Author Archives: luisitojoaquin
Blood Harvest 1987
aka The Marvelous Mervo aka Nightmare
Directed by: Bill Rebane
Starring: Tiny Tim, Itonia Salchek, Dean West
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Blood Harvest is yet further evidence how the slasher genre was a good cash cow for ambitious B-Movie producers during the eighties. So much so that even celebrated low budget titans like Bill Rebane were keen to get in on the action and have a stab at creating their ownHalloween.
Rebane himself is a bit if a movie enigma who preferred the comfort zone of budget sci-fi/Horror than a golden ticket to Hollywood. An educated film-maker whose creativity and flair for adventure saw him innovate cinema with his 360 degrees wrap-around motion picture process, he could have used his skill for technology and his cultural intelligence (He was Latvian born and fluent in five languages) to join a major studio. Instead he stuck to releasing his own self-financed productions that were each fairly successful in their own right.
In the mid-eighties he hosted a 50s nostalgia event at his Wisconsin based studio, The Shooting Ranch. There, a chance meeting with Tiny Tim, another oddball celebrity who had found fortune with his falsetto voice and quirky character – led to the production of this curious slasher.
There are three versions of the feature in circulation and each is slightly different. The American VHS release includes all the nudity and gore, whilst the UK tape is missing three-minutes of footage, which was considered too gruesome by the BBFC. There’s also a director’s cut on DVD, which is itself rather strange because it also removes most of the blood and bare skin. That must be the first time that a director’s version subtracts from the existing print and offers a more lenient alternative. It’s rumoured that this may have been either due to Rebane’s political ambitions at the time or the fact that the gore was not in his initial vision for the flick and rather it was added at the insistence of his production partners (most of his previous work was PG13 rated) to make the film more marketable to the splatter audiences.
Jill returns home to her city from University to find that her parents are missing and the local bank (which they own) has forced most of the farmers to sell their properties. They are not the most popular people in the neighborhood, so Jill is rightly concerned about their disappearance. Things go where you expect them to, when a killer with a stocking on his head turns up and begins stalking the youngster and murdering anyone who has contact with her.
I can only say that a slasher film starring Tiny Tim is as jaw droopingly bizarre as you would expect it to be. To be fair to him, his performance is one of the few highlights in an otherwise dull offering and he manages to deliver a troubled-childlike creepiness with depths to his character. Dressing him in a clown costume was a masterstroke from the scriptwriters and adds to the overall desperation of his deluded persona.
The rest of the cast are nowhere near as credible and he carries the torch in terms of capable dramatics. I have to mention Itonia Salchek, the final girl, who can’t act for toffee but seems to enjoy nothing more than getting her kit off at every available opportunity, which makes her a hit with T&A fans and most likely the highlight of a single guy’s night out in any bar that she frequents. Anyway, she is lost here carrying most of the plot development on her (usually naked) shoulders and comes across as unapproachable.
I mentioned about Bill Rebane being an enigma earlier, but he is nowhere near as mysterious as his lead actress. I couldn’t uncover any information about her anywhere. Now her surname looks Eastern European (I speak Russian and Polish and it’s not from those countries) but her first name Itonia is an epithet from Greek mythology for the Goddess Athena. Interesting stuff. Anyway, she vanished in to obscurity after this, but if you know something, then please give me a shout. Here’s a rare screenshot of her in clothing, which is something that we don’t see very often.
It seems like Rebane was aware of the slasher genre but hadn’t researched its trappings and unlike many entries of the same year, the movie steers clear of feeling like a total rip off. There are no POV shots, the final girl doesn’t come across as shy and withdrawn and the killer seems more like what you would expect to find in a Giallo than a slasher flick. This is most evident in the heavy sexual undertones and his motive, which is at least well-handled and believable.
The film would suffer in later years, disappearing due to legal tangles, not just once, but for a second time after its outing on DVD. This gives it a somewhat alluring sheen, especially as it’s impossible to find now in its uncut form. The only version worth watching is the unrated cut, because despite of some uninspired and pedestrian direction from Rebane (I expected better) there are snippets of a really foreboding atmosphere. The killer is exceptionally merciless and brutal and the actor does well playing off-his-rocker insanity at the climax. There’s the mystery of guessing his identity, but there are not many choices and you’ll work it out pretty quick if you watch closely enough. Some more killings would have been nice (only two on screen) but the gooey throat-slashing is really well done (by soon to be big shot Dieter Sturm no less)
There’s a nice synth score that I liked and the killer looks creepy with a stocking over his head, but there’s too much missing in terms of continuity to make this a hidden-gem. Some of the plot points were bordering on stupidity and what the hell was with the incredibly inept sheriff? There are long periods of dull rubbish acting where your attention will turn away from the screen and it definitely hasn’t aged well.
Worthy only because it’s rare and a great performance from Tiny Tim, but otherwise not really recommended as a competitor.
Final Girl √√√
Friday the 13th: Halloween Night 1994
Directed by: Chris Seaver
Starring: Brad Gough, Zach Allen, Chris Seaver
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So peeps, it’s Halloween, let’s make it a good one! What are y’all up to? I’m taking Oliverio and Kalinka trick-or-treating with two of the scariest women I know (I need to be careful with my words here – żartuje dziewczyny przysięgam) and then most likely going somewhere Friday in full psycho garb. It’s the only time that slasher fans can get away with dressing like their heroes and fit in with everybody else. I’m not going for my traditional Jason Voorhees outfit this year because I believe that I’d make an excellent vampire. I mean, I have the chiseled dark good looks and the unrivalled ability to pull the ladies, right? Are you all in agreement…? Erm… Any of you? Just one? HELLLLLLLOOOOOOO? Oh ok…
Anyway, as it’s our favourite day of the year, I wanted to take this opportunity to post a real rarity from my collection and break the a SLASH above mould somewhat. You see, my A-Z list of slasher movies is a fairly good reference point, but it doesn’t include any of the fabulous ‘shorts’ that can be found all over the globe in multiple formats. I did post a review of Death O’ Lantern recently, but aside from that, I’ve overlooked them more than I ignore my flat mate when she keeps telling me that the coffee table is not the best place to leave half-empty bottles of vodka. But you can teach an old dog new tricks, so here we have a real interesting entry… (Excuse me, I have some bottles in the living room that I need to clear up)
After a horrific massacre on a campsite, a local enthusiast heads to the location to survey the aftermath. He discovers Jason’s notorious hockey mask and feels an unavoidable urge to put it on just the once. Suddenly, he becomes possessed by the spirit of the notorious murderer and heads to a town on Halloween night where Michael Myers is already out on the prowl for teenage victims. What happens however when the pair come face to face?
