Monthly Archives: November 2012
Directed by: Ollie Martin
Starring: Alan Dale, Christine Jenson, Gavin Wood
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
*I do write a lot of my new reviews on the go, but because I want to cover the entire slasher genre, I like to reuse some of the ones I have previously penciled. Whenever I do though, I always update them after watching the movie once again. Here we have Houseboat Horror and I was THE first outside of Australia to post a write-up of it! I spent years trying to track it down and eventually when I did, it was, ahem, everything that I had expected to be. It is available now on DVD, but this review is from April 2003, when it was still an obscure locally released VHS. I hope that you enjoy the update….
This late-eighties Australian inclusion to the slasher cycle is famous mainly for being the most widely panned of all of the hack and slash entries. It even manages to out-trash utter trashola like Home Sweet Home and the abysmal Voyeur.com in the bad review stakes. Considering the ‘quality’ of those aforementioned movie nightmares, being that poorly received is quite a considerable achievement. Perhaps Houseboat’s only saving grace is the fact that it has become so immensely rare to fans of the genre outside Melbourne, that most of us have more chance of buying the winning lottery ticket than actually seeing the damn thing. With that said, I must admit that its mystifying disappearance has indeed given the picture something of an alluring edge. I am ‘fortunate’ enough to be one of the few that actually own this rarity of a mishap on VHS and therefore feel a certain moral commitment to share my views on whether it’s actually as bad as its reputation would lead you to believe.
The hackneyed plot here is a pure cut and paste amalgamation of two of its biggest American brethrens: Friday the 13th and The Burning. Director Grant Evans (Alan Dale) has been given the job of shooting a music video for a struggling local rock band. He has chosen the location of Lake Infinity as a backdrop for his creation and before long his crew, the gang of musicians and their rowdy groupies are floating aboard the Houseboats of the title. Unfortunately for the youngsters, they decide to settle on a site where many years ago a group of actors were mysteriously torched and a young child was horrendously disfigured. Have you worked it out yet? Thought as much. Yes, it’s no surprise when almost as soon as they arrive, the motley crew begins to fall prey to the frazzled hands of an unseen maniac – Ho-hum indeed. The rest of the story goes exactly where you’d expect it to, as the crispy killer makes short work of the outrageously mulleted cast members…
To be fair, Houseboat Horror starts commendably with an atmospheric (and gory) murder and chase sequence that is plagued only by the fact that the young actress playing the victim has an issue keeping her eyes tightly closed for a two-second corpse close-up. From that moment onward, the best way I can describe the feature to you is like a burger on a boiling hot griddle that has just had the cheese placed on top. If you imagine that minutes in real time were seconds on that grill, you can feel as the topping slowly melts and completely engulfs the entire burger/movie with melting fondue. For a start, I couldn’t fail to mention that one of the beer swilling, woman pressing rebel rousers is none other than Alan Dale, who is of course most famously known as Jim Robinson from the Aussie daytime soap, Neighbors. Old Helen Daniels would be turning in her grave if she witnessed his loutish shenanigans, which include swearing prolifically and racing his car on the wrong side of the road! Whilst we are on the topic of Ramsey Street, it is even more surprising that his former neighbor (for want of a better word) and equally frumpy pudding faced goody-goody, Harold Bishop (Ian Smith) expressed his dark side in another corny throwaway named Body Melt. Neither actor returned to the horror genre, which I’m sure was something that they never regretted. The choice between working daily with mega-babes to the level of Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruliga and Holly Valance or ‘acting’ besides a gang of talentless brain-starved strumpets is surely the easiest decision since Dave Navarro said yes to Carmen Electra.
In fact, this cast of no-hopers manage to break records in the speed that they will begin clawing at the strings of your patience. Fifteen minutes into the feature you’ll be preying for a couple of The Burning’s ‘raft sequences’, so you can witness five or six of the poorly dramatised losers getting splattered simultaneously. Unfortunately, this Jason Voorhees wannabe is nowhere near as creative as good old Cropsy, so you’ll have to watch the numb-skulls getting slaughtered one by one – extremely S-L-O-W-L-Y. The murders are without a doubt the film’s highlight, simply because they boast some tacky yet surprisingly rewarding gore effects and there’s a whole bunch of them for you to check out. We also get a couple of murderous devices that are rarely seen in slasher cinema (Harpoon, flamethrower and how could I forget the horseshoe?). Let’s not underplay the fact that the chance of seeing Jim Robinson get his head split in half with a giant machete is an occasion that most would find simply too irresistible to miss.
