Movie House Massacre 1982
aka Blood Theatre
Directed by: Rick Sloane
Starring: Mary Woronov, Jenny Cunningham, Johnathan Blakeley
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The successful cinema chain, Spotlite Theatres have decided to renovate an old abandoned auditorium and add it to their list of multiplexes. It has been closed since a manager went mad decades earlier and killed off a whole heap of people. Almost as soon as they get started though, the bodies begin dropping once again. Who could be behind the series of killings?
Fortunately, I’m a child of the Internet age and since I was eighteen, I have always had the ability to read an online review of the films that I’m looking to watch prior to purchasing them. There’s no doubt that the warning signs were there with Movie House Massacre. It’s been torn apart globally on the www; and even if sometimes I can disagree with other authors, the outright level of criticism on this particular title made the chance of that seem rather slim.
The reason I mention this is because the marketing team behind the packaging of Rick Sloane’s debut were most definitely the feature’s worst enemy. Looking at the box, it’s easy to believe that you are going to be in for a gory slasher in the vein of The Burning et al. That is totally inaccurate however, because Movie House Massacre is actually nothing but a goofy horror spoof. I got to the eleven minute mark in the runtime and had to rewind it to the beginning and start again with my comedy hat on. To continue watching whilst expecting attempts at terror would have been unfair on this film. So did the change of my initial perception make MHM any better?
Quite frankly, no. It lives up very well to its reputation of incompetence. What we have here is a shambolic example of filmmaking in every possible way. Technically, the level of professionalism is pitiful and this is most evident in the editing, which strings scenes together with no apparent logical structure. There’s a semblance of a story there, somewhere; but it’s muddled, unbalanced and ultimately very boring.
Good comedy done well is priceless and almost as tough to produce on the silver screen as effective suspense. I’m a big fan of slapstick and films such as Naked Gun or Airplane work because they fire everything at their audience and if the first five jokes don’t stick, it’s guaranteed that there’s a couple that will. The problem with Movie House Massacre is that it could fling a million attempts at us, but it’d make no difference because it is just not funny. Rick Sloane was 21 when he put this together, but he must have been twelve when he wrote the script. It’s simply awful.
As the majority of the crew don’t seem to have a clue about filmmaking, you don’t need me to tell you how low the level of the dramatics sink. I must, however, praise Mary Woronov who gives us some of the finest acting that I have ever seen. It’s not in the way that she portrays her character however. It’s her ability to hide the obvious disappointment and bewilderment that an actress of her experience must have had on this set. Seriously, she deserved an Oscar nod for that. I reckon that she must have sacked her agent straight after for putting her near this tosh.
If you type Movie House Massacre in to Google, you can find review after review that will tell you how bad the film is. There is absolutely zero point in me writing any more of the same things in a different way, but I did pick up a few interesting points. It seems as if the idea here was to spoof horror in general rather than just the slasher genre and there’s a couple of haunted-house type shenanigans that go on throughout the runtime, such as light bulbs smashing and objects flying across the room. Still this just qualifies as a slasher movie because it does include a knife clenching killer (an elderly man with zilch scare factor) and a ‘heroic’ final girl. What I did find to be authentic was that in the parallel universe where this story takes place, every door or locker makes a sound like a torpedo when it opens and people can disappear and get killed with no one at all noticing. One girl just turns up to get murdered (somewhat creatively) in a popcorn machine. Either I fell asleep briefly or she just appeared from nowhere, to be frank I just don’t know anymore. Excuse me, I need to go and have a lie down.
I have never deemed any film that I’ve seen atrocious enough to give a no star review. I was close here, but in the end I decided on half a star. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is a terrible picture. Painful, horrible, grotesque and monstrous. It doesn’t attempt however to cover up its weaknesses with vulgarity, which is something that others seem to do constantly. I also laughed when I heard the Casio keyboard Halloween knock-off score, which is suspiciously similar to the cheesy club track ‘Little bit of luck’ by DJ Luck and MC Neat. It was amusing watching an old man with a knife stalk a theater isle, whilst a cheap rendition of “Ta na ne, ta na ne, ta na ne, ta na ne tee boi” was playing in the background. I think that alone salvaged the film somewhat. Maybe Sloane should have sued them for the use of his tune? He could have retrieved some of the budget that I am sure he never got back on this. Also, did anyone else notice how much the actor who played the young killer was similar to Ray Liotta? Gawd I must have been bored if I was thinking things like that.
If you needed to read it yet another time just to be sure, then I can confirm to you that Movie House Massacre should be avoided at all costs. I felt like throwing my sock at my iPad countless times throughout and I know people always say it halfheartedly, but I promise you that I was cringing in places. Horrible acting, no story, a dumb geriatric killer, zero suspense and well zero anything, really.
A good friend of mine recently was trying to split with his girlfriend. He had tried everything, but she just wouldn’t go. I told him to show her Movie House Massacre and pretend it was his favourite film. They are no longer together…
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 turns 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 the trappings of an eighties slasher with a misleading tag slapped on top to excite fans of the living dead. But even stalk and slash addicts will feel cheated because we swap genres once again towards the climax. More on 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 jublies. Next up we learn that the couple are currently in the Caribbean enjoying a pleasure trip with a group of surprisingly non-teenage tourists. 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 madam 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, which also sums up the level of the crew’s mentality. 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 credit for that idea 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 an issue. Earlier on, I mentioned Peter North and his specific kind of ‘entertainment’. If you’re a fan of this work and you download one of his features only to be treated with Mike Tyson’s greatest hits 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. I wanted to give credit for a couple of ambitious story branches and an attempt to break the mould. The bewildering zombie marketing however left a rotten taste in my mouth and ruined anything that was good about it.
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’s never a good idea to leave the audience feeling ripped off and that’s why Carter’s movie fails dramatically. Even Jenrette’s twin-peaks 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: √√
Death Valley 1982
Directed by: Dick Richards
Starring: Paul Le Mat, Catherine Hicks, Peter Billingsley
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
There’s a line in this forgotten mid-budgeted slasher that really struck a chord with me. I think that it’s interesting that there are some couples I know that meet in their early teens and stay together for most of their lives. Other friends that I have jump from one relationship to the next and never really find a platonic bond with a partner. In a surprisingly philosophical piece of dialogue early on in the runtime, a father is asked by his child as to why he has separated from his mother. “We fell in love with a picture”. He replies rather awkwardly. “I’m not the man that your mother wants and she’s not the woman with whom I fell in love with”. ‘Fell in love with a picture’…
This is a fault in the wiring of mankind that occurs with unfortunate regularity. We are so brainwashed by the desperation to find Mr or Mrs Right that sometimes we don’t see the ‘wider plan’ and buy in to an image of a person that our imagination has construed. Then we get disappointed that things don’t work out the way that we envisioned. What a fine piece of insight from a member of a genre that’s not known for its intelligence or cultural acknowledgement.
