Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Night Brings Charlie 1990 Review

The Night Brings Charlie 1990

Directed by: Tom Logan

Starring: Chuck Whiting, Al Arasim, Keith Hudson

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

The Night Brings Charlie… In the place where I grew up, it most certainly did. And still does, but that’s beside the point.

There’s an amazing true story about a guy named Terry Wallis, who on Friday the 13th of July 1984, after celebrating the birth of his first born child, was involved in a terrible traffic accident. He was seriously injured and in a coma and the doctors gave him little chance of recovery. His family thought otherwise and every other weekend, they would take him out to their farm and speak with him, in the hope that their voices would stir their relative from his slumber. Nineteen, yes nineteen years later and believe it or not, on Friday the 13th, he regained full consciousness and said the words,’milk’ and ‘Pepsi’ to his mother who was beside him at his bedside. What a fantastic tale and a great example of the strength of human spirit. He went on to make up for lost time getting to know his daughter who was by then nineteen years old. Funnily enough, he still believed it was 1984.

Tom Logan’s slasher also comes across like it had been comatose for a few years. Despite its 1990 release date, it looks and feels like it was produced no later than 1983. The success of A Nightmare on Elm Street saw obvious changes begin appearing within the slasher genre, but none of those updates can be seen here. It’s like the last seven-years never happened for the crew involved in this one and much like Mr Wallis, they still thought that they were living in the early eighties.

A small town called Pakoe is being terrorised by a vicious serial killer. Sporting the traditional Southern loon garb of a lumberjack shirt and potato sack over his head, he is driving round late at night, killing youngsters and collecting their decapitated heads. The Police are stumped by the amount of teenagers left with spurting stumps, so they are put under huge pressure to bring the maniac to justice.

The only reason I wrote that this looks like it was filmed in ’83 and I didn’t go as far back as ’80 is because director Tom Logan has CLEARLY cut and pasted a scene from Friday the 13th Part III (1982). Three leather-clad bikers get chopped up in a barn by the hooded killer and the overall set-up is almost identical. In fact, many of the best parts of The Night Brings Charlie have been seen previously in either Halloween or Friday. There’s the old ‘killer seen standing by car and next look a second later he’s gone’ chestnut and they chuck in a shower stalking sequence just to erase any of your doubts that you are watching a stalk and slash film. The final girl is the typical shy virgin type and they even remember the essential heavy-breathing POV shot.

The Night Brings Charlie is the movie equivalent of going on a date with a girl who shows you her breasts in the first ten-minutes, but then sits across the table from you for the rest of the evening and gets the early bus home. The opening murder is gooey as hell with a great throat slicing and a gallon of blood, but the rest of them are disappointingly dry and mostly off-screen. Also, whilst on the subject of breasts, what an outstanding pair one of the chicas has; and she soaps them lovingly for an extended period during the aforementioned shower part. This scene also plays host to the strangest product placement in the history of cruddy films. Do you take a can of fizzy drink with you in the shower? Exactly. I enjoy playing the game ‘guess who financed this movie’ when watching low-budget flicks. If ever you see a car stuck behind a lorry that has a massive logo on the side in filmland, you know that there’s a marketing bod somewhere that is more hopeful than the crew that this movie is going to be a hit. Well Pepsi negotiated a strong deal with the producers of this particular slasher, because not only do we see a logo’d can in the shower when we’re looking at a far more attractive pair of cans, but we also see vending machines strategically placed more times than I could count in my drunken stupor. A spilt tin of Pepsi even saves a girl’s life! How’s that for advertising?

Like a night at an elderly relatives birthday party, Charlie has moments that are painful and a few that are actually quite good. The acting is stilted tosh, the script is most definitely a ‘first draft’ without any checks and the cinematography (or videotography) is as grainy as a sheet of sandpaper. Despite this though, Logan manages to chuck in a handful of minor jumps that are really well crafted and quite frequent. There’s also a hilarious scene where the killer alters the population number on the towns welcome board with a piece of chalk after he has dispatched another victim. Of the few attempts at humour that’s the only one of note, because the main ‘comic relief character’ is more ghastly than laugh-ly. A boisterous lump by the name of Ella, she speaks openly about her bowel movements and states stuff like, “That’s the fifteenth person today who wants your nuts on a plate”. Pure class, eh?

