City In Panic 1986
Directed by: Robert Bouveir
Starring: David Adamson, Lee Ann Nestegard, Derrick Emery
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Dependent on the product there can be sometimes no better marketing tool than controversy. For their time, The Sex Pistols were controversial and made a great career out of it. The Rolling Stones, Elvis, hell even Sir Cliff Richard caused uproar in his day. As Max Clifford once famously said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” This little-known Canadian slasher must’ve been aiming for some of the same media coverage when it attempted to make an admittedly ham-fisted social comment on one of the eighties’ biggest discussion points – the HIV virus. Any severe medical condition should be handled with care and consideration by a filmmaker that is attempting to broach such delicate topics, but Bouvier’s feature is the cinematic equivalent of telling a friend that they looked better last year when they could still fit in those jeans.
In the first few minutes, the director attempts a role reversal on Hitchcock’s notorious shower scene. A hulking killer sporting a fedora, dark glasses and typical giallo-like psycho-garb bursts into a bathroom and hacks an unfortunate guy to death with a kitchen knife. Before leaving, the maniac carves the letter ‘M’ into his back with the aforementioned blade. This becomes the macabre calling card of the maniacal assassin and also the name that he becomes known by in media. Next up we meet Dave Miller (David Adamson) a radio talk show host that immediately takes an interest in the madman’s motives. As the bodies continue to pile up around the city, Dave decides to set a trap using his popular broadcast as the bait. Eventually, the killer himself phones the show and begins to slaughter people that are close to the presenter. Is Miller next on the death list?
City in Panic starts with a protagonist narrative that is vaguely reminiscent of the maverick cop thrillers of the seventies. The depiction of a sleazy town in peril led me to believe that Bouvier was as much a fan of Dirty Harry and the like as he was of Halloween. To be fair there are times when the atmosphere gets credibly morbid and some of the gruesome murders are brutal if not graphically audacious enough to rival gore marathons. We are treated to occasional flashes of innovative photography that are exciting and spontaneous and provide the odd glimpse of suspense that helps to strengthen the few moments of macabre mayhem. Perhaps the most memorable of those is the repugnant castration of a toilet loitering sex pest. After having his ‘Johnson’ chopped off by the masked killer, the guy is left to die in agony and spray blood on the walls like the final spurts of a wayward sprinkler system. It’s a grim sight indeed; but unfortunately, aside from the couple of select examples of flair from Bouvier, the majority of the film struggles to pull itself from the realms of amateur night.
I remember a Glam metal band that were unsigned in the late eighties and recorded two demos that were popular amongst collectors. Indian Angel’s set list included catchy tracks like Playing Hard To Get, Loneliness Motel and Just Pretending, but after a few years on the club circuit they disbanded. When they finally did call it quits it was clear that they had not improved on their musicianship and were still playing those same songs that I mentioned above. They failed to build upon their initial strengths and in the end were doomed to remain rock and roll apprentices. This film is a similar case in point as it perhaps needed Bouvier to step back, analyse his work and then try a bit harder. The spluttering dramatics fail to convince on even the lowest level, which immediately destroys any sense of realism being created. An idea with such a strong topical standpoint needed to be solid with its scripting in order to deliver what it intended, but Andreas Blackwell’s confused screenplay is sketchy and it leaves characters contradicting themselves. The glossy veneer of intellectual dialogue soon becomes transparent as nonsensical chit chat and the fact that City in Panic seems to have been written with minimal effort means that it only appeals to those that can’t be bothered to make the effort. At one point the investigator says, “Now I began to accept that the city had on its hands a killer”. That line came after we had already seen a couple of mutilated corpses with the same MO. Go figure.
The soundtrack is an example of what a chimp can get out of a Bontempi keyboard and it does absolutely * nothing * to add to the mood of the feature. I have also read that some viewers felt that the plot was deliberately homophobic. Making the majority of the victims homosexual guys and then torturing them sadistically was a dumb move and although a female (and a heterosexual male) also got splattered, the film, ends up with a tone that I can understand that some could find offensive. Over the years, the slasher genre has developed a large gay following and movies such as HellBent have been accepted warmly. Due to City in Panic’s lack of focus, it has failed to register as an entry that pays the same amount of respect. Personally, I found it to be far too mindlessly written to be offensive and too weakly structured to be controversial. We can’t ignore the fact though that director Robert Bouvier has clumsily, although surely unintentionally, exploited one of the most tragic diseases that mankind has ever known.
Despite the awful attempt at a social commentary, taken as a slasher movie, this never gets boring and the viscous murders are spaced quite frequently all the way through. For a cheap piece of junk hokum it could’ve been a passable entry to the cycle. It’s just a shame that the filmmakers took the wrong approach…
Blood Splash 1981
aka Nightmare aka Nightmare’s in a Damaged Brain
Directed by: Romano Scavolini
Starring: Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith, Danny Ronan
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
During the eighties slasher boom, there were two different styles that launched successfully from the initial template. Whilst the multitude of genre entries would focus on an undeveloped identity for their bogeymen and build their plot structures on the characterisation of the victims, there were a few that took the opposite cinematic approach. The potential flaws were obvious. It’s incredibly difficult to establish a favourable personality for a homicidal maniac; especially when he must carry the entire feature as the protagonist. The key strength that made the synopsis for Halloween so successful was the lack of clarity for Michael Myers’ identity and motives. Just why did he want to kill Laurie Strode? Why did he get up after being shot six times by Sam Loomis? We never got to find out, and that was an ingenious touch from Carpenter. The guessing game is an addictive one and it attracts much interest and lengthy post-movie debate amongst audiences.
Despite the potential banana skins, the few features that experimented with the concept of giving the antagonist the lead role delivered mixed results. Whilst William Lustig’s Maniac can be credited as a genre classic, Bits and Pieces was shoddy and forgettable. That’s why I was thoroughly inspired to watch Blood Splash, which after years of repression as a video nasty has garnered itself a gruesome reputation. I own two copies of the movie and each has a separate title. The first one I came across was under the title Blood Splash and is heavily edited, but the second is an uncut VHS that I picked up in Amsterdam with all the gooey bits intact
In the opening few scenes, we learn that George Tatum was recently released from his asylum due to the fact that his doctors have discovered a breakthrough cure for his violent spells of delirium and psychosis. The combination of drugs had completely cured the patient of his psychopathic hallucinations and his adviser believed that with time and measured access to society, Tatum would be fit to fully resume a normal standard of life. However it doesn’t take long for us to realise that his doctor’s hypothesis was drastically erroneous. This is evidently demonstrated when Tatum drops to the floor foaming from the mouth whilst watching a patently lackadaisical pornographic peep show.
