Kill Game 2015
Directed by: Robert Mearns
Starring: Pierson Fode, Joe Adler, Laura Ashley Samuels
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I was discussing expectation levels on a SLASH above last week and I wanted to ask you all something that’s kind of related to that topic. Has anyone else noticed that the nights when you’re tired and really don’t fancy going out with your pals or on a date turn out to be better than those when you’ve been counting the hours all week to the event? With me, this is always the case, but I really have no idea why.
I picked up Kill Game whilst out shopping last week and even though the cover looked slasher-esque, I wanted to make sure by briefly checking the IMDB. I immediately noticed the 3.5 score and a user review that was headlined, ‘This film will kill brain cells its (sic) that bad’. Still, I’m here to review every genre piece ever made, so I’m used to taking the rough with the smooth. Even though I’ve seen my fair share of turkeys, I really couldn’t prepare myself to sit through Kill Game after seeing that IMDB rating. In fact it took me two attempts to get past the 5 minute mark.
A gang of high-school friends that are notorious for their pranks become concerned when one of their number is viciously murdered by a villain wearing a creepy Marilyn Monroe mask. Before long they realise that they cannot flee and instead have to work in conjunction to unmask the vicious killer…
Slasher fans, if ever you needed proof that with our particular choice of genre, the IMDB is as trustworthy as a shady CIA operative, Kill Game is your trial swinging evidence. It’s your signed sealed and hand-delivered confession. 3.5 score? So bad it kills Brain cells? On the contrary dear Watson, this is a fabulous slasher movie and should certainly be added to your collections. I’m about to take extreme pleasure in telling you for why.
Perhaps a lot of it is because I’d been ready for a dismal slice of dreck and went in expecting the usual heinous script/cinematography/acting combo. Well as the runtime grew, a splash of credibility washed over me like a tidal wave hitting an underweight surfer on his first venture into the ocean. What I noticed initially was that Game is comfortably financed and never feels as if it’s struggling to display the necessities of the plot’s backbone. Props are used with confidence and each location is shot with stylish lighting and flamboyant photography. Characters are introduced strongly and given enough fluidity and individuality to stand apart, which means that they engage us as an audience. The small and subtle script gimmicks – like Courtney’s weight insecurities – add a level of realism to the players. It’s not quite enough for us to REALLY care for them, but we do – at least subconsciously – feel like we’re involved in their parts of the story.
I’m sure that most of you, like me, have grown tired now of the entries that throw everything at parodying or paying homage to the hits of the eighties. I mean, how many times do we have to hear dialogue that mentions Prom Night FFS? Kill Game on the other hand is a modern slasher that sticks to the rules without having the need to boast about its doing so. I guess it could be considered as a tweak on the I Know What You Did Last Summer style of inclusion, which in itself was a re-imaging of Rosman’s awesome The House on Sorority Row. Instead of us witnessing the fateful event and source for latter revenge at the film’s launch however, writer/director Robert Mearns utilises the approach that worked so well for Billy Club, by unraveling the mystery slowly as the synopsis unravels. This means that the runtime remains tense and we are never really aware of what will happen next. It helps that for the first half of the film, it’s really hard to guess who’s going to succumb to the assailant’s blade and a couple of the killings totally took me by surprise.
Another bonus is the fact that we are given an antagonist with an incredibly creepy mask and he stalks with a swagger that brings to mind Heath Ledger’s Joker. It could be argued that such a striking villain would have worked better if he were a Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers type of merciless assassin rather than a character seeking vengeance for a past event. As I said in my review of Halloween, Myers was so scary because he had no motive, whereas knowing that this killer will turn out to be someone we’ve been introduced to previously weakens his appeal. I guess Mearns was somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place because his mystery is one of the best things about his picture (I didn’t guess it), so he couldn’t risk scrapping it. Still, this is one of the stand out guises of the past twenty-years and that deserves praise. We also get some ferocious murders, including a brilliant decapitation and a couple of SAW-alike death-traps that may not be graphic but are still fairly unsettling. These assist in the creation of a dark seedy tone that on occasion becomes contagiously engulfing. I also have to mention a few thoroughbred performances that may not be worthy of award recognition but are delivered with desire and focus.
Kill Game is a sharp slasher spectacular with a great boogeyman, a compulsive mystery and a plush set-up. Some may be disappointed that the only nudity comes from a guy that could be a stunt double for a sumo wrestler and it does move slowly in places, but all in all it truly is a SLASH above. I’m really glad that I pushed myself to watch it. Oh and by the way it’s my Birthday today ;) I’m 18…. I wish…
Scream Bloody Murder 2000
aka Bloody Murder
Directed by: Ralph Portillo
Starring: Jessica Morris, Patrick Cavanaugh, Justin Ross Martin
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Good Morning a SLASH abovers! I haven’t updated the blog for a while simply because I had to recover from New Years and Christmas. I’m nearly thirty-five and diabetic, so it doesn’t get any easier. Also, unfortunately my external HDD that has my review list on it is broken – so panic mode is at DEFCON 2. Luckily, I have a few DVDs in my room to go through, so I should be getting back up to speed…
Anyway, I’ve mentioned many times here that aside from slashers I’m a big fan of all different types of cinema. With this in mind, like most of the population of the world, I was drooling over the release of a new Star Wars movie. I got a ticket for 00:01 on the very first day it hit screens and even if there were bits I enjoyed, I must confess that my overall feeling was one of disappointment.