As I mentioned earlier, the killer goes for the burlap sack dress code, but just to add his own stamp to the kit, he also sports what looks to be a pair of swimming goggles. (?!) There’s a twist in the story that’s ok and even if the runtime lingers on the edge of tedium, it doesn’t drag enough to make you want to turn it off. I am not exactly sure why, but whilst watching, I kept thinking of Twisted Nightmare from 1987. Maybe it was the barns? Or the boobs? Or the Pepsi cans? Or the bad acting?I can’t be sure, but something here most definitely reminded me of something there.

So should you rush out madly and spend a fortune hunting this one down? Quite frankly, no. But if you come across it somewhere at an agreeable rate, you can give it a shot. Aside from an interesting killer guise and a few cans of Pepsi, there’s not much that you haven’t seen elsewhere and most likely handled much better.

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√√

Gore: √√

Final Girl:

RATING:a-slash-above-logo11a-slash-above-logo11

837373

Massacre at Rocky Ridge 2003 Review

Massacre at Rocky Ridge 2002

Directed by: John Marshall

Starring: Savannah Costello, Paris Kennedy, Tricia Taylor

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

I have to mention the first sign of originality that I saw here. You couldn’t count on ten hands the amount of slasher movies that have titles that end with the word ‘massacre’. It must have been tempting for director John Marshall to call his movie Rocky Ridge Massacre. Or even, maybe, Rocky Ridge Party Massacre! But no… Massacre at Rocky Ridge it is.IMG_0302

Right, so you know what to expect. This one is so obscure that it is not yet on the IMDB. It was made by the small independent movie house, Rainforest Studios and despite some of the cast and crew going on to larger things, it has been totally and completely forgotten. There’s not even much you can find by a search on google. What does that usually tell you? Come on, we have been here before, yes? In a billion+ cases that means that a movie has disappeared simply because it stinks. Stinks like a skunk after a Vindaloo and a tin of baked beans. Pheeeeeeeeeeew!!!

A group of four friends head off in to the woodland on a project for their church. There, they come across an old Crazy Ralph-esque guy who tells them about a group of youngsters that were murdered a while earlier. The killer was never captured, so before long he comes back to leave a few more corpses.

Me, I love surprises, love them. Thank you John Marshall, because you gave me one of the most unexpected ever. It’s quite obvious by this site that I enjoy watching slasher films, but sometimes the really cruddy ones are extremely painful. Even for me. I was really expecting the worst with a zero budget title that’s not listed on any film websites. But prepare to be shocked ladies and gentlemen, because this obscurity is not bad at all. In fact, it’s actually quite good! Massacre at Rocky Ridge is a tribute to Friday the 13th and one that most definitely carries some of the chemistry of a classic killer in the woods yarn.

It opens sharply with the murder of a wandering teen after a score that sounds like Halloween on crack. The scene is superbly lighted with energetic photography and attempts at jump scares. The killer looks fantastic in a ‘cherubic’ white mask and cape combo, but the best part is what happens when he finally catches the fleeing bunny. You see what really makes Massacre at Rocky Ridge stand out is that the victims really look like they are getting stabbed. It’s almost like a snuff film in places. They fight for every last breath and the look on their faces when they’re impaled is sometimes uncomfortably realistic. Marshall has done a superb job with his actors and has tried to make things as realistic as possible.

Before watching this, I had seen Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre and there’s a lesbian romp in that flick that involves two overweight chicks and to be frank, its not much fun. I have never really been a huge fan of sex scenes, but I appreciate that they’re part of the ‘exploitation package’. However if you ask me to give my judgement, then seeing two slim counsellors in the closest you can imagine to school uniform ‘get it on’ is a far more appealing proposition than what I saw in Sandy Hook. Ridge has not one, not two, but three lesbo clinches and at least the girls here are attractive with lumps in the right places (not just above the belt!)

