Dead 7 2000
Directed by: Garrett Clancy
Starring: Joe Myles, Matt Emery, Delia Copold
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I certainly wasn’t expecting much from Dead 7, especially after I learned that it was a Brain Damage films release. They are the production criminals that have unloaded excrement like Maniacal and the rancid Butchered on to unsuspecting movie fans for the past ten years. But with that said though I’m always open minded when it comes to low budget features, because for every twenty Camp 139s there’s always the chance that there could be a Killer Campout lurking amongst them somewhere. Surprisingly enough – Shock horror – Garret Clancy’s slasher opus was a damn site better than it had any right to be, and it has somewhat restored my faith (momentarily) in Brain Damage as a label.
Clancy opens proceedings with a neat collage of woodland wildlife shots that brought eighties schlock classic The Prey to mind. Next we cut to a girl named Venus who is searching for her younger brother in the dense forest. She is very protective of Harley as he is death and mute, which makes it harder for him to communicate and let people know if he needs help. The two had been playing hide and seek until Harley’s attention had been diverted by the mysterious station wagon that had parked just yards in front of him. Hidden behind the camouflage of the dense trees, the young boy watches on as two men climb out of the car and drag a struggling man out of the boot. Franky (Matt Emery) and Brownley (Joe Myles) are viscous drug dealing gangsters that are just about to enforce the consequences of messing with their clique. They drag the victim out to an abandoned mine shaft and decapitate him with an axe before throwing his body down the pit. They hurriedly leave and meet up with their girlfriends Julie (Tanya Dempsey) and Karen (Janet Keijser) and their co-ed friend Drusilla (Gina Zachory).
Franky suddenly realizes that he has left his wallet back at the shaft, and after consulting Brownley, the two decide that they’ll have to go and find it without arousing the suspicion of Drusilla. Despite having very bad taste in friends, ‘Silla doesn’t seem like the type to be a part of any immoral activities and that’s why they try to keep the corpse under wraps. All five of them head back to the scene, and leave Dru to join Harley playing Hide and Seek. Unfortunately whilst searching for a secluded place, Harley comes across the foursome in a criminal situation, which means that they have no option but to silence him…for good! So down the mineshaft he goes with no chance of ever escaping or calling for help. Poor old Drusilla has no idea that her buddies have just killed the youngster and she is dragged away without an explanation.
A couple of months down the line, everyone except Venus seems to have forgotten about Harley’s death. But the gangsters are given an ominous reminder when an unseen intruder throws some incriminating evidence through Franky’s window. This results in a chain of events that leads to the gang being stalked and gruesomely slaughtered one by one by a mysterious stranger. Brownley has already proved that he is a ruthless killer, but it looks like he may have met his match in this mystifying vigilante. But who could be behind this frenzy of retribution?
Even though it sounds like a textbook slasher by the numbers, Dead 7 is actually a fairly engaging and moderately authentic take on the genre. It makes a refreshing change to have a mystery that actually pays off the viewer with a satisfying conclusion, and Clancy has enough screen writing flair to keep you guessing through to the climax. He directs with a confidence that exceeds his lack of experience, and the photography is fluid, crisp and innovative all the way through. Kudos also to the editor who did an extremely credible job when compared with similar no-budget offerings. The decision to shoot all the horror scenes in broad daylight was a wise method of avoiding the frequent problems caused by insufficient illumination and even though the locations were those of the ‘take what you can get’ variety, they suit the desolate atmosphere of the feature. Modern day horror enthusiasts might be disappointed by the lack of any really convincing gore, but the murders are fairly imaginative all the same: Death by copious amounts of cocaine anybody? The acting is fairly shoddy and unconvincing, but it’s by no means the worst that I’ve seen. It’s perhaps ironic that the best performance happens to be the director’s cameo as a bent copper.
It goes without saying that Dead 7 does show it’s amateurism in places. Clancy’s script includes some inadvertently amusing dialogue that certainly wasn’t his initial intention and one or two of the bargain bucket death scenes are hilariously hokey. One guy gets his ears lopped off and spends the rest of his screen time covering them up with his hands so that we don’t see the wounds!. In all fairness though, the killer’s face make-up in the final scene was actually quite good and there’s also a gooey slashed throat among other grisly highlights.
The net result is a decent slasher with a supernatural sheen that manages to keep you watching from start to finish. And that’s a target that many other Brain Damage monstrosities couldn’t even dream of achieving. There’s some raw but worthwhile talent on display within Dead 7 and it warrants at least a viewing.
I say check it out…
Killer Guise: √
Final Girl √
Directed by: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Starring: Franka Potente, Benno Fürmann, Anna Loos
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Like most slasher fans of the thirty+ age bracket, I much prefer the eighties genre boom to the one that followed hot on the heels of Scream. There’s a type of veteran feeling attached to knowing that you were collecting big-box VHS during the glory years and even if Craven’s classic is nearly twenty-years old, it’s not quite retro yet.
Taking the sentimentality out of the equation though, there’s a strong case to say that the second peak was more beneficial for the category. Firstly, we received three times as many entries from 1996 to the current date than we did back then, and secondly, a lot more countries contributed to the rebirth. Anatomy was an early addition to be produced by Germany and its huge box office return opened the door for more European states to jump on the bandwagon. In the years that followed, we would see Cold Fear, School Killer and Haute Tension bring flair to the template and continue the category’s progression.