I mentioned the cheese treat Death O’ Lantern earlier and interestingly enough, this is an extremely early production from the same director, Chris Seaver. I can’t say for sure whether it was his debut movie, but I did find out that it was most definitely amongst the first that he scraped the funds together for. It’s a fan boy video through and through, shot on a camcorder with Beastie Boys and the like playing in the background just for good measure. In terms of visual quality, my iPhone can create better footage during a fog-laden blackout, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have a giggle whilst watching the events that unfold herein.
At thirty-four minutes, there’s not a great deal that I can write in terms of critical appraisal, but I will say that there’s some really good ideas on display. One moment that i thought demonstrated a fine level of creativity, was when a teen is butchered under a strobe effect, which really does look the business. Taking on board the total amateurism of the setup, I must say that the editing was actually quite slick in places and the guys playing Jason and Michael did a credible job at mimicking the renowned horror icons.
Where the film really stands out is in the high amount of gore. One cut throat is that impressive that it wouldn’t have looked out of place in a much bigger budgeted picture and each kill scene is lively, bloody and fun. Jason and Michael are finally shown on screen together for (arguably) the first time in video history and although the budget restraints restrict a super battle between them, it’s still cool to watch.
There’s no doubt that the cast are just a bunch of mates and funnily enough there’s not one female amongst the characters. You would have thought that they could have convinced the local prom queen to put in an appearance, but instead we get to watch Seaver’s buddies get slashed gorily, which is a subtle up yours to the ‘feminism against slashers’ movement. We get some periodic references for eagle-eyed viewers (OJ’s trial is mentioned and we see posters of Jason goes to hell on one guy’s bedroom) and they even pinch the original Halloween score for good measure.
Friday the 13th: Halloween Night is an interesting (and confusingly titled) little obscurity that needs to be seen by slasher fanatics who can forgive shoestring budgeting. Whilst technically it’s at the level that you’d expect for $200 (the POV through eye-hole shots are clearly just a mask placed on top of the camcorder) there’s enough cheesy fun to be had by forgiving fans. If you got through Day of the Reaper without screaming, then you may just be able to survive this.
Good work again from Señor Seaver, a filmmaker who is really just one of us. Enjoy…
Killer Guise: √√√√√
Directed by: Steve Latham
Starring: Linnea Quigley, Cameron Mitchell, Ryan Lathshaw
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s the third birthday of a SLASH above and almost Halloween, so I thought I’d post some related features On that note, any film that has horror veterans Linnea Quigley, Cameron Mitchell and John Carradine all in the same cast list must surely be worth a watch, right?
Jack-O was the second to last movie to include a role for Mr. Carradine senior. He died in 1988 and this was released in 1995, which means that his performance must have been lifted from stock-footage. It’s actually quite ingenious how director Steve Lathshaw made it work so well. It was also the swan song for cheesy slasher regular Cameron Mitchell, before his death in 1994. The screenplay was adapted from a story by Fred Olen Ray, whom we all know exceedingly well from his previous ‘videomatic’ misdemeanors. He was behind slashers,Scalps and Final Examination and is still chucking out B-movies at a rate that Lance Armstrong on a whole bag of his performance enhancing drugs couldn’t keep up with. Lathshaw went on after this to direct a couple more flicks, including the interesting Death Mask, before switching to screen-writing and churning out scripts for twenty-eight movies. Unlike most American direct to video/cable horror films from the mid-nineties, this actually secured a global distribution and I have VHS versions from England, Poland and Spain. The UK’s Midnight Movies label released so few copies that originals have now become somewhat of a rarity and sell for fairly good money on eBay. Is it one that deserves the hunt?
Many years ago, the families of Oakmoor Crossing tracked down a vicious murderer named Walter Machen (Carradine) and lynched him. He was a powerful warlock and just before he died, he summoned a demon from the depths of hell to seek revenge on the townsfolk. The maniac attacked and butchered lots of people, until a man called Arthur Kelly found a way to stop him for good. Now, present day, three rowdy teens accidentally revive the pumpkin headed fiend, much to their dismay. Armed with a scythe, he heads back to the same town to continue where he left off his killing spree. He couldn’t have picked a better night for murder, because it happens to be October the 31st, or in other words, Halloween. Arthur’s great, great Grandson, Sean Kelly (Ryan Lathshaw) is only a young boy, but little does he know, that he is the only person alive with the power to stop the bloodthirsty killer. Will he realise his potential before the demon reaches his parents, or will he be too late?
Make no mistake about it, they certainly don’t come much cheesier than this fierce example of dairy produce in a videomatic format. Everything from the killer’s laughable Jack O’ Lantern head to the way that his urban legend is spread through rhymes that my six-year old daughter could have written (Mr Jack will break your back and chop off your head with a whack whack whack!) is the cinematic equivalent of a fondue festival. Olen Ray has once again rushed out a nonsensical screenplay, which is overflowing with make believe characters, impossible situations and basically poor screenwriting. I especially enjoyed the woefully out of date ‘cool dude’ guy, who, dressed in a leather jacket, jeans and quiff whilst perched on a motorbike, couldn’t have been more cliche if he’d had ‘cool character’ written on his forehead. Over the years, since her debut in Psycho from Texas and inclusion in tonnes of cheapo flicks including Graduation Day and Fatal Games, Linnea Quigley has gained herself a devoted cult following. She doesn’t disappoint fans here and takes a long gratuitous shower just to display her lady lumps for at least two minutes in her first scene. Just do your thing, baby…
Unfortunately, the lesser-known faces are all good actors in a dimension that’s totally the opposite to this one. Gary Doles was the only human in a 100-mile radius that even attempted to add a little life to his character and the rest really didn’t look bothered. Mind you, Jack Nicholson couldn’t recite these lines much better. If you blink, you’ll miss Cameron Mitchell’s brief cameo. He plays Dr.Cadaver, a creepy TV presenter that hosts a show filled with all things horror. His inclusion in flicks ranging from The Toolbox Murders to Memorial Valley Massacre made it a part that suited him to the thing that golfers hit their balls off (a T dummy;)). There were two anti-establishment toffs who I guess were there to supply the comic relief bits. That really wasn’t necessary though, because the whole thing was little more than a bad joke in the first place.
