Monthly Archives: May 2012
Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain. Uncut Workprint 2002
Directed by: Christian Viel
Starring: Jennifer Jameson, Chasey Lain, Ginger Lynn
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Ok first things first. I haven’t added anything here for a while, because I recently started a new role and my plan was always to post like a rabbit on Viagra during the first few months so that there was enough for you guys and gals to read and then roll out new stuff on the site when I can.
Now this is an update of a review that I wrote in 2002 and it’s important that I tell you that this is from the workprint that I got my hands on back then (Thanks very much Christian Viel). It turns out that the released copy is nowhere near as good, so please forgive me if you go and buy the DVD and see nothing that I have written here. Lastly, I took the liberty of posting a picture of Chasey Lain. Now this is not from the movie, which was made after she got hooked on drugs and lost that traffic-stopping beauty. But hey, when would I get another excuse, eh? Ok, back to the film…
If you were a director that was looking to cast female victims for a slasher movie, then surely it would make sense to add a couple of porn stars? It’s not as if they’re inexperienced in front of the camera, they have no qualms with the requisite nudity and how many unattractive porn queens can you name? Christian Viel obviously recognized the potential of mixing hardcore actresses with hard-gore effects and so he cast four of adult cinema’s sexiest and most notorious stars. Jenna Jameson, Chasey Lain, Ginger Lynn Allen and Taylor Hayes all turn up for cameos in arguably the most intriguing slasher flick to be released since Scream reinvigorated the genre.
Samhain was originally intended for a cinema release in October 2002 – thus keeping in check with the Halloween-based synopsis. Unfortunately, the shoot was plagued by many problems, which have thus prevented the feature from achieving the exposure that it deserves. Last I heard it had been signed by Film 2000 here in the UK and was penned for a late October release direct to DVD. Unfortunately that label has a peerlessly abysmal track record with DTV slashers. Not content with polluting our shelves with Camp Blood and its follow-up, they were also responsible for unleashing Granny, Bleed and the rancid Paranoid. Could Samhain finally be worthwhile ammunition to their contemptible catalogue cannon?
Five Canadian/American students and their teacher head to Southern Ireland as part of their history course. Upon arrival they are told the legend of a cannibalistic clan that roamed the hills of Scotland and murdered locals for food. The cannibals were eventually caught and burnt at the stake, but it’s rumoured that one of the tribe escaped and headed to the woodland of Ireland to find refuge. After the kids have settled and begun doing what all massacre-fodder does in these flicks, the mandatory goody two-shoes (and definite heroine candidate) begins to be spooked by a shadow creeping around late at night. Could it be that the flesh hungry maniac is still at large in the Forest? Well what do you think…?
It looks as if Samhain’s production was jinxed right from the start. Almost immediately Wal-Mart refused to develop Jenna Jameson’s nude make-up shots and Chasey Lain began acting characteristically like a drugged-out primadonna. Finally to add insult to injury, the producers got cold feet just before the flick was about to hit shelves and began talking of re-editing and removing all the gore. Reports have said that they were unhappy about the copious amounts of violence and they wanted to trim scenes down so it would achieve an R rating. Veil of course disagreed, seeing how his entire synopsis was boosted by its creatively graphic display. Eventually after months of arguments, the director parted company with Warehouse productions and the feature was once again locked in the vaults.
Despite countless disruptions, Veil’s slasher opus is still one of the best genre pieces to be released since the new millennium. The copy I was sent was the pre-release screener, which was obviously a test press without sound effects or the complete soundtrack. But still it boasted a few credible jump-scares, some superb cinematography and a couple of the goriest set pieces that I’ve seen for some time. One guy is disembowelled via his rectum before being strangled with his own intestine, Jenna Jameson is stripped naked and gutted in unflinching close up and Chasey Lain ends up ‘spilling her guts’ after an unfortunate rescue attempt from her boyfriend (Richard Grieco).
Even if the murders are uncommonly gruesome, Samhain never feels mean-spirited, which is basically due to the characters being thinly portrayed as basic slasher clichés. In all honesty the script was perhaps the movies biggest downfall, because the dialogue was not so much inspired by Wes Craven’s Scream movies as it was flagrantly cut and pasted from them. Certainly the inclusion of the mouth-watering Jenna Jameson was a great move by the producers. Her fans will be excited to know that she does whip off her top (as expected) and so does Chasey Lain and Taylor Hayes. But Samhain is no soft porn movie, and it benefits from sticking to the structure that it set out to produce. It’s worth noting that the aforementioned XXX stars almost out-perform the supposed ‘actors’ of the feature, which isn’t much of a complement. Ginger Lynn was at least notable (if you ignore the shameful ‘Oirish’ accent), and her battle with the hulking killer was superbly performed and choreographed by Alan Chou. Taylor and Jenna delivered expectedly poor dramatics, which could have been caused by the numerous problems on-set. Veil’s direction is sharp and he provides some much-needed injections of suspense. Exciting and crisp photography is mixed with a good flair for storytelling and the net result is a slasher extravaganza to satisfy even the most critical gore hounds.