I was never a fan of the prequels because the scripts were so rushed and illiogical that I spent more time questioning what was happening than enjoying the action. My initial perception was the same about The Force Awakens, which – without giving away spoilers if there’s anyone left that hasn’t seen it – had an unconvincing villain, two characters that weaken the enigma of the force, plot branches based on convenience and an extreme lack of originality. I was gutted. In my review of Halloween Camp (the sequel to this film funnily enough), I wrote about human expectation levels. Well, I’m happy to say that the second time I saw TFA – with a mind clear of what I wanted it to be – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, the plot holes were still there, but the large amount of action and humour really meant that I could overlook the poor continuity.
What does this have to do with Scream Bloody Murder you ask? Well, I have mentioned this film a few times on a SLASH above as being one of the worst titles of the category. I picked it up in the year 2000 from a video shop in Bromley. My girlfriend of the time and I had been desperately searching out more slasher action and came across Ralph Portillo’s second slasher inadvertently. I remember being appalled that the crew had blatantly ripped-off Jason’s hockey mask and that huge shock had immediately turned me against the film. I wondered if now, after stealing from the classics has almost become a necessity, I might find that I could re-evaluate it.
A group of counsellors arrive to prepare a summer camp for the incoming children. There’s an urban legend surrounding the location about Trevor Moorehouse – a hockey masked killer that has never been captured. Before long, the teens begin going missing and it’s left up to the kind-hearted Julie to solve the mystery…
After Christmas, most of the Western world is riddled with guilt and feels the need to go on a crash diet to fit back into the jeans that felt so snug on December the 23rd. At lunch the other day, one of the girls I work with ate two rice cakes, with no butter, cheese, ham or any ingredient to improve the taste. Bewildered, I asked her, “What’s happened to your usual cheeky Nandos takeaway with a jam doughnut?” She looked up at me sternly and responded, “Christmas dinner happened”. Those dry, plain and boring snacks remind me so much of Scream Bloody Murder; – a film that has become well-renowned for its incompetence. It’s surprisingly hard though to understand exactly why this one gets as much stick as it does.. I mean, it’s bad – definitely; but is it worse than Curse of Halloween?? (Puts on a Darth Vader voice from the end of Revenge of the Sith), Nooooooooooooooooo
In fact there’s a bit here that I felt really worked. We get a mystery that attempts to convey itself smartly and I loved the flashbacks that demonstrate how a certain suspect could have committed each murder. The stalking scenes deserve a mention as they are credibly lighted and include creative character placement that builds surprise tension. One chase sequence through a forest was really impressive and the resulting victim’s dying attempts to get the attention of an unaware colleague were a smart gimmick. It’s fair to say that Jessica Morris is no actress, but she plays final girl Julie with enough goofy hotness to lead you to believe that if you got her drunk enough, you could tell her some cheesy garbage and she’d be yours for eternity. These things are definitely positives.
The majority of the negatives stem from the fact that as a director, Ralph Portillo reminds me of the kind of guy that goes to a supermarket to buy a pint of milk and returns six-hours later after reading the small print of every label to make sure he’s chosen the right carton. There’s a bunch of scenes that should have been merged together, shot more sharply or just completely removed, because they don’t tell us anything new. I preach about character development endlessly on a SLASH above, but it needs to be intriguing, well-acted and appealing. Watching cardboard cut outs discuss family members that we haven’t met for extended timeframes soon becomes a chore. I lost count of the number of potential friendship bonds that don’t go anywhere and the whole thing ends up playing like a soap opera. In fact, with minimal gore, nudity or foul language, Scream Bloody Murder could be exactly that. It even has a truly hideous soap opera-alike over-imposing and knocked up on a Yamaha Keyboard score.
Whilst I do admit that setting my expectations at -10 meant that I was thinking it’d be much worse, SBM still fails to deliver anything that really separates it from a million others. Unless of course you think ripping off Friday the 13th beyond imagination counts. It’s a shame that a film with such solid financing couldn’t be a bit higher in the ol’ quality stakes. Instead what we’re left with is an entry that has the odd moment, but pretty much remains the dry rice cake of possible lunch choices. Whereas me; I’m a large Zinger Tower Meal with Double-Chocolate-Milkshake kinda guy.
Staying on the Star Wars theme, it’s said that A New Hope – one of the greatest motion pictures ever (after Empire) – was saved in editing. It’s only a hunch, but if Raymond Chow had got his hands on the dailies of this, I wonder what he could’ve achieved? Oh and before I go, I must mention that some of the most convincing dramatics that I’ve ever seen appear in SBM. It’s when the kids are watching Portillo’s previous bore, Fever Lake, and they prevent themselves from falling into a catatonic state. That my friends is REAL acting. I’m surprised that Oscar nods weren’t given. It’s good to be back…
Directed by: Eamon Hardiman
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Kari Whi
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Whilst slasher directors are regularly mocked by critics, I wonder if they really get the appreciation that they deserve. I mean, let’s examine this a little more closely. With 1,000+ titles in existence, do you know how hard it must be to choose a unique mask for your antagonist? Let’s be thankful for those that just keep their killer off-screen throughout the runtime, because if not, there would be no masks left for up and coming filmmakers to choose from.