Jack O’ chucks in some supernatural elements, but the special FX for these gimicks are poorly conceived, which is a shame, because other titles produced on similar budgets have delivered much more. The lightening, for example, looked like it had been drawn onto the negatives with a felt tip pen and the killer’s lantern-head was pretty much a dime-store mask. A cool one mind, but hardly ‘convincing’. The production team at least manage to chuck in some gooey red-stuff and a fairly well modeled decapitation, which is surprisingly gory. Even if Lathshaw didn’t get much from his amateur cast, he planned a few interesting camera angles and the woodland scenes are all well lighted. You won’t get bored whilst watching and it doesn’t hang around to introduce cheesy horror as the central characteristic, so really you can’t complain too much. I don’t know, it just feels like amateur night at the local karaoke bar and if that’s what tickles your fancy, then you’re in luck. By the way, keep a look out for the director’s son, Ryan in a starring role. You can’t deny that he’s an ‘authentic’ actor, if nothing else.
What did you actually expect from a movie called ‘Jack-O’ with a pumpkin-headed killer on the cover and Linnea Quigley in the cast? Yeah, yeah; I was also expecting a trip to the Oscars – damn it. Thankfully, it’s bad in a good way and fans of mature cheddar circumstances will find more than enough to fill their hunger. It’s better than that other Halloween-based throwaway, Hack-o-Lantern, but go in with the right frame of mind to avoid disappointment. Come October the 31st, don’t you dare forget that Mr. Jack will snap your spine and cut you in half with a scaly vine…! Oooooooh!
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl: √
American Nightmare 1981
Directed by: Don McBrearty
Starring: Michael Ironside, Lawrence Day, Lora Stanley
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This is the earlier of two slasher movies in circulation that have the title American Nightmare. The more recent one was unleashed amongst the mass of Scream imitators and disappeared fairly quickly, whilst this entry from the golden years looks to have suffered a similar fate. With a score from Paul Zaza and a cast that included (then) up and coming talents like Michael Ironside, Lora Stanley and Lenore Zann it came as a surprise to me that it didn’t grab any of the buzz that served its compatriots like Curtains, My Bloody Valentine and Terror Train so well.
The son of a wealthy local businessman returns to his hometown after receiving a letter from his younger sister that begs for help. Upon arrival, he learns that his sibling has disappeared (brutally murdered in the pre-credits) and asks a stripper to help to locate her. Unbeknownst to them, her murder was the first at the hands of a vicious psychopath that is butchering local hookers.
I have been collecting slasher movies for longer than I care to remember and as the list on a Slash above shows clearly, I’ve worked hard to uncover a share of the hidden ‘gems’. I didn’t know that this even existed until fairly recently and I was quite surprised that I’d never come across it before. American Nightmare is a misleading title in more ways than one, because the film was actually a Canadian production that was shot in Toronto and it plays like a European Giallo. It has very little in common with Slashers from the US and this is most obvious in the disguise for the killer and characterisation of the key players. We do have a final girl, but she’s no Laurie Strode. In fact, she’s a stripper, which is an unusual touch for a film of this style.
Another way that it feels more closely aligned to its European counterparts is in its excessive use of sexual psychology as a backbone for the story. The victims are all degenerates of the kinky variety and the motive is one that you’re more likely to find from the films of Southern Europe. McBrearty tries hard to develop a sustainably sleazy tone, but he goes about it the wrong way and the runtime instead becomes needlessly repetitive and in all truth, slightly tedious.
The majority of the female victims are killed whilst in a state of undress and in between there are a lot of scenes that take place at a seedy strip bar. Whilst it makes sense to use this location in order to develop the atmosphere, the director includes long sequences from nude dancers as a form of padding. Now padding, much like ice in a vodka and coke, is something that looks like, feels like and smells like what it is – unnecessary. It doesn’t help that these parts are flatly directed and dull, and whilst I appreciate that bare skin is part of the exploitation package, the choreography was mind-numbing and the girls were not the hottest. At first, I wanted to acknowledge the realism, because let’s face it; bottom-dollar prostitutes are not going to be as beautiful as roses. Needless to say, if you are going to pack your feature with overlong set pieces of chicks whipping off their kit, it may be an idea to at least make them worth watching.
It was also a struggle to relate to the story as neither of the key players shine in any way at all. Staley is fine as the heroine, but she is given very little that makes us want to bond with her, whilst Lawrence Day is colourless and weak in the lead. The majority of the picture is shot with the creativity of a soap opera and lacks any va-va-voom, so the pace remains stagnant for extended periods. This changes drastically when the shadowed psycho gets to work and the killings are surprisingly well executed and mix an unnerving level of brutality with a superb, but sadly underused score from Paul Zaza. One of the later murders is almost unwatchable due to the visible suffering of the victim and at times it almost feels like these parts are too good to be have been shot by the same guy that has bored us rigid during the development of the characters and the mystery.
I didn’t manage to work out the identity of the maniac, but this is one of those films where I did think it may well be her, but then I kept changing my mind as the plot unravelled. I am not sure if this can really be credited as great screenwriting though, as it was hardly a shock once the big unmasking scene came around. I remained eager to see who the sadistic slayer was though and I guess that’s what matters most.
What American Nightmare does brilliantly is give depth and a face to a horror film cliché. Think about titles like Maniac, The Burning, Close your eyes and prey and, well, I could go on but the list is endless. Prostitutes in these films are always introduced as lowlifes that can be killed without anyone batting an eyelid, whereas here we are given more of a look into their lifestyles. Some, (but not all surprisingly), want to leave the game behind and they work the streets out of desperation, which makes a refreshing change from the norm. Our hero even gets a scene where he realises his error in pre-judgement and I liked this concept very much.
To be honest though I’m not quite sure what to rate this one. It has some really unique, sharp and brilliant moments, but struggles with the basics a bit too often to be a classic. I think it could be so much better if it were twenty minutes shorter, but at just shy of an hour and a half, it’s hardly Dances with Wolves. It’s a shame, because there’s stuff here that is worthy of Argento, but it’s the little bits, you know, those that aren’t so much fun to film, where we lose that momentum and focus. I’m reminded of my review of Grim Weekend, where I mentioned that the trailer had me fooled into believing that I was in for a good time. It feels here like McBrearty was only interested in the parts that were setup to convey horror and although he does well to build suspense and trepidation at the hardest of times, he strolls through the rest of the movie in first gear like it doesn’t matter.
If you haven’t seen American Nightmare then you should track it down. I just get disappointed when something comes within smelling distance of greatness, but throws it all away in the midriff. With better lighting and pacing, it could have given Curtains a run for its money, as it stands, it sits alongside Evil Judgement as an obscure Canadian picture that hits the right switches, but only on occasion
Directed by: Chris Notarlie
Starring: Ted Prior, Sandy Brooke, John Eastman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Ok so I’ll openly admit that I wasn’t clucking with anticipation to see Methodic. I’d been told that it was a tribute to John Carpenter’s Halloween and the last one of those that I’d watched was Offerings. Yea, exactly, someone pass me the Xylazines. Then, however, I saw that it had been directed by Chris Notarlie and I felt a slight flutter of interest in my brain. Like the last flaps of a dying moth, there was something there. The silver lining in the cloud? The light at the end of the tunnel? The wood between the trees? Well, maybe.
