Curse of Halloween 2006
aka Into The Woods (?)
Directed by: Jeremy Isbell
Starring: Jeremy Isbell, Sherrie Wilson, Travis Azbill
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Hola a SLASH abovers! This month is our 4th birthday and today is Halloween, so I was just looking back at how we’ve celebrated this date over the past 48 months. In 2011, I posted a review of the best slasher film ever made: Halloween. I followed that a year later with the pretty decent Halloween Camp, which wiped the floor with its cruddy predecessor, Scream Bloody Murder. The choice for 2013 was an extremely obscure fan film, which was zanily titled, Friday the 13th: Halloween Night. My next annual post was the surprisingly rare and moderately appealing, Left For Dead. For the big 2015, I’m (kinda) proud to present a SLASH above‘s very first ‘no star’ movie… Yay!!
In the city where I live, there have been reports of people being spiked with hallucinogenic drugs. After watching Curse of Halloween, I woke up sweaty and couldn’t work out what day it was, where I’d been or what was my name. I was worried that I might have been a victim of a tad of inconspicuous LSD poisoning, so I decided to retrace my steps. I thought that I’d begin by re-watching this film and keep a timeline of everything that happens to see whether I’d maybe been infected by the curse…ooooooooh
We start off with a boat pulling up to a tropical coastline and the words Curse of Halloween burst on the screen in what looks like Bold Calibri font. Nope, there’s no Jack-O-Lanterns, pumpkins or typical objects reminiscent of this time of year, instead it’s a sun-kissed beach that’s accompanied with Hard Rock music. Alrighty then. Names aren’t this screenplay’s strong-suit so I’ll identify the characters (like this in brackets) that we meet so that we can reference them again as we roll. The first is an individual that has a gun to his head (Suicidal Dude) but doesn’t look particularly bothered by the fact that he wants to end it all. He mumbles some barely audible chatter about a pumpkin queen and a ghostly curse that led to the murders of all of his friends. Not only does this completely destroy the tension of guessing who may survive the oncoming events, but even on the second viewing, I couldn’t make any sense of what he was saying.
Next, we skip to an overweight male (The Driver) who is is heading along a dark road when he accidentally runs down a woman in white negligee (Negligee Chick) with a great rack. He stops the car and jumps out before picking up the injured female and taking her into a conveniently empty (and wide open) house. He leaves the stricken hottie on the sofa and goes outside to wave down a passing motorist for assistance. A six-seater pulls over to the roadside and out jump two young men. The first is later identified as Travis, whilst we’ll call the other one, Mr Ponytail, because he sports a long scruffy one. They leave their girlfriends in the vehicle and reluctantly follow The Driver who’s literally begging for help. When they enter the abode, Negligee Chick has disappeared (Like the Urban legend from The Cycle?) and Travis punches The Driver for reasons that are hard to comprehend. (Hey like the movie). Meanwhile, outside, the two girlfriends (Silicone Enhanced and Chubby) debate their current situation. Silicone Enhanced wants to get out to see what’s going on but Chubby doesn’t agree. Silicone Enhanced then sees Negligee Chick in the shadows and convinces Chubby by saying something like, “We’ll be safe if we take a flashlight.”(?) Was it a Swiss-army flashlight with a Bazooka that fights off evil demons? I don’t know. They did however feel that it would protect them, so exited the car and headed into the forest.
They stroll for a short time until they come across another large unlocked mansion. They enter and begin looking around, which made me ask, isn’t breaking and entering a crime punishable by lengthy imprisonment? Now we cut back to the six-seater and a new lass (Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket) is shown waking up on the backseat. I don’t remember seeing her there moments ago, but if she was, she’s been abandoned without so much as an ‘hasta pronto’ from her friends. Nice. Mr Ponytail, Travis and The Driver walk over to the vehicle, totally ignoring the snoozy Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket (can they see her, is she real?) and head off after their girlfriends to the other house. Once inside, Travis somehow separates from his buddies and is assaulted by a cloaked assailant (The Slasher) with a pale face. The hooded nut-job tasers him with a bolt of lighting that shoots out of the palm of his hand and looks like it was drawn on to the screen with crayon.
Now that Travis is seemingly out of the way, Mr Ponytail comes across Silicone Enhanced and starts getting it on with her after she flashes her boobs at him. This part stood out because it’s astoundingly obvious that a body double (or porn clip) was used for the nudity bit. The fact that it’s a totally different type of footage and these boobs were a gift of nature (not suspiciously pert like Silicone Enhanced’s) means they weren’t even trying to convince us of authenticity. (I’m an expert in boob analysis btw!) Next we see a poorly shot scene of Mr Ponytail getting tasered the same way that Travis did by The Slasher. Keeping in mind that Mr Ponytail and Travis have surely been dispatched, we head outside to find Silicone Enhanced back by the six-seater with Chubby. Strangely, she’s showing no recollection of the mysterious event that just occurred or why her frolic with Mr Ponytail had been halted prematurely. (Let’s be honest guys, it happens to the best of us…)
The Slasher emerges from the forest and mutters something like, “Don’t turn around”(?), before a new character that looks to be played by the same actress as Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket (I’ll call her Blonde Girl 2 without Brown Jacket) is shown strolling through the trees. Did they really re-use the same cast member to play two equally insignificant people? Well I’ve got a chance to find out because here’s Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket and she’s being dragged under a sofa, surely by The Slasher, who made it back to the house in record time. Then we see Mr Ponytail smoking a fag, but didn’t I say that he just got zapped by The Slasher…? Isn’t he dead? I guess not. Hmm… We cut back to Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket, but hold on, didn’t I say that she got dragged under a sofa? Well, she’s not under the sofa any more and looks fine exploring the house… Am I still on LSD? What’s going on here? She finds a food selection in the kitchen (looks like oven-cooked Garlic Bread and Chicken Nuggets) and heads outside to Mr Ponytail, The Driver and… Travis, who didn’t I say had been… Ah f**k it. Anyway they begin munching the freebies whilst blissfully avoiding any reference to anything that has happened previously. Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Chubby gets choked by The Slasher and locked in a room, but looks about as interested as a sleeping snail. This idiocy continues for a while, as people that we’d presumed were dead reappear and nothing makes a lick of sense.