Young anatomy student Paula (Franka Potente) is one of the best young medics in her country. When she is offered a place on a course in Heidelberg taught by a famous professor she is clearly over the moon. However, her suspicions are aroused when one by one her fellow students go missing and the body of a young man she met only days earlier turns up on the dissecting table – dead. So is she just paranoid or is there something far more sinister behind the strange disappearances?
I watched Anatomy with my Mrs and after it had finished, she said, “That’s not a slasher film, it’s a thriller”. Now usually, I counter such claims from her with a knowing nod, as if to say, ‘let me be the critic, you’re just along for the ride’. In this instance (and in this one only), I must begrudgingly admit that she may have a point. You see, Anatomy does spend more time developing its mystery than it does underlining the clichés. Victims are kidnapped by a gloved assailant, but there’s no masked killer and very few of the references that Kevin Williamson’s screenplay underlined so confidently
The fact that we do have a scalpel clenching psychopath, a typical final girl and ingredients such as the ‘have sex and die’ rule mean that I’m not unsure about the film’s status upon this site. So with that cleared up, I’m free to tell you that what we have here is a superb addition to the cycle. There are some fine acting skills on display, especially from Benno Furmann who has gone on to become a great talent in his home country. Franka Potente gives us a smart and charming heroine that reminded me of Laurie Strode far more than many that I have seen of late. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky manages to pile on the suspense in a number of scenes. One of the most outstanding is when the butcher attempts to hide a freshly murdered corpse that he viciously slashed only moments earlier. He hears the cleaners coming down the corridor, so he blocks the door to the Morgue with a surgical trolley. Of course, the staff can’t understand why it’s been suddenly locked, so they call their superiors to assist with getting it open. The psycho has to race against the clock to put the body into the refrigerator and hide before he gets caught red handed. It’s real nail biting stuff and the tension doesn’t end there. We get a brutal chase sequence towards the end, which is reminiscent of Halloween II. The scalpel-wielding killer and he’s loyal accomplice stalk our likeable final girl through the basement of the University and create a harrowing atmosphere that is rarely seen to such a great effect in today’s horror movies.
As I’ve highlighted, this is pure whodunit for the most part and there are suspicious suspects everywhere to put you off of the real assassin’s identity. Take the somewhat unfriendly looking dissector who hangs around the students clenching a saw and asking if they’re ready for him to `…open the skull’. Ruzowitzky adds the odd touch of comedy to brighten things up in-between the kill scenes. In one bit Paula is talking on the phone to her friend who is an overweight middle-aged male. Out of the corner of her eye she catches her fancy man Caspar waiting for her. In an attempt to make him jealous, she states to to the male `…on your firm buttocks’ to which he mops his brow and wonders what the hell she’s going on about. It’s comedy gold.
After the victims have been injected with an anaesthetic and kidnapped by the madman, they wake up on a dissecting table with an uplifting piece of music playing while they’re being gutted. The merciless surgeons completely ignore their cries for help, which makes them seem all the more sadistic. I’ll tell you something else too, after watching this I’m going to do my best to keep out of medical centres for the foreseeable future. It successfully made me contemplate what sort of mind is on the other end of that sharp looking surgical saw.
In Anna Loos, the film has an amazing slice of eye-candy, and she flaunts her voluptuous figure in a wonderful seduction scene. The script succeeds in giving her and all the other background characters a unique personality and you do find that you what them to survive. The assailant’s identity is revealed quite early in the runtime, but there’s still some revelations before the final credits roll and the film’s unique structure is one of the biggest pluses.
Anatomy is a slickly directed, stylish horror film with brilliant dialogue and personalities that we care about. Make sure that you get the subtitled copy though as I’ve heard that it was weakly dubbed for global distribution. Still, I’m extremely pleased that I watched it again and I’m sure that you’ll enjoy it too.
Killer Guise: √
Final Girl √√√√
Christina’s House 1999
Directed by: Gavin Wilding
Starring: Brad Rowe, Allison Lange, Chelsea Hobbs
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I bet that many an unsuspecting ‘victim’ was fooled into parting with their pennies by the excellent work of the marketing bod that promoted the UK release of Christina’s House. The front cover boldly boasts that it’s ‘from the hit-making writers of Poltergeist’, backed with a quote from ‘Videoworld’ that reads – ‘Fantastic! It will scare the hell out of you’. Flip to the reverse and we’re informed that star, Brad Rowe is the new Brad Pitt or Leonardo Di Caprio, and underneath we learn that this is a ‘must see Box Office smash‘. But the real hyperbole came from the ingenious warning box, which states that we should, be prepared for the most terrifying 92 minutes of our lives‘. I was starting to wonder why I hadn’t seen or heard of this before? I mean it sounds just amazing…
Credit has to be given to the peeps over at Xscapade video, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much brouhaha. The extravagant quality of their work made me think about hiring them to do an advert for my blog. You know something like, “Pulitzer prize winning author, fresh from curing a deadly disease, writes a blog about the cinema defining genre, ‘The Slasher.” Anyway, the box-art made me believe that this was some kind of creepy Amityville spin-off, involving a spooky haunted house and plenty of ghosts and demonic horror. The truth though is that this is just a lamer than lame Scream wannabe that’s about as ‘terrifying’ as Thomas the Tank Engine.