You see Notarlie has generated a buzz in the world of fan films for his cult shorts that you can find scattered across the Internet. These include tributes to icons of the superhero and slasher genres, which is great because the second of those categories is the one that we discuss every week. Zipp-a-dee-doo-daa! Amongst his lengthy résumé is Friday the 31st, a 22 minute story that pitches Jason Voorhees against Michael Myers in a fairly impressive setup. Whilst not being totally convinced that I was in for a good time, I did feel keener than I had previously. Like the last flaps of a dying moth? No, I’m talking butterflies baby…
After murdering his parents with a hammer, a nine-year old child is sent to an asylum. When his younger sister attempts to connect with him, it stirs his anger and he breaks out to confront her and murder anyone unfortunate enough to get in his way.
If you’re a fan of slasher flicks then you can consider yourself to be a unique individual because to be honest, there’s not very many of us about. There’s nothing quite like the buzz of meeting someone who shares this same passion, because it makes you feel connected in some miraculous way. The fact that Notarlie broadcasts his love for the genre everywhere possible means that I automatically took a shining to him and wanted to like his debut movie so much. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that there’s a big difference between a thirty-minute short and a full length motion picture, but even so, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I got with Methodic
Ok, so things started positively. There’s a Cloverfield-alike camcorder launch to the proceedings and the characters discuss the likes of Madonna to set the retro eighties vibe. The dialogue and interactions between the people on the screen feels genuine and unforced and I was impressed by the tone that was building. We are introduced to a slightly peculiar child who seems sure to be our bogeyman and we don’t have to wait long to see that this is the case. Within ten minutes, he has taken a claw hammer to both of his parents and the screen fades to black. With the end of that intro not only are we waving goodbye to the period references, but also to the impressive level of filmmaking ability.
I picked up on this fact for sure after the scene twenty-minutes in that involves two cops sitting in a car chatting. Instead of the typical shot reverse shot setup, Notarlie incorporates some strange camera angles and it just feels like the cuts are harsh and in all the wrong places. I was guessing that these were supposed to be hard as nails officers of the law, but their first conversation is about how they found out that their women were cheating on them and with how many men. Are you sure tough guys really talk like that? Can you imagine Dirty Harry; ‘Do you feel lucky punk? Luckier than me because I just caught my wife in bed with the milkman? Well, do ya?’ Or Pulp Fiction, ‘I’ve given a million women a million foot massages and they all ran off with the cable guy.’ I mean I’m all for cutting out the clichés, but this just felt weird.
Generally in a slasher movie, it takes, what, ten minutes for the bogeyman to have broken out of the asylum. Here we get to twenty-eight and fifteen of them could have been left on the cutting room floor. One line of dialogue from the psychiatrist would have summed up everything that happens between the kid killing his parents and then escaping the institution. So he’s a silent weirdo that hasn’t responded for fifteen years, ok comprendo, let’s move on. This time may have been spent developing the personality of his younger sister, our obvious final girl, because thus far we know only that she swears and has a great ass. Now I love great asses, but I don’t invest emotionally in every chick that’s got one. Physically, maybe; but that’s another story for another day.
The action really starts after the breakout part, which was strangely intercut with another sequence, but was quite exciting and well conveyed all the same. I was impressed that for someone that hasn’t been able to move unaided or respond for fifteen years, the bogeyman knows how to drive and make a scary mask with a sewing machine. My ex-wife couldn’t even turn on a sewing machine or drive a car and she responded all the f**king time. Especially when I didn’t want her to. This nutjob though is blessed with a lucky streak that makes me wonder why he didn’t take a moment’s break from slashing to do the lotto. Inside the first house that he breaks into, he finds not only the aforementioned stitching apparatus, but also a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that a tailor couldn’t fit for him any better. It takes me forever to purchase a decent 38″ chest and 32″ waist damn it.
Soon after, he begins cruising the streets and stalking his little sis and her buddies. These include two lesbians that give us an exploitive and totally unnecessary sex scene.To be fair, there are a couple of creepy shots and a bit of ingenuity in the final third and a ‘borrowed’ twist that I really wasn’t expecting. I recommend keeping the sound low though, unless you want your ear drums damaged by some hideous death metal. Why can’t we have a maniac that goes around slaughtering people to something melodic? Pat Boone anyone? Forget melodic peeps, this is Methodic, but exactly what that method was, no one knows. It sure as hell wasn’t the acting.
Now let’s be frank about this whole situation. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Chris Notarlie is a talented filmmaker and most definitely one to watch for the future. Not everyone has a strong debut and I’m sure that he has a good career in front of him. Methodic however is plagued basically by bad pacing, lighting, continuity and editing, but these are elements that can improve with practice. This may not be an entry worth much of your time, but I will most definitely look out for other stuff from the same director
The potential is there. I’ll be the first in the queue when it’s realised
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√
Directed by: David A. Prior
Starring: Ted Prior, Sandy Brooke, John Eastman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
During the eighties, the entertainment industry was rocked by the explosion of Sledgehammer’s unexpected success. Combining styles from the sixties, seventies and its own period to create something unique and fresh, it is still to this day remembered as a trend innovator and receives global recognition. Oh, yeah, and I guess that I should also mention that aside from Peter Gabriel’s classic 1986 hit, there was also a DTV slasher flick released three years earlier under the same name that was barely noticed and sunk without trace. That would be the one that I’m reviewing for you today.
