Prom Night 1980
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens
Review by Luis Joaquín González
This is another of those titles that to be honest, I should have covered on the site long ago. It was only when a SLASH abover, Ned, gave me a kick up the backside by reminding me that I hadn’t yet posted my thoughts on it that I converted it to MP4 and added it to my iPhone 6 Plus playlist.
Back in the days when I was hunting through video shops for slasher films, Prom Night was one of those that I couldn’t find for love nor money. I’d seen images of Jamie Lee Curtis facing off with a balaclava sporting nut job and had believed that it would be a classic slice of eighties special-ness. With a top-notch cast and a comparatively big budget, my eleven year-old brain saw nothing but slasher-tastic satisfaction. Eventually it got another limited VHS release and the nice guys at HMV (RIP) ordered me a pristine copy. Without a review to browse through (children of the Internet don’t know how lucky they are) I was on the bus home and fully expectant to enjoy a rival for Halloween.
A disfigured maniac that was accused of a heinous crime, breaks out of his asylum and heads back to the location of the event from a decade earlier. It’s Prom Night at the main high-school and Kim is highly emotional. Not only is she set to be the Prom queen, but it’s also the ten-year anniversary of the death of her younger sister – the victim of the escapee. When the body of a young nurse is found gruesomely slashed, it looks like the loony is up to his old tricks.
At the tender age of 16, I was mad about cars. No I’m not talking about toys; I’m talking about the real fuel-guzzling automobiles. I saved up some money from my weekend job and purchased a 1982 Ford Fiesta from a newspaper and fell madly in love. Over the year whilst I was waiting to pass my test, I bought a set of gold-coloured alloy wheels, a chrome exhaust system, a race carburettor, tinted windows and neon lights for the number plate. When I finally got my driving license, I was ready to hit the road, but just as I’d turned the first corner, the clutch went. A week later, it was the entire gearbox. I got it towed to the garage and they noticed that nasty brown rust had been devouring the floorboards. My world was shattered, but the car wasn’t worth the sum of the parts that I’d placed upon it, so it had to be scrapped.
Watching Prom Night after many years reminded me of that Fiesta so much. First things first, the film is beautifully shot and DP Robert New has done an amazing job of planning his photography with grace and dynamism. The opening scene takes place inside an abandoned school and there’s an adept aura of isolation and spookiness that surrounds the child actors. Paul Zaza’s scoring is as creepy as always and the film lets you know from the off that it’s slickly put-together. When our key players are introduced, they are awarded the space and time to bond with the audience and it’s interesting how the script hints that humans develop a specific personality trait that maturity doesn’t alter. It was almost as if they were subtlety stating that if you’re born with a nasty streak, it’s likely that you’ll stay that way unless you decide to change. During the story development parts, the underscoring of horror is provided by some stalking scenarios and the killer phoning and threatening his intended victims. This concept was clearly lifted from Black Christmas and shows that Prom Night is a slasher movie that knew its target audience. We get very few, if any, attempts at innovation and the crisp rolling photography through the town where this was filmed may well have been left-over footage from Carpenter’s Halloween. As with Humongous, Lynch was certainly a director that wasn’t ashamed of looting from his peers.
Jaime Lee Curtis heads up a note-perfect group of performers and I couldn’t point out any weaknesses in the casting. This was Peter Simpson’s first foray into slasherdom and the success that he received led him to begin development on the far more authentic Curtains. Prom Night was a big hit upon its release and is widely regarded as one of the genre’s most recognised features. Going back to the Fiesta that I told you about above though, the strong dramatics, superb score and lush photography don’t conceal the film’s limp and predictable spine.
Robert Guza’s script is extremely focused on its mystery, but we are given far too many clues to the maniac’s true identity. They were expecting the unmasking scene to be something of a shock, however it is obviously diluted by the fact that it’s exactly who we expected it to be. It’s almost like the screenwriters didn’t think that their audience would be smart enough to face a compelling puzzle without assistance. I felt that a lot of effort was wasted focussing on numerous red-herrings, when perhaps what the movie really needed was a larger impetus on generating suspense. It’s impossible to deny that Lynch is a director that shoots with panache and draws the best from his cast, but with Prom Night – I noticed this with Humongous too – there’s just never an air of unpredictability. Once we’ve picked who will survive, we know that they’re untouchable and it takes the tension away from the rest getting killed. It’s strange that a filmmaker so inspired by John Carpenter didn’t recognise the necessity of keeping his viewers hooked. Perhaps he just couldn’t pull it off.
Still, there’s a lot of silly eighties stuff, including a bizarre Saturday Night Fever-like boogie scene towards the climax. I also found it hard to keep a straight face when Jamie Lee called Leslie Nielsen’s character a ‘Disco King’ whilst he was awkwardly bopping like a one-legged ostrich. Oh and the fat joker guy in this one actually pulls (and scores) with a chica. So there was one authentic aspect after all ;).