Soon after, the clearly psychotic loner heads across the country on a personal vendetta to confront the inner demons of his consistent nightmares. His doctors panic when they realise that they have made a deadly mistake, and it’s a race against time to see if they can catch Tatum before he murders again…
Splash succeeds in being an unsettling, brutal and straight laced horror experience. It’s the kind of movie that does what it says on the tin. The Daily Mail-inspired campaign that launched the video nasty phase of the early eighties was unnecessary; simply because as human beings we have a choice. If you don’t want to be offended by a film that was created directly to shock, then don’t watch Blood Splash. In 1984 David Grant, a former UK porn producer that had moved into feature film distribution, was jailed for 18 months (later reduced to 12) for releasing a version that waived the 62 seconds of cuts slapped upon it by the BBFC. This was a harsh statement of intent to further enforce the video nasty ban and it was a ridiculously un-democratic way of informing us that Big Brother was watching and the establishment reigned supreme.
The movie itself however is an uniquely conveyed mix of unthinkable brutality, gooey money shots and dreary depiction of a descent into vicious madness. Director Romano Scavolini makes no effort to hide his inspirations and the film references various genre maestros without ever directly stealing from them. In places, he impressively manages to mimic Carpenters skill of emanating terror from the background. By now you should know how it works: the camera is fixed on a focal point for a sustained time, but as it begins to pan you become aware that something menacing is looming into focus just out of shot. It’s moments like this that can make or break a decent horror film and Nightmare does boast its fair share of successful tricks and flourishes.
It’s not unusual for a slasher movie to have a cast that disappears down the long road to film obscurity almost immediately after release. The genre has never been credited for its emphasis on dramatics. However it seems somewhat harsh on the actors from Blood Splash as the majority of them do a good enough job. Baird Stafford was impressive in an extremely complicated part and it’s hard to pick any bones from his psychotic depiction. He delivers a gnashing, foaming portrayal of dementia, which rarely touches on the OTT. Without a doubt the film’s reputation derives from its copious amounts of gore; and in its uncut print the feature doesn’t disappoint. Tom Savini was credited as the make-up artist, although he latter sued the producers, claiming that he had only worked as a consultant. In reality the effects were supplied by soon-to-be Oscar nominee Ed French and his work was worthy of Savini’s name. The gory final sequence, which involves a messy decapitation and an axe through the head has become the stuff of slasher legend.
Splash is not without its negatives however and they stem from the confusing plot. The idea to break the runtime into segmented days ala The Shinning was a good one, but characters are randomly introduced without clarification, which creates a story that’s awkward to follow. There’s also a lack of cohesion in some of the promising ideas that are hinted but never followed through. Our deranged killer shares an interesting relationship with the child of the family that he stalks, but it never develops as we are left feeling like it should have. The script hints at an altogether more ambiguous depth to the synopsis, but it’s not given enough clarification to go anywhere.
Some may say that Blood Splash can be rather tedious in its long excursions into the depth of the protagonist’s insanity, but I managed to enjoy Scavolini’s opus and I recommend it to be seen. It’s not one that’s going to terrify you, but it’s slow and brooding atmosphere can become quite gripping.
Final Girl: √√
Rush Week 1989
Directed by: Bob Bralver
Starring: Pamela Ludwig, Dean Hamilton, Roy Thinnes
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I read it a lot, but have to argue that sayingHalloween was the first American slasher film is just lazy journalism. Simply check outBlack Christmas, Class Reunion Massacre, Drive-in Massacre, Savage Weekend or The Town that Dreaded Sundown for pieces that clearly pre-date 1978 and have many of the relevant trappings. There’s no denying however that John Carpenter’s seminal classic was the feature responsible for cementing the trademarks and turning them into an actual sub-genre that others could populate. The zillions of imitations that dominated horror cinema throughout the following ten-years are as much a part of eighties nostalgia as spandex or bad hair styles. A retro eighties party without someone dressing up as Jason or Freddy is no party at all. Even Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – the great PS2 game, which heavily parodied that era – referenced the slasher genre in a satirical way, confirming it’s importance as a referential milestone.
There are still about 3-5 slasher movies being released every year, most of them very low budget productions, but the eighties will always be recognised as the golden period. The whole cycle started with a bang. In 1980, Night of the Demon, Friday the 13th, Terror Train and To all a Good Night were all released before Summer and a new craze had been launched, which would continue without interruption for over twelve-months and continue on a lesser scale right through until the nineties.
So what does that have to do with Rush Week, I hear you ask? Well this was the last slasher movie to be produced in the golden decade, even though it was released a while later. That makes this an interesting reference point as you can see how much the genre had adapted during that period. If Friday the 13th was the flagship for the launch of ten-years of teen splatter, Bob Bralver’s slasher was the swan song.
During rush week, a young journalism student picks up on a story when she notices that young women seem to be disappearing after a seedy meeting with a photographer after hours in the science lab. A killer, dressed in a cape and old-man mask is stalking the dormitory and offing lonesome females. Who could be the masked menace and what are his motives?
Ok so we’re definitely not breaking new ground here. Set on a college campus, the movie follows the traditional route without ever attempting to add something even slightly adventurous to the norm. I guess the first thing to notice about the difference between this and its brothers from nine-years earlier is the lack of gore. Whilst Friday the 13th set a new tone with its gruesome death scenes and investment in special effects, stringent censors and bad media had left many movies with their ‘money shots’ on cutting room floors before they had reached audiences, so film-maker’s were much more prudent with their budgets in latter years. The killer has an authentic double-bladed axe, but the majority of the murders are off-screen and therefore lack any punch.
Bralver seems a director far more interested in Frat jokes and teen fart humour than he does horror and the majority of the runtime is filled with Porky’s style character development and a blossoming romance between the leads. The slashings take a back seat quite early in the picture and it made me wonder if they had chucked in a hooded killer to make the flick look more attractive to prospective financiers? There’s the chance to guess the cast member that’s hiding beneath the mask and cape, but the mystery is poorly handled and you’ll see through the apparent red herrings with relevant ease. There’s a smidgen of suspense during the final stalking sequence through the school corridors and some looming tracking shots help to build a nice atmosphere. To be fair, I have to mention that the movie does reference its brethren by casting Dominick Brascia (Friday the 13th 5/Evil Laugh) and Kathleen Kinmont (Halloween 4) in small cameos.
It seems like they had a good budget to play with and the cinematography is crisp and adventurous. The leads carried the film really well and built some nice chemistry during the romance and I really liked Pamela Ludwig as the final girl. It’s amazing to think that her film journey quickly stagnated soon after, because she had enough talent to build a career in pictures. Her co-star Dean Hamilton would find his fortune as a producer, working both in Television and Cinema. His biggest investment so far, the awful chick flick Blonde and Blonder (which he also directed), was absolutely ripped to shreds by critics but proved popular enough for a sequel and at the time of writing, he is working on a project with ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ director Joel Zwick.