Unsurprisingly it’s about a girl called Christina that lives in a house. Only joking, there’s a tiny bit more to it than that. Thing’s look like they could get tricky for our Chrissie, when we witness a jolly cookie sales girl getting shaken to death by an unseen assailant outside the front door of the titular abode. How he actually broke her neck by wiggling her hips was something that I still haven’t quite grasped; but hey let’s not be picky. So we soon learn that there’s a psycho up to no good in the hood and a standard murder-mystery plot ensues. Local residents begin getting offed in diluted ways and it looks like Christina’s stumbled across a spot of bother…
The only thing that’s worse than an overlong movie is an overlong boring movie, which Christina’s House strives it’s darnedest to be. It’s more like a sleep-inducing teen drama than a horror flick, because the scares amount to little more than a mysterious sandwich appearing in the kitchen or the whereabouts of the heroine’s diary. Brad Pitt, sorry, Brad Rowe, was about the best performer on offer, but I really don’t think that Mr. Jolie himself has got to watch his back just yet. (Even if the blurb on the back of the box tries desperately to convince you otherwise. – You should’ve seen what they said about Lange!)) I really couldn’t for the life of me work out what the BBFC saw here to give this an 18 rating? You’re likely to find more gore in an episode of Scooby Doo, because all the murders are committed somewhat leisurely off screen. We do get treated to a ‘crack’ in the soundtrack on the odd occasion, but I’m afraid that’s your lot folks. To make matters worse for exploitation buffs, there’s only one extremely brief flash of boobies too. :( (Great boobies though ;) )
The main players that guide us through the story are all written to look slightly deranged, in an attempt to give us a ‘compelling’ mystery. If you’re ten-years old or in effect have the IQ of a child that age, then their efforts may well have paid off. (Everyone else will have worked it out by the 22 minute mark). Gavin Wilding – who was also behind The Wisher – has no idea how to build pace and most of the runtime moves painfully s.l.o.w.l.y. So much so, that I had a job to watch it to the end without my mind wandering to such topics as, how many calories are in a Krispy Kreme doughnut?. Damn, I’m on my ninth one now. To be fair, the conclusion had an interesting twist, but again, it was just sloppily handled. Stuart Allison, an experienced screenwriter, must’ve stormed through this one without even going over the first draft. He should have known better.
In fact, when I think about it, the whole plot barely made a lick of sense. I mean, how the hell did the killer manage to turn Christina’s house into a prison with unbreakable windows and centrally lockable doors, without any of the family noticing? Where did he get the money to do such a thing? And how could the Sheriff be so deplorably inept that he would ignore plenty of blatant signs that something’s not quite right inside the property that he’s meant to be watching. He even questions a hammer that’s thrown through a window, which lands directly in front of him! You’d find more character development in an execution vid and we don’t even find out any reasoning for the majority of the story’s twists. The killer’s motivation must have been the only mystery part that was focussed on, because we get no clue as to why she did it. At the end we learn that she was insane (obviously), but I’m still waiting for an explanatory scene. Perhaps the wrath of the actors at the desperation of their agents to cast them in this turkey was the true reason for the massacre? Could be possible.
The end result is truly a bit of an enigma, because it must be the one time that I’ve watched a film and not written down even one redeeming feature in my note pad. It’s predictable, lame and boring rubbish. It’s not even really much of a horror flick. Slasher fans won’t like it because there is no actual slashing and If you are looking for a whodunit then I’ve already said that you’ll be disappointed. For all the boasts about its great screenplay, it turns out to be more of a ‘pick one of the cast as the killer’ than ‘solve the puzzle’ and has no true logic. Even the few bizarre hints of supernatural that are hinted immediately disappear when the nut job is revealed to be just a normal guy. I mean, I’m all for slow boiling suspense thrillers, but this just sucks. Sorry.
Christina’s house should be boarded up and abandoned…
Final Girl: √
Directed by: Greg Huson
Starring: Scott Weinger, Lindsey Mckeon, Holly Towne
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Blood looks great on sand and blood looks great on snow. Also, psycho killers look awesome in ski masks!
Shredder is one of the more recent ‘icy’ slashers that has taken the genre’s trappings to the slopes in order to give us some frosty set-pieces. We’ve been there before of course in one of my favourite eighties cheeseballs, Iced from 1988. Other snowbound entries include Ghostkeeper, Satan’s Blade and I spent ages hunting this one out only to find that it’s not a slasher at all, but Demon Possessed is also set in frosty surroundings. After the 1996 Scream revolution, every genre piece to hit shelves seemed intent on mimicking Craven’s satirical self-reference wit. The success of that feature and the new found popularity of masked killers and whodunit plots meant that filmmakers were happy to just cut, copy and paste with little invention or creativity. That was the general theme of things for a while in slasherland, but over the past couple of years, most of the entries that have populated the cycle have looked back to the retro classics for inspiration. Greg Huson’s opus was released in the year 2003 and therefore is most definitely one for the Scream crowd. It doesn’t take us long at all to figure out that we are once again in the realms of ‘know the rules’ parody.
A gang of snowboard ‘dudes’ and a couple of hotter than a solarium Chicas head off to a secluded resort to do some shredding. Upon arrival they soon notice that the locals don’t take too kindly to them due to a fatal accident that occurred on the site sometime earlier and was blamed on a group of snow boarders. Before long a killer with a black mask and ski suit is stalking the slopes and killing off the posse in imaginative ways. Who could be behind the murders?
