director aiming to deliver suspense, but his bogeyman’s make-up was definitely the kind that you wouldn’t want to have the best lighting rig in town for.
Paul Lynch has spoken quite openly about the film’s low budget, but the locations and earlier effects (the uncut dog mauling scene especially) demonstrate funding that looked superior to other titles released around the same time. Perhaps the monetary reservoir drained far quicker than expected, so they had to cut costs for the remainder of the shoot? I often wondered why the first on screen murder was so gruesome and the rest looked brief and diluted. I presumed that much like Happy Birthday to Me, the studio had shortened the death scenes to escape punishment from scissor happy censors. If that was the case, does any of that footage still exist? It’d be nice to know. Further proof of this possibility can be found in the double murder that cuts so rapidly that it’s tough to make out what’s happening. The majority of the runtime is comfortably edited, which makes it look even more unusual and likely that some gore was removed prior to release.
I was never the biggest fan of Lynch’s Prom Night as I felt it took the Halloween pilfering to the gatepost and then crashed straight through it. There are signs of the same level of imitation here, especially in the shot for shot duplication of the stalking sequence from Carpenter’s classic, where Michael Myers emerges from the shadows to push Laurie Strode down some stairs. This came straight after a scene where Sandy, our final girl, momentarily confuses the bogeyman by dressing in his mother’s clothes. This had been quite blatantly lifted from Friday the 13th Part II, which was released a year earlier. Whilst the reuse of ideas is extremely common in the slasher genre, Humongous overcomes accusations of being a freeloader by bringing a few of it’s own drinks to the party.
Some of the characters featured are intriguingly developed and filled with insecurities. The hero’s brother, Nick, is obviously envious of his elder sibling. So much so in fact that he fires a loaded rifle past his head for no apparent reason. Then Donna, a cheeky redhead, adds some depth to her ‘slut’ persona by conveying subtly that she uses her breasts and body to sell herself due to a lack of confidence and to get people to like her. There’s also an ambiguous hint that perhaps the youngsters had stumbled upon the island out of destiny and that our heroine was there to follow in the footsteps of the deranged mother. The final freeze frame shows us how the events that Sandy has overcome have affected her psychologically. This begs the question, did she stay behind to live in the house and therefore takeover from the deceased landowner? I also liked how the killer, who it is suggested had grown up with only dogs as companions, growled and grunted like he was in fact a mongrel himself.
Whilst the previous issues with Humongous still remain and the acting is up and down-ish, I really enjoyed watching the movie this time around. It’s obvious that Lynch had grown as a director and parts like the eyeball jump scare and Donna filling her bra with blueberries rate high up there with the other great slasher postcards. I think that the best achievement of all was the successful delivery of an ominous tone that wraps around the runtime like a comfort blanket and kept me guessing what will come next. Moments like this have been too easily overlooked due to criticisms of the lighting, which is a huge shame.
I have a lot more respect for this picture now and would say that it’s the best example of Lynch’s slasher work. It may never achieve the status of a cult classic, but there’s enough here to have made me glad that I saw it again
Final Girl: √√
Camp 139 2013
Directed by: Matthew Joseph Adams, Benjamin James
Starring: Ricardo Andres, Greg Bronson, Michael Cooley
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Last week, when I posted my write-up of Blood Shed, I was chatting about other entries that included a crazed soldier as an antagonist and how the ‘born to kill’ synopsis made a perfect motive for a film such as this. Well Camp 139 has a plot outline so similar to Shed that I had to check that they weren’t from the same crew. Released on DVD earlier this year, not many have given this the time of day, which makes your old uncle Luis proud to be the first to put pen to paper on a Slash above. Interestingly enough, there’s a short that I have seen called Camp 139 that was released back in 2010 by director Ryan Polukord. I haven’t uncovered a link between the two productions, which is strange, because they have similar woodland backdrops and the same unique title…
Four youngsters head off to a place in the forest where it’s rumoured that there lies an abandoned military hospital. Legend states that many years after the Second World War, the site became a hub of experiments to create soldiers that were brainwashed to become remorseless killing machines. After a while, we learn that a maniacal force is hiding amongst the woodland…
Like many hard working Joes across the world, I use public transport, the train in fact, to arrive at my place of work. (Rarely on time) Readers in countries like Germany and Canada can be comforted by the fact that they may never have to experience the catastrophe that is the National Rail Service in the United Kingdom. A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at the station to see that not just one, but two of my scheduled journeys had been cancelled due to an ‘undiagnosed fault’. When a carriage finally did pull up to my platform an hour and a half later, it was packed like a cattle truck so they would let no other desperate passengers clamber aboard. My boss was livid. Camp 139 is a similar experience to that event, because we wait 38 minutes for the killer to arrive, and when he finally does, he drags his victim off the screen in two-seconds flat. It felt like one of those crappy Secret Santa presents where a devious colleague has wrapped a health-food bar in an iPad box. I’m still not sure if I have fully recovered.