The majority of the film is a flashback sequence that we watch as it is being told to four campers around a fire. It shows how a group of female scouts head off in to the forest and are brutally killed one by one by the maniac. To me, it looked pretty obvious that the nut job was going to make a reappearance when the tale that was being told had come to an end. And he does; but they leave it right until the last eight minutes. I thought it was a bit strange that there was only such a short amount of time left to slaughter four people and unmask the killer, but then I found out that those scenes had not been in the initial script and had been added on at a later date. I don’t have any information as to why, but I can only guess that it was to make the runtime longer. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is easy to notice that this was the case, because the characters that we are introduced to in the opening seemed certain to have had a bigger part to play in the storyline. In the end though, they are wiped out pretty quickly and the final credits roll.

What I didn’t particularly like and it’s more a personal thing, is the way it gets a bit too perverted as things head to the conclusion. Now I mentioned the girl on girl stuff already, but when the park ranger turns up in the morning and discovers all the (naked) bodies, he puts them in a big pile and films them with a camcorder. Cue plenty of lingering shots of naked girlies splashed in blood. Whilst searching for information on this flick, I discovered a forum where people were discussing movies that show corpses dumped on top of each other. Is it some kind of fetish that I’m unaware of? I’m not sure to be honest, but if nude dead chicks in a heap is your fantasy, buy this movie now!

Despite being put together on peanuts, Ridge hides its budget restraints splendidly. The only places where you can see its low funding are in the slightly repetitive score, ‘eccentric’ continuity and some of the editing, which is amazing during the kill scenes, but jumps around like a record player aboard the sinking Titanic in other places. What was impressive though was the fact that when you think of how many big budget slashers had trouble with lighting (Campsite Massacre, Humongous et al), Ridge gets it all spot on and it’s a fabulous achievement. The only other gripe I have is the choice of weapon. Watching someone get stabbed very realistically once is cool. Twice is still ok. But by the tenth time, I was wishing that the maniac could show a bit more creativity. Maybe he should go watch Happy Birthday to Me and learn a few more interesting ways to wipe out some teens?

I was told once that if you streamline your movie to fit its funding – for example, you don’t write a script with explosions and helicopters if you’re working on a David Sterling production – then meagre budget is no excuse for a poor movie. John Marshall has proved it here, with a feature that has bundles of potential. I was expecting Carnage Road and although what I got wasn’t quite Coda, to end up with Cutting Class was a real treat :)

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√

Gore: √√

Final Girl:

RATING:

83873673

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Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre 2000 Review

Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre 2000

Directed by: Tim Beckley

Starring: Debbie Rochon, Stephanie Hudson, DiDi

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

So here we have Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre. Let’s say that again, SANDY HOOK LINGERIE PARTY MASSACRE! What do you think of when you see that combination of words? What’s in a title anyway? Does it have a cryptic meaning? Who is Sandy Hook? What on earth am I writing about? Let’s move on…

Ok this is another of the many party-massacre flicks that includes the likes of: Bikini Party Massacre (Not to be confused with Bikini Girls on Ice), Bachelor Party Massacre, Rock Party Massacre, Pajama Party Massacre and the daddy of them all, Slumber Party Massacre.

Very hard to find on any format (I picked up mine in Moscow), Sandy Hook is another Debbie Rochon carried feature. Let me explain what I mean. Ms Rochon has built a successful career on being a half decent actress with an awesome pair of lady lumps. What she specialises in is attaching her name to modestly funded features, turning up for a second (usually to expose aforementioned ‘twin peaks’) and then disappearing with a healthy paycheque. Everyone’s a winner though, because she gets paid, the producers get a fairly experienced name to place above their title and her fans get to appreciate those two bad boys in all their bra-less glory. As she generally sticks to no-budget efforts, it’s fairly obvious that she has done her share of slashers. Check out: Final Examination, American Nightmare, Bleed, Bikini Bloodbath, Blood Relic and Santa Claws. Basically she’s the Linnea Quigley of the noughties.

I have a six hour train journey before me from London to Newcastle and on my fully charged iPad, I haveMassacre at Rocky Ridge, Porn Shoot Massacre and this little beauty. These are three zero finance and totally obscure entries to our beloved grouping. Let’s see how I get on with the first…

Some strippers head off to a seaside resort for s break. They are told the legend of a lighthouse keeper whose reckless drinking caused a ship to crash, killing close to one hundred sailors. Soon after, he killed himself and was never brought to trial. Rumour has it that when a storm comes, he stalks the area looking for revenge and many people have disappeared. As night falls, the girls are chased and systematically slaughtered by a loon in a gimp suit.

