The Night Brings Charlie 1990
Directed by: Tom Logan
Starring: Chuck Whiting, Al Arasim, Keith Hudson
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The Night Brings Charlie… In the place where I grew up, it most certainly did. And still does, but that’s beside the point.
There’s an amazing true story about a guy named Terry Wallis, who on Friday the 13th of July 1984, after celebrating the birth of his first born child, was involved in a terrible traffic accident. He was seriously injured and in a coma and the doctors gave him little chance of recovery. His family thought otherwise and every other weekend, they would take him out to their farm and speak with him, in the hope that their voices would stir their relative from his slumber. Nineteen, yes nineteen years later and believe it or not, on Friday the 13th, he regained full consciousness and said the words,’milk’ and ‘Pepsi’ to his mother who was beside him at his bedside. What a fantastic tale and a great example of the strength of human spirit. He went on to make up for lost time getting to know his daughter who was by then nineteen years old. Funnily enough, he still believed it was 1984.
Tom Logan’s slasher also comes across like it had been comatose for a few years. Despite its 1990 release date, it looks and feels like it was produced no later than 1983. The success of A Nightmare on Elm Street saw obvious changes begin appearing within the slasher genre, but none of those updates can be seen here. It’s like the last seven-years never happened for the crew involved in this one and much like Mr Wallis, they still thought that they were living in the early eighties.
A small town called Pakoe is being terrorised by a vicious serial killer. Sporting the traditional Southern loon garb of a lumberjack shirt and potato sack over his head, he is driving round late at night, killing youngsters and collecting their decapitated heads. The Police are stumped by the amount of teenagers left with spurting stumps, so they are put under huge pressure to bring the maniac to justice.
The only reason I wrote that this looks like it was filmed in ’83 and I didn’t go as far back as ’80 is because director Tom Logan has CLEARLY cut and pasted a scene from Friday the 13th Part III (1982). Three leather-clad bikers get chopped up in a barn by the hooded killer and the overall set-up is almost identical. In fact, many of the best parts of The Night Brings Charlie have been seen previously in either Halloween or Friday. There’s the old ‘killer seen standing by car and next look a second later he’s gone’ chestnut and they chuck in a shower stalking sequence just to erase any of your doubts that you are watching a stalk and slash film. The final girl is the typical shy virgin type and they even remember the essential heavy-breathing POV shot.
The Night Brings Charlie is the movie equivalent of going on a date with a girl who shows you her breasts in the first ten-minutes, but then sits across the table from you for the rest of the evening and gets the early bus home. The opening murder is gooey as hell with a great throat slicing and a gallon of blood, but the rest of them are disappointingly dry and mostly off-screen. Also, whilst on the subject of breasts, what an outstanding pair one of the chicas has; and she soaps them lovingly for an extended period during the aforementioned shower part. This scene also plays host to the strangest product placement in the history of cruddy films. Do you take a can of fizzy drink with you in the shower? Exactly. I enjoy playing the game ‘guess who financed this movie’ when watching low-budget flicks. If ever you see a car stuck behind a lorry that has a massive logo on the side in filmland, you know that there’s a marketing bod somewhere that is more hopeful than the crew that this movie is going to be a hit. Well Pepsi negotiated a strong deal with the producers of this particular slasher, because not only do we see a logo’d can in the shower when we’re looking at a far more attractive pair of cans, but we also see vending machines strategically placed more times than I could count in my drunken stupor. A spilt tin of Pepsi even saves a girl’s life! How’s that for advertising?
Like a night at an elderly relatives birthday party, Charlie has moments that are painful and a few that are actually quite good. The acting is stilted tosh, the script is most definitely a ‘first draft’ without any checks and the cinematography (or videotography) is as grainy as a sheet of sandpaper. Despite this though, Logan manages to chuck in a handful of minor jumps that are really well crafted and quite frequent. There’s also a hilarious scene where the killer alters the population number on the towns welcome board with a piece of chalk after he has dispatched another victim. Of the few attempts at humour that’s the only one of note, because the main ‘comic relief character’ is more ghastly than laugh-ly. A boisterous lump by the name of Ella, she speaks openly about her bowel movements and states stuff like, “That’s the fifteenth person today who wants your nuts on a plate”. Pure class, eh?