If the producers had decided to veto the lashings of blood for fear of extreme censorship, they certainly didn’t scrimp on the nudity. There are more breasts on display here than feeding time in a maternity ward and I personally would have loved to have studied here at Tambers college as it seems every female student has the body of a Playboy model. In another slightly bizarre twist, hardly any of the developed characters that we meet become victims of the axe clenching madman. It seems women are simply introduced to take of their kit and then scream as the hatchet swings, which means that we feel absolutely zero sympathy for them. That adds ammunition to my suspicions that the slasher elements were a mere sub-plot to allow the story to focus on the romance/dorm ingredients that seemed to certainly be the priority.
So not much of a final farewell from Rush Week for the decade of decadence where the box office was stalked and slashed by masked killers like there would be no tomorrow. This is not necessarily a bad film, but will only act more as a small snack if your hungry for a full slasher buffet.
Final Girl √√√√
Symphony of Evil 1987
aka Coda aka Deadly Possession aka Sinfonía Del Diablo
Directed by: Craig Lahiff
Starring: Penny Cook, Arna-Maria Winchester, Liddy Clark
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s a well-known fact amongst those that know their horror movies that Australia hasn’t exactly excelled itself with the quality of its output within the slasher genre since Small Town Massacre in 1981. It’s intriguing then that within the space of a month I’ve found two credible efforts that successfully manage to disprove that fallacy. Firstly, I came across the creepy Cassandra, which mixed erratic photography and razor sharp editing to a surprisingly credible effect. Then I discovered the ambitiously restrained and meritoriously tense Symphony of Evil.
Taking a large slice of Halloween‘s appetizing pie and filling the spaces with a few Hitchcockian nods just for good measure, this confident offering is perhaps one of the most commendable long forgotten late entries to the stalk and slash cycle. It succeeds mainly because it chooses to follow the path of down to earth realism over far-fetched gore and gratuitous shock tactics. For example, the heroine of the feature is not an archetypal buxom bimbo that’s played simply for eye candy instead of character. She’s an ordinary young woman who finds herself in a tricky situation, which helps to give the film an undeniably naturalistic edge.
Director Craig Lahiff also accepts with glee, the challenge of giving his female characters complete control of the script without relying on sexual overtones to make them appealing. There’s no needless nudity or even any slight references towards it; and to be honest, it isn’t something that’s missed.
A masked maniac is slaughtering musical students at an Australian university. A young innocent woman becomes involved in the plot when her flatmate is brutally murdered. With the body count mounting, it becomes clear that the psychopath has intriguing motives.
To say that Symphony of Evil was ‘inspired’ by Halloween is like saying that Joan Rivers has had a touch of plastic surgery. . The film borrows heavily from the title that it so obviously tries to emulate, leaving very little to disguise the obvious influences (the killer stalking the hospital, the Michael Myers-alike disguise etc). Imitation however is not necessarily a bad thing if it’s handled correctly and Lahiff’s opus feels more like a tribute to Carpenter’s classic than it does a rip-off. The director shows an impressive flair for building suspense and in places the feature becomes remarkably tense. A perfect example is the sword-murder about halfway through the runtime. The brooding photography creates a foreboding and tight environment and the stalking sequence makes good use of those ageless stalk and slash clichés.
The performances from a likable cast are fairly comfortable and there’s even a classy score that’s vaguely reminiscent of John Williams’ theme from Oliver Stone’s masterpiece, JFK. The characters are competently scripted and approachable, which builds a decent amount of sympathy for the protagonist. Evil doesn’t boast a huge body count, so a large majority of the runtime is filled with the development of the mystery and the persona of the leading players, which if poorly dramatised could lose momentum and leave little in terms of reward for viewers. Thankfully, the actors do a fine job of keeping us intrigued and they are realistic and amicable enough to win over audiences and to allow the plot to move neatly to its conclusion.
Because the synopsis takes place at a classical music school, the production team get the chance to experiment with an excellent operatic soundtrack, which satisfies both cinematically and audibly. Frank Stragio’s work does wonders to help sustain a good level of energy, which is great because during the moments where not a lot happens, you’re always aware that something is just about to.
Like many eighties slashers, Symphony of Evil focuses heavily on the mystery of discovering who it is behind the creepy mask, which is possibly the feature’s only flaw. Guessing the killer’s identity is a relatively simple task and more thought should have been put into giving us more suspects or at least a credible red-herring. It’s interesting that despite earning the respect to be trusted with bigger budgets from this offering, Lahiff never improved upon his work on this atmospheric murder-mystery. Heaven’s Burning was a so-so thriller that had the added bonus of starring Russell Crowe. Also his most recent movie Black and White was promising, but hardly a worthy follow-up to such an ambitious debut. It proves that bigger budgets don’t always make better features and it seems that with Symphony of Evil he struck the perfect medium.
If you like slasher movies, then you’ll like Symphony of Evil – there’s really nothing else to say. It is good enough to sit comfortable alongside the likes of The Dorm that Dripped Blood, Curtains and The House on Sorority Row as a worthwhile genre entry that has been bizarrely overlooked. It seems surprising that the cruddy Houseboat Horror has numerous fans across the globe, but a real treat like this disappears from the face of the planet. Recommended
Final Girl √√√
Terror Night 1988
aka Bloody Movie
Directed by: Nick Marino (Andre De Toth rumoured)
Starring: John Ireland, Cameron Mitchell, Alan Hale Jr.
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This is an update of the review that I posted on the IMDB many years ago. I think that I wrote something like 2,500 words, so I have condensed it down to the bare minimum for you here
Produced in 1987, Terror Night became the slasher movie equivalent of the Holy Grail for horror enthusiasts after it never secured its expected release. We waited for twenty years until it finally crept out almost unnoticed on a budget DVD with a cruddy transfer. It had been covered in various horror fanzines during its production, meaning that when a launch date never arrived, fans were left wondering what exactly had happened. It became almost an urban legend with people knowing someone who knew somebody else that had seen it, but it wasn’t until the late nineties when I came across a German subtitled bootleg copy that I was sure that it even existed.