Eamon Hardiman found the solution for that conundrum by going for a pig headpiece. I can hazard a guess at how he came up with the idea, it likely went something like, ‘hmmm what guise should I use for my slasher? Perhaps a dog? No – they’re man’s best friend, so not shocking enough. A bull? Hmmm well, they’re pretty threatening, but they remind me of a burger. No, we can’t have a killer Big Mac. A pig? Well Evilspeak had hogs in it. Ok, that’ll do, let’s move along. Now l know that pigs get killed in slaughterhouses (but so do cows, chickens, sheep etc) and slaughterhouses are scary, so there’s more to this idea than just animal lovin’. In fairness to Hardiman, whatever the reason for his choice, Porkchop certainly led the way in creative killer garbs for the year two-o-one-zero…
A gang of dweebs head off to a campsite in the woods for a spot of the usual antics. They fail to take heed of the legend of Porkchop – a pig-masked killer that is rumoured to stalk the local vicinity. Before long he’s after the campers with a chainsaw and a sledgehammer…
One thing that we all know about the slasher genre is that originality is rarely found amongst titles. Halloween was indeed so iconic that many of its cinematic inventions are duplicated even today. In modern times, there’s a common element that we see more and more in post-Scream productions that makes no sense to me at all. It’s the process of filling a story with totally unlikeable characters. I have hurt my head thinking about this and I cannot uncover any logic in the approach or why we see it so often. On a basic psychological level, fear derives from the threat of something that could happen to you or someone that you care about. Whilst films are obviously just fantasy, there’s a big difference between how we feel towards a character like Laurie Stroud or how we feel about ‘forgot what her name is girl’ from Porkchop. It’s a trend in recent times for slasher movies to pack their casts with boring, loutish idiots and it’s amazing in many respects how many crews stick with this methodology
In Hardiman’s slasher, we get a stereotypical punk rocker(?) with an awful English accent (I thought he was Australian at first), a guy who is cheating on his girlfriend with a ditsy teenager, a porn obsessed geek, two foul-mouthed sluts and a robot (?) voiced by Dan Hicks as the source of comic relief. R2D2 and C3PO were perfect humour providers in the original Star Wars pictures and that may have been the idea here. I don’t remember seeing a prop made of yoghurt pots taking a chick from behind in any Star Wars movie though and they could’ve ripped off Jar Jar Binks (cringe) and it would’ve made the same nonsensical impact. We look on for an hour as these poorly acted, heinously scripted jerks make jokes that progressively become more vomit inducing whilst we are left begging for the killer to turn up and put us out or misery.
When ‘Pig-Head’ finally gets to slashing, the first couple of campers are butchered off screen, which is a huge disappointment because the pre credits murder was explicitly gory and promised so much. In fact, I have to ask whether that opening sequence was bolted on later, presumably after a distributor gave them more money to inject some pizazz. The scene builds up so well, with the killer’s boots traipsing through some undergrowth whilst a stunning chica whips off her top to unveil a lovely pair of jubblies. We get a superb machete through head effect and then what follows is a ski slope to ineptsville as the film leisurely strolls through its clichéd footpath. I can give credit for the eighties references (a hideously acted guy screams ‘you’re doomed’ ala Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th), the chicks are hotter than usual and the part where Deb uncovers the bodies of her chums is stylish with its red-ish tint and creepy scoring. My main gripe is with the characters, which are as appealing as having your appendix removed by Cropsy. Without anaesthetic.
All this leaves me wondering, what if Hardiman had scripted his cast to be likeable youngsters that we see bond over an hour’s build up? They wouldn’t have had to be good natured, we could’ve had an insecure slutty type like Donna from Humongous for example. The group could’ve grown as friends as normal people do and then when the psychopath makes an appearance, we might have rooted for them to overcome the evil, just like in any film with a well-developed protagonist. Instead, we get an overlong, poorly directed bore that I’d forgotten about moments after it’d finished.
It’s worth mentioning that Hardiman’s entry was successful enough to have a follow-up and a remake of sort that was filmed in 3D. I haven’t seen either so can’t really comment on whether the level of quality had improved, but I am mystified by Porkchop’s popularity. It offers little more than either Blood Reaper or Memorial Day and should really be thought of with the same amount of adulation. I’d go as far as to say that Camp Blood was better. Even Carnage Roa…. Ok, ok… that’s going too far…
Wishing you all the best for the Festive Period and a Slash-Happy New Year!
I hope that Santa gave you all that you wanted! Here’s to 2016 being a good year…
Directed by: Antti Kiuru and 6 more
Starring: Andres Pass, Aatto Paasonen, Ville Lähde
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My recent posts of Mexican and Spanish films such as Chacal, Masacre and Atrapados en el Miedo went down really well with my readers, so continuing along the linguistic thread, I thought I’d review this Finnish slasher from the year 2000. Shot by (a record?) 7 directors, I found this 27 minute short whilst on vacation in Estonia. I have literally no information about its production, but I’ll say that it’s the first addition from Finland that I’ve come across.
A group of young males decide to meet up for a drink over Christmas. Whilst the ground is covered with snow outside, blood begins to spurt because a psychopathic stranger dressed as St Nick begins brutally slashing through the revellers. Can they stop him in their tracks?
With so many entries that I still have left to review to complete the largest online slasher A-Z, I am guilty of overlooking the countless ‘shorts’ that people have recommended.The three that I did cover, Death O’Lantern, The Hook of Woodland Heights and Friday the 13th:Halloween Night were posted more for their obscurity than anything else and I guess the same could be said about Murhapukki. What we have here is an immensely enjoyable seasonal slash-fest and despite being cheaply put-together, I found loads to appreciate.
The film kicks off with a killer in a Santa suit stealing a car from an unfortunate individual. An OTT tone is set almost immediately when the assailant chops off the hand of his intended victim and then runs him down with the automobile that he just stole. Whilst the effects are the bare minimum of believable gore, it was fun to see spraying crimson and gruesome violence so early on in the picture. From then on, we are introduced to a group of guys that are gathered in two or three homes across a snow-laden landscape. As you can imagine, twenty-seven minutes allows almost no time for character development, but the plot is rapped around a typical ‘revenge for a past event’ core that unravels as more victims are dispatched.