Up until that point, things had been grim, inescapably so. A mechanic couldn’t give you heart surgery, a bricklayer wouldn’t build you a cloud software platform and a person without a clue won’t deliver an exciting scary movie experience. I felt a bit sorry for the actors, because they weren’t doing such a bad job. I closed my eyes to listen to their conversations and they sounded almost how you would imagine a gang of friends to talk. It’s just that the dialogue is so bad and so tediously shot that it takes the will power of an ancient monk to keep focus. They didn’t even bother including a score of some kind to add energy to the sequences. It’s hard on occasion, when watching a bad movie, to put a finger on the true roots of the problem. With directors Matthew Joseph Adams and Benjamin James, there’s no mistake in uncovering the guilty party.
The final third takes place in an abandoned factory of sorts and rips off Blood Junkie so much that for a moment I forgot what film I was watching. I often wonder how psycho killers that reside in such a dilapidated place manage to survive when dumb teens don’t wander through on a camping trip. I mean, what do they eat? Do pizza guys accept payment from a fellow in camouflage and a Gas Mask? Do such people receive homeless benefits? Anyway, whereas Junkie was a fine example of craft and finesse on shoestring funding, Camp offers absolutely nothing. No chills, no thrills, no skills and no hundred-dollar bills baby. You can blame the minuscule budget all you want but that’s not an excuse for flat boring camera angles, cringeworthy conversations and a killer in a mask that doesn’t even fit him. I mean come on!!! Even the sight of Victoria Paege in a bikini couldn’t save it.
I knew that I was in for a bad time when the pre-credits scene burst on to the screen like a headless bull. Just who were those people and what the hell was going on? Before I even had a chance to analyse the visuals, my ears were pounded by some death metal and everything faded to black. It came to a close with a twist that you’ll have guessed and a hilarious explanatory scene, which had my partner and I grimacing. Following that, our room was like something from a Sergio Leone Western. All that was missing was a gust of wind and some tumbleweed. We looked at each other in silence and a state of shock. Perhaps it was only a bad dream? If only.
Quarantine this Camp on the double is my recommendation, I’m off to catch my train… (Crosses fingers)
Killer Guise: √
Final Girl: √
Blood Shed 2014
aka American Weapon
Directed by: Cliff Vasco
Starring: Amin Joseph, Maria-Elena Laas, Benjamin Mouton
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Recently in my review of Rose of Death, I mentioned that leaving a rose beside a fresh corpse had been done before and much better in one of my all-time favourites, Rosemary’s Killer. Well it’s nice to see that the film that I have so much respect for is still having an influence on the genre it assisted in defining, because Blood Shed has also decided to ‘borrow’ an idea from that synopsis.
Shed is the latest that came up with a loon that’s not been able to escape his military background, but its plot takes things to a much more intriguing level.
Six teenagers take a break in some secluded woodland for a few days to get away from it all. Little do they know however that hiding in the woodland is a deranged psychopathic killer…
Whilst I was logging on to Vimeo to watch this pre screener, I took a browse around online to see if I could find any news or information about the picture. On the IMDB, I saw that it already has a laughable 2.7 rating with a couple of not so generous comments posted below. There were also a few external reviews that were equally as critical of Cliff Vasco’s debut feature. Often slashers get a hard time from critics no matter their quality and I wondered if the genre’s reputation had contributed to the initial negativity?
Well yes and no is the answer, because whilst Shed is not going to redefine the way that we look at slashers, it deserves more respect than it’s currently being given. It all kicks off at what I guess is a marine training camp. We see two actors giving fairly credible impressions of Private Pyle and Gny. Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket. The scene includes cuts to real soldiers being drilled at a military base and it’s very easy to see that this is (ancient Vietnam) stock footage, which adds a chunk of inadvertent humour to the opening. I liked the idea of an antagonist that had been warped by the pressure of an over zealous drill sergeant and was excited about what would come next.
We then get to meet our group of cannon fodder and l did note that their dinnertime conversation was unlike the norm. Screenwriter Vasco is most certainly a fan of conspiracy theories and his characters discuss subjects such as the CIA’s power and that war is the organising principle for any society. It was enough to make Oliver Stone send a Facebook request and continued the tone for our lone assassin on the grassy knoll, sorry, in the woodland wilderness. We are made aware of his presence by constant POVs that show him preparing to strike and we don’t wait long until he does.
