Category Archives: Chucks in Zombies too
Zombie Island Massacre 1984
Directed by: John N. Carter
Starring: David Broadnax, Rita Jenrette, Tom Cantrell
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
You know, choosing a title for a motion picture is not always such a tough task. Peter North has starred in a plethora of films with names like, ‘Anal Addicts’ or ‘Perverted Passions’ and from those combinations of words, you don’t need much of an imagination to predict the, ahem, ‘plot’. Keeping that in mind, when you pick up Troma’s ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE, it could be easy for you to follow that same logical thought process. I mean, It certainly sounds like there’s going to be a massacre; its obviously going to take place on an island – and it looks to me like a gang of Romero-like zombies are sure to be the culprits. Why else would you choose a title like that?
Well only director John Carter knows the answer to that conundrum, because he alone turned out to be the only zombie that was present on the set of this eighties miss match. Yes folks, for some unknown reason, what we have hear is an eighties slasher that’s branded as a living dead marathon. But even stalk and slash addicts will feel cheated because we swap genres once again towards the climax, but we’ll get to that later…
Things launch with the oldest and most common of slasher movie chestnuts. The camera pans in on the exceptionally well-endowed Sandy (Rita Jenrette) as she washes off the suds in a shower. She must’ve just finished mud wrestling in a sewer judging by the way she’s scrubbing those bazookas. Before you have the chance to say ‘hackneyed’, a masked intruder is on the scene creeping up on the unsuspecting female. Fortunately for Sandy, it’s only her husband Joe (Ian McMillan) playing a prank. As a consolation the two head off to the bedroom so Jenrette can give us one last flash of her fantastic lady lumps. Next up we learn that the couple are currently in the Caribbean enjoying a pleasure trip with a group of tourists that for once aren’t teenagers. Along with Sandy and Joe we have an elderly couple, a pair of newly weds, two stoners, a mysterious photographer and a single guy and gal who look certain to join the couple’s list any time soon.
Part of their holiday package includes a trip to the remote isle of San Marie and they will be transported to the location aboard a coach that looks fit only for the scrap yard. Upon arrival they witness a voodoo mass, which sees a priest bring a corpse back to life using only goats blood and a few bizarre chants. The gruesome sacrificial sights are too much for one young madame to handle, so she and her hubby head off to the deep forest for a kiss and cuddle under the moonlight. That cues the arrival of an unseen menace with a spiked club, a murderous intent and heavy breath that sounds like a pig grunting over its chow. The maniac slaughters the two lovers before disappearing into the depths of the forest. Meanwhile, the rest of the holiday makers head back to their coach only to find that their driver is missing and so is the distributor cap, making the vehicle about as much use as a glass hammer. Luckily one of the travelers knows of a house that is situated nearby and the troupe decides to head over and bed down until morning. Little do they know that a psychopath is stalking them and it doesn’t take long for him to start slashing the tourists…
Zombie Island Massacre is a bit of a let down in every respect really. As a Living Dead flick, the lack of any actual zombies is a bit of a poo-poo, don’t you think? As a slasher it starts promisingly with a few tense shocks and creative use of the clichés, but soon withers in to an unnecessary climax that involves everything from Colombian drugs cartel to spear chucking Zulu assassins. No really. Finally, as a gore film it looks about as gruesome as an episode of Sesame Street. The early woodland stalking scenes are fairly atmospheric mainly due to the decent musical accompaniment from Harry Manfredini. But he proves once again that he can only modify and pretty much reuse the same old melodies that we’ve heard before (Friday the 13th/Slaughter High etc).
To be fair the acting is passable and you’ll never ever guess who it is that’s behind the maniacal murders. Shooting things in a Caribbean setting gives the film an added vibe of seclusion for the victims and the sub-reggae soundtrack is somewhat refreshing for a flick of this genre. The maniac’s disguise is also worth a look; imagine a ninja that’s been covered in feathers and dragged backwards through forty yards of forest and you’ll almost have a mental picture. I couldn’t get a clear snap of him for you unfortunately, despite the fact that I did try numerous times.
