Kill Game 2015
Directed by: Robert Mearns
Starring: Pierson Fode, Joe Adler, Laura Ashley Samuels
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I was discussing expectation levels on a SLASH above last week and I wanted to ask you all something that’s kind of related to that topic. Has anyone else noticed that the nights when you’re tired and really don’t fancy going out with your pals or on a date turn out to be better than those when you’ve been counting the hours all week to the event? With me, this is always the case, but I really have no idea why.
I picked up Kill Game whilst out shopping last week and even though the cover looked slasher-esque, I wanted to make sure by briefly checking the IMDB. I immediately noticed the 3.5 score and a user review that was headlined, ‘This film will kill brain cells its (sic) that bad’. Still, I’m here to review every genre piece ever made, so I’m used to taking the rough with the smooth. Even though I’ve seen my fair share of turkeys, I really couldn’t prepare myself to sit through Kill Game after seeing that IMDB rating. In fact it took me two attempts to get past the 5 minute mark.
A gang of high-school friends that are notorious for their pranks become concerned when one of their number is viciously murdered by a villain wearing a creepy Marilyn Monroe mask. Before long they realise that they cannot flee and instead have to work in conjunction to unmask the vicious killer…
Slasher fans, if ever you needed proof that with our particular choice of genre, the IMDB is as trustworthy as a shady CIA operative, Kill Game is your trial swinging evidence. It’s your signed sealed and hand-delivered confession. 3.5 score? So bad it kills Brain cells? On the contrary dear Watson, this is a fabulous slasher movie and should certainly be added to your collections. I’m about to take extreme pleasure in telling you for why.
Perhaps a lot of it is because I’d been ready for a dismal slice of dreck and went in expecting the usual heinous script/cinematography/acting combo. Well as the runtime grew, a splash of credibility washed over me like a tidal wave hitting an underweight surfer on his first venture into the ocean. What I noticed initially was that Game is comfortably financed and never feels as if it’s struggling to display the necessities of the plot’s backbone. Props are used with confidence and each location is shot with stylish lighting and flamboyant photography. Characters are introduced strongly and given enough fluidity and individuality to stand apart, which means that they engage us as an audience. The small and subtle script gimmicks – like Courtney’s weight insecurities – add a level of realism to the players. It’s not quite enough for us to REALLY care for them, but we do – at least subconsciously – feel like we’re involved in their parts of the story.
I’m sure that most of you, like me, have grown tired now of the entries that throw everything at parodying or paying homage to the hits of the eighties. I mean, how many times do we have to hear dialogue that mentions Prom Night FFS? Kill Game on the other hand is a modern slasher that sticks to the rules without having the need to boast about its doing so. I guess it could be considered as a tweak on the I Know What You Did Last Summer style of inclusion, which in itself was a re-imaging of Rosman’s awesome The House on Sorority Row. Instead of us witnessing the fateful event and source for latter revenge at the film’s launch however, writer/director Robert Mearns utilises the approach that worked so well for Billy Club, by unraveling the mystery slowly as the synopsis unravels. This means that the runtime remains tense and we are never really aware of what will happen next. It helps that for the first half of the film, it’s really hard to guess who’s going to succumb to the assailant’s blade and a couple of the killings totally took me by surprise.
Another bonus is the fact that we are given an antagonist with an incredibly creepy mask and he stalks with a swagger that brings to mind Heath Ledger’s Joker. It could be argued that such a striking villain would have worked better if he were a Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers type of merciless assassin rather than a character seeking vengeance for a past event. As I said in my review of Halloween, Myers was so scary because he had no motive, whereas knowing that this killer will turn out to be someone we’ve been introduced to previously weakens his appeal. I guess Mearns was somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place because his mystery is one of the best things about his picture (I didn’t guess it), so he couldn’t risk scrapping it. Still, this is one of the stand out guises of the past twenty-years and that deserves praise. We also get some ferocious murders, including a brilliant decapitation and a couple of SAW-alike death-traps that may not be graphic but are still fairly unsettling. These assist in the creation of a dark seedy tone that on occasion becomes contagiously engulfing. I also have to mention a few thoroughbred performances that may not be worthy of award recognition but are delivered with desire and focus.
Kill Game is a sharp slasher spectacular with a great boogeyman, a compulsive mystery and a plush set-up. Some may be disappointed that the only nudity comes from a guy that could be a stunt double for a sumo wrestler and it does move slowly in places, but all in all it truly is a SLASH above. I’m really glad that I pushed myself to watch it. Oh and by the way it’s my Birthday today ;) I’m 18…. I wish…
Scream Bloody Murder 2000
aka Bloody Murder
Directed by: Ralph Portillo
Starring: Jessica Morris, Patrick Cavanaugh, Justin Ross Martin
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Good Morning a SLASH abovers! I haven’t updated the blog for a while simply because I had to recover from New Years and Christmas. I’m nearly thirty-five and diabetic, so it doesn’t get any easier. Also, unfortunately my external HDD that has my review list on it is broken – so panic mode is at DEFCON 2. Luckily, I have a few DVDs in my room to go through, so I should be getting back up to speed…
Anyway, I’ve mentioned many times here that aside from slashers I’m a big fan of all different types of cinema. With this in mind, like most of the population of the world, I was drooling over the release of a new Star Wars movie. I got a ticket for 00:01 on the very first day it hit screens and even if there were bits I enjoyed, I must confess that my overall feeling was one of disappointment.