The kill scenes in Shed may not be gory, but they are incredibly gruesome and they are spaced well enough to so that we are never left waiting around for action. There are a couple of effective jump scares that keep your heart racing and Vasco does well to make the chase sequences fast flowing and tense. We work out pretty quickly who is set to be our final girl and she gets twenty-odd minutes alone to confront the killer. Unfortunately, it’s with him that lies the biggest of the feature’s problems. When our antognist is first introduced, he looks incredibly creepy in army fatigues and a Nixon (?) mask. The headpiece is lost almost immediately though and then we are left with little more than an average middle-aged guy in camouflage. I recently saw The Demon from 1979, and the bogeyman there was clearly visible on-screen on only the odd occasion. This wasn’t important though, because his size and demeanor made him incredibly intimidating. Blood Shed has a big hole in the middle of its story, which is about the size of a threatening assailant.
As I alluded to earlier, the murders are consistent, which left me wondering as to why the film failed to maintain my attention. It’s hard to put a finger on the exact reasoning, because on reflection a lot of things are done with more input than usual. For example, each player gets time to build a relationship with the viewer and they have strongly defined, albeit stereotypical, characteristics. It’s just that they aren’t likeable enough for us to care if they survive. Even the final girl lacked charm and charisma. It’s unfair perhaps to criticise the sound mixing of a pre-screener (these issues are usually ironed out before going to print), but I must admit that I nearly blew my speakers every time that the music came on because I had the volume at 95% to hear the dialogue.
Blood Shed is an interesting addition to the genre, because it is a generic slasher film in so many ways, but in others it snaps branches of the template. The final scene for example is overplayed and poorly delivered, but I have never seen anything like it. The whole film is a mish mash of ideas that work only sporadically, but those sporadic moments are worth checking out. Having a confused military angle and trying to deliver a political message of some kind was unusual and perhaps slightly misplaced.
Whilst Shed is ultimately flawed, I must admit that a 2.7 rating is incredibly harsh…
Killer Guise: √
Final Girl: √
The Demon 1979
Directed by: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell, Zoli Marki
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I discovered The Demon on big-box VHS when I was about twelve-years-old at a jumble sale in my local village hall. It’s hard to believe that it was one of the first to jump on the Halloween-inspired slasher bandwagon, because nowadays, it barely gets a mention amongst the plethora of peak period entries. That does seem somewhat strange, because it received global distribution and plays closer to John Carpenter’s rule book that many of its contemporaries from back then.
It tells the tale of a mysterious hulking menace that kidnaps a teenager in the opening sequence and then proceeds to slash his way through anyone that he bumps into thereafter. He sets his sights on a teacher and her cousin whom share a house in a secluded neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the abducted girl’s father hires a psychic to help find the shadowy madman and the pair set out to track him down. Can they stop him before he strikes again?
If ever a movie were to be called a mixed bag, then The Demon would have to be top of that list. There’s some decent stuff here, but it pops up only on the rarest of occasions and the rest is a bit of a puzzle. We begin things with the family of the kidnapped child and their efforts to track down the perpetrator. They hire an ESP specialist (delivered hilariously by Cameron Mitchell) to assist them and the it builds some intriguing momentum. After twenty-minutes or so, we are introduced to two new characters and a separate storyline, which dominates the majority of the runtime from then onward. We cut between the two simultaneous branches sporadically, but they lack a connection aside from the antagonist and so the film becomes disjointed and begins to lose it’s way.
Our heroine Mary (Jennifer Holmes) is a school teacher that lives with her cute cousin Jo (Zoli Marki). They are given a lot of time to flex their acting chops, especially Marki, who gets a silly romance sub-plot, which is extremely long winded. Dialogue like, “Drive me to the moon” feels like it’s been lifted from Romeo and Juliet and the fact that wardrobe gave her dresses that look like shower curtains certainly didn’t help. Talking of shower curtains, did I mention that the final girl does indeed sport one in order to cover her dignity after being chased around the house in only her nickers for the climax? Seeing a bra-less heroine battle the killer was a new one on me.
During the bloated mid-section, the psycho pops up a couple of times to prevent us from nodding off. One of these events occurs outside a nightclub called, ‘Boobs Disco’, which sounds like my kind of joint. After boogieing to the pop strains of ‘Funkytown’, a South African lass is stalked and almost raped (?) by The Demon, whose techniques for attracting the opposite sex are those of the Borat variety. She is saved by two passing motorcyclists who receive a vicious clothesline for their efforts, which leaves them in heaps upon the concrete. One of them is especially unfortunate because his bike explodes into a ball of flames after bumping into a wall. I’m still scratching my head as to how that was possible. Spontaneous combustion perhaps? Well, he is The Demon, I guess…
There’s a great scene shortly after, which shows the maniac preparing for his showdown and it’s intercut with Jo getting ready for her date. Once he arrives on site, the slasher chills are extremely effective and deliver some shades of suspense. We don’t get to learn anything about the maniac’s motive and this adds depth to his aura of menace. The script conveys his anonymity superbly and the actor playing him is probably the best thing about the feature. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he is up there with Jason and Michael in the villain stakes and his hefty frame and creepy white mask create an imposing menace.