Oh boy… Right, so I’ve had my say on lunch-money productions before, bit just to recap I will tell you that I as a critic appreciate that it’s hard to make a decent feature when you’ve got no money. I have kept this in mind and will only rate this on what I thought the crew did right and wrong. So we have our six (or seven?) strippers. They have the boobies for sure, but aside from Debbie Rochon, they also have the bellies to match. Here begins the film’s fundamental flaw.

It’s not just because these girls are awful actresses. We are used to that by now. It’s just that they’re incredibly unappealing and a runtime filled with them gets very long and very boring very quickly. To break it down: We get to watch fat chicks dancing on a bridge for ten minutes. Then we get fat chicks playing beach-ball for the same length of time. Then, said fatties go to an abandoned amusement park for a while and then we see them make dinner. By this point in the runtime, I was literally screaming: “F**king slaughter them already!” Perhaps the film’s kill shot in terms of a decent ranking comes during the lightweight lesbian scene, which could in effect be a sumo match! Yes, it’s poor. Astronomically so. Also, Dios mío, I didn’t mention the nipple and tongue piercing scene…errrrrghhhh!

After an hour (you read right – a full sixty minutes) the masked killer turns up (awesome mask btw) and we get down to business. Most of the murders are too dark to see but one of them is ok. There’s a twist that you couldn’t give a flying flip about and an open ending too. The maniac uses a hook-like weapon and stalks using typical POV. A film really has to be abysmal to get slated by me on this site, because I always hope to uncover a title that no one else has given time to. This however is most DEFINITELY not one of those.

So what did Mr.Creepo (The film’s producer and a guy so egotistical that he makes his characters discuss whether they would go to bed with him) – do wrong? Well, in the UK, they have the descriptive term ‘chav’. If that word is unfamiliar to you, then this explanation will not be. ‘Chavs’ are people generally aged between fifteen and thirty-five who don’t work, live off benefits, have minimal education, wear baseball caps, swear a lot and generally offer nothing except a tax burden to society. They reside in every country and are easier to find than you might think. I don’t like them, you don’t like them and we certainly don’t care to watch them in a movie. Now although I can’t say for sure that these girls are actually chavs; I can dislike their vulgar talk, lack of class and generally low level conveyance. The plot could have instead tried to build personalities that we care about, but there’s not even one.

Every second word from their mouths is either about sex or their boobies, which to be fair is all that they have to offer. It’s perhaps worth noting that Hook is billed as a horror/comedy, but the only horror to be found here is the inane attempt every now and then to be humorous. These ‘jokes’ are so unevenly placed that they make little sense.

There is one, believe it or not, very good shot. It shows the killer creeping up behind our final girl, who as you may have already guessed happens to be Ms Rochon. One and only the one decent moment in a hundred and twenty-five minute flick is just not good enough and the film, like the aforementioned chav, has nothing left to redeem it.

A wiseman once said that the key to a good life is making the most of every minute because as each one passes, you never get them back. I urge you not to waste yours on Sandy Hook as it is without a shadow of a doubt as rancid as a night in a decaying concrete tomb. Forget it

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√√

Gore: √

Final Girl: √√

RATING:

78367363

Dead Girls 1989 Review

Dead Girls 1989

Directed by: Dennis Devine and Steve Jarvis

Starring: David Chatfield, Jeff Herbick, Brian Chin

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

Dead Girls puts us back in killer stalking heavy metal group territory, only this time it’s an all girl gang of head bangers put to the sword…

With the amount of rock bands that have been stalked since the slasher became a grouping in horror during the early eighties, it’s amazing that there’s any of them left recording. It all kicked off with movies likeShock Evil Entertainment, Blodaren, Terror on Tour and Rocktober Blood, which were the first hack and slashers to feature a band as the body count material. Even the Australians got involved with the sub-genre giving us Ollie Martin’s insipid Houseboat Horror just before the turn of the decade. The theme ran extremely sporadically throughout the nineties, probably because the slasher grouping was phased out due to poor sales and even poorer production qualities. But after the Wes Craven inspired re-invigoration in 96, movies like Hard Rock Nightmare,Slash and Backlot Murders have given the category a new lease of life to build upon. There are even websites that are scattered around dedicated to the ‘Heavy Metal Horror Movie’ and include the likes of Rock and Roll Nightmare, Blood Tracks and other such intriguing pieces.