I guess that the reason that I enjoyed Murhapukki is because it breaks the mould by not bothering with smart-ass ‘know it all’ characters or vomit inducingly blatant ‘homages’ to genre classics. Instead it includes a handful of recognisable elements, but doesn’t portray them with the mission of proving to the audience that the screenwriter(s) are knowledgeable of the greatest hits of the category. Our psycho Santa, for example, cuts up photos of his victims after murdering them -(due to identical clothing and hair, they look to have been taken the same day?!?) -, which we saw in Prom Night/Fatal Games and Graduation Day amongst others. There’s a Carpenter-alike shot of a bread knife on a kitchen table that disappears in the next instant when the camera returns to the focal point. We even get an effective Argento-esque ‘the maniac’s behind you’ moment that’s set-up in a bathroom mirror. We could say of course that these are tributes to the trademarks, but they’re conveyed more subtlety and not with the recent methodology of ‘let’s see who can include the most references to the eighties’, which has been done to death.
In a 27 minute runtime, the directors managed to pack in tonnes of bloody murders and a handful of chase sequences that meant that I was entertained all the way through the admittedly short runtime. One of the pursuits built impressive tension as the camera switched from POV to fixed-angles and the snowy landscape single-handedly mushroomed the underscore of isolation. Whilst the continuity is laughable (one guy gets a machete in the hand, but is fine moments later) and the acting is non-existent, I thought Murhapukki achieved a good-time slasher vibe admirably.
I often wonder when watching low budget entries, how so many can struggle to take a relatively simple formula and not have a ball with it. Pukki could act as a lesson to up and coming filmmakers that getting too mixed-up in parody and conceitedness is unnecessary. I could criticise the dramatics or flimsy plot, but there’s really no need to. Instead, I got more than I was expecting. Cheesy bloody deaths, amusing inebriated ‘gangsters’, a creepy score and a Santa-suited slayer in glasses… Are you really ready…?
Dismembering Christmas 2015
Directed by: Austin Bosley
Starring: Nina Kova, Johnathon Krautkramer, Leah Wiseman
Review by Donny Ybarra
Oh, the weather outside is frightful. But the terror is sooo delightful! It’s getting cold outside now and snuggling up with your lovey and popping in some classic horror movies is the perfect way to spend your chilly evenings. As a rabid slasher fan, the Christmas Holiday has contributed to those chilly evenings by the fire with gifting some great horror films from the 70’s and 80’s. Some standouts like; To All A Goodnight, Home for the Holidays, Silent Night Deadly Night, Elves and the ultimate classic, Black Christmas (and I love the remake too, don’t judge me!), are always a fun watch. So what does a slasher movie called ‘Dismembering Christmas’ have to offer for the “old school” slasher fans? Plenty. Just don’t expect “the next big gimmick”. There is no found footage, no cgi and absolutely no convoluted twist. It’s golden age slasher horror for fans, made by fans.
Kicking the film off was a pretty awesome cameo from co-writer/executive producer Kevin Sommerfield, I thought it was a great scene and really set the tone for the film. You may have seen his other Slasher Studious film, Don’t Go to the Reunion (2013). The aforementioned plays more to the post-Scream crowd, here Dismembering Christmas plays it straight to the body count films from the 80’s. Now, after a bloody start, we are introduced to eight friends that are traveling to stay in a cabin for the Christmas Holiday, unbeknownst to them there was a few murders years ago and somebody wants to make sure they remember this holiday….cue horror synth!
The cast shines, some more than others, and when the survivor/survivors emerge you get some truly kickass scenes. But it wasn’t the cast that sold me as much as it was the setting. The most exciting aspect about this film was the chilly snowy setting. Here, you have the cabin out in the sticks with nothing but snow for miles, this already isolates the viewers and sets up a nice dynamic later for some great chase scenes. Speaking of chase scenes, this movie had some great stalk and chase, major thumbs up. From running through treacherous terrain, to having to maneuver through the interiors of the cabin, the hide and seek with this killer was highly effective. Also, there were some really nice pov shots of the interiors of the cabin and the decorations, I immediately thought of Black Christmas as “Billy” made his way throughout the house. The dark reds and hunter greens reflecting the walls and interiors were highly effective in adding class without overproduction. Lots of small details like that elevate this film where others fall flat.
Now, on to the slasher, my favorite part of the film. This killer sports a wicked mask, it kind of reminded me of an interpretation of “Boo Hag” from Canadian Folklore, pale with long dark hair. Armed with a very interesting blade, this slasher gave good KILL. The kills ranged from stabbings to decapitations, to a very fun “wreath kill”. Goltz and Sommerfield know what their fans want, practical creative deaths, giving this film a pretty decent body count. There is a set piece towards the end where our final character discovers the lair of the killer, this was a nice addition to developing the motivations for the killer.
On to the negatives, which mirror my one complaint with Don’t Go to the Reunion, the runtime for the movie. This movie was short, at about an hour and seven minutes of content, I would have loved for about 10 more minutes. But this is a minor complaint, and if anything it shows just how much I enjoyed this movie. Despite the shorter runtime, having to not suffer through filler is much welcome, so more run time does not always equal better movie either. I’m excited for what slasher studious has planned for the future, I would love to see them tackle a camp inspired horror, something like an expanded version of Slasher Studious short film Teddy (2011), if you haven’t seen I suggest you watch immediately! Pick this one up now!
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge! 1989
Directed by: Richard Friedman
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Kari Whitman
Review by Luis Joaquín González
What do you get if you cross an intelligent idea for subtle comment with a garbage bag bulging with eighties trash…?