As I mentioned earlier, the killer goes for the burlap sack dress code, but just to add his own stamp to the kit, he also sports what looks to be a pair of swimming goggles. (?!) There’s a twist in the story that’s ok and even if the runtime lingers on the edge of tedium, it doesn’t drag enough to make you want to turn it off. I am not exactly sure why, but whilst watching, I kept thinking of Twisted Nightmare from 1987. Maybe it was the barns? Or the boobs? Or the Pepsi cans? Or the bad acting?I can’t be sure, but something here most definitely reminded me of something there.
So should you rush out madly and spend a fortune hunting this one down? Quite frankly, no. But if you come across it somewhere at an agreeable rate, you can give it a shot. Aside from an interesting killer guise and a few cans of Pepsi, there’s not much that you haven’t seen elsewhere and most likely handled much better.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Day of the Ax 2007
Directed by: Ryan Cavalline
Starring: Dustine Sardine, Eddie Benevich, Tina Krause
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Me, I’m one of the few that preferred Jason’s burlap sack to his hockey mask and I am guessing that even if I may be in the minority, I’m definitely not alone. The guise has been re-used a few times throughout the slasher genre, in titles including Malevolence, Baghead, Bagman and The Night Brings Charlie. In fact, Friday the 13th part 2 wasn’t the first to incorporate that get-up and the source of inspiration seems to stem from the proto-slasher, The Town that Dreaded Sundown released in 1976.
Day of the Ax is another that goes for a similar guise and bizarre as it may seem that was enough to make me want to see it. Again we are in the dimension of no-budget regional filmmaking, but as Freak proved in 1999, if such films play to their strengths they can actually make limitations work to their favour.
There are a few good related sites on the web, so when I launched a SLASH above, my aim was to cater for the rarer entries – the little guys, so to speak. Now this was produced in the year 2007, so you’d think that it was fairly easy to track down a copy on one of the many online retail sites. Wrong! At the time of writing, there’s not even one review on the IMDB and I can’t find any for sale anywhere. The likes of Cards of Death or Savage Vows are understandably obscure, due to their age and poor distribution. In this era of digital sharing and duplication though, I have no idea why this one has disappeared.
Three youngsters head off to a campsite to meet with a friend who has invited them up for the weekend. Unbeknownst to them, a masked murderer who killed twelve people with an axe and was never caught still stalks the grounds. They soon bump in to the menace and realise that they need to fight for their lives to escape.
The joys of technology in recent years, means that I can simply transfer a DVD to my iPad and enjoy it on my way to work, which is much better than having to wait until I get home. With Day of the Ax, I had to take two viewings, because my battery ran out before the 20 minute mark. I have noticed a trend in slasher movies that many of them start quite well, but fade around halfway through. I guess that this is because the formula is thin and just one or two good ideas are not enough to extend over a feature-length period. Ax is another of that number, because I was impressed in a big way by what I saw during the beginning, but then it all went round something of a u-bend.
It launches with a prologue that looks like a morbid HBO documentary or a Police evidence video that informs us of the previous murders of local psycho, JR Sorg. It’s a neat idea and even if it’s definitely been used before, I haven’t seen it utilised for a good while. Then a couple of unfortunate woodland walkers get slashed and there’s even one or two minor scares. I honestly could feel the chemistry of an early chapter in the Jason franchise and the bogeyman looked great in that mask as he roared and grunted like a backwoods mongrel.
It’s when the true inspirations of the feature become apparent that we really begin to slide along the slippery slopes of rubbishness. You see, I initially believed that this was another tribute to Steve Miner’s classic killer in the woods sequel, but it turns into more of an homage to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Homage? Actually, make that an unofficial remake with a few lines from Halloween chucked in. When the victims become stranded in the forest, they bump in to the killer’s brother and sister and they’re equally as twisted as the guy in the potato sack. I’m a big believer in Constantin Stanislavski’s philosophy of method acting; however I’m definitely against people watching a character and totally imitating it, which Peter Blessel (who plays JR’s sibling) clearly does. This cast is obviously locals or friends of the director, but they don’t rise to the occasion and their annoying portrayals quickly ruin any tension. The dialogue is also inane and the constant use of explicit profanity is a crime that I’m never willing to forgive. The English language is unique for its amount of word choices, so if you are seriously having to constantly use cusses; it only goes to prove your lack of intelligence, sophistication and most of all awareness of a thesaurus.