It will be interesting to see what kind of final cut is released of Samhain. Rumour has it that a second director was drafted in to shoot a different ending, and I’m curious as to how much of the explicit gore will remain intact for worldwide distribution. If the end result is only half as good as the rough print that I watched, then it’s still better than nearly all of the genre pieces that have been unleashed over the past ten years. This one is certainly worth checking out… * I watched the DVD recently, just before posting this and it is missing most of the good stuff, so try and see this version if you really want to see how it should’ve looked.
Final Girl: √√
* Review originally posted 12/11/2002
The Icebox Murders 1982
Directed by: Francisco Rodríguez Gordillo
Starring: Jack Taylor, Mira Miller, Manuela Jiménez
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
A lot of people assume that the slasher boom of the early eighties was mainly populated by the American and Canadian movie industries. Although in terms of major investment and quality of output they’re right, some of the craziest examples of low budget fun were also found in the most unlikely of places. ‘The slasher plague’ was a global cinematic epidemic and if you search hard enough, then you get to uncover titles such as Fen Ku Lou that were really unique and interesting.
Spain’s contribution to the genre is often overlooked, even though we were equally responsible for our fair share of output. The first offering to grace the category from España was Jesus Franco’s Bloody Moon, which found notoriety after achieving the cult status in the United Kingdom of joining the infamous ‘video nasty’ list. Hot on the heels of Franco’s effort was the equally bloody Pieces and the decade closed with Jose Larraz’s fairly decent slasher/mystery, Edge of the Axe. However, there was a film from that ever so fruitful period that slipped by completely unnoticed by completists and critics alike, which was called, El Cepo or The Icebox Murders.
It originally secured a small release on the long defunct Mogul label, which also gave life to slashers Satan’s Blade and Lucifer aka Goodnight Godbless. It never found an audience outside its country of origin and like so many of its less fortunate cousins from around that time, it soon vanished from existence. Eventually it became one of those rare gems that sell for big bucks to die hard collectors on Internet video-search agencies and eBay, due to their impossible to locate status.
Admittedly, the fact that it had become so obscure only helped to evoke my curiosities about the picture and an impressive and intriguing title also led me to begin a mission to track down a copy. After months of hearing absolutely nothing, finally, I stumbled across a VHS on show in a charity shop window (!) and simply couldn’t believe my luck. I picked it up and immediately headed home. On the way, I gazed longingly at the cover and hoped to discover if my patience could be rewarded with the bonus that I’d found an all but forgotten slasher masterpiece.
They say that when a film disappears, it’s never without good reason and they’re usually right with that assumption. But this time I kept my opinions open, because every now and then I’ve uncovered a rarity that’s turned out to be a whole lot more than I ever expected. The audacious cover artwork and blurb that offered so much only heightened my spirits, so I slipped the cassette into my much-overused VCR and cracked open a chilled bottle of Smirnoff for the journey.
Despite the fact this was a Spanish production, the movie’s actually set in Paris, France. It kicks off with a girl running down a dimly lighted corridor. She’s fleeing a slow stalking camera shy maniac, who eventually catches her and puts his hands around her throat. She screams and then the shot ends. Cut to a news report, which helpfully informs us that she’s the sixth woman to be butchered by this unseen menace and it looks as if he has a taste for slashing beautiful young ladies and leaving their corpses in public places.
Next up we meet a prostitute called Chantelle who boasts that she’s found a goldmine in a man who buys her presents without wanting anything in return. If this generous gent (played by cult favourite Jack Taylor no less) isn’t an over-zealous advertisement for a could-be psychotic killer, then I don’t know what on earth is. He walks with a cane and his dress sense amounts to a pitch-black suit with dark glasses. This makes him look like a peculiar cross between a secret service agent and an especially morbid undertaker. The hooker pops round to his apartment and he informs her that he doesn’t like the way she dresses so provocatively. He tells her that she should give up that ‘ridiculous profession’ and he wants to whisk her away somewhere and ‘help regain her youth’ (Awesome chat-up line!). She agrees to the vacation as long as she can bring her friend Sylvia along. That night, Sylvia has a dream that ‘the undertaker’ has some murderous ambitions up his sleeve and the next day she remains wary of his true intentions. Soon we learn that he isn’t actually a grave-filler or secret agent by trade, but he’s actually a doctor – unfortunately.