Interesting killer guises and a fabulous setup don’t cover up the fact that it feels like John Carter set out to make three different movies and ended up chucking elements from all of them into one confused runtime. The net result is a frizzy mop of ineptitude with too many rough edges that cannot be smoothed out by the bizarre plot sprouts and Rita Jenrette’s amazing cleavage. The drugs cartel idea had – and still has – great potential and could be used to excellent effect in a larger budgeted thriller. The reason that I can’t give it credit here is because Zombie Island Massacre plays mostly like a stalk and slash flick. Well, actually, it’s a semi-stalk and slash flick that’s been marketed as a zombie gore extravaganza and that my friends is a bit of a faux pas. Earlier on, I mentioned Peter North and his specific kind of adult ‘entertainment’. If you’re a fan of this work and you purchase one of his features only to see Mike Tyson’s greatest knockouts when you hit the play button, you are going to be pretty disappointed. It’s not that you don’t like Tyson of course, but it takes something absolutely earth shattering to change human expectations. There were a few elements here that I felt were really well put together, but the fact that it’s been falsely advertised and erroneously marketed kind of leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
So I can’t really find much to recommend about this one then, which is best described as the living dead flick where the only zombie was the guy in the director’s chair. It really had the chance to be a great little slasher flick, but tried to be too many things all at the same time. Even Jenrette’s stupendous breasts couldn’t save it. What a waste. Perhaps she would have been more exciting in one of the Peter North titles I mentioned above? Hmmm…
Killer Guise: √√√
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: √
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?
fter the inevitable Halloween-alike synthesizer score, DeCoteau leads us along a surprisingly unique path that’s filled with imaginative twists, turns and stepping stones. There’s a fair bit of originality in the bogeyman’s 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. At times, the movie fails to generate any kind of atmosphere at all, which is extremely 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 to keep things nostalgic.
As is the case with so many eighties slashers, the film’s biggest flaw is the humdrum 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 holding an afro comb in the dressing room. Even if the dramatics are most definitely those of the ‘high school play’ variety, funnily enough 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!
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: √√
Directed by: Emmett Alston
Starring: George Kennedy, David Michael O’Neill, Michelle Bauer
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
In the eyes of the majority of splatter fans across the globe, John Carl Buechler has always played second fiddle as a serious contender for king of the horror crown. Despite Roger Corman crediting him as ‘the best in the business’ and being the only make up effects guy to work on all three of the giant franchises (Freddy/Jason/Michael Myers), he never quite attracted the cult appeal that Tom Savini held throughout horror’s heyday. As a director he showed potential with kids favourite Troll; but Paramount’s stringent censoring of his Friday the 13th sequel (part VII) left the movie ranking among the series’ worst. His directorial career pretty much faded following The New Blood’s dismal reception and his recent slasher – Miner’s Massacre – underlined the fact that he would never share a stall with the likes of Wes Craven and John Carpenter. Demonwarp was my first taste of Buechler as an author and in all honesty I felt quite optimistic. There’s no denying that he possesses extreme talent, it’s just unfortunate that a few of his greatest moments have suffered under the hands of the MPAA.
Demonwarp chucks everything but the kitchen sink into a horror cocktail that sounds extraordinary on paper. Zombies, aliens, UFOs and a murderous big foot all play a part in a plot that’s riddled with gore and mayhem. But it can really only be categorised as a slasher movie, because the majority of the runtime plays almost identically to cult favourite and former video-nasty Night of the Demon.
The opening scene is actually supposed to be set in the 1880s, but we’re not told that until much later in the feature. A priest is wandering leisurely along the top of a cliff reciting bible psalms and giving his horse a personnel sermon. (I know that sounds strange, but there was no one else anywhere near him!) As he reaches the peak of the mountain, out of the corner of his eye he spots an unidentified flying object hurtling directly into his path. It crashes down to create a huge crater just a yard from his feet. Despite leaving a chasm the size of a football pitch, the impact doesn’t even unbalance the churchman and his trusty mule! Don’t forget that this guy is so religious that he even preaches to his horse, so it’s understandable that he believes it’s the second coming. I’m less convinced.