Technically we are at a crossroads here. I’m willing to overlook the continuity in the special effects, because the budget is clearly at a bare minimum. Most of them are really bad, but I was impressed by the disembowelment scene. It looks like it was edited at the nuthouse (hold on, judging by the pre-credits it was!) and despite the score being extremely impressive, the overuse of the same sound effect in places took some credit from the composer’s work. The biggest positive (and it’s a big one) is that Ryan Cavalline manages to do what very few can achieve and that is make you jump out of your seat. There are a few very credible shocks and it takes a fine sense of timing to pull those off. As a reviewer, it’s my job to criticise the quality, but I can’t take anything away from the ambition that’s on show here.
Day of the Ax is a poor movie that has moments of credibility, but not enough to deserve a viewing. There should have been more focus on the script, which is rushed and underwritten. Chances for a chase sequence are only created because the psycho family seem to share the gene of tying the poorest knots ever committed to celluloid and this method is re-used so many times that you can only worry about what they did with their shoelaces. This is most definitely aimed at exploitation fans and there’s a lengthy full frontal nudity shot within the first five minutes and some of the latter scenes owe more to the torture porn styling than they do the typical stalk and slasher. In spite of this, I don’t enjoy watching bad actors shout at each other and I don’t enjoy hearing pointless vulgarity. If those things hit your ignition switch, then by all means give this a shot.
Final Girl: √
Directed by: Charles Cullen
Starring: Ken Tignor, John Murray, Patrick O’Brien
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Oooh wee this is an obscure one! Not even listed on the IMDB and impossible to find/track down any information on, Boogieman (not to be confused with 1980′s The Bogeyman) is a trashy piece of rural filmmaking at its most cheap and most charming. I was told about it long ago by Steve Jarvis from Cinematrix films, so I tried to track it down but couldn’t even find a sniff of it for love nor money. It’s from director Charles E Cullen who has quite an impressive CV of no-budget features and he has created his own brand of humour and style of storytelling that has gained a global cult following. I managed to get in contact with him some time back and he was more than happy to send me a copy of the film and its sequel.
Now if you are fans of the slasher genre, which I am sure that you are if you are checking this site, then there’s no doubt that you have watched a low budgeted movie. Well take the most minuscule funding that you can imagine, cut it in half and then subtract another of the remaining halves and you should have a very good idea of what you are getting yourself in to with Cullen’s intriguing feature…
There’s a hooded maniac on the lose in a Southern town murdering anyone unfortunate enough to step in front of him. The Mayor wants ‘The Boogieman’ out of the way, so he hires a witch doctor and releases a criminal from the local jail to stop him. As more bodies pile up, can the two mercenaries catch him before he wipes out the entire town?
Produced in 1989, Boogieman was initially played in nightclubs in the area that it was filmed and achieved a local following that has steadily grown because it has become so impossibly rare. It was shot on film surprisingly enough, but never got picked up for distribution and was transferred to disc some ten years later. Rumour has it that it was stored in a chicken coup, which probably explains the incredibly grainy picture with a permanent line on the left side of the screen. It was filmed in colour, but the print I watched was black and white, which I believe was an effort to hide some of the wear and tear marks. It plays ok, but has a rather rugged and scruffy look about it that somewhat underlines the apparent lack of budget.
In many ways, this reminds me of Nail Gun Massacre, which is a film that has armies of admirers for the fact that its so damn amateur and hilarious with its attempts at trying to be somewhat sleazy. Well Boogieman, with all its shaky photography and mind blowingly cheesy special effects, would appeal to that kind of audience. It has some fantastic dialogue and can’t help but entertain with its delivery. I smiled like a Cheshire cat when the Mayor and the witch doctor first met the criminal that they have employed to help them put and end to the maniac’s killing spree (We know it’s him because he is described in text upon his appearance that states, ‘Jake Steel A Bounty Hunter’) The Mayor introduces him to his colleague by saying, “He has been convicted of murder, robbery and rape” To which his buddy replies, “Pleased to meet you”, as if he has just been told that he is a mechanic by trade. I also enjoyed it when one of the early body count numbers was getting out of his car and waved goodbye to his wife and said, “I’m going up the woods to kill something” (!).
