Monthly Archives: March 2013
Easter Bunny BloodBath 2010
Directed by: Richard Mogg
Starring: Shayan Bayat, Meghan Kinsley, Travis Turner.
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Back in the golden age of the genre, we had it all, didn’t we? Christmas got stalked and Halloween got slashed. Valentine’s and April fool’s Days were pickaxed, whilst a maniac aboard a locomotive terrorised New Year’s Eve. Hell, even Thanksgiving was dismembered by a loony with a machete… But what about Easter? That time of year when everyone puts on 6kg in weight due to a chocolate egg overload and then spends the next month at the gym trying to burn it off? Why didn’t we get a multitude of titles set around the Good Friday break? I guess you could mention the humdrum ‘Til Death us Do Part from 1982, but that was more of a black comedy.
It seems that when it comes to slashertastic action on an annual holiday, Easter was like the geeky kid at school that always got picked last for the soccer team and remained on his lonesome at the end of term disco. We had to wait for what seemed like a lifetime before someone decided to ‘massacarise’ that particular calendar event, but then finally in 2002, we received, along with our cacao butter coated calorie overdose, an attempt to revive the European Giallo named, Semana Santa. Next up four years later came the slightly better Easter Bunny Kill! Kill!
I was thinking of reviewing one of those for you in time for today, but by now I am sure that my regular readers will know that a SLASH above will always pick the more obscure entries over those that have been covered to death. So here I offer you the wonderfully rare, Easter Bunny Bloodbath from 2010.
This is the first film from director Richard Mogg who I have spoken to recently and he’s a lovely guy. Much like Chris Seaver from Warlock Home Video (Death O’Lantern review coming soon), his features are tributes to the SOV titles of the eighties that we all know and love. I really enjoy these fan flicks, simply because most of the time they have been put together by someone with the same kind of lifetime respect for the genre that we have.
A young man chooses to return with some of his friends to his deceased father’s house after twenty-years. It’s his first time back since a girl was brutally murdered by a guy dressed as the Easter Bunny when he was only six years old. He witnessed the killing, but has since put the incident to the back of his mind. Almost as soon as they arrive however, he begins to feel uneasy, because he sees a nut job in a white rabbit suit with a machete hanging around the location. Is it all in his head or are the group really up against a vicious psycho with creative dress sense…?
When I was growing up, like many immigrants that flocked to London from the EU, my family didn’t have a great deal of money. Whilst the rest of the kids were playing their C64s on a colour TV, my Brother and I would be reading library books or rolling abandoned tires down the hill outside our back garden. My mum was never one to let the lack of funds hold us back however and she would always try and be creative with what little cash that we had. I remember one particular time that there was a fancy dress presentation at school and my buddies were all discussing what costume that their parents were going to buy for them. The usual names were coming up, Batman, Spider Man, Superman et al and I remember having this overpowering feeling of rejection. I was pretty upset by the time that I got home and when I explained to my mother why, she would hear no more about it. She stayed up practically all night rapping cardboard boxes with oven foil and sticking coloured fruit gums on them with Sellotape. In the morning when I woke up, I had a full silver robot suit that cost us literally nothing. I wish I still had a photograph of me in it to show you how good that it was, but the children in my class loved it and my teacher even gave me a prize for the ingenuity.
Easter Bunny Bloodbath is very similar to that robot suit actually, because despite being filmed on a nothing budget, it’s covers up the fact exceptionally well that it is missing some of the elements that its cash loaded siblings have in abundance. Just like one of those classic eighties slashers that it pays its dues to, it starts with a prologue set twenty years earlier and Mogg uses black and white photography to highlight the fact. The gap in time becomes especially apparent later, because after the credits have rolled, the director dazzles us with an amazing amount of bright colour. The picturesque forests and lakes of the beautiful British Columbia backdrop look extremely crisp and the quality of the picture somewhat betrays the lunch money production that financed it. Shooting everything in the daytime showed good planning as the film remains well lit throughout and the director pulls off some decent and extremely creative camera tricks during the runtime. All this is accompanied by a professional soundtrack that has been mixed perfectly to match the superb visuals.
The choice of costume for the killer is intriguing because much like the bear mascot suit from Girl’s Nite Out, there’s something really intimidating about seeing such an innocent child-like guise splashed in blood. At times, Mogg manages to build an incredibly creepy atmosphere and the kill scenes are brutal, well timed and fairly gory. My favourite would have to be the kitchen murder of an unsuspecting female. She has her face boiled in water and then her head squished like a cherry. Mogg looks to have followed the method that worked for both Gaspar Noé (Irréversible) and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) by using the right sound effect for the head crushing scene. It’s gruesome. Obviously, we have become accustomed to bad acting in SOV flicks, but I must mention the surprise of the final girl here, Lisa, who was played superbly by unknown actress, Meghan Kisnley. She does a really good job with the role and managed a nice range of emotions. She also had a kind of a ‘looks a bit like Katy Perry’ thing going on and well… who doesn’t like Katy??
There is a fair bit to be admired here, but also something that majorly disappointed me about Bloodbath, and it is a personal bugbear of mine that I speak about more often than I feel that I should have to here on a SLASH above. I just fail to comprehend why these pictures are continually plagued by mixing unnecessary attempts at comedy into horror films that truly should just focus on the scares. Black humour can fit superbly when utilised the right way, but how many times do we need to see dumb slapstick failing in the slasher genre before filmmakers begin to realise that it just doesn’t work? Here it feels especially out of place because the tone became quite grim on occasion and I was really impressed by the mixture of mystery and terror. Despite some of the dialogue being amusing and the film having some fun, I felt that Mogg could have got much more out of the concept if he just played it straight. Characters like the obnoxious Steve were kept alive for far too long and the quips were little more than a hindrance to the movement of the plot. I have rarely seen a low budget offering that had so much potential to be effectively eerie but instead preferred to go for cheap laughs. Although it can be of course said that the whole point of paying homage to SOV flicks is to keep things campy, I found it harder to take because Mogg was close to achieving the toughest feat of all: – creating a genuine villain and an ominous environment to unleash him within. It is clear that shoe-string budgeted pictures are never going to have A-list continuity, but leaving vehicles, DVD Players and TVs from the last decade in a scene that’s billed as 1967 is a strange decision. Or was that another joke that I didn’t quite get?