Transport forward a century to the glorious eighties and things are already looking hackneyed as we enter a remote cabin in the woods. That old hamster George Kennedy must have been in desperate need of a bit of extra ‘beer money'; because here he is further degrading his one-time Academy Award garnished status. You can tell that he signed up for this just BEFORE the first Naked Gun job was offered, because that pretty much lifted his career beyond the realms of B movie plop for a few years or so. Anyway here he plays Bill Crafton, an old coot that’s just trying to spend a little quality time with his bubble-permed daughter. We can tell that this reunion isn’t going to last much longer as soon as we see those classic growling POV shots creeping up the road in front of the cabin. Before you can say ‘Friday the 13th’, the door flies off the hinges and Julie Crafton is victim número uno. She gets brutally smothered to death by what looks to be a huge Big Foot creature, whilst her dad’s left fighting for consciousness on the floor.
Next up a van full of clichés pull up outside the cabin, presumably for a woodland break, although Jack (a creditable Kurt Russell look-alike) has his own reasons for visiting that particular spot. Apparently his uncle Clem disappeared around that area and so he’s brought along some psycho-fodder to help track him down. As if you hadn’t guessed Big Foot is still out roaming and he continues his rampage upon the group of eighties space fillers. Will George Kennedy’s numerous explosive traps save them? Or will they have to stop the beast by themselves?
Demonwarp traipses through the trappings like a programmed robot for the first hour or so, with nothing to separate it from any other killer in the woods flick from around that time. As soon as scream queen extraordinaire Michelle Bauer turns up only to rip off her top, I knew that this was going to be cheese by the bucket full. But then on the hour-mark things get even sillier as we’re given zombies, aliens, satanic rituals and even spacecrafts all in the space of about thirty-five minutes. I won’t ruin the plot by telling you how Buechler’s story tried to incorporate every known horror icon in one movie; but let’s just say that by the end it wouldn’t have looked out of place if we had seen cameos from Frankenstein, Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde.
The acting is as below par as you might expect and Kennedy just looks to be waiting for that paycheck to be written. There’s a couple of ok-ish gore scenes that brighten things up, which include a gooey head ripping and an ingenious ‘death by stick’, which is really quite unsettling. The monster also looks pretty good and infinitely better than the cheapo big foot in Night of the Demon.Unfortunately there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen somewhere else before. Emmett Alston fails to lift the shocks above passable, but what do you expect from the guy that directed New Years Evil?
So all in all a run of the mill eighties hack and slasher, despite the promise of everything rolled into one. The ending leaves you wondering just what drugs Buechler was snorting when he dreamt up this little beauty? Average…
Final Girl: √
Ogroff: Blood Zone 1983
aka Mad Mutilator
Directed by: N.G. Moutier
Starring: Robert Alaux, Francoise Deniel, Howard Vernon
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Way back in the days before the slasher genre was even a genre and before the Internet had given us a much easier way of tracking down information, a horror fan was simply a horror fan. The likes of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Exorcist had given cinema goers the chance to be scared and it was an escapism that provided great thrills, away from our mundane 9-5 routines. Supernatural terror storytelling has been embedded in folklore for many centuries, but when it comes to gore and special effects depicted on stage for audience consumption, links can most definitely be traced to the theatre of Grand Guignol from France. As I have described in my review for William Lustig’s Maniac, these large scale productions gave viewers the chance to be terrified in the comfort that it was all only an illusion and they could turn away/walk-out at any moment that they wanted to. We humans are a morbid bunch, but thankfully we no longer satisfy our blood lust from public executions and the like. Now we just watch it on the stage or screen.
Norbert Georges Moutier, as publisher of a popular horror fanzine in Paris and owner of a video store, was obviously well aware of France’s links with gore-laden horror and being an avid enthusiast, he decided to bring Grand Guignol back to French screens with his own low budget shocker. Inspired heavily by the popular titles of the time, Moutier’s extremely rare slasher is an extravaganza of ingredients.