The only copies available of The Demon are poor in quality and many scenes are dark and unclear. There’s minimal gore due the fact that the nutjob’s method of murder is to put a bag over the head of each victim and asphyxiate them. We can’t escape the scriptwriting shipwreck of the character development parts, which are snooze-inducing, and they seem to have let Cameron Mitchell loose on the quaaludes before he turned up on set. Does this make The Demon a total waste of space? Well funnily enough, no. We may be somewhere off Halloween with what we have here, but there’s enough in the extremely cute actress, remorseless assailant and idea that a place in the world exists called Boobs Disco to have kept me engaged.
What we need is a proper DVD with a commentary to answer some of the questions that I’ve raised here. Until then, I’m not saying don’t pick up a copy of this, but a few cans of lager will help you to appreciate it
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl: √√
Dead End 1999
Directed by: Iren Koster
Starring: William Snow, Victoria Hill, Matthew Dyktynski
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Not to be confused with Jean Andrea’s Dead End from 2003, this Australian picture is barely acknowledged by fans, despite the fact that it received global distribution. I picked it up many years ago on VHS and it’s one of those that I’ve wanted to cover for a while, but my VCR Machine has seen better days and I haven’t had the time to pick up a new one. Recently though, I came across a shiny DVD whilst on vacation down-under and watched it on the flight back.
It tells the tale of a former detective turned author named Todd Russell that becomes involved in a spate of brutal murders. They are extremely similar to the last case that he worked on before retiring from the Force, called the Evergreen killings. The fact that he had so much knowledge of the original slayings makes him the key suspect and as the evidence and bodies begin to pile up, he is forced to get involved for a second time. Could it be that Todd Russell has lost his mind and moral compass?
I guess that the first question to answer with this feature is whether it qualifies as a stalk and slash flick or is it a thriller? Well whilst it doesn’t follow the traditional path of stranded teens against a malevolent force, it includes many Giallo trademarks, such as brutal slayings committed by a masked assailant, so for me it’s definitely on the right website here. Before watching it, I had sat through 1988′s Out of the Dark, which is generally considered a slasher and is almost interchangeable in terms of plot content and delivery. I would go as far as to say that this is even grislier in terms of its murders and therefore underlines the horror categorisation. Amongst those murders, whether intentional or not, we get a rehash of Al Filo Del Hacha’s car wash set-piece, only this time the killer strikes with a hook rather than axe. Later, we see the menace stalk a young girl in an elevator, which was similar in many ways to a scene from Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche. The assailant even looks the same in a dark fedora and mask and it made me wonder, was director Iren Koster a fan of Spanish slashers? That could well be the case.
Dead End’s biggest strengths can be found in its accomplished dramatics and ability to wrap viewers up in the enigma of its storyline. I did work out early on who was behind everything, but I was never 100% sure. There are numerous twists that pop up throughout the picture, which help to keep us engaged and the intelligent pacing works to sustain the tone of intrigue.
Perhaps the only thing missing was a bit more development into the choice of victims. One murder sees a girl literally walk on to the screen before she’s shot, so we really don’t know enough about any of them to care what happens. I would have hoped for at least one tense chase sequence, but there’s still a whole heap of suspense to be found in the complexity of the puzzle. The revelation part is handled well enough and I was amused by the survival techniques of one soon-to-be victim. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that if all else fails and you look like Victoria Hill, then remove your underwear ;)
A film so driven by its characters needed good performers in order to succeed. Snow and Hill rarely have a weak moment and they are given a few tough scenes to work with. The star of the show is Iren Koster though, because he directs with an energy that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Aside from the obvious, filmmaking is mainly about placement, blocking, length of shots and location. In all of these, he did a sterling job. He has another horror movie under his belt that I haven’t got around to seeing, but I’ll definitely be checking it out soon.
Without hesitation, I would give Dead End a thumbs up. Whilst it may not be slashertastic enough to rival Friday the 13th or its brothers, there is loads here to warrant a viewing. I haven’t seen it reviewed anywhere else, so therefore it is yet another a SLASH above exclusive :)
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√√
Out of the Dark 1988
Directed by: Michael Schroeder
Starring: Karen Black, Lynn Danielson-Rosenthal, Divine
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Another of the late eighties slashers that disappeared soon after its release, Out of the Dark has recently seen a belated peak in popularity. I often get emails in regards to slashers like Cards of Death, Early Frost et al, which makes sense, because they’re rare as hell. Lately though I’ve had a few inquiries about this picture and a quick search on Amazon was all that was needed for me to understand why. There is a DVD available that you can purchase online, but it’s from a boutique distributor, which means that there are not many copies and each is costly. Luckily, my trusty VHS still has some views left in it and so I decided to revisit the movie for the first time In twenty-years.
A phone fantasy service is targeted by a loon in a clown mask, who calls and taunts the girls before murdering them brutally. The remaining models group together in order to stop the blood thirsty maniac, but it soon becomes apparent that he could be someone that they know.