It was released by Cinematrix films, a Los Angeles based independent studio. Their story is great because they were nothing more than fans of horror like you and I before THE chance came their way. Denis Devine and Mike Bowler had run in to Jeff Hathcock, the director of Night Ripper and Streets of Rage. They had offered to help write some scripts and so Hathcock would give them ideas and they would take them away to work long hours in to making them viable for a film. Whenever they went back with their best efforts, Jeff would have already given up on that concept and would offer them something new and so the process would start again from scratch. This happened on four or five occasions until Steve Jarvis stepped in and said that instead of them trying so hard for no obvious gain, why don’t they all put their pennies together and finance their own feature. The result was the pretty decent Fatal Images and that launched Cinematrix, which would give birth to a fair few 6747647478473783874874874873873memorable budget hits. This is arguably one of the best of them.

Lucy Lethal, Cynthia Slayed, Nancy Napalm, Randy Rot and Bertha Beirut are all members of the heavy metal band Dead Girls. They have found notoriety with a gimmick that revolves around murder, death and lyrics that glorify suicide. Bertha Beirut is the lead songwriter and would like to try and move them in a more uplifting direction, but her band mates just don’t think it would work. “We’re the Dead Girls not the Shirelles,” remarks Lucy Lethal sarcastically. Looking at the clearly bemused songwriter, she continues, “You call yourself Bertha Beirut and strangle yourself with the American flag every night, so we’re not gonna break out in a chorus of Stand by your man!” I’m pretty sure that Tammy Wynette would certainly agree…

Just as the group are about to embark on a nationwide radio, television and stage tour, Bertha receives a shocking letter via special delivery. Her younger sister Brooke has attempted to commit suicide whilst repeatedly listening to their morbid album and she is currently comatose in a hospital bed. After visiting the youngster, Bertha decides that the band need to be alone together for a short time to clear their heads and maybe start afresh. They head out to a remote cabin in the woodland to find some peace and serenity away from the pressure of their superstar status. Meanwhile, an ominous stranger dressed in a black raincoat, gloves, fedora and skull mask has decided to follow the band to their retreat and is sadistically slaughtering the musicians one by one. It seems someone else has taken the death gimmick a tad too seriously…

Director Dennis Devine admits that Dead Girls is widely regarded as the best of his B movie output. He also notes that it was possibly the most difficult and frustrating project that he has worked upon. This was mainly due to the size of the script that he had to squeeze into a fourteen-day time-scale. Apparently the abysmal weather conditions didn’t help, as he had to shoot a lot of scenes outdoors and it kept snowing at all the wrong times. Snowing in California – now that was bad luck!

Despite these production challenges, Dead Girls is at least a highly enjoyable late entry to the cycle. It takes a little while to step up a gear, but once the victims are stranded in the realms of woodland wilderness – struggling to uncover the maniac’s identity – it provides a few cheesy thrills. All the essential slasher movie regulations are intact, including a tad of nudity, some tacky gore and a soundtrack of ear numbing heavy metal that seems only to be found in these kind of pictures. There’s even a gooey finger-lopping scene, which looks to have been inspired by Tony Maylem’s The Burning.(Although co-director Steve Jarvis swears blind that it wasn’t!) The killer himself looks pretty creepy in a decent rubber skull-mask and traditional Giallo-like psycho garb and there’s more than enough suspects to keep viewers playing the guessing game until the film’s lengthy climax.

The only real problems with Dead Girls are those that plague almost every other genre attempt from this period – uneven performances. It’s a shame that the dramatics continuously blow so hot and cold, because in this particular movie it really does hold back the chance of a higher rating. Some of the potential shown by the leads was hampered by unconvincing work from the supporting cast, which never allows the motion picture to go to the heights that it could have done. Some have also said that the film is too long and at an hour and forty-five minutes, it’s reaching omnibus status. To be frank, I didn’t really have too much of a problem with the runtime and I actually enjoyed the film quite a lot.