Unlike the majority of features that had been released on this kind of budget around this time, Shredder was shot on film and the visual benefits are obvious from the off. The colours are vivid and crisp and the white slopes were gleaming like tinsel on my plasma. We jump straight in to the action with a sequence that I can only describe as ‘ski and slash’ and there’s an awesome decapitation that sets things off in brilliant fashion. The copy that I own is the UK DVD and what is interesting to note is that it was given a 15 rating. I was quite amazed by that, because there’s a fair amount of goo and I have still not completely recovered from the BBFC’s Gestapo-like crimes to the horror genre during the video nasty days. I must admit that this was the first example that I came across of the organisation’s newly found leniency, and it was great to see.
We soon get to meet the characters of the story and this time around, they seem particularly clichéd. There’s the slutty girl (in fact we have two), a nerd who knows the rules (he says to the maniac that he can’t be killed because he’s a virgin etc), sensitive guy, obvious final girl and they even chuck in a European stud with a really bad accent. Was this in place of the token black dude? Well you’d have to ask the screenwriter. The point of Scream was to mock the overuse of repetitive trappings that have characterised the category since 1978. That was the genius of Kevin Williamson’s screenplay; that was the gimmick. To make a movie that takes that idea and does exactly the same thing that Craven’s film was illustrating is somewhat missing the point. I didn’t particularly feel that we were in the hands of someone who had a true knowledge of the genre prior to 1996. There was a shower stalking sequence that I guess was a homage to Psycho, but I got the feeling that the whole movie was somewhat shallow.
It’s impossible for me to watch this without comparing it to Iced and there’s no doubting that Shredder boasts a much higher level of technical ability. It makes the most of its decent budget and we do actually get to see some killings on the slopes. It doesn’t come close to capturing the charm of the aforementioned flick though and that’s why it doesn’t reach the same cult status. Even the good guys here came across as conceited and there was no one to relate to or root for. Greg Huson has stated that he hadn’t previously seen Jeff Kwitny’s ski-bound cheese-bucket and so we can’t look for inspirations from that feature here. Well that’s a real shame, because his movie was crying out for a Carl-type character or hell, even a Jeanette.
Recently, I was invited to give a speech at a film festival in London in regards to the attraction of action movies. My point was that not every film has to have a moral to its story or a synopsis that makes you analyse yourself and the world around you for days after. Cinema is all about moods, and sometimes humans just want to escape reality and spend a couple of hours watching something that excites them without altering perceptions. We walk out after the final credits and leave it all behind us and get on with our lives. A quick snack of escapism is like a dose of vitamins for everyone, no matter where you are from. Shredder has a couple of ingenious killings, some cool gore, a fun score and a lightweight mystery that allows you to feel like a mastermind when you work it out in thirty minutes. Therefore as a timewaster, it is almost everything that you need it to be. Its only downfall is that it lacks any kind of charisma and that my friends is equally as important.
I watched Shredder when it first came out ten years ago and enjoyed it a whole lot more. Did it catch me this time in a bad or tired mood? I hope not, I always try to evaluate things with an open mind. I want to state clearly that Shredder is a good effort that does the basics right. It’s just that I found it to be wanting on a few levels. There’s enough here for you to enjoy though, so I say still give it a shot.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl: √
Head Cheerleader Dead Cheerleader 2000
Directed by: Jeff Miller
Starring: Tasha Biering, Dan Roach, Debbie Rochon
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Every slasher reviewer on the planet has had their say about the amount of movies that ripped off Halloween. It’s really not that hard to believe, because Carpenter’s classic is exactly that – a classic. What is a tad more confusing is how a title as unexceptional as Slumber Party Massacre managed to rack up an almost equal amount of copycats? I mean, I did quite like Amy Jones’ trashy cheeseball. It was fun and fairly gory in its uncut entirety. With that said though, for me, it wasn’t any more deserving of a legion of imitators than Final Exam, He Knows you’re Alone or even Graduation Day.
Head Cheerleader Dead is another that goes for the Slumber Party style of slasher tribute and it does so on a penny sweet budget. It was released by Film 2000 in the UK and before they went bust (unsurprisingly), they graced our shelves with quintessential features such as, Camp Blood, Carnage Road, Paranoid and Granny. Cheerleader was amongst good company…
Heather (Tasha Biering) is the head cheerleader for her college team. It’s Halloween and the night before a really important game, so she decides to go home early and get some rest. She just wants a quiet night in front of the television. Her peace is broken when Coach Reiley (Debbie Rochon) tells her that they’ve found her friend’s decapitated body. Suddenly she begins receiving anonymous phone calls from someone that claims to be killing off all the cheerleaders. Unable to leave her house, Heather begins to question all of the people around her because she knows that the killer must be one of them…
At a guess, a shocking seventy percent of this flick takes place inside the protagonist’s living room as she engages in moronic conversation on the telephone with the cranky killer. Yes, it’s as brain numbing as it sounds, as we stare unwillingly at four cramped walls and a couch for 80 minutes. The only time that we are allowed to witness a change of scenery is when the maniac strikes and commits his lame murders, which if you were reading that last sentence a tad too quickly, please go back and make sure that you note the word ‘lame’ as the descriptive term. We get decapitated heads, feet and boobs(!) that are so obviously plastic that it’s painful. It’s like director Jeff Miller walked in to a store, stole a mannequin and took it home to chop off the limbs. He then painted the ends red and ta-da! Special effects completed for his movie…
Not only is watching Head Cheerleader a painstakingly arduous task, it’s also an incredibly boring one. You won’t get any thrills from trying to guess who’s killing everyone, because suspects are mentioned that we never get to meet and characters turn up only to disappear just as quickly. Admittedly, I didn’t work the ‘twist’ out, but that’s probably because it could’ve been absolutely anyone. Do you have an alibi? Also, I was tidying up my room whilst this was on, because it was far too tedious to just sit up and watch without constantly feeling the need to fiddle elsewhere. The psycho phones Heather an astronomical amount of times, meaning that towards the end of the run time I was so pig-sick of that ‘Ring Ring’ sound effect that I noticed that I had drunk almost an entire bottle of vodka in an attempt to numb the weariness. Then to add insult to injury, just when I thought that I’d finally escaped the irritation, it played again over the end credits. Aaaargh!