It is believed that copyright wrangles with additional footage, which was ‘borrowed’ from classic movies for inclusion into the story, prevented Terror Night from gaining public exposure. There are also purely unconfirmed reports that it was funded by mob money, which adds a real Hollywood-style twist to its reputation. I must admit that I find that hard to believe, because the Mafia in Los Angeles surely had better things to throw their money at than an entry to a dying craze, which the slasher was by 1988. With that said, I have also read a report that stated that Nick Marino’s Mafioso cousin got him involved in the production as a favour and convinced Andre De Toth to sign on to help the inexperienced débutant. Perhaps they made De Toth an offer that he couldn’t refuse? Horses’ heads and all that. Anyway, a few pre-screeners saw the light of day, which were then copied privately and passed around on the VHS black-market, but up until very recently, it had remained locked in a studio vault. The unfortunate production problems admittedly gave the film a somewhat alluring edge and I was happy when I finally got my hands on it.
A group of youngsters decide to spend the night in the dilapidated Hollywood mansion of one-time screen idol Lance Hayward. Hayward has been missing for over forty years and despite rumours that he emigrated to Europe, it is believed that he died many years ago. The teenagers soon learn that this is not true as Hayward begins stalking and slaughtering the group one by one, whilst donning costumes of the characters from his previous cinematic adventures.
Had Terror Night been released as had been intended by the production team, I predict that it may well have been a relatively popular addition to the category and a good seller on the VHS and drive-in markets. It boasts many of the essential ingredients that made its more successful genre counterparts household names, including a young and attractive cast, some decent bloody deaths, credible gore and a unique antagonist.
The use of retro movie footage to accompany the murders was an interesting touch; even though it almost certainly proved to play a key part in the film’s downfall and ruined any chance of the ongoing franchise that producers during this period would have hoped for. Despite sticking closely to the familiar rulebook, the key source of influence seems to stem from the 1980 thriller, Fade to Black. The synopsis is incredibly similar, although Terror Night gives its all to be an out and out slasher flick, whereas Fade to Black promised so much but turned out to be nothing of the sort.
The cast do a good enough job with what they are given, especially the old-timers who seem to be having a ball with their small cameos. Cameron Mitchell turns up for an awesome slice of scene-chewing and like all the senior screen veterans, he seems to be motivated to do more than just phone-in a few lines for the paycheque. The various choices of costume for the killer provide a good dose of cheesy fun (I especially enjoyed the maniacal knight-in-armour) and the murders are almost always energetic and gory. Screen queen Michelle Bauer comes along for her usual shift of getting naked and then viciously slaughtered and porn hottie Jamie Summers is also included for a rare non-adult film role to up the eye-candy factor.
First (and last) time director Nick Marino creates little in terms of tension or suspense and his modus operandi seemed to be little more than point the camera, shoot what was in front of him and then shout ‘Cut’! Andre De Toth’s involvement in the direction of a share of the scenes is a rumour that has never been confirmed or denied, but either way, there’s nothing exceptional here to be noted. He gets a thank you in the closing credits, which adds some weight to the case, but unfortunately, without the press package that would have accompanied Terror Night if it had secured a better release, there is little way of knowing for sure who worked on what.
Perhaps the flaws that we come across whilst watching are also to be blamed on the problematic production? The sets are inadequately lighted to the point of frustration in places and they lack the visual gloss that their creative layouts deserved. The story is also somewhat rushed and unclear and fails to deliver a satisfying resolution to the puzzle that it works so hard on creating throughout the length of the runtime. We never find out if our bogeyman is actually a ghost or just a semi-supernatural ninety-year-old with the appearance of someone half that age. Would these issues have been ironed out if the movie had not had come up against so many issues during and after the shoot? It is really hard to say and we will never know for sure when it was decided that Terror Night would not secure worldwide circulation. Perhaps the filmmakers never got the chance to add the finishing touches that would have given their project a more ‘completed’ feel. The campy ending however can’t be blamed on disjointed development woes. It’s pure eighties cheese on toast slasher screenwriting at its funniest – you just have to check it out!
It’s as clear as a polished crystal that Terror Night didn’t have the most straight forward journey on to budget DVD. Even if there are a handful of weak moments, none of them look to have been big or bad enough to have kept the movie in a vault for so long. It has enough in its gore coated handbag to satisfy fans that are looking for an obscure and fun genre-piece that does deliver the goods. It’s packed to the brim with hokey gore and excessive nudity, which makes it an almost perfect exploitation piece.
I briefly thought about adding Terror Night to my top 30 slasher pictures category here on a SLASH above, but I finally decided against it. Still, it is quite a quirky slasher picture and I really enjoyed sitting down to watch it.
Final Girl √√
Movie House Massacre 1982
aka Blood Theatre
Directed by: Rick Sloane
Starring: Mary Woronov, Jenny Cunningham, Johnathan Blakeley
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The successful cinema chain, Spotlite Theatres have decided to renovate an old abandoned auditorium and add it to their list of multiplexes. It has been closed since a manager went mad decades earlier and killed off a whole heap of people. Almost as soon as they get started though, the bodies begin dropping once again. Who could be behind the series of killings?
Fortunately, I’m a child of the Internet age and since I was eighteen, I have always had the ability to read an online review of the films that I’m looking to watch prior to purchasing them. There’s no doubt that the warning signs were there with Movie House Massacre. It’s been torn apart globally on the www; and even if sometimes I can disagree with other authors, the outright level of criticism on this particular title made the chance of that seem rather slim.
The reason I mention this is because the marketing team behind the packaging of Rick Sloane’s debut were most definitely the feature’s worst enemy. Looking at the box, it’s easy to believe that you are going to be in for a gory slasher in the vein of The Burning et al. That is totally inaccurate however, because Movie House Massacre is actually nothing but a goofy horror spoof. I got to the eleven minute mark in the runtime and had to rewind it to the beginning and start again with my comedy hat on. To continue watching whilst expecting attempts at terror would have been unfair on this film. So did the change of my initial perception make MHM any better?
Quite frankly, no. It lives up very well to its reputation of incompetence. What we have here is a shambolic example of filmmaking in every possible way. Technically, the level of professionalism is pitiful and this is most evident in the editing, which strings scenes together with no apparent logical structure. There’s a semblance of a story there, somewhere; but it’s muddled, unbalanced and ultimately very boring.
Good comedy done well is priceless and almost as tough to produce on the silver screen as effective suspense. I’m a big fan of slapstick and films such as Naked Gun or Airplane work because they fire everything at their audience and if the first five jokes don’t stick, it’s guaranteed that there’s a couple that will. The problem with Movie House Massacre is that it could fling a million attempts at us, but it’d make no difference because it is just not funny. Rick Sloane was 21 when he put this together, but he must have been twelve when he wrote the script. It’s simply awful.
As the majority of the crew don’t seem to have a clue about filmmaking, you don’t need me to tell you how low the level of the dramatics sink. I must, however, praise Mary Woronov who gives us some of the finest acting that I have ever seen. It’s not in the way that she portrays her character however. It’s her ability to hide the obvious disappointment and bewilderment that an actress of her experience must have had on this set. Seriously, she deserved an Oscar nod for that. I reckon that she must have sacked her agent straight after for putting her near this tosh.