Prom Night is a well-produced slasher movie that has moments of creepiness that are truly well delivered. It’s just a shame that it feels too much like a Halloween rip off and even lacks the authenticity of titles like: Friday the 13th, The Prey, Unhinged, The Unseen, Silent Scream, Small Town Massacre, My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, American Nightmare or even Graduation Day, Happy Birthday To Me and Embalmed. Also, the fact that it’s never really scary is a sin that, for such a visually competent picture, is hard to forgive…
Lost After Dark 2015
Directed by: Ian Kessner
Starring: Robert Patrick, Jesse Camacho, Kendra Trimmings
Review by Donny Ybarra (Brothers Grim)
Happy Saturday a SLASH abovers… I am proud to present the first guest post from long time slasher fan and all round knowledgeable guy, Donny Ybarra. You may have seen some of his reviews online and I am happy to have him contribute to the glossy pages of a SLASH above. Here he’s chosen snazzy new killer in the woods flick, Lost After Dark. I am sure that you’ll enjoy his review as much as I did…
There is this current surge of “throwback” horror movies, most are set in the 80’s, with an emphasis on the body count slasher flicks. These particular types of horror films are made to celebrate the “golden age of slashers”, it also happens to be my favorite type of film. These throwback films have become extremely popular lately too, most have been quit successful with finding a cult following. Movies like; Billy Club, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, the Legend of the Psychotic Forest Ranger, The Sleeper, Scream Park and many more have hit dvd/blu with welcome arms. The aforementioned films go back to simple stories that are big on gore and have some camp appeal, which set themselves apart from the post-Scream teen slasher influences and all of the other trends in horror that have dominated recent years. What I love about this movie is that it is set in 1984, kudos to director Ian Kessner and crew for really demonstrating their knowledge for what makes this year/decade great! From clothing to catch phrases, it’s all there.
Speaking of the 80’s, what sets this film apart from say recent “slashers”, like Unfriended (even though I quit enjoyed it), is that you don’t hate the teens. The teens in LAD are modeled from some characters you could have most likely seen in a Friday the 13th/Elm Street sequel. Because you get some character development, you are saddened to see these teens killed, and THAT is what gives this flick some rewatchability too. In a market that is congested with shaky cam documentary style filmmaking, it was great to get back to classic storytelling that didn’t involve any gimmicks.
Now, on to the meat and bones of the movie…pun intended! The movie starts out with the last two surviving members (of what was prolly another group of horny teens with bad decision making skills), fight their way from someone that looks like a Rob Zombie stunt double. This is by no means a bad thing, but a cool mask would have been a great addition to this greasy fella, but more on him later. The opening kill happens on the tail end of the 70’s, luckily for us the movie takes a huge jump to the year of 1984! We are then introduced to the sibling of our dear massacred flower child, Adrienne, who is still waiting for big sister to return home from what everyone thinks was a bad 70’s “trip”. Adrienne and pops have a touching moment before lil sis goes back to the plan her and her buds concocted, which consisted of swiping the keys to the family cabin for the weekend. The plot from this point on is fairly straightforward, kids sneak a bus out from Principle Mr.C (who is played respectively by Robert Patrick), and get stranded without gas on their way to the cabin. As the kids make their way around, dare I say, lost after dark, they come across the Joad house. One thing to keep in mind is, Junior Joad hates visitors!
JJ (as the kids should have called him), is a long haired cannibal creeper, which I always enjoy. Nothing says terror like happening across a psycho in the woods that happens to eat his victims and then adds their remains to a personal victory alter. Ian Kessler should be proud, he created a character that I say fits nicely in between the killer mutant from Humongous and Madman Marz from Madman. He grunts and talks in a muffled manner that is very reminiscent of some one that spent way too much time in the woods by themselves. Our dear JJ has quit the arsenal of weaponry too! He takes out all the cool guys and gals with bear traps and pickaxes, he gives good blood splatter! One kill involving broken glass and an eyeball made me squirm, and that’s hard to do for this seasoned slasher fan! Fulci would definitely be proud!
One by one the kids are taken out in gory ways, chase sequences ensue and it all ends in a way that makes you want a sequel. Some highlights from the film involve a hilarious “reel missing” sequence that was pretty funny. Another groovy thing is from time to time the picture of the movie would crack or a scratch would appear, it wasn’t overdone so that was a plus. My favorite thing about the movie is that who you think will be the “final girl/guy”, sadly will not be. This movie did a good job of keeping the kills unpredictable. I won’t say if there is a survivor, but I will say I was quit pleased with the end, despite is seeming a tad rushed.
In a movie market that is congested with shaky cam documentary style filmmaking, it was great to get back to classic storytelling that didn’t involve any gimmicks. There are some great shots of the interiors of the house and the unique display of “artwork” from the killer, think Leatherface but with an eye for installation art. All those add up to a worthy “throwback” slasher that actually succeeds at throwback! Give it a spin, it’s pretty RAD!
Thanks to Ed Peters for sending me a screener from Anchor Bay Entertainment, I really enjoyed it!
Movie Machine Massacre 2014
aka RedBox Killer
Directed by: Mark Demise
Starring: Melissa Mania, Tim Schultz, Eric Hamilton
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok so we all hate hypocrites, right? I dislike them too, but it looks like I’m about to become one. I said something in my review of President’s Day that I may need to adjust a tiny bit here. I stated that after watching, it’d be hard for me to excuse a film’s failings as ‘budget related’, because Chris LaMartina had made a slasher extravaganza on a meagre $5,000. What I didn’t keep in mind was that there are entries out there that were put together for not even a third of that funding. Entries like Movie Machine Massacre.
Shot on an old VHS camcorder, Mark Demise’s slasher is one of the cheapest things that I’ve ever seen. It’s likely that you could find more expensive products at a charity shop sale. I got the chance to ask Demise what the budget was for the production and he answered, ‘There was no budget’. Alrighty then! At the time of writing, it’s not listed on the IMDB, its only website is on Facebook and it only exists through word of mouth. It’s a real-life Urban Legend…
Queuing customers at RedBoxes are being slaughtered by a vicious masked killer. Before long the head of RedBox is asked to share his views on the situation, but when his secretary disappears, he decides to assist with catching the culprit…
This could in fact be the hardest film that I’ve ever reviewed. Saying that it was good would be wholly inaccurate, but completely criticising it would be somewhat unfair. To give you the basics, Movie Machine Massacre is as bare bones a feature as could be possible. Everything is shot handheld with one camera and we lack structure or definition in all that we see. The dialogue is purely functional and as it was filmed on VHS cassettes, the picture quality is shady at best. Demise chooses wisely to convey the majority of the action in the daylight or under brightly lit backdrops, but we still struggle sometimes to make out the visuals. Perhaps the parts that underline the film’s values the most are the ones that are filmed in what’s supposed to be the CEO of RedBox’s office. It is literally a small bedroom in someone’s house that Demise and co have placed a desk and a laptop in!