There are a few touching moments in Death Valley, which are brought about from a gamble taken by screenwriter Richard Rothstein. Almost all of the slasher movies released during the peak years had a central character that was either in their late teens or adulthood. Here we have a ‘Final Boy’ who is just that: a young boy. It’s a shot in the dark that hits the target and creates an authentic and enjoyable alternative.
A divorcee and her young son head off to Arizona to visit her boyfriend. Whilst exploring the desert, the young child becomes an unwitting witness in a murder case. When the killer is made aware of his identity, he begins to stalk the threesome, killing everyone in his way…
Rothstein has never been considered as a particularly accomplished screenwriter and a list of credits that include Universal Soldier and Hard to Hold add weight to that consensus. On this basis, I would consider Death Valley to be the best of his work. It’s a film that offers various cinematic moods in one fast paced and compact time frame. It was released in 1982 on a generous budget (for the category it frequents), but got lost in the multitude of masked killers and disappeared quite rapidly. Despite being picked up by a large label, it received very little fanfare or marketing, which didn’t help and it has only recently been given a shot on DVD.
The ‘father and son’ opening conversation scene that I mentioned above builds an interesting sub-plot, which involves the mother’s new boyfriend who is played by Paul Le Mat. Le Mat is somewhat of an enigma for me, because he made his name in the pre Star Wars George Lucas hit, American Graffiti. He shared billing there with Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith and outshone the three of them with a performance full of charisma. Handsome and rugged with an intriguing screen presence, he seemed to be perfect leading man material, suited to the kind of roles that his co-star from Graffiti, Harrison Ford, would later excel in. His ship never rolled in however and eight years down the line, he was turning up in mid-range films such as this.
The guy that he portrays here is in love with the mother of our final boy and wants to be accepted with minimal fuss. The child however is ‘loyal’ to his father and isn’t open to the ‘uninspired’ attempts to win his trust. It’s staged superbly, because the viewer is unsure who is more deserving of sympathy. Whilst we can notice that the kid may be unnecessarily awkward in not accepting the efforts to build a friendship; said ‘efforts’ are delivered half-heatedly and with minimal patience from the adult. At times it feels like he is an unwanted addition on the holiday, which in a way makes neither character morally superior. I was totally engrossed in this relationship for the first twenty minutes or so and forgot that I was watching a horror film.
When the slasher stuff starts though, things hot up nicely. Three teens in a RV, including an amazingly hot chica in a boob tube, are slaughtered systematically with some neat camera work and splashings of blood. The killer puts in a couple more creepy appearances and chucks in a well timed jump scare to boot. He drives a creepy as hell 1958 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan with the legendary ‘Dagmar’ Bumpers and the moments where we see the car ‘stalking’ bring to mind John Carpenter’s Christine, a year before that movie was even released. There’s a few tense moments, like when the boy stumbles across a murder site early on and we get a cooler than cool chase sequence in an old Western town, where the intended victim thinks it’s just a game. There’s also a terrific score from Dana Kaproff that sounds like a cross between Manfredini and Zaza. Yes, it is that good.
The acting from the entire cast is top quality and real mention should go to the outstanding work from the eleven year old Peter Billingsley as the youngster and Stephen McHattie as the twisted killer. Even if director Dick Richards didn’t do anything exciting technically, he got the best out of his cast with the dramatics. The plot roles very neatly through to it’s conclusion and they even manage to chuck in a twist and a tad of humour of the darkest kind. This involves a girl with obvious, ahem, ‘weight problems’ getting slashed because she went for just that one treat too many. It’s worth noting that Valley is the closest we have to a slasher Western and the nut job even sports a ‘mask’ that is a Cowboy hat and a neckerchief! How can you not like that?
Some have written that the film suffers from a muddled story, but I really didn’t notice that at all. Instead, it chucks in all the clichés and still manages to be somewhat off-beat. Perhaps not scary or gory enough to be a lost classic, but it has enough suspense, intrigue and fluidity to guarantee a fun hour and a half’s entertainment.
Killer Guise: √√√
Twisted Nightmare 1987
Directed by: Paul Hunt
Starring: Rhonda Gray, Cleve Hall, Robert Padilla
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So you like clichés eh? Well, I’ll give you clichés alright. I’ll give you so many clichés that you’ll loose count before the ten-minute mark!
Twisted Nightmare is not a movie. It may have a cast and a crew and all the ingredients that you would associate with a feature film, but in fact it’s just a check-list of slasher platitudes rapped up into ninety-minutes of cheap videotape and cunningly disguised as a motion picture. What you don’t believe me? Then why don’t you check out this fabulous synopsis:
A group of ‘ahem’ teenagers head off to a summer camp (Friday the 13th) where a few years earlier, the brother of one of their number was burned beyond recognition by an unseen menace. (The Burning). Before the accident, he had been the victim of malicious bullying by the rest of the group, who tormented his inability to attract the opposite sex (Terror Train). This particular camp site is not the best place for a summer vacation as it had been cursed by Native Americans many years ago and it’s rumoured that the curse lives on (Ghost Dance). Before long a disfigured lunatic turns up and begins killing off the cast members one by one. (Just about every slasher movie ever produced).
Now do you catch my drift?
In all seriousness, Twisted Nightmare is an uncomfortably tough film to review. That’s simply because it’s hard to explain exactly what went wrong with the feature and why it never lived up to its obvious potential. It’s not an awkward task to write a mocking review of a bad movie, but it’s a lot harder to try and define the reasons why an offering so full of possibilities just didn’t make the grade. It would be easy to blame the rancid dramatics or the inane scripting, but the cast of Friday the 13th were hardly method actors and that was still an infinitely better effort than this. Slasher flicks are different from almost every other genre, because they can still make a profit or at least grab an audience without most of the ingredients that other categories of cinema take for granted. For example, could you imagine a poorly acted drama being successful? Or perhaps an awfully scripted comedy? Stalk and slash features consistently commit gross cinema crimes and still the production line of titles has only recently showed signs of slowing down. Keeping that in mind, I have tried to find out why a project from such an interesting team of low-budget titans ended up being such a flop.