If you type Movie House Massacre in to Google, you can find review after review that will tell you how bad the film is. There is absolutely zero point in me writing any more of the same things in a different way, but I did pick up a few interesting points. It seems as if the idea here was to spoof horror in general rather than just the slasher genre and there’s a couple of haunted-house type shenanigans that go on throughout the runtime, such as light bulbs smashing and objects flying across the room. Still this just qualifies as a slasher movie because it does include a knife clenching killer (an elderly man with zilch scare factor) and a ‘heroic’ final girl. What I did find to be authentic was that in the parallel universe where this story takes place, every door or locker makes a sound like a torpedo when it opens and people can disappear and get killed with no one at all noticing. One girl just turns up to get murdered (somewhat creatively) in a popcorn machine. Either I fell asleep briefly or she just appeared from nowhere, to be frank I just don’t know anymore. Excuse me, I need to go and have a lie down.
I have never deemed any film that I’ve seen atrocious enough to give a no star review. I was close here, but in the end I decided on half a star. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is a terrible picture. Painful, horrible, grotesque and monstrous. It doesn’t attempt however to cover up its weaknesses with vulgarity, which is something that others seem to do constantly. I also laughed when I heard the Casio keyboard Halloween knock-off score, which is suspiciously similar to the cheesy club track ‘Little bit of luck’ by DJ Luck and MC Neat. It was amusing watching an old man with a knife stalk a theater isle, whilst a cheap rendition of “Ta na ne, ta na ne, ta na ne, ta na ne tee boi” was playing in the background. I think that alone salvaged the film somewhat. Maybe Sloane should have sued them for the use of his tune? He could have retrieved some of the budget that I am sure he never got back on this. Also, did anyone else notice how much the actor who played the young killer was similar to Ray Liotta? Gawd I must have been bored if I was thinking things like that.
If you needed to read it yet another time just to be sure, then I can confirm to you that Movie House Massacre should be avoided at all costs. I felt like throwing my sock at my iPad countless times throughout and I know people always say it halfheartedly, but I promise you that I was cringing in places. Horrible acting, no story, a dumb geriatric killer, zero suspense and well zero anything, really.
A good friend of mine recently was trying to split with his girlfriend. He had tried everything, but she just wouldn’t go. I told him to show her Movie House Massacre and pretend it was his favourite film. They are no longer together…
A Day of Judgement 1981
Directed by: Charles Reynolds
Starring: George Kennedy, David Michael O’Neill, Michelle Bauer
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This is not just an update, but a complete rewrite of my 2004 review of A Day of Judgement, which is still online. I found out some more information about the production of the picture that I have included here. Enjoy…
A Day of Judgement tells the tale of a small Southern town in the 1920s during the Great Depression, where the local church congregation has been reduced to three elderly pensioners. Father Cage blames himself for the lack of attendance and the townsfolk’s unethical attitudes toward the Ten Commandments. Unable to come to terms with the fact that the villagers would rather live in sin than hear his weekly sermons, the priest packs his horse and cart and heads for the city. On his way out of town, he passes a cloaked figure shouldering a scythe and realises that it’s too late for him to save the sinners from a gory punishment.
Around the time of the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, I watched an intriguing documentary. It claimed that the decaying wreck at the bottom of the North Atlantic is actually her sister, the RMS Olympic and it was all a major insurance fraud that went drastically wrong. History shows that the RMS Olympic was a very unlucky vessel after her maiden voyage and she had an alarming amount of bumps and scrapes in a very short space of time. The worst of those was when the HMS Hawke, a British warship, ploughed into the side of her; an accident that it was rumoured that she might never recover from. To make matters worse, the collision was considered to be the RMS Olympic’s fault, so she got no payout at all to help towards the large costs of her repairs.
This resulted in a sink or swim (literally) situation for the Olympic’s parent company, White Star Line, and it was even said that she may never pass another board of trade inspection test. There’s no doubt that this is why creative imaginations have found a plausible motive for ‘the switch’. Drown the Olympic in the North Atlantic under the name of her identical sibling and then claim the insurance funds. It sounds far fetched, but who knows…?
Like all good conspiracies, there’s some evidence that funds these claims, and the fact that the letters MP are clearly visible engraved into the hull under the missing characters of the (riveted on top) nameplate TITANIC does speak a thousand words. Such stories are great junk food for the mind and always interesting to read about, but one of the things that really caught my attention, was the fact that JP Morgan, the millionaire banker who had recently purchased White Star Line, claimed ill health and pulled out of the journey at the last minute. So did most of his friends that were due to join the ride. Did they perhaps know something that the rest of the passengers didn’t? Or did they just make an unbelievably fortunate change of plan at the last minute?
Personally, I hate it when plans get changed – most definitely at the last minute – and even if with JP Morgan the alteration probably saved his life, it’s usually always a bad idea. When this particular film was produced, the sudden decision to switch strategy really made little common sense.
You see, it began life as a religious drama of the type that were popular on the church circuit in rural America around that time. Director Charles Reynolds was hired to manage the shoot and he did so as per the original script, which included no horror. When he had completed his work, he picked up his paycheque and left to move on to other projects. It was then that one of the financiers got cold feet and thought that the best thing to do was to chuck in a silhouetted killer and market it to the buzzing slasher crowd. They hired someone else to shoot the extra parts and then sewed it all together like a bright colour clashing patchwork.
So what we were left with is a bit of a Godfrey Ho. You know Mr Ho, right? I have written about him before in my review of Delirium. He was the master of taking a half finished feature and chucking outrageous Ninjas on top of it in the hope that it might make a profit. He was completely right with that assumption, because they usually always did. Judgement on the other hand snoozes along over its ghastly 101 minute runtime, showing us the town’s residents ‘sinning’ and trying their hardest to look like they’re interested in the lacklustre dialogue, whilst the original church morality plot moves along at the pace of a snail crossing a drawbridge backwards.
This is a story that is populated by an incredibly unappealing group of characters, which includes a greedy bank manager played by William T. Hicks, who true slasher fans
may recognise as the lard-ass sheriff from Death Screams. Also sharing the screen, we see a mechanic who wants to send his mother and father to the old people’s home so
that he can use their house for his rendezvous with various females of the species. Then we get to witness the carrying ons of an adulterous wife and her lover, an elderly grump and a paranoid loaner that believes that his ex has cheated on him. Or something like that. Please excuse any slight inaccuracies, but by this point I was using the ‘matchstick between eyelids’ technique as a weak attempt at staying awake.