A few minutes (that seem like years) later, a car drives by, crashes into a lamppost and we meet its occupants. There’s a pudgy dude (Big Guy) and his girlfriend who is… hey it’s Blonde Girl 2 without Brown Jacket. How could it be that she’s just pulled up in a car if we’d already seen her strolling nearby a few minutes ago… I give up. We now learn that she actually has a name though, which is Ashley. Mr Ponytail (remember him) gets accidentally stabbed by Silicone Enhanced, but then shows up without so much as a scratch a little later. Why doesn’t anyone stay dead, dammit? Travis and Big Guy see a load of stuff that I guess is meant to be quite freaky, whilst The Slasher murders Silicone Enhanced by throwing her off a cliff. A few more silly things happen and The Slasher reveals himself to be exactly who we thought it was all along. It’s not hard to guess though, because we can clearly see his face under the cloak in most scenes. He slaughters everyone except Big Guy and Ashley, but just as they’re about to escape, Ashley comes over all kooky and screams at Big Guy. One thing to note is that throughout all this confusion and crapola, I saw Christmas stockings on one of the walls. So it’s not really the Curse of ‘Halloween‘ then is it…?
So now we cut back to Suicidal Dude who’s still suicidal and still has a gun to his head. He tells us that even though we saw Travis get killed (at least twice) it turns out he was the only survivor of that fateful night. We are shown in flashback how Suicidal Dude helped Travis to recover from his horrendous experience by taking him away on holiday to an exotic island. Travis, Suicidal Dude and three girls – that seemingly don’t need or deserve any introduction at all – climb aboard a boat and what follows is ten minutes of absolute nothingness. We struggle to keep our eyes open as they drink beers and eat snacks on a lake whilst a score plays, ends and then starts again like a CD on repeat for TEN MINUTES. Did the director insert some random holiday footage to pad out his hour long feature? Quite possibly. Eventually, with only three minutes remaining, someone kills off the whole gang except Suicidal Dude without a single splash of blood. How does this relate in anyway to Negligee Chick, The Slasher or anything we’d seen previously? After two viewings, I still have no idea. Finally, we switch back to Suicidal Dude‘s ‘gun to head’ scenario from the prologue and he pulls the trigger before the film suddenly ends. No final credits, no special thanks, no blood, no inspiration, no explanation, no hope, no nothing; the screen just goes black.
What to make of Curse of Halloween then? Well, I honestly have no idea. Is it a new drug-like experience that was responsible for my dazed state the next morning? A legal high perhaps? Well if it’s not, I don’t really know what to say. In fact, I do: this should never have seen the light of day beyond Jeremy Isbell’s editing tools. It’s absolutely diabolical. I’d like to make a joke about the director and his dire filmmaking abilities, but the biggest joke is on me for paying $13.98 for this steaming pile of poo. The only way I can explain this mess is that Isbell lost the script after shooting and edited the footage whilst heavily inebriated. There just isn’t any other logical view as to why it has the structure of soup. If ever you get round to directing a horror flick, you can rest assured that no matter what happens, it will never be as bad as this. I guess that could be something of a motivational quote for debutants to be used in film schools. At least then I would get something for my $13.98. There are entries out there in slasher-land that are so hilariously inept that they have their own type of fan base, like Nail Gun Massacre or Splatter Farm. Curse, however, engages in a different kind of way. Your eyes remain transfixed as your jaw drops to levels that you don’t recall it ever reaching and you feel a deep-rooted intrigue as to how anyone would have cojones large enough to attach their name to a travesty such as this.
I recently had an interesting chat with an up coming producer who said its a shame Alfred Hitchcock didn’t do any commentaries. His reasoning was that it’d be great to hear how he worked and came up with his glorious ideas. For me, I’d pick a Jeremy Isbell talk-through everyday of the week. Watching him explain this catastrophe would be Oscar worthy. Happy Halloween… Beware of the curse…
Oh and btw, before I forget, if ever a movie could be judged on its trailer, check out the above… the music is from another film and the credits don’t even have the right title lol…
RATING: NO STARS
Movie Machine Massacre 2014
aka RedBox Killer
Directed by: Mark Demise
Starring: Melissa Mania, Tim Schultz, Eric Hamilton
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok so we all hate hypocrites, right? I dislike them too, but it looks like I’m about to become one. I said something in my review of President’s Day that I may need to adjust a tiny bit here. I stated that after watching, it’d be hard for me to excuse a film’s failings as ‘budget related’, because Chris LaMartina had made a slasher extravaganza on a meagre $5,000. What I didn’t keep in mind was that there are entries out there that were put together for not even a third of that funding. Entries like Movie Machine Massacre.
Shot on an old VHS camcorder, Mark Demise’s slasher is one of the cheapest things that I’ve ever seen. It’s likely that you could find more expensive products at a charity shop sale. I got the chance to ask Demise what the budget was for the production and he answered, ‘There was no budget’. Alrighty then! At the time of writing, it’s not listed on the IMDB, its only website is on Facebook and it only exists through word of mouth. It’s a real-life Urban Legend…
Queuing customers at RedBoxes are being slaughtered by a vicious masked killer. Before long the head of RedBox is asked to share his views on the situation, but when his secretary disappears, he decides to assist with catching the culprit…
This could in fact be the hardest film that I’ve ever reviewed. Saying that it was good would be wholly inaccurate, but completely criticising it would be somewhat unfair. To give you the basics, Movie Machine Massacre is as bare bones a feature as could be possible. Everything is shot handheld with one camera and we lack structure or definition in all that we see. The dialogue is purely functional and as it was filmed on VHS cassettes, the picture quality is shady at best. Demise chooses wisely to convey the majority of the action in the daylight or under brightly lit backdrops, but we still struggle sometimes to make out the visuals. Perhaps the parts that underline the film’s values the most are the ones that are filmed in what’s supposed to be the CEO of RedBox’s office. It is literally a small bedroom in someone’s house that Demise and co have placed a desk and a laptop in!