People often forget that filmmaker David Prior didn’t only bless the genre one time with that notorious slasher/fitness-vid crossbreed. His first film was also a Halloween knock-off, which is somewhat less renowned. I enjoyed Killer Workout wholeheartedly and felt that it had been a fantastic advertisement for all that was ‘memorable’ about the eighties. Prior should have been eligible for an award of some kind for putting spandex, silicone, sweatbands, cheese-ball pop and a hooded killer all on one VHS cassette. I uncovered his debut a couple of years later and was generally excited to watch it. The only way that a movie can make up for being totally rubbish is by being totally rubbish in a funny way and I was hopeful that this flick had the strengths in that area that its older brother boasted so brazenly
It starts with a mind numbingly long shot of the outside of a country house. We are awoken by the camera panning inside and we see a mother struggling to silence a young child who doesn’t look too interested by the fact he’s in a movie. The alarm bells in my head were already screaming ‘abusive parent alert’ by that point; and the woman proved that I was right by locking the boy in a closet for the evening. She then returns downstairs to her boyfriend and tells him, “Don’t worry about the kid, I took care of that little b*stard, he won’t be bothering us again tonight.” This means that the couple can start getting jiggy, which leaves them blissfully unaware that the little b*stard has escaped and is creeping up behind them with a sledgehammer, looking all menacing and stuff. Before you can say ‘by the book’, the unsuspecting lover gets cracked on the back of the head with the aforementioned tool – great gore scene by the way. After the mother is also measured up for a body bag, the screen fades to black…
Fast-forward fifteen years and a van pulls up outside of that same now-abandoned abode. Out pops a gang of outrageously mulleted muscle bound jocks and their scrawny girlfriends, who have presumably turned up only to party-party-PARTY! So they begin doing all the things you attribute with a good fiesta, including throwing food at each-other, jumping around like headless chickens and then having deep discussions about relationships. What a party! If that wasn’t enough, they decide that the beer is flowing so of course it is time for a… séance. Eventually, this proves to be a silly ides as the customary killer turns up and a battle for survival begins….
In all honesty, I can think of no finer example of something that when stripped down to its bare components doesn’t look ideal, but taken as a whole is surprisingly efficient. You see, Sledgehammer doesn’t boast many of the core ingredients that you would consider to make up a good movie, but I kind of enjoyed watching it all the same. It all takes place in a large empty house that is exactly that: a large empty house. There’s no set design at all and the backgrounds are pale with a bed here or a cupboard there just so that we don’t mistake the location for a padded cell. They didn’t even bother to decorate the walls with the usual fake cobwebs, candles and clichés, which was likely because the art director quit pre-shoot as he was offered some work in a bar or something. I mean the house was supposed to be derelict for fifteen-years, but looks like it was vacuumed and feather-dusted just that morning. Did Prior and co book a viewing of an abode that was up for sale and secretly get a key cut so that they could film their picture there on the sly? That could well be the case. You have to love zero budgets!
Anyway the action commences after the usual sloppy dialogue and padding and we eventually get to see some slasher shenanigans. There’s a blessing in disguise, because the dull and misty photography on the print gives the movie a surreal, almost dream-like vibe, which was surely unintentional but worked quite well. To be fair the tone switches effortlessly from inadvertently cheesy to actually pretty creepy and the psychopath’s large and hulking frame compliments the narrow lens to make some claustrophobic scenes. At first glance, a transparent plastic clown mask and lumberjack shirt seem suspiciously cheapskate, but the more that we see of the assailant, the more threatening he becomes. Prior demonstrates some neat flourishes to maintain the tone of apprehension, including a great slowmo door-opening sequence that is unpredictable and genuinely effective. He showed a much stronger flair for horror direction here than he did three-years later when he made Killer Workout. It’s also worth noting that he drew some surprisingly credible performances from a couple of the inexperienced actors. Sandy Brooke, who I I remember mentioning in my review of Terror on Alcatraz, offers another good charecterisation and Ted Prior and Linda McGill overcome their weak parts by being believable when it matters most. It’s a shame that Brooke didn’t do more genre movies, as I feel that she always made the most out of the material and it would have been nice to see her play the ‘final girl’ just once. Chuck on top of all that a couple of decent gore scenes from Robin Beauchesne and we have slasher movie that’s miles better than anyone would have imagined it to be.
Perhaps the only attempt at any originality was allowing the killer to appear and disappear as if he were being beamed up by Scottie every time that he needed a rapid escape from a set piece. This could have worked really well if utilised in the right places, but Prior’s decision making left a lot to be desired and he ended up overdoing it to the point of, ‘enough already!‘. As per my example in the paragraph above, slow-motion at the right time can really make the most of a tense moment, but using it in almost every kill scene is just too much. Also look out for the ‘cardboard’ sex scene, which reminded me of those puppets that used to be seen in the likes of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and more recently Team America: World Police. I mean I’m guessing that was two humans playing the lovers, but I can imagine more enthusiasm from a pair of mannequins. It begs the question, why include it in the first place?
Sledgehammer is as clichéd as an Elvis look-alike contest and makes no attempt to conceal what it wants to be. Nowadays you can find a million films that have exactly the same setup as this, but the fact that it was one of the first gives it a retro feel and sometimes that’s all you need. Whilst It is certainly not good enough to be up there with the classics of the golden years, it could sit quite comfortably with Graduation Day, Embalmed, Scalps and the rest of that second tier.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl: √
Directed by: Christopher Reynolds
Starring: Loretta Leigh, Tobe Sexton, Jerry Brewer
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Halloween was such a great movie. Seriously, it was just amazing. Stylishly shot, perfectly acted for the material and scary as hell. I used to enjoy judging the amount that later slasher films ‘borrowed’ from that masterpiece, but the ones I liked most were those that took the least. Curtains, The Prowler, Friday the 13th Part II and My Bloody Valentine were all influenced by Carpenter’s baby, but because they went about it the right way, no one really paid attention. There are a few however that took the pilfering just a little bit too far.
You see it’s ok to pay homage to a brilliant film. Scorsese has done it, Almodovar too and hell even Carpenter got his lead from Señor Hitchcock. But when does highlighting your inspirations begin to look like blatant theft? I watched Offerings well over a decade ago and I remember thinking that it was a turgid rip-off that added nothing new to those ideas. Now that I’m a bit older, I was wondering if my analysis from back then was spot on or if I had been suffering from one of those temporary cases of movie bipolar? Let’s see…
After mute child John Radley is pushed down a well by a gang of bullies, he is sent to an asylum for the rest of his life. Eighteen years later he escapes and heads back to his town to cause problems once again…
If John Carpenter ever finds that he is short of a few quid, I recommend that he hunt out one of those no win no fee lawyer types and gets to work on a case against the production team behind Offerings. Instead of just nicking the odd idea – hulking killer, final girl, heavy breath etc – Christopher Reynolds has duplicated entire scenes shot for shot. I’ll pick one of the many just for an example. Remember when Sam Loomis visited the grave of Judith Myers to see if Michael had gone there after escaping? Well here, some psychiatrist (can’t recall his name, although he may as well have also been Sam Loomis) does exactly the same thing. It’s like WTF? The film feels like a picture that gets photocopied and then reproduced a thousand times. The quality has been degraded, but the content is still exactly the same. I remember reading about how much effort Carpenter and his team had put into making the ‘Haddonfield’ streets of the backdrops look like it was the 31st of October and not the middle of Spring. This crew have put a similar level of work into making some random US neighborhood look like it was identical to Haddonfield. But why? What kicks would a filmmaker get out of completely ripping something off? What came first, the second bottle of vodka or the blind drunkenness whilst I was watching? These are all questions that I just can’t answer.