Rumours abound that this was completed in eighty-two, but shelved for five years due to a total lack of confidence from the entire production team. Now aside from the IMDB, which is hardly the most reliable pillar of info, I haven’t uncovered proof of this anywhere else. For a start, the budget here was obviously fairly low, so keeping that in mind, it would be insane to suggest that it could boast a better quality of cinematography than Friday the 13th Part III. Especially when this is a film that if speculation is to be believed was shot on the same location at the same time. Another thing is that most of the cast had more than one acting credit in 1987, but none in 1982, which I think pretty much ends the argument. In my opinion, Twisted Nightmare was not shelved for five-years at all. And if it truly was, only very very little had been shot back then. If I had to guess, I would say that ’85 or ’86 is a more realistic possibility, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the IMDB have got muddled up with that info
If anything, Twisted Nightmare tries too hard, and due to the director’s insistence of ticking every single box on the slasher check list, the movie breaks that age-old ‘less is more’ ground rule. Alfred Hitchcock once said that the key ingredient to the production of suspense is isolation, but that’s where Paul Hunt’s opus comes unstuck. His feature boasts an unusually high body count and there’s also some impressive gore sequences. Unfortunately, with so many characters getting butchered in such a small space of time, things get very boring very quickly and the deaths rapidly loose their impact.
Another negative is the film’s one-tone pacing, which never seems to change throughout the runtime. Characters get killed, characters get naked. Characters make-out and characters argue. But it all happens at such a snail-like momentum that that any attempts at a ‘money-shot’ just pass by without recognition. The plodding direction adds no bite to the suspense scenarios and an infuriating lack of lighting takes the credit away from the decent make-up effects. The script doesn’t help matters and the plot is littered with more holes than a hash smoker’s mattress. Cast members are slaughtered and none of their colleagues question their disappearances and some of the gaps in continuity are so obviously dumb that it’s almost unbelievable that this was the effort of a man with as much cinematic experience as Paul Hunt. One girl’s haircut changes literally from scene to scene.
Now part of these problems may well have something to do with the fact that the story’s writer Charles Philip Moore hated director Paul Hunt with a passion. They did work together again on Demon Wind in 1990, but the animosity was high enough for them to deliver unflattering comments to the press. After the release of the movie and the negative reception and lack of success took their effect, Moore struck the cruelest of blows in defence of his involvement many years later, by stating, “Twisted Nightmare is the sorriest piece of drek ever put on film. When Hunt wasn’t bombed on coke he was coming down with hash. He hired inexperienced wannabes just so he could screw them out of their pay”. Even if Hunt did not get the chance to respond, he did once write that, “I personally hate horror films and did Twisted Nightmare as a favor for Ed DePriest.” So there you go.
If you take an experienced director, a good budget, an excellent location, some great gore effects, a group of ambitious cast members and still end up with a feature as jumbled as this, then something is very, very wrong. The above proves that there most definitely was.
On the plus side as I mentioned earlier there’s some decent gore, including a deer antler impalement and one guy gets his head pushed off, which is hokey, but fun all the same. Nightmare also seems to generate an eighties feel much better than many of its counterparts from the period. There are mullets, bubble perms, bad metal tracks, boobies, elastic belts, bright tops and muscles by the bucket load. Let’s not beat about the bush, this feature is absolute tosh. But I know you dear reader. I know you better than you think. You like cheese. You like bad acting and blood. You like disfigured killers that growl like bears and stare through windows whilst breathing like they’re having asthma attacks. As you know that I know this, then I am going to recommend that you give Twisted Nightmare a shot. Now…
Killer Guise: √√
The Last Horror Film1982
Directed by: David Winters
Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Judd Hamilton
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
You know, a SLASH above is coming up to being a year old. That’s amazing and I want to thank you, dear reader for taking the time to check us out twice a week. We have grown considerably, month on month and it’s all down to you. The first review that I posted here was of my favourite trash movie, Pieces, and I defended it heavily. I stated that it was an overlooked grind house classic. Judging by the emails that I received, many of you agreed. I had been disappointed with the amount of negativity that I’d seen about it and wanted to offer a different opinion. Well here we have another wonderful example of an entry in the same vein and it’s one that I’ve noticed has suffered a similar lack of recognition as the flick that was the first addition to www.aslashabove.com
Joe Spinell is a somewhat unsung slasher movie legend. Whilst many of us enjoyed his stand-out signature role from Maniac, no one loved it more than Spinell himself. He spent many years working on getting a sequel made, but just as he had finally found financing, he passed away a month in to pre-production. The causes of his death have remained a mystery, but it’s widely believed that he lost the battle with poor health. He left a trio of slasher movies behind, including Lustig’s cult favourite from 1980, The Undertaker from 1989 and this campy treat.
Here he plays Vinny Durand, a mentally unstable taxi driver with an obsession with actress Jana Bates (Munro). Living half in reality and half in the world of his imagination, Vinny believes that he has the ideal script for the woman of his dreams. Convinced that he’s on to a good thing, he heads off to the Cannes film festival to show his ideas to Mrs. Bates. As soon as he turns up, the majority of people that he runs in to end up getting murdered by a masked assailant. Is Vinny the killer?There’s no one else it could be…
What initially struck me about The Last Horror Film was the obvious signs of its high-ish budget. To shoot at Cannes couldn’t have been cheap and the amount of extras and locations used mount up to a huge pile of dollar bills. The film is superbly edited and I mean astoundingly so; and it really stands out that the footage has been chopped together with a professional gloss. Even before the first credit has appeared on the screen, our eyes are treated with a buxom blonde in a bathtub. Within the next minute, she’s being stalked and gruesomely electrocuted by an unseen menace. As far as starts go, we couldn’t have wished for a better one and there in that brief sequence, the tone is competently set. We have to wait a short while to see another murder, but the in between parts could never be boring if you have Spinell on your cast list.