The cast is made up of amateurs with no previous experience and it’s not really acting because they pretty much play themselves. With such lightweight scripting, it’s tough to ascertain if there’s a central character to root for and victims walk onto the screen from obscurity only to exit and return to obscurity straight after they’re dealt with. Did they even have names? I don’t know. Still, I would ask you to put your glass of (strong) alcoholic beverage down for a second, because despite all of the stuff that I’ve mentioned above, Movie Machine Massacre actually has moments that I thought were quite good.
There’s a grim score that accompanies many of the stalking scenes and the shaky handheld camera is incredibly effective for bringing realism to proceedings. For the first twenty-minutes or so, I was so impressed by the way that the antagonist was handled that I was reminded of the creepy priest guy from Goodnight Godbless. This is especially evident in the parts that see him flicking through TV channels whilst toying with a knife, because the psycho padre in Godbless did exactly the same thing. I remember that also having a gritty underground vibe that was maybe inadvertent, but unshakeable. There’s just something about the grainy videography and the gothic tone here that manages to create an unsettling fear factor. It could be argued that Demise fails to build upon/sustain it for long enough, but it does leave an effect while it lasts.
Another thing worth mentioning is that Massacre actually has a point to convey. The director was tired of seeing mom and pop video stores go under amongst the plethora of online rental services and movie machines, so this is his camcorder recorded message to those guilty parties. He had originally called it, RedBox killer, but in order to prevent himself from being sued and because he believes his film will outlive the RedBox business model, Demise changed the name to the one that I’ve posted this review under. Oh and before I forget, there’s a rock group featured that play at a club where the killer strikes. It’s not unusual to see a band in a budget slasher, but these guys are surprisingly good. They’re like an eighties hair metal act with a rugged core and they really make the juxtaposition work. I’d buy their CD if I knew were one could be found…?
As I alluded to above, it’s impossible to recommend Movie Machine Massacre as a worthwhile feature, but I’m glad that I watched it. There are a lot of killings, a solid tone and an intelligent motive that we’ll most definitely agree with. The film gives a new meaning to the word ‘cheap’, but it’s still bizarrely alluring – even if we know it shouldn’t really be. I don’t think there’s anything else out there to compare it with, which is a subtle compliment in itself.
Directed by: David J. Gardner
Starring: Tracy Pacheco, Jason Hamer, Shannon Nelson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Towards the end of the nineties/beginning of the noughties, there were a host of slasher films that based their structures around a craze that was popular amongst audiences: Reality Television. Kolobos was the first that I witnessed and it proved to be a superb slasher that showed what could be achieved with a voyeuristic set-up. Soon after, we received a few more similar themed additions which varied in quality, with the worst of them being the heinous Voyeur.com. Less and less Reality-Slasher entries appeared as the years went by, but then in 2014, the wonderful Girl House brought panache back to the sub-sub-genre.
TheCampusHouse.Com is without a doubt the most obscure of all these titles and it’s an addition that I was keen to add to the site. I picked up a copy years ago on DVD at a horror festival, but I’ve never seen it on Amazon/eBay or anywhere else for general purchase. The only information that I could find in relation to its production were three generous user reviews on the IMDB, where it boasts a healthy 6.7 rating. There’s literally nothing else that can be discovered from an online search and as far as I’m aware, it never secured a distribution deal. This makes it (yet) another a SLASH above exclusive. I’m good to you all, eh?
A group of students are invited to gain free lodging in a large campus house if they take part in a social project. An ambitious businessman is offering to pay for their courses if they allow themselves to be filmed around the clock for online viewers. Once inside the camera-laden abode, they bond quicker than had been expected, but the fun is shattered when one of their neighbours is butchered by a masked maniac. The group become nervous, but their fears are brushed aside by the Police, who believe the murder to be the work of a gang of escaped convicts that have now fled the area. As other people begin to disappear, it soon becomes apparent that the stories about the house’s haunted past may well be true.
I’d watched Redwoods Massacre the day before this and I have to admit that in comparison, Campus kicked off with an extreme amount of class. Seeing a dark-haired artist being stalked in moody flashing lights brought to mind the style that was apparent in Kolobos and there are certainly worse titles that this could be compared to. It has become a trend over the last decade to pay constant homage to the classics of the eighties. Whereas it’s relatively easy to duplicate scenes or mention titles in dialogue, Campus achieves the difficult task of actually capturing some of the charm that was present during that decade. Watching a gang of cheesy teens unpack their belongings to the strains of some pop-rock reminded me of Evil Laugh and the characters are more alluring than we usually find in modern efforts. There’s even a ‘psycho calling card’ for the first couple of murders. It is a creepy music box that echoed the doll from Curtains, the cassette player from Island of Blood and the rose from Rosemary’s Killer
Whilst this is most definitely a Reality Slasher, the onlooking cameras are brushed aside fairly sharply when the mystery begins to take-hold of the story. We are given a plot-branch from thirty-years earlier that adds an extra layer of difficulty to guessing who it could be that’s under the mask and I have to give credit to the screenwriters for the conclusion that they chose for the close of their saga. There are quite a few killings and the maniac looks extremely creepy in a white mask and cape. Perhaps what the film lacked most was some neatsuspense and any real brutality when he struck, but we are at least treated to a couple of lively photography gimmicks.
Now I consider Halloween to be the perfect slasher movie and its synopsis was structured through just the one night to compact the horror with developing the background story. Campus House is set over a number of days and despite the director’s constant attempts to maintain momentum (characters argue, a romance blossoms etc), the film borders on becoming too slow moving and therefore dull. The ambitious sub-plots spaced over a lengthy runtime were reminiscent of another unreleased film, The Inherited; and both entries could be accused of throwing too many ideas at a template that succeeds when it’s played straight. It is strange to criticise a slasher for trying too hard, but there’s a lot of talky-stuff here when really all we wanted was to get to the crimson splashing. I was generally disappointed that Campus couldn’t continue at the pace that it began with, because it had set high expectations with its handling of the early scenes.
What we are left with is a slasher movie that’s better than the majority of DTV efforts that get released en masse year upon year, but it has a few issues that prevent it from hitting the heights that were to be expected. A killer in a superb mask, a nice score, some creative directorial flourishes and an intelligent twist are let down by an uneven momentum and a failure to build upon that initial energy. Still, as I said above, it’s better than many that are produced on the same budget and it’s a real mystery as to why it didn’t get the shot it deserved.