Over the past decade or more, the slasher genre has been engulfed with titles that can best be identified as ‘erotic horror’. Movies like Porn Shoot Massacre, Blood and Sex Nightmare and Massacre at Rocky Ridge are produced as much for the inclusion of T&A as they are for their maniacal killers. Out of the Dark can be considered as something of a pre-cursor to those entries, because it invests heavily in giving its young cast of females the opportunity to whip off their undies whenever possible. They work in an apartment where they provide phone sex services to sleaze-bag clients. We spend time watching them converse and make fun of the callers, which provides some development on the closeness of their friendships. Outside of the girls and their manager, who resembles a beaten up Rozlin Focker, we meet Kevin Silver, a fashion photographer that is dating one of the call girls. We also learn that he is a big hit with the ladies, because a female detective comments that he must, ‘get more ass than a toilet seat’. Nice
We only get a break from all this momentous intrigue when the maniac strikes. Like many of his genre colleagues from the late eighties, he has a repertoire of wisecracks that he unleashes after each slaying. Aside from Freddy Krueger, who was played with the right charisma by Robert Englund, and perhaps the inadvertently hilarious dude from Nail Gun Massacre, killers with a catchphrase rarely work. Bobo the Clown (the bogeyman here) has a fantastic mask and would have been even creepier if they’d have dropped the chatter and given us more stalking or chase sequences. The one time that we do get to see him lurk in the shadows and pounce is by far the best set piece of the movie. He puts a shovel through the head of an unsuspecting neighbour before throttling his intended target with a hosepipe.
Despite the masked killer and slaughter of bunnies, Out of the Dark is far more murder-mystery thriller than it is out and out slasher. We spend most of the last half snooping around for clues and investigating who could be the assailant. I worked that out pretty early on, but when the revelation scene comes around, they still make a real go of it. Director Michael Schroeder, who had thus far filmed everything with the oomph of a budget soap opera, pulls of a fabulous Carpenter-esque shot of the looming killer in the background. The majority of his efforts to build a tense environment had failed by that point (he used the old ‘waiting for the lift’ suspense mechanism twice in a row without result), but I loved the inclusion of the Sergio Leone eyeball chestnut.
Producer David C Thomas had a crack at the slasher genre during the boom years, with The House where Death Lives and had thrown everything into making this a success. The film has a fantastic B-Movie ensemble and was slickly produced. In the end though, it failed to even recuperate half of its production budget, which was probably due to a poor marketing strategy. If they’d have gone all out as a slasher and dropped the eroticism angle, it may have been more of a hit. You only have to look at the success of Maniac Cop and Child’s Play to know that there were still crowds for horror movies 1988
Alas, Out of the Dark is not much of a rumpus, but there are countless entries that are worse
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√
aka Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain
Directed by: Christian Viel
Starring: Jennifer Jameson, Chasey Lain, Ginger Lynn
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So before we kick off, it’s important that I tell you that this review is of the workprint that I got my hands on in 2002 (Thanks very much to Christian Viel) under the film’s original title of Samhain. It turns out that the copy released later as Evil Breed, was heavily butchered by Lionsgate and includes numerous scenes that were shot by a different director. I haven’t seen that version, so I’m unaware of exactly how much of this footage was kept, but judging by the reviews that I’ve read scattered around the web, it ended up as a bit of a jumbled mishmash. Please forgive me if you go and buy the DVD and it excludes most of the stuff that I’m going to write about here.
Secondly, I took the liberty of posting a picture of Chasey Lain. Now this is not from the movie, which was made after she got hooked on drugs and lost that traffic-stopping beauty. But hey, when would I get another opportunity, eh? Ok, back to the film…
If you were a director that was looking to cast female victims for a slasher movie, then surely it would make sense to add a couple of porn stars? It’s not as if they’re inexperienced in front of the camera, they have no qualms with the requisite nudity and how many unattractive porn queens can you name? Christian Viel obviously recognized the potential of mixing hardcore actresses with hard-gore effects and so he cast four of adult cinema’s sexiest and most notorious stars. Jenna Jameson, Chasey Lain, Ginger Lynn Allen and Taylor Hayes all turn up for cameos in arguably the most intriguing slasher flick to be released since Scream reinvigorated the genre.
Five Canadian/American students and their teacher head to Southern Ireland as part of their history course. Upon arrival they are told the legend of a cannibalistic clan that roamed the hills of Scotland and murdered locals for food. The cannibals were eventually caught and burnt at the stake, but it’s rumoured that one of the tribe escaped and headed to the woodland of Ireland to find refuge. After the kids have settled and begun doing what all massacre-fodder does in these flicks, the mandatory goody two-shoes (and definite heroine candidate) begins to be spooked by a shadow creeping around late at night. Could it be that the flesh hungry maniac is still at large in the Forest? Well what do you think…?