How do we rate Spinell? I mean, he’s no Robert DeNiro; but for playing a total loony tune, there’s really no one better. He must have studied under the method philosophy as he really becomes his character. The script asks a lot of him (he prances around at one point in knickers and a bra!), but he remains convincing throughout. It’s a performance built up of many layers, because his body language is spot on. Insecure, rejected, misunderstood; he doesn’t need dialogue for this, his actions display it and that desreves credit. Caroline Munro is also good here. I mean, as good she needs to be. I’m sure that as an attractive woman, she loved the role of a Cannes best actress nominee (no, really). Most of her screen time is spent wearing gorgeous dresses and posing for photo-shoots. What female wouldn’t enjoy that? She looks great too. The funny thing is that the part that she is nominated for is a slasher within which she gets her face burned off with a blow torch and we even see the voters praising and clapping her ‘chilling portrayal’! Maybe I’m a tad biased, because I once dated a girl that looked extremely like her. Look at the similarities in the picture opposite. I also met her once at a horror convention in Camden and she was lovely. Me being me, I tried hitting on her a bit, but instead of calling security she had a joke and showed a down to earth side that I really appreciated. (Either that or she found it impossible to resist my charms… HIGHLY unlikely)
Damn, all this talk about attractive women and flirting and I’ve got a bit lost. Right where were we? Ok, so halfway through watching, I began thinking, how do they write this stuff? I mean seriously, at times the script feels like it was penned on the back of a LSD marathon and to be fair it may well have been. Luckily that only adds somewhat to the film’s kooky charm. In fairness though, they try awfully hard to keep us in the right periodic mindset by regularly featuring news reports on the radio in the back ground, which describe the big events of the time. There’s the Reagan assassination attempt, the bombing in Madrid and the effort to murder Pope John Paul II. 1981 was quite a crazy year.
For exploitation fans, we are treated to a tonne of naked chicks straddling about and the large majority of them fall comfortably in to the ‘Hot Chica’ bracket, which is all good. What is interesting and makes me question why the movie is so often overlooked is the wonderful amount of gore. This is one hell of a blood-filled ride and the effects by Peter McKenzie are pretty darn good. My favourite would have to be the gooey throat-slashing, which is grimly effective and helped no end by the reaction of the terrified Munro. As this is set during Cannes, we get plenty of shots of film posters, advertisements and promotions. For a while it transported me back to that period and it was fun looking out for titles that I recognised. The soundtrack of cheesy pop is equally as memorable and was made specifically for this feature. If you can remember the disco monstrosities that plagued your ears during Killer Workout, then you’ll know full well what to expect.
The only thing that ruins The Last Horror Film is the awful, AWFUL final scene. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that for some inexplicable reason, Spinell got his mother a part in the cast; playing, well, he’s character’s mother! Not only is she as wooden as Noah’s ark, but she is given heinous dialogue to ‘work’ with. For the life of me, I cannot see the sense, point or reason why they included that closing sequence. I don’t want to spoil it for you and maybe it’s an in-joke, but think to yourself, ‘elderly woman smoking grass’… and not in an amusing Cheech and Chong way. It’s just pointless and ruins all that went before it.
Still there’s plenty of fun to be had in many many places with this flick and I’m hoping that a positive review may re-introduce it to you in a different light. It’s cheesy as hell, gory, trashy and on top of all that has Spinell doing his visual loon show. If you dear reader, like me, appreciate your bad cinema, then by all means try and give it another chance…
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√√
The Forest 1982
aka Terror in the Forest
Directed by: Don Jones
Starring: Gary Kent, Dean Russell, Tomi Barrett
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Another of the numerous backwoods Friday the 13th inspired slasher flicks, The Forest was for sure aware of what audience it was looking to target. With that said though, it is no typical slasher by the numbers. In fact, some peeps doubt whether it is actually a slasher flick at all, due to it being somewhat authentic with its storytelling. There’s no teens here, no T&A, no have sex and die, no masks and no campfire tales. Its lack of convention makes it somewhat of an outsider amongst the titles that it has become classified alongside, but it has enough of the things that are needed to give it the joy of a review by myself and a place amongst its brethren on the a SLASH above hall of fame
It was the work of Don Jones, another exploitation director who had seen a potential profit burger in the slasher boom during the early eighties. Jones was a pretty good boxer before he caught the movie bug and his career certainly started well with two sleazy pieces in as many years that are now considered by some to be cult classics. When he pencilled the script for this piece, he struggled initially to find investors and therefore had to mortgage his house for the $43,000 he needed to get it made. Unfortunately, although that minimal funding covered the production, it didn’t leave him with enough to finish the film and that’s where the problems really began.
An outside contact was recommended to Jones as a good editor to patch together his footage, but he realigned the script to make the entire story in to a kind of flashback sequence. When a would be investor watched the net result, he was astounded at how poor it was and The Forest remained without distribution. Jones is still furious about what happened. Not only because it left him back at square one, but also because he lost his mortgaged house during the wait. Eventually, after a third and final cut, a deal was finally secured and the movie was set for release. There was still a tiny problem though. Don Jones has never seen a cent of the payment.
The Forest did however get packaged on VHS and sits comfortably with the likes of Mad Man, The Burning, Just Before Dawn and Don’t go in the Woods as one of the category’s earliest entries
A pair of married couples head off to the forest for a camping weekend. On their way,they pass through an area where we saw two backpackers were slaughtered by an unseen menace in the opening sequence. Before long they begin to discover that things aren’t what they seem in the woodland and they have to pit their wits against a vicious cannibalistic killer…
As I have alluded to earlier, The Forest plays like it was made by someone who wanted to shoot a slasher flick, but hadn’t spent too much time researching the category’s trappings. It’s either that or he went all out to bring something new to the grouping, which the director later hinted was truly the case. Whereas the most common methodology for these features is to have a killer that remains clouded in mystery, or at least off screen for the majority of the runtime, Jones’ effort introduces its antagonist very early and gives him a share of the screen time. It is this authenticity that allows for a couple of very interesting scenes. One of them sees two of the campers – that are unaware as of yet that there is any danger – sit down with the nut job to chat and shelter from a rain storm. It is not that it is a great piece of cinematic delivery by any means, but it’s an intriguing set up. Even more so as it includes one of the guys eating a piece of his wife’s corpse that’s been cooking over a camp fire. He has absolutely no idea of what he is munching on of course, but it’s made quite haunting because he gets a sudden chill, as if deep down inside or perhaps spiritually he knows what he has just done. These kind of moments show great creativity from the script.
Alongside the backwoods loon of the title, we also get another unexpected addition that’s alien to the template. There are three ghosts that pop up and are key to the movement of the story and despite them not being a real threat to the campers, they do add something else that’s rather unique. One of them is the maniac’s cheating wife, whilst the other two are his children. The killer’s motive also makes sense and adds pathos to his situation. He hunts humans for food, although the movie never explains why he doesn’t go for deer or another wild animal. Perhaps he lacked the physicality to catch such prey or maybe skin tastes much better? It’s not really important though, because I guess what we needed was a reason for a massacre, which in effect we have. The closing sequence is also fairly unusual and moments such as these do deserve recognition.