I was never a fan of the prequels because the scripts were so rushed and illiogical that I spent more time questioning what was happening than enjoying the action. My initial perception was the same about The Force Awakens, which – without giving away spoilers if there’s anyone left that hasn’t seen it – had an unconvincing villain, two characters that weaken the enigma of the force, plot branches based on convenience and an extreme lack of originality. I was gutted. In my review of Halloween Camp (the sequel to this film funnily enough), I wrote about human expectation levels. Well, I’m happy to say that the second time I saw TFA – with a mind clear of what I wanted it to be – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, the plot holes were still there, but the large amount of action and humour really meant that I could overlook the poor continuity.
What does this have to do with Scream Bloody Murder you ask? Well, I have mentioned this film a few times on a SLASH above as being one of the worst titles of the category. I picked it up in the year 2000 from a video shop in Bromley. My girlfriend of the time and I had been desperately searching out more slasher action and came across Ralph Portillo’s second slasher inadvertently. I remember being appalled that the crew had blatantly ripped-off Jason’s hockey mask and that huge shock had immediately turned me against the film. I wondered if now, after stealing from the classics has almost become a necessity, I might find that I could re-evaluate it.
A group of counsellors arrive to prepare a summer camp for the incoming children. There’s an urban legend surrounding the location about Trevor Moorehouse – a hockey masked killer that has never been captured. Before long, the teens begin going missing and it’s left up to the kind-hearted Julie to solve the mystery…
After Christmas, most of the Western world is riddled with guilt and feels the need to go on a crash diet to fit back into the jeans that felt so snug on December the 23rd. At lunch the other day, one of the girls I work with ate two rice cakes, with no butter, cheese, ham or any ingredient to improve the taste. Bewildered, I asked her, “What’s happened to your usual cheeky Nandos takeaway with a jam doughnut?” She looked up at me sternly and responded, “Christmas dinner happened”. Those dry, plain and boring snacks remind me so much of Scream Bloody Murder; – a film that has become well-renowned for its incompetence. It’s surprisingly hard though to understand exactly why this one gets as much stick as it does.. I mean, it’s bad – definitely; but is it worse than Curse of Halloween?? (Puts on a Darth Vader voice from the end of Revenge of the Sith), Nooooooooooooooooo
In fact there’s a bit here that I felt really worked. We get a mystery that attempts to convey itself smartly and I loved the flashbacks that demonstrate how a certain suspect could have committed each murder. The stalking scenes deserve a mention as they are credibly lighted and include creative character placement that builds surprise tension. One chase sequence through a forest was really impressive and the resulting victim’s dying attempts to get the attention of an unaware colleague were a smart gimmick. It’s fair to say that Jessica Morris is no actress, but she plays final girl Julie with enough goofy hotness to lead you to believe that if you got her drunk enough, you could tell her some cheesy garbage and she’d be yours for eternity. These things are definitely positives.
The majority of the negatives stem from the fact that as a director, Ralph Portillo reminds me of the kind of guy that goes to a supermarket to buy a pint of milk and returns six-hours later after reading the small print of every label to make sure he’s chosen the right carton. There’s a bunch of scenes that should have been merged together, shot more sharply or just completely removed, because they don’t tell us anything new. I preach about character development endlessly on a SLASH above, but it needs to be intriguing, well-acted and appealing. Watching cardboard cut outs discuss family members that we haven’t met for extended timeframes soon becomes a chore. I lost count of the number of potential friendship bonds that don’t go anywhere and the whole thing ends up playing like a soap opera. In fact, with minimal gore, nudity or foul language, Scream Bloody Murder could be exactly that. It even has a truly hideous soap opera-alike over-imposing and knocked up on a Yamaha Keyboard score.
Whilst I do admit that setting my expectations at -10 meant that I was thinking it’d be much worse, SBM still fails to deliver anything that really separates it from a million others. Unless of course you think ripping off Friday the 13th beyond imagination counts. It’s a shame that a film with such solid financing couldn’t be a bit higher in the ol’ quality stakes. Instead what we’re left with is an entry that has the odd moment, but pretty much remains the dry rice cake of possible lunch choices. Whereas me; I’m a large Zinger Tower Meal with Double-Chocolate-Milkshake kinda guy.
Staying on the Star Wars theme, it’s said that A New Hope – one of the greatest motion pictures ever (after Empire) – was saved in editing. It’s only a hunch, but if Raymond Chow had got his hands on the dailies of this, I wonder what he could’ve achieved? Oh and before I go, I must mention that some of the most convincing dramatics that I’ve ever seen appear in SBM. It’s when the kids are watching Portillo’s previous bore, Fever Lake, and they prevent themselves from falling into a catatonic state. That my friends is REAL acting. I’m surprised that Oscar nods weren’t given. It’s good to be back…
Directed by: Eamon Hardiman
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Kari Whi
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Whilst slasher directors are regularly mocked by critics, I wonder if they really get the appreciation that they deserve. I mean, let’s examine this a little more closely. With 1,000+ titles in existence, do you know how hard it must be to choose a unique mask for your antagonist? Let’s be thankful for those that just keep their killer off-screen throughout the runtime, because if not, there would be no masks left for up and coming filmmakers to choose from.