The Last Slumber Party 1988
Directed by: Stephen Tyler
Starring: Jan Jenson, Nancy Mayer, Joann Whitley
Review by Luis Joaquín González
This was one of those flicks that I had been advised to avoid, but I let my love of the slasher genre get the better of me. I learned of its existence from the IMDB in 1998 and the fact that no one had yet bothered posting any reviews led me to immediately set about getting hold of a copy. I went around asking a few of my contacts in the horror community about it and the general consensus was that I should steer well clear. Those warnings only heightened my interest, and after ordering it from Amazon under standard international shipping procedure, I had to face a lengthy six-weeks for it to arrive at my door.
Whilst I was waiting for the postman to bring me my padded jiffy bag, it seemed the more days that went past, the further my curiosities strengthened. By the time it turned up, I was just off to work and all day I was looking forward to getting home and finding out if it would live up to the hidden gem status that my expectations had automatically allowed it to become. Looking back after so much time, it’s comical how blissfully unaware I was of what awaited me…
At first we meet a group of jesting teens that are celebrating in high spirits on their last day of school. Tracy (Nancy Meyer), Chris (Jan Jensen), Tommy (Danny David), Scott (Paul Amend) and Billy (Lance Descourez) all plan a slumber party at Linda (Joann Whitley) ‘s house. They plan to spend the night drinking, taking drugs and doing the usual cheesy antics that eighties teens in slasher movies love to do. Meanwhile, whilst they all merrily head off home to prepare for their fateful gathering, elsewhere in the town it seems a lunatic patient from the local asylum has escaped sporting a surgical mask and clutching a very sharp scalpel. He gets the address of his psychiatrist’s home and heads over there to carry out the threat that we learn he gave only days before. – He warned the doctor that he would locate and kill him. Then we find out that the medic is Linda’s father, so the vicious butcher has conveniently discovered a house full of partying teens to work through. As the beer flows at the party, the unwelcome guest turns-up and before long the blood begins to flow too…
Ok, ok so I should’ve listened, but there’s no need to say, ‘I told you so’. The Last Slumber Party is a heinous movie. As soon as I heard the ear-numbing hard rawk track that burst out of my speakers in the first five minutes and saw the cheesy POV shots in the muggiest of bad quality cinematography, I realised that I had made a big mistake. Every single cliché in the book is present and accounted for, but they’re conveyed like a twelve-year old’s tribute to Slumber Party Massacre. The only thing more sickening than the atrocious acting and the horrid Bontempi score – that doesn’t even sound like it’s played in tune – is the incredibly inept plot that must’ve been made up on the spot as they went along.
It’s pretty obvious that the editor just pasted scenes in any order without even browsing through the script. In fact, I’m not even sure if there was a script to browse through. There’s a moment that could have added some spice to the bog-standard template, when a second killer appears inside the house. This brief attempt at originality is shattered almost immediately though, because he’s removed from proceedings without letting us know who he was, where he came from or why he was there. Was it a kid pulling a prank? We can’t be sure, because like many things, there’s just no explanation. Keeping all this in mind makes me believe that the choice for the ending, which I won’t reveal, was director Steven Tyler’s desperate attempt to escape the massive plot inconsistencies. Things just plod along like a random YouTube playlist and I’ve begun to believe that The Last Slumber Party was the source code for Click: The Calendar Girl Killer‘s bewildering structure. It’s just the ‘why’ that I’m struggling to comprehend.
I know it’s routine for a slasher victim to be dumb, but these folks are unbelievable. When the unlikely leading girl finally realises something’s not quite right in the house, she sets off to investigate and find out where everyone’s disappeared too. She takes a brief look around outside, but fails to locate any of her buddies. As she turns to re-enter, a bleeding victim staggers through the door and drops to the ground in front of her – dead. Faced with the obvious fact that there’s some sort of psychopath at work in the home, what do you think that she does? Run to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm or maybe call the cops? No, of course not, instead she decides to walk back in and around the death trap finding a few more bodies on the way, before grabbing a knife and setting off to uncover the killer! Confused? You will be. Each murder is identical to the last, as a line of nobodies have their throat slashed with an incredibly bad gore effect. The Michael Myers-lite assassin, –who shows us the extent of his insanity by keeping his eyes wide open and holding a scalpel up to the camera menacingly MULTIPLE times – offers nothing new or exciting at all.
On the plus side there are loads of unintentional laughs on offer, like when the first two victims get killed. A nurse heads outside the hospital to a bus stop where she waits to head home. There’s another guy sitting there who’s fast asleep on the bench (?). Before she gets a chance to wake him up, she bumps into the maniac and… (unsurprisingly), has her throat cut by a scalpel. The lazy bystander manages to snore his way through her hysterical screams for help, but conveniently, he stirs just after she’s been dispatched. Of course this leaves him defenceless, unaware and wide open to get, you’ve guessed it, his throat slashed by a scalpel…. Oh, How I cried! Perhaps the most amusing thing of all, is the way that the film’s described on the back cover:
“The plot is twisted inside out leaving you stunned and clinging to your chair as you witness shock after horrifying shock. The ending will leave you breathless.”
I certainly agree; it was indeed hard to catch my breath after I had been snoring for 80 minutes.
As you’ve probably guessed The Last Slumber Party is really bottom of the barrel stuff. It’s cheap, inept, badly shot, jerkily edited, awfully scripted and has all the tension of grass growing. It’s not even able to redeem itself by being bad in an always-endearing Nail Gun Massacre kind of way. The most intriguing thing about Slumber Party is the fact that it ever secured distribution. I think it’s great that someone with a few dollars to waste can make an independent movie and get it released. But to make a small film like this a success, you need a little bit of, what’s that word? Ah yes, TALENT. Sadly it seems none of these guys were aware of that part
Cheerleader Camp: To The Death 2014
Directed by: Dustin Ferguson
Starring: Jarad Allen, Jennifer Banko, Karrie Bauman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So, a killer stalking cheerleaders that are training in some remote woodland in a film called Cheerleader Camp. Have we seen that before? I don’t know anymore… I’m going back to sleep.