It tells the tale of Ogroff, a wooden-hut dwelling maniac, whose soul ambition in life seems to be to murder anyone who trespasses across the small patch of woodland that he calls home. As the story unfolds, it takes a slightly different angle to most conventional slasher flicks as the antagonist learns that he is not the only bogeyman in that secluded piece of woodland.
Unlike the majority of archetypal genre entries, this is an extremely intriguing beast. I studied French at school and have visited the country many times, but French is not one of the languages that I speak fluently. It wouldn’t matter if I were stone deaf however as the feature has only eight lines of dialogue, which makes it the closest that we have to a ‘silent slasher film’. As mentioned above, it’s easy to see that Ogroff is a film made for horror fans by a horror fan. It plays like a myriad of clichés jumbled together and thrown into a juxtaposition that although not over-long, can often feel like a check-list of trademarks that have been sewn together with no apparent structure.
It’s like a shoplifter in a stripy black and white top with a bag that has the wording ‘swag’ on it, because it’s not afraid of its obvious pilfering and openly imitates titles such as Friday the 13th Part II, The Burning, Burial Ground and even some of the cannibal flicks that were popular during that period. You can almost picture NG Moutier working in his video shop, much as a certain Quentin Tarantino would a few years later, and writing his ideas into a notepad whilst an omnibus of horror classics played on in the background.
Although this tries its damnedest to shock with its brazen approach and no holds barred gratuitous imagery, by far the scariest sight in the feature is that of a Citroen 2CV. Yes, one of those terrifying French yoghurt-pot-on-wheels, which bizarrely became far more popular than they had any right to after World War II. Fortunately, Ogroff does his nation proud by dismantling it completely with his trusty axe! This killer is not in the slightest bit picky and dismembers pretty much everything that he comes across from unfortunate locals to poorly parked vehicles and even chess boards. You name it, he can smash it with his big shiny hatchet.
Is it gory? Yes; but the effects are so tacky that they don’t quite sit in line with the level of the video nasties of that era. Short, cheap and hokey are more apt descriptions. There are limbs and heads flying by the bucket-load and a multitude of gore-laden scenarios, but the effects never impress as would a Maniac or The Prowler. Ogroff himself is as wacky as the plot structure, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the director’s eagerness to make him as gratuitously evil as possible leaves him looking far more comedic than he is scary. His motives are twisted and he dons an excellent mask, but he lacks the fear factor that led his peers to cult classic status.
The feature sticks closely to the slasher rulebook and the masked axe-wielding killer as a central character makes no mistake as to where the inspirations lie. With that said, things aren’t strictly conventional because there is someone for everyone and I am sure that on dating direct, there is even a category for masked raving lunatics. Well, Monsieur Ogroff finds himself a Mademoiselle and impressed by his large chopper, she moves in and the two fall in love. All is going swimmingly for our murderous hero, especially as he can now come home from a hard days killing and have his dinner on the table waiting for him. It could have been a happily ever after lifetime of blood, guts and romance, only if it weren’t for some pesky zombies turn up toward the climax of the feature. From here on out, the story enters authentic territory as our bogeyman wages battle against the hordes of the living dead that have invaded his killing zone.
NG Moutier would go on to direct a few more direct-to-video titles, which would unfortunately fail to provide him with the cult status that he so desperately aspired to achieve. Blood Zone on the other hand remains interesting mainly because it’s so amazingly obscure. Even though I could never comfortably recommend this feature to anybody, if you enjoyed the work of Nathan Schiff, you’ll lap it up greedily. There’s nothing else in the world that it can be compared to.
Final Girl √√
The Dead Pit 1988
Directed by: Brett Leonard
Starring: Jeremy Slate, Cheryl Lawson, Stephen Gregory Foster
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Ok so I’m not trying to hide the fact that a SLASH above is a website dedicated to slashers. It’s easy to see because I mention the word in every other sentence (says a lot for my vocabulary, but hey!) The Dead Pit isn’t exactly one of those flicks, but for a fair part of the runtime it incorporates some of the genre’s defining elements. There’s a psychopathic, surgical masked serial killer that has the trademark heavy breath and only the heroine can see him, which obviously references Halloween. There are also some similar themed stalking set pieces, chase sequences and fairly gruesome murders that borrow all the standard elements that make up a stalk and slash flick. The film is like an insane mix of Exquisite Tenderness, Dawn of the Mummy and strangely enough, The Exorcist. But overall it’s a zombie movie; even if it’s an original one with an inventive surrounding for the plot to unravel in. I suppose the question that you really want answered if you’re reading this is, – is it any good?