The cast is made up of amateurs with no previous experience and it’s not really acting because they pretty much play themselves. With such lightweight scripting, it’s tough to ascertain if there’s a central character to root for and victims walk onto the screen from obscurity only to exit and return to obscurity straight after they’re dealt with. Did they even have names? I don’t know. Still, I would ask you to put your glass of (strong) alcoholic beverage down for a second, because despite all of the stuff that I’ve mentioned above, Movie Machine Massacre actually has moments that I thought were quite good.
There’s a grim score that accompanies many of the stalking scenes and the shaky handheld camera is incredibly effective for bringing realism to proceedings. For the first twenty-minutes or so, I was so impressed by the way that the antagonist was handled that I was reminded of the creepy priest guy from Goodnight Godbless. This is especially evident in the parts that see him flicking through TV channels whilst toying with a knife, because the psycho padre in Godbless did exactly the same thing. I remember that also having a gritty underground vibe that was maybe inadvertent, but unshakeable. There’s just something about the grainy videography and the gothic tone here that manages to create an unsettling fear factor. It could be argued that Demise fails to build upon/sustain it for long enough, but it does leave an effect while it lasts.
Another thing worth mentioning is that Massacre actually has a point to convey. The director was tired of seeing mom and pop video stores go under amongst the plethora of online rental services and movie machines, so this is his camcorder recorded message to those guilty parties. He had originally called it, RedBox killer, but in order to prevent himself from being sued and because he believes his film will outlive the RedBox business model, Demise changed the name to the one that I’ve posted this review under. Oh and before I forget, there’s a rock group featured that play at a club where the killer strikes. It’s not unusual to see a band in a budget slasher, but these guys are surprisingly good. They’re like an eighties hair metal act with a rugged core and they really make the juxtaposition work. I’d buy their CD if I knew were one could be found…?
As I alluded to above, it’s impossible to recommend Movie Machine Massacre as a worthwhile feature, but I’m glad that I watched it. There are a lot of killings, a solid tone and an intelligent motive that we’ll most definitely agree with. The film gives a new meaning to the word ‘cheap’, but it’s still bizarrely alluring – even if we know it shouldn’t really be. I don’t think there’s anything else out there to compare it with, which is a subtle compliment in itself.
Directed by: David J. Gardner
Starring: Tracy Pacheco, Jason Hamer, Shannon Nelson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Towards the end of the nineties/beginning of the noughties, there were a host of slasher films that based their structures around a craze that was popular amongst audiences: Reality Television. Kolobos was the first that I witnessed and it proved to be a superb slasher that showed what could be achieved with a voyeuristic set-up. Soon after, we received a few more similar themed additions which varied in quality, with the worst of them being the heinous Voyeur.com. Less and less Reality-Slasher entries appeared as the years went by, but then in 2014, the wonderful Girl House brought panache back to the sub-sub-genre.
TheCampusHouse.Com is without a doubt the most obscure of all these titles and it’s an addition that I was keen to add to the site. I picked up a copy years ago on DVD at a horror festival, but I’ve never seen it on Amazon/eBay or anywhere else for general purchase. The only information that I could find in relation to its production were three generous user reviews on the IMDB, where it boasts a healthy 6.7 rating. There’s literally nothing else that can be discovered from an online search and as far as I’m aware, it never secured a distribution deal. This makes it (yet) another a SLASH above exclusive. I’m good to you all, eh?
A group of students are invited to gain free lodging in a large campus house if they take part in a social project. An ambitious businessman is offering to pay for their courses if they allow themselves to be filmed around the clock for online viewers. Once inside the camera-laden abode, they bond quicker than had been expected, but the fun is shattered when one of their neighbours is butchered by a masked maniac. The group become nervous, but their fears are brushed aside by the Police, who believe the murder to be the work of a gang of escaped convicts that have now fled the area. As other people begin to disappear, it soon becomes apparent that the stories about the house’s haunted past may well be true.
I’d watched Redwoods Massacre the day before this and I have to admit that in comparison, Campus kicked off with an extreme amount of class. Seeing a dark-haired artist being stalked in moody flashing lights brought to mind the style that was apparent in Kolobos and there are certainly worse titles that this could be compared to. It has become a trend over the last decade to pay constant homage to the classics of the eighties. Whereas it’s relatively easy to duplicate scenes or mention titles in dialogue, Campus achieves the difficult task of actually capturing some of the charm that was present during that decade. Watching a gang of cheesy teens unpack their belongings to the strains of some pop-rock reminded me of Evil Laugh and the characters are more alluring than we usually find in modern efforts. There’s even a ‘psycho calling card’ for the first couple of murders. It is a creepy music box that echoed the doll from Curtains, the cassette player from Island of Blood and the rose from Rosemary’s Killer
Whilst this is most definitely a Reality Slasher, the onlooking cameras are brushed aside fairly sharply when the mystery begins to take-hold of the story. We are given a plot-branch from thirty-years earlier that adds an extra layer of difficulty to guessing who it could be that’s under the mask and I have to give credit to the screenwriters for the conclusion that they chose for the close of their saga. There are quite a few killings and the maniac looks extremely creepy in a white mask and cape. Perhaps what the film lacked most was some neatsuspense and any real brutality when he struck, but we are at least treated to a couple of lively photography gimmicks.