There’s tonnes of violence here and a host of cheapo gore effects that brighten up the screen every 145 seconds or so throughout the movie. Although most of them are extremely fake, there is the odd decent murder (the second chainsaw gutting was awesome) and the killer gets through a humongous number of locals (I counted up to twelve before I gave up). Don’t expect any character development here though, because some of the guys and gals don’t even walk on the screen, they just literally get killed. With a budget THIS small, you can imagine it was impossible to pull off some of the death scenes and make them look realistic. I must admit that I was somewhat worried when I saw that the second on screen slaughter was being intercut with a hand drawn (in what looks like crayon) cartoon to describe what was happening, because they didn’t have the funds to display it on camera. Thankfully that gimmick is only used the once and almost every other gore effort is shown in loving black and white pot-marked footage. Two unfortunates even get covered in gasoline and set on fire!
So what else can I tell you? Well the killer looked like a real hill-billy nut with his white hood and lumberjack shirt and interestingly enough, the score was very professional and worked fine as accompaniment. It seems like they struggled a bit to stretch the plot to a feature length runtime, so there are a few mindless shots that don’t really do anything and after the tenth one, the film loses the hilarious oomph that it started out with. Oh and do we ever find out the motive behind this massive bloodbath in a backwoods West Virginia town? Of course not; the film just literally ends.
I couldn’t recommend this to you really, because it could get me thrown in to an asylum for making insane statements such as that. Make no bones about it, Boogieman is a terrible TERRIBLE movie. But you know what? I enjoyed it. It never takes itself seriously and its just a bunch of slasher fans having fun with a camera and some tomato sauce. It’s an interesting one for students and fans of rural films, but it has very little (as in nothing) in terms of professional qualities.
Friday the 13th Part II 1981
Directed by: Steve Miner
Starring: John Furey, Amy Steel, Kirsten Baker, Marta Kober
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The Friday the 13th series has become almost comedic nowadays. Long gone are the times when Jason was scary. The signature Hockey Mask has become an almost ‘loveable’ image and I read a funny comment online the other day where a girl on the IMDB was asking about generally terrifying horror films and she said, “Not little-kid stuff like Friday the 13th”. However that wasn’t always the case and Steve Miner’s pulse raising sequel is easily the best of the series. Dare I say it? It’s almost as good as Halloween (there I said it). Put it this way, if I were to be abducted by aliens and they said, “Hey earthling lead us to the best Friday film” I would offer this version in a heartbeat. This is an ideal example of what a real slasher movie should be. Fast, suspenseful, creepy and ultimately out of your seat-jumpingly scary.
Many people forget – and Kasey was brutally reminded in the opening of Wes Craven’s Scream – that Jason was nothing but an unfortunate pup in the first film that popped out of the river as a kind of joke-scare for the climax. Even the, ahem, ‘lazy’ continuity of this particular franchise could not bring Madame Voorhees back for another stab at a campsite massacre and so the screenwriters turned to her ready and willing son. I have it on good authority that a second installment was always on the cards as it was part of the initial plan when the first chapter was seeking distribution. Sean S. Cunningham passed up on the chance to return, leaving directorship to his buddy Steve Miner who was heavily involved in the development the first time around. They say that inside every producer lies an eager director and it proved to be the perfect choice, as he showed a previously unseen flair for suspense that would make this film the classic that it has become.
Five years after the now notorious Camp Blood killings, life is getting back to normal in the vicinity of Camp Crystal Lake. Paul Holt, an ambitious local, has decided to open a counselor training complex and invites some teenage applicants to begin training in the secluded location. Of course, they are not alone and before long the silhouette of a mysterious prowler is seen stalking the campsite.
Writer Victor Miller has openly admitted that the mission statement behind Friday the 13th was to literally rip-off Halloween and Carrie and make a quick buck, but it’s more visible that Steve Miner is paying homage to Carpenter’s film here than it was in the previous episode. The lengthy opening borrows heavily, especially in the POV shots of Jason stalking the house and there’s a similar mystery of keeping the killer in the shadows for the first part. You could count on ten hands the myriad of references, but one less obvious one is where Jason hides under a bed sheet and sits up (really taut sequence), which clearly mimics a scene in 1978’s slasher template-setter when Myers makes his ‘telephone line strangulation’. The fluidity of the direction is so good here though that the film stands on its own as a suspense marathon and therefore feels not so much a rip-off and more of a deep lying respect for Carpenter’s masterpiece.