Yes so here we have another extremely rare one from director Dustin Ferguson, the guy who also gave us Doll Killer, which I’ll review for you soon. In many ways, Ferguson reminds me of Gary Whitson, because his films are generally lowest of the low in terms of budget, but tick the boxes in terms of genre recognition and fun. Whitson has done a fair bit in his career, but nothing outshines the accomplishment of discovering the beautiful Tina Krause. Could Ferguson go on to achieve something similar?
A year ago, five cheerleaders were horribly mutilated and burned to death by an unknown someone replacing the water source to a sprinkler hose with sulphuric acid. Now, a group of girls return to the same site to prepare for the regional dance off for the first time since that fateful accident. Amongst them is Tanya, a youngster who was replaced on the last event due to her being ill. Living with the guilt that she escaped certain demise, she becomes a mother figure to the more sensitive members of the troupe and stands up to the lead bully. Almost as soon as they arrive though, their coach wanders off into the night and is seemingly slaughtered by a masked killer. Stranded with no contact with the outside world, the girls have to overcome their differences and do battle with the psychopathic assailant.
Cheerleader Camp kicks off with the aforementioned acid/sprinkler sequence, which despite not being delivered as well as it could have, still provides a gruesome shock. There’s perhaps nothing more frightening than the thought of having a molten liquid thrown in to your face and Ferguson tops it off with some tacky gore to boot. After an impressive credit sequence (the film has an awesome soundtrack), we meet the teenagers that will narrate us through the synopsis. It’s here that Camp somewhat loses some credibility, which is mainly because of two things. Firstly, the acting is extremely erratic and seems to descend into the depths of absurdity every time something happens that requires emotion. Secondly – and perhaps most importantly – the audio and clarity of the picture jumps from bad to abysmal at the drop of a hat.
There was a scene early on that saw Tanya explain her nervous behaviour on the trip. The dialogue was so difficult to hear and comprehend that I turned the volume on my TV up to 45. This was absolutely fine until the music kicked in and deafened everyone within a 200-yard radius. It’s strange because at times, Camp looks to have been comfortably produced, but then every now and then we are given lengthy set-ups that look to have been filmed on an old-skool Nokia. I guess in a way that my opinion of the film’s visual and audible quality could be re-used to describe the entire movie. We get a couple of genuinely out-there nightmare sequences and some creative camera placements that show panache from the director. These few moments of credibility though are often diluted by something unnecessarily inept that appears just moments after.
Overall, it’s fair to say that Camp achieves the feat of paying tribute to some of the genre’s lesser-known titles superbly. I’m sure that I’m not the only one that’s tired of the amount of new-age entries that are so desperate to prove that they’ve seen more than one eighties-slasher that they broadcast each tribute in neon lights. It reminds me of those short fifty-year olds that buy a Ferrari to compensate for their insecurities (party sausage??). Well in Cheerleader Camp, the homages are more under-played and the Jeep (similar to the one from the first Friday the 13th), a plunger murder (Bikini Island) and the killer’s guise (Girl’s Nite Out) are much more refined. In fact the only obvious acknowledgement was a verbal nod to Cropsy from The Burning. Oh and talking of the killer’s guise, here we have one of the best. A maniac in a Panda suit… Brilliant! I was somewhat surprised that there was no featured nudity, but Karrie Bauman, who played Sophia, certainly provided some eye-candy.
Recently, I was in my town centre in desperate need of some Wagamama action. My heart sunk when I noticed that my local chain was closed for refurbishment. Highly disgruntled, I headed off to buy a pack of Japanese noodles from Tesco, which was only a cheap compensation. Cheerleader Camp is very similar, because it’s an extreme budget example of the parts of these films that we adore. Sure, it’s certainly not going to win any awards, but it does offer some pretty fun scenarios. El cheapo fun for sure, but fun all the same…
aka La Casa Del Terror
Directed by: John Wintergate
Starring: John Wintergate, Kalassu Kay, Lindsay Freeman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Move over Nail Gun Massacre, make way Last Slumber Party and step aside Night Ripper… There’s a new kid in town… Boarding House is the new contender for king of the trash-video crown. This is a movie so criminally rubbish that you’ll believe that you’ve died and been deported to bad movie hell. I Learnt of its existence from The Terror Trap and then looked it up on the IMDB, where I read various write-ups that described the inadvertent humour and jaw dropping cheesy horror. I immediately set about buying a copy and two weeks later, here’s what I found…
It begins with a prologue showing us murders that have plagued ‘The Hoffman House’. A guy is pushed into a swimming pool, which bizarrely kills him. Another stranger is seen pulling out his intestines and an unseen someone with a black glove forces a woman (that really doesn’t seem too concerned) to hang herself. These are all intercut with a computer screen that shows us in text that every person that has ever so much as entered this abode has ended up either hung, drawn, quartered or has suffered some other gruesome fate. So can you guess who will be the next occupants to move in to the mansion and meet their doom? Why of course you can – it’s a randy telekinetic guy and a troupe of beaming ‘hotties’ with a tonne of mascara but not a trace of common sense between them.This was the first horror movie to be shot on video, which is a big up yours to Christopher Lewis who made the belated claim that Blood Cult, his semi-slasher effort from three years after, was the first entry of that kind. Funnily enough, this one actually had a theatre run, but I have no idea about its box office successes. I can only guess that it was hardly a massive hit.
Surprisingly, to all intents and purposes, Boarding House is not your typical hack and slasher. Director John Wintergate has chucked in a neat dose of outer-body mayhem, which means that the killer can eliminate the useless thespians without being anywhere near them at the time. This gives us the chance to see the drama school dropouts attempting to look as if they’ve suddenly been possessed by a mysterious hellish agony, without knowing where the hell it’s come from. Cue plenty of unconvincing facial expressions and stilted cries as the cast choke and pull off their faces whilst trying to act like they’re completely unaware why they’re doing it. In one particular scene, our heroine screams consistently for about two minutes while she suffers (yet) another of her ‘terrifying’ nightmares, which I think reached double figures before the final credits rolled. I am not sure what was more effected, my eardrums or her throat after that yelling marathon.