Basically this is just an inane mix of parts from much better movies. Jeff Miller rips off everything from Baby Doll Murders (the killer leaves a doll as a calling card) to Black Christmas(the stalker constantly phoning his victims). He even goes as far as to steal Halloween’s theme song for his trailer! Akkad should have sued him and maybe saved an hour and a half of my time.
Something this bad is always going to be amusing in an inadvertent kind of way and luckily there are a few giggles to be had at the expense of the horrid actors and dumb scripting. One of the most comical is when the fat Sheriff is informed that the coach may have been murdered, but says he can’t send anyone out because he’s busy. The killer calls up to taunt his intended targets and mutters poetry that sounds like it was written by Oliverio, my nineteen-month-old son. `Violets are blue, roses are red, tonight you two are gonna be dead!’ But nothing can top what Heather says as she finally comes face to face with the killer. `Don’t mess with me, I’m a cheerleader'(!) Oooooooh, scary. Indeed.
In the opening credits, we hear a message that was allegedly left on the director’s answer phone from a concerned mother of a majorette. It says something about her being ‘disgusted’ and if anything happens to her daughter due to a maniac being influenced by what he saw here, then ‘she’ll sue’. Here’s what she really should have said. `Jeff, I’m disgusted that you can insult the wonder that is DVD and in effect my intelligence with this horrid, repulsive dollop of bin-bag lining. I will only be happy if you rectify your mistake and withdraw as many copies from shelves as humanly possible’
At one point in the runtime, one of the characters says, whilst speaking about horror flicks – ‘there’s nothing wrong with a bit of gratuitous violence‘. He speaks the truth. If handled properly, it can be a whole lot of fun. But this is for sure not an example of well crafted horror and should be given to Nasa and shot into space. Vulgar dialogue, pitiful performances and hellish direction add up to a poor excuse for entertainment. In other words it sucks like an industrial strength vacuum cleaner.
You would be extremely hard pressed to locate a bigger hive of scum and villainy and even the bizarre sight of Debbie Rochon getting one of her perfectly pert silicone lady lumps chopped off couldn’t save it. As a wise old garbage-man once said, ‘It’s elementary dear Watson. This is rubbish…’
Final Girl: √
Urban Legends: Final Cut 2000
Directed by: John Ottman
Starring: Jennifer Morrison, Eva Mendes, Hart Bochner
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
In a film packed to the brim with clichés, one character uses an equally common proverb at one point, ‘Those that can’t do teach’. Perhaps the more fitting one would have been, ‘An optician is no good when you have a toothache‘ but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
The first Urban Legend was two things that the slasher genre needs, pretty darn good and very successful, so a sequel had to be on the cards. It’s never the best sign though when a second chapter doesn’t include the survivors from número uno, so instead they just brought back who they could and set it as an unrelated story in the same fictional universe. They even mention the earlier massacre, but by then it had also become an urban legend due to a cover up. Good gimmick.
At Alpine University or ‘the greatest film school in the world’ the students are each working on their own project to be entered in to ‘the Hitchcock awards’, which will give the winner a shot at Hollywood recognition. Junior director Amy Mayfield soon notices that her crew members are disappearing. Could it be that there’s a murderer on campus or is it all a prank?
The Final Cut looks the business with its high production values and expensive sets. Whilst some of the best slasher pictures of the category were either shot on unlicensed property or anywhere cheap that could be found, Ottman had a whole Bell Tower built at the same cost that was spent on the entire production of Honeymoon Horror, The Prey, Halloween and Friday the 13th. The film opens with a campy, fleetingly photographed sequence that unleashes some stylish strobe flashing lights and break-neck editing. Set aboard a plane, Ottman creates an atmosphere of claustrophobia, panic and desolation to great effect. It turns out that it’s a film within a film and even though that was supposed to be the first building block or an example of the director’s talents, unfortunately the picture had already peaked by that point.
It’s interesting nowadays to look back at these late nineties slashers and spot the fresh-faced newcomers who would go on to a big career (hey it’s Eva Mendes!) and there’s an extremely solid cast at work here. Whilst a slasher of old was really all about the director, these big financed tributes are credited with good dramatics from real performers. There was some nice bonding between the players and they were quite well-developed. I didn’t feel that I could relate to the good guys here so much, but that was more the fault of a lightweight script than bad acting.
I mentioned earlier about an optician doing nothing for a toothache and Ottman may well be a great editor and composer, but in the hot seat he doesn’t even get anywhere near his franchise predecessor, Jamie Blanks. There are numerous occasions that came so close to building suspense, but his framing is wasteful and his attempts are poorly delivered. Let’s take the first killing for example. A girl wakes up in a bathtub full of ice and notices she’s a kidney light. The killer is in the next room and unaware that she’s conscious. She accidentally slams the door shut, which alerts his attention and the bogeyman races after her and begins smashing through the paneling. Recipes for building suspense don’t come much easier to prepare than that, but the pace didn’t change at all.