Eamon Hardiman found the solution for that conundrum by going for a pig headpiece. I can hazard a guess at how he came up with the idea, it likely went something like, ‘hmmm what guise should I use for my slasher? Perhaps a dog? No – they’re man’s best friend, so not shocking enough. A bull? Hmmm well, they’re pretty threatening, but they remind me of a burger. No, we can’t have a killer Big Mac. A pig? Well Evilspeak had hogs in it. Ok, that’ll do, let’s move along. Now l know that pigs get killed in slaughterhouses (but so do cows, chickens, sheep etc) and slaughterhouses are scary, so there’s more to this idea than just animal lovin’. In fairness to Hardiman, whatever the reason for his choice, Porkchop certainly led the way in creative killer garbs for the year two-o-one-zero…
A gang of dweebs head off to a campsite in the woods for a spot of the usual antics. They fail to take heed of the legend of Porkchop – a pig-masked killer that is rumoured to stalk the local vicinity. Before long he’s after the campers with a chainsaw and a sledgehammer…
One thing that we all know about the slasher genre is that originality is rarely found amongst titles. Halloween was indeed so iconic that many of its cinematic inventions are duplicated even today. In modern times, there’s a common element that we see more and more in post-Scream productions that makes no sense to me at all. It’s the process of filling a story with totally unlikeable characters. I have hurt my head thinking about this and I cannot uncover any logic in the approach or why we see it so often. On a basic psychological level, fear derives from the threat of something that could happen to you or someone that you care about. Whilst films are obviously just fantasy, there’s a big difference between how we feel towards a character like Laurie Stroud or how we feel about ‘forgot what her name is girl’ from Porkchop. It’s a trend in recent times for slasher movies to pack their casts with boring, loutish idiots and it’s amazing in many respects how many crews stick with this methodology
In Hardiman’s slasher, we get a stereotypical punk rocker(?) with an awful English accent (I thought he was Australian at first), a guy who is cheating on his girlfriend with a ditsy teenager, a porn obsessed geek, two foul-mouthed sluts and a robot (?) voiced by Dan Hicks as the source of comic relief. R2D2 and C3PO were perfect humour providers in the original Star Wars pictures and that may have been the idea here. I don’t remember seeing a prop made of yoghurt pots taking a chick from behind in any Star Wars movie though and they could’ve ripped off Jar Jar Binks (cringe) and it would’ve made the same nonsensical impact. We look on for an hour as these poorly acted, heinously scripted jerks make jokes that progressively become more vomit inducing whilst we are left begging for the killer to turn up and put us out or misery.
When ‘Pig-Head’ finally gets to slashing, the first couple of campers are butchered off screen, which is a huge disappointment because the pre credits murder was explicitly gory and promised so much. In fact, I have to ask whether that opening sequence was bolted on later, presumably after a distributor gave them more money to inject some pizazz. The scene builds up so well, with the killer’s boots traipsing through some undergrowth whilst a stunning chica whips off her top to unveil a lovely pair of jubblies. We get a superb machete through head effect and then what follows is a ski slope to ineptsville as the film leisurely strolls through its clichéd footpath. I can give credit for the eighties references (a hideously acted guy screams ‘you’re doomed’ ala Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th), the chicks are hotter than usual and the part where Deb uncovers the bodies of her chums is stylish with its red-ish tint and creepy scoring. My main gripe is with the characters, which are as appealing as having your appendix removed by Cropsy. Without anaesthetic.
All this leaves me wondering, what if Hardiman had scripted his cast to be likeable youngsters that we see bond over an hour’s build up? They wouldn’t have had to be good natured, we could’ve had an insecure slutty type like Donna from Humongous for example. The group could’ve grown as friends as normal people do and then when the psychopath makes an appearance, we might have rooted for them to overcome the evil, just like in any film with a well-developed protagonist. Instead, we get an overlong, poorly directed bore that I’d forgotten about moments after it’d finished.
It’s worth mentioning that Hardiman’s entry was successful enough to have a follow-up and a remake of sort that was filmed in 3D. I haven’t seen either so can’t really comment on whether the level of quality had improved, but I am mystified by Porkchop’s popularity. It offers little more than either Blood Reaper or Memorial Day and should really be thought of with the same amount of adulation. I’d go as far as to say that Camp Blood was better. Even Carnage Roa…. Ok, ok… that’s going too far…
Directed by: Antti Kiuru and 6 more
Starring: Andres Pass, Aatto Paasonen, Ville Lähde
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My recent posts of Mexican and Spanish films such as Chacal, Masacre and Atrapados en el Miedo went down really well with my readers, so continuing along the linguistic thread, I thought I’d review this Finnish slasher from the year 2000. Shot by (a record?) 7 directors, I found this 27 minute short whilst on vacation in Estonia. I have literally no information about its production, but I’ll say that it’s the first addition from Finland that I’ve come across.
A group of young males decide to meet up for a drink over Christmas. Whilst the ground is covered with snow outside, blood begins to spurt because a psychopathic stranger dressed as St Nick begins brutally slashing through the revellers. Can they stop him in their tracks?
With so many entries that I still have left to review to complete the largest online slasher A-Z, I am guilty of overlooking the countless ‘shorts’ that people have recommended.The three that I did cover, Death O’Lantern, The Hook of Woodland Heights and Friday the 13th:Halloween Night were posted more for their obscurity than anything else and I guess the same could be said about Murhapukki. What we have here is an immensely enjoyable seasonal slash-fest and despite being cheaply put-together, I found loads to appreciate.