The ‘star’ of the movie, Hank Adly (a guy who looks like Rod Stewart might after 12 grams of coke), provided bucket loads of inadvertent humour. I loved the bit where he made a bar of soap fly around his bathtub to show off his telekinetic abilities and impress the on looking bunnies. There’s certainly plenty of nonsensical activity to bring a smile to the lips to those who cherish those classic bad movie moments. The final scene is particularly hilarious, as the killer and two survivors stand off for a telekinetic battle. Staged like a showdown from a Sergio Leone movie, the three gather in a circle and simultaneously gurn as they each try to inflict psychic pain on one another. It’s hard to give you a description that would do justice to the extent of the silliness, but trust me – it’s worth its weight in comedy gold. All of the female cast members manage to whip off their underwear at one point or another and there’s just enough exploitation to satisfy eighties trash fans.
Interestingly enough, Boarding House was something of a first, because it included a warning for viewers of a weaker disposition that would let us know when something horrific was about to happen. Suddenly, the screen comes alive in a maze of colours and that’s when we the audience know that someone is going to get dismembered. I must admit that this was a novel idea if we were about to sit down and watch a Lucio Fulci marathon. I’m not exaggerating my claim however when I state that my four-year-old daughter can create more realistic body parts with her Play Doh kit. This is especially evident in the ‘intestine ripping’ scene, which is clearly an actor pulling corn-syrup coated sausages from the gap in his shirt. Maybe they could have featured a warning before every bad movie moment? In fact they could have just placed an ‘amateur morons at work’ notice before the first credit sequence? Imagine the savings on budget!
Boarding House IS as mind numbingly atrocious as you had probably expected it to be. Even the back cover blurb has NO relevance whatsoever to the movie and I can’t forget to mention the wonderful tagline that promises intrigue, suspicion and a sinister environment (yeah right!). Oh and before I go, I’ll leave you with a quote from the female lead singer of ’33 and a third’ – The heavy metal band that ‘entertain’ the party at the film’s climax. “You say you want a rock romance, you’ve been begging just to get in my pants!” And with that I shall leave you to explore for yourselves…
Final Girl √
Babysitter Massacre 2013
Directed by: Henrique Couto
Starring: Erin R. Ryan, Marylee Osborne, Joni Durian
Review by Luis Joaquín González
As fans of the slasher genre, if you got the opportunity to make your own movie, how would it look? Would you tick all the boxes in regards to the general trademarks that you know and love? Would you pack it with nudity and gore? I ask this because Henrique Couto’s Babysitter Massacre is exactly how I’d imagine a true genre lover might roll out a slasher flick. That’s not a critical evaluation by any means, but a brief outline of what you should expect from this overlooked entry.
A group of girls that grew up together have decided to spend Halloween at a slumber party to rekindle their friendships. They haven’t been as close since one of their number was kidnapped years earlier and has never been found. They used to run a group called ‘The Babysitter Club’ and charge a fee to look after younger children in the area. This all stopped after the disappearance of young April and they hold a girl called Bianca wholly responsible for the awful event. Little do they know that a masked killer has began stalking and murdering them one by one and he seems to have a specific focus on Angela, their bubbly host. Can they stop the psychopath before he kills them all?
What I thought really worked about Babysitter was that it went out of its way to highlight some of the category’s favourite moments without needing to revert to parody. I noticed nods to Slumber Party Massacre, Sorority House Massacre II, Halloween and others, but they were rolled out slightly under the radar, which made it more satisfying when I recognised them. The killer boasted a unique and surprisingly effective blank mask, which I felt really gave him an aura of macabre non-identity. He kidnaps the majority of his victims and kills them with more of a torture-porn approach, but most of these scenes are exceptionally brutal and fairly authentic. My favourite would have to be the opening shot, which sees a girl getting her fingernails pulled off by a pair of pliers… Ouch!
Scenes between cast-members are neatly staged and comfortably shot and Couto has written some expressive dialogue in places. Erin Ryan is solid as Angela, the final girl, and even if she is surrounded by a lot of lesser actresses, she keeps the dramatics believable. It’s strange because the sequences of characters in conversation seem to work much better than the moments when the killer strikes. There are quite a few murders, but we have absolutely no idea who most of the early victims are and none of them have any kind of build up or anticipation. What I did find interesting was the use of text messages as a tool to threaten rather than the usual deranged phone calls. Babysitter Massacre is definitely a modern advancement on the old When a Stranger Calls chestnut. There was one chase sequence in an office complex that was sharp and tense, but aside from that, the killer just turned up immediately in most of the other killings. It’s hard to tell how much of this was performed that way due to a lack of budget, but the film was crying out for more suspense. Especially because Couto had proved that he could deliver it when the opportunity arose.
The final third is again very torture-porn-esque and offers a set-up where two of a trio of kidnapped girls have to murder their friend with a claw hammer in order to have a chance to escape the concrete basement that they’ve been locked in. Whilst the idea is twisted and sadistic, it doesn’t make sense, because logic dictates that they should have at least waited and seen if they could use said hammer to retaliate against their abductor. This brought my rating of the feature down considerably as I felt that it was unrealistic and thrown together with minimal thought. Thankfully, the downbeat ending salvages the tone as the credits roll and I actually thought it was really quite a shock.
Babysitter Massacre is a fine example of exploitation that is packed to the rafters with nudity (seriously there’s loads), gore and a pretty good mystery. I just think that it had something of a stagnated flow, which in fairness may well have been because of the stringent funding. Director Henrique Couto is a cool guy and because of that, it’s hard to give his movies a bad rating. His personality shines through his work and he seemed to love splashing the screen with goo and getting most of his actresses naked as much as we enjoyed watching it. I am sure that no one knows more than he that there is room for improvement here, but in the meantime it’s a film that I definitely enjoyed.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Blood and Sex Nightmare 2008
Directed by: Joseph R Kolbek
Starring: Julia Morizawa, Andy McGuinness, Tina Krause
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok… Blood and Sex Nightmare (!)… Me, I’m a practical joker and I like nothing more than making my day more entertaining by pulling office pranks. There are a lot of cinema fans in my workplace and what I’ve been doing lately is dropping this title amongst a plethora of others when in the midst of a film conversation. For example if I’m asked about my favourite directors, I’ll say, ‘Lynch for Mulholland Drive, Buñeal for El Ángel Exterminador and Kolbek for Blood and Sex Nightmare.’ Or when discussing favourites, my recent answers have been, ‘Scarface, Goodfellas, The Godfather oh and Blood and Sex Nightmare, have you seen that?’ The funny thing is, people look at you like it’s some artsy European classic that they really should know about. I’ve even had workmates pretend they’ve already watched it. Try it next time you get the chance, you’ll thank me after….