Anyway you all will be aware of this already, it’s been written in tonnes of reviews tonnes of times and I need to take notice of my own criticism on lack of originality. So what else happens? Well in fairness, not much. We know the story by now. One thing that I will say is that there is one decidedly nasty killing. Radley ties up some poorly acted dweeb, turns on a chainsaw and then it stops working. He reaches for a power drill and the same thing happens. The victim musters up all 2% of his acting ability to say something like, ‘So now you won’t kill me?’ It’s not his lucky day however and he gets his cabeza squished in a vice. It’s surprisingly well done to be fair. There was also a smart self-depreciating scene, where two girls are shown watching a zero budget (slasher?) movie. They hurl insults at the characters and show signs of mimicking the genre eight years before Wes Craven’s Scream. See Kevin Williamson, eat your heart out
One perhaps slightly more original aspect of the story is that the nutjob makes ‘offerings’ to Gretchen, our final girl. These turn out to be stuff like chopped up body pieces (a nose, an ear, some ‘sausage shaped’ human parts, which have been placed on top of their pizza – ooh err misses!) and he leaves them on the doorstep for her to collect; or for her dog to chew upon. Whilst I’m sure that there’s some Freudian meaning to all this, we don’t really get an explanation as to why it happens. Well if you’re looking for logic peeps, go read an encyclopaedia. One question though; what the hell happened to the pizza delivery guy? We also learn that Radley murdered his mama before he got sent away to the looney bin. It’s great that they tell us this, because they sure didn’t think that it was something important enough to demonstrate to us on the screen. You know, there’s no real point in showing us why we should fear the antagonist in a horror film at all. Oh and by the way, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE F**KING PIZZA DELIVERY GUY?
So that leaves us to deal with our heroine with the authentic name. Well the best way to describe young Gretchen is like going out on a date with a semi-hottie that sits opposite you and looks at the floor all night. You would get bored pretty quickly, eh? Fill your film with rubbish actors Mr Reynolds and this is what will happen. And whilst we are on the subject of rubbish actors, I must mention the waistband-edly challenged buffoon that wins the ‘idiot cop of the year award’. He achieves this because he knows full well that John Radley is on the loose, but when young Gretch and her scrawny buddy call him because they have found a dismembered ear in a pool of blood on their porch, he tells them to go upstairs and go to sleep whilst he does a big pile of NADA. I’m reminded of Grandma Carpenter from the film, House of Death, when she says the unforgettable line, “If brains were dynamite, he couldn’t muster a good fart!” Also, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE F**KING PIZZA DELIVERY GUY?
It is what it is, and what it is is not an Academy Award winner. It’s basicallyHalloween with all the good parts left out. They even ripped off the score! So should you go out and buy Offerings? Well there are worse things that you could do, but don’t expect anything that’s going to make you search your pizza box for ‘sausage shaped’ body parts. Silly dialogue, bad acting, amateur directing, basic script, ripped off scoring, scruffy sound, yawn-inducing editing and blurry cinematography aside, it was an almost perfect piece of filmmaking. Just one thing remains, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE F**KING PIZZA DELIVERY GUY?
Slumber Party Massacre Part III 1990
Directed by: Sally Mattison
Starring: Keely Christian, Brandi Burkett, Maria Ford
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I feel a bit strange posting a review of Slumber Party Massacre III. It’s mainly because I’ve never covered the first chapter, which is one of the biggest and most popular slasher movies of all time. Still I watched this one more recently and I decided that none of you would really care or even notice the chronological order of which I work through the series and so I took them from behind. (Oooh yeh!)
I’ll go in to this in more detail when I get round to tackling Amy Jones’ cheese and marinara extravaganza that launched the franchise, but I always felt that it was one of those movies that was blessed with a reputation that was built upon the back of a Brontosaurus. What do I mean by that I hear you ask? Well in other words it became successful based on elements or an element that didn’t actually exist in reality. Oh, you didn’t know the truth about those particular dinosaurs? Well every day, you learn something new my friends…
A young girl decides to enjoy the final hours of having her parent’s house to herself by inviting some friends over for a slumber party. Before long, their boyfriend’s gate crash and the frolics begin to flow. Little do they know that a psychopath is amongst them and he’s brought a large power tool along for the ride…
Let’s be honest with each other here; Part II was as good as a single’s disco in Pripyat town centre and the series really needed to up the quality levels if it wanted to sign off in style. In the end, they did what everyone that’s having a bit of a visionary nightmare should do when the chips are down… went back to basics. By doing so they created not only the strongest entry of the entire trilogy, but also one of the best slasher movies of the late eighties/early nineties.
Número tres doesn’t play by the rules of either of its predecessors and instead begins as something of a mystery/whodunit. Not a huge amount of time or effort is spent on disguising the identity of the nut job though and he reveals himself about halfway through, which allows for a pulsating final rout. Instead of him waiting around for victims as they wander off to do something stupid like making out in a deserted place or searching for a missing friend, he just confronts and goes after the remaining five or six as a group and it’s something that we don’t get to see often enough. It also allows the stranded girls to work together in conjunction to save themselves when the maniac finally traps one of them alone. This leads to a gobsmacking moment when sexy semi-scream queen Maria Ford’s character, Maria, who had fought valiantly to protect two of her buddies moments earlier, is slowly murdered whilst those same ‘friends’ watch on without doing anything to help. No fair! I’ll come back to that scene in a bit.
For the first slaughter, which happens after only eight-minutes, the maniac remains off screen, but for the next couple he dons an awesome guise that’s exceptionally creepy. One of the things that I thought was weak about part one was the fact that the killer looked like such an ordinary guy. So much had been borrowed already from John Carpenter’s Halloween that I was somewhat disappointed that they settled on a bogeyman in a denim jacket and jeans. Thankfully, this time around we get a full-on masked, power-tool clenching nut job and in effect, the complete slasher package.
Whilst SPM 3 can hardly be classified as a gross out classic, it does have a few extremely brutal murders and the film feels credibly menacing when compared against the two earlier efforts that share its branding. The comedic slant has been lessened to an almost bare minimum and an eerie score from Jamie Sheriff builds some credible tension. Director Sally Mattison does well to enlighten the tone on only the rarest of occasions and the feeling of dread remains consistently strong all the way through. Aside from a couple of flat shots that I felt could have been more creative, she did a solid job on her debut and pulled off some decent stuff. It’s interesting, because the SPM series are famous for having female screenwriters and directors, but you’d never in a million years guess that was the case by what you see on the screen here. Some of these chicks get a pretty horrific time, especially Maria in the scene that I said I’d come back to earlier. After being pinned down, stripped and sexually assaulted (almost raped) whilst her friends just stand there and look, she’s disemboweled by a power drill after begging for her life. It’s pretty grim to be honest and not what I’d have expected.