There’s another great opportunity where a grim tone is built whilst the nut job is searching for our heroine, whilst she is hiding on a soundstage. Clearly frustrated, he begins playing low chords with one finger on a piano in order to unsettle his intended victim, which gives the sequence a morbid and pulsating atmosphere. It could have been really good from then on, but Ottman doesn’t really take it anywhere. Loretta Devine returns to the series as the characteristic campus security guard, but even after being stabbed and shot last time around for not believing the stories that there was a killer on the loose, she does exactly the same thing this time around and the implausibility of her actions is no less than infuriating. Ottman references Hitchcock with both the dialogue of his characters and again verbally in his final scene. For me, the best homage that he could have paid was by attempting to deliver a similar flair for suspense, which he never captures.
I couldn’t write a review of this feature without mentioning the fencing mask, which we’ve seen before in Graduation Day. Obviously, it looks better here, but I wonder if Ottman had intentionally borrowed it from that cheese feast from 1981 or it was just the recommendation of someone in wardrobe?
I guess that the mystery is good enough and it all ends with a Tarantino-esque multi-gun stand-off, which was fun; but it closes with an unshakeable feeling of hollowness. There’s too much missing here that made the first one a blast; the most obvious being the alluring sense of fun.There’s a big enough body count, some nice photography and the odd great idea that is commendable. Unfortunately, the punctured plot, lack of excitement and silly motive leave it being no more or no less than average. Not surprising that Ottman never directed again, but instead stuck to what he knows best.
Final Girl: √√
Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre 2000
Directed by: Tim Beckley
Starring: Debbie Rochon, Stephanie Hudson, DiDi
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So here we have Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre. Let’s say that again, SANDY HOOK LINGERIE PARTY MASSACRE! What do you think of when you see that combination of words? What’s in a title anyway? Does it have a cryptic meaning? Who is Sandy Hook? What on earth am I writing about? Let’s move on…
Ok this is another of the many party-massacre flicks that includes the likes of: Bikini Party Massacre (Not to be confused with Bikini Girls on Ice), Bachelor Party Massacre, Rock Party Massacre, Pajama Party Massacre and the daddy of them all, Slumber Party Massacre.
Very hard to find on any format (I picked up mine in Moscow), Sandy Hook is another Debbie Rochon carried feature. Let me explain what I mean. Ms Rochon has built a successful career on being a half decent actress with an awesome pair of boobs. What she specialises in is attaching her name to modestly funded features, turning up for a second (usually to expose aforementioned ‘twin peaks’) and then disappearing with a healthy paycheque. Everyone’s a winner though, because she gets paid, the producers get a fairly experienced name to place above their title and her fans get to appreciate those two bad boys in all their bra-less glory. As she generally sticks to no-budget efforts, it’s fairly obvious that she has done her share of slashers. Check out: Final Examination, American Nightmare, Bleed, Bikini Bloodbath, Blood Relic and Santa Claws. Basically she’s the Linnea Quigley of the noughties.
I have a six hour train journey before me from London to Newcastle and on my fully charged iPad, I have Massacre at Rocky Ridge, Porn Shoot Massacre and this little beauty. These are three zero finance and totally obscure entries to our beloved grouping. Let’s see how I get on with the first…
Some strippers head off to a seaside resort for s break. They are told the legend of a lighthouse keeper whose reckless drinking caused a ship to crash, killing close to one hundred sailors. Soon after, he killed himself and was never brought to trial. Rumour has it that when a storm comes, he stalks the area looking for revenge and many people have disappeared. As night falls, the girls are chased and systematically slaughtered by a loon in a gimp suit.
Oh boy… Right, so I’ve had my say on lunch-money productions before, but just to recap I will tell you that as a critic, I appreciate that it’s hard to make a decent feature when you’ve got no money. I have kept this in mind and will only rate this on what I thought the crew did right and wrong. So we have our six (or seven?) strippers. They have the boobies for sure, but aside from Debbie Rochon, they also have the bellies to match. Here begins the film’s fundamental flaw.
It’s not just because these girls are awful actresses. We are used to that by now. It’s just that they’re incredibly unappealing and a runtime filled with them gets very long and very boring very quickly. To break it down: We get to watch fat chicks dancing on a bridge for ten minutes. Then we get fat chicks playing beach-ball for the same length of time. Then, said fatties go to an abandoned amusement park for a while and then we see them make dinner. By this point in the runtime, I was literally screaming: “F**king slaughter them already!” Perhaps the film’s kill shot in terms of a decent ranking comes during the lightweight lesbian scene, which could in effect be a sumo match. Yes, it’s poor; – astronomically so. Also, Dios mío, I didn’t mention the nipple and tongue piercing scene…errrrrghhhh!
After an hour (you read right – a full sixty minutes) the masked killer turns up (awesome mask btw) and we get down to business. Most of the murders are too dark to see but one of them is ok. There’s a twist that you couldn’t give a flying flip about and an open ending too. The maniac uses a hook-like weapon and stalks using typical POV. A film really has to be abysmal to get slated by me on this site, because I always hope to uncover a title that no one else has given time to. This however is most DEFINITELY not one of those.
