Monthly Archives: November 2011
Evil Laugh 1986
aka El Retorno de Martin
Directed by: Dominick Brascia
Starring: Ashlyn Gere, Jody Gibson, Steven Baio
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I was born in 81, so am ‘lucky’ enough to say that I definitely experienced the eighties. I can remember coming home from school with my bouffant hairstyle and listening to ‘Look What the Cat Dragged in’ on my radio shack tape recorder whilst waiting for my older brother to go out. Then I would sit on the top bunk bed and watch a plethora of slasher hits on big box VHS. I may not have been old enough to really understand, but I certainly got a taste of fashion’s most embarrassing period
This slasher will be a gift for eighties enthusiasts, because it seems to include most of the cheesiest things that you can recall from that excessive decade (big hair, bad clothes, crap music etc). It even goes one step further by chucking them all in a blender with the clichés that had become a necessary part of the stalk and slash guide book. After being whirled round at the speed of Lynford Christie wearing a jet pack, the net-result is a Crottin du Chovignol of the most intriguing variety…
A group of medical students head off to a house in some secluded woodland, to help their colleague to do some repairs. It has something of a history as a few children were killed there ten-years earlier by a psychopath called Martin. Almost as soon as they begin to unpack, a masked loon begins to stalk the property and it’s left up to the kids to prevent another massacre…
Dominick Brascia directed this strangely obscure entry to our favourite grouping, and he was something of a slasher regular during the eighties. His credits include, Friday the 13th Part V, Rush Week, They’re Playing With Fire and he also helmed the wonderful Hard Rock Nightmare from 1988. He never tried to disguise his love of the stalk and slash genre, which is clearly visible by the way that he utilizes the full quota of trademarks, but does so with enough respect so as not to mock them. Amongst the obvious references, his synopsis nods at Halloween heavily and the second time that I watched Evil Laugh for this review, I noticed many more examples of category recognition. When Tina takes off her top for the necessary T&A scene, she says, ‘See anything you like?’ P.J. Soles’ Lynda did exactly the same thing in Carpenter’s masterpiece back in 1978. Without giving too much away, the twist ending was also a reworking of another major slasher franchise.
Kevin Williamson had certainly seen Evil Laugh before he sat down to write his screenplay for Scream. In fact, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that he pinched a few ideas from this in the knowledge that only extreme genre nuts like us would notice his theft. Even if Laugh lacks the intelligence of Wes Craven’s box office smash, the Barney character here, who knows the rules of horror and warns the characters that if they have sex they’ll die et al, is basically Scream’s ‘Randy’ with a mullet. To me, it looks like Williamson literally cut and pasted that persona and then took the credit for it; and there’s a lot more here that he looks to have pilfered (Tina’s murder for example)
Perhaps even more interesting are the cast members; or in effect, what would become of a couple of them. Not content to have Ashlyn Gere – a soon to become award winning porn star in the lead, – Jody Gibson, who plays Tina, would later spend three-years in the most notorious high-security prison in the US for being the owner of one of the biggest brothels in the world. The case was highly publicised and it was revealed that Ms Gibson had become the most infamous Madam in Hollywood, catering (and performing) for thousands of exclusive clients. Whilst of course it’s only acting, Gibson’s characterisation doesn’t make that seem so farfetched (she gets the token slut role and whips off her top to provide the T&A), but Gere’s latter career choice seems a lot less likely by what we see here. She remains fully wrapped throughout (an obvious body double was used for the shower scene) and plays a shy Laurie Stroud type extremely well. She loses her dramatic bearings and goes berserk with her overacting during the climax, but I honestly thought that she was an alluring actress and gave a competent performance. Even though I remembered that one of the girls from this had gone on to a career in porn, I was surprised that it turned out to be her. The rest of the cast seem to be having fun on set and the movie works because it remains campy and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. It’s not stupid enough to become one of those rancid horror comedies, but it plays much like a film that I remember watching years ago called, Doom Asylum.
On his directorial début, Brascia shows little ability in building suspense and a lot of exciting set-pieces are ruined by the lack of a creative gloss from the director. There’s a nice set up where two nincompoop law enforcement officers are speaking via walkie talkie, but are located within sight of each other. The Sheriff, who is stationed in his vehicle, is asked by his colleague who can see movement in the backseat, ‘Who is that other guy in the car with you?’ The Sheriff, unaware of the creeping menace behind him, replies, ‘There’s no one else here’. We know of course that it’s the hooded killer, but we wonder whether the Deputy can get back in time to save his colleague? It’s a very well-written idea and has the potential to be a stand-out sequence, but the fact that it doesn’t result in a popcorn shock or any tension makes it a wasted opportunity. It’s this uninspired ‘point and shoot’ style of direction that prevents the film from ever touching on a gothic atmosphere. There are times where the comedic tone successfully switches mood and becomes really eerie, especially with the garbled voices on the cassette tapes and the ‘stay out’ signs posted around the house. This entry though is a lot like my beloved soccer team, Arsenal: – all impressive build up, but when it comes to finishing off a good manoeuvre with aplomb, it just doesn’t have the knowhow.
Evil Laugh’s real strengths lie in the tone and campy nature of its players. Unlike many eighties entries, this never becomes a bore when left in the hands of its actors and some of the goofball antics were enjoyable and even quite funny. There are some poptastic songs that sound like a Madonna LP that’s been played on the wrong speed and in an absolutely stupendous scene, the cast all dance around the house in tight shorts whilst cleaning, which has to be seen to be believed. The production team didn’t have the budget for any effects, so most of the slashing is off screen, but there’s a gallon or so of corn syrup that’s splashed around after each kill. We also get the now infamous ‘microwave murder’, which underlines the true comedic intention of the script. I mean how else could you explain someone getting their head cooked when the door has been left open? When the maniac is unmasked, the actor does a pretty good job of playing ‘totally nuts’ and the twist is at least believable. The final girl however turns out to be one of the dumb kind that always chooses to run downstairs to the basement instead of out the front door… You know the type.
So really Evil Laugh is slasher by the numbers, but scores points for its positive vibe and tongue in cheek style, which I think was as much forced as it was intentional. It certainly deserves a place in the stalk and slash museum and should be considered not just to be a proto-Scream parody, but instead the main influence behind the screenplay for that flick.