A while back, I attended a horror festival type thing in London. Some of the ‘stars’ in attendance were Alan Birkinshaw, George Dugdale and Caroline Munro to name but a couple and I watched Killer’s Moon for the first time on a big screen. On the way back I got talking to two guys about the genre that we love. The thing that sticks in my mind most about our conversation is that they really slated Dead Girls. I have also noticed that not many websites give this one the thumbs up and there’s a fourteen-minute long review on Youtube by a guy (bit of a Muppet) who tears it to shreds. But this got me thinking about my rating. Well let’s put it this way. What do you expect to gain from watching a slasher flick? A few bloody kills? A chance to guess who’s killing everyone? For me that’s what make these things so much damn fun in the first place and on both those counts Devine’s slasher delivers. It’s a bit over-long, it’s definitely not going to win awards for its dramatics, but it does exactly what you expect it to. Most importantly, I think it does it very well.

Dead Girls is hilariously cheesy and gratuitously gruesome in the same breath and adds just the right amount of both to end up as one of the better belated genre entries. Recommended to fans of rare-ish slasher movies that enjoy gore and decent killer disguises.

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise:√√√

Gore √√√

Final Girl √

RATING:

6747478438738738389389329822

Popcorn 1991 Review

Popcorn 1991

aka Phantom of the Cinema

Directed by: Mark Herrier

Starring: Jill Schoelen, Tom Villard, Dee Wallace

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

For the slasher cycle, Popcorn was a whole lot more than just another genre retread…

You see, there weren’t really any other cinematic styles around during the eighties that could multiply a budget as easily as a stalk and slash flick. Drama? You either needed De Niro, Pacino, a Costner or someone like a Mickey Rourke; and they’re not cheap. Action? Good shout. But explosions, fake M60s, stuntmen and helicopters can also drain a monetary resource pool. Ok so what about a chick flick? Again always popular at the box office if they’re done well, but can you name me one without a megabucks pairing? Obviously not. No, it’s decided – when it comes to a quick and relatively easy way for a producer to make a fortune, nothing does it like a slasher does it.785785874848485758758787544

But the small problem was that the good old milk laden cash cow had run bone dry midway through the eighties and left only a couple of major franchises to mop up the proceeds. If anything, Popcorn was a hand pushed in to the bath to test the temperature of the water before entry in to a bold new decade. A film well financed enough to get publicity, which boasted a great cast, cool location, neat gimmick and good marketing strategy. If it had been a success I predict we would have had a start to the nineties that would have mirrored the previous decade with a million wannabe duplicates. In effect, this was the first slasher since 1988 to be given actual backing from big studio players like Bob Clark and Ashtok Amiritraj. The only problem was that it flopped. Drastically.

But the biggest question is why?

A group of drama students are given the opportunity to renovate an old cinema for an all night horror-thon. At first, 75875874848438387487487785875874they’re less than impressed, but when they’re told that there may be some budget left over to make their own movie, they all climb aboard. Many years ago on that site, a deranged film cult screened ‘Possession’, which resulted in a few murders and then a big fire within which the aggressor supposedly perished. When sweet student Maggie begins seeing him in her nightmares and conspicuous things start happening, it seems that he’s returned.

Not only is Popcorn a belated entry to the slasher catalogue, which utilises all the traditional trappings, but it’s also a tribute to the notorious B-Movies of the fifties. We should keep in mind that Bob Clark would have grown up on the features of Christian Nyby, Andre De Toth and even Edward Wood, so it makes sense that he would want to reference them here. Popcorn is fun to watch, because when we are not seeing the black gloved killer get to work, we are enjoying full scenes of the films that the audience are watching.757574747838738747848748748733

It was shot in Jamaica, which was something of an intriguing slice of trivia. At first I though that it may have been a collaboration of sorts between the two countries, but I couldn’t find any evidence of a producer from JM. The film does however have a very fun reggae/pop play-list. Hell it even has a reggae band that come on and play for no apparent reason halfway through! Keep in mind that this was an era when Chaka Demus and Pliers, Bitty McClean and Shabba Ranks were regulars in the charts and the choice does not seem so 675757478438383838933unusual. In fact, I rather enjoyed the refreshing soundtrack.