Anyway, so in reality this tin-pot slasher is pretty hard to find much information on, but it was one of a number that crept out towards the end of the noughties and attempted to mix slasher action with softcore porn. It’s similar in a way to Porn Shoot Massacre, Massacre at Rocky Ridge and the like, but at $3000 for a production budget it’s a damn site cheaper even than those pocket-money entries.
It tells the tale of a boyfriend who wants to make-out with his girl, but the chances of that happening seem even less assured, because she’s just returned from her father’s funeral. In a bizarre move, he offers to take her to an adult (sex) retreat for a weekend and even though she’s not really comfortable with the idea, she tags along out of fear of him leaving her. Little do the pair know that the site is the home of a deranged zombie/ghost that likes to slaughter visitors and torture them sexually.
I respect the fact that my readers, you beauties, are smart enough to know that Blood and Sex Nightmare (costing $3000) is not going to redefine the genre. So keeping in mind that we’re well aware already that it’s trash, we can begin to look at it a bit more objectively. What I mean is, we can define the level of its trashiness and measure it up against other such titans of the trash basket.
To be fair, the cheap grainy SOV footage, a creepy sound effect for the killer’s heavy breath and a simple yet ominous score, do give Nightmare a rather gritty back garden tone. Due to the budget (or therefore lack of), it’s filmed with a husky fog around the visuals, so it kind of looks how you’d imagine a snuff film might. When we see the level of the dramatics though, we know that it’s definitely not snuff that we’re witnessing. I doubt that real people moan like their tea is cold whilst they’re being gruesomely mutilated. (Not that I’d know of course). First (and last) time director Joe Kolbek lays his cards on the table right from the start by showing us an unknown man getting his penis chopped off in the first ten-minutes. What follows from there is just under an hour of sex, blood and well, a nightmare in terms of stylish direction and character definition. I feel stupid criticising the lack of any background on the victims, because Kolbek seems to paddle comfortably in the fact that he’s doing exactly what he set out to do without any care in the world for credible filmmaking. I guess, in a way, we have to take our hat off to him for that.
The only real story elements are based around our lead couple and the struggles that they are facing in their relationship. These parts are surprisingly well written and give our heroine a likeable persona. There are quite a few murders and tonnes of nudity (full frontal too) so at just under an hour, you’ll never get bored. Our killer is a zombie-type guy that wants to be reborn, but in order to achieve this, he needs a virgin, which funnily enough our heroine is. This leads to a tasteless scene in which he masturbates blood over her whilst she lays their screaming. I’m not a fan of stuff like that and I’m not sure who is, but in this movie, it didn’t feel out of place at all. After watching Tina Krause get her vagina mutilated, I think I was prepared for anything.
So what’s left to say? Well, not much of note, but the make-up for the killer was actually quite good and the penis chopping scene was uncomfortably realistic. Oh, and, I share my reviews on Facebook, Twitter and up until a while ago on my LinkedIn profile. My boss pulled me to one side recently and said, ‘Look Luis, you’ve got CEOs in your contact list and maybe posting stuff like Sandy Hook Lingerie Massacre is not right for our company profile.’ I’m just glad I stopped it before publishing Blood and Sex Nightmare. It does what it says on the tin…
Blood Slaughter Massacre 2013
Directed by: Manny Serrano
Starring: Matt W. Cody, Michael Roche, Carmela Hayslett
Review by Luis Joaquín González
A film called Blood Slaughter Massacre could only be, in any language, a slasher movie. I’ve written before about the amount of entries that have titles that start with Blood or end with the word Massacre and here we have a combination of the two with Slaughter (another common term amongst this genre’s features) chucked in the middle for the hell of it. I like the fact that there’s no messing around with this one, you get what it says on the box.
Anyway, the movie had an aura surrounding it throughout its production with some exciting photos of a killer donning a mask that brought to mind the Tor Johnson one used in Small Town Massacre. That has always been one of my favourites, because it gave the killer a haunting ‘deranged’ look, which had a similar effect as Michael Myers’ cherub-like Shatner. It was also refreshing to see a film that whilst paying tribute to the classics of the eighties, avoided the ‘done to death’ parody angle. No matter how much I love the genre, I’ve grown tired of watching filmmakers demonstrate the amount of references they can include in a runtime. We’ve moved to a time now where the best way of representing the cycle is by introducing a unique approach and avoiding the need for satire.
Two detectives that were involved in a tough case a decade ago are thrown back into the heart of it when a ruthless killer returns to their town and begins murdering the children of earlier massacre victims. The police are left stumped as the maniac stalks the city, but it soon becomes clear that there’s a method to his madness…
Last week, I posted a review of Camp Blood here on a SLASH above. Even if it is a low budget slasher movie just like this one, there’s a major difference that separates the way the two are presented and received. If you threw, for example, three-million dollars at the production of Brad Sykes’ entry, there would surely be improvements, but not really enough to completely alter the net result. Serrano on the other hand delivers a picture that totally outshines its budget and you can only wonder what he could achieve with that much more funding. I admit that it’s perhaps unfair to compare a campy David Sterling flick with a film that exudes such ambition, but as they share the same sub-genre, it exemplifies my point.
BSM is a true horror movie; and what I mean by that is it sacrifices the modern stereotype of regular attempts at humour to maintain a grisly tone. Like the best slashers, this one rolls out its antagonist in the midst of a dark and compelling mystery. It comes close to crossing into serial killer flick territory with the focus on its investigation, but it works by finding the right balance of the two styles. Our lead persona is something of an anti-hero, (an alcoholic cop), but we can overlook his character flaws because we hope that his heart is in the right place. There is a final girl here, but she’s kept somewhat in the background and doesn’t play the typical central role. The screenwriters have certainly taken a risk by avoiding the structure that’s commonly utilised almost identically in these more recent films, but what we get instead plays in the most satisfying of ways.