Sequoia National Park proves to be a fantastic location and the shots of the water, rocks and skyscraper-in-height trees are truly remarkable. The peculiar soundtrack is a bizarre blend of bubblegum pop and various other styles that result in a mind-boggling combination. It seems to have been recorded especially for the feature and you can make fun at some of the lyrics, including wonderful lines such as: ‘In the chaos, the demons shout (what?)’. Oh and how could I forget, the opening orchestra piece sounds like something that you’d find in Lassie, not a ‘horror’ flick.
The acting, of course, is really weak and amateurish with little emphasis on setting any kind of suspense through the actions of the players. The photography is also quite bland, with only the odd moment or two of invention and energy. I enjoyed the inadvertently funny scene during a flashback, where the now turned psychopath and jilted husband makes quick work of his adulterous wife and then heads out to take care of her lover. We see a brief fight and then a chase sequence, which isn’t really fair because said hubby has an inexplicable ability to teleport right in front of his intended victim every time he turns to run somewhere new. He even manages to materialise a new weapon from out of nowhere! There’s very little in terms of gore on offer but the first three murders all boast different qualities. The opening two are fleetingly photographed with good movement and use of backgrounds, whilst the next slaughter some twenty or so minutes later looks really quite realistic and is astoundingly brutal. With that said though, it’s quite obvious as to why The Forest never quite made the notorious list of video nasties and it boasts no real special effects that are worth mentioning.
Jones’ entry is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination and offers zilch in terms of suspense, scares or tension. I did however have a lot more fun than perhaps I thought that I was going to whilst watching and had no idea what was going to happen next. Nothing can be taken away from an admittedly very unique story, a soundtrack that is totally loco and a knife clenching cannibal in a baseball cap. And I haven’t even mentioned the three ghosts! If that doesn’t sound inviting to you dear reader, then I am afraid that you are checking the wrong website. Oh yes…
Final Girl: √√
Honeymoon Horror: Director’s Cut Bootleg 1982
Directed by: Harry Preston
Starring: Bob Wagner,Paul Iwanski, Cheryl Black
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This peak period slasher movie is one of those that rarely gets a mention, which is quite strange as it has a lot going for it. Even if a honeymoon can hardly be considered a calendar holiday, it does boast a recognised setting that slots in nicely with the likes of Halloween, Friday the 13th, Graduation Day, Happy Birthday to Me et al. The killer has the whole burned to a crisp/Cropsy style thing going on and if you squint your eyes a bit, then the location could even be considered a summer camp! What more do you need I ask you?
I hadn’t watched this one for literally donkey’s years, but when I got my hands on the ‘director’s cut’ I just had to give it a whirl. It was shot in 1981 and financed by a group of Texan business men. Most of it was directed by a Garland based screen and theatre writer named Harry Preston, but when the producers ran out of money, Preston was shut out of the post production. The remaining decision makers became anxious at the film’s grim tone and ordered editor Malcolm Wittman to re-cut it with additional footage. Scared that they would be left with a feature that they wouldn’t find distribution for, they sold it to Sony for $50,000. This was pretty much the same amount that they had spent on its development. It was a fantastic bit of business for the media giant however as it went on to make over 20 million dollars in VHS sales.
It still to this day has not been picked up for DVD release and this is because (a) the rights for the picture are owned by Sony and they do not sub-licence any of their back-catalogue and (b) the print is in extremely bad shape and will probably never see light of day again. If you have a copy on VHS, then keep hold of it as it may be worth something in years to come. The rare director’s cut version that I watched this time around was a rough quality bootleg and is quite different from the other one that I have on the Sony label. I know that I am quite a generous critic, but I actually think that it plays much better and has a completely different tone due to it being what was initially intended.
We open on a secluded Island, a man catches his Mrs in bed with another guy and in the ensuing scuffle the house catches fire. The adulterous woman manages to hot foot it out of the front door with her lover, but they leave her unconscious hubby in the midst of the flames stating, “Let him burn”… One year later and and the widow is now remarried to her partner in crime, Vic. They have reluctantly decided to return to the fully repaired site in order to get it up and running and then sell it on. They are joined by three newly-wed couples who are renting cabins from them to celebrate their honeymoons. But guess who’s back in the mother flipping house? Yep, you guessed it, before long a flame-grilled hand is seen pulling back the branches to get a better look as only backwoods psychos do. They soon discover that they are trapped until morning and fighting to survive against the charred assailant with a machete.
First things first, this director’s cut excludes the tagged-on comedic scenes of the cholesterol-ly challenged Sheriff and instead opts for an altogether darker feel. Whereas the other print often cuts away from the horror to show the goofy antics of lard ass and his deputy (stuff like him eating a burger with a cigar in his mouth and acting like a general doofus), this one plays it straight and has a far more effective feeling of dread because of that. I didn’t note any suspense on the review that I wrote of this in 2001, but there was most definitely the odd smidgen here. Although most of the stalking shots were directly lifted from Friday the 13th parts 1 and 2, Preston does chuck in the odd good idea. I especially liked the killer’s revelation scene where he bursts through the door and closes in on his prey. The way the director sets up the dynamics of the shot and the distance, which makes the cowering victim seem so small in comparison is no less than brilliant.
When the remaining characters realise that they are being stalked by a maniac, they do the right thing and attempt to stick together. The script does well to create a false sense of security, because they mistake the identity of the madman and believe that they have stopped him early on. I was sure that I’d picked our final girl when one of the bunnies started talking of her uneasy feelings and wanting to get off the island. But instead, she got quite gorily slaughtered, which was unusual and authentic. None of the cast ever really did anything else worth noting after this and for first timers, they did ok with what they were given. Bad acting is par for the course in a slasher, so it came as no surprise that it was all very amateur here. What I appreciated was the fact that they were genuinely likeable and showed concern for their buddies when the trouble started. They don’t really do enough for you to want any of them not to get splattered, but at least they’re not conceited ignoramuses of the type we see so regularly in new age slasher flicks.
The feature is still weakened by a bloated mid-section and incredibly bizarre dialogue, which switches from comedic to bewildering many times throughout. There are far too many pointless scenes that could have been either cut down or completely removed to have given the film a slicker runtime. It’s also very poorly lighted and whenever the action heads outside, it’s tough to see what’s going on. It is somewhat frustrating that the killer seems to take forever to get his butt in gear and when he does, the murders are edited so choppily that they’re tough to make out. There is some goo, but it’s not really shown for enough time to be appreciated and therefore seems pretty pointless.