Well, you get Phantom of the Mall. This was the second slasher effort from Richard Friedman, the director of campy genre-parody, Doom Asylum. It became an attractive proposition for financiers after author Scott Schnied circulated a draft in 1982, because coming before The Initiation meant that it was the first slasher to incorporate a mall as a backdrop for some murderous mayhem. Soon after, it was signed up for a four-million dollar development with advanced special effects, but the production date was never confirmed and it kept being further delayed. As the eighties drew to a close, the budget was halved and different writers were brought on-board to make sure that the script could be completed within the tighter funding. Having read an interview with Schnied, it seems like the version that we were eventually delivered is nothing like what he had planned at the outset. In fact, it’s something of a twisted mishmash that is dismilar to anything that I’ve seen before (or likely will see after).
An un-named town in America sets about building a huge mall in its centre, but construction is held-up by a family that refuse to sell their house so that the development can continue across their land. When that same abode is burned to the ground in a fatal ‘accident’, production begins and the stores are opened quicker than expected. Local girl Melody, whose boyfriend was killed in the blaze, finds a job in the food court, but she’s still upset about the death of her beau. Before long, people begin disappearing in and around the mall and it seems that someone has an axe to grind. Could Melody’s love Eric have survived…?
For all intents and purposes, Phantom of the Mall is slightly bewildering in its structure. A story about a guy that ends up disfigured by a fire that also killed his parents, because greedy cigar-chomping politicians wanted to build a shopping centre where their house stood, should only throw pathos in one direction. Bizarrely, our antagonist turns out to be Eric; – the guy that we were feeling sorry for in the opening act – and because he had been portrayed to be a genuinely decent character, his transformation into a murderous villain is illogical and hard to comprehend. I understand of course that we are not expecting intense drama from a cheesy eighties slasher and I do like psycho killers with a believable motive. A better writer though would have recognised the obvious contradiction in the synopsis, and either made Eric have a dark side from the start (perhaps a fiery temper) or at least not conceived him to be as clean-cut and heroic as he came across in the opening scenes. From what I understand, Schnied’s original screenplay had Eric remain a good-natured vigilante type all the way through, which makes a lot more sense, but the latter adjustments deviated from a logical plot-path.
What we are left with is a movie that nods at the same kind of ‘obsession with image’ commentary that the wonderful Spanish film, Abrir los Ojos, delivered, but doesn’t really make anything of the concept. There were so many possibilities that could have been explored by the return of a disfigured former sweetheart that is seeking revenge and a reunion with the love of his life. Not one of these themes were developed to any level though and you could erase the link between the heroine and the phantom and just make it a film about a masked killer in the basement of a mall and nobody would’ve noticed any difference. Eric only murders wrong-doers and even protects Melody and her new admirer at one point in the runtime. This makes her decision to turn her back on him when he finally reveals himself the atom bomb that obliterates her appeal. She had been conveyed up until then as a sensitive heroine, but we forget about that as soon as she meets a handsome journalist and brushes off the disfigured hero that saved her life – twice. It is kind of like her saying, “I know you were my first love and suffered excruciating pain so that I could escape, but I met a guy with a car and a steady income that doesn’t live in the sewer or have a disfigured face, so see ya” . All this begs the question, why include another romantic angle when that of a saviour returning from beyond the grave is about the best that any writer could hope for? It all stinks of a poorly put-together plan of action, which is generally what you get from four separate screenwriters that don’t know or have contact with one another outside of the connection that they must finish a film on time and within budget. In principle, it’s the same as a few of my readers writing a paragraph each for a film that they watched once upon a time and me posting them together in one review here on a SLASH above.
These script issues are mainly notable because they prevent the film from fulfilling its obvious potential, but there are still bits and pieces that I enjoyed. It’s hard not to be entertained by a bunch of dweebs being stalked by a masked Kung-Fu kicking killer and this is definitely one for eighties aficionados. We get a host of bad hair styles and cheesy catchphrases along with an all-encompassing performance from Gregory Scott Cummings (Hack-O-Lantern/Click: The Calendar Girl Killer) as a hilariously OTT bad guy. He gets into a martial-arts fight with Eric that flows like Steve Seagal in extreme slo-mo and he delivers a teeth-gnashing portrayal of silliness. There’s one ok-ish killing that involves a length of rope and an escalator, but I don’t remember a single splash of blood which was a shame. In fact, the murders seem to abruptly cut before the money shot and despite the fact that I’ve never heard of an unrated copy, it’d be interesting to find out if such a thing exists. It’s only speculation, but those jumps do look a little too forced to be genuine. Perhaps it was just bad editing.
Director Richard Friedman, who had achieved marvels with his previous slasher, seems to be on auto-pilot mode for this project. His characters are fairly well proposed, but aimless, and he shoots most scenes flatly. Whereas Doom Asylum set a tone of comedic fun, Mall seems to be lost in the confusion of its moral compass. Also, the fact that we know that it’s Eric hiding in the shadows destroys any suspense or mystery surrounding the killer’s identity and motivations. It’s hard to understand why no one in the production recognised the need for a slice of tension or intrigue, but instead, a film that took seven-years to finally shoot comes across like a rushed un-planned mess. How easy would it have been to keep Eric’s identity a secret and just have him reveal himself at the conclusion? It could’ve opened the door for a more emotional struggle from a heroine who had met a new love and was suddenly confronted with the guy that was hideously scarred whilst preventing her demise. Audiences generally bond with characters that face big decisions and that would’ve worked a lot better than the confusing dreck that we were presented with. Still, we can find consolation in the fact that it may be a shame for us viewers, but imagine how Scott Schnied must’ve felt when he watched this back. His great idea for a unique slasher was ruined by influences beyond his control. It’s a shame.
Phantom of the Mall is a disappointing movie because of all the things that it doesn’t do. There’s still a chance that someone could pick up Schnied’s original script and salvage the idea, but it is looking unlikely. If that never happens, we are left with a cheesy eighties slasher that’s entertaining in a bargain-bucket way, but it’s also a failed opportunity to make something truly exceptional.