The film kicks off with a killer in a Santa suit stealing a car from an unfortunate individual. An OTT tone is set almost immediately when the assailant chops off the hand of his intended victim and then runs him down with the automobile that he just stole. Whilst the effects are the bare minimum of believable gore, it was fun to see spraying crimson and gruesome violence so early on in the picture. From then on, we are introduced to a group of guys that are gathered in two or three homes across a snow-laden landscape. As you can imagine, twenty-seven minutes allows almost no time for character development, but the plot is rapped around a typical ‘revenge for a past event’ core that unravels as more victims are dispatched.
I guess that the reason that I enjoyed Murhapukki is because it breaks the mould by not bothering with smart-ass ‘know it all’ characters or vomit inducingly blatant ‘homages’ to genre classics. Instead it includes a handful of recognisable elements, but doesn’t portray them with the mission of proving to the audience that the screenwriter(s) are knowledgeable of the greatest hits of the category. Our psycho Santa, for example, cuts up photos of his victims after murdering them -(due to identical clothing and hair, they look to have been taken the same day?!?) -, which we saw in Prom Night/Fatal Games and Graduation Day amongst others. There’s a Carpenter-alike shot of a bread knife on a kitchen table that disappears in the next instant when the camera returns to the focal point. We even get an effective Argento-esque ‘the maniac’s behind you’ moment that’s set-up in a bathroom mirror. We could say of course that these are tributes to the trademarks, but they’re conveyed more subtlety and not with the recent methodology of ‘let’s see who can include the most references to the eighties’, which has been done to death.
In a 27 minute runtime, the directors managed to pack in tonnes of bloody murders and a handful of chase sequences that meant that I was entertained all the way through the admittedly short runtime. One of the pursuits built impressive tension as the camera switched from POV to fixed-angles and the snowy landscape single-handedly mushroomed the underscore of isolation. Whilst the continuity is laughable (one guy gets a machete in the hand, but is fine moments later) and the acting is non-existent, I thought Murhapukki achieved a good-time slasher vibe admirably.
I often wonder when watching low budget entries, how so many can struggle to take a relatively simple formula and not have a ball with it. Pukki could act as a lesson to up and coming filmmakers that getting too mixed-up in parody and conceitedness is unnecessary. I could criticise the dramatics or flimsy plot, but there’s really no need to. Instead, I got more than I was expecting. Cheesy bloody deaths, amusing inebriated ‘gangsters’, a creepy score and a Santa-suited slayer in glasses… Are you really ready…?
Dismembering Christmas 2015
Directed by: Austin Bosley
Starring: Nina Kova, Johnathon Krautkramer, Leah Wiseman
Review by Donny Ybarra
Oh, the weather outside is frightful. But the terror is sooo delightful! It’s getting cold outside now and snuggling up with your lovey and popping in some classic horror movies is the perfect way to spend your chilly evenings. As a rabid slasher fan, the Christmas Holiday has contributed to those chilly evenings by the fire with gifting some great horror films from the 70’s and 80’s. Some standouts like; To All A Goodnight, Home for the Holidays, Silent Night Deadly Night, Elves and the ultimate classic, Black Christmas (and I love the remake too, don’t judge me!), are always a fun watch. So what does a slasher movie called ‘Dismembering Christmas’ have to offer for the “old school” slasher fans? Plenty. Just don’t expect “the next big gimmick”. There is no found footage, no cgi and absolutely no convoluted twist. It’s golden age slasher horror for fans, made by fans.
Kicking the film off was a pretty awesome cameo from co-writer/executive producer Kevin Sommerfield, I thought it was a great scene and really set the tone for the film. You may have seen his other Slasher Studious film, Don’t Go to the Reunion (2013). The aforementioned plays more to the post-Scream crowd, here Dismembering Christmas plays it straight to the body count films from the 80’s. Now, after a bloody start, we are introduced to eight friends that are traveling to stay in a cabin for the Christmas Holiday, unbeknownst to them there was a few murders years ago and somebody wants to make sure they remember this holiday….cue horror synth!
The cast shines, some more than others, and when the survivor/survivors emerge you get some truly kickass scenes. But it wasn’t the cast that sold me as much as it was the setting. The most exciting aspect about this film was the chilly snowy setting. Here, you have the cabin out in the sticks with nothing but snow for miles, this already isolates the viewers and sets up a nice dynamic later for some great chase scenes. Speaking of chase scenes, this movie had some great stalk and chase, major thumbs up. From running through treacherous terrain, to having to maneuver through the interiors of the cabin, the hide and seek with this killer was highly effective. Also, there were some really nice pov shots of the interiors of the cabin and the decorations, I immediately thought of Black Christmas as “Billy” made his way throughout the house. The dark reds and hunter greens reflecting the walls and interiors were highly effective in adding class without overproduction. Lots of small details like that elevate this film where others fall flat.
Now, on to the slasher, my favorite part of the film. This killer sports a wicked mask, it kind of reminded me of an interpretation of “Boo Hag” from Canadian Folklore, pale with long dark hair. Armed with a very interesting blade, this slasher gave good KILL. The kills ranged from stabbings to decapitations, to a very fun “wreath kill”. Goltz and Sommerfield know what their fans want, practical creative deaths, giving this film a pretty decent body count. There is a set piece towards the end where our final character discovers the lair of the killer, this was a nice addition to developing the motivations for the killer.