Whereas later entries to the chain would seem to roll out victims just to show their face and get killed, the screenplay spends time here developing the characters and it’s one of the best things about the feature. There are some unique personalities that help to unravel the first half of the picture and I remember having such a crush on Marta Kober’s Sandra when I was thirteen that I ended up dating a girl called Tracey Coster who looked exactly like her. (I even showed her the similarities; probably not the most thoughtful thing that I have ever done.) Whilst there are no obvious weaknesses in the performances of any of the supporting characters, it’s the two leads that walk away with the biggest adulation. Amy Steel is widely regarded as the greatest final girl of all time and I don’t remember seeing many that put up such a good fight against their assailant. The later chase sequences are effective, because Ginny is markedly intelligent and doesn’t make the usual mistakes of running upstairs when the door is open or walking straight in to the bogeyman’s clutches. I also liked the child psychology angle and the quick-witted way that she momentarily disables (and almost defeats) Jason. John Furey’s Paul may not be given get the same opportunities as his co-star to shine, but without his fearsome support of our fiery heroine, we never could have seen such a pulsating showdown .
Amy Steel may deliver an almost perfect example of a woman in peril fighting back, but it is Steve Miner’s direction that is the REAL star of the show here. Each shot seems more creative than the last and he makes the most of an absolutely terrific score from Harry Manfredini. There are more popcorn-jolts in these 83 minutes than in many of the later continuations and thanks to some brilliant photography, Jason’s revelation (he had only been seen in silhouette up until that point) is well worth the anticipated wait.
Steve Miner’s focused work with Warrington Gillette and Steve Daskawisz created the most creepy and least cartoon-like Jason that later entries lost when they turned him into a marauding zombie. Ron Kurz and Phil Scuderi’s script delivers much more of a motive that is expressed with pathos by Amy Steel’s speech in the bar about his ‘child like’ mentality. He seems nowhere near as indestructible here and shows fear when he becomes the victim of defensive attacks from intended victims (the chainsaw scene for example). Obviously there’s no hockey mask and I personally prefer the potato-sack, backwoods lumber-jack get-up. This may have been lifted from The Town that Dreaded Sundown and Charles Pierce could have sued if it wasn’t for the fact that the disguise was taken from witness descriptions of the fiend from the real-life ‘Texarkana Moonlight Murders’. It worked for me, because it was obvious that a more ‘alive’ Jason could be embarrassed by his disfigured features, which added sympathy to his character and brought to mind John Hurt’s wonderful portrayal from The Elephant Man, who also wore a similar headpiece.
The only problems come not from a fault of the production team but of the bullshit work of the MPAA. There’s hardly any blood on display and you can tell (despite some decent re-editing) that the kill scenes should be longer. The most recent copy has a 15 rating in the UK, I mean how bad is that? Nowadays, it’s alright to watch Quentin Tarantino characters use a sword to dismember countless victims, or the numerous grisly murders from the SAW series, but a few outdated effects cannot be restored to Friday the 13th? I mean, really? Is Paramount really going to lose credibility for re-submitting this uncut? Come on! It looks however, like most of the footage has been destroyed and we will never get to see the movie how it was intended, which is a major disappointment. We can only live in hope, I guess… If I seriously dislike any major studio, then it is Paramount for their scalping of these, My Bloody Valentine and even Scott Spiegel’s Intruder. The twin murder of Jeff and Sandra was shown to special effects guru Greg Nicotero from KNB on video tape (maybe the only copy anywhere) and he commented that it was ‘shocking’ and that ‘the look on Sandra’s face as blood spurted from her partner’s back was horrible.’ He meant that as a compliment of course to his friend Carl Fullerton, but damn what I would give to see it
As you can tell, I love Friday the 13th Part 2. It’s a fantastic slasher movie and a fine example of everything that’s great about the genre. The only sequels I have time for are this, Zito’s ‘the final chapter’ and the incredibly cheesy part six. I would love to have not already seen this addition and could still have the opportunity to enjoy it for the first time. If you truly love your chills, grab a beer (or preferably a few Kopparbergs) some snacks, turn the lights down low, make sure you watch it with an easily scared partner and enjoy… Just enjoy!
Final Girl √√√√√