Anyway, each of the players got twenty or so minutes to show why they should be punished by the grim reaper, before he turned up and *briefly* put the struggling actors out of their misery in various boring ways. The ‘horror’ after shots that were hastily bolted on lasted for thirty-seconds tops and I counted one hokey decapitation before the matchsticks snapped under the weight of desperation of my eyelids to finally go to sleep.
One thing that did interest me was the use of period costumes, horses, carts and automobiles. These ingredients must’ve eaten heavily into the budget and it’s inexplicable why they didn’t utilise those funds on a stronger cast selection. Most of these guys were EO Corp regulars who were little more than ambitious locals. Their lack of experience did cause one or two inadvertently amusing ‘bad movie scenes’ that brightened things up a tad. I especially liked the part when one of the bunnies boogied to some period pop, blissfully unaware of how ‘unfortunate’ that she looked. Sadly, even if it had been Katy Perry belly dancing in a see-through Arsenal football kit, I still don’t think it could’ve saved this one for me. Whether it be the Titanic or her sister laying in a sorry state two-miles under the surface upon the seabed, this film is in an almost identical condition. Ruined. Unsalvageable. Kaput.
Unless you are a sadist and enjoy boredom as a form of torture, there is very little here for you to bother with. Oh and by the way, the ‘day of judgement’ takes place over a week or more. If you have taken a caffeine overdose and *still* can’t get to sleep, then and only then would this be ideal…
Killer Guise √√
Last Dance 1992
Directed by: Anthony Markes
Starring: Cynthia Basinet, Elaine Hendrix, Jason Logan
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The ability to recognise your own faults is a quality that’s seen only too rarely amongst human kind. We all come across many people in life that would rather conjure up an impossibly improbable story than admit to any wrongdoing on their own part. Thankfully though, there are some exceptions. My friend Juan has an awful voice, but loves karaoke, so what he does is pick fairly easy songs that people can’t help but sing along with. This works, because in a drunken haze, crowds always remember him as being one of the best and stay stuff like, ‘He really got everyone going!”
Director Anthony Markes is a lot like my friend, Juan, because he looks to have worked out pretty quickly that he wasn’t quite up to the John Carpenter level of delivering shocks. So what does he do when making slasher films? Well he packs them full of scantily-clad chicas and campy frolics and then he simply hopes for the best.
This is his second slasher movie in the space of a year after the cheese ball that was Bikini Island. He was most definitely sticking to the ‘if it got financed last time around don’t fix it’ methodology, so he was returning to a playground that he knew fairly well. He also wrote the screenplay for 1990′s The Invisible Maniac. Unlike the fate that befell many similarly budgeted and produced features from this point in the span, both of his directorial additions to the grouping became late night cable TV regulars, and still are to this day, so I guess that he can be quietly satisfied by his achievements.
A club is preparing to host a dance off on live TV and the girls are having to perform arduous tasks not only to stay on the stage, but also to stay alive! It seems that a certain someone is taking the competition a tad too seriously and has gone on a kill frenzy. Will there be anyone left to prance in a leotard?
Location aside, the storyline is *identical* to the one from Bikini Island, right down to the personalities of the characters, so instead of writing the same stuff for you all over again, you could always save yourself some time and read that review here. Of course, it would be incredibly lazy on my part just to leave it like that and not give you the lowdown on this one too, so I will do my best to be original with my musings on Markes’ película del terror número dos. (Hopefully more original than he was with his idea for this movie…)
Maybe it’s because it is early in the morning, but I just can’t think of any other directors that followed up their début with another film that is EXACTLY the same? Last Dance is an interesting case however because it is tough to ascertain what audience it was produced for. People get killed, but it’s far too diluted to be a true horror film. There are two scenes that are more explicit than the usual embraces that we see in slasherdom (they include mounds of T&A and the most OBVIOUS body double in the history of cheap videotape), but they’re still not hard enough to be considered even light eroticism. Could we call this a a murder mystery? Well, the fact that it is painfully obvious from the twenty-minute mark who it is that’s bashing people’s brains in with tree-branches, a bucket and the like is pretty much a pooh-pooh for that category too. I think that these kind of genre entries are unique enough to have their own exclusive branding. Instead of stalk and slashers we could call them cheese and trashers. What do you reckon?
It’s a bit of a chore to sit through Last Dance if you’re not a fan of choreographed dance scenes. Each of the starlets gets her chance to give it her all and twirl on the stage to some pop rock tunes, whilst dressed in a skimpy outfit. Jeff Kwitny’s Iced from 1988 was a slasher set on a ski slope, but you could fit the amount of actual ‘skiing’ that we see in to the pre-credits sequence alone it was that minimal. Markes however is not a man to overlook a backdrop and so we get as much; – in fact we get more – boogie scenes than we do slashertastic action. It’s ok though, because the girls are fairly hot if you like fake tan and ten-inches of foundation and the whole film glows (not a fake tan type of glow) with a vibe that everyone involved was keeping their tongue firmly in cheek.
That tongue in cheek-ness produces a few unintentional laughs that make up for the moments when I was snoozing in front of a bunny dancing the jig. One victim walks straight into a hilariously placed noose that was just hanging there hoping that someone would be dumb enough to do exactly that, whilst the final girl discovers a novel way to put a pause on a marauding maniac’s rampage, which involves some speed of thought and a disco ball(!). There’s also an effectively handled sequence where said final girl begins to discover the bodies of her chums lying around the abandoned club. Did I also mention the fact that The Seeds have a song on the surprisingly good soundtrack?
Recommending Last Dance to you creates a bit of a paradox. Whilst in filmmaking terms it fails at almost every hurdle (acting, direction, script, editing etc etc), I can’t help but feel that some of you, much like me, might just enjoy it. There’s no gore and there’s as much chance of getting scared watching Friends, but somehow I kind of liked it. As much as Bikini Island? Hmmm… well yes actually.
It was a Thursday evening and the choices were minimal. I could have either chosen How to lose a guy in 10 days, which was on one channel or Spurs’ Europa league match, which was on the other. In the end I went with the VHS of Last Dance and it was the right decision. Whilst that may not be a gigantic compliment, it at least proves that I wasn’t too bored.
Final Girl √√
Night of the Demon 1980
Directed by: James C. Wasson
Starring: Michael Cutt, Joy Allen, Bob Collins
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Some of the video nasties from the early eighties were nowhere near as gruesome as their reputation would lead you to believe and half of the time they left you bewildered as to why they were banned in the first place. That’s not the case with Night of the Demon though, which doesn’t take long to let you know what philosophy these filmmakers believed in. We can safely assume that someone over at the BBFC was concerned that a contrast of images that includes a biker getting his ‘Johnson’ ripped off by a furry beast may be just a tad too much for public consumption. In the end, they decided that the best thing to do was to chuck this in a vault and hope that it quietly went away. It was resubmitted and heavily edited ten years later by ex-video nasty distributor, VipCo films. I found a copy on that label in a trade store on Regent Street, London. Imagine my unparalleled joy when I got home and watched it only to notice that it was time-coded and totally uncut. It turns out that I had discovered a pre-screener and it was a personal ‘up yours’ from me to the establishment. Sometime later I came across another version in Spain with a hilarious cover, which I have posted here.