Atrapados En El Miedo 1983
Directed by: Carlos Aured
Starring: Adriana Vega, Sara Mora, José Luis Alexandre
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My recent love-in with Mexican slashers (Muerte, Bosque, Masacre) made me feel the need to dig out the last few of my own country’s entries. I wanted to confirm to myself and y’all that Spain could compete with other nations that speak our wonderful language and prove that we are indeed the Hispanic kings of the slasher category. After seeing Atrapados en el Miedo, I wish I hadn’t bothered…
This one comes from Carlos Aured, who had made a name for himself with his cult pictures of the seventies. His career began as an assistant for Leon Klimovsky and he soon progressed to the director’s chair to unleash some solid horror features, such as: El Espanto Surge de la Tumba and Los Ojos Azules de la Muñeca. Like many exploitation gurus that had achieved a modicum of prior success, the slasher boom of the early eighties gave Aured the desire to grab a slice of the cash pie that the filmmaking world had been scoffing. Atrapados would be his very own addition to the cycle and it was, in effect, his last movie. What a way to signal your departure from cinema.
Four youngsters head off to a secluded house in some woodland to spend a romantic weekend away from the rat race of Madrid. Little do they know that an escaped lunatic is also hanging around the site and he has murderous intentions for the foursome…
It’s only early December and already the Christmas parties have begun. There are few things worse than going to work after a night of heavy drinking. Your brain is a mangled mess of alcohol, cheap aftershave and cigarrillos and whilst you may be at your desk in body, you’re certainly not there in either awareness or spirit. The clock drags by like a one-legged tortoise on tranquillisers and a trip to the server room for a sly power-nap is an absurdity that seems more and more attractive. I look at Atrapados en el Miedo and I can only presume that Carlos Aured, for all his previous experience, was drinking a bit too much during the production. Either that or he’d gone insane. Actually, this was his last picture, so maybe I’m on to something there…
So where do we start? Well, with the ‘original’ aspect of a unidentified stranger breaking out of an asylum. This is demonstrated to us on-screen by a guy jumping over a wall that has a sign that says ‘mental hospital’ on it. Do we actually get to see this Mental Hospital? No. Did the crew in reality just stick a sign on the brick wall at the bottom of the producer’s back garden? Quite possibly. So with no idea who he is, what his motivations are or why he escaped, we are meant to be scared of this normal looking bloke with a curly mullet. Perhaps he was just at the asylum visiting his grandma? Maybe he was actually the groundskeeper? I mean, he was wearing a green woolly jumper. Ah, no, no; that can’t be the case. He breathes like an asthmatic after smoking twenty whole packs of Marlborough Reds. If you know your slashers dear reader, you’ll know that during the eighties, only Darth Vader and stalk and slash psychos did that; – and this sure as hell ain’t no Star Wars film.
Next up we see two Spanish chicas walking through a park. I have to give credit to Carlos Aured, because one of them, Monica, was honestly one of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen. (Except for my Mrs of course – you know, in case she’s reading). In fact, whilst watching, my partner said to me, “Do you think that girl’s pretty?” I replied, “What girl? Oh that was a woman on screen? Sorry I didn’t notice.” ;) Anyway, Monica’s friend, who’s also at the high end of the ‘eye candy’ scale, attempts to steal a kiss in the most unconvincing lesbian clinch ever filmed. Clearly confused by her feelings, Monica sprints off into the trees where she is attacked by a stray dog. Don’t worry my dear, I’ve had days like that too. She is saved from a mauling by an unseen somebody who beats the aggressive mutt with a large branch. Just when she thinks her luck has marginally improved, Monica’s hero turns out to be our bogeyman and he begins strangling her with said branch. Her friend/would-be lover hears the commotion and sprints over to assist, but she too meets her fate at the hands of the escaped loon.
So now we are introduced to two pals and two sisters that are travelling to a remote house to study molecular science. Not really, they’re off to make ‘lurve’; a fact proven by one of the guys continually cracking sex-jokes that are so bad, even his best friend tells him to take a break. We look on as the pair of hombres go to a shop and get some booze, face the drama of not being able to buy any yoghurt and have to overcome the trials and tribulations of a puncture on their Mercedes. Meanwhile the muchachas stay at home and do very little aside from spout the silliest dialogue I’ve ever heard and look gormless. Eventually after offing the daughter of a couple of shopkeepers (who was minding her own business on a groovy bicicleta), the killer turns up and slowly begins ‘terrorising’ the couples.
I guess that with the Latin looks, cruddy dialogue, shaky photography and dumbfounding scenes, Atrapados reminded me a tiny bit of Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground. The only difference is that whilst Ground had bundles of gore, this lazy Spanish effort is essentially bone-dry. Also, I know that the music in Bianchi’s ‘classic’ was pretty off-kilter, but Código Exterior’s scoring for this is absolutely hideous. It starts with a poorly timed jazz-piece that’s as bad as an ogre playing the bagpipes and then continues to go downhill from there. If you recall Mask of Murder‘s heinous guitar lick that highlighted every ‘twist’ in the story, these guys manage even to ‘out-awful’ that with their accompaniment. It’s truly cringeworthy.