Final Girl √√√
Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness 1986
Directed by: Tim Ritter
Starring: John Brace Mary Fanaro, Bruce Gold
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Tim Ritter is another of the multitude of directors that emerged during the post-Halloween abyss of low-budget horror and went on to build a career within a niche sub-genre. He is something of a legend amongst his ilk because he directed and produced his first feature at the tender age of 16. Much like Fred Olen Ray, David DeCoteau and Dennis Devine; Ritter has built a decent catalogue of self financed B-Movies that have allowed him to express himself and convey his cinematic vision to audiences across the globe. His films are notoriously gratuitous and he is amongst the most outrageous exploitation guys currently working.
Truth of Dare was his second feature and since its release in the mid-eighties, it has garnered a relatively large cult following. Its success opened up the chance for two sequels, and Ritter has worked continuously ever since.
Mike Strauber returns home from work one day to find his wife in bed with his best friend, Jerry. Visibly traumatised, Mike heads to the beach to clear his thoughts. After contemplating suicide, the emotion seems to trigger a violent schizophrenia in his mind and he begins suffering aggressive delusions, which make him play truth or dare with imaginary characters from his warped mind. Before long Mike succumbs to the grips of insanity and begins a violent trail of revenge on the society that he feels has outcast him.
What we have here is a tough movie to judge. It has moments that are worthy of credit and then its share of parts that seem to have been shot by the characters from Dumb and Dumber. Firstly, the performances are woefully overplayed from start to finish and John Brace is hilarious as the wild-eyed Strauber. The cast looked as if they were offered no guidance from an experienced dramatic adviser and they fall astoundingly short of delivering anything even remotely convincing. There are gaps in the plot that are large enough to re-sink the Titanic and the continuity is like something from a fairytale, with weapons and convenient props appearing as if on command.
There are many schoolboy errors strewn throughout the feature, which demonstrate a lack of experience from the production team and especially from the teenage director. After a surprisingly good start the film goes on to throw so much daftness at us that it left me somewhat bemused. The few things Dare does do well however, it does astoundingly so…
Ritter definitely came out with an intention to shock and he succeeded successfully in making a film that approaches areas that more competently financed features would never have dared. In today’s climate of extreme political-correctness and constant fear of audience offence, this movie is a fine example of a time when media was brave enough to voice an individualistic opinion.
The copper-masked maniac commits a few of the most gruesome acts ever filmed in slasher cinema. Three elderly pedestrians are randomly machine gunned whilst waiting at a bus stop and a cheery child is bloodily slashed to death with a chainsaw. By far the most shocking scene sees a pram-pushing mother and her baby gorily rundown and killed by the maniac (he even goes as far as to reverse back over them); and watching now as the father of an 11-month old child made it a tough scene to sit through.
Despite Mike’s extreme malevolence, the story initially builds sympathy for his journey into insanity. No matter how strong a relationship may be, everyone can have moments of insecurity and panic if they suspect that their love is not equally shared. How would you feel if you came home to find your partner in bed with your best friend? I doubt that many of you would put on a copper-mask and go on a killing spree, but kudos to Ritter for approaching a subject that viewers find it easy to relate to. There’s something frighteningly realistic about the scenes that see Strauber recollect memories of his relationship and realise that he should have picked up on the fact that his partner was betraying his trust. The opening is brilliantly handled and demonstrates the potential of a young filmmaker with a relevant message to convey.
Like many eighties slashers (Killer Party, Terror Night, Scalps etc), Truth or Dare suffered a nightmare production. Rumour has it that the producers became anxious once realising that Ritter was only 18 years old and they eventually pulled the plug. This meant that the final version that we have is not the director’s initial vision. Ritter has said that many of the plot holes are filled within the missing footage that’s gathering dust somewhere in a cupboard and having seen the effect that a plagued production can have on a feature’s development (Moon in Scorpio anybody?) Ritter deserves the benefit of the doubt. Although technically the film fails to impress on so many levels, it excels in its power to shock and it has a subtle political comment on the Reagan cost-cutting era of the eighties.
What we can’t overlook is the multitude of classic moments and some of them I love so much that I could watch them over and over. Who could forget the part where a moany elder (the type that we all came across and disliked during childhood) walks over to the heavily armed and copper-masked Strauber to give him the third degree for dropping some litter? I mean, the scene mixes rebellion, humour and ‘take her out’ cheers from the audience like no other. Also, although John Brace is no actor, you can’t help but love his wonderful no holds barred portrayal. It somewhat excels being just plain bad and flies off to a new level where it almost becomes credible. Looking at the screen snaps that I took for this review brought it all back for me. In a good way, of course. God only knows what he was doing so important that prevented him from reappearing in the sequel…?
I really enjoyed watching Truth or Dare and I feel that it’s an excellent time-capsule of a cinematic period that will never be repeated. It starts well and despite a dip in its mid-section, the film ends with the flamboyance that was so flagrantly evident in its launch. Considering the fact that Ritter was only eighteen at the time and has grown into a key player and sponsor in the world of B-movie production, this is an excellent example of his ideas. It’s big up yours to the likes of Ebert and serious movie critics, because it is not trying to be anything other than a slasher for people that love them. In fact, it achieves a lot more than the $17,000,000 thrown at I Know What You Did Last Summer managed, because this has become a cult favourite and that’s a status that not all can boast. On a side note look out for Backstreet Boy AJ McLean in the small film-part that he wishes he could erase from existence…
Final Girl √
Slaughter High 1986
aka April Fool’s Day
Directed by: George Dugdale
Starring: Caroline Munro, Carmine Lannaccone, Simon Scuddamore
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Producer Steve Minasian certainly had an extreme flirtation with the slasher genre when it was making fortunes during the peak years. He was involved (albeit minutely) with the production of the original Friday the 13th feature, before forming a partnership with exploitation king Dick Randall, which brought to the table three interesting entries. The Spanish/American produced Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche is a Grindhouse treat and one of my all time favourites. Its follow up, the troubled Don’t Open ’til Christmas, was a mangled beast, which took three directors to finally get to a (barely) passable state and still didn’t make a lick of sense. Slaughter High would be his third and final entry; and fittingly, it plays almost like a tribute to the cycle that he’d been so heavily involved with.
Caroline Munro returns to what she does best – well, gets most work from. Yes, she was the beauty that was stalked by Joe Spinnell in both Maniac and Fanatic; and she also appeared briefly in the aforementioned Don’t Open ’till Christmas. Having discovered a themed-calendar date that had not yet been knifed/slashed/pick-axed, the movie was initially going to be called April Fool’s Day. This was until Frank Manucuso Jnr – the producer most famous for his work with the later Friday the 13ths – beat them to it and secured the title for his 1986 slasher parody. Funnily enough there are copies of Slaughter High in Japan that were released as April Fool’s Day, which only adds to the confusion…
Marty Rantzen is a school nerd that suffers a constant barrage of bullying from a troupe of (middle-aged) students, which includes Carol (Caroline Munro) and the joker of the pack Skip (Carmine Lannaccone). As if you hadn’t already guessed, one April fool’s day the pranks go too far and Marty ends up horrendously disfigured and transferred to an asylum for the rest of his life.
You wanted by the book plotting? Well check this out: Five years later, the culprits are all mysteriously invited to a school reunion on their now abandoned campus, but no one knows who sent the invitations. Almost as soon as they arrive, things take a turn for the sinister as the caretaker is nailed to the door by a psycho in a Jester’s mask! Has Marty returned to seek revenge on those who taunted him? Or is someone else cooking up a reason for mass execution?
For reasons that are hard to fathom, the British crew behind Slaughter High pretend that the film is American, which explains why the accents sound as genuine as a Rolex on a market stall and switch between the UK and the US more times in 85 minutes than British Airways does in a year. Ex-Bond babe Munro slots straight back in perfectly as the scream-a-lot final girl, even if by 1985, she was looking a little too mature to be 21. I’d love to know how she managed to wake up early in the morning with perfect hair and make-up; – but hey, I guess we’re not supposed to ask questions like that. The rest of the cast seem too wrapped up in the bad-ness of their accents to care about acting, but Simon Scuddamore and Carmine Lannaccone kept up the camp spirit quite well. The most obscure thing about Slaughter High is undoubtedly Dick Randall’s brief cameo appearance that has to be seen to be believed. Surrounded by posters from his previous ‘hits’ (hey, there’s Pieces!), and looking exactly how you’d expect him too, he proves that his flair for dramatics was equally as unique as his filmography.
We are treated to a few really inventive murders that include such novelty set-ups as: disembowelment by an engine, exploding intestines and death by drowning in a bog of mud.(?) Perhaps the dumbest of the bunch was when one girl decides to take a bath (in an abandoned school) after the blood from her friend’s ‘bursting guts’ sprays all over her face. She climbs in to the tub and turns on the taps, but the water that’s gushing through the faucet is laden with sulphuric acid. So, does she simply step out of the bath and save herself? Or does she remain seated until she’s melted to a bloodied skeleton? Well, what d’ya reckon…?
Despite being credited only to George Dugdale, the film was co-directed by Mark Ezra, and both handled different parts of the shoot. I don’t think they really did enough with the horror side of the movie though and I felt it could have done with some more stalking set pieces or chase sequences. The efforts at jump-scares were too slowly framed and the film never really builds enough of a rhythm in its flow when the action starts. Harry Manfredini cuts and pastes his Friday the 13th score, which does keep things moving, but at times I got the feeling I was watching a (low budget) sequel instead of a completely different movie.
The saddest thing I learned about Slaughter High, is the fact that actor Simon Scuddamore tragically took his own life shortly before the film hit the shelves for release. It’s a real shame, because he was one of the more motivated performers on display and maybe could’ve developed a career. The reason(s) for his suicide are unknown, but watching him play the role with his tongue stuck firmly in cheek and clearly disguising the problems that he may/may not have been suffering at the time makes his performance look far more credible. It also gives the film a somewhat morbid air of mystery as to why he chose to end his life at a time when he should’ve been celebrating.
Slaughter High lacks the polish of the flicks it emulates, but there’s still a great deal of fun to be had with the tongue-in-cheekness of the whole thing. The unrated versions give some pretty good splatter and I think the Jester mask is one of the cycle’s best. You can’t ask for much more than a hulking killer, an experienced scream queen, some bloody deaths and a plot that doesn’t bore whilst not taking itself too s
seriously. The net result is a movie that succeeds in doing exactly what it set out to. It’s as routine as brushing your teeth, but those are the routines none of us should be without.
Also keep an eye out for Slaughter High that’s currently in production with a targeted release date of September 2013. From what I understand, it is not a direct remake, but it has the same title, so it must be a tribute of some kind… Update from Feb 2013: It looks like that Slaughter High has disappeared or been withdrawn, but a Spanish film that’s currently in the editing suite called ‘Los Innocentes’ has a very similar concept
Final Girl √√
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer 1998
Directed by: Danny Cannon
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Brandy, Freddie Prinze Jnr
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I remember the times when I could come home to my own bachelor pad at any time and in any state and relax in front of a slasher movie on VHS. You know, if I had to chose a day of my life for a scenario like that which befell Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day, it would have to be the time when I met a girl named Faye and we went back to my place and watched The Clown at Midnight then Blood Relatives and well, you can guess the rest… (I got her to watch two slashers, I mean, come on! Imagine what else she would do ;))
Anyway nowadays that old decadence killer, ‘age’ has caught up with me and the room that used to just have a 32″ screen and an ever increasing pile of slasher movies is now a collection of toy cars and dolls for my two kids. The film genre most viewed in the González household has been changed from horror trash to chick flicks and Disney classics and well… You get the picture…
Today, seeing as I share the house with the Mrs, I have to be creative in order to watch these flicks. “This one is different, honest” or “you’ll never guess the killer” etc. It’s either that or I need to stay up until the whole family are sleeping and even then it’s a case of enjoying synthesiser scores and screams on my earphones. That’s what you call settling down my friends.
I had some good fortune though recently, my boss (I mean the Mrs) actually liked I Know What You Did Last Summer, so I used my finest sales skills to get her to watch the sequel. Thing is, would it leave a satisfied viewer with a hunger to be manipulated in to watching more?
After the mega impressive box office from part one, only a fool would not put out a numero 2 and producers today may be many things, but un-eager to build on successes to make a pretty penny is certainly not one of them.
One year after the events in the previous film, Julie James has gone away to study and Ray has stayed back at home working on his fishing boat. The flame is still strong, despite the distance between them. Julie has been suffering nightmares because the body of Ben Willis was never found and as the anniversary of the event comes around, the visions are getting worse and worse. Things begin looking up, when her best friend wins a weekend away for four in the Bahamas. When they arrive, however it seems that maybe Ben is not dead and before long someone begins to slash his way through the Island inhabitants one by one…
First things first. I was impressed that after the dire criticism that the first instalment got, the production team had managed to rope in Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jnr for the follow up, which was a major plus. At first when I noticed that Prinze’s character had said no to the Bahamas trip, I presumed that he had only turned up for a cameo and then was to be subsequently written out of the plot. But no, here he was, on board for the whole hog and it added strength to the tone and continuity.
I wasn’t overwhelmed with Jim Gillespie’s lackadaisical direction in the previous entry, but almost immediately, Danny Cannon shows a more capable eye for building horror. I liked the flashing photography in the club and it was great for breaking up the cheese on toast dancing scenes that also have their place in these flicks. He built some tense scenarios in places and the film only has the odd moment where it loses the express-line momentum.
There’s a tad less of a focus on Love Hewitt’s breasts, although the sun bed scene seems to have been included only for that purpose. I liked the fact that Still Know had some African American players and it wasn’t just those of the turn up just to die variety and in all fairness, Mekhi Phiffer was probably one of my favourite personas of the bunch. Journey man actor Jack Black is on board too and admittedly he is the marmite of Hollywood comedians, but I have grown to appreciate him over the years and he was in fine form for this big-budget slasher. (He had to get one under his belt – I mean the guy has acted in genres that haven’t yet been defined)
Speaking of Madame Hewitt, even though she looked as ravishing as ever, the character of Julie had lost some of its charm for this follow up. It was not the fault of the actress, but the script made too much of her consistent jumping and whining and I think they somewhat overdid it. There’s a confrontation scene, where her friends find out that she has lied to them about the events from the first episode and I feel that they should’ve left that out, because it took an amount away from the strengths of a slasher heroine. Final girls should be almost perfect, not written up as liars who lead their friends to impending doom, even if it was understandable as to why she did it.
Now I know that they had to rush things a bit, because it’s a real push to get a film ready within only twelve-months, but this script was inexplicably silly in places. If you were a psycho killer; actually no wait… if you were an unemployed fisherman psycho killer, would you really pay to send the people you wanted to kill first class to the Bahamas? Then would you fund them staying in a hotel for the build up to their death? I mean, why, why WHY? He had a spot of fortune though, because as soon as they arrive, every other tourist on the Island completely disappears. Also, the line I still know what you did last summer is inept. I mean, shouldn’t this film be called I Still Know What You Did The Summer Before Last? It’s almost as if Scream (the film this heavily imitates) never happened. I also got the twist almost immediately. How can I say this without giving anything away? Erm… I can’t, so I won’t – but it takes the stupidity of say, Hospital Massacre and utilizes a similar method, even though someone who had taken the screenwriting share of the $24,000,000+ budget should have pointed it out. If I can see these things and I work for an IT Sales company in Basingstoke, why can’t a producer working in somewhere like Hollywood? Answers on a postcode…
On the hour mark things go slashertastically crazy and the film becomes an extravaganza of cheese, slasher thrills, a tad of suspense and a dynamic pace. I enjoyed some of the stalking scenes, the karaoke part was a blast and seeing Jack Black get butchered was hilarious. It was moments like these, which redeemed some of the out and out stupidity.
I am not sure if it was because I was tired, but it all seemed more predictable here than it has ever been, but in terms of out and out manic stalk and slash clichés, it is a ball of the cheesiest pedigree. I liked the sets, even if anyone with only the slightest sense of geography can see that it’s not the Bahamas, but Mexico is a great location anyhow.
I asked the Mrs after if she had enjoyed it and she wasn’t overly impressed, which means I really have to start thinking of some more selling points before I propose the next slasher film for evening entertainment. If you have any ideas, please do share them… otherwise, think of me in my earplugs shivering watching Friday the 13th part 9614 on my laptop…
Final Girl √√√
The Mutilator 1984
aka Fall Break
Directed by: Buddy Cooper
Starring: Matt Mitler, Ruth Martínez, Frances Raines.
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
When it comes to reviews and rankings, Horror is a style of film like no other. If you are a genre enthusiast and you are reading this then I doubt that you can honestly say that you have always taken critical negativity as a sure fire sign that a scary movie is rubbish and have therefore avoided watching it. It’s the only type of cinema where authors can write a plethora of negative comments and some people (me in particular) will still purchase enough copies to make the flick a minor success.
Because of the amount of plop that’s littering the category, these features are always at risk of having a negative reception and it doesn’t look ‘intelligent’ or ‘sophisticated’ to give credit to a slasher flick. No matter how bad a review that I read, I never really take it for granted, because – well you know my fellow slasher aficionados, they just don’t understand… It’s us against the world!!!
Keeping this in mind, The Mutilator is an exceptionally unfortunate flick because not only does it get a pasting from the usual mob, but even most slasher websites don’t like it. It’s very hard to find any positivity anywhere related to this one, which I really can’t comprehend. It actually boasts something that not many others do, but I’ll get to that in a bit…
In the opening, a young child accidentally murders his mother whilst trying to clean his father’s rifles. Daddy returns home and wants to kill the youngster, but he escapes away before the grieving father has the chance. This scene ends with a grimly efficient shot of the dad drinking whisky and pouring in to his dead wife’s mouth.
Many years later, Ed invites his now adult son away to their beach house, because he wants him to clear the place up in time for winter. Little does Ed Junior know that his pa has violent plans for the youngsters and before long they are being stalked and viciously slaughtered one by one.
There are so many versions of this flick floating about that whether you enjoy it or not is dependent on the cut that you view. I saw a heavily edited print many years ago and didn’t find anything of note, but watching it in its uncut glory last night was a totally different perspective. As I said earlier, Buddy Cooper’s slasher is quite different from the multitude, because it delivers relentless gloom on a major scale and the killer is exceptionally merciless and cruel. His film is successful in developing a credibly macabre feel to its runtime that excels in its morbid atmosphere. The scenes in which the father dreams of cutting his infant son’s throat with a battleaxe or when he impales the heads of his victims on spikes (like trophies) on a wall are genuinely disturbing. Keeping in mind that most of his intended prey are innocent of any prior wrongdoing makes it seem all the more ruthless.
Mark Shostrom’s gore effects are the most distinguished thing about the feature and they are pretty damn good in all their full unedited glory. One guy gets a chainsaw through the stomach, there’s a decent decapitation and the conclusion sees someone literally ripped in half by a car. By far the most notorious of the kill scenes is when a girl is gutted by a fishing gaff through the crutch. This sequence alone got the movie in trouble with various censors and it is still tough to track down the complete uncut copy. The general consensus on the easiest available versions to buy is that the lighting is awful throughout most of the runtime so it’s tough to make out what’s going on. The Spanish VHS under the title of El Mutilador is much lighter for some reason and it was nice to finally get a clearer viewing experience. It’s also completely un-tampered with, so all the gooey parts are intact.
Cooper’s initial idea was to have a gory effect for every single murder, which is something that not many slasher films have achieved. You could mention Linda’s as being the one where there was no real splatter, but this was no fault of the director who had initially planned that she be shot with a spear gun and then dragged to the bottom of the pool by the force of the impact. In the end, the effects team finally came to the conclusion that they couldn’t make it work. Cooper later said that he was first and foremost a gore fan and he wanted to make his movie accessible to those that had similar tastes. He is honest enough to admit that his synopsis was inspired by Halloween and Friday the 13th and the references are numerous (heavy breath POVS, Virgin final girl etc). I always hate it when directors that flagrantly copied Carpenter’s classic attempt to deny it by saying that they had never even seen a genre piece and weren’t big fans of horror blah blah. Please stop it guys, you’re not kidding anyone. We all know who you ripped off…
The performances here are very poor and the whole production, aside from the special effects, looks overwhelmingly amateur. Frances Raines, previously from slasher Disconnected, provides the T&A, but the rest of the cast were total amateurs or first timers. The guy who gets slashed with a chainsaw is a REALLY bad actor and it made it all the more satisfying when he met with an especially grisly end. Funnily enough, Matt Mitler, who played the Bruce Campbell-lookalike lead, went on to an exciting career thereafter and made a name for himself by doing voice work for the Pokémon series and directing his own feature, which was well received by critics.
Ruth Marínez as the final girl was overloaded with cliché. Much like Laurie Strode, she was shy, loyal, put up a great fight with the killer and was much calmer under pressure than her panic-stricken boyfriend. Put it this way, if she could act a bit, she would have been one of the most memorable heroines of the cycle. In my Slasher Trappings ratings below, I gave her three ticks, just for the effort. I liked the chemistry between the kids, even if they weren’t particularly convincing and it’s easy to see that they all had a great time making The Mutilator.
There’s not much suspense here, which is probably what the feature lacks most. It’s worth noting that musical accompaniment is more used as a sound effect than as a score and one has to wonder if it would have looked different with an operatic piece playing over some of the stalking scenes. The first studio that were shown John Carpenter’s Halloween without the soundtrack said that it just wasn’t scary, so look at the difference that his notorious theme made. Buddy Cooper had decided on calling his début movie Fall Break; but at the insistence of producers when it secured distribution, it was marketed under this perhaps more fitting title.
The Mutilator is a tad underrated and undeserving of its poor reputation. It does start slowly, but after 30 or so minutes of tedium, the film really comes alive with some gruesome gore effects and macabre tone. I can’t think of many slashers that manage such an unsettling and dark atmosphere, but also credibly mix it with some jaw dropping eighties campiness. – Oh yes the campiness, I’ll let you discover that for yourself, but trust me, the opening ten minutes are a cheese buffet.
Make sure that you get the uncut version… Well, just make sure that you get it…
Final Girl √√√
I Know What You Did Last Summer 1997
Directed by: Jim Gillepsie
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I remember when I was fifteen years old; my girlfriend at that time came running to my house telling me about a great film that she’d seen with her friend, Gill. She described a killer in a creepy mask stalking teenagers and a twist at the end that was really exciting. The movie was of course Wes Craven’s Scream and I remember having mixed emotions. Firstly I was amazed that a slasher was the talk of the town and secondly, somewhat disappointed because I had been watching these for years already and now my partner, who was never interested in viewing these with me, was explaining how great one of them was. Funny how trends go in circles, eh?
Anyway I had been too busy being a teenager to catch that flick at the pictures, but I did go and see the next ‘slasher hot thing’, I Know What You Did Last Summer, which was released the following year. Due to my age (I was born in ’81) I didn’t get to experience the boom of the golden-age of stalk and slash, which meant that this was in fact the first genre piece that I had seen on the big screen.
The creative marketing team from Columbia Pictures had billed it as, ‘From the makers of Scream’, which wasn’t exactly true and Miramax successfully sued them. This was however from the imaginative pen of the same writer and that was perhaps the inspiration behind the studio’s ambitious claim.
Kevin Williamson had been a massive fan of horror flicks whilst growing up and he has stated quite openly that his favourite ever feature was John Carpenter’s Halloween. He had initially struggled to sell this script, but after the global box office success of Wes Craven’s genre rehash, he was offered a lucrative deal with Columbia.
After a party, four youngsters are heading home in celebratory mood, swerving across the secluded highway. When the driver is forced to take his eye off of the road for a second, he accidentally runs down someone that’s walking in the shadows. In their panic, they decide that instead of informing the authorities, they should dump the body rather than face-up to a charge of murder. Despite not all of them agreeing, the corpse ends up at the bottom of a lake and they drive off to get on with their lives.
One year later, they have all gone their separate ways, but suddenly each of them receives a note stating, I Know What You Did Last Summer. It seems that someone is aware of their deeds and soon they each become the victim of a masked assailant. Who could be the one that’s stalking them and what can they do to stop him?
There are many cases of hollow features making the most of a large budget (Titanic springs to mind) and it has to be said that I think if Williamson’s screenplay from the previous year had not been such a massive hit and this had secured a DTV deal instead of $17,000,000 funding, it probably would have been instantly forgotten. Unlike Scream, this lacks the self referential intelligence to stand out and instead of saying that this was inspired by The House on Sorority Row; it’s more like it has been completely cut and pasted from that synopsis. In other words this is an out and out stalk and slasher flick and not a dark humoured tribute to them. I know that the producers say that’s it was based on Lois Duncan’s 1973 paperback of the same title, but the film adaptation is as loose as Paris Hilton’s knickers… and equally as ostentatious!
Whereas the elder category members would compete with one-another through creativity and gore – where censors would allow – in their killings, the modern-day entries (hey like modern-day culture) are all about image. On an eye candy ranking, Summer gets a ten out of ten. There’s an amusing example of this halfway through the feature, where our obvious final girl Julie finds a corpse in the trunk of her car. She runs off to get help, but when she returns with her buddies, the body has disappeared. It’s an effective scene and the actors do their best to create some drama. The problem was that I just couldn’t take it seriously when I am staring at Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar having a ‘who’s got the best cleavage’ competition. Being a red-blooded Spaniard (and I am red blooded) it was hard for me to feel that the tone was dramatic when Hewitt has a top that’s five sizes too small and Gellar is standing there in what I can best describe as a thicker version of a push-up bra. The sequence kind of felt to me like a Playboy centrefold knocking on your door and telling you that your electricity is about to be cut off. Yes sure it’s bad news, but your attention is most definitely occupied by ‘other things’. Both actresses were aware that director Jim Gillespie was keeping his camera focused on their lady lumps far more than anything else and they refer to the flick between themselves as, ‘I Know What Your Breasts Did Last Summer’. Interestingly enough, Gellar lost weight during the production due to her disliking of the local food and so they strapped silicone inside her bra because she lost a cup size. If ever proof were needed of the director’s true intentions, then there you have it.
Aside from making the most of his cast’s ample portions, for me, Jim Gillespie was not the right choice for this feature. Despite countless attempts, he generates zero tension and zero shocks. Put it this way, if you had given John Carpenter this budget and script, you would have seen a completely different motion picture. (He wouldn’t have accepted, but hey!) The film felt like a Tasty Tortilla that was just begging for someone to add some cheese on top to make it perfect. The killer was creepy, the story was interesting, the choice of weapon was cool, the girls were hot, hot, hot, but it was lacking a macabre tone, which I think a more capable craftsman could have delivered.
What I did like was how the plot examines themes of conscience. One year after the unfortunate incident, the characters all show effects and guilt has changed each of them in a different way. Hewitt’s speech about how they had affected the lives of people through their actions added a welcome depth to the story and I especially liked the different opinions of each persona. The characters are well developed and the performances are fine rather than outstanding, but still strong enough to carry the plot. I also liked the location and the opening cinematography of crashing waves was beautiful and stylish. Roger Ebert called it the only decent shot in the feature and although he is a critique that I respect and almost always agree with in terms of ‘normal’ cinema, I never pay any attention WHATSOEVER to his views on slasher flicks. It’s a genre that you either love or hate and he is one of those of the ‘hate’ variety.
My review may sound hyper-critical, but that’s not my intention. This is a good, solid slasher treat and a great way to introduce half-hearted audiences to the category. It’s very modern and trendy, but includes all of the old-skool clichés and makes good use of them.
It is certainly not one of my favourites, but an essential title for the cycle all the same and should most definitely be amongst your collection.
Final Girl √√√√
Directed by: Mansour Pourmand
Starring: Dona Adams, Bruce Brown, David Clover
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Creepy facemasks and slasher movies have gone together like cheese and chives throughout the lengthy lifespan of the cycle. People often assume that it was John Carpenter that started the trend, but as is the case with many of the genre’s clichés – the Italians did it first. Movies like Eyeball,Torso and Blood and Black Lace were the originators of a hooded maniac in a murder mystery. There were also a couple of American pre-Halloween slashers that warrant a mention. Classroom Massacre, Keep my Grave Open and Savage Weekend clearly pre-date 1978, whilst The Town that Dreaded Sundown is widely regarded as one of the first teen-kill movies.
Carpenter’s seminal flick may not have been the maiden masked nightmare, but it certainly started the competitive race between directors to unveil the spookiest disguise for their bogeymen. Over the years we’ve seen some memorable contenders, but my favourites would have to be: My Bloody Valentine’s maniacal miner, The Prowler’s sadistic soldier and Wicked Games’ copper-faced assassin. I’m also keen on many of the killer clowns that have made an appearance throughout the category. The final scene in The House on Sorority Row has to be listed as one of the best and The Clown of Midnight also ranks highly amongst the greatest madmen’s costumes.
A leather mask was probably the last type to be used in a slasher movie, maybe because they are widely linked with sexual perversion, which of course doesn’t exactly make for a scary disguise. But in later years both Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre and this obscurity decided that fear could certainly be incorporated with a gimp suit. (Maybe you could count Blackout, but I don’t really think that’s a slasher) Here’s how the earlier of the two fared…
The screen lights up with the rush of blue sirens, as cops race to the scene of a hostage situation. It seems that a stressed-out gentleman has possibly had enough of being cast as an extra in cruddy low-brow turkeys, so he’s decided to hold his wife and kid at gunpoint. Detective Shine (David Clover) manages to wrestle with the gunman, but unluckily for him he loses the fight to grab a loose pistol and it looks like it’s the end of the road for the grey haired officer. Fortunately he is saved in the nick of time by some precision marksmanship from Lisa Ryder (Donna Adams), the California Police Department’s hottest female law-enforcer.
Her heroic encounter earns the brunette a promotion to Detective first class, and it’s a feat that is heavily envied by her male counterparts. Meanwhile a leather-clad maniac is jollying around town slaughtering hookers and dumping their bloody corpses on street corners. Ryder and Shine are put on the case of the murderous gimp and their first call of questioning is a sleazy back street photographer called Michael Walker (John Mandell). Lisa is such a top notch inspector that normal Police regulation doesn’t seem to apply to her, so before long she’s dating the cameraman even though he’s suspect numero uno. When the bodies continue to pile up around the city, she decides to go undercover in an attempt to flush out the S & M madman…
If anything, Zipperface effortlessly sums up all that went wrong with the slasher genre towards the end of its rein. What started as a great stepping-stone for up and coming filmmakers and thespians had been reduced to a sewer of cinema faeces by movies with flat direction, zero suspense or shocks and talentless mediocre actors. The boom years of early eighties splatter flicks managed to conceal their lack of strong dramatic line-ups with gooey special effects and exciting directorial flourishes. Unfortunately, by this point in the cycle titles like Evil Night, Deadly Dreams and The Majorettes had seemed to be produced in a conspiracy to put the category where many of the aforementioned features’ characters ended up: In an early grave.
Donna Adams doesn’t even vaguely convince as an officer of the law and her inexplicably idiotic behaviour – which includes doing a striptease for a top suspect in a nationwide murder investigation – is more mind numbingly pathetic than you might even expect it to be. Mansour Pourmand couldn’t direct traffic and the wide majority of the cast members would struggle to get a second reading for a radio commercial. I searched and searched, but found nothing here of merit or note.
On the plus side, if you manage to keep the TV turned on until the end then you may be fairly surprised by the killer’s identity. To be honest though, I doubt that by that time you’ll even care. And another plus point? Well, erm…. the disc is perfectly symmetrical, which means that you could use it as a coaster to place your cup of tea upon? The killer’s mask was pretty cool. Come on, don’t pretend you don’t like it. Thing is, he doesn’t even get enough screen time and mostly we are forced to watch the BANAL dramatics of a horrible cast. Aside from that there’s really no other reason to go out and buy Zipperface. Bad bad bad and not in a good way, this is 90 minutes of my life that I could have spent more constructively by plucking my chest-hair.
Directed by: William Lustig
Starring: Joe Spinell, Carolyn Munro, Abigail Clayton
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Over one century ago (1897 to be exact) in the dingy back streets of Montmartre, Paris, an eccentric ex-secretary to a Police commissioner named Oscar Metenier, opened the Theatre du Grand Guignol. For 65 years, groups of performers staged one-act plays that depicted graphic scenes of murder, mutilation and torture. Famous works by authors such as Charles Dickens and James Hadley Chase were adapted for Grand Guignol and made into, some might say, horrific gore-laden masterpieces. People’s morbid curiosities kept the shows ever popular, all the way up until the Nazis invaded France during World War II. Perhaps because the French population was experiencing true horrors of their own, the urge to see such events portrayed on stage, quite obviously became a lot less alluring. The theatre never recovered, and it finally closed its doors for the last time in 1962. William Lustig’s Maniac is basically Grand Guignol for the cinematic audiences of the eighties. A movie that viewers of a quainter disposition will describe as depraved, demoralising and redundantly mean spirited; while others have touted its story telling as artistic, ballsy and daring.
Although it’s often labelled as a formulaic stalk and slash offering, it is actually a member of the sub, sub-genre that differentiates itself from the Halloween and Friday the 13th created format. Along with Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, Mardi Gras Massacre, and Don’t go in the House; Maniac offers something refreshing, by giving the killer characterisation and making him more than just a loony in a mask with a machete.
The plot portrays the life of Frank Zito, an insane and stammering psychological mess of a man, with more than a few severe problems upstairs. His story unravels around his descent into madness, which stems from his seclusion and isolation from the outside world. He is a lonely, redoubtable character, with no friends or companionship. He spends his time alone with just his fragmented mind to torment him. His desperation to feel accepted by civilisation results in him creating his own ‘family’ from female mannequins. To add realism to their beings and to make them as human-like as could be possible, he furnishes their heads with the scalps of women that he butchers remorselessly. In the first ten minutes, an unfortunate prostitute is ruthlessly slaughtered for no apparent reason and the misogyny continues all the way through the movie. Nurses, models and innocent bystanders are gorily slain for nothing more than the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The creepiest thing about these murders is the fact that Zito has no apparent understanding of the results of his actions. He reads headlines, which describe the feelings of a city left in fear by his spate of madness and he watches news updates that inform us of the aftermath of his bloodthirsty rein. His reaction however is non-existent. He shows no knowledge of any wrongdoing, almost like he is unaware that he commits such atrocities. His mental downfall takes a U-turn, when he meets up with Anna D’Antoni (Caroline Munro) a photographer that attracts his attention for the first time when she snaps him wondering through a park. We finally get to see a thoroughly different side to his character: – a romantic, insecure personality that’s been buried beneath years of self-inflicted misery and emotional torture. There is a constant battle between two separate personalities that rages inside Zito’s mind and Anna’s fate depends upon whether the good or evil side emerges victoriously…
The opening sequence stays true to its stalk and slash counterparts, as the masked, heavy breathing Zito kills a loving couple on a beach. Lustig describes the scene as homage to Jaws, only this time the monster is out of the sea and on land, thus explaining the beach setting. It’s a well-handled commencement, with Savini adding the magic that he is most reputed for and Robert Lindsay’s competent photography creates energy that prevails throughout the whole movie. Body count material is introduced without any characterisation or development, but it can be argued that the story revolves around Zito and to him victims are only objects or playthings anyway.
I have always considered Bill Lustig to be a highly underrated filmmaker. Maniac Cop was yet another great movie, although I would consider this to be one of his best – probably because he was relatively unknown when he worked it. The parts that were filmed inside the killer’s flat are shot in complete silence, which effectively adds to the feeling of seclusion and abandonment. It’s like the viewer is inside the character’s apartment, but also inside his own remote world, where his loneliness has degenerated into an unrelenting insanity. It is added moments like these that make Maniac all the more creepy. The subway scene adds some awe-inspiring suspense, as Frank stalks a nurse through the station. Lustig does well to keep the atmosphere tense and the viewer is always aware that something is about to happen, meaning there is never any allowance for comfort in the fact that any of the characters will escape to safety. He also manages at least two effective jump-scares. The final Carrie-esque jolt is particularly memorable and adds the perfect finale. Jay Chattaway provides a superb score to accompany the visuals and Lorenzo Marinelli’s editing is equally impressive.
Although you could never call Joe Spinnell a fantastic dramatic performer by any of his pre-Maniac work, Frank Zito (named as a nod to Joseph Zito the director of The Prowlerand friend to Lustig and Savini) was undoubtedly the part he was put on this planet to play. It’s a convincing performance that allowed the actor to immerse himself deep into something that he had researched thoroughly and accurately and he gives his character a vivid portrait of realism that was necessary to create the child’s nightmare-like quality that the movie possesses. Spinnell is Maniac and Maniac is Spinnell, there’s no doubt about it. It was his signature role. It’s impossible to imagine another character actor fitting the bill so perfectly. Not only does he play the part; he also looks and sounds it too.
He wasn’t the only one that hit a career high under Lustig’s direction though; Caroline Munro gave her most realistic portrayal too. Her career had reached it’s cliff-top in 1980, before she became a scream queen in less memorable flicks such as Slaughter High and Faceless, which would supplement her income well into motherhood. This also offered a chance to break away from the bikini-clad bimbo roles that she had been given up until that point and it gave her an opportunity to try something a little different. I strongly respect her refusal to do any nudity, which cost her a contract with Hammer Horror in the early seventies. It takes a strong woman to reject such offers for the sake of her modesty and Munro proved that she was just that. It’s worth noting that the pair were reunited two years later forFanatic (aka The Last Horror Film), which lacked the gritty edge and invitingly sleazy surroundings of its predecessor, but attempted to cash-in on the fame that Lustig’s film had earned from its gruesome reputation.
Maniac was filmed on super 16 mm and like the best slashers from this period it was shot for the most miniscule of budgets (‘under a million dollars’). A lot of the on-location work was staged illegally, without any insurance or authorised permission. In speaking, Lustig anecdotes about the exploding head scene (no less than Tom Savini’s, by the way), where they had to fire a shotgun through the windscreen of a car and then make a quick getaway, before the Police arrived to investigate the gunshot!