In all fairness, director James C Watson is somewhat extreme with his over-use of visual suggestion. In the first five minutes alone, a fisherman is forced to a life collecting disability benefits courtesy of bumping into the ‘demon’ who was out on his rounds and hungry for a dismembered limb or two. The movie continues in this gratuitous vein all the way through, never bothering to add a touch of suspense or atmosphere development. Instead, it relies on grotesque images to boost the shock factor, breaking new grounds for gooey extremities.
The first scene takes place in a dingy little room that I guess is really supposed to look-like it’s a Hospital ward. A guy lays bed-ridden, with his face covered by bandages and plasters. Two doctors and a Sheriff discuss his injuries, stating that, ‘… his face is horribly mutilated (and) most of the skin is burned away’. Any man with his extreme medical condition must have some sombre tale of woe that (graphically) details how he ended up in such an uncomfortable position. When the lawman asks for his description of the events that left him so severely disfigured, he kicks it all off with the cheesy intriguing build up, ‘Those horror stories that you heard about the forest…they’re all true!’ So begins the flashback that will narrate us through his gore-laden adventure…
Apparently, the man without a face is Bill Nugent, an anthropology lecturer (a popular career amongst slasher alumni, I’m sure you’ll agree), that you could say is somewhat obsessed with uncovering the truth behind the legend of a murderous Big Foot. He and a group of budding students have decided that a journey out to the location where the stories came from should offer some clues to solve the mystery. They are to be joined on their excursion by Carla Thomas, the daughter of the unfortunate angler that I told you about earlier. She warns the volunteers of the dangers that lie ahead, by telling them the tale of a man who was brutally murdered whilst making-out in the back of a van with his girlfriend. The young woman who survived the murder was especially memorable, because she seems to think that portraying fear amounts to making ecstatic grunts that sound more like she had been sharing a bed with Ron Jeremy after he’d swallowed a bag of Viagra. Despite the fearful advice, the group decide to continue with their trip and head off in small boats down a long winding river into the wilderness, just like Burt Reynolds and his pals did in Deliverance.
They arrive at the destination and we get another flashback (within a flashback) that shows us the fate of a previous victim of the hairy beast. Note that our bogeyman actually looks more like an unshaven member of the heavy metal group Twisted Sister than any kind of rare big-foot mammal. This story involves a guy in a sleeping bag being swung round in circles before plummeting on to a dangerously miss-placed branch. The next morning, the group decide to interrogate the local townspeople in a scene that was most definitely ‘borrowed’ by The Blair Witch Project some time later. They’re told tonnes of conflicting rumours by the villagers, but every story that they hear has at least one thing in common: a hermit who lives in the hills and goes by the fitting name of ‘Crazy Wanda’. Apparently, she had a baby that was, ‘Awful to look at… deformed…a Mongoloid.’ The somewhat straight talking interviewee also gives us her opinion on what made the sprogg look so retarded. “It could have been down to malnutrition”, she comments. Erm… Okey. Now that they finally have a real lead, they head deeper into the forest and conveniently further away from civilization, which makes any sort of rescue attempt a definite impossibility.
As darkness falls, the group sit around a bonfire and discuss their findings so far. They learn from the professor that they’ve arrived at the point where years earlier a motorcyclist took his last piss in the bushes, due to the creature showing up and ‘copping a feel’ with horrifying results. Apparently in the edited print, the actual castration is totally removed. In the full version, it’s not that it’s particularly gory, but any male that’s watching will most definitely flinch purely at the thought of it. During the night, the campers are awoken by mysterious sounds emulating from within the trees. Nugent and his buddy investigate and come across a black mass, which looks more like a Country dancing festival, but I suppose it was meant to look really creepy. A young girl lies in the middle of the chanting crowd and we see that she is awkwardly consenting to intercourse with a strange fellow that looks suspiciously like Davy Jones from The Monkeys. The anthropologist immediately thinks that it’s rape and spoils the party by popping off a few caps into the sky from his trusty firearm. The revellers take off running in different directions, leaving the heroic visitors to head back to their tents feeling like they’ve done a good deed. As wrongful repayment for their helpful services, the next morning they wake up to find that their boats are missing. That means they’re stranded without any ammunition; – or in other words, doomed. Their luck worsens when two of the teenage students take a stroll under the moonlight for a spot of nookie, which is always a bad idea. Their fondling comes to an abrupt halt when the guy’s back is violently scratched by the killer’s fury hand (or should that be paw?). They sit round and chat about the assault, but strangely enough, not one of them seems to realise that they’re on a crash course for destruction if they hang around this area any longer. What more proof do they need? I’d hate to enroll at the university that these guys attended. I’ve heard about students offering blood, sweat and tears for their assignments, but as Eddie Cochran so truthfully said, that’s something else.
Eventually the hapless group stumble across Wanda’s cabin, which is situated in an area where a few years ago, the dumbest movie murder ever transferred to celluloid took place. Two girls are grabbed by Big Foot and bashed into each other unconvincingly. They’re both holding knifes in their hands, which results in them spraying blood over one another, because they didn’t think of ‘dropping the blades’. After a while, we’re finally introduced to the crazy hermit who really doesn’t help too much, because she’s been left muted by her involvement with the walking carpet. Before the remaining hunters even have the chance to shout ‘Help me Wanda’, old Mr. Grisly turns up and reveals himself to the unwelcome tourists. He expresses his apparent distaste that they’ve come traipsing into his area without direct permission, by surrounding and then violently murdering them one by one, in one of the goriest final scenes in the whole history of splatter flicks.