Houseboat Horror certainly isn’t going to win any awards, but for all its nonsensical amateurism it does at least manage to provide a few bad movie giggles. The back cover boldly boasts the inclusion of a ‘pop hit’, which once heard, sounds like a drunken pub karaoke version of Boney M’s greatest hits (the song’s titled “Young Cool and Groovy” no less). Also, what about when the hero manages to go toe-to-toe with the maniac five minutes after he’s been almost chopped in half by a machete? And I can’t forget to mention when the same character is first confronted by the hulking killer and goofs, “Awww p**s off!” I could go on all day, but instead I’ll leave you with a choice slice of dialogue that I believe sums up this whole movie experience perfectly. When one of the bit part extras asks one of the mulleted muppets if his brain is in repeat mode, he answers boldly “Nah, just a little retarded” And in that sentence my friends, you have Houseboat Horror…
Final Girl: √
Deliver Us From Evil 1992
aka Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil
Directed by: Clay Borris
Starring: Nikki De Boer, J.H Wyman, Joy Tanner
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s a tough job to try to categorise the Prom Night series. The first of them was a blatant Halloween clone, which borrowed everything from the rolling photography in almost identical locations to the choice of actress for the final girl. Part two popped up some seven years later and owed more of a knowing nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street by including an indestructible bogey(wo)man and a desire to experiment with a dream-like subconscious reality. Number three was the only chapter to reuse an antagonist from a previous entry but was more of a black comedy than an out and out horror flick. This final installment was a return ticket home to traditional slasher land, where everything had begun.
You could quite easily use the franchise as a timeline to track the development of horror trends throughout the eighties and ‘lost years’ of the early nineties. Every time that the direction of scary movies at the box office was modified by a new successful picture, this series adapted it’s methodology to match the latest style. By 1992’s release of Deliver us from Evil, producer Peter Simpson’s favourite and most successful project had finally come full circle and with no clear path to follow, he went back to the standard slasher template that started it all in 1980.
It is surprising that after the enormous flop of 1991’s Popcorn, Peter Simpson still believed that it was worthwhile putting his cheque book behind a large scale offering. Deliver us is visibly slick and offers a break from the realms of low budget and lower quality SOV pictures that were popping up during this period. I bought the VHS that I own in the UK and it was marketed here as a stand alone film and had no obvious links to Prom Night at all. It was only later, with the help of the Internet that I discovered that it was the fourth of that legacy.
In an opening that’s suspiciously familiar to Frat Fright from the previous year, a Priest goes on a kill frenzy and is captured and locked up beneath a church. 30+ years later, a foolishly kind hearted vicar tries to help him, but he breaks free and heads back to the scene of the original murders. It just so happens that four teenagers are there at the secluded location for a party…
You could say that Deliver us From Evil is a similar experience to eating a bag of pick and mix sweets that someone else chose for you. Even if every now and then you pick out a yucky stick of liquorice, it won’t be long before your taste buds are treated to a fizzy cherry cola bottle. If you see the words ‘Paul Zaza’ on a crew list, then you should know that the score that you are about to hear is sure to be top class. He provides a smooth and eerie accompaniment here, which allows director Clay Borris to pull off some surprisingly good set-pieces. There’s a prologue that references the fifties and after a couple of exciting murders, we fast forward to the present time…
Unfortunately, once we are given the core elements of the story, I began to grow a bit disillusioned with what I was watching. You see, being just a good actor does not make you an interesting person to watch on the screen. I have read countless times, even from respected critics, how Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a solid dramatic performer. Ok fine, I agree – but could you imagine a film like The Predator with John Hurt or Robert Deniro in the lead? Anyway, the cast here are surprisingly well coached in delivering their lines with emotion, but fail collectively to add the necessary audience connection. Nikki de Boer makes for an incredibly unsympathetic final girl. She had obviously based her character on Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode. Despite the fact that she doesn’t struggle with the role, she fails to capture even a handful of the sensitivity or charm that’s required. Joy Tanner is fine as the slut, but again without allure; and it’s left up to future screenwriter John Howard Wyman to give us the only person that we give a damn about. The mid-section filled with this cast can at times begin to drag and I was thinking that we were watching (yet) another entry that starts well and then fades. There simply wasn’t enough intrigue to keep the talky scenes from slowing the pace down and it didn’t take long until I was begging for some action.