They arrive at a mansion that’s conveniently secluded miles from civilisation and we meet another suspicious character that shares the spacious abode. John the twitchy caretaker takes an interest in the young ladies’ appearance, but is warned off by the solemn doctor, who beats him with the aforementioned cane. The peaceful serenity gets a bit depressing for the spirited girls and they head out to the local discotheque, where we meet yet another possible suspect – a smooth talking local that tries to engage in flirtatious conversation with the moody Sylvia. When they return later that night, she sees two silhouettes carrying a suspicious shape into the icebox. Could it have been a dead body? Do fish swim in the sea? Not a lot happens from here on out, it’s mostly just a whole heap of talking, which is painfully dragged out and mind-numbingly boring.
Eventually things liven up a little, when poor old John gets gunned down by an unseen sniper and Sylvie spies ‘someone’ with a decapitated head in his tool shed. Of course no one believes what she saw, and on inspection, it mysteriously disappears. Some time later, Chantelle discovers a collection of human trophies in a cleverly concealed cupboard. This results in the killer having to reveal himself and the traditional fight for survival ensues…
Right that’s it. Finally I’ve learned my lesson. Never again will I be enticed by a movie that has (rightly) been banished from wise-minded collections, thinking that it was just an unfortunate twist of fate. The Icebox Murders is as rancid as a geriatric sewer rat – and just as stinky! Even the title and the tag-lines are outright lies to trick unsuspecting victims (such as myself) into believing this could be an impressive premise for a slasher flick. The cover says that a maniac murders women and stores their bodies in a freezer. Total BS!! There’s just two on-screen killings in the whole film and the only corpse that’s found in the said icebox belongs to an animal – no fair! This isn’t even really a slasher flick, seeing how the second murder is committed with a gun, so I urge all genre completists not to bother adding this one to your collection. There’s truly nothing here that would warrant even the most adamant fan to hunt it down, no matter how much you want to own every genre piece that was ever transferred to cheap videotape.
Let’s get this straight, now. This isn’t just a painfully long and irritating epic of nonsensical dribble with the oomph of a squished slug. Oh no, it’s flawed in just about every respect that a motion picture possibly can be. It looks to have been edited by someone using a seven year old’s ‘my first stationary’ kit, the theme-music plays randomly, with no apparent acknowledgement of the scene it’s accompanying and it boasts the directorial flair of gibbon holding an iPhone. By far the worst aspect of this monstrosity is the abysmal quality of the acting, which is best described as the dramatic equivalent of a Desperate Housewives blooper real. – Yes it is that bad. They could have packed the whole story in about twenty-five minutes of screen-time, which probably would have made a fairly watchable short. But instead it drags on – like a two-legged camel – for an hour and a half, as we watch a pair of marginally interesting females continually express their distaste at being cooped up in a mansion that they could have left whenever they felt the need to. Sadly, they were too dumb to work that out, so we have to look on as they (slowly) come to the conclusion that they’re heading for a slashing if they hang around the cane-clenching weirdo for much longer.
In fairness, it’s actually meant to be more of a character study or a slow paced Giallo and I guess it’s not really the fault of the film-makers that Mogul packaged it as a piece of slasher trash. It’s Spanish title is El Cepo or ‘The Trap’, so who knows where the ‘The Icebox Murders’ came from? It was, most likely, an ambitious marketing ploy from the distributor and an attempt to give the film more of an allure aimed towards the stalk and slash audience. In my review of The Ghostkeeper, I mentioned that the UK box art had absolutely *nothing* to do with the film inside and Mogul have done a similar thing here. They’ve taken everything that would appeal to the slasher genre and put it on the cover of a title that’s basically the equivalent of a boring and poorly produced TV movie. Even the music sucks. Another interesting thing is that I saw a VHS copy of this for sale on Amazon for $180 and a couple of days later it was gone. $180 for this is really quite an amazing price. If it’s become a collectors item, then maybe it makes sense, but if it was bought by someone hoping to find a forgotten splatter classic. Well, I would pay to see their reaction when the final credits rolled. It would have been a darn site more dramatic than anything that happened here.
As I’ve already said, this is not much of a slasher movie, which begs the question, why did I post a review of it? Well due to the aforementioned misguided marketing, chances are most collectors have already come across it or will do soon. I wanted to stop you from making the mistake that I and am sure many others did. Little remains to be said, except steer well clear of this misinterpreted, misguided and mis-advertised waste of a production budget. There’s really only very little to be salvaged from this sabotaged slasher, unless you enjoy watching how terrible Spanish fashion sense was in the early eighties. I was born and lived there back then, so I could smirk, but I doubt that any of you will. Especially not for $180…
I cannot warn you harshly enough about the dangers of mis-judging what lurks within the cover of The Icebox Murders. It’s as unforgiving as an ex-partner that you ruthlessly dumped – and you’ll want to avoid it just the same! Be afraid… Be very afraid…
Final Girl: √
Silent Madness 1984
aka Beautiful Screamers, The Omega Factor
Directed by: Simon Nuchtern
Starring: Belinda Montgomery, Viveca Lindfors, Solly Marx
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
In my review for The Scaremaker, I mentioned that it was one of a number of slasher flicks that were overlooked due to the barrage of releases at that time. Silent Madness is another such entry that barely gets any recognition nowadays, which I was keen to investigate once again having not watched it for a decade or so. As you are well aware, a SLASH above is always trying to hunt out hidden gems for your collections.