On to the negatives, which mirror my one complaint with Don’t Go to the Reunion, the runtime for the movie. This movie was short, at about an hour and seven minutes of content, I would have loved for about 10 more minutes. But this is a minor complaint, and if anything it shows just how much I enjoyed this movie. Despite the shorter runtime, having to not suffer through filler is much welcome, so more run time does not always equal better movie either. I’m excited for what slasher studious has planned for the future, I would love to see them tackle a camp inspired horror, something like an expanded version of Slasher Studious short film Teddy (2011), if you haven’t seen I suggest you watch immediately! Pick this one up now!
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge! 1989
Directed by: Richard Friedman
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Kari Whitman
Review by Luis Joaquín González
What do you get if you cross an intelligent idea for subtle comment with a garbage bag bulging with eighties trash…?
Well, you get Phantom of the Mall. This was the second slasher effort from Richard Friedman, the director of campy genre-parody, Doom Asylum. It became an attractive proposition for financiers after author Scott Schnied circulated a draft in 1982, because coming before The Initiation meant that it was the first slasher to incorporate a mall as a backdrop for some murderous mayhem. Soon after, it was signed up for a four-million dollar development with advanced special effects, but the production date was never confirmed and it kept being further delayed. As the eighties drew to a close, the budget was halved and different writers were brought on-board to make sure that the script could be completed within the tighter funding. Having read an interview with Schnied, it seems like the version that we were eventually delivered is nothing like what he had planned at the outset. In fact, it’s something of a twisted mishmash that is dismilar to anything that I’ve seen before (or likely will see after).
An un-named town in America sets about building a huge mall in its centre, but construction is held-up by a family that refuse to sell their house so that the development can continue across their land. When that same abode is burned to the ground in a fatal ‘accident’, production begins and the stores are opened quicker than expected. Local girl Melody, whose boyfriend was killed in the blaze, finds a job in the food court, but she’s still upset about the death of her beau. Before long, people begin disappearing in and around the mall and it seems that someone has an axe to grind. Could Melody’s love Eric have survived…?
For all intents and purposes, Phantom of the Mall is slightly bewildering in its structure. A story about a guy that ends up disfigured by a fire that also killed his parents, because greedy cigar-chomping politicians wanted to build a shopping centre where their house stood, should only throw pathos in one direction. Bizarrely, our antagonist turns out to be Eric; – the guy that we were feeling sorry for in the opening act – and because he had been portrayed to be a genuinely decent character, his transformation into a murderous villain is illogical and hard to comprehend. I understand of course that we are not expecting intense drama from a cheesy eighties slasher and I do like psycho killers with a believable motive. A better writer though would have recognised the obvious contradiction in the synopsis, and either made Eric have a dark side from the start (perhaps a fiery temper) or at least not conceived him to be as clean-cut and heroic as he came across in the opening scenes. From what I understand, Schnied’s original screenplay had Eric remain a good-natured vigilante type all the way through, which makes a lot more sense, but the latter adjustments deviated from a logical plot-path.
What we are left with is a movie that nods at the same kind of ‘obsession with image’ commentary that the wonderful Spanish film, Abrir los Ojos, delivered, but doesn’t really make anything of the concept. There were so many possibilities that could have been explored by the return of a disfigured former sweetheart that is seeking revenge and a reunion with the love of his life. Not one of these themes were developed to any level though and you could erase the link between the heroine and the phantom and just make it a film about a masked killer in the basement of a mall and nobody would’ve noticed any difference. Eric only murders wrong-doers and even protects Melody and her new admirer at one point in the runtime. This makes her decision to turn her back on him when he finally reveals himself the atom bomb that obliterates her appeal. She had been conveyed up until then as a sensitive heroine, but we forget about that as soon as she meets a handsome journalist and brushes off the disfigured hero that saved her life – twice. It is kind of like her saying, “I know you were my first love and suffered excruciating pain so that I could escape, but I met a guy with a car and a steady income that doesn’t live in the sewer or have a disfigured face, so see ya” . All this begs the question, why include another romantic angle when that of a saviour returning from beyond the grave is about the best that any writer could hope for? It all stinks of a poorly put-together plan of action, which is generally what you get from four separate screenwriters that don’t know or have contact with one another outside of the connection that they must finish a film on time and within budget. In principle, it’s the same as a few of my readers writing a paragraph each for a film that they watched once upon a time and me posting them together in one review here on a SLASH above.
These script issues are mainly notable because they prevent the film from fulfilling its obvious potential, but there are still bits and pieces that I enjoyed. It’s hard not to be entertained by a bunch of dweebs being stalked by a masked Kung-Fu kicking killer and this is definitely one for eighties aficionados. We get a host of bad hair styles and cheesy catchphrases along with an all-encompassing performance from Gregory Scott Cummings (Hack-O-Lantern/Click: The Calendar Girl Killer) as a hilariously OTT bad guy. He gets into a martial-arts fight with Eric that flows like Steve Seagal in extreme slo-mo and he delivers a teeth-gnashing portrayal of silliness. There’s one ok-ish killing that involves a length of rope and an escalator, but I don’t remember a single splash of blood which was a shame. In fact, the murders seem to abruptly cut before the money shot and despite the fact that I’ve never heard of an unrated copy, it’d be interesting to find out if such a thing exists. It’s only speculation, but those jumps do look a little too forced to be genuine. Perhaps it was just bad editing.