In the final third though, the movie gets an injection of adrenalin and completely shakes itself out of the slumber. I had written a note around the forty-minute mark that said ‘this needs an injection of gore’, but then along came a kill scene that completely changed all that. We have seen the old Jason Voorhees ‘head-crushing’ trick a few times in other pictures, but the use of sound and the actor’s cries make it grimly effective here. Goodnight Godbless, another killer padre film, was a failure in terms of professionalism and filmmaking ability, but did boast an incredibly scary bogeyman. Our killer here has a pony tail and chiseled dark features, which makes him look like a poor man’s Johnny Depp. Thankfully, the director works smartly to create some grim moments and a genuine aura of apprehension.
The screenplay is a bit muddled in places and there’s a hint of supernatural that’s never really explained. It’s a quite blatant oversight, because we don’t learn the killer’s motivation or why they were hiding him in a church dungeon. There are many parts that remind us that we are waiting for some kind of confirmation, but it never comes. Not explaining why the monster was unstoppable and hellbent on killing teens was really bizarre and it left me wondering if it may have been budget related? Did the film have a nightmare production and miss out on some of the script?
Whilst thinking along those lines, I came to the idea that maybe this was initially planned as just a one-off horror movie. Perhaps out of fear of failure, they latter marketed it as a fourth entry to the Prom Night series? As I said earlier, in the UK there are no visible franchise links and most importantly, the bulk of the action doesn’t even take place at a prom, which is a bit of an odd contradiction. Not every horror film that Simpson released was in this series, so that may well be the case. It would be interesting to find out.
I was impressed by some of the well delivered shocks, the competent production and all in all, there is loads here for all slasher fans to enjoy. It also has its share of creepy moments, which by 1992 had become mission impossible for these films. The first Prom Night is considered by some to be one of the finest of the peak entries and at least this fourth and final part has enough in its man-bag to allow the franchise to wave good bye with class. I recommend that you track it down, because despite a few blemishes, it has a rugged handsomeness and sometimes that’s all that you need…
Final Girl: √
Zombie Nightmare 1986
Directed by: Jack Bravman
Starring: Adam West, Jon Mikl Thor, Tia Carrere
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
And here we have another eighties ‘zombie’ movie, which despite having a title that brings to mind illusions of Romero-alike walking-dead mayhem, owes a damn site more to slasher flicks such as Friday the 13th and The Prowleret al. Inexplicably, there was a high number of horror attempts during that decade, which incorporated the living dead into their titles, but delivered stalk and slash cinematic experiences. Lucio Fulci’s House by the Cemetery was a prime example of a slasher film cloaked under the guise of a zombie-thon, whilst Zombie Island Massacre was another. The Dead Pit and Ruben Galindo’s Cementerio Del Terror went as far as to mix re-animated corpses with the plot trappings of the slasher craze and more recently, Todd Cook’s Zombiefied has brought the slasher/zombie hybrid back from the grave (no pun intended)
It opens on a high school baseball field sometime during the 1960s. An amicable coach named Bill Washington is watched playing catch with some youngsters by his wife and son. Also in the stands are a Haitian school girl and two troublesome youngsters who let their intentions be known by plotting a nasty surprise for the Caribbean spectator. As the young family head home across the streets of the idyllic neighbourhood, they come across the two hoodlums from earlier attempting to rape the passive Haitian. Bill Washington immediately intervenes, much to his downfall, because whilst his back is turned he is stabbed in the chest by one of the rampant thugs. The screen fades with a shot of the young boy watching his father struggle for life on the cold concrete side walk.
Fast forward twenty years and Tony Washington – the child from the prologue – has grown into a helpful and polite young man. Whilst out shopping for his mum’s groceries, he underlines his impressive community status by courageously battering two armed thugs that were attempting to rob the local shop keeper. Things takes a turn for the worse for the vigilante, when he is savagely run down and killed by a gang of inebriated teenagers. The gang of drunkards speed off into the night, showing no remorse for their victim. Despite being visually devastated, Tony’s mum decides not to inform the police of the murder and instead she calls upon the favour owed by the Haitian from the pre-credits sequence. Somewhat fortunately (albeit stereotypically) Molly Mokembe is now a voodoo priestess and so with a dust of black magic, Tony Washington rises from the dead to avenge his ruthless murder….