Now I consider Halloween to be the perfect slasher movie and its synopsis was structured through just the one night to compact the horror with developing the background story. Campus House is set over a number of days and despite the director’s constant attempts to maintain momentum (characters argue, a romance blossoms etc), the film borders on becoming too slow moving and therefore dull. The ambitious sub-plots spaced over a lengthy runtime were reminiscent of another unreleased film, The Inherited; and both entries could be accused of throwing too many ideas at a template that succeeds when it’s played straight. It is strange to criticise a slasher for trying too hard, but there’s a lot of talky-stuff here when really all we wanted was to get to the crimson splashing. I was generally disappointed that Campus couldn’t continue at the pace that it began with, because it had set high expectations with its handling of the early scenes.
What we are left with is a slasher movie that’s better than the majority of DTV efforts that get released en masse year upon year, but it has a few issues that prevent it from hitting the heights that were to be expected. A killer in a superb mask, a nice score, some creative directorial flourishes and an intelligent twist are let down by an uneven momentum and a failure to build upon that initial energy. Still, as I said above, it’s better than many that are produced on the same budget and it’s a real mystery as to why it didn’t get the shot it deserved.
President’s Day 2010
Directed by: Chris LaMartina
Starring: Bennie Mack McCoy IV, Lizzy Denning, Nicolette le Faye
Review by Luis Joaquín González
With Graduation Day, Memorial Day, Birthday, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and Valentine‘s pretty much slashed beyond slashable recognition, you must take your hat off to this production team for giving us an authentic theme for their genre entry. We don’t have a ‘President’s Day’ in the UK, so I had to check online to see if it was actually a calendar event. When I discovered that it’s a federal holiday in the States, I was astounded that this was the first stalk and slasher that had based its synopsis around that date.
The film comes from Chris LaMartina, who had previously directed Ameri-Kill; an extremely rare DTV effort that includes a killer in an audacious mask from 1999. When I bought Death-O-Lantern from Warlock Video, I tried getting a copy of Ameri-Kill too, but they had sold out of discs, so I’ve spoken directly with Chris and he’s promised to send me a copy. This particular addition is highly regarded amongst fans of the category, and when I recently asked the members of the a SLASH above Facebook Page if they could recommend any films that I should review, President’s Day was the one that most a SLASH abovers wanted. So without further to do…
A school is going through an extremely competitive period because they are currently holding an election for the role of ‘head of the student body’. Class joker, Barry, decides to run for president in order to impress new girl, Joanne, who has recently moved to the area. The task becomes a lot more dangerous, when the hopeful candidates begin getting slaughtered by a lunatic dressed as Abe Lincoln. Barry and Joanne team-up to attempt to stop the maniac, but could they be putting themselves in the firing line…?
As a critic, I have been guilty many times in the past of forgiving weak parts of slasher movies due to the fact that they were produced on stringent financing. If anything, President’s Day acts as proof that I can no longer use that explanation for poor filmmaking decisions, because the rumoured budget for this picture was a measly $5,000. With this relatively modest pocket book, LaMartina has created a stand-out slasher flick that does things the right way. On top of that, it is crisply shot, looks fantastic and includes gore effects as good as those seen in entries that were put together on four or five times the cost.
I often criticise horror comedies here on the site and you only need to read my reviews of either Easter Bunny Bloodbath or Slaughter Studios to see my opinion on slapstick scenarios combined with murderous mayhem. It takes a special filmmaker to give us a feature that can successfully merge the two styles in a paletable Cherry Falls-type way and I have to give credit to LaMartina for what he has achieved here. There are a host of amusing tongue-in-cheek sequences in President’s Day that could have given the picture an awkward tone that it would struggle to recover from. Instead, he admirably gets the mix of humour and horror spot on and creates an environment that allows viewers to enjoy the character development sequences without them having an effect on the darker moments.
The entire cast and crew of P-Day accepted parts in the feature with minimal payment, but they still put in visible effort to deliver solid performances. In a unique move, the story gives us an African-American anti-hero that we grow to like more and more as the runtime progresses. Our two main players differentiate from the Laurie Strode stereotype because they aren’t overtly innocent or virginal. Barry is an intelligent guy that is guilty of choosing fun over his studies and Joanne is looking for a fresh start after an unfortunate incident at her previous school. These depths to the two lead personalities make them more appealing and we do genuinely share their adventure and want them to overcome what’s thrown at them.
We are treated to a complex mystery that you’ll either guess immediately or be shocked by when the killer is unmasked. Even if the motive is fairly nonsensical, it can be easily overlooked, because we had such a good time on our way to the conclusion. Dressing the killer as Abe Lincoln not only suits the theme, but he looks exceptionally creepy and there are a whole heap of creatively gory murders for us to feast our eye upon. They include audacious stuff such as death by hair straighteners, asphyxiation with a statue (?) and a voluptuous Latina is burned to death on a cooker! One early scene gives the film an ‘anything could happen’ tone, when a disabled girl in a wheelchair gets dismembered with an axe. It was reminiscent of the notorious sequence from Friday the 13th Part II, which at that far less politically-correct time was fairly controversial. It’s easy then to see that LaMartina has got the balls to go where others don’t and go there he does, continuously until the final credits roll. Despite the fact that the killings are fairly gratuitous, the atmosphere isn’t mean-spirited and maintains the subtle tongue-in-cheek tone even when the crimson is spread.
President’s Day is a solid entry that deserves a place amongst the slasher elite. There are many new-age stalk and slashers that get lost in their attempts to either try something different or pay endless tributes to the hits of the eighties. Chris LaMartina proves here that all you need to do is include enough of the recognised ingredients and have a bit of a ball with them. It really is that simple. It surprises me still to this day how many filmmakers fail to get it right.