In the beginning, Jane Doe is admitted to the State Mental asylum (sorry but they don’t give us the name) with amnesia. She protests that she hasn’t lost her memory, but it was in fact stolen from her! Her arrival spells bad news for the other inmates however, when an earthquake rocks the institution. Soon after, the patients start losing their minds even more rapidly and people begin to disappear although Jane knows that they have been brutally murdered by the deranged looking surgeon with a bullet hole in his head hanging around the complex…
The Dead Pit is essentially a patchwork of a movie and not just because it attempts to be a successful crossbreed of horror sub-genres. A claustrophobic and effectively eerie atmosphere is created at times, even though it feels like there are far too many ideas fighting for attention. There’s definitely some action here for a SLASH above readers, which is why I decided to review it for this site and I noticed that if you press stop at the fifty minute mark, you wouldn’t think that this was anything other than late-eighties slasher trash. I guess that the amalgamation of ‘a bit of everything’ can be put down to a director who, overflowing with enthusiasm for his début, wanted to try his hand at the styles of Carpenter, Romero and Friedkin.
It’s not all plain sailing though and the excellent lighting that is evident in the opening scenes seems to inexplicably evade the rest of the movie. The plot seems to crumble from imaginative to downright inept by the time that we get to the conclusion and it flies back and forth from sluggish to energetic throughout. Surprisingly enough, the BBFC – who were at their strictest in the eighties – were implausibly lenient when they gave this an 18 certificate. They left an astonishing amount of gore unedited and the story benefits from its presence.
This was Cheryl Lawson’s first movie and maybe it was a massive ask to leave the screenplay on such inexperienced shoulders. She spends most of the runtime in a tight T-shirt (obviously without a bra, I mean come on) and small knickers. That’s great for T&A lovers because she’s lick-lippingly gorgeous and exceptionally well endowed, but it looks especially gratuitous and somewhat unnecessary and subtracts from any credibility that she could have gained. (Name me an asylum where the females run around in their underwear?). She does ok with the script and is by no means the worst performer featured, but I think she would fare much better in a role that required less physicality. The entire cast here weren’t very good and I think it had more to do with a lack of direction, because they all seemed to be overacting like Al Pacino on speed.
Funnily enough, Cheryl once sent me a message on IMDB in reply to something I said in an earlier review, which was very kind of her. She did a little more acting, but became an extremely busy stunt-woman, appearing in big budget hits, such as Spiderman 2, 24 and Ocean’s Eleven.
Director Brett Leonard didn’t disappear after this like the myriad of other horror film-makers from the eighties. Instead he managed to climb on to other things – most notably Lawnmower Man. It’s obvious from his experimental photography that he is creative enough to offer something to cinema, but unforgivably at times he struggles to create suspense when it felt like it was most needed. He also co-wrote the screenplay, which is notable mostly for having more holes than a fisherman’s net. Some of those include: How did a doctor that was locked in a basement with a bullet in his head manage to find the time to erase Jane’s memory? How can he be dead for twenty-one years and keep up those youthful looks? (Demi Moore asked me to ask) And most importantly, were they deliberately aiming for paroxysms of laughter with their method for stopping the hordes of zombies? It has to be seen to be believed! Answers on a postcard please…
As I said, there are far too many ideas fighting for attention here, which leaves the best of them struggling to be realised. Huge potential that should have been further developed is sadly wasted by the film’s attempt to be a jack of all trades. There are a few redeeming features that prevent it from complete failure, but ultimately far too much has been crammed into far too little. It is indeed a shame, but what could have been a benchmark in horror history is unforgivably flawed.
I loved the beautiful final girl, liked the gore and also the typical stalk and slash set pieces, but brush those to one side and actually it’s not very good.
Zombie fans might like it more…
Final Girl √√√