It’s also hilariously non-politically correct with lines such as, “Joe’s a little bit retarded and can’t speak, but if you need anything, just ask him and he’ll get it for you.” Retarded? Nice.
Honeymoon Horror is a poorly put together movie, but looks much better here than in the most common print available. Preston has said that the production was so awkward that most of his ideas were devoured by the lack of budget and the film does look shoddy and cheap. For a slice of regional filmmaking with a cool maniac though, it at least deserves to be seen.
One thing that I forgot to mention. What a crap place to have a honeymoon
Killer Guise: √
Final Girl: √
The Icebox Murders 1982
Directed by: Francisco Rodríguez Gordillo
Starring: Jack Taylor, Mira Miller, Manuela Jiménez
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
A lot of people assume that the slasher boom of the early eighties was mainly populated by the American and Canadian movie industries. Although in terms of major investment and quality of output they’re right, some of the craziest examples of low budget fun were also found in the most unlikely of places. ‘The slasher plague’ was a global cinematic epidemic and if you search hard enough, then you get to uncover titles such as Fen Ku Lou that were really unique and interesting.
Spain’s contribution to the genre is often overlooked, even though we were equally responsible for our fair share of output. The first offering to grace the category from España was Jesus Franco’s Bloody Moon, which found notoriety after achieving the cult status in the United Kingdom of joining the infamous ‘video nasty’ list. Hot on the heels of Franco’s effort was the equally bloody Pieces and the decade closed with Jose Larraz’s fairly decent slasher/mystery, Edge of the Axe. However, there was a film from that ever so fruitful period that slipped by completely unnoticed by completists and critics alike, which was called, El Cepo or The Icebox Murders.
It originally secured a small release on the long defunct Mogul label, which also gave life to slashers Satan’s Blade and Lucifer aka Goodnight Godbless. It never found an audience outside its country of origin and like so many of its less fortunate cousins from around that time, it soon vanished from existence. Eventually it became one of those rare gems that sell for big bucks to die hard collectors on Internet video-search agencies and eBay, due to their impossible to locate status.
Admittedly, the fact that it had become so obscure only helped to evoke my curiosities about the picture and an impressive and intriguing title also led me to begin a mission to track down a copy. After months of hearing absolutely nothing, finally, I stumbled across a VHS on show in a charity shop window (!) and simply couldn’t believe my luck. I picked it up and immediately headed home. On the way, I gazed longingly at the cover and hoped to discover if my patience could be rewarded with the bonus that I’d found an all but forgotten slasher masterpiece.
They say that when a film disappears, it’s never without good reason and they’re usually right with that assumption. But this time I kept my opinions open, because every now and then I’ve uncovered a rarity that’s turned out to be a whole lot more than I ever expected. The audacious cover artwork and blurb that offered so much only heightened my spirits, so I slipped the cassette into my much-overused VCR and cracked open a chilled bottle of Smirnoff for the journey.
Despite the fact this was a Spanish production, the movie’s actually set in Paris, France. It kicks off with a girl running down a dimly lighted corridor. She’s fleeing a slow stalking camera shy maniac, who eventually catches her and puts his hands around her throat. She screams and then the shot ends. Cut to a news report, which helpfully informs us that she’s the sixth woman to be butchered by this unseen menace and it looks as if he has a taste for slashing beautiful young ladies and leaving their corpses in public places.
Next up we meet a prostitute called Chantelle who boasts that she’s found a goldmine in a man who buys her presents without wanting anything in return. If this generous gent (played by cult favourite Jack Taylor no less) isn’t an over-zealous advertisement for a could-be psychotic killer, then I don’t know what on earth is. He walks with a cane and his dress sense amounts to a pitch-black suit with dark glasses. This makes him look like a peculiar cross between a secret service agent and an especially morbid undertaker. The hooker pops round to his apartment and he informs her that he doesn’t like the way she dresses so provocatively. He tells her that she should give up that ‘ridiculous profession’ and he wants to whisk her away somewhere and ‘help regain her youth’ (Awesome chat-up line!). She agrees to the vacation as long as she can bring her friend Sylvia along. That night, Sylvia has a dream that ‘the undertaker’ has some murderous ambitions up his sleeve and the next day she remains wary of his true intentions. Soon we learn that he isn’t actually a grave-filler or secret agent by trade, but he’s actually a doctor – unfortunately.
They arrive at a mansion that’s conveniently secluded miles from civilisation and we meet another suspicious character that shares the spacious abode. John the twitchy caretaker takes an interest in the young ladies’ appearance, but is warned off by the solemn doctor, who beats him with the aforementioned cane. The peaceful serenity gets a bit depressing for the spirited girls and they head out to the local discotheque, where we meet yet another possible suspect – a smooth talking local that tries to engage in flirtatious conversation with the moody Sylvia. When they return later that night, she sees two silhouettes carrying a suspicious shape into the icebox. Could it have been a dead body? Do fish swim in the sea? Not a lot happens from here on out, it’s mostly just a whole heap of talking, which is painfully dragged out and mind-numbingly boring.
Eventually things liven up a little, when poor old John gets gunned down by an unseen sniper and Sylvie spies ‘someone’ with a decapitated head in his tool shed. Of course no one believes what she saw, and on inspection, it mysteriously disappears. Some time later, Chantelle discovers a collection of human trophies in a cleverly concealed cupboard. This results in the killer having to reveal himself and the traditional fight for survival ensues…
Right that’s it. Finally I’ve learned my lesson. Never again will I be enticed by a movie that has (rightly) been banished from wise-minded collections, thinking that it was just an unfortunate twist of fate. The Icebox Murders is as rancid as a geriatric sewer rat – and just as stinky! Even the title and the tag-lines are outright lies to trick unsuspecting victims (such as myself) into believing this could be an impressive premise for a slasher flick. The cover says that a maniac murders women and stores their bodies in a freezer. Total BS!! There’s just two on-screen killings in the whole film and the only corpse that’s found in the said icebox belongs to an animal – no fair! This isn’t even really a slasher flick, seeing how the second murder is committed with a gun, so I urge all genre completists not to bother adding this one to your collection. There’s truly nothing here that would warrant even the most adamant fan to hunt it down, no matter how much you want to own every genre piece that was ever transferred to cheap videotape.