I mentioned earlier Aured directing Atrapados like he had a monster hangover throughout the production, well this is especially evident in the film’s pacing, which completely slows to a standstill during the mid-section. There’s only so much of four people spouting absurd dialogue in a small house that I can take before my eyelids come over all heavy and I begin to snooze. When the killer finally turns up, we get a conclusion that might have been ok if we could make out anything that was happening. We’ve seen on the TV that directors shout, “Lights, Camera, Action!” It looks like Aured, in his drunken stupor, forget the ‘lights’ bit. I don’t know, I just feel that an 83 minute runtime that features only three on-screen killings seems a bit tame, but maybe I’m a tough cookie to please. Where I guess that the film does succeed is in its level of bad movie-ness that’ll appeal to those that love Nail Gun Massacre, Boardinghouse, Night Ripper and the like. I already mentioned the conversations and soundtrack, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Other things that stood out were that the girls getting attacked by the psychopath, but completely forgetting about it only moments later and when he returns for our heroine, she goes into a trance-like state and has to be escorted from the premises by her poorly-acted buddies. Just when you feel that every basic filmmaking principle has been shattered, the final credits show an HP Lovecraft quote that has absolutely *nothing* to do with anything we’ve witnessed…?
We live in a time now where a unified Spain could be a thing of the past as the likes of Cataluña regularly campaign for their own independence. I believe that we should stick together, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the back of the guys that made this particular picture, whatever autonomous community that they are from. We could revoke their passports for treason or something. I’m joking, of course, but one thing I will say is that Atrapdos en el Miedo translates to Trapped in Fear. I admit that it’s a cool title, but I have thought of one that’s far more suitable: Atrapado en el Baño con una Gran Caca… I’ll let you Google translate it…
Into the Woods 2006
Directed by: Chad Hundley, Michael Smith
Starring: Andrew Hyde, Chad Hundley, Colleen Mooney Wright
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I remember a couple of years back, my son Olivero loved travelling on the train. He was two-years old then and it was something amazing for him to be sitting on the carriages similar to those he’d seen in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. It was intriguing to witness his excitement, because for me, someone who has taken the same route day-in/day-out for nine-years, there’s nothing more predictable than waiting at the station every morning. When on my way to work, I know every house, tree and landmark that I pass, because I’ve witnessed them for almost a decade. In other words, it’s become a routine.
This obscure slasher flick from 2006 is a similar case in point to my journey, because it takes the standard slasher rule book and follows it step by step without injecting any panache at all. I found about it from the IMDB whilst looking up another film of the same title. It boasts there an impressive 6.7 rating and three extremely positive user reviews that were posted within months of each other (and within a year of this film’s release…). Even if I understand how easy it is to set-up fake IMDB accounts and post self-penned critiques as an effective marketing ploy, the optimist in me always finds a glimpse of hope in those emphatic write-ups.
A group of youngsters decide they want to go camping in the woods to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. They head out to a secluded location in the woods and come across another group of individuals who are also there to party. Before long a hooded killer turns up and begins hacking through them one by one…
Last week, I posted a review of Doom Asylum and there’s something about that picture that I want to recap so as to assist in underlining the biggest flaw of today’s feature presentation. Without checking my notes, I’m going to describe to you the characters that carried us through Doom Asylum, which I watched over two-weeks ago. We had the comedic blonde geek that could never make a decision and his kooky girlfriend who kept calling him, ‘mum’ for some strange reason (?). Then there was the randy black dude who fell in love with the drummer of punk group, Tina and the Tots. Tina herself was tough as nails and fought valiantly with the killer during the conclusion and how could I forget the cute psychology graduate and the dweeby guy that collected baseball cards? I’ve literally finished watching Into the Woods and If you were to ask me one personality trait of the youngsters that I’ve just witnessed, I’d struggle to tell you anything about a single one of them.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the script of every eighties slasher movie was a shining example of expert personality development. In fact, they were generally pretty slack when it came to giving their victims much time to do anything other than get naked and die. They did, however, utilise stereotypes, such as: virginal heroine, slut, jock, fat practical joker and lard ass Sheriff, which allowed us to separate cast members by more than a hairstyle or T-shirt colour. The really good entries would take these clichés and have a ball with them, so we would discover something to subconsciously bond with and grow to appreciate in that person. Into the Woods spends 40+ minutes frolicking with a bunch of absolute nobodies and there are few things to be found that are more underwhelming.The gang head off to a campsite to flirt, drink and chat the usual recycled quips, but the lack of anything remotely intriguing about them bored me to tears.
There are ways that a motion picture can bounce back from a cast that’s filled with cardboard boxes. I’m thinking of Sorority House Massacre 2, which overcame this by giving us a slick momentum and bundles of cheese. I was hoping that Woods might deliver some expert killings or bouncy gore, but despite a large body count, these parts were a lot like my train ride to work; predictable and uninspiring. It’s fair to say that the crew here were operating on minuscule funding; but hell, even Movie Machine Massacre generated a small slice of gloom and according to Mark Demise, in that production ‘there was no budget’. ;). Frankly, a 78 minute slasher flick should never feel overlong, but the Mrs had just finished painting her toe nails and I wasn’t sure if watching them dry from the corner of my eye was tantalising me more than what was going on with this feature. With a killer in an interesting hood that made him look ghostly, tonnes of cannon fodder and a good location, it should have been a straight forward task to make a fun stalk and slasher. Instead what we end up with is a film as exciting as seeing the word cancelled on the timetable when I go to the station that I told you about in my first paragraph. As regular a SLASH abovers know too well, it’s fashionable of late to pay homage to the hits of the eighties. Quite why directors Chad Hundley and Mike Smith chose Blood Lake as their flick to imitate is beyond me.
I think the scene that really killed the picture for me in terms of credibility was when there was the corpse of an earlier victim on the screen and as a fleeing chica stepped on him, the actor flinched not once, but twice in a row. Was that the best take that the two directors could get? Neither of them felt that they might need to shout cut and start again? They were shooting on video for gawd’s sake, so don’t even have the excuse of wasting celluloid. It was so bad that I included a clip of it above for you to see for yourself. Also, it’s great that Chad and Mike have a few mates in a rock band that’ll provide the music for their feature début and in all honesty, they’re not even that bad. I ask though, is soulful acoustic grunge-style accompaniment the right choice for a killer in the woods flick?