With such a bright spotlight of focus shone upon the story, Serrano needed to develop a constant feeling of dread to keep up the film’s momentum. I’ve already highlighted that the killer looks extremely intimidating in that ghoulish mask, but the director makes the most of his hulking frame and menacing size to add extra trepidation to the kill scenes. Whilst there are a couple of gore shots (a shower murder very similar to the one from The Prowler and a chainsaw slaughter spring to mind), it’s the placing of the bogeyman in each stalking sequence that really delivers the necessary fear factor. He’s up there with the guy from The Orphan Killer as one of the scariest maniacs I can recall and the director doesn’t waste a chance to make the most of his presence. He butchers a huge amount of victims and his sadistic brutality is extremely threatening. This is one of those films that develops its shocks because it makes you question how you’d react if you were to be placed in the situation that you see unfolding on the screen.
At two-hours and five-minutes, Serrano has a lot of ground to cover and he does so with a plot that may seem slightly convoluted to the lesser viewer. I’m not sure if a further prologue scene was removed late in the production, but I recommend watching the film through twice to really understand the synopsis. The lesser actors amongst the cast survive due to solid direction and Serrano pushes his cast to the limit in order to draw the performances that he required. We even get something of a ‘The Departed’ moment during the film’s conclusion and it does succeed in leaving you unsure what’s going to happen next.
We live in a world now where every new production comes with pages of untrustworthy IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes reviews and exciting social media commentaries that more often than not build a level of anticipation that rarely proves accurate when a film is finally released. I’m pleased to say that Blood Slaughter Massacre is better than I thought it would be and that in itself is a real achievement. What Serrano has built on a modest budget should set the standard for the slasher films of 2015. It is not a remake and It really is that good…
Killer Guise: √√√√
Camp Blood 1999
Directed by: Brad Sykes
Starring: Jennifer Ritchkoff, Michael Taylor, Tim Young
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I have mentioned Camp Blood a number of times on a SLASH above, but never actually got round to reviewing it. I picked it up back in the early noughties on big-box VHS and it was possibly the first no budget slasher of the new age that I got to see. Since then, I always thought of it as the quintessential example of a bad dime-store take on the slasher template. Over a decade has passed since I last watched it and the genre has seen its fair share of features that were financed on even smaller pocket books. This left me wondering if Blood would still maintain the status that I bestowed upon it on first viewing.
Two couples head off to explore a secluded woodland called Camp Blackfoot. Locals have named it Camp Blood due to the fact that a betrayed husband killed his cheating partner and her lover with a machete before disappearing into the wilderness. Legend states that he still roams the hills and murders anyone that is unfortunate or stupid enough to roam his region…
It was a strange feeling sitting in front of Camp Blood again after so long. Part of me was reminiscing the stack of VHS that I used to trawl through in my room when I’d just turned twenty and the other part was proud of the patience that I possessed to ‘appreciate’ so many turkies. Make no mistake about it, Blood isn’t like a bottle of fine wine. What I mean by that is my ten-year hiatus from exposure to it hasn’t turned it into Halloween. With that said, I did find things here that made me smile, which was most definitely more that I’d expected.
Brad Sykes, for all his obvious signs of amateurism, does understand what people enjoy about slasher movies. It takes less than five-minutes for the inevitable boob shot (what a pairing) and the next sight that we are treated to is a lumbering maniac in a clown mask. The kill scenes are deftly edited considering the budget and for the un-trained eye (i.e. my Mrs), the various splashings of blood and an imposing menace could be considered as generally effective. To give you an example, there’s a sequence that starts dumbly, because our sympathetic hero type guy chases the assailant into the forest when there was absolutely no logic in him doing so (the killer was actually fleeing the scene). Anyway, it results in a fight sequence on a cliff that’s well staged and then we get a smartly crafted gore shot that was surprisingly audacious. There are countless ‘tributes’ to Friday the 13th of course, with the most obvious being the film’s title, which was what Camp Crystal Lake became known by after Jason and his mum’s rampages.
I guess the above paragraph may look like I am about to take back all the mocking things that I’ve said previously about Brad Sykes’ addition to the stalk and slash family. Well in honesty, my experience was less painful than I’d anticipated, but I won’t be adding this to any top slasher lists in the near future. You see, the few bits and pieces that are classic slasher fun are punctured by some of the worst and most bizarre filmmaking decisions I’ve ever seen. We spend what feels like a lifetime in the clutches of a group of poorly acted and whiny campers and when the killer finally turns up and starts chopping through them, we’ve completely lost interest in their plight. Our final girl sinks to levels of rancid dramatics that had me reaching for the vomit bag and the patently cardboard machete can only appear so many times without beginning to look comical. There’s a really good and creepy score that often borders on building a menacing tone, but just when I was about to write a positive comment, something dumb kept happening and I felt like the guy in the picture to my right >>. It’s strange, because Camp Blood includes all the ingredients to become a trash-slasher hit. It’s just that it somehow puts them together awkwardly, like trying to build a flat-pack wardrobe without the instructions. I guess the fact that I had prepared myself for something awful meant that I could better handle the unbelievable levels of amateurism when I put it on this time. I went in knowing that there was going to be a mountain of goofiness, which made it easier than when I initially saw this and had less of an idea of what to expect.
There’s no doubt that Blood was filmed on the smallest of budgets, which was obvious because the same actors were re-used to play different characters with minimal effort to disguise their identities. It was bizarre seeing faces returning to the screen as Police Officers or Nurses when we’d witnessed them get slashed just moments earlier(!) I’m sure that back in the day, I noticed this stuff and found it easy to criticise, whereas now I kind of appreciated the cheesiness, if that makes sense. In my opening paragraph, I called this the quintessential example of a bad dime-store take-on the slasher template. Whilst I stand by that statement, I feel now that I can add the word ‘fun’ before bad in that statement. Either I’ve developed a sense of humour over the past decade or I’ve just got used to sitting through so much worse. At least this one has its heart in the right place. So yeah, as discussed, Camp Blood is a (fun) bad dime-store take-on the slasher template
Killer Guise: √√√√