Watching Night of the Demon is like attending a horror reunion filled with parts that were ‘borrowed’ from the more popular films released from the mid-seventies to when this hit the shelves. We start in traditional Friday the 13th territory, with victims getting picked off in the woods by an unseen assailant. Then we sail into the realms of Eaten Alive with a rape sequence, which is watched by a baying gang of hillbilly crazies. Chuck in some Rosemary’s Baby, as we get all sacrilegious with the inclusion of a demonic offspring and plenty of satanic cursing. Finally we take a trip into the world that was prominently inhabited by Lucio Fulci around this time, with a gore-tastic showdown that’s not a million miles away from the House by the Cemetery. There are some truly blood-soaked scenes that have made the uncut version highly sought after, selling for big bucks on eBay. The most amusing of the bunch, is when the monster pulls out one gentleman’s intestines and spins them around his head like a cowboy twirling his lasso. Perhaps his true ambition was to be accepted as a hairy Southern wrangler? Hey, now there’s a plot twist…
The cast manage to offer nothing but putrid performances all the way through. It’s not like they’re bad actors trying to look good; they just aren’t any kind of actors at all. Dennis McCarthy’s music sounds like he dropped a vial of acid and then blew the flute over some Jazz that’s been played badly and the photography seems to have been performed by a guy with a nervous twitch because it judders more than a Sumo wrestler on a bouncy castle. Most of the characters remain nameless (and pointless) all the way through. In fact I’m sure that it was only the professor that was addressed by a title? The plot suffers from narration that’s about as much use as Stevie Wonder guiding you through a mile-long maze, and we never even find out a reason why the Big-foot has such animosity against human kind in the first place? It would have been nice to perhaps learn an interesting motive for his apparent hatred.
Despite the back-garden amateurism of the production, Wasson’s slasher film pulls no punches. Even if it is absolute trash, it’s fun trash all the same. I actually found it to be highly unforgiving with its level of outright brutality and the gooey murders do add something of a grim tone to the final scene. I’m no stranger to gory mayhem, but it does succeed in its excessive overindulgence. It is too cheesy to be taken seriously, but for such a low budget picture, the hokey effects manage to really unsettle at times. The director even manages a superb jump scare at the end that caught me off guard.
I guess that Demon most definitely deserves credit for trying something a little different from the majority of early eighties killer in the woods flicks. The POV shots and various references keep it tightly nailed into the slasher genre, but at least it isn’t just another masked killer on a campsite offering. If you want some gory fun then check out the UNCUT copy only. Alongside Pieces, The Last Horror Film et al, it’s become something of a Grindhouse dish of the day…. I am sure that you’ll have a good time.
Study Hell 2004
Directed by: Mark McNabb
Starring: Brian Austin JR, Randy Cunnigham, Lindsey Day
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The screen lights up very suddenly with no credits or text introduction. A petrified girl runs in to a school gymnasium and sees a pile of corpses on the floor. She sprints off in to the locker room and begins looking for a place to hide. “This is interesting”, I thought to myself. “We’ve cut out absolutely everything else and just headed straight to the final chase sequence. Is this a slasher short?” My question was quickly answered when the fleeing bunny finally bumped into the unseen maniac and the title ‘Study Hell’ burst on to the screen.
Being a fan of slasher, or in fact any budget movies, is cool because alongside the satisfaction of enjoying the films, there’s also the challenge of hunting them down. I get message upon message asking me to rip Cards of Death, Savage Vows, Early Frost and the like for some of you folk; and even if I certainly would love to, these studios have much better lawyers than little old me. Piracy is a crime and all that.
Anyway I can understand that it’s hard to uncover some of these oldies, especially if they’re not on DVD. But when I got a message asking if I could direct someone towards a copy of Study Hell I was actually fairly surprised. You see this one’s not even that ancient, so why has it disappeared?
A teacher with personal issues is asked to look after a gang of kids who have detention. The teens begin to abuse him, without knowing the fact that he is a Vietnam veteran with a questionable record. Before long he locks the doors and begins to stalk and slaughter the kids one by one.
Back in 1987 there was an Australian film released called Dangerous Game. It put a teenage cast up against a deranged loon in a setting very similar to the same year’s Hide and Go Shriek. If you check my A-Z listings page, you’ll see that I haven’t included it, because for me, it’s not a slasher film. Instead I’d call it something of a cat and mouse thriller. Study Hell really reminded me of that picture in the way that it doesn’t really follow the normal concrete approach for slasher movies. The killer here is a normal guy and he never stalks through Michael Myers-alike POV with heavy breath. In fact, this entry excludes many of the genre’s trappings, but I posted it here because unlike the Ozploitation picture that I mentioned earlier, it just doesn’t fit anywhere else.
It’s from director Mark McNabb and he has been fairly prolific in the DTV market since he shot his first picture, Dark Fields in 2003. He began work on this project straight after but both titles took longer than he’d anticipated to secure distribution and sat on the shelf for three years. Study Hell doesn’t hang around to let you know the reasons why no one was in a rush to package and ship it to unsuspecting audiences, because it’s amateur night right from the off.
Now there are different kinds of bad actors that you can find in the movies. There are those that have studied the art of drama and are just not very good at it, even thought they do try. Then there are those that are just normal people. I mean, like you and I. People like doctors, students, bricklayers, salesmen or cleaners who may well be superb in their chosen profession, but when it comes to portraying emotion in front of a camera, they just don’t have a scooby doo. Here we have a feature that’s crammed with that level of dramatics and it is extremely difficult to watch.
Every conversation is marred by heinous acting and it looks as if McNabb wasn’t even trying to aim for realism. The characters tick every known stereotype but look to have been cast by José Feliciano. We’ve got a junkie thug played by a dweeby guy with glasses, a flirtatious hottie played by a plump non-actress and the ‘maniac’ stalks around with a receding side parting, spectacles, white shirt and an awful tie. The expression on the faces of the ‘actors’ never changes no matter whether they stumble across the corpse of their best friend or are fighting for their lives and the dialogue is just ridiculous.
There are a few unintentional lol moments like the Vietnam war scenes (filmed in the producer’s back garden?) and a hilarious part where a fleeing bunny choses to hide underwater in a swimming pool from the marauding maniac – and he doesn’t see her! Those looking for a hearty slasher though will come away disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, Study Hell is bad, excruciatingly so, but somehow I wanted to see it to the end. It even has a WTF twist that comes out of nowhere and adds to the paroxysms of laughter. I tried to find out a bit of info about the film’s author James Mcarthur, but what I really wanted to learn was his age. His script comes across like a twelve-year old’s wet dream and it’s tough to believe that an adult would be behind this work. It’s just embarrassing. There’s a final confrontation between our hero (another dweeb in specs) and the nut job and the dialogue and set-up would shame an eighties Van-Damme movie. I wondered after the final credits had rolled, what on earth McNabb thought he was doing when he filmed this? What was going through his mind? If I ever get the chance to speak with him, i’ll also ask where a teacher managed to find a load of hunting knives, a bow with deadly arrows and a hair shaver in a locked school. Any ideas?
I was on something of a roll having watched Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine 3D and Cassandra back to back; and with so much ‘four-star’ action, I was missing the usual junk that I have to sit through to write a review for you peeps. Study Hell came along and changed all that and it’s the first rubbish feature that I’ve sat through in 2013. That my friends is why it has disappeared…
¡Viva El Cinematic Trash!
Final Girl √