Director Richard Friedman, who had achieved marvels with his previous slasher, seems to be on auto-pilot mode for this project. His characters are fairly well proposed, but aimless, and he shoots most scenes flatly. Whereas Doom Asylum set a tone of comedic fun, Mall seems to be lost in the confusion of its moral compass. Also, the fact that we know that it’s Eric hiding in the shadows destroys any suspense or mystery surrounding the killer’s identity and motivations. It’s hard to understand why no one in the production recognised the need for a slice of tension or intrigue, but instead, a film that took seven-years to finally shoot comes across like a rushed un-planned mess. How easy would it have been to keep Eric’s identity a secret and just have him reveal himself at the conclusion? It could’ve opened the door for a more emotional struggle from a heroine who had met a new love and was suddenly confronted with the guy that was hideously scarred whilst preventing her demise. Audiences generally bond with characters that face big decisions and that would’ve worked a lot better than the confusing dreck that we were presented with. Still, we can find consolation in the fact that it may be a shame for us viewers, but imagine how Scott Schnied must’ve felt when he watched this back. His great idea for a unique slasher was ruined by influences beyond his control. It’s a shame.
Phantom of the Mall is a disappointing movie because of all the things that it doesn’t do. There’s still a chance that someone could pick up Schnied’s original script and salvage the idea, but it is looking unlikely. If that never happens, we are left with a cheesy eighties slasher that’s entertaining in a bargain-bucket way, but it’s also a failed opportunity to make something truly exceptional.
Into the Woods 2006
Directed by: Chad Hundley, Michael Smith
Starring: Andrew Hyde, Chad Hundley, Colleen Mooney Wright
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I remember a couple of years back, my son Olivero loved travelling on the train. He was two-years old then and it was something amazing for him to be sitting on the carriages similar to those he’d seen in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. It was intriguing to witness his excitement, because for me, someone who has taken the same route day-in/day-out for nine-years, there’s nothing more predictable than waiting at the station every morning. When on my way to work, I know every house, tree and landmark that I pass, because I’ve witnessed them for almost a decade. In other words, it’s become a routine.
This obscure slasher flick from 2006 is a similar case in point to my journey, because it takes the standard slasher rule book and follows it step by step without injecting any panache at all. I found about it from the IMDB whilst looking up another film of the same title. It boasts there an impressive 6.7 rating and three extremely positive user reviews that were posted within months of each other (and within a year of this film’s release…). Even if I understand how easy it is to set-up fake IMDB accounts and post self-penned critiques as an effective marketing ploy, the optimist in me always finds a glimpse of hope in those emphatic write-ups.
A group of youngsters decide they want to go camping in the woods to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. They head out to a secluded location in the woods and come across another group of individuals who are also there to party. Before long a hooded killer turns up and begins hacking through them one by one…
Last week, I posted a review of Doom Asylum and there’s something about that picture that I want to recap so as to assist in underlining the biggest flaw of today’s feature presentation. Without checking my notes, I’m going to describe to you the characters that carried us through Doom Asylum, which I watched over two-weeks ago. We had the comedic blonde geek that could never make a decision and his kooky girlfriend who kept calling him, ‘mum’ for some strange reason (?). Then there was the randy black dude who fell in love with the drummer of punk group, Tina and the Tots. Tina herself was tough as nails and fought valiantly with the killer during the conclusion and how could I forget the cute psychology graduate and the dweeby guy that collected baseball cards? I’ve literally finished watching Into the Woods and If you were to ask me one personality trait of the youngsters that I’ve just witnessed, I’d struggle to tell you anything about a single one of them.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the script of every eighties slasher movie was a shining example of expert personality development. In fact, they were generally pretty slack when it came to giving their victims much time to do anything other than get naked and die. They did, however, utilise stereotypes, such as: virginal heroine, slut, jock, fat practical joker and lard ass Sheriff, which allowed us to separate cast members by more than a hairstyle or T-shirt colour. The really good entries would take these clichés and have a ball with them, so we would discover something to subconsciously bond with and grow to appreciate in that person. Into the Woods spends 40+ minutes frolicking with a bunch of absolute nobodies and there are few things to be found that are more underwhelming.The gang head off to a campsite to flirt, drink and chat the usual recycled quips, but the lack of anything remotely intriguing about them bored me to tears.
There are ways that a motion picture can bounce back from a cast that’s filled with cardboard boxes. I’m thinking of Sorority House Massacre 2, which overcame this by giving us a slick momentum and bundles of cheese. I was hoping that Woods might deliver some expert killings or bouncy gore, but despite a large body count, these parts were a lot like my train ride to work; predictable and uninspiring. It’s fair to say that the crew here were operating on minuscule funding; but hell, even Movie Machine Massacre generated a small slice of gloom and according to Mark Demise, in that production ‘there was no budget’. ;). Frankly, a 78 minute slasher flick should never feel overlong, but the Mrs had just finished painting her toe nails and I wasn’t sure if watching them dry from the corner of my eye was tantalising me more than what was going on with this feature. With a killer in an interesting hood that made him look ghostly, tonnes of cannon fodder and a good location, it should have been a straight forward task to make a fun stalk and slasher. Instead what we end up with is a film as exciting as seeing the word cancelled on the timetable when I go to the station that I told you about in my first paragraph. As regular a SLASH abovers know too well, it’s fashionable of late to pay homage to the hits of the eighties. Quite why directors Chad Hundley and Mike Smith chose Blood Lake as their flick to imitate is beyond me.