Let’s put it another way, amongst other things, President’s Day had its romance between the two leads, which was fun. Chill went with a gaming gimmick that added intrigue. Billy Club‘s mystery kept us engaged throughout, whilst Lost After Dark bundled us with immense gore. Into the Woods, well, it just exists really. There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years of computers being able to take over from humans in the future in a variety of jobs. Woods is an example of how a C64 might direct a slasher movie. Insert cassette with the guideline data and load press play on the tape. In other words, it’s a film with the personality of a cyborg. I’m not talking Hasta La Vista upgraded Arnie either…
Doom Asylum 1987
aka The House of Horror
Directed by: Richard Friedman
Starring: Patty Mullen, Ruth Collins, Kristin Davis
Review by Luis Joaquín González
So here we have more proof, if ever it were needed, that during the years between 1984 and ’88, we saw the most clichéd titles of the slasher genre’s timeline. After Halloween‘s initial launch, many knock-offs were circulated, but they did at least aim to bring something new to the table in order to garner a following. Whether it was a unique gimmick or an un-slashed calendar-date, the likes of Evil Judgement, My Bloody Valentine and The Prowler were far more authentic than Bloody Pom Poms, Cutting Class, Hollow Gate and Berserker attempted to be.
If I didn’t read that Doom Asylum had been shot in 1987, I would have guessed easily, because it has everything that the entries released on the back of Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street felt compelled to include. Comedic quipping boogeyman? Check. Bunch of attractive young-adults pretending to be teens? Check. Cheesy gore? Check. It’s almost like the producer brought a list of ingredients along to the set and stated that wages wouldn’t be paid until they’d all been ticked off. Where Asylum does differentiate itself a tad is that it goes for the same kind of parody/tongue in cheek outfit that both Return to Horror High and Evil Laugh had sported. Would it do a better job of looking slick whilst wearing it…?
Five bubble-gum teens head off to an abandoned asylum for a secluded break. The site is surrounded by the notorious urban legend of a deranged coroner that slaughtered two doctors before disappearing. When the kids arrive, they bump into Tina and the Tots; a peculiar punk band that use the location to rehearse their gritty sound. Before long the youngsters are being stalked and viciously slaughtered by a heavily disfigured killer…
It’s very unusual for a slasher movie to completely surpass my expectations. Upon re-visiting Doom Asylum for the first time in twenty-years though, I enjoyed my viewing infinitely more than I’d envisioned. What we have here is an entry that gets the mix of cheesy eighties humour and tacky horror spot on to build a good time vibe that is all encompassing. Both Scary Movie and Scream could be described as genre parodies, but one of them was sarcastic with its targeted mocking whilst the latter paid tribute whilst keeping its tongue firmly in cheek. It’s easy to see from the comparison in their popularity, which one went about it the right way and thankfully Doom is a pre-cursor to that style. Director Richard Freidman knew the rules of the category heavyweights and wanted to have a bit of fun with them whilst delivering some splatter. By doing so he’s produced a film that could have gone wrong in so many ways, but instead turns out to be a real treat.
Despite a minimalistic budget, Doom was shot on film, which means that the bright photography looks as crisp as a pot of Pringles and has aged extremely well. Dave Erlanger and Jonathan Stuart’s simple score grows on you as the film progresses and the final twenty-minutes, when the killer stalks the remaining survivors, are credibly atmospheric. As we approach the conclusion, the horror certainly tightens, which is a large switch in mood from the rest of the runtime. Doom is quite obviously a Mickey-take of the slasher craze that’d swept the decade and this is demonstrated in dialogue like, “If I don’t return, don’t come looking for me”. It also means that Friedman gets away with letting his characters merrily wander off to their demise dumbly, because it’s all pulled off with a ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ to the viewer. There is quite a lot of incredibly cheap looking gore here, but the producers must’ve noticed that they had more budget remaining than they expected as the production came to a close. The last two-murders are far more realistic (and credible) than the rest, including one guy getting his toes chopped off with a pair of pliers. It’s a tough thing to watch without flinching and what I found the harshest was that his girlfriend just walks off and leaves him to bleed out and die… Nice! An old VHS copy of this that I bought under the title, The House of Horror, was heavily cut, but thankfully Anchor Bay have restored all the bloody bits.
Doom Asylum doesn’t hang about to jump into the action and it’s impressive how rapidly the killer turns up and gets to work. In keeping us entertained from the off though, I think Friedman made the mistake of not considering his runtime. There are a lot of obviously ‘bolted on after’ scenes of the nut job strolling around in heavy breath POVs and they even went as far as to nail on footage from Todd Slaughter pictures from the 1930s. This gives the film a similar gimmick to the same year’s, Terror Night, but here it’s quite obvious that it was a post-production attempt to pad the runtime. I don’t even think they used the same actor to play the boogeyman watching these flicks? An abandoned asylum was where the action took place and the director really makes the most of it to give the film a maze of isolation. Apparently the site has now been demolished but fans of desolate places will appreciate the idea.
Much like Hide and Go Shriek and Blood Frenzy, Doom Asylum is a good late slasher flick that shows that some of the efforts that came prior to 1988’s re-emergence weren’t as bad as they’re reputed to be. Doing the basics well is more beneficial than going overboard; especially in this genre. Director Friedman would return to the cycle with Phantom of the Mall, a film that… well… I’ll let you know when I post the review shortly…
Only one question remains; and that’s who was paying the electricity bill for a dilapidated hospital? Was it the same person that shelled-out for the phone bill in the house from Silent Night Bloody Night:The Homecoming? How generous…