The cast are pretty good in lightweight roles. I was thinking of giving Tom Villard a mention for a solid performance, but then just as I thought that, he went completely overboard with the hyper-acting and got lost somewhat. The gorgeous Jill Schoelen gives another great wide-eyed babe in the woods portrayal and easily manages to win over the audience. We last saw her in genre entry Cutting Class and it strikes me that of the three ‘stars’ that appeared in that flick, only the weakest performer on that occasion built a superstar career. Whilst everyone in the world knows the name and face of Brad Pitt; Schoelen gave up on movies to be a mother and never really fulfilled her potential. Despite the fact that everyone here is little more than a cliché, the characters are likeable and the villain is fun.587578568756875875487487484

Perhaps I was tired (or drunk) at the time, but the twist really caught me off-guard. It was (for me) totally unexpected. It made sense too. There’s some far fetched examples of the maniac’s ability to camouflage himself, but they only add to the thick…THICK dollops of cheese. Yes; and I mean pure and unadulterated cheese. This is like a fondue festival and despite its nineties release date, could seriously be a contender for cheesiest movie of all 8726256252time. SERIOUSLY. Everything from the bubblegum toons to the wacky costumes (it even incorporates fancy dress) is campy comedy at its best (or worst)

So with so much fun to be had, why was Popcorn such a flop? Good question. To be honest, it’s hard to understand exactly what happened, but the problems that plagued production certainly didn’t help. Original director Alan Ormsby disagreed on a few plot points and walked off the shoot, which unsettled his choice for the lead actress, Amy O’Neill and she soon followed after three-weeks of filming. Schoelen was a more than adequate replacement, but the script reeks of obvious re-writes and missing scenes. 872626525

The thing is though, many slasher movies suffered similar troubles behind the scenes and to the untrained eye, Popcorn’s riddles aren’t outstandingly obvious. So what else was wrong? Was it tad too diluted? (There’s no real gore anywhere throughout). Maybe it was just a wee-bit sillier than it should have been? Was it the extreme lack of a mean spirit? I think 875875858484874875875875more realistically, cinema audiences had moved on from masked killers and screaming teens and the reputation of such flicks being incompetently made and embarrassingly bad was still in its fullest of flows back then. It’s a shame, because looking back now it’s actually a really quirky little gem.

Popcorn’s failure to grab an audience most definitely signified the death of the studio slasher flick and it would take the success of Scream five-years later to reignite the sub genre. Still, this deserved a lot more than it received and should be remembered as a decent entry that had everything except luck.

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√

Gore: √

Final Girl: √√√√

RATING:

873676731

The Forest 1982 Review

The Forest 1982

aka Terror in the Forest

Directed by: Don Jones

Starring: Gary Kent, Dean Russell, Tomi Barrett

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

Another of the numerous backwoods Friday the 13th inspired slasher flicks,The Forest was for sure aware of what audience it was looking to target. With that said though, it is no typical slasher by the numbers. In fact, some peeps doubt whether it is actually a slasher flick at all, due to it being somewhat authentic with its storytelling. There’s no teens here, no T&A, no have sex and die, no masks and no campfire tales. Its lack of convention makes it somewhat of an outsider amongst the titles that it has become classified alongside, but it has enough of the things that are needed to give it the privilege of a review by myself and a place amongst its brethren on the a SLASH above hall of fame78373673

It was the work of Don Jones, another exploitation director who had seen a potential profit burger in the slasher boom during the early eighties. Jones was a pretty good boxer before he caught the movie bug and his career certainly started well with two sleazy pieces in as many years that are now considered by some to be cult classics. When he pencilled the script for this project, he struggled initially to find investors and therefore had to mortgage his house for the $43,000 needed to get it made. Unfortunately, although that minimal funding covered the production, it didn’t leave him with enough to finish the film and that’s where the problems really began.

An outside contact was recommended to Jones as a good editor to patch together his footage, but he realigned 876745656787898the script to make the entire story in to a kind of flashback sequence. When a would be investor watched the net result, he was astounded at how poor it was and The Forest remained without distribution. Jones is still furious about what happened. Not only because it left him back at square one, but also because he lost his mortgaged house during the wait. Eventually, after a third and final cut, a deal was finally secured and the movie was set for release. There was still a tiny problem though. Don Jones has never seen a cent of the payment.