If you were looking for another possible pre-cursor to Kevin Williamson’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, then look no further than this cheap as you like slasher jam, which pre-dates the aforementioned title by a whole eleven-years. The plot is familiar to each and all, as the victim of a horrendous accident returns to avenge his death, systematically slaughtering the culprits one by one in gruesome fashion. Although we never reach the heights of slasher-classic status, this does boast a few credible benefits that lift it from the irreversible depths of a half-star review. The soundtrack is awesomely impressive, with songs provided by Motorhead, Girlschool and Thor and I must admit that I was astounded as ‘The Ace of Spades’ confidently adorned the credit sequence. As is the case with so many eighties slasher entries, Zombie Nightmare plays host to one young and fresh-faced ‘soon to be superstar’. Yep, you don’t need to clean those spectacles. That chubby faced youngster that is unconvincingly warbling through her lines is none other than Tia Carrere, most memorable for her characteristic performances in Wayne’s World and True Lies.
Unfortunately, it seems the budget spent on the soundtrack pretty much drained the finances from the rest of the feature, because Zombie Nightmare seems to take an unprecedented slope to mediocrity very quickly. Despite a decent début performance from Frank Dietz as the protagonist, the dramatics are really scraping along the lines of junior school play level. Watch out for the hilarious Manuska Rigaud, who seems to believe that ‘acting’ amounts to squawking her voice like she’s desperately in need of a lozenge. Zombie Nightmare is famous for thrash legend Jon Mikl Thor’s lengthy cameo in the opening half of the film. Despite proving that rock stars certainly shouldn’t walk the path to Hollywood, he also miraculously manages to grow a few inches post-death. It’s so easy to notice that Thor had taken his paycheque and scooted very early on in the production, leaving the crew to cast a totally unconvincing body ‘double’, which somewhat adds to the cheesy charm.
There’s no gore or suspense worth mentioning and the whole feature is weakly directed to the excess of point and shoot mediocrity. Originality is a wayward concept in the eyes of Jack Bravman, so basically, what you see is what you get – and you get very little. There’s a few kooky deaths and a fairly sympathetic motive for our hulking maniac, but it never escapes the feeling of being overly diluted, so I’m sure that you’ll end up fairly bored.
Zombie Nightmare is far from being the worst slasher movie released during the peak period, but I really could only find very little to recommend. The stalking lone killer proves that this is pure slasher trash and those searching for a dose of zombie gore will be thoroughly disappointed. It would probably have remained a complete obscurity if it hadn’t been rescued by MST3K who pointed out some of the cheesy aspects in their usual hysterical way. When I wrote this review three-years ago, there was a copy of their antics available on YouTube to watch, although it may have disappeared by now.
Ignore the word ‘Zombie’ in the title and add this to your slasher collection if you dig the eighties cheapies. There’s nothing here to recommend in a respectable way, but if you are a fan of pure trashola then you should most definitely pick it up. You’ll have to dust off your VCR though, because there’s no planned DVD rehash.
Final Girl: √
Bikini Island 1991
Directed by: Anthony Markes
Starring: Holly Floria, Alicia Anne, Jackson Robinson
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
There’s a title in my collection that I’ve been looking to add to this site for sometime. The thing is, it’s only available on VHS and watching a video is infinitely harder on my day plan than ripping a DVD and chucking it on my iPad. Last Dance was a belated entry to the category that hit video stores on the heels of Stripped to Kill, Slashdance, Deadly Dancer and the rest of those boogie/slasher flicks that strangely came out in mass around a similar timespan. Instead, I decided to review the same director Anthony Markes’ début feature, which is also a slasher movie and is thankfully available on Russian DVD. Good that I speak Russian – yay.
Released in 1991, Bikini Island is the kind of film that many men (me included) would kill to make. What we have here is a gang of pretty young women that are stranded on a desert island and dressed, as the title helpfully informs us, in next to nothing for an entire runtime. You want exploitation my friends, you’ve got it. The slasher sub-plot plays tenth-fiddle to more cleavage and bum shots than an Ann Summers catalogue. I had a feeling that I was in for a good time…
Swimwear Illustrated, the leading magazine for people who take their fashion sense and water sports seriously, are looking for five models for their anniversary issue. The women must represent the brand’s image and be beautiful, fit and presumably eager to whip off their undies. They head off to a remote island for the shoot, but after two days, they soon realise that one of their troupe has murderous intentions….