There’s still the chance there for an ambitious filmmaker to create a really memorable Easter themed stalk and slash movie, but the ones that we have will do the job in the meantime. Easter Bunny Bloodbath is most definitely not a bad film and in fact I rather enjoyed parts of it. It took slightly too long to get going, a couple of the cast members could have died earlier; but I still saw some great signs of potential. I will be keeping an eye on Mogg’s future pictures, because there were moments here that brought to mind a Scott Spiegel or a Sam Raimi. All that on the tiniest of budgets…
I guess that if you take your horror served with a slice of American Pie-style laughs, then you can overlook my paragraph about the negatives. For me however I would like to see Señor Mogg make a pure out and out slasher flick. It’s rare that such a cheap movie delivers a few chills. This one managed just that…
Final Girl √√√
Friday the 13th 1980
Directed by: Sean S Cunningham
Starring: Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon, Betsy Palmer
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s a known saying amongst film fans that the first actor that you see who plays Bond will always be your favourite. There’s most definitely some truth in this, because I watched The Spy who Loved me when I was about six years-old and Roger Moore, despite being nowhere near as cool as Sean Connery, is inexplicably the one that I like the most.
I wondered if a similar method could work on Friday the 13th films. Now first things first, I’m a massive fan of the franchise. I mean massive. I live in London, but flew to the US specifically to attend an advanced screening of Jason X when I had barely turned 20. It cost me an arm and a leg, but it was worth it. It all started because I was desperately searching for some more slasher action after watching Halloween when I was knee-high to a hub-cap. Back then, without the Internet, we had to rely on the stock of our local video stores for selection choices and there I found the extremely Michael Myers-alike back-cover blurb of Friday the 13th Part 2. So that became my first taste of the Voorhees legacy.
Straight after, I began visiting all the mom and pop rental shops within a 100 mile radius until I’d tracked down every single entry to the story. In Spain, Paramount distributed parts 2 to 8, but this film, the opening chapter, was released by Warner Bros. It could be because they didn’t print as many copies on VHS, but bizarrely enough, this was the last of them that I got to see.
Taking a browse around the other websites, I noticed that it is perhaps the most highly rated by my fellow stalk and slash critics in the blogosphere. Justin over at Hysteria Lives gave it a full five-stars, whilst Hud from Vegan Voorhees did the same. In my review of Friday the 13th Part 2, I said that it was my número uno of the series and one of the best slasher movies ever made. I have watched it at least ten times, whereas I’ve only seen this on two occasions and both were many many moons ago. I guess that the point that I’m trying to make is would a mind completely free of bias or any kind of sentimentality really call Sean S Cunningham’s notorious shocker the best of the collection? Is it really THAT good?
A local businessman has decided to reopen a summer camp that has remained in his family for almost fifty years. Previous attempts to restore Camp ‘Crystal Lake’ have always met with ominous incidents that began after the drowning of an unfortunate child. The following year, two youngsters were brutally murdered and when the killer was not apprehended, the cabins were closed and abandoned. Nowadays, townsfolk call it ‘Camp Blood’ and gossip amongst them states that it is cursed and so it has remained uninhabited since that fateful night. Steve Chrysty doesn’t believe in those whispers and has already hired a group of counsellors to help him with preparation for the grand opening. As soon as they’ve began to settle however, they are stalked and ruthlessly butchered by an elusive psychopath…
Whilst the filmmakers have admitted both privately and in interviews that this was little more than a cash-in on the success of Halloween, the key source of inspiration behind the picture was Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood and knowing that allows you to clearly see the nods and winks. Cunningham makes great use of the campsite location and the crisp photography laps up the greens and browns of the forest to give the picture a colourful radiance of a backdrop. After a brief (and surprisingly – keeping in mind that Savini was on board) gore free murder in the pre-credits, we get introduced to the first of our counsellors. What is interesting is that Annie, a bubbly hitchhiker, is given enough screen time that would lead you to believe that she could become our heroine. She’s sweet, fiery and sincere and offers something of a backstory to her persona. The opening scenes with her are intriguing because we don’t get a clear picture of what we can expect to happen. Crazy Ralph’s warnings are that ‘Camp Blood’ is doomed. Does that mean haunted? Are we about to watch a ghost story? Whilst of course we know now that wasn’t the case, the film does begin with a feeling like we could be up against something more supernatural than a twisted killer.
Victor Miller’s screenplay manages to break archetypal slasher movie boundaries even before they were set by killing off that first, well developed, character almost immediately and letting us know that no one is safe from the unseen menace. Whilst the world and their mother are aware by now of who the antagonist of this feature turned out to be, audiences of 1980 had no idea, and the story plays like something of a regular giallo/whodunit. Sean Cunningham didn’t get the breaks that would build careers for Carpenter, Craven and Hooper, but what is clear to me here is that he got the right performances from his inexperienced cast. Whilst none of them are given complex enough dialogue to really steal a scene, infamous moments such as Marcie’s Audrey Hepburn in the mirror, Ned’s practical jokes and Alice’s hysterical heroine were all pitch perfect for this campy horror classic
Once the night scenes come around, the movie really steps up a gear and delivers a genuinely dark and tense atmosphere. The backgrounds are shot in a tