Click: The Calendar Girl Killer 1989
Directed by: Joe Stewart, Ross Hagen
Starring: Ross Hagen, Gregory Scott Cummins, Troy Donahue
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I picked up a VHS copy of Click The Calendar Girl Killer for $1 on Amazon back in the early noughties and I’ve wanted to post a review of it for ages, because it is indeed something of a slasher obscurity. I’ve never managed to get past the thirty-minute mark in previous attempts at watching, but I was determined to make a go of it this time around after receiving an enquiry from one of you lovely peeps via my Facebook page.
As far as I could make out, it leisurely tells the tale of an up and coming fashion photographer that enjoys snapping hot chicas in bizarre situations. Think Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Chicks that love Guns’ short from Jackie Brown and it should give you an idea of his artistic tendencies. Anyway, he invites a group of hopefuls away to a spot in the wilderness to complete an important shoot, but it seems there’s a psychopathic drag-queen-masked-killer on the loose that is determined to ruin the party.
This time last year, pretty much everyone I knew was getting soaked from the #icebucketchallenge phenomenon, which was a great idea to raise some funds for good causes. I’m thinking of launching my own charitable event soon, with the task being, ‘Try watching Click: The Calendar Girl Killer for a whole hour without: yawning, checking your phone, fast-forwarding or poking your eyes out with cocktail sticks.’ I tell you, it’s nigh on impossible. The film rolls through its first sixty-minutes like a collection of personal videos from a weirdo’s iPhone gallery. Characters appear and then disappear at the drop of a hat and scenes merge together in a row without a lick of sense between them. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a runtime that’s so incomprehensibly disjointed and it makes for a tiresome viewing experience. The girl that I was watching it with was so disgruntled that she begged me to turn it off and put on something else. For the love of my a SLASH above readers, I continued (alone), and I’m not sure if even I’ve recovered yet.
If there was an award for the length of time it takes for a killer to turn up in a slasher movie, Click would be in the running to win hands-down. After an hour of mindless tedium, the pace does perk up slightly when the maniac (dressed in drag) begins slicing his way through the models and their beaus. There’s one ok-ish death scene in a bath tub, but it barely makes up for the boredom that we’ve suffered whilst getting there. Many sites have this flick listed as a thriller but it’s definitely a slasher movie. It includes everything from a (very bad) whodunit aspect to heavy breath POVs and a smidgen of nudity.
Like many of its eighties genre buddies, Click suffered one hell of a bemusing development, which certainly aided in the creation of the barely logical structure that we’re left with today. I have found out that the project was pitched around to agencies as a Union backed feature and a cast was hired under the impression that their contracts were secured by a regulatory body. When the SAG became aware seventeen-days into the shoot that there actually wasn’t any Union supporting the production, they pulled most of their members from the site, which left a host of scenes unfinished. This of course explains the disappearance of so many characters without rhyme or reason. Now I’m only speculating, but after the loss of those experienced faces, it could be that Hagen threatened to walk too unless he could take more of a lead on the development. The credits list him as producer, co-screenwriter (there’s ‘six’ of them) and co-director and the film does play like something of a vanity product for the veteran actor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because he delivers an interesting performance, but it does feel like it’s entirely focussed on him and him only.
There are rumours rumbling around the internet that former Friday the 13th babe Juliette Cummings gave up on horror movies after such an unsettling experience with this production. I’ve also read an interview within which she states that she doesn’t know anything about Click: The Calendar Girl Killer and her scenes were taken from a clip show for the promotional reel of a mid-eighties feature that she thought nothing became of. It’s her belief that someone purchased those parts that she’d completed previously and then spliced them into the current version of this feature. She went on to say, “Amazing! You can shoot something and never know what it’s going to be used for!” Her statement creates more questions than it does answers, because she is clearly seen in scenes with Hagen, another Friday the 13th babe: Susan Jennifer Sullivan, and co-star Gregory Scott Cummins (from Hack-O-Lantern fame). This can only mean either that: a) She was extremely bitter to the crew behind Click (She was left uncredited), so when she said she had no idea about its existence, that wasn’t the truth. Or b) It’s a film that was shot in about 1985 then left in a vault until some new footage was spliced in towards the end of the decade and it was patched up and released as is. I mean that certainly explains the mess that we’re left with, but I’ve searched and searched on the Internet and that’s all the information that I could uncover. I was having an email conversation with someone who was involved with the film, but they didn’t respond when I asked about the date that it was shot. So the mystery remains open to interpretation
What we’re left with is a jumbled picture that there’s really no reason for anyone to sit through. The potential was certainly there for an eighties cheese-fest, what with all those models and mullets, but aside from a couple of energetic performances, it’s mostly a boring knot of badness that’s impossible to enjoy. It’s probably the most mixed-up slasher that I’ve ever sat through and that really is saying something.
Stage Fright 2015
aka The Gallows
Directed by: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I was just thinking, it’s been a whole two-weeks since I reviewed a film called Stage Fright; I might be getting withdrawal symptoms… So here we have the most recent of the five identically titled stalk and slash movies and it is something of a crossbreed of styles that we need to discuss. I first heard about this project in 2011, when I read an article that described it as a cross between Friday the 13th and Candyman. A trailer soon followed that stated an October 2012 release date and included a host of shots that I don’t recall appearing in the version, now titled as The Gallows, that I saw last night at the cinema. I could find very little information regarding the name change and all pages/sites that hosted the original trailer have been deleted. It’s lucky that I kept a copy, which I’ve attached to this post so you can see the differences for yourself. It’s been reported that the DVD/Blue-Ray release will include a lot of the deleted scenes, so I’ll be looking forward to finding out via a commentary what it was that led to such drastic re-modelling tactics? I wonder if it had anything to do with the release of the musical Stage Fright that may have been the first to successfully copyright that title…?
Since The Blair Witch Project made a splash back in 1999, horror has been awash with found footage ghost stories. Paranormal Activity is likely the most recognised of these, but a quick glance at any horror playlist will find countless films with similar concepts. Supernatural slashers are nothing new but aside from a couple of half-hearted additions (Dead of Nite), we haven’t really had a true combination of that style and the slasher genre… Until now. I guess that you could call it the first ‘Paranormal Slasher’.
A school in a small town is going to relaunch a play called The Gallows after twenty-two years. The show has a haunted history, because the last time that some students attempted to open it, a youngster named Charlie Grimille was killed by hanging on stage. The accident was caught on camera, but the investigation is still open due to some suspicious circumstances. A new generation of actors that are playing key parts in the second production decide to break into the theatre and stay there for the night. Little do they know that some things are best left alone…?
Ok, so the first question that I need to answer for you is whether The Gallows is actually slasher-tastic enough to be on the right website here. Well, I’m happy to confirm that it is most definitely a stalk and slash flick, but it’s one with a few supernatural flourishes. It has the whole House on Sorority Row/I Know What You Did Last Summer ‘revenge for a fateful event from the past’ thing going on, which is a key ingredient of a host of genre entries. It’s also worth noting that Charlie Grimille is a typical antagonist with a hulking frame and Burlap Sack-type hangman’s mask. I have always had a problem with a Nightmare on Elm Street being classed as a standard slasher movie because its methods of slaughter are too fantastical and therefore far removed from the original source code: Psycho/Giallos. Here, the victims are killed by a noose, which is a far less outlandish gimmick.
When the psycho makes his presence known, the film becomes extremely tense as the four teens are left wandering the dark corridors of the theatre and desperately trying to discover an exit. Travis Cluff does a superb job of realising the panic of being trapped inside with an unknown intruder and an adept use of soundbites and shadows means that we are constantly left uneasy about what could happen next. Another sign that this is a slasher movie is the placement of the hulking killer, because he manages to convey the Michael Myers-alike ‘appear in the background’ trick extremely well. I guess that the only true ghostly ingredients are the inclusion of unexplained sounds and a TV and VCR that plays footage of the initial accident with no connected power.
Whilst the handheld camera approach works to provide a few moments of tension and an incredibly effective late jump-scare, it has to be said that the movie might have played much better if it had been shot like a more standard third-person horror. The story was unoriginal but good-enough, the boogeyman was scary and the location was immense; so one can only wonder how it might have turned out if completed differently. I was speaking recently with a SLASH abover Brandon who agreed with my review of Gutterballs. What I said was that the characters are so deplorable that you don’t really care what happens to them and therefore are left without anyone to root for. The main camera operator here, a guy by the name of Ryan, is also a jerk, which means he ruins the opening part of the movie and dominates your reaction to the fate of other players. It’s not the fault of the actor, who alongside the rest, did what was expected of him. It’s just hard to understand what the screenwriters had in mind when they were dreaming up his personality.
With that said, after an intro that struggles to sustain interest, The Gallows becomes a scary and unique horror movie and one that I’m glad to have seen in the cinema. We watch these films to be scared and entertained and Cluff’s picture does exactly that. The missing footage may explain some of the parts that are slightly unclear (it’s hinted that you should not mention Charlie’s name in a Candyman type way, but not really clarified) and I am actually looking forward to seeing a director’s cut of the feature. Until then, this copy has enough to be worth checking out…
Directed by: Stevan Mena
Starring: R. Brandon Johnson, Samantha Dark, Heather Magee
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok, so I’ve got a bit of a confession to make. The fact that I run a SLASH above and often post a plethora of the rarest entries here kind of gives the impression that I’ve seen them all, doesn’t it? Well, despite its reputation for being one of the most highly commended titles of the early noughties, I hadn’t watched Malevolence until last night. Shock! Horror! (I was going to mention that I haven’t viewed Haute Tension yet either but that’s enough surprises for one review ;))
Released initially as the mid-entry of a trilogy, Stevan Mena’s debut quickly became a fan favourite amongst collectors. A prequel hit shelves in 2010, called Bereavement, which further developed the background of Martin Bristol, the series’ villain. There’s currently a third chapter in production that looks set to be completed later this year. The photos of a killer in a Burlap Sack that I’d seen had led me to believe this was something of a Killer in the Woods/Friday the 13th rip off. I was startled to learn that it’s nothing of the sort…
After a typical genre opening (steadicam up to a house, a merciless killing), the film goes into Satan’s Blade territory with the unusual inclusion of a bank robbery. A group of down and outs pull off a daring heist that owes a damn site more to Reservoir Dogs than it perhaps should have, but manages to work well considering the restraints of the budget. After some tense twists and turns, the gang of thieves (and two hostages) end up stranded in an abandoned house. They soon learn that they are not alone, because they have entered the domain of a vicious killer who is intent on slaughtering them.
Of all the 311 reviews that I’ve posted here on the site, the one that splits readers the most is Tyler Tharpe’s Freak from 1996. I gave it a three-star rating and praised it’s method of story development and character driven plot. Many of you agreed, whilst some, quite blatantly, didn’t. It’s fair to say that this feature includes a lot more action than Tharpe’s slasher, but I did notice shades of the same slow-boiling and gritty approach. Aside from that slight similarity, I can’t think of another slasher movie that I can accurately compare with Malevolence. Sure, it has a handful of nods to Halloween (sound cues are almost cut and pasted) and a killer guise that resembles Jason Voorhees’ from Friday the 13th Part II, but aside from that it’s unlike anything that I’ve seen previously. During the first twenty minutes, a group of intriguing personalities are placed in engrossing scenarios that are shot creatively with sublime camera placement. The initial tale of criminals trying to pull off a score meant that we were only made aware that this was a horror film by the odd chime of a low chord and a growing undercurrent of dread. I could sense the kind of eerie peculiarity that is often found in Asian horror titles such as The Ring or Ju-on. It’s not that Mena was attempting to particularly mimic that style, but the grim aura of doom that surrounds characters that are untypical of slasher trademarks, creates a novel tone.
It could be said that the director takes some risks with his filmmaking style; – especially in the way he invests deeply in the background of his story. Thankfully, those risks just about pay off and the film rolls through a crescendo of moods to maintain the uniqueness. Humans have a morbid fascination with abandoned places, such as Prypriat for example, and Mena seems to recognise this by setting the majority of the horror in a large dilapidated farmhouse. The scenes where the camera probes the vacant rooms and picks up on discarded objects from past memories are really quite creepy. He compliments this distinctive imagery with a smart use of sharp sounds and lighting. Whilst there isn’t really a stand-out score, our senses are kept constantly alert by the squawk of a crow or the sudden impact of bush crickets wurring from the surrounding wildlife. I’ve seen scattered comments about the lack of killings and it’s true that there are very few, but the couple that we are given are handled surprisingly well. Mena pays tribute to Carpenter’s methodology of the background placement of his silently ominous antagonist and the killer looks great in what can best be described as an ‘almost Burlap Sack.’
The plot point of having criminals on the run brought to mind Hitchcock’s Psycho and the film works along the same lines of constantly re-adjusting your evaluations. If I had any complaint at all, it would be that much like Freak, there is a certain level of attention needed to really enjoy the feature and gore hounds may grow frustrated with the amount of time it takes to get going. With that said, there’s so much that’s creatively delivered about the film that I could overlook the minor negatives and the shoddy-ish acting.
I had heard good things about Malevolence and to be honest I enjoyed it more than I was expecting to. It’s much easier to fill a film with nudity and gore than it is to provide craft. Mena delivers a slasher that is not only smartly put together and nicely shot, but it also tries something different and that makes it stand out.
Cheerleader Camp: To The Death 2014
Directed by: Dustin Ferguson
Starring: Jarad Allen, Jennifer Banko, Karrie Bauman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So, a killer stalking cheerleaders that are training in some remote woodland in a film called Cheerleader Camp. Have we seen that before? I don’t know anymore… I’m going back to sleep.
Yes so here we have another extremely rare one from director Dustin Ferguson, the guy who also gave us Doll Killer, which I’ll review for you soon. In many ways, Ferguson reminds me of Gary Whitson, because his films are generally lowest of the low in terms of budget, but tick the boxes in terms of genre recognition and fun. Whitson has done a fair bit in his career, but nothing outshines the accomplishment of discovering the beautiful Tina Krause. Could Ferguson go on to achieve something similar?
A year ago, five cheerleaders were horribly mutilated and burned to death by an unknown someone replacing the water source to a sprinkler hose with sulphuric acid. Now, a group of girls return to the same site to prepare for the regional dance off for the first time since that fateful accident. Amongst them is Tanya, a youngster who was replaced on the last event due to her being ill. Living with the guilt that she escaped certain demise, she becomes a mother figure to the more sensitive members of the troupe and stands up to the lead bully. Almost as soon as they arrive though, their coach wanders off into the night and is seemingly slaughtered by a masked killer. Stranded with no contact with the outside world, the girls have to overcome their differences and do battle with the psychopathic assailant.
Cheerleader Camp kicks off with the aforementioned acid/sprinkler sequence, which despite not being delivered as well as it could have, still provides a gruesome shock. There’s perhaps nothing more frightening than the thought of having a molten liquid thrown in to your face and Ferguson tops it off with some tacky gore to boot. After an impressive credit sequence (the film has an awesome soundtrack), we meet the teenagers that will narrate us through the synopsis. It’s here that Camp somewhat loses some credibility, which is mainly because of two things. Firstly, the acting is extremely erratic and seems to descend into the depths of absurdity every time something happens that requires emotion. Secondly – and perhaps most importantly – the audio and clarity of the picture jumps from bad to abysmal at the drop of a hat.
There was a scene early on that saw Tanya explain her nervous behaviour on the trip. The dialogue was so difficult to hear and comprehend that I turned the volume on my TV up to 45. This was absolutely fine until the music kicked in and deafened everyone within a 200-yard radius. It’s strange because at times, Camp looks to have been comfortably produced, but then every now and then we are given lengthy set-ups that look to have been filmed on an old-skool Nokia. I guess in a way that my opinion of the film’s visual and audible quality could be re-used to describe the entire movie. We get a couple of genuinely out-there nightmare sequences and some creative camera placements that show panache from the director. These few moments of credibility though are often diluted by something unnecessarily inept that appears just moments after.
Overall, it’s fair to say that Camp achieves the feat of paying tribute to some of the genre’s lesser-known titles superbly. I’m sure that I’m not the only one that’s tired of the amount of new-age entries that are so desperate to prove that they’ve seen more than one eighties-slasher that they broadcast each tribute in neon lights. It reminds me of those short fifty-year olds that buy a Ferrari to compensate for their insecurities (party sausage??). Well in Cheerleader Camp, the homages are more under-played and the Jeep (similar to the one from the first Friday the 13th), a plunger murder (Bikini Island) and the killer’s guise (Girl’s Nite Out) are much more refined. In fact the only obvious acknowledgement was a verbal nod to Cropsy from The Burning. Oh and talking of the killer’s guise, here we have one of the best. A maniac in a Panda suit… Brilliant! I was somewhat surprised that there was no featured nudity, but Karrie Bauman, who played Sophia, certainly provided some eye-candy.
Recently, I was in my town centre in desperate need of some Wagamama action. My heart sunk when I noticed that my local chain was closed for refurbishment. Highly disgruntled, I headed off to buy a pack of Japanese noodles from Tesco, which was only a cheap compensation. Cheerleader Camp is very similar, because it’s an extreme budget example of the parts of these films that we adore. Sure, it’s certainly not going to win any awards, but it does offer some pretty fun scenarios. El cheapo fun for sure, but fun all the same…
Final Scream 2001
aka Final Stab
Directed by: David DeCoteau
Starring: Jamie Gannon, Erinn Hayes, Melissa Martin
Review by Luis Joaquín González
The fact that I grew up collecting low budget slasher flicks meant that I was fully aware of what to expect when I walked into Blockbuster video in the early noughties and saw the cover of Final Scream amongst the horror titles for rent. It looked too cheap to be a sequel to Wes Craven’s groundbreaking series, but I’m sure that because it had been targeted to trick unsuspecting viewers into believing it was a fourth chapter in the franchise caused confusion amongst less-experienced viewers. I wonder how many people picked up a copy expecting to find Ghostface, Courtney Cox and Neve Campbell amongst the runtime? Talk about taking the biscuit with creative marketing.
Anyway, the film was a return to the stalk and slash sub-genre for horror regular David DeCoteau after his work on Dreamaniac during the eighties. Whilst D’maniac was something of a loose inclusion that pushed the boundaries of standard stalk and slash, Final Scream has no such identity issues and knows exactly what it wants to be.
A group of youngsters head off to a secluded mansion in order to pull a prank on two of their colleagues. At the same time, one of them wants to trial a set-up for a murder-mystery weekend so that she can open her own business. Before long, they’re all in on the idea that it’s only a prank until a real masked killer turns up and begins slicing his way through the stranded troupe
In 2001, the slasher genre was still very much in Kevin Williamson ‘know the rules’ territory. Whilst this picture smartly decides to avoid the parody angle that so many of its brethren chose to follow, the fact that it still mentions Friday the 13th means that it shows a similar type of genre self-recognition. It opens with a scene that incorporates some stylish lighting and sharp flourishes to set a sleek tone. Decoteau’s trademark of replacing the typical amount of bra-less chicas with topless males is showcased almost immediately in an early shower scene. In fact, there’s only one female victim that I remember throughout the entire movie and the rest are muscle bound jocks.
After the obligatory fumble through the development of a group of cardboard characters, the killings start fairly rapidly. Although there isn’t really any gore or hint that there will be, the focus on the mystery and a few taut stalking scenarios deliver a smidgen of suspense. The killer looks creepy in a mask not too dissimilar to that of Blood Slaughter Massacre or Small Town Massacre and the fact that there is quite a huge body count means that we never feel bored by what’s going on. Melissa Martin does a good job as the self-centred hostess and if we have to compare the performances with those of DeCoteau’s prior work, he had definitely sharpened his pencil when it came to subtracting a believable level of dramatics from his cast. He also directs with polish and some neat camera angles, but the fact that almost every victim uses the age-old ‘hey I know it’s you out there, stop fooling around’ chestnut, shows obvious repetition and a lack of creativity from the screenwriter. It’s a shame that the peeps that dreamed up the scandalous title weren’t allowed to get involved with the dialogue in the script. I’m sure they’d have added a lot more controversy ;)
I must admit that the idea of a murder-mystery weekend did remind me of 1986’s April Fools Day, but DeCoteau doesn’t explore that plot angle too much and it ends up more of a typical slasher by the numbers synopsis. There is a revenge backstory that unearths itself as the picture flows, but for something so simple to execute it is bewildering how DeCoteau allows it to become so convoluted. It results in a couple of plot twists that make zero sense upon revelation and are easy enough to guess anyway. Still, there is some excitement as the victims are slaughtered by the loon and the revelation scene smothers itself in an equal share of ineptitude and cheesy fun.
Final Scream is a standard stalk and slasher that does deliver the odd thrill, but it’s more bland than it is bouncy. It steps close to being a one-star movie, but the fact that it is easy on the eye and fairly watchable for the most part, means that it just about scrapes the two stars I’ve given it below. It reminds me of the recent records of Enrique Iglesias; as in, gone are the new-wave chimes of originality, but you kind of get exactly what you were expecting. So I doubt you’ll shout, ‘Baby I like it’ and it won’t ‘Be your Hero’ but at least you won’t feel that you need to ‘Escape’ – (Boom Boom, I’m here all week)) ;)
Killer Guise: √√√√
Girl House 2014
Directed by: Trevor Matthews
Starring: Ali Cobrin, Adam DiMarco, Slaine
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I read some marketing gumpf during the production of Girl House that said it was going to be the Halloween of the digital age. Immediately after, my interest in the project waned because whenever a feature tries to capture an audience by claiming that it’s ‘the best thing since Halloween’, it turns out to be nothing of the sort. Later I learned that its synopsis was a reality porn show with girls locked in a house and stalked by a masked menace. This brought visions of Voyeur.Com, Porn Shoot Massacre and Strip Club Slasher streaming to my mind. From then, Girl House had been languishing on my ‘to do list’ for quite some time and only yesterday did I decide, with the enthusiasm of a hungover Monday Morning, to finally give it a go. I’m really glad that I did.
A beautiful student that’s struggling for the funds to get through college, accepts an offer to join the internet sensation, Girl House. It’s a website that offers viewers the chance to watch women 24/7 in a secluded mansion as they reveal all for the numerous cameras. Whilst there’s no shortage of sites that give you one on one access to chicas, this one allows you to get to know them as their lives are rolled out in front of your eyes. When regular visitor ‘Loverboy’ is unintentionally offended by one of the housemates, he decides to extract revenge in the most merciless way possible.
Over the past week, I’ve watched Babysitter Massacre, Blood Slaughter Massacre, Camp Blood and Blood and Sex Nightmare, so I immediately noticed how well funded Girl House looked in comparison. Make no mistake about it, Trevor Matthew’s slick debut is much lusher than the aforementioned entries and it looks ravishing as it bathes in its crystal clear colours. It’s blessed with an outstanding performance from Ali Cobrin as heroine Kylie Atkins. She achieves what Neve Campbell failed to in Scream, by giving us a gorgeous new-age lead that also conveys a sensitive and approachable side. She’s aided by a note-perfect turn from Adam DiMarco as her would be boyfriend and some genuinely likeable personalities amongst the background players.
The real casting achievement though in terms of bringing the screen alive is Slaine as the homicidal maniac. In a portrayal with barely any dialogue, he delivers a villain with initial shades of pathos. This gives him the opportunity to rip said shades to shreds as he grows more and more ruthless throughout the runtime. To do that with so little speech is in itself a mesmerising accomplishment and dressed in a skin mask and wig, he creates a villain that’s terrifyingly memorable. Calling this ‘Halloween for the digital age’ was in fact a half-truth, because Girl House’s boogeyman is not a Michael Myers clone. Unlike Carpenter’s film and its trillion imitators, this screenplay spends more time during its opening unravelling the situations that lead to the maniac’s murderous psyche. So many stalk and slash movies fail to maintain momentum during the character development parts, which makes Girls House stand out because it stays sharp through the elaboration of both its protagonist and also its antagonist.
All this is simply preparation though for a marvellous climax that sees the masked killer torture and murder the housemates in a suspense-filled bloodbath. It’s been a while since I’ve sat through a final sequence that’s so skilfully tense and the director throws literally everything in to the pot to create the right blend of gory and sleek bloodletting. There’s enough time left for a pulsating battle between the masked killer and our final girl, which is unpredictable, brave and extremely fast-paced. My partner and I were watching with our fists clenched in anticipation and thanks to some solid direction, the pace remains breakneck all the way through.
Girls House is a motion picture with something to say about the effect of porn on our lives, our obsession with image and overcoming our insecurities. Examining the concerns of our leading lady as she contemplates entering the world of seedy internet peep-shows displayed an intelligent social commentary with views from both sides. They even include a memorable quote from serial killer Ted Bundy that highlights the film’s ethical standpoint. This is all done subtly enough so as not to overindulge and it adds up to an intelligent and glossy scary movie.
I recently said that Blood Slaughter Massacre was the best recent slasher I’ve seen, but a week later, it has lost that title to this thoroughly enjoyable extravaganza. Even if they are cut from a different budgetary cloth, it’s a compliment that both can be proud of. If you haven’t already tracked this down, do so at the next opportunity. It is, quite frankly, a brilliant stalk and slasher
Killer Guise: √√√√
Babysitter Massacre 2013
Directed by: Henrique Couto
Starring: Erin R. Ryan, Marylee Osborne, Joni Durian
Review by Luis Joaquín González
As fans of the slasher genre, if you got the opportunity to make your own movie, how would it look? Would you tick all the boxes in regards to the general trademarks that you know and love? Would you pack it with nudity and gore? I ask this because Henrique Couto’s Babysitter Massacre is exactly how I’d imagine a true genre lover might roll out a slasher flick. That’s not a critical evaluation by any means, but a brief outline of what you should expect from this overlooked entry.
A group of girls that grew up together have decided to spend Halloween at a slumber party to rekindle their friendships. They haven’t been as close since one of their number was kidnapped years earlier and has never been found. They used to run a group called ‘The Babysitter Club’ and charge a fee to look after younger children in the area. This all stopped after the disappearance of young April and they hold a girl called Bianca wholly responsible for the awful event. Little do they know that a masked killer has began stalking and murdering them one by one and he seems to have a specific focus on Angela, their bubbly host. Can they stop the psychopath before he kills them all?
What I thought really worked about Babysitter was that it went out of its way to highlight some of the category’s favourite moments without needing to revert to parody. I noticed nods to Slumber Party Massacre, Sorority House Massacre II, Halloween and others, but they were rolled out slightly under the radar, which made it more satisfying when I recognised them. The killer boasted a unique and surprisingly effective blank mask, which I felt really gave him an aura of macabre non-identity. He kidnaps the majority of his victims and kills them with more of a torture-porn approach, but most of these scenes are exceptionally brutal and fairly authentic. My favourite would have to be the opening shot, which sees a girl getting her fingernails pulled off by a pair of pliers… Ouch!
Scenes between cast-members are neatly staged and comfortably shot and Couto has written some expressive dialogue in places. Erin Ryan is solid as Angela, the final girl, and even if she is surrounded by a lot of lesser actresses, she keeps the dramatics believable. It’s strange because the sequences of characters in conversation seem to work much better than the moments when the killer strikes. There are quite a few murders, but we have absolutely no idea who most of the early victims are and none of them have any kind of build up or anticipation. What I did find interesting was the use of text messages as a tool to threaten rather than the usual deranged phone calls. Babysitter Massacre is definitely a modern advancement on the old When a Stranger Calls chestnut. There was one chase sequence in an office complex that was sharp and tense, but aside from that, the killer just turned up immediately in most of the other killings. It’s hard to tell how much of this was performed that way due to a lack of budget, but the film was crying out for more suspense. Especially because Couto had proved that he could deliver it when the opportunity arose.
The final third is again very torture-porn-esque and offers a set-up where two of a trio of kidnapped girls have to murder their friend with a claw hammer in order to have a chance to escape the concrete basement that they’ve been locked in. Whilst the idea is twisted and sadistic, it doesn’t make sense, because logic dictates that they should have at least waited and seen if they could use said hammer to retaliate against their abductor. This brought my rating of the feature down considerably as I felt that it was unrealistic and thrown together with minimal thought. Thankfully, the downbeat ending salvages the tone as the credits roll and I actually thought it was really quite a shock.
Babysitter Massacre is a fine example of exploitation that is packed to the rafters with nudity (seriously there’s loads), gore and a pretty good mystery. I just think that it had something of a stagnated flow, which in fairness may well have been because of the stringent funding. Director Henrique Couto is a cool guy and because of that, it’s hard to give his movies a bad rating. His personality shines through his work and he seemed to love splashing the screen with goo and getting most of his actresses naked as much as we enjoyed watching it. I am sure that no one knows more than he that there is room for improvement here, but in the meantime it’s a film that I definitely enjoyed.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Blood Slaughter Massacre 2013
Directed by: Manny Serrano
Starring: Matt W. Cody, Michael Roche, Carmela Hayslett
Review by Luis Joaquín González
A film called Blood Slaughter Massacre could only be, in any language, a slasher movie. I’ve written before about the amount of entries that have titles that start with Blood or end with the word Massacre and here we have a combination of the two with Slaughter (another common term amongst this genre’s features) chucked in the middle for the hell of it. I like the fact that there’s no messing around with this one, you get what it says on the box.
Anyway, the movie had an aura surrounding it throughout its production with some exciting photos of a killer donning a mask that brought to mind the Tor Johnson one used in Small Town Massacre. That has always been one of my favourites, because it gave the killer a haunting ‘deranged’ look, which had a similar effect as Michael Myers’ cherub-like Shatner. It was also refreshing to see a film that whilst paying tribute to the classics of the eighties, avoided the ‘done to death’ parody angle. No matter how much I love the genre, I’ve grown tired of watching filmmakers demonstrate the amount of references they can include in a runtime. We’ve moved to a time now where the best way of representing the cycle is by introducing a unique approach and avoiding the need for satire.
Two detectives that were involved in a tough case a decade ago are thrown back into the heart of it when a ruthless killer returns to their town and begins murdering the children of earlier massacre victims. The police are left stumped as the maniac stalks the city, but it soon becomes clear that there’s a method to his madness…
Last week, I posted a review of Camp Blood here on a SLASH above. Even if it is a low budget slasher movie just like this one, there’s a major difference that separates the way the two are presented and received. If you threw, for example, three-million dollars at the production of Brad Sykes’ entry, there would surely be improvements, but not really enough to completely alter the net result. Serrano on the other hand delivers a picture that totally outshines its budget and you can only wonder what he could achieve with that much more funding. I admit that it’s perhaps unfair to compare a campy David Sterling flick with a film that exudes such ambition, but as they share the same sub-genre, it exemplifies my point.
BSM is a true horror movie; and what I mean by that is it sacrifices the modern stereotype of regular attempts at humour to maintain a grisly tone. Like the best slashers, this one rolls out its antagonist in the midst of a dark and compelling mystery. It comes close to crossing into serial killer flick territory with the focus on its investigation, but it works by finding the right balance of the two styles. Our lead persona is something of an anti-hero, (an alcoholic cop), but we can overlook his character flaws because we hope that his heart is in the right place. There is a final girl here, but she’s kept somewhat in the background and doesn’t play the typical central role. The screenwriters have certainly taken a risk by avoiding the structure that’s commonly utilised almost identically in these more recent films, but what we get instead plays in the most satisfying of ways.
With such a bright spotlight of focus shone upon the story, Serrano needed to develop a constant feeling of dread to keep up the film’s momentum. I’ve already highlighted that the killer looks extremely intimidating in that ghoulish mask, but the director makes the most of his hulking frame and menacing size to add extra trepidation to the kill scenes. Whilst there are a couple of gore shots (a shower murder very similar to the one from The Prowler and a chainsaw slaughter spring to mind), it’s the placing of the bogeyman in each stalking sequence that really delivers the necessary fear factor. He’s up there with the guy from The Orphan Killer as one of the scariest maniacs I can recall and the director doesn’t waste a chance to make the most of his presence. He butchers a huge amount of victims and his sadistic brutality is extremely threatening. This is one of those films that develops its shocks because it makes you question how you’d react if you were to be placed in the situation that you see unfolding on the screen.
At two-hours and five-minutes, Serrano has a lot of ground to cover and he does so with a plot that may seem slightly convoluted to the lesser viewer. I’m not sure if a further prologue scene was removed late in the production, but I recommend watching the film through twice to really understand the synopsis. The lesser actors amongst the cast survive due to solid direction and Serrano pushes his cast to the limit in order to draw the performances that he required. We even get something of a ‘The Departed’ moment during the film’s conclusion and it does succeed in leaving you unsure what’s going to happen next.
We live in a world now where every new production comes with pages of untrustworthy IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes reviews and exciting social media commentaries that more often than not build a level of anticipation that rarely proves accurate when a film is finally released. I’m pleased to say that Blood Slaughter Massacre is better than I thought it would be and that in itself is a real achievement. What Serrano has built on a modest budget should set the standard for the slasher films of 2015. It is not a remake and It really is that good…
Killer Guise: √√√√
Camp Blood 1999
Directed by: Brad Sykes
Starring: Jennifer Ritchkoff, Michael Taylor, Tim Young
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I have mentioned Camp Blood a number of times on a SLASH above, but never actually got round to reviewing it. I picked it up back in the early noughties on big-box VHS and it was possibly the first no budget slasher of the new age that I got to see. Since then, I always thought of it as the quintessential example of a bad dime-store take on the slasher template. Over a decade has passed since I last watched it and the genre has seen its fair share of features that were financed on even smaller pocket books. This left me wondering if Blood would still maintain the status that I bestowed upon it on first viewing.
Two couples head off to explore a secluded woodland called Camp Blackfoot. Locals have named it Camp Blood due to the fact that a betrayed husband killed his cheating partner and her lover with a machete before disappearing into the wilderness. Legend states that he still roams the hills and murders anyone that is unfortunate or stupid enough to roam his region…
It was a strange feeling sitting in front of Camp Blood again after so long. Part of me was reminiscing the stack of VHS that I used to trawl through in my room when I’d just turned twenty and the other part was proud of the patience that I possessed to ‘appreciate’ so many turkies. Make no mistake about it, Blood isn’t like a bottle of fine wine. What I mean by that is my ten-year hiatus from exposure to it hasn’t turned it into Halloween. With that said, I did find things here that made me smile, which was most definitely more that I’d expected.
Brad Sykes, for all his obvious signs of amateurism, does understand what people enjoy about slasher movies. It takes less than five-minutes for the inevitable boob shot (what a pairing) and the next sight that we are treated to is a lumbering maniac in a clown mask. The kill scenes are deftly edited considering the budget and for the un-trained eye (i.e. my Mrs), the various splashings of blood and an imposing menace could be considered as generally effective. To give you an example, there’s a sequence that starts dumbly, because our sympathetic hero type guy chases the assailant into the forest when there was absolutely no logic in him doing so (the killer was actually fleeing the scene). Anyway, it results in a fight sequence on a cliff that’s well staged and then we get a smartly crafted gore shot that was surprisingly audacious. There are countless ‘tributes’ to Friday the 13th of course, with the most obvious being the film’s title, which was what Camp Crystal Lake became known by after Jason and his mum’s rampages.
I guess the above paragraph may look like I am about to take back all the mocking things that I’ve said previously about Brad Sykes’ addition to the stalk and slash family. Well in honesty, my experience was less painful than I’d anticipated, but I won’t be adding this to any top slasher lists in the near future. You see, the few bits and pieces that are classic slasher fun are punctured by some of the worst and most bizarre filmmaking decisions I’ve ever seen. We spend what feels like a lifetime in the clutches of a group of poorly acted and whiny campers and when the killer finally turns up and starts chopping through them, we’ve completely lost interest in their plight. Our final girl sinks to levels of rancid dramatics that had me reaching for the vomit bag and the patently cardboard machete can only appear so many times without beginning to look comical. There’s a really good and creepy score that often borders on building a menacing tone, but just when I was about to write a positive comment, something dumb kept happening and I felt like the guy in the picture to my right >>. It’s strange, because Camp Blood includes all the ingredients to become a trash-slasher hit. It’s just that it somehow puts them together awkwardly, like trying to build a flat-pack wardrobe without the instructions. I guess the fact that I had prepared myself for something awful meant that I could better handle the unbelievable levels of amateurism when I put it on this time. I went in knowing that there was going to be a mountain of goofiness, which made it easier than when I initially saw this and had less of an idea of what to expect.
There’s no doubt that Blood was filmed on the smallest of budgets, which was obvious because the same actors were re-used to play different characters with minimal effort to disguise their identities. It was bizarre seeing faces returning to the screen as Police Officers or Nurses when we’d witnessed them get slashed just moments earlier(!) I’m sure that back in the day, I noticed this stuff and found it easy to criticise, whereas now I kind of appreciated the cheesiness, if that makes sense. In my opening paragraph, I called this the quintessential example of a bad dime-store take-on the slasher template. Whilst I stand by that statement, I feel now that I can add the word ‘fun’ before bad in that statement. Either I’ve developed a sense of humour over the past decade or I’ve just got used to sitting through so much worse. At least this one has its heart in the right place. So yeah, as discussed, Camp Blood is a (fun) bad dime-store take-on the slasher template
Killer Guise: √√√√
The Boogey Man 1980
Directed by: Ulli Lommel
Starring: Suzanna Love, John Carradine, Ron James
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Money… When Lennon and McCartney wrote that it couldn’t buy you love, they were wrong. It can purchase pretty much everything and it’s the backbone to most of the experiences that we come across throughout our lives. The slasher boom of the eighties was not because Halloween received a four-star review from Roger Ebert. It was, quite simply, a response to the bundles of cash that Carpenter and Co transferred to their bank accounts after its surprising success. That’s not to say that there weren’t filmmakers that were inspired by that movie, but somewhere lurking in the background was the hunger that most humans are born with… The ravishing lust for cash.
I say this, because of all the Halloween imitators that hit screens during the peak years, none looked more single-minded in their effort to become a cash cow than this one. A friend of mine owns a small bar and I remember when I was about eighteen (and foolish), I filled a glass with a bit of everything in order to invent a brand new cocktail that he could call his own. It tasted like cat’s urine, but drinking more than one and a half of them would result in you being absolutely span-dangled. The Boogey Man is a lot like my brazen attempt at a phenomenal new beverage, because it takes parts of many popular horror films and chucks them into a blender in the hope that it’ll appeal to every ticket buying horror fan in the stratosphere. Does it result in a smooth blend of slasher-holic heaven or are we in for more feline-urine…?
A mother returns to the house where she was raised to overcome psychological demons that have haunted her since one fateful night twenty or so years earlier. Her mother’s boyfriend was abusive to her brother, which resulted in him stabbing the elder man to death. Somehow, her arrival awakens the spirit of the deceased villain that was trapped, supernaturally, in a mirror. Unbeknownst to them, they take the mirror with them to help with her rehabilitation and the evil awakens…
If that plot description seems somewhat peculiar to you when compared to other eighties Halloween clones, then you can be proud of your stalk and slash knowledge. The Bogey Man’s unique slant was in danger of not really knowing what it wanted to be, but in fairness, the net result just about works. Haunted house stories always seem to generate chills, which is likely because ghostly urban legends were what we heard the most whilst growing up. Thanks to a smart use of sound and an unnerving Halloween-alike score, we get the right kind of spooky atmosphere to maximise that fear-factor. The slasher homage is most visible when the killer strikes and these regular murders add gore and brutality to the concept. After the traditional cut and pasted Carpenter-esque POV house stalking shot, Lommel manages to implement a few of his own ideas into the direction and the odd one pays off. I thought the scenes that saw characters exploring a dark barn and discovering corpses were exceptionally filmed and there’s always a subtle undercurrent of dread.
It’s tough to make out what got The Boogey Man added to the DPP list and banned in the United Kingdom, although there’s quite a bit of tacky goo and shots of a child – and later his sister – being tied up in a suggestive manner. Like many former video nasties though, this picture doesn’t seem particularly gruesome in comparison with others that it shares its genre with and it was likely a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve read reviews that criticise the level of the dramatics, but personally, I really didn’t think the cast were that bad. Uli Lommel’s beautiful wife, Suzanne Love, had some strong moments as the heroine and her real-life brother was cast to play, well, her brother in a role with minimal dialogue. The fact that he’s mute (and also a bit creepy) made us believe that he was set to be the villain, but it doesn’t take us long to realise that isn’t the case. In fact the film never really clarifies who or what the antagonist is and it’s these parts that show a weakness in the screenplay. It’s hinted that the mother’s evil boyfriend has reached out from the beyond to seek revenge, but without giving anything away, the conclusion throws so much at us that we’re left scratching our heads. There’s a reason why I think this to be a strategic picture that’s targeted mainly to make a profit; and the Amityville-alike house where the action takes place, Exorcist-lite conclusion and aforementioned Halloween-style murders are enough evidence to justify my accusation.
Still, The Boogey Man does provide some neat shocks and when it sticks to what it does best, it’s actually a compelling and scary film. Lommel pulls enough tricks to sustain a morbid tone and despite bordering on being ‘too supernatural’ in places, I think it is a good addition to the slasher catalogue. Those questioning whether it’s truly a stalk and slash movie can take comfort in the fact that it most certainly is; even if it is one that pushes the boundaries. On a side note, Blood Sisters, Girls School Screamers and more recently, The Inherited, could all be considered as inspired by this. With Screamers, it was of course unintentional, but interesting all the same…
Killer Guise: √