Although in reality this is not the case, Last Dance, instead of being a different movie, could have been a sequel or follow up to this. Both have an overdose of chicks in next to no clothing, both have an unseen mystery killer floating around and both have similar catchy soundtracks. To be frank, Bikini Island is the slasher movie equivalent of a Vodka and Coke that is 98.9% Coke. It takes us forty-five minutes or so to see the first killing and I had to fast forward through to check that it wasn’t just some cheesy late night drama or love story.
In the last half hour though, the maniac strikes. His weapon of choice – a kitchen plunger. No, seriously. We see in POV as two goons get ‘suffocated’ with said appliance and then he must’ve got bored, because out comes a length of hosepipe, a rock and a bow and arrow for the rest of the victims. Markes shows he knows the genre and attempts a rehash of the wonderful greenhouse killing from La Residencia. Minus the suspense, skilful photography, pulsating score, blood, shocks, superb performance and artistry, the two scenes are interchangeable. Our job of course is to guess the identity of our murderous psycho. To be fair, I had no idea, but that’s more down to randomness than brilliance on the screenwriter’s part. The final girl pouts her way through the last battle and we all live happily ever after. The end.
Despite its somewhat diluted feel, Bikini Island isn’t as boring as it could have been and it gleefully accepts the level of its ingenuity, which to be fair, is pretty low. The producers were well aware that they had a cast with zero dramatic plausibility, so they have conjured up a script that specifically allows for this. What I didn’t like was that they killed a real mouse in a scene that was fairly pointless and it is something that I just don’t agree with. What did the mouse do to them?
This was released a few weeks before Popcorn proved that the slasher movie was no longer something that young audiences were interested in during the early nineties. It still became moderately successful enough for Markes to find funding for his follow-up and it was something of a staple on late night cable for many years and still plays even today. It’s by no means worth spending time hunting out, because it is far too weak and corny to be a compelling murder mystery. It scores points only because it is as cheesy as hell and amusing in an inadvertent type of way.
The first screen that we see boldly informs us that the picture that we are about to witness is ‘based on a true story’. Yes, that old transparent marketing chestnut that turns up every once in a while. I think we can quietly assume that they meant the ‘true story’ of a gang of models getting photographed and very little else. Pop-tastic soundtrack aside, Bikini Island is slasher by the numbers and as ‘lite’ as a diet coke.
Final Girl: √√
Directed by: David DeCoteau
Starring: Thomas Bern, Ashlyn Gere, Sylvia Summers
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s hardly a secret that a surprisingly large percentage of superstar actors of the past thirty years began their career somewhere within the slasher genre. Whilst those specific faces (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Eva Mendes etc) went on to find fortune and fame beyond the realms of masked killers and screaming teens, there were a few artists that seemed content to dwindle in the security of B-movie minor-budget rhapsody. These include the likes of Fred Olen Ray, David A. Prior, Steve Jarvis, Linnea Quigley and the most relevant for this write-up, David DeCoteau. Today, I want to explore with DeCoteau as the example if it was the fact that he had reached the height of his talent that forced him to stay in the kingdom of penny-budgets or if it was a choice that he made due to his love of cheese on toast horror…
Dreamanic is His first excursion into slasher land and although not particularly groundbreaking, it does have a few novel aspects that warrant a mention. Female scribe Helen Robinson has given us a story unique enough to make this one of the select few of the 600 or so genre entries that juxtaposes elements from giants Halloween and A Nightmare in Elm Street, without straying too far outside of the stalk and slash guide book. Whilst titles such as Pledge Night and the rancid The Oracle gave up their places in the cycle by edging too far into the realms of supernatural futility, Dreamaniac remains true enough to the trappings to be worthy of inspection here on a SLASH above…
The movie centres on a gang of fun loving stereotypical period teens who end up battling a deranged menace. Boasting a baby face that makes him look like an extra from The Sorcerer’s Stone, protagonist Adam (Thomas Bern) shows his eighties credibility by spending most of the flick running around in a groovy Def Leppard t-shirt. Despite looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, surprisingly Adam is a part time Satanist with a passion for black magic rituals. His bubble-haired girlfriend Pat (Ashlyn Gere) has no idea that her beau spends his spare time conjuring dark spirits from beyond the grave, and often she wonders why he spends so much time alone in his room. In an attempt to bring him out of his shell for a few hours, Pat has organised a huge party at her boyfriend’s vacant abode. The guest list includes all the typical sure-fire body count ingredients and before long they arrive and get the beer flowing.