The Last Slumber Party 1988
Directed by: Stephen Tyler
Starring: Jan Jenson, Nancy Mayer, Joann Whitley
Review by Luis Joaquín González
This was one of those flicks that I had been advised to avoid, but I let my love of the slasher genre get the better of me. I learned of its existence from the IMDB in 1998 and the fact that no one had yet bothered posting any reviews led me to immediately set about getting hold of a copy. I went around asking a few of my contacts in the horror community about it and the general consensus was that I should steer well clear. Those warnings only heightened my interest, and after ordering it from Amazon under standard international shipping procedure, I had to face a lengthy six-weeks for it to arrive at my door.
Whilst I was waiting for the postman to bring me my padded jiffy bag, it seemed the more days that went past, the further my curiosities strengthened. By the time it turned up, I was just off to work and all day I was looking forward to getting home and finding out if it would live up to the hidden gem status that my expectations had automatically allowed it to become. Looking back after so much time, it’s comical how blissfully unaware I was of what awaited me…
At first we meet a group of jesting teens that are celebrating in high spirits on their last day of school. Tracy (Nancy Meyer), Chris (Jan Jensen), Tommy (Danny David), Scott (Paul Amend) and Billy (Lance Descourez) all plan a slumber party at Linda (Joann Whitley) ‘s house. They plan to spend the night drinking, taking drugs and doing the usual cheesy antics that eighties teens in slasher movies love to do. Meanwhile, whilst they all merrily head off home to prepare for their fateful gathering, elsewhere in the town it seems a lunatic patient from the local asylum has escaped sporting a surgical mask and clutching a very sharp scalpel. He gets the address of his psychiatrist’s home and heads over there to carry out the threat that we learn he gave only days before. – He warned the doctor that he would locate and kill him. Then we find out that the medic is Linda’s father, so the vicious butcher has conveniently discovered a house full of partying teens to work through. As the beer flows at the party, the unwelcome guest turns-up and before long the blood begins to flow too…
Ok, ok so I should’ve listened, but there’s no need to say, ‘I told you so’. The Last Slumber Party is a heinous movie. As soon as I heard the ear-numbing hard rawk track that burst out of my speakers in the first five minutes and saw the cheesy POV shots in the muggiest of bad quality cinematography, I realised that I had made a big mistake. Every single cliché in the book is present and accounted for, but they’re conveyed like a twelve-year old’s tribute to Slumber Party Massacre. The only thing more sickening than the atrocious acting and the horrid Bontempi score – that doesn’t even sound like it’s played in tune – is the incredibly inept plot that must’ve been made up on the spot as they went along.
It’s pretty obvious that the editor just pasted scenes in any order without even browsing through the script. In fact, I’m not even sure if there was a script to browse through. There’s a moment that could have added some spice to the bog-standard template, when a second killer appears inside the house. This brief attempt at originality is shattered almost immediately though, because he’s removed from proceedings without letting us know who he was, where he came from or why he was there. Was it a kid pulling a prank? We can’t be sure, because like many things, there’s just no explanation. Keeping all this in mind makes me believe that the choice for the ending, which I won’t reveal, was director Steven Tyler’s desperate attempt to escape the massive plot inconsistencies. Things just plod along like a random YouTube playlist and I’ve begun to believe that The Last Slumber Party was the source code for Click: The Calendar Girl Killer‘s bewildering structure. It’s just the ‘why’ that I’m struggling to comprehend.
I know it’s routine for a slasher victim to be dumb, but these folks are unbelievable. When the unlikely leading girl finally realises something’s not quite right in the house, she sets off to investigate and find out where everyone’s disappeared too. She takes a brief look around outside, but fails to locate any of her buddies. As she turns to re-enter, a bleeding victim staggers through the door and drops to the ground in front of her – dead. Faced with the obvious fact that there’s some sort of psychopath at work in the home, what do you think that she does? Run to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm or maybe call the cops? No, of course not, instead she decides to walk back in and around the death trap finding a few more bodies on the way, before grabbing a knife and setting off to uncover the killer! Confused? You will be. Each murder is identical to the last, as a line of nobodies have their throat slashed with an incredibly bad gore effect. The Michael Myers-lite assassin, –who shows us the extent of his insanity by keeping his eyes wide open and holding a scalpel up to the camera menacingly MULTIPLE times – offers nothing new or exciting at all.
On the plus side there are loads of unintentional laughs on offer, like when the first two victims get killed. A nurse heads outside the hospital to a bus stop where she waits to head home. There’s another guy sitting there who’s fast asleep on the bench (?). Before she gets a chance to wake him up, she bumps into the maniac and… (unsurprisingly), has her throat cut by a scalpel. The lazy bystander manages to snore his way through her hysterical screams for help, but conveniently, he stirs just after she’s been dispatched. Of course this leaves him defenceless, unaware and wide open to get, you’ve guessed it, his throat slashed by a scalpel…. Oh, How I cried! Perhaps the most amusing thing of all, is the way that the film’s described on the back cover:
“The plot is twisted inside out leaving you stunned and clinging to your chair as you witness shock after horrifying shock. The ending will leave you breathless.”
I certainly agree; it was indeed hard to catch my breath after I had been snoring for 80 minutes.