Munro was given only one-day to rehearse the script before starting work, due to replacing Dario Argento’s wife of the time, Daria Nicolodi. Admittedly, it does seem pretty strange that a woman with a name as Italian as Anna D’ Antoni, would be played by an English Rose; but she does a good enough job and is truly a sight to behold. Many, MANY countries rejected this movie on the grounds of its unnecessary violence towards women, including the censors here in the UK, who made sure to add it to the DPP list almost immediately. The Philippines’ board of film review was so outraged by what they discovered that they told the producers to take it to Satan instead of their country and went on to describe it as ‘un-entertaining’ and ‘unfit for Human consumption’! Of course, knowledge of those monstrosities, only made it seem all the more curious to youngsters that had heard such tales of unruly degradation and were eager to check it out for themselves. This helped to give the flick a massive cult following. Upon release, it became immensely popular, although it was heavily criticised for its brutal violence. Spinnell said that the blood was never on screen long enough for his creation to be considered too gruesome. He lied. – There are parts of the movie that are incredibly gory and blood-soaked. You’ll find decapitations, scalpings and dismemberment – if you can name a gory way to slaughter a female, then you’ll find it somewhere in here. Maniac is one of the only video-nasties that have managed to retain its shock factor, even after twenty-four years.
I saw an edited copy of this in the mid-nineties and was left totally unimpressed. Perhaps my attentions were elsewhere or I was expecting something more? I can’t be sure, but last night, watching it once again for this review, I found myself captivated. There are flaws, yes for certain. It’s unlikely that a beauty as striking, as Anna would give the time of day to a misfit like Zito in the first place and the end sequence is a little bizarre to say the least. But all niggles are forgiven when you acknowledge the effort that has been put into making this production as realistically as they possibly could.
Credit has to be given to Spinnell for believing in the project and his dedication and research into serial killers deserves recognition. Maniac has earned itself another fan and I believe that it deserves to be seen. There has never been, and probably never will be, another slasher movie so depraved and disturbing; so grab a copy whilst you’ve got the chance. It’s an innovative and daring take on the standard stalk and slash genre, which succeeds because it is just that.
Final Girl √√√
Killer Instinct 2000
Directed by: Ken Barbet
Starring: Corbin Bernsen, Dee Wallace, Paige Moss
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Killer Instinct opens with a horde of vigilantes chasing a bloodied someone through some smartly lighted woodland. After stopping to stab an unfortunate fellow that has his back turned, the assailant is eventually caught and overpowered. He must’ve really upset these townsfolk because out comes the noose and the unidentified man is hung by the neck until the screen fades.
Clichés abound when the words 15 years later pop up on the screen and we’re introduced to a troupe of banal teens that discuss a massacre that occurred that many years earlier, which it seems was all the work of the aforementioned guy that we saw strung up in the pre-credits. (Explanation is not the film’s strong point) Meanwhile, we are given a sub-plot concerning a businesswoman (Dee Wallace Stone) who wants – or is trying to purchase – some property from a ‘desperate for the pay-cheque’ Corbin Bernsen. Anyway back to the teens, who are now talking about spending the night in the abandoned asylum where the slayings took place a decade and a half earlier. Their posse consists of the all the typical ingredients that are now solidly encrypted into the slasher movie guidebook: annoying guy, slut, randy couple, token (and first to be killed) black dude and girl that can sense the danger that lies ahead. Come on, by now you know the drill!
They finally make their way into the desolate building, which really looks a lot more like a normal house. It’s also worth noting that for a place that has been left to rot for fifteen years, it’s extremely well preserved. There are no light bulbs, so an unusually large amount of candles give us our illumination, but we don’t know where they got them from, because I didn’t see any of the gang with so much as a rucksack. Meanwhile unbeknownst to the youngsters, their chances of leaving have just taken a knock, due to the doors and windows being mysteriously locked.
After a while, it’s decided that a game is in order, preferably one that’ll split the group up so they can wander off to their doom. They choose to take off their underwear and put it in a bag so one of their number can hide them around the location before they all head off to find it. Imagine an Easter Egg hunt, but without the eggs… just grubby undies…hmmm. Ok… But before they leave, Wendy (Paige Moss) digs through the briefs and shows them to everyone so that they can all have a jolly good giggle. (I am not kidding, this actually happened). That makes these guys the first slasher victims that I’ve seen with underwear fetishes.
It’s hardly shocking when we learn that a masked killer seems to think that their numbers need trimming and sets up some death traps around the place so that they have to fight for survival
Killer Instinct boasts some competent photography and the darkened set locations look fairly spooky. The methods of murder are authentic and also a bit more creative than I was expecting. My favourite was when a guy lying on a bed was showered with broken glass from a trap door above him. One piece slices straight through his stomach and is next seen sticking to the floor below the mattress. There was also a smart decapitation and the use of a venomous snake, which is at least, a new one on me.
When the killer is unmasked at the end, you’ll be fairly surprised at the conclusion. I must admit that it wasn’t one that I’d have immediately guessed. Keeping that in mind though, it has to be said that it was rather impossible for him to commit the murders before changing clothes inexplicably quickly so as to keep up the appearance of innocence. Credit should be given to the director for taking out the most annoying character first. If we’d have had to suffer his painful gurning any longer, I’m sure pressing the eject switch would’ve become a more burning temptation.
‘Every cliché has a grain of truth in it’ mouths one dim-witted character, which could only have been included in the script as an attempt to excuse the director’s blatant thefts from previous genre pieces. Here it looks like he’s been watching the housebound slashers of yesteryear like House of Death and House on Sorority row, using them as subject matter for this obvious imitation.
The cast is just what you’ve come to expect from this grade of movie. You know, lame, untalented and completely uninspired. Paige Moss was probably the most convincing, but she was still weak, which left no one that we could really root for. Bernsen and Stone were equally mundane and were both really slumming it and adding yet another nail to their rapidly sinking career coffins.
Generally, I can live with average dramatics, but the film’s most unforgivable flaw is its horrendously slow pacing. The two separate plot lines seem as if they have very little in common with one another and I found it hard to keep track of the names of any of the characters, because they were so instantly forgettable. I really couldn’t find anything to be excited about in either the failed attempts at suspense or the leisurely paced showdown. At one point the house caught fire, which sparked some amusing shots of a scaled model burning that were so obviously fake, it was painful. All this adds up to a picture that will bore you to tears before the final credits have rolled and therefore, it’s not really worth checking out
I can’t really think of many pluses, except to say that at least this movie was more an out and out slasher than yet another ‘I know the rules’ semi-parody. I believe that director Ken Barbet was actually aware of the titles of the boom years and really wanted to make his own inclusion to line up alongside the old-skool heavyweights instead of just trying to be clever and mock them. But with that said, it’s offerings as mediocre as Killer Instinct that are killing off the stalk and slash genre. Although famous for its staggering repetition, the loveable sub-category needs ambition and reinvention if it’s going to survive many more years. I bought this because I read somewhere that it was gory with a healthy production budget. Neither of those comments are true though and it’s pretty forgettable.
Oh and don’t trust the cover picture. There are no skeletons here…
Final Girl √√