Let’s get this straight, now. This isn’t just a painfully long and irritating epic of nonsensical dribble with the oomph of a squished slug. Oh no, it’s flawed in just about every respect that a motion picture possibly can be. It looks to have been edited by someone using a seven year old’s ‘my first stationary’ kit, the theme-music plays randomly, with no apparent acknowledgement of the scene it’s accompanying and it boasts the directorial flair of gibbon holding an iPhone. By far the worst aspect of this monstrosity is the abysmal quality of the acting, which is best described as the dramatic equivalent of a Desperate Housewives blooper real. – Yes it is that bad. They could have packed the whole story in about twenty-five minutes of screen-time, which probably would have made a fairly watchable short. But instead it drags on – like a two-legged camel – for an hour and a half, as we watch a pair of marginally interesting females continually express their distaste at being cooped up in a mansion that they could have left whenever they felt the need to. Sadly, they were too dumb to work that out, so we have to look on as they (slowly) come to the conclusion that they’re heading for a slashing if they hang around the cane-clenching weirdo for much longer.
In fairness, it’s actually meant to be more of a character study or a slow paced Giallo and I guess it’s not really the fault of the film-makers that Mogul packaged it as a piece of slasher trash. It’s Spanish title is El Cepo or ‘The Trap’, so who knows where the ‘The Icebox Murders’ came from? It was, most likely, an ambitious marketing ploy from the distributor and an attempt to give the film more of an allure aimed towards the stalk and slash audience. In my review of The Ghostkeeper, I mentioned that the UK box art had absolutely *nothing* to do with the film inside and Mogul have done a similar thing here. They’ve taken everything that would appeal to the slasher genre and put it on the cover of a title that’s basically the equivalent of a boring and poorly produced TV movie. Even the music sucks. Another interesting thing is that I saw a VHS copy of this for sale on Amazon for $180 and a couple of days later it was gone. $180 for this is really quite an amazing price. If it’s become a collectors item, then maybe it makes sense, but if it was bought by someone hoping to find a forgotten splatter classic. Well, I would pay to see their reaction when the final credits rolled. It would have been a darn site more dramatic than anything that happened here.
As I’ve already said, this is not much of a slasher movie, which begs the question, why did I post a review of it? Well due to the aforementioned misguided marketing, chances are most collectors have already come across it or will do soon. I wanted to stop you from making the mistake that I and am sure many others did. Little remains to be said, except steer well clear of this misinterpreted, misguided and mis-advertised waste of a production budget. There’s really only very little to be salvaged from this sabotaged slasher, unless you enjoy watching how terrible Spanish fashion sense was in the early eighties. I was born and lived there back then, so I could smirk, but I doubt that any of you will. Especially not for $180…
I cannot warn you harshly enough about the dangers of mis-judging what lurks within the cover of The Icebox Murders. It’s as unforgiving as an ex-partner that you ruthlessly dumped – and you’ll want to avoid it just the same! Be afraid… Be very afraid…
Final Girl: √
Friday the 13th Part III 1982
Directed by: Steve Miner
Starring: Dana Kimmell, Richard Brooker, Tracie Savage
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s ten pm on Friday the 13th of January 2012, I’m browsing through the channels to see what’s on Sky and gawd damn – they’re showing the entire Friday the 13th series from one to six! Awesome – I’m not working tomorrow, I’ll crack open a bottle and order a pizza. “You look tired baby, might as well go to bed” I told the Mrs. This is a night that I just had to experience.
So I missed a couple, but now it’s part 3, not my all time favourite, but hey; it’s from Steve Miner, the beers cold, the pizza’s hot and I have time to burn burn burn…
Friday the 13th part 2 had been a very good, although not great success, but Paramount knew that there was still more cash to be made. They came up with the idea of shooting the next one in 3D as a hook and it paid off with the movie making a box office killing almost immediately. I have a copy on DVD that is in complete three-dimension, which you need glasses to watch, but even on a huge screen, it is no substitute for how this must’ve looked in theatres.
A few hours after the massacre from part 2 and Jason is still on the loose, taking out an amusing and undeserving couple in the first ten minutes. Next up we meet a group of youngsters who are heading to a site not too far away from camp Crystal Lake. After they arrive, we soon notice that someone is watching them and it doesn’t take long for the killings to start…
Aside from money, do you know the one thing that I don’t have enough of now I’ve turned the thirty-year corner? It’s time. On top of my job, having two kids, a demanding Mrs AND this website, I would kill to purchase a few extra hours on eBay if I could. Sometimes, when I’m writing these reviews late at night and I have work the next morning, I notice that I lack a creative spark. Tiredness makes me type without focus and I reuse stuff I’ve already written and when I read it back, it just seems – well, dull as the paint in a doctor’s reception. Now I love Steve Miner and Friday the 13th part 2 is arguably the best slasher movie anywhere ever. But here, like a worker in his fourth hour of overtime, he has lost some of that innovation. It’s almost like he put his all in to the previous chapter and this time around was suffering from a dose of director’s block. He seems to have blatantly copied so much from the last two entries and re-shot it that the movie feels slower and drained of freshness. It came as no surprise when I learned from Martin Jay Saddof that production on this had started even before the second instalment had hit cinemas, so the time needed to refuel the artistic engines of imagination was extremely short and you can see it in the end product.
With that said though, Part 3 is still a good slasher flick, which finds retribution in its huge body count and outstanding final twenty minutes. It also has some cool characters, including the first Latin female in a slasher and the fat practical joker whose demise leads to Jason finding his hockey mask for the first time. The strength of some of the performances are key to what lifts this above mediocrity, including a wonderful turn from Richard Brooker as the marauding Jason. Dana Kimmell is interesting as the virginal heroine and she does well in her battle with the killer, even if she was responsible for changes in the script. Brought up in a very religious family, she felt uncomfortable with some of the violence and pleaded with Frank Mancuso Jnr to allow her character to survive. Three endings were filmed and in the first alternative, Jason decapitates her with a machete, leaving no survivors. In the second, she escapes with Ali, who lives after his duel with Mr Voorhees, but the camera cuts back and the fiend’s body is not there. Now these were definitely shot, but whether Paramount kept the drums of leftover footage is another matter. People who have had access to the vaults have said that most of the leftovers have been destroyed, so a director’s cut with what we most want to see is highly unlikely. In fact, it’s impossible unless there’s a miracle discovery.