Samhain suffered terribly throughout a nightmare production and seems to have been jinxed right from the get-go. It had been initially scheduled for an October 2002 cinematic release to coincide with the Halloween based date of the story, but over a year later, the best that it could muster was a trip to DTV land on the Film 2000 label. (Yeah, the guys that gave us crap like Paranoid, Camp Blood et al). Almost as soon as the shoot started, Wal-Mart refused to develop Jenna Jameson’s nude make-up shots and Chasey Lain began acting like a drugged-out primadonna on set, which upset cast and crew members. Finally to add insult to injury, the producers got cold feet just before the flick was about to hit shelves and began talking of re-editing everything and removing all the gore. Reports have said that they were unhappy about the copious amounts of violence and wanted to trim scenes down so it would achieve an R rating. Veil of course disagreed, seeing how his entire synopsis was boosted by its creatively graphic display. Eventually after months of arguments, the director parted company with Warehouse productions and the feature was locked in the vaults.
It is because of these issues that Veil’s slasher is a tough one to rate accurately. The workprint that I received came without a completed soundtrack, but all the gooey parts were full and intact. I was impressed that it boasted a few credible jump-scares, some luscious cinematography and a couple of the most disturbing set pieces that I’ve seen for some time. One guy is disemboweled via his rectum before being strangled with his own intestine, Jenna Jameson is stripped naked and gutted in unflinching close up and Chasey Lain ends up ‘spilling her guts’ after an unfortunate rescue attempt from her boyfriend (Richard Grieco).
Even if the murders are uncommonly gruesome, Samhain never feels mean-spirited, which is due to the characters being thinly portrayed as little more than typical slasher clichés. The dialogue was not so much inspired by Wes Craven’s Scream as it was flagrantly cut and pasted, and they never really invested in developing the personnel beyond a basic level. Certainly the inclusion of Jenna Jameson was a great move by Veil, due to her massive global following and profile. Her fans will be pleased to know that she whips off her top (as expected) and so do Chasey Lain and Taylor Hayes too. Samhain is no soft porn movie though, and when it gets its hands dirty with the horror parts, the tone really does turn grim. Veil’s direction is sharp and he provides some much-needed injections of suspense. Even if the film includes countless nods to Halloween (going as far as to include footage from the movie), Veil choses to follow the Joe D’amato ‘gross-out’ methodology. There are a few attempts of humour in the script that feel somewhat misplaced and unnecessary, because there was real comedy to be found in Ginger Lynn’s shameful attempt at an Irish accent. I have to give her some credit for a great battle with the hulking killer though and it was well choreographed by Alan Chou. Hilarious pronunciation aside, she probably gave the most energy to her character and out-performed the majority of the non-porno actors and actresses, which isn’t a huge compliment, but still…
The final cut that is available of Samhain removed most of the gore that was in this workprint, which is a shame, because I would have liked to have seen how it would have looked with sound and all the trimmings. Despite Veil’s vision never being completely fulfilled, this version is worth checking out for a slice of exploitation that we haven’t seen to such an extent since the times of titles like Giallo a Venezia (1979). That also had a few extreme moments, but more importantly for this comparison, it was poorly acted, roughly made and never gained much recognition. It may not be Veil’s fault that this one ended up in such a mess, but the net result is still a feature that could, would and most certainly should have been a contender. It ultimately wasn’t though.
Final Girl: √√
* Review originally posted 12/11/2002
Blood Junkie 2010
aka Rocky Trails
Directed by: Drew Rosas
Starring: Nick Sommer, Emily Treolo, Ross Bachhuber
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Over the past couple of days, I’ve watched Bloody Moon and Do You Wanna Know a Secret one after the other. Despite being similar films in terms of their genre and content, the most obvious difference between the two is one that I have highlighted previously: charm. Is Bloody Moon a better example of filmmaking than Secret? No; but at least it doesn’t have a cast full of unlikeable and egotistical cliches that we can’t relate to. Eighties slasher movies, no matter how bad that they may have been, were successful in giving us characters that we liked. There’s no bigger or better drama in cinema than hoping a hero or heroine that we’ve invested in prevails against an evil force.
Director Drew Rosas understands this and has given us a slasher movie that has stolen the keys to Dr Emmet Brown’s time-travelling DeLorean and taken us back to the category’s past glories.
Four beer loving teens decide to take a weekend’s camping trip on some secluded woodland. Due to the fact that one of them was babysitting and can’t leave her kid brother alone, they decide to take him along. During their hike through the woodland, they uncover an abandoned factory, which has various legends of a disfigured loon that dwells within. They soon begin to discover that those stories may be true.
I must confess that it’s been a while since I’ve seen a picture distributed by Troma. Whilst I have never been a fan of their love of toilet humour, they must take some credit for their part in helping to populate the slasher cycle with some good and bad additions. These include Blood Hook, The Creeper, Angel Negro and Girls School Screamers. Blood Junkie is arguably the cannon of their arsenal, which Ido mean as a compliment.