Unbeknownst to them, Adam has summoned a porn star-like succubus from another dimension and it goes without saying that she has arrived with a taste for blood. Before long the corpses begin to mount as the maniacal fiend begins seducing the male guests and then butchering them in various imaginative ways. Will anyone be able to stop the demon? Or will the rampage continue for the chance of a profit-escalating sequel?
Interestingly enough, after the inevitable Halloween-alike synthesizer score, the director leads us along a path that’s filled with imaginative twists, turns and stepping stones. There’s a fair bit of originality in the Freddy/Michael Myers conjunction that allows the movie to develop a few authentic ideas. Towards the finale, we get zombies and various other supernatural gimmicks that add a welcomed touch of spice to the story, and the borders of the standard slasher template are elasticated to stretch into new realms. When compared to the majority of features from the same year like Evil Laugh or Night Ripper, DeCoteau’s effort offers much more in terms of creativity and flair. Although the “too gory for the silver screen” boast from the hyperbole packaging is definitely a half-truth, there are one or two credibly handled splatter scenes. Tom Schwartz’s power drill decapitation can rank among the neatest killings of the genre and the gruesome hand impalement that precedes it is also impressive.
Sadly, despite a couple of ambitious camera angles, it is fairly easy to see why DeCoteau has never taken his career above SOV and DTV status. In fact, at times the movie fails to generate any kind of atmosphere at all, which is majorly disappointing. The constant homo-erotic references that would become his trademark are in full flow and there’s the usual amount of cheese and ear numbing hair metal for your enjoyment.
As is the case with so many eighties slashers, the film’s biggest flaw is the heinous work from the bubblegum cast. It’s also worth noting that these ‘actors’ have the worst hairstyles ever featured collectively in a runtime. It is kind of like a hair horror movie or something, where the real bogeyman is the stylist with the comb in his hand in the dressing room. Even if the dramatics are most definitely those of the ‘high school play’ variety, funnily enough though there was a soon to be “award winning screen actress” amongst the hopefuls. Ashlyn Gere (yes her again), ‘star’ of Evil Laugh and Lunch Meat would give up on feature films and go on to become a big name in the porn industry. She even directed her own adult movie! I must admit that I like female killers very much, but the nut job here is not the best advertisement for psychos in stilettos. We want our maniacs to look creepy and disfigured or at least slightly deranged. This succubus is little more than a washed-up Kim Basinger… no fair!
To be honest, pushing the imaginative work of the screenwriter to one side, there’s not much here to warrant hunting out a copy of Dreamaniac. Despite giving you the false hope that it’ll taste like a Nandos after a night on the San Miguels, it ends up more like a greasy kebab that you found on the table the next morning. It simply fails to build on a promising foundation. There are a lot better efforts floating around, but I guess that for people like us – the slasher enthusiasts – it’s worth seeing for a couple of cool gore scenes.
The highlight of Decoteau’s career thereafter; I mean, his biggest motion picture, would be Puppet Master III. He did return to the slasher genre, with The Frightening, Final Scream and the sequel to Jeff Obrow’s Legend of the Mummy, which funnily enough plays more like a stalk and slash flick. Aside from that, he would remain a big-enough figure in B-Movies to have made a name that almost everyone in horror is aware of, which is a considerable feat. I cannot be sure if he is satisfied that he has reached the peak of his ambition, but I think he can be proud of his contributions to cinema. His ship never quite rolled in close enough to take him to the level of the names that I mentioned in my opening paragraph, but he carved out a career that has seen him roll out almost a hundred titles. Not bad for a guy that constantly works on the smallest of budgets.
Final Girl: √√
Final Examination 2003
Directed by: Fred Olen Ray
Starring: Kari Wuhrer, Debbie Rochon, Brent Huff
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Fred Olen Ray gets his fair share of stick from cult movie buffs. Over his 30+ year career, he has stuck exclusively to B-movies and the majority are extremely tough to track down. I did a little analysis on the IMDB of the 126 features that he has directed and on average the ratings of all of them combined is a measly 2.4/10. That’s pretty dismal to be fair.