As you’ve probably guessed The Last Slumber Party is really bottom of the barrel stuff. It’s cheap, inept, badly shot, jerkily edited, awfully scripted and has all the tension of grass growing. It’s not even able to redeem itself by being bad in an always-endearing Nail Gun Massacre kind of way. The most intriguing thing about Slumber Party is the fact that it ever secured distribution. I think it’s great that someone with a few dollars to waste can make an independent movie and get it released. But to make a small film like this a success, you need a little bit of, what’s that word? Ah yes, TALENT. Sadly it seems none of these guys were aware of that part
Directed by: Colin Eggleston
Starring: PJ Soles, Kit Taylor, Grigor Taylor
Review by Luis Joaquín González
After watching so many modern slashers of late, I really felt the need to go back and check out an early-eighties piece. It’s interesting how the new-age entries can be so similar to the peak additions in one way, but there again, to the trained eye, they do, in effect, have striking differences. There’s something about the oldies that just sets them apart. The characters were so much easier to like and the fact that I grew up hunting them out across rivers deep and mountains high, means that they carry a certain amount of nostalgia. They’re also cheesy as hell…
This particular picture is an interesting example when it comes to discussing dates, because it was shot in 1983, completed in 84, but sat on a shelf until 1991. That makes it a golden-age slasher that was released during ‘the lost years’ and barely made a ripple upon genre fans. It’s from Colin Eggleston, a prolific horror auteur, who already has two titles listed on a SLASH above: the first of the five Stage Frights and also Cassandra from 1986. Eggleston has never hid the fact that he’s a huge fan of Carpenter’s Halloween and here he cast a recognised face from that picture, P.J Soles, as his heroine. Whilst Innocent Prey is certainly a slasher movie, it boasts something of a unique structure that allows it to stand apart…
Soles plays Cathy, a Dallas based woman who is married to a business man from New Zealand. Thinking that her husband may be betraying her trust, she follows him one night to a hotel, where she looks on through a window whilst he sleeps with and then murders a young prostitute. After helping the authorities to capture him, she is terrified to learn that he has escaped his asylum and is heading back to take revenge. Cathy flees the country to her friend in Australia, however she soon realises that she’s jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire…
I recall writing that Colin Eggleston’s Cassandra stood out as an intriguing slasher flick due to its creative photography and bundles of suspense. Innocent Prey offers more of the same slick direction in places and manages to make a lot more out of its premise than I assumed would be possible. Unlike Cassandra and Stage Fright before it, Prey is not a typical genre entry. We don’t get either a masked killer or a whodunit angle. Instead it offers a synopsis that’s a lot more authentic; and as much intriguing as it is diverse. Cathy’s husband is the lead antagonist and despite being given an identity of sort, he carries a similar maniacal aura to that of Michael Myers. He’s sadistically evil and imposes himself on the screen with impeccable menace. When his unfortunate wife escapes to Australia after his initial rampage, she meets another loon that’s equally as murderous, but different in his approach and MO. The fact that she hotfoots it from one nutjob and immediately bumps into another means that she could well be the most unfortunate final girl in the whole history of slasher films.
It’s indeed interesting that Innocent Prey switches location and antagonist halfway through the shoot and it does give the film an extra layer of uniqueness. To be frank, the second killer has less of an impact than Cathy’s husband and I wonder if it might have played better if the story had focussed solely on the initial villain and his plan of revenge. I can’t but help wonder if there may be a production based reason as to why the change was necessary? Would this explain the delayed release? It’d be interesting to know for sure, because it’s hard to ascertain why the film didn’t secure immediate distribution. Unlike Cassandra, Prey is superbly acted and Brian May’s intense operatic score compliments Eggleston’s expertise with shadow play immaculately. Soles is convincing as the unfortunate final girl, but despite the quality of her acting, I was left feeling that she wasn’t particularly approachable. Perhaps she should have followed in the footsteps of her school friend Laurie Strode, from her most famous film.
When all’s said and done though, Innocent Prey delivers enough to remain worth a look. It’s not quite a classic, but it generates some spooky moments and a riveting finale. There’s some suspense and violence when the killer strikes, an incredibly cheesy final scene and hell, they even cast Debi Sue Voorhees (topless.) Colin Eggleston may not be as celebrated as other genre names, but his films are fairly underrated and deserve to be seen. This one’s debatably his best.
Click: The Calendar Girl Killer 1989
Directed by: Joe Stewart, Ross Hagen
Starring: Ross Hagen, Gregory Scott Cummins, Troy Donahue
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I picked up a VHS copy of Click The Calendar Girl Killer for $1 on Amazon back in the early noughties and I’ve wanted to post a review of it for ages, because it is indeed something of a slasher obscurity. I’ve never managed to get past the thirty-minute mark in previous attempts at watching, but I was determined to make a go of it this time around after receiving an enquiry from one of you lovely peeps via my Facebook page.
As far as I could make out, it leisurely tells the tale of an up and coming fashion photographer that enjoys snapping hot chicas in bizarre situations. Think Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Chicks that love Guns’ short from Jackie Brown and it should give you an idea of his artistic tendencies. Anyway, he invites a group of hopefuls away to a spot in the wilderness to complete an important shoot, but it seems there’s a psychopathic drag-queen-masked-killer on the loose that is determined to ruin the party.
This time last year, pretty much everyone I knew was getting soaked from the #icebucketchallenge phenomenon, which was a great idea to raise some funds for good causes. I’m thinking of launching my own charitable event soon, with the task being, ‘Try watching Click: The Calendar Girl Killer for a whole hour without: yawning, checking your phone, fast-forwarding or poking your eyes out with cocktail sticks.’ I tell you, it’s nigh on impossible. The film rolls through its first sixty-minutes like a collection of personal videos from a weirdo’s iPhone gallery. Characters appear and then disappear at the drop of a hat and scenes merge together in a row without a lick of sense between them. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a runtime that’s so incomprehensibly disjointed and it makes for a tiresome viewing experience. The girl that I was watching it with was so disgruntled that she begged me to turn it off and put on something else. For the love of my a SLASH above readers, I continued (alone), and I’m not sure if even I’ve recovered yet.