What we have here is a feature that’s hard to take a swipe at. Having seen as much DTV crap as I have over the years, it’s nice to finally get an entry where the amount of effort is so visually obvious that it radiates. Unlike The Sleeper, the eighties continuity here is OTT, but consistent. We see cassette tapes, moustaches, boob tubes and luminous tops; but what amused me the most was the Hair Metal posters that were shown on one guy’s wall. I lived through those times, listened to those tracks and it seems like light years away nowadays. The energetic score is better than any actual synthesiser accompaniment that I recall from the period and the dialogue is comical without being overtly obvious in its attempts. Each shot is planned to be more inventive than the last and the runtime becomes a livewire of creative ideas. For reasons that I can’t disclose here, Junkie is also a film that warrants a second viewing to really bring the best out of the unexpected ending.
What I thought was especially effective, was the director’s ability to change the tone successfully and with minimal effort. Time spent with the characters is campy and fun, whilst scenes that involve the killer often border on being quite creepy. His costume is a gas mask, which is anything but original, but it is ok because his motive is fairly unique. Much like a vampire, he has a taste for human blood and he knocks victims unconscious and drains them in a secluded room. This leads to an ingenious use of the aforementioned headpiece, because the nutjob inserts the protruding hose into a victim and then sucks through it to give himself a warm hemoglobin smoothie!
Despite the novelty of the blood draining part, the abduction, instead of slaughter of teens, does lead to a lack of slashing. The first couple of murders are committed off screen and it’s only later that the maniac begins to attack with brutality. There’s a gooey throat slashing that serves only to inform us of what we could have been in for had Rosas structured his antagonist’s MO more typically. The less is more approach doesn’t necessarily work in low budget slashers.
Still, Blood Junkie was a pleasure to sit through and there’s enough here to prove that Rosas is an exquisite horror filmmaker. His audacious directive style makes him something of a B-movie Wes Anderson and I am eagerly awaiting Billy Club, which should be released shortly.
At 72 minutes, Junkie could never be accused of outstaying its welcome and it’s a film that I feel deserves some of your time.
Killer Guise: √√√
Do You Wanna Know a Secret? 2001
Directed by: Thomas Bradford
Starring: Chad Allen, Jeff Conway, Jack McGee
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
When I was a young dumb teenager, I remember that I fell madly in love with an older woman. I was too scared to ask her out, but we spent loads of time together and my heart used to beat like a UFC afterparty. One time we got drunk on cheap cider and in a final attempt to make her mine, I sung her the Billy J. Kramer hit, Do you wanna know a secret? Anyway, when the key line of, ‘I’m so in love with you‘ dropped I serenaded her emphatically. She smiled in a mocking way, finished the drink that I paid for and went home without batting an eyelid. I never saw her again.
I was hopeful that this overlooked genre entry, which was titled after that song, might solve some of the deep-rooted confidence issues that have haunted me since that fateful day. Perhaps my experience with those words might be a bit more enjoyable this time around and maybe, just maybe, I would be able to leave the past behind and start my life again… Weep
A year after Beth’s boyfriend is brutally hacked to death, she decides to take a weekend away with her new beau and four buddies. Almost as soon as they arrive, a masked killer turns up and begins slashing his way through them, leaving the words, Do you wanna know a secret, beside each corpse. Who could be the killer and what is the secret?
If I may, I’d like to remind you of the opening to the film, Reservoir Dogs. Instead of setting up the introduction of a protagonist in a typical fashion, we meet a whole group of characters that are sitting around a table drinking coffee. Even if no clear tone is being set by what we see, the dialogue is so intriguing and well written that we can’t take our eyes away from the screen. Now I know that it’s unfair to compare Do You Wanna Know a Secret to Quentin Tarrantino’s breakout motion picture, but I did so to underscore the importance of developmental dialogue.
Thomas Bradford’s slasher leaves us in the hands of a pack of one dimensional players for the first forty minutes and despite only finishing this last night, I can’t remember a single word or sentence that any of them said. I’ve overhead conversations on trains that are more engaging, which leaves us with a chunk of tedium that would fail to maintain the attention span of a cyborg. I often gripe about poor attempts at slapstick in horror movies, but I would probably rather that than what feels like a lifetime of nonsensical chatter between people that are absolute nobodies to us. They flirt, they dance, they argue and they pose, but they have the chemistry of strangers and the intrigue of a dishwasher.