Recently, there has been a wealth of 3D in our cinemas, which could lead you to believe that it was something of a new invention for the humble stalk and slash category. Although effects have definitely improved, the truth is that we were treated to offerings in three dimension long before the remake of My Bloody Valentine. You are probably aware already of Friday the 13th part III, but there was also this much lower budgeted effort that launched across cinemas with the neat gimmick that you need groovy specs for.
After a blunder at a mental hospital, the staff release the mute and psychotic Howard Johns who was responsible for some sorority slashing years earlier instead of the relatively harmless John Howard. A considerate shrink believes that he could be on his way back to the location of his previous crimes and heads there in order to stop him.
By 1984 the genre was already less of a draw for studio financing, so it’s somewhat refreshing to watch an effort that seems to have the mission statement of being played in theatres rather than aiming straight for video store shelves. It’s notably bold in that unlike the same year’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Silent Madness makes absolutely no effort to do anything even remotely authentic and instead sticks to the formula of a dollop of Slumber Party Massacre with a bit of Halloween and Friday the 13th thrown in just for good measure. The killer is your typical muted menace with a murder lust and there’s a whole host of teenagers that he slices through and stalks using the trademark methodology.
I own two copies of this feature. One is on VHS, which is totally uncut and then I have a budget UK DVD that omits a few fun cheesy gore scenes. In their entirety, the murders are all quite creative in their delivery and I was quite impressed with the director’s imagination. One skateboarding bunny gets her head crushed in a vice and there’s a couple of other gruesome highlights that are worth a look. Watch out for the bit when a girl is slaughtered whilst playing that old arcade classic, Dragon’s Lair, which I used to spend hours trying to complete with my brother on my Commodore 64. The director pulls off the odd moment of suspense and there’s a very good jump scare here too.
What I was really impressed with was the film’s subtle political commentary. There’s a lot said about the asylum not having the budget to keep all of its patients and they are trying to release as many as possible. This is an obvious dig at the cost cutting ideas of the Reagan era when it was noted that many patients were being freed too prematurely and it’s quite effective in its delivery. I also picked up on a heavy dose of obvious misogyny but not only in the maniac’s choice of victims, but in the way that the male characters approach the heroine. All the hospital workers treat her as an idiot and she is even disrespected by the orderlies (watch out of the hilarious evil laugh scene). If it weren’t for the fact that the head manager was a woman who was equally as dubious, I would have been sure that it was another subtle expression of cultural topic from the filmmakers.
The other character with a confused sense of morals is the goofball sheriff who spouts lines such as, ‘Just because the gawdamn broad is so good looking, don’t mean we all have to think with our dicks!’ In typical genre fashion, he’s a bit of a doofus and to call him ‘smart’ would be like saying that Ryan Giggs was ‘faithful’. No one really believes the Doctor when she warns them that the maniac could be on his way back to the sorority and she only has a journalist as a partner to help apprehend the murderous nut job. There’s a pretty unexpected twist that came as a surprise and in a rare move, there is no open ending so it hints that the production team were never considering a sequel even if this had of been a major success, which I doubt it was.
None of the teenage girls are given any real characterisation and they are only there to be murdered, but the leads put in a good enough shift with what they are given. Belinda Montgomery was charming as the final ‘woman’ and Viveca Lindfors gave it her all in the smallest of parts. The momentum stagnates a tad in places and some of the dialogue scenes were fairly limp, but the story has just enough to keep you hooked and I never felt the need to take my eyes off the screen.
Silent Madness is pretty much stalk and slash in its comfort zone and never manages anything out of the ordinary and plods through the clichés like a tortoise on Valium. It’s by no means a bad film, but not a diamond in the rough either. It is certainly no worse than some of its peers that it shares a release date with and I can only put it down to bad luck that it is not more often mentioned as a referential piece of slasher hokum.
If you’re a collector, I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t pick it up and it offers much more than the likes of Final Exam and He Knows You’re Alone. It made me want to download one of those C64 converters a have a shot at Dragon’s Lair and The Last Ninja once again…
Final Girl √√√