So what did Mr.Creepo (The film’s producer and a guy so egotistical that he makes his characters discuss whether they would go to bed with him) – do wrong? Well, in the UK, they have the descriptive term ‘chav’. If that word is unfamiliar to you, then this explanation will not be. ‘Chavs’ are people generally aged between fifteen and thirty-five who don’t work, live off benefits, have minimal education, wear baseball caps, swear a lot and generally offer nothing except a tax burden to society. They reside in every country and are easier to find than you might think. I don’t like them, you don’t like them and we certainly don’t care to watch them in a movie. Now although I can’t say for sure that these girls are actually chavs; I can dislike their vulgar talk, lack of class and generally low-level conveyance. The plot could have instead tried to build personalities that we care about, but there’s not even one.
Every second word from their mouths is either about sex or their lady lumps, which to be fair is all that they have to offer. It’s perhaps worth noting that Hook is billed as a horror/comedy, but the only horror to be found here is the inane attempt every now and then to be humorous. These ‘jokes’ are so unevenly placed that they make little sense.
There is one, believe it or not, very good shot. It shows the killer creeping up behind our final girl, who as you may have already guessed happens to be Ms Rochon. One and only the one decent moment in a hundred and twenty-five minute flick is just not good enough and the film, like the aforementioned chav, has nothing left to redeem it.
A wiseman once said that the key to a good life is making the most of every minute because as each one passes, you never get them back. I urge you not to waste yours on Sandy Hook as it is without a shadow of a doubt as rancid as a night in a decaying concrete tomb. Forget it
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl: √√
Directed by: Kimble Randall
Starring: Molly Ringwald, Jennifer Napier, Erika Walters
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Funny how opinions change over the years, isn’t it? I wonder if critics like Ebert and the like watch movies for a second time and find something more that they missed initially? I saw Cut when it was released in 2000 and I was nineteen years old. I had followed its production and had hoped it would be as good as the snippets that I’d read had made it sound, because thanks to some brilliant marketing, it had been covered everywhere that I looked. When I received my copy however, the only feeling was one of disappointment. Was it my expectations being too high? I cant be sure, but this time around, some twelve years later, I had a totally different experience.
On the set of the eighties slasher movie, ‘Hot Blooded!’ director Hilary Jacobs gets tired of the constant mistakes from actor Brad and she fires him on the spot and embarrasses him in front of his colleagues. Later he heads over to ask for another chance, but she insults him even more, which makes him go berserk and he kills her. He is prevented from going on a further spree by the quick thinking instincts of Vanessa Turnbill, the lead actress, who gives him a rapid tracheotomy, which ends in Brad being seemingly electrocuted. It seems however that his death leaves a curse on Hot Blooded and all who try to watch or remake it.
Present day Australia, a group of drama pupils attempt to finish the film for their graduation. They bring back Vanessa Turnbill to co-star and put together a cast, ignoring the rumours of the hex. Almost as soon as they arrive on the secluded location, a masked killer begins to murder the members of the crew. But how can they kill something that’s already dead?
Interestingly enough, I watched this the day after Fright Flick and coincidentally the two features are quite similar. Both place their story on the production of a fictional slasher movie and they have the same smooth blend of graphic horror and witty scripting. Cut is generally considered as Australia’s attempt at creating an entry in to the catalogue of Scream inspired new age slasher flicks, but it actually takes a slightly different route in the delivery of its plot. Whereas Urban Legend, Cherry Falls – actually almost every slasher released since 1996 – aimed to imitate Kevin Williamson’s heavy use of mystery in working out the killer’s identity, David Warner’s screenplay owes more to its cousins of old by giving us a REAL bogeyman and one that we know about from the start. The killer is blessed with a strong presence, excellent guise and neat weapon of choice (a modified garden shear). He stalks and heavy breathes using the methods of old; the ones that Wes Craven didn’t reference when he relaunched the genre. There’s a great sequence when he attacks two characters that have locked themselves in a car and instead of the usual brick through the window technique or pitchfork through the roof, he just takes some gasoline and sets it on fire!
The film that they are shooting incorporates a maniac that wears the same guise and mask as the actual killer, so there are a few times when the characters mistake the psychopathic stalker for their buddy right up to the moment that he draws his weapon and swipes. This leads to an amusing scene when the two ‘bogeymen’ come face to face (or mask to mask) – Guess who comes off worse? In fact, the screenwriter showed a good flair for black humour, especially by doing something that many people with a dislike of corny pop music have wanted to do for years – cut out Kylie Minogue’s tongue. No, seriously! The few players that do live long enough to realise that they’re facing doom put up a really good fight and it makes the deaths more exciting. I thought Erika Waters’ pre-demise performance was great and I was disappointed that she was written out so quickly. She seemed to be a good actress and by far the most beautiful of the females, so it’s a surprise that she hasn’t done anything else since. The dramatics are slasher-standard, meaning they’re ok for this kind of film, but credit to the producer for getting a couple of big names involved, including of course the ten-minute cameo from Kylie. Jessica Napier was good as the brave final girl and Molly Ringwald shows her ability as the spunky anti-heroine, creating a persona that we wanted to survive despite her non-endearing arrogance.
The movie is slickly produced with a good score and neat soundtrack including classic Split Enz hit, ‘I Got You’. The attempt at maintaining a momentum is continuous and the director pulls off some good stuff. The deaths are numerous and creative, but I was disappointed that they didn’t do more with the make-up effects. Cut plays like a R rated feature and lacks the ambition to put on screen the initiative that had been dreamed up during the writing. There’s a decapitation and a neat death where a girl gets her head squished by a large power tool, but you don’t really see any of it and the effects amount too a gallon or so of fake blood. It also gets very silly toward the climax as a character that was presumed dead reappears despite having a pipe through his throat, but the way that they finally stop the maniac is intriguing and well conveyed.