I’d completely lost interest by the time that the killer started slashing, but to be fair, they gave him an exceptional mask, which reminded me of the Tor Johnson one from Small Town Massacre. The kill scenes are delivered in ways that eliminate the chances of suspense and there’s not much gore either. Most slasher flicks give us a unique weapon or a method of murder that makes them stand out. Secret doesn’t bother with that though and does everything in the driest way possible. We finally arrive at the build up to the conclusion and the stupidity continues as the killer murders a police chief for no apparent reason in the toilets of a jailhouse. Our Reese Witherspoon wannabe final girl witnesses this and looks on as the masked assailant drives off in a rusty pick up truck. If you were left in that same position, outside a Police station, would you a) turn around and tell an armed law enforcement officer what you’d seen or b) take off after the murderous maniac alone with no weapon? Take a guess as to what she does. This all leads to a revelation scene that has been ripped off from Embalmed and then we learn the ‘secret’, which has the impact of a dandelion.
So was there anything that impressed me? Well, the photography was energetic in places and Jack McGee and Jeff Conway did what was asked of them with the limited script. It was just that I was disappointed, because such a clearly well funded picture should have been capable of so much more. Ideas for movies don’t always work, but this one didn’t even do the basics properly. With minimal gore, unattractive females and yawn inducing plot delivery, I really couldn’t wait for the final credits to roll.
So did this assist me in my issues with rejection from so long ago? No. Instead, I went on Facebook and looked up that girl to see what she was like eighteen-years later. Six kids, twice divorced and a figure that would scare a sumo wrestler. I had a lucky escape… ;)
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √
Bloody Moon 1981
Directed by: Jesus Franco
Starring: Olivia Pascal, Christopher Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganoff
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I always believed that the Máximo Espejo character in the brilliant romantic comedy, ¡Átame! (1989) was based on Jesús Franco. That film’s director, Pedro Almodovar, also used scenes from Bloody Moon in another of his Antonio Banderas led pictures, Matador from 1986. Does this mean that Almodovar is a fan of his fellow countryman’s work? It’s hard to say, but the amount of sleaze in Franco’s 180+ filmography makes it easy to overlook the fact that he could be a capable filmmaker when he put his mind to it.
After the success of Halloween, a German production team approached Franco to help them put together an entry strong enough to grab a share of the hottest cinema craze. Bloody Moon went on thereafter to become something of a grindhouse classic in cult circles. This was mainly due to its whacky dialogue, explicit gore and extreme nudity. After being released uncut pre-cert on VHS in the United Kingdom, it went on to join the DPP list and become a video nasty, which added to its notoriety. Much like I had done with Juan Simón’s Pieces, I wanted to go back and view it with an open mind to see what I made of it.
A group of German students head to a language school in Spain to brush up on their Español and catch a bit of sun. It becomes apparent that they are sharing the location with a disfigured murderer who has just been released from the local asylum. Girls soon begin disappearing, so could it be that Miguel has not been fully cured?
Checking out Bloody Moon after all these years, I found that I appreciated it much more than I did a decade ago when I wrote the review that you can find here. This time around, I watched it in Spanish and the dialogue is not as hilarious as the, “I love your tenderness” and “let yourself melt in my arms” slop that we got in English language prints, which helps to make it a bit less comical. Juan Soler utilises a bright palate of cinematography that brings the screen alive, but he does overuse the zoom effect too much. Screenwriter Erich Tomek pinches a lot from Halloween, including the isolation of the final girl in her knowledge that there’s a psychopath on campus. In that role, Olivia Pascal screams her way through each new scenario with a subtle vulnerability and we do genuinely want her to survive.
The mystery is clumsy in the amount of early information that it gives us, but there are still a few surprises to be had as it unravels. Franco includes a couple of tense sequences, like the claustrophobic finale, which sees Pascal’s character uncover the corpses of her chums spread around her apartment. Juan Molina’s gore effects haven’t aged well, because nowadays, we can see similar levels of goo in most DTV efforts. Still, there’s something quite unsettling about watching a young kid get mowed down by an automobile (no, really) and the famous buzzsaw murder of a promiscuous chick hasn’t lost any of it’s pitch black humour. After letting herself be tied to a table, the aforementioned bimbo quips that she’s up for anything with what she believes is a hunky Latin lover. It’s funny, because she’s expecting to get drilled (if you know what I mean) and instead, she ends up getting sawed and TOTALLY screwed!
I wrote in my notes that some elements of the extraordinary soundtrack were almost Pink Floyd-like and then I read that Franco had falsely been promised some authentic music from that band by his producers before signing on. No wonder that he later stated that he had countless problems with them and that may explain some of the outright weirdness that we come across in the story. I mean, if there were two opposing visions working on the project, then who knows what came from where.
Going back after all this time, I’m still not convinced that Bloody Moon is much more than a cheese-sleaze slice of trash. It’s enjoyable trash though, which I guess is most important. It’s a film that I feel often gets overlooked, because with the hottest collection of chicas that I can remember, some fun gore and more moments of WTF than you can shake a stick at, it deserves a lot more recognition than it currently boasts.
Bloody Moon is gleefully bad enough to be enjoyed and although it hasn’t aged as well as others, it’s still well worth re-checking.
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl: √√√√