If there was an award for the length of time it takes for a killer to turn up in a slasher movie, Click would be in the running to win hands-down. After an hour of mindless tedium, the pace does perk up slightly when the maniac (dressed in drag) begins slicing his way through the models and their beaus. There’s one ok-ish death scene in a bath tub, but it barely makes up for the boredom that we’ve suffered whilst getting there. Many sites have this flick listed as a thriller but it’s definitely a slasher movie. It includes everything from a (very bad) whodunit aspect to heavy breath POVs and a smidgen of nudity.
Like many of its eighties genre buddies, Click suffered one hell of a bemusing development, which certainly aided in the creation of the barely logical structure that we’re left with today. I have found out that the project was pitched around to agencies as a Union backed feature and a cast was hired under the impression that their contracts were secured by a regulatory body. When the SAG became aware seventeen-days into the shoot that there actually wasn’t any Union supporting the production, they pulled most of their members from the site, which left a host of scenes unfinished. This of course explains the disappearance of so many characters without rhyme or reason. Now I’m only speculating, but after the loss of those experienced faces, it could be that Hagen threatened to walk too unless he could take more of a lead on the development. The credits list him as producer, co-screenwriter (there’s ‘six’ of them) and co-director and the film does play like something of a vanity product for the veteran actor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because he delivers an interesting performance, but it does feel like it’s entirely focussed on him and him only.
There are rumours rumbling around the internet that former Friday the 13th babe Juliette Cummings gave up on horror movies after such an unsettling experience with this production. I’ve also read an interview within which she states that she doesn’t know anything about Click: The Calendar Girl Killer and her scenes were taken from a clip show for the promotional reel of a mid-eighties feature that she thought nothing became of. It’s her belief that someone purchased those parts that she’d completed previously and then spliced them into the current version of this feature. She went on to say, “Amazing! You can shoot something and never know what it’s going to be used for!” Her statement creates more questions than it does answers, because she is clearly seen in scenes with Hagen, another Friday the 13th babe: Susan Jennifer Sullivan, and co-star Gregory Scott Cummins (from Hack-O-Lantern fame). This can only mean either that: a) She was extremely bitter to the crew behind Click (She was left uncredited), so when she said she had no idea about its existence, that wasn’t the truth. Or b) It’s a film that was shot in about 1985 then left in a vault until some new footage was spliced in towards the end of the decade and it was patched up and released as is. I mean that certainly explains the mess that we’re left with, but I’ve searched and searched on the Internet and that’s all the information that I could uncover. I was having an email conversation with someone who was involved with the film, but they didn’t respond when I asked about the date that it was shot. So the mystery remains open to interpretation
What we’re left with is a jumbled picture that there’s really no reason for anyone to sit through. The potential was certainly there for an eighties cheese-fest, what with all those models and mullets, but aside from a couple of energetic performances, it’s mostly a boring knot of badness that’s impossible to enjoy. It’s probably the most mixed-up slasher that I’ve ever sat through and that really is saying something.
Stage Fright 2015
aka The Gallows
Directed by: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I was just thinking, it’s been a whole two-weeks since I reviewed a film called Stage Fright; I might be getting withdrawal symptoms… So here we have the most recent of the five identically titled stalk and slash movies and it is something of a crossbreed of styles that we need to discuss. I first heard about this project in 2011, when I read an article that described it as a cross between Friday the 13th and Candyman. A trailer soon followed that stated an October 2012 release date and included a host of shots that I don’t recall appearing in the version, now titled as The Gallows, that I saw last night at the cinema. I could find very little information regarding the name change and all pages/sites that hosted the original trailer have been deleted. It’s lucky that I kept a copy, which I’ve attached to this post so you can see the differences for yourself. It’s been reported that the DVD/Blue-Ray release will include a lot of the deleted scenes, so I’ll be looking forward to finding out via a commentary what it was that led to such drastic re-modelling tactics? I wonder if it had anything to do with the release of the musical Stage Fright that may have been the first to successfully copyright that title…?
Since The Blair Witch Project made a splash back in 1999, horror has been awash with found footage ghost stories. Paranormal Activity is likely the most recognised of these, but a quick glance at any horror playlist will find countless films with similar concepts. Supernatural slashers are nothing new but aside from a couple of half-hearted additions (Dead of Nite), we haven’t really had a true combination of that style and the slasher genre… Until now. I guess that you could call it the first ‘Paranormal Slasher’.
A school in a small town is going to relaunch a play called The Gallows after twenty-two years. The show has a haunted history, because the last time that some students attempted to open it, a youngster named Charlie Grimille was killed by hanging on stage. The accident was caught on camera, but the investigation is still open due to some suspicious circumstances. A new generation of actors that are playing key parts in the second production decide to break into the theatre and stay there for the night. Little do they know that some things are best left alone…?
Ok, so the first question that I need to answer for you is whether The Gallows is actually slasher-tastic enough to be on the right website here. Well, I’m happy to confirm that it is most definitely a stalk and slash flick, but it’s one with a few supernatural flourishes. It has the whole House on Sorority Row/I Know What You Did Last Summer ‘revenge for a fateful event from the past’ thing going on, which is a key ingredient of a host of genre entries. It’s also worth noting that Charlie Grimille is a typical antagonist with a hulking frame and Burlap Sack-type hangman’s mask. I have always had a problem with a Nightmare on Elm Street being classed as a standard slasher movie because its methods of slaughter are too fantastical and therefore far removed from the original source code: Psycho/Giallos. Here, the victims are killed by a noose, which is a far less outlandish gimmick.
When the psycho makes his presence known, the film becomes extremely tense as the four teens are left wandering the dark corridors of the theatre and desperately trying to discover an exit. Travis Cluff does a superb job of realising the panic of being trapped inside with an unknown intruder and an adept use of soundbites and shadows means that we are constantly left uneasy about what could happen next. Another sign that this is a slasher movie is the placement of the hulking killer, because he manages to convey the Michael Myers-alike ‘appear in the background’ trick extremely well. I guess that the only true ghostly ingredients are the inclusion of unexplained sounds and a TV and VCR that plays footage of the initial accident with no connected power.