I think the scene that really killed the picture for me in terms of credibility was when there was the corpse of an earlier victim on the screen and as a fleeing chica stepped on him, the actor flinched not once, but twice in a row. Was that the best take that the two directors could get? Neither of them felt that they might need to shout cut and start again? They were shooting on video for gawd’s sake, so don’t even have the excuse of wasting celluloid. It was so bad that I included a clip of it above for you to see for yourself. Also, it’s great that Chad and Mike have a few mates in a rock band that’ll provide the music for their feature début and in all honesty, they’re not even that bad. I ask though, is soulful acoustic grunge-style accompaniment the right choice for a killer in the woods flick?
Let’s put it another way, amongst other things, President’s Day had its romance between the two leads, which was fun. Chill went with a gaming gimmick that added intrigue. Billy Club‘s mystery kept us engaged throughout, whilst Lost After Dark bundled us with immense gore. Into the Woods, well, it just exists really. There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years of computers being able to take over from humans in the future in a variety of jobs. Woods is an example of how a C64 might direct a slasher movie. Insert cassette with the guideline data and load press play on the tape. In other words, it’s a film with the personality of a cyborg. I’m not talking Hasta La Vista upgraded Arnie either…
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
Bloody Slumber Party 2014
Directed by: Larry Rosen
Starring: Melantha Blackthorne, Gloria Chung, Scott Churchson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Horror anthologies were once the bane of my life. On a site that has promised to focus on only the truest stalk and slash entries, films like John Carpenter’s Body Bags have caused me no end of headaches. It’s true that the first story in that trilogy could be considered slasher-esque and is directed by the godfather himself, but do I post just that part of the feature and ignore the others because they’re so alien to the template? In fact there are a few similar type of collections that have one slasher amongst their runtime, but I’ve always been confused whether to include them because as an entire package, they’re not really genre films.
Director Larry Rosen has done something here that should make me grateful, because he’s eradicated that problem with his new film, Bloody Slumber Party. This is an anthology that includes three recognisable stalk and slash scenarios and is wrapped up in a lovingly audacious Slumber Party Massacre revamp. It starts with a group of girls that head off to comfort their friend, Kelly, who has just split with her cheating boyfriend, Rick. They sit around in a circle and decide to get drunk and entertain themselves by telling frightening tales. After the first one, the gorgeous Veronica gets a bit freaked out and heads downstairs alone to watch something on TV. She soon learns that she’s jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, because waiting in the shadows is a masked killer with murder on his mind. Has Rick returned to slaughter his ex-girlfriend…?
I’m not sure of the exact production cost of Bloody Slumber Party, but the crew have done an outstanding job of making their movie look as slick as possible. It launches with an impressive credit sequence that utilises the mask of Jason Voorhees as a backdrop and from then on the film continues to deliver a gloss of professionalism that leaves a lasting impression. It’s clearly visible how a lot of sequences have been planned with intriguing ideas to realize an effective atmosphere. This is most evident in the second of the three anthology stories, which shows the fate of a group of youngsters that come across a murderous drifter whilst traipsing through some woodland. Rosen choses a snow-coated setting to deliver an aura of isolation and it really makes the victims seem comparatively small and lost amongst the landscape. These parts are intercut with a sequence from back at the house, where Veronica is being tortured by the sadistic masked intruder. I was impressed by the way I found both parts to be equally as engaging and some smart editing means that we switch between the two at the tensest of times. This leaves us in a position where we are engrossed by what we’re currently witnessing, but also keen to see what will happen with the other branch of the plot.
There’s no denying that the key plot-branch is the killer stalking the slumber party, but the three added tales are welcome additions. In fact, they can be separated by what they provide, with the first being a gross out cannibalistic treat, the second being a more typical slasher yarn and the final providing a neat dollop of suspense. Our main antagonist outside of the story-telling uses a similar torture porn MO to the nut-job from Babysitter Massacre and he sports an identical get-up to the guy from Runaway Terror. BSP doesn’t borrow much else from its peers, but when one of the chicas is tied up in a chair, we see her wet herself from the pure terror of the situation, which reminded me of Amy Steel’s misfortune in Friday the 13th Part II. Moments earlier, a gang of teens had been talking about a urine fetish and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an in-joke of type?
Whilst we are discussing the dialogue, it was really something of a rollercoaster. I recall a scene where Kelly was speaking about her break-up and her words were almost too genuine and struck a chord with me. In the next instant though, a character will mouth an idiotic response that made me wonder if I’d heard correctly? It’s a shame that the screenplay can’t maintain its adroit realism consistently, because the script had given us some expansive ideas. It offered a subtle comment on the duality of friendships by demonstrating how bitchy and two-faced people can be and these social comments were smartly conveyed. I also appreciated the producers heavy investment in building a cast of actors with experience and a couple of them demonstrate a fine range of dramatics. I thought Samantha Hahn had some good moments as Kelly and the un-credited guy (?) that played Rick was frighteningly realistic as a control freak. It’s not unusual to come across average performance levels on this budget, but it’s worth noting that Rosen has pushed his personnel as far as he could to get a level of motivation and dedication to their roles. There’s the game of guessing who it could be that’s under the mask, which I didn’t figure due to a clever twist. I also was incorrect in my choice of final girl and couldn’t believe what I was seeing when the lass that I’d banked would be our lone survivor, ended up getting slashed.
Bloody Slumber Party isn’t a gore extravaganza and it does have minor issues, but honestly, I enjoyed watching it. In a market that’s awash with low-budget monstrosities, it’s nice to find a feature that engages consistently and delivers tension. I’m not sure yet when it’ll be released, but keep an eye on that pre-order button.