This also means that we will never get Andy, Debbie or Edna’s full death scenes, which from what I hear, were absolutely fantastic in their entirety. It’s so frustrating to me that I can never witness the effects that I’ve read about so many times and I believe that for a series with such a large cult following, it’s just unforgivable from Paramount. If it’s not bad enough that we can never view the reputedly brilliant double impalement from Part 2, it’s awful that this one will also never be played as it were intended.
Although the pace is nowhere near as intense throughout the runtime as it was in the previous rounds and much of the fear factor has been replaced with cheese, the last chase sequence between Chris and Jason is immense. Watching it on widescreen is a breathtaking experience and even if Miner may not have built as taut a stream of tension this time around, he still pulls off some fantastic stalk and slash postcard shots like the one of Jason watching Debbie and Andy through a barn window. Gerald Feil and Miner really put effort in to some of the photography and its those small things that cover up some of the lesser parts, such as the heinous sense of continuity. Jason had in the few hours after having a machete stuck in his shoulder, not only managed to remove it, but also he found new clothes, a hairdresser and someone to give him plastic surgery to change his entire appearance from the last film.
This is most certainly not one of the best of the franchise and it was the first dip that was thankfully well recovered by Joseph Zito in ‘The Final Chapter’. It still has its moments, one of them being the first sighting of Jason in a hockey mask and some great gore that we may never get to see.
Steve Miner is underrated as a horror maestro, which is a shame, because for me he is just that. Nevertheless, this is still an important chapter in the franchise and to the entire genre in general. It’s a disappointment that it was so rushed and it’s a slasher film in third gear instead of fifth, but that’s still a darn site quicker than the crap we get more recently and an all round treat for horror fans
Final Girl: √√√
Satan’s Blade 1984
aka Espada Satánica
Directed By: L. Scott Castillo
Starring: Tom Bongiorno, Stephanie Leigh Steel, Paul Batson
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This will be the second time I have written a review of Satan’s Blade, as it’s a film I watched seven-years ago and rated it under an old user name on the IMDB. As I have said previously, I don’t get as much time to browse my old collection of VHS and as this is not on DVD, it is not one of those that I could convert to MP4 and enjoy on my iPad on the way to work. I have, however, recently had a little bit of time on my hands. Basically my parent in-laws are visiting from sunny Poland for two-weeks and as we only have two bedrooms (one with a single bed), I’m off to my mum’s for a little break. When the cat’s away, the mice will play and all that, so I watched Cards of Death, Moonstalker and Satan’s Blade one after another on my first night of freedom. Oh the debauchery!
Now as I said, I have already had a say on this dirt-cheap but alluring entry, but as the years have passed and my film-knowledge has grown, I have actually noticed that my opinions have changed quite a bit. Of the 700+ slashers that I own, Satan’s Blade always stood out to me, because of the cheesy but intriguing cover, which boasts a skull-faced killer in a cape holding a blade and staring out in to reality as if to say, “buy me young man, I will absolutely terrify you”. To a teenage boy, this was pretty intriguing stuff and back then, these young eyes were unaware of how much hyperbole eighties cheap video companies would add to their VHS covers. It’s actually pretty fun nowadays to look back on the amount of boxes from that time that had absolutely *no* significance to the film contained inside. Nowadays if Apex, Mogul and the like were still distributing movies, ambulance chasing lawyers would have a field-day with the false-advertisement claims. I bought an Argentinian VHS that I found in a shop in Spain, because I also search out most flicks in my country of birth as in general they are unrated and it allows me to see the complete version. In case you are interested, the blurb and tagline on that copy are equally as nonsensical
A group of ski bunnies and a pair of married couples head off to a cabin in the mountains for a weekend break. They soon learn that the site has a murderous past; with the most recent of its victims dying only a few hours earlier. Despite this, they ignore the warnings and book in to their rooms. Before long an unseen maniac begins slicing his way through the visitors one by one. But is there more to the location than meets the eyes?
Watching Satan’s Blade is a bit like hearing ABBA at an elderly relative’s birthday party. You know that its rubbish and you shouldn’t really like it, but as long as no one notices, you secretly do. To be fair there’s an absolute heap of stuff that is easy to criticize here, but what Blade does do well, it does very much so. Atmosphere is one of the hardest things to build for a horror movie, and Castillo manages to give his film a macabre, foreboding and somewhat ruthless feeling throughout. Borrowing heavily from Carpenter’s method of creating a daunting mood from the start, the continuous score – although monotonous – adds to the apprehension. There’s one scene, a dream sequence, which is so skilfully edited and competently shot that it sits quite comfortably alongside Curtains‘ ice skating murder as one of the best of the genre. Seriously, it is THAT good.
There are mountains of minutes of character development where not a lot happens and I’ll get back to that in a bit, but I actually felt sympathy for one or two of the personnel and was even disappointed when a couple of them died. When you consider the fact that ninety-percent of the cast were pretty rancid dramatically, to build audience sympathy is quite an achievement. As I mentioned earlier, the killings feel a lot more mean-spirited here and I think it’s because of their cheap execution (pun intended) and lack of gore. Compared to the majority of its brethren from the same period, Blade is extremely light in the blood department, but it makes up for that in the detail of the death sequences. The victims scream and struggle for their last breath and it’s much more unsettling than a gooey decapitation. So much so that the BBFC (or the film Gestapo as they were known back then) saw fit to cut out three and a half minutes of footage.
Also check out the bank heist, which seems to have been included for no other reason (in terms of plot benefit) than the director wanting to include a bank heist in his movie. It’s fast, direct and pretty mean-spirited, even though the cashier could have prevented everything by simply closing the door. It’s a very interesting way to start a standard slasher movie and I thought it just about worked.
The problems haven’t gone away over time however and the film still struggles drastically for momentum. If you want to see a ‘horror’ film, then watching bad actors go fishing and talk about ‘passing the bar’ can become very tedious very quickly and structurally the plot suffers. I have read the few comments from the cast that mention constant script re-writes and a lack of vision from the production team, which is quite apparent throughout. I find it hard to believe that there was no finished script, but hey if the cast members say so that must be the case. – Unless they’re a little bitter at not getting any money after this was released???
So Satan’s Blade is still not really worth tracking down unless you’re an obsessed enthusiast (hey, like me!). You have to question why the producer didn’t just film this on cheaper 16mm instead of 32 and invest some more cash in the production. An average genre entry that had the right ideas but struggled with the execution (yes I am using the same joke twice).
Oh and by the way – I still have *NO* idea what this has to do with Satan…?
Final Girl √√