The Forest did however get packaged on VHS and sits comfortably with the likes of Mad Man, The Burning, Just Before Dawn and Don’t go in the Woods as one of the category’s earliest entries

A pair of married couples head off to the forest for a camping weekend. On their way,they pass through an area where we saw two backpackers were slaughtered by an unseen menace in the opening sequence. Before long they begin to discover that things aren’t what they seem in the woodland and they have to pit their wits against a 87367387298298292vicious cannibalistic killer…

As I have alluded to earlier, The Forest plays like it was made by someone who wanted to shoot a slasher flick, but hadn’t spent too much time researching the category’s trappings. It’s either that or Jones went all out to bring something new to the grouping, which he later hinted was truly the case. Whereas the most common methodology for these features is to have a killer that remains clouded in mystery, or at least off screen for the majority of the runtime, Jones’ effort introduces its antagonist very early and gives him a share of the screen time. It is this authenticity that allows for a couple of very interesting scenes. One of them sees two of the campers – that are unaware as of yet that there is any danger – sit down with the nut job to chat and shelter from a rain storm. It is not that it is a great piece of cinematic delivery by any means, but it’s an intriguing set up. Even more so as it includes one of the guys eating a piece of his wife’s corpse that’s been cooking over a camp fire. He has absolutely no idea of what he is munching on of course, but it’s made quite haunting because he gets a sudden chill, as if deep down 1282624inside or perhaps spiritually he knows what he has just done. These kind of moments show great creativity from the script.

Alongside the backwoods loon of the title, we also get another unexpected addition that’s alien to the template. There are three ghosts that pop up and are key to the movement of the story and despite them not being a real threat to the campers, they do add something else that’s rather unique. One of them is the maniac’s cheating wife, whilst the other two are his children. The killer’s motive also makes sense and adds pathos to his situation. He hunts humans for food, although the movie never explains why he doesn’t go for deer or another wild animal. Perhaps he lacked the physicality to catch such prey or maybe human skin tastes better? It’s not really important though, because I guess what we needed was a reason for a massacre, which in effect we have. The closing sequence is also fairly unusual and moments such as these do deserve recognition.

Sequoia National Park proves to be the perfect location and the shots of the water, rocks and skyscraper-in-height trees are truly remarkable. The peculiar soundtrack is a bizarre blend of bubblegum pop and various other styles that result in a mind-boggling combination. It seems to have been recorded especially for the feature and you can make fun at some of the lyrics, including wonderful lines such as: ‘In the chaos, the demons shout (what?)’. Oh 45124318and how could I forget, the opening orchestra piece sounds like something that you’d find in Lassie, not a ‘horror’ flick.

The acting, of course, is really weak and amateurish with little emphasis on setting any kind of suspense through the actions of the players. The photography is also quite bland, with only the odd moment or two of invention and energy. I enjoyed the inadvertently funny scene during a flashback, where the jilted husband makes quick work of his adulterous wife and then heads out to take care of her lover. We see a brief fight and then a chase sequence, which isn’t really fair because said hubby has an inexplicable ability to teleport right in front of his intended victim every time he turns to run somewhere new. He even manages to materialise a new weapon from out of nowhere! There’s very little in terms of gore on offer but the first three murders all boast different qualities. The opening two are fleetingly photographed with good movement and use of backgrounds, whilst the next slaughter some twenty or so minutes later looks really quite realistic and is astoundingly brutal. With that said though, it’s quite obvious as to why The 8736736732872982982982Forest never quite made the notorious list of video nasties and it boasts no real special effects that are worth mentioning.

Jones’ entry is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination and offers zilch in terms of suspense, scares or tension. I did however have a lot more fun than perhaps I thought that I was going to whilst watching and had no idea what was going to happen next. Nothing can be taken away from an admittedly very unique story, a soundtrack that is totally loco and a knife clenching cannibal in a baseball cap. And I haven’t even mentioned the three ghosts! If that doesn’t sound inviting to you dear reader, then I am afraid that you are checking the wrong website. Oh yes…

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise:

Gore: √

Final Girl: √√

RATING:

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