We cut away from the action now and then to a bumbling cop who ignores various calls from the girls and thinks that they’re just having a drunken party. This is of course is the most basic and simple screenwriting method of removing the chance of any armed-police attending the scene. Midway through, he introduces a plot-branch about a cop that had committed suicide very recently. Then we learn immediately after, that the father of Jackie, the likely heroine, is a successful lawyer. I was sure from that chain of events that we were going to be given a really good back-story and motive that unraveled more as the flick came to a close. I mean why else put those sequences in that order? Was it an investigation from Jackie’s dad that forced the cop to kill himself? Did he leave behind an orphaned deranged killer that’s seeking revenge on the lawman’s daughter and her friends? It seemed fairly logical by what we had seen to expect something along those lines, but what we got was; well, not quite what we’d been promised.
It looks as if they rushed the back-story parts and left one too many loose ends. I mean, who was the long-haired guy from the beach? Why did he climb into the basement? What was it exactly about the uncle? Was he an abuser? Was that sexually or psychologically? Is the girl watching this with me really not wearing any knickers? Well at least one of those I can find the answer to, but the rest are ongoing mysteries. Excuse me, ahem…
Still, whining aside, as far as slasher movies go, this is a rip roaring one and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of the reasons that I fell in love with the genre in the first place. Cheesy pop-rock tracks, beautifully dumb women, awful acting, a threatening masked killer, some effective scares, oh and Marta Kober! Did I tell you that the busty brunette that got speared in Friday Part II turns up for a cameo and gets a pretty good kill scene? Is that enough? No? Well how about death by vibrator? Does that tickle your fanciful spots? (No pun, honest)
SPM 3 is not a perfect movie, but what it does well, it does really well. I have added it to the 30 greatest all time slashers list. Let me know of you agree. Peace…
Killer Guise: √√√
Directed by: Paul Leder
Starring: Dick Sargent, Bernard White, James Avery
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Bodycount… The slasher movie from 1987 you say? Yeah, I have seen that, it’s a well-known one… by Ruggero Deodato, right?
Well actually no. You see; this is the ‘other’ Bodycount. The one that’s an utter obscurity, which rarely gets acknowledged despite the promise of so much. Director Paul Leder populated the genre more prolifically than most throughout his filmmaking tenure. Even if it could be argued that I Dismember Mama is not really a proto-slasher, then there’s no denying that The Babydoll Murders slots straight in. What we have here on the other hand is not so much of a Halloween clone and instead plays a bit like Blood Splash or Maniac by making the killer the film’s central character. It’s generally more of a challenge to make these type of stories work, so I was keen to see what Leder could do.
It begins with one hell of an artsy credit sequence. We hear a beautiful violin piece and then the musician, a young brunette in a red address, appears from behind a tree. The camera pans along and follows her as she approaches a large white building and then it’s revealed for the first time that we are outside an asylum. Here we meet Robert Knight, a mixed up young man who is polite, believes in god and sometimes can’t help but stab people with his trusty blade. You’ll never guess what happens? Yes, surprisingly, he escapes the confines of his cushy cell and heads out to solve some deep-rooted family issues, causing havoc along the way
So as I hinted above, BodyCount is not a slasher movie in the most obvious sense and it’s more like a thriller with some slasher action bolted on top. Don’t get me wrong, there’s blood, stabbings and plenty of victims, but Leder has attempted to make this film more plot-driven than the usual low-budget follies featured on this site. Is that a good thing? Well it can be if it’s done well.
The problem that we have here is that the script is ambitious, but ignores cinematic basics. Any thriller generally needs a villain and a hero, but the maniac here is portrayed as something of a victim, which makes you feel sorry for him. When he kills people it just doesn’t seem right because we’ve invested in him emotionally and he is the most approachable of the key characters. In Halloween for example, Myers escaped to stalk and slaughter his sister and because Laurie Strode was such a good egg, we shared her fear. Robert has broken out to murder a member of his family too, but his uncle is a swindling deviant who is rumoured to have been responsible for the death of his father, so he comes across worse than the guy doing the slashing. In fact the only adult person in the film that is portrayed to have any morals at all is Kim, the helpful maid. Sadly, she’s played by an actress that speaks like Jar Jar Binks after a few lines of Peruvian coke, so she’s not one that we care too much about. Nevertheless, I didn’t want her to die, so I guess that she was doing something right. Come to think of it, even the majority of the victims were low lives (a bully, a drug addict, a gold digger etcetera), so our ‘bogeyman’ really does seem like a gem in comparison. Go figure…
You’ll see I mentioned above that Kim Kim Binks is the only adult person with morals because the story has something of a curveball in the shape of Robert’s six-year-old cousin, Deborah. He picks her up and drives her around and treats her superbly, which is an additional minus to his already minimal scare-o-factor. Little kids and horror is not something that always works. Yes, you can mention Poltergeist or Death Valley, but I still consider using a sweet child as a main player to be a bit of an overdose of heartstring pulling. LaurenWoodland does an impressive job with the role, however I think that a teenage final girl would have made the film feel much less schmaltzy.
Aside from the kidnap that’s not really a kidnap part of the story, there’s also another branch that trundles along in the background. It’s something to do with a heap of money that Robert is entitled to, so pretty much everyone else wants to kill him off so that they can claim it for themselves. We get treated to a lot of talky scenes where this stuff is discussed and I guess that they are supposed to wrap us up in an intrigue of double-crossing, treachery and cunning manipulation. The music that accompanies these moments though sounds like something that you might find in an online commercial for a retirement home and so that pretty much pooh-poohs the tone.
Talking about retirement home commercials, Leder shoots this horror movie like it is one. So much can be achieved with a tad of creativity in the placement of characters and cameras, the blocking, tracking and movement of visuals on the screen. Here though, everything feels so laboured and ‘functional’ that we never really get a chance to be excited by what we are witnessing. There was one tense set-piece that was really well done and utilised the age-old ‘grab the key from the sleeping guy’ trick. Unfortunately, it seems as though that emptied Leder’s glass of filmmaking flair right there. (Did you see that I made that rhyme?)