Personally, I will always have a soft spot for him, because he made the creepy peak period slasher film ,Scalps.Funnily enough, after that he didn’t churn out as many movies in our favourite sub-genre as I’d perhaps expected and Final Examination, which was released twenty-years later, is the closest that he’s come to a return to the slasher cycle. Perhaps his most famous horror flick is Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers from 1988, which is a wacky invention with tonnes of eighties humour, both intentional and inadvertent.
The plot here is extremely typical of the category’s clichés. A gang of former sorority sisters are invited to an island in Hawaii for a photo shoot. All except one of the former classmates is there, because in the opening we saw her drive a car off of the end of an unfinished bridge. Will that somehow motivate someone to go on a kill spree? You can bet your mortgage on it. As expected, it doesn’t take long before a guy in a balaclava turns up and kills off a couple of the ‘babes’. A maverick cop who has recently been transferred to the location gets on the case and discovers a link between the victims. Who could it be behind the mask and what is the reason for the slaughters…?
Olen Ray has focused most of his post-eighties career on soft porn and T&A features and despite the strong slasher tone to Final Examination, this is a flick that will also appeal to those audiences. The actresses are all hired for little more than their ability – or better ‘agreeability’ – to take off their clothes and frolic in semi-naked soft-porn clinches. Cult favourite Debbie Rochon is along for the ride and she also bares her lady lumps in one scene. To be honest, this is more of a Z-grade thriller than an out and out slasher flick, but the odd lingering POV shot and inclusion of a masked killer means that it can fit quite comfortably on this site amongst the rest of the genre’s entries.
There’s one piece of photography here in the beginning that’s unbelievably stylish and best described as John Woo-esque. It occurs during a lengthy car chase at the start of the film. First we see a group of oriental characters practicing Tai-chi in a park and it’s a picture of serenity. Then all of a sudden, two vehicles screech around the corner and the camera pans up to give us a better view of the action as a disturbed flock of pigeons launch in to the sky. It is a fantastic set-up and somewhat uncharacteristic from Olen Ray, who is generally considered a clumsy director. I was hopeful that it was an example of the level that we could expect from the rest of the runtime, but unfortunately, from then on, the film pretty much falls in to auto-pilot mode.
It’s in auto-pilot mode where we remain and to be frank, it doesn’t take long to get incredibly sleep-inducing. We go from one nonsense talky scene to the next and I found that I was checking Facebook continually and had to remind myself that I was watching this film to write a review for you lovely peeps. Rochon gets minimal screen time, which isn’t surprising as she was absolutely awful. Both Brent Huff and Kari Wuhrer were marginally better, but still looked unmotivated and the plot ‘twist’ is dumb and predictable. You’ll probably be asleep by the time it gets to that stage anyway. The killings are more watered down than ‘pound a pint’ night in Westherspoons and playing snooker by yourself with no balls, table or cue would be much more fun than watching the film all the way through.
It took me four attempts to finish Final Examination and I really had to stay focused this time around in order to prevent my eyelids from locking shut. There’s nothing more here than a miniscule body count, a shot glass worth of goo and a tired and lazy mystery. The killer only turns up briefly on three occasions and there’s nothing memorable about any of them. My idea for the rating was underlined in the dying moments when a character gets shot five times and as he recoils, we see that his clothes are totally unmarked. Yawn. The best thing about the feature is the gorgeous Hawaiian backdrop, but we don’t get to see anywhere near enough of it.
Ok so you have five options and must chose one:
A. Watch paint dry.
B. Watch Grass Grow.
C. Stare at a Wall.
D. Watch Final Examination.
Trust me that’s a tough choice. This movie is complete garbage. Worse than that it’s boring garbage.
On a few forums, I have seen Olen Ray compared to Edward Wood. On this evidence, that’s an insult to Wood, who would always try to make his films entertaining. I didn’t expect much and was still disappointed with what I got, so does that say more about me or this hunk of junkola? I’m not so sure, but either way, I have wasted too much of my life on this already. So with that my friends I’m off-ski, but will leave you by saying that if you are in prison, specifically on a twenty-three hour lock-up, watch this film. If someone spiked you with amphetamines and due to the effects you are having trouble sleeping, watch this film. If you feel like inflicting torture on yourself, watch this film. Aside from that, a cat sleeping has more entertainment value.
Killer Guise: √
Final Girl: √