Whilst the handheld camera approach works to provide a few moments of tension and an incredibly effective late jump-scare, it has to be said that the movie might have played much better if it had been shot like a more standard third-person horror. The story was unoriginal but good-enough, the boogeyman was scary and the location was immense; so one can only wonder how it might have turned out if completed differently. I was speaking recently with a SLASH abover Brandon who agreed with my review of Gutterballs. What I said was that the characters are so deplorable that you don’t really care what happens to them and therefore are left without anyone to root for. The main camera operator here, a guy by the name of Ryan, is also a jerk, which means he ruins the opening part of the movie and dominates your reaction to the fate of other players. It’s not the fault of the actor, who alongside the rest, did what was expected of him. It’s just hard to understand what the screenwriters had in mind when they were dreaming up his personality.
With that said, after an intro that struggles to sustain interest, The Gallows becomes a scary and unique horror movie and one that I’m glad to have seen in the cinema. We watch these films to be scared and entertained and Cluff’s picture does exactly that. The missing footage may explain some of the parts that are slightly unclear (it’s hinted that you should not mention Charlie’s name in a Candyman type way, but not really clarified) and I am actually looking forward to seeing a director’s cut of the feature. Until then, this copy has enough to be worth checking out…
Directed by: Stevan Mena
Starring: R. Brandon Johnson, Samantha Dark, Heather Magee
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok, so I’ve got a bit of a confession to make. The fact that I run a SLASH above and often post a plethora of the rarest entries here kind of gives the impression that I’ve seen them all, doesn’t it? Well, despite its reputation for being one of the most highly commended titles of the early noughties, I hadn’t watched Malevolence until last night. Shock! Horror! (I was going to mention that I haven’t viewed Haute Tension yet either but that’s enough surprises for one review ;))
Released initially as the mid-entry of a trilogy, Stevan Mena’s debut quickly became a fan favourite amongst collectors. A prequel hit shelves in 2010, called Bereavement, which further developed the background of Martin Bristol, the series’ villain. There’s currently a third chapter in production that looks set to be completed later this year. The photos of a killer in a Burlap Sack that I’d seen had led me to believe this was something of a Killer in the Woods/Friday the 13th rip off. I was startled to learn that it’s nothing of the sort…
After a typical genre opening (steadicam up to a house, a merciless killing), the film goes into Satan’s Blade territory with the unusual inclusion of a bank robbery. A group of down and outs pull off a daring heist that owes a damn site more to Reservoir Dogs than it perhaps should have, but manages to work well considering the restraints of the budget. After some tense twists and turns, the gang of thieves (and two hostages) end up stranded in an abandoned house. They soon learn that they are not alone, because they have entered the domain of a vicious killer who is intent on slaughtering them.
Of all the 311 reviews that I’ve posted here on the site, the one that splits readers the most is Tyler Tharpe’s Freak from 1996. I gave it a three-star rating and praised it’s method of story development and character driven plot. Many of you agreed, whilst some, quite blatantly, didn’t. It’s fair to say that this feature includes a lot more action than Tharpe’s slasher, but I did notice shades of the same slow-boiling and gritty approach. Aside from that slight similarity, I can’t think of another slasher movie that I can accurately compare with Malevolence. Sure, it has a handful of nods to Halloween (sound cues are almost cut and pasted) and a killer guise that resembles Jason Voorhees’ from Friday the 13th Part II, but aside from that it’s unlike anything that I’ve seen previously. During the first twenty minutes, a group of intriguing personalities are placed in engrossing scenarios that are shot creatively with sublime camera placement. The initial tale of criminals trying to pull off a score meant that we were only made aware that this was a horror film by the odd chime of a low chord and a growing undercurrent of dread. I could sense the kind of eerie peculiarity that is often found in Asian horror titles such as The Ring or Ju-on. It’s not that Mena was attempting to particularly mimic that style, but the grim aura of doom that surrounds characters that are untypical of slasher trademarks, creates a novel tone.
It could be said that the director takes some risks with his filmmaking style; – especially in the way he invests deeply in the background of his story. Thankfully, those risks just about pay off and the film rolls through a crescendo of moods to maintain the uniqueness. Humans have a morbid fascination with abandoned places, such as Prypriat for example, and Mena seems to recognise this by setting the majority of the horror in a large dilapidated farmhouse. The scenes where the camera probes the vacant rooms and picks up on discarded objects from past memories are really quite creepy. He compliments this distinctive imagery with a smart use of sharp sounds and lighting. Whilst there isn’t really a stand-out score, our senses are kept constantly alert by the squawk of a crow or the sudden impact of bush crickets wurring from the surrounding wildlife. I’ve seen scattered comments about the lack of killings and it’s true that there are very few, but the couple that we are given are handled surprisingly well. Mena pays tribute to Carpenter’s methodology of the background placement of his silently ominous antagonist and the killer looks great in what can best be described as an ‘almost Burlap Sack.’
The plot point of having criminals on the run brought to mind Hitchcock’s Psycho and the film works along the same lines of constantly re-adjusting your evaluations. If I had any complaint at all, it would be that much like Freak, there is a certain level of attention needed to really enjoy the feature and gore hounds may grow frustrated with the amount of time it takes to get going. With that said, there’s so much that’s creatively delivered about the film that I could overlook the minor negatives and the shoddy-ish acting.
I had heard good things about Malevolence and to be honest I enjoyed it more than I was expecting to. It’s much easier to fill a film with nudity and gore than it is to provide craft. Mena delivers a slasher that is not only smartly put together and nicely shot, but it also tries something different and that makes it stand out.