What about plus points you say? Well aside from Kim Kim Binks, the cast do a stellar job, especially Bernard White as Robert. Quite a few people get stabbed too; but again, even these horror parts are rapid and best described as ‘functional’. Each of the casualties gets a blade to the gut, before being hustled off the screen without a second look. Or mention. Or thought. There’s no variety in the killer’s MO and no suspense in the build up. Come to think of it, Babydoll Murders from Leder was exactly the same. “Hey, Luisito… I thought you were talking about the plus points bro?” Okaaaaaaaay, ok… Well to be fair, it’s not a total failure and I was interested to see how it finished. You could say that it’s like the film equivalent of a cheese sandwich. What was that word again? Oh yes… FUNCTIONAL. (Dictionary check: functional adj [ˈfʌŋkʃənəl]1. practical rather than decorative)
I watched Bodycount in three parts. The first time I stopped it because my eyes came over really heavy and I dozed off; whilst the second was because I heard the ice cream van outside. So basically, it couldn’t compete with a king cone. Make of that what you will.
Sorority Girls and the Creature from Hell 1989
Directed by: John McBrearty
Starring: Deborah Dutch, BJ Davis, Dori Courtney
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Although I have to confess that’s it a real honour supplying y’all with a weekly dose of slasher trash to chew through, the constraints of time and the pressure of the everyday hustle and bustle of a young Spaniard in the United Kingdom do take their toll. Especially when you have a Mrs like mine who would much rather watch ‘Zakochani’ for the hundred-millionth time than anything with masked killers and screaming chicks in it.
Anyway it also helps a great deal when you guys and gals recommend me slasher pictures to post, because with a collection of so many titles, sometimes it’s hard to pick out just the one to go to work on. Funnily enough though, I got the strangest of emails recently. It was strange because it came from the address ‘free email service – do not reply’ and I have no idea who sent it. He/she recommended that I review Sorority Girls and the Creature from Hell and it’s one that to be honest, I had left at the bottom of my VHS pile and completely forgotten about. So thanks anonymous mailer…. This is just for you…
These late eighties slasher movies are usually a giggle because filmmakers would always try to spice up the formula with a supernatural twist or an ambitious synopsis. The censorship uproar that had left patchworks of earlier entries meant that producers could no longer utilise gory effects as a marketing gimmick and so instead they went for big-breasted bimbos and that’s just fine by me.
It kicks off with a haze of cheesy action. We are introduced to a guy who spends his time uncovering Native American artifacts in a secluded cave (he should’ve known better – hasn’t he seen Scalps?). At the same time a group of prisoners are driven out to do manual labour in some woodland. The benefit of this work is not really clarified, because they seem to just be digging pointless holes amongst some trees. (Were they preparing their own graves? Wow what a great plot twist that would have been). But seriously, couldn’t they have painted a church, worked on a construction site or done something that helped local society? Who knows? Anyway, the guards are momentarily disrupted by a sorority girl with a boob-tube and a push bike, which gives the jailbirds the opportunity to launch a violent, but successful escape attempt and they sprint off in separate directions.
A large number of the escapees are shot and killed or captured soon after by a sheriff with a machine gun that sounds like a GI Joe toy, but a villain called Gerome Disenso, who brings to mind a poor man’s Richard Marx, manages to flee into the forest. I guess by the search that’s made thereafter, he must be a dangerous criminal; however we never really find out why we should fear him. I mean, perhaps he was just a run of the mill down on his luck kinda guy that was doing a week in jail for jaywalking or something? It would have been nice to be told such things.
So next up, we meet a gang of sorority jocks (that look about 38) and some free and easy bunnies that are on their way to a party at the cabin that belongs to the archaeologist from the beginning. Unfortunately for them, and him, his relentless digging has uncovered an ancient demonic relic that has possessed him and sent him out to murder anyone that he bumps into. So with a bloodthirsty killer, a secluded location AND an escaped convict, these guys are in for the party of their lives… (Most likely the last)
By the first thirty minutes of SGATCFH, you would never tell that this is a slasher film and instead you’d probably be under the impression that you were set for a First Blood rip-off. We seem to be focused mainly on the jailbreak storyline and it’s only later that things fall back into the traditional set up. It’s been said that back in the glory days of the cycle, producers would pride themselves on the amount of helicopter shots that they could afford to put in to their pictures. The Burning had a good one and Maniac borrowed a few from Dario Argento’s Inferno. Well these guys managed to get a full military chopper out for the hunt for their man on the run, but I’m convinced that it had more to do with John McBrearty knowing a guy that owned one rather than him having a healthy budget to play with.
Why do I have this opinion? Well the film is filled with a cast that may be the worst ever put together in a barrel-bottom ensemble and that can only be because they couldn’t scrape together what was needed to fund anyone better. These guys greet things like the uncovering of a freshly mutilated corpse with the same emotional oomph that a normal person puts into changing the TV channel. I have grown accustomed to over or under-acting through the years, but completely non-acting is a new one for me. The killer, who has a cheesier than cheesy black and white heavy breath POV, is rarely seen under any kind of light, which is obviously because the make-up effects (or rubber mask) for him were so shoddy. Saying that though, I was impressed with the screenplay for the first 45 minutes or so, because it split the characters into separate groups and gave each of them a story that eventually threw them together in the cabin for the grand finale. Whilst this showed an impressive flair for structure from first-timer McBrearty, he didn’t give us any kind of central protagonist and so the final pair felt more like they’d literally been picked out of a hat than built up to battle the demonized assailant. We were introduced to a geeky virginal type in the early scenes and I felt sure that she would be the one that would end up being the heroine, but instead she was one of the first of the troupe to get splattered.
Despite the problems with the feature in terms of the poor quality of the dramatics and the lack of gooey effects, I still thought that it was actually a fun flick to sit through. It’s just so incredibly cheesy and dumb that I think you’d be hard pushed to find someone that wouldn’t enjoy it. The ancient artifact that possesses the unfortunate excavator and sends him on a kill spree, speaks flawless English with a New York accent, which is impressive for something that’s been entombed in a cave since the days of the Native American tribes. We never get to find out why it needs the blood of those dead bodies in the first place and I was guessing for why it could be. Will it bring him back from beyond the grave so that he can cause havoc again? Is it a plan to rid the world of heinous acting? Your guess is as good as mine. Don’t you just love a villain with a clear motivation? Also could someone tell me the point of the prison break-out part of the story? Maybe I missed it or something, because from what I saw, it went absolutely nowhere, changed absolutely nothing and affected absolutely no one. Confused? I most definitely was.
Sorority Girls and The Creature From Hell mixes a kaleidoscope score (very similar in fact to the one from Ruggero Deodato’s BodyCount), some fun characters, loads of big boobs and a laughable story to make a cheese-drenched treat that a SLASH above readers will most definitely enjoy watching. It’s basically Scalps with an overdose of inadvertent stupidity and that my friends is surely a good thing. I loved it.
Final Girl: √√