I don’t expect to get scared by slasher films of modern times and I have said previously, they are a similar cinematic experience to chick flicks. Nowadays, We know what to expect and we realise that the acting won’t be great, but we still want to have some fun and see people get squished. Cut delivers as a good time popcorn flick and it does nothing wrong if that’s what you’re looking for. By no means a classic, but I have most definitely changed my first opinion.
Final Girl: √√√
Killer Instinct 2000
Directed by: Ken Barbet
Starring: Corbin Bernsen, Dee Wallace, Paige Moss
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Killer Instinct opens with a horde of vigilantes chasing a bloodied someone through some smartly lighted woodland. After stopping to stab an unfortunate fellow that has his back turned, the assailant is eventually caught and overpowered. He must’ve really upset these townsfolk because out comes the noose and the unidentified man is hung by the neck until the screen fades.
Clichés abound when the words 15 years later pop up on the screen and we’re introduced to a troupe of banal teens that discuss a massacre that occurred that many years earlier, which it seems was all the work of the aforementioned guy that we saw strung up in the pre-credits. (Explanation is not the film’s strong point) Meanwhile, we are given a sub-plot concerning a businesswoman (Dee Wallace Stone) who wants – or is trying to purchase – some property from a ‘desperate for the pay-cheque’ Corbin Bernsen. Anyway back to the teens, who are now talking about spending the night in the abandoned asylum where the slayings took place a decade and a half earlier. Their posse consists of the all the typical ingredients that are now solidly encrypted into the slasher movie guidebook: annoying guy, slut, randy couple, token (and first to be killed) black dude and girl that can sense the danger that lies ahead. Come on, by now you know the drill!
They finally make their way into the desolate building, which really looks a lot more like a normal house. It’s also worth noting that for a place that has been left to rot for fifteen years, it’s extremely well preserved. There are no light bulbs, so an unusually large amount of candles give us our illumination, but we don’t know where they got them from, because I didn’t see any of the gang with so much as a rucksack. Meanwhile unbeknownst to the youngsters, their chances of leaving have just taken a knock, due to the doors and windows being mysteriously locked.
After a while, it’s decided that a game is in order, preferably one that’ll split the group up so they can wander off to their doom. They choose to take off their underwear and put it in a bag so one of their number can hide them around the location before they all head off to find it. Imagine an Easter Egg hunt, but without the eggs… just grubby undies…hmmm. Ok… But before they leave, Wendy (Paige Moss) digs through the briefs and shows them to everyone so that they can all have a jolly good giggle. (I am not kidding, this actually happened). That makes these guys the first slasher victims that I’ve seen with underwear fetishes.
It’s hardly shocking when we learn that a masked killer seems to think that their numbers need trimming and sets up some death traps around the place so that they have to fight for survival
Killer Instinct boasts some competent photography and the darkened set locations look fairly spooky. The methods of murder are authentic and also a bit more creative than I was expecting. My favourite was when a guy lying on a bed was showered with broken glass from a trap door above him. One piece slices straight through his stomach and is next seen sticking to the floor below the mattress. There was also a smart decapitation and the use of a venomous snake, which is at least, a new one on me.
When the killer is unmasked at the end, you’ll be fairly surprised at the conclusion. I must admit that it wasn’t one that I’d have immediately guessed. Keeping that in mind though, it has to be said that it was rather impossible for him to commit the murders before changing clothes inexplicably quickly so as to keep up the appearance of innocence. Credit should be given to the director for taking out the most annoying character first. If we’d have had to suffer his painful gurning any longer, I’m sure pressing the eject switch would’ve become a more burning temptation.
‘Every cliché has a grain of truth in it’ mouths one dim-witted character, which could only have been included in the script as an attempt to excuse the director’s blatant thefts from previous genre pieces. Here it looks like he’s been watching the housebound slashers of yesteryear like House of Death and House on Sorority row, using them as subject matter for this obvious imitation.
The cast is just what you’ve come to expect from this grade of movie. You know, lame, untalented and completely uninspired. Paige Moss was probably the most convincing, but she was still weak, which left no one that we could really root for. Bernsen and Stone were equally mundane and were both really slumming it and adding yet another nail to their rapidly sinking career coffins.
Generally, I can live with average dramatics, but the film’s most unforgivable flaw is its horrendously slow pacing. The two separate plot lines seem as if they have very little in common with one another and I found it hard to keep track of the names of any of the characters, because they were so instantly forgettable. I really couldn’t find anything to be excited about in either the failed attempts at suspense or the leisurely paced showdown. At one point the house caught fire, which sparked some amusing shots of a scaled model burning that were so obviously fake, it was painful. All this adds up to a picture that will bore you to tears before the final credits have rolled and therefore, it’s not really worth checking out
I can’t really think of many pluses, except to say that at least this movie was more an out and out slasher than yet another ‘I know the rules’ semi-parody. I believe that director Ken Barbet was actually aware of the titles of the boom years and really wanted to make his own inclusion to line up alongside the old-skool heavyweights instead of just trying to be clever and mock them. But with that said, it’s offerings as mediocre as Killer Instinct that are killing off the stalk and slash genre. Although famous for its staggering repetition, the loveable sub-category needs ambition and reinvention if it’s going to survive many more years. I bought this because I read somewhere that it was gory with a healthy production budget. Neither of those comments are true though and it’s pretty forgettable.
Oh and don’t trust the cover picture. There are no skeletons here…
Final Girl √√