Prom Night 1980
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens
Review by Luis Joaquín González
This is another of those titles that to be honest, I should have covered on the site long ago. It was only when a SLASH abover, Ned, gave me a kick up the backside by reminding me that I hadn’t yet posted my thoughts on it that I converted it to MP4 and added it to my iPhone 6 Plus playlist.
Back in the days when I was hunting through video shops for slasher films, Prom Night was one of those that I couldn’t find for love nor money. I’d seen images of Jamie Lee Curtis facing off with a balaclava sporting nut job and had believed that it would be a classic slice of eighties special-ness. With a top-notch cast and a comparatively big budget, my eleven year-old brain saw nothing but slasher-tastic satisfaction. Eventually it got another limited VHS release and the nice guys at HMV (RIP) ordered me a pristine copy. Without a review to browse through (children of the Internet don’t know how lucky they are) I was on the bus home and fully expectant to enjoy a rival for Halloween.
A disfigured maniac that was accused of a heinous crime, breaks out of his asylum and heads back to the location of the event from a decade earlier. It’s Prom Night at the main high-school and Kim is highly emotional. Not only is she set to be the Prom queen, but it’s also the ten-year anniversary of the death of her younger sister – the victim of the escapee. When the body of a young nurse is found gruesomely slashed, it looks like the loony is up to his old tricks.
At the tender age of 16, I was mad about cars. No I’m not talking about toys; I’m talking about the real fuel-guzzling automobiles. I saved up some money from my weekend job and purchased a 1982 Ford Fiesta from a newspaper and fell madly in love. Over the year whilst I was waiting to pass my test, I bought a set of gold-coloured alloy wheels, a chrome exhaust system, a race carburettor, tinted windows and neon lights for the number plate. When I finally got my driving license, I was ready to hit the road, but just as I’d turned the first corner, the clutch went. A week later, it was the entire gearbox. I got it towed to the garage and they noticed that nasty brown rust had been devouring the floorboards. My world was shattered, but the car wasn’t worth the sum of the parts that I’d placed upon it, so it had to be scrapped.
Watching Prom Night after many years reminded me of that Fiesta so much. First things first, the film is beautifully shot and DP Robert New has done an amazing job of planning his photography with grace and dynamism. The opening scene takes place inside an abandoned school and there’s an adept aura of isolation and spookiness that surrounds the child actors. Paul Zaza’s scoring is as creepy as always and the film lets you know from the off that it’s slickly put-together. When our key players are introduced, they are awarded the space and time to bond with the audience and it’s interesting how the script hints that humans develop a specific personality trait that maturity doesn’t alter. It was almost as if they were subtlety stating that if you’re born with a nasty streak, it’s likely that you’ll stay that way unless you decide to change. During the story development parts, the underscoring of horror is provided by some stalking scenarios and the killer phoning and threatening his intended victims. This concept was clearly lifted from Black Christmas and shows that Prom Night is a slasher movie that knew its target audience. We get very few, if any, attempts at innovation and the crisp rolling photography through the town where this was filmed may well have been left-over footage from Carpenter’s Halloween. As with Humongous, Lynch was certainly a director that wasn’t ashamed of looting from his peers.
Jaime Lee Curtis heads up a note-perfect group of performers and I couldn’t point out any weaknesses in the casting. This was Peter Simpson’s first foray into slasherdom and the success that he received led him to begin development on the far more authentic Curtains. Prom Night was a big hit upon its release and is widely regarded as one of the genre’s most recognised features. Going back to the Fiesta that I told you about above though, the strong dramatics, superb score and lush photography don’t conceal the film’s limp and predictable spine.
Robert Guza’s script is extremely focused on its mystery, but we are given far too many clues to the maniac’s true identity. They were expecting the unmasking scene to be something of a shock, however it is obviously diluted by the fact that it’s exactly who we expected it to be. It’s almost like the screenwriters didn’t think that their audience would be smart enough to face a compelling puzzle without assistance. I felt that a lot of effort was wasted focussing on numerous red-herrings, when perhaps what the movie really needed was a larger impetus on generating suspense. It’s impossible to deny that Lynch is a director that shoots with panache and draws the best from his cast, but with Prom Night – I noticed this with Humongous too – there’s just never an air of unpredictability. Once we’ve picked who will survive, we know that they’re untouchable and it takes the tension away from the rest getting killed. It’s strange that a filmmaker so inspired by John Carpenter didn’t recognise the necessity of keeping his viewers hooked. Perhaps he just couldn’t pull it off.
Still, there’s a lot of silly eighties stuff, including a bizarre Saturday Night Fever-like boogie scene towards the climax. I also found it hard to keep a straight face when Jamie Lee called Leslie Nielsen’s character a ‘Disco King’ whilst he was awkwardly bopping like a one-legged ostrich. Oh and the fat joker guy in this one actually pulls (and scores) with a chica. So there was one authentic aspect after all ;).
Prom Night is a well-produced slasher movie that has moments of creepiness that are truly well delivered. It’s just a shame that it feels too much like a Halloween rip off and even lacks the authenticity of titles like: Friday the 13th, The Prey, Unhinged, The Unseen, Silent Scream, Small Town Massacre, My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, American Nightmare or even Graduation Day, Happy Birthday To Me and Embalmed. Also, the fact that it’s never really scary is a sin that, for such a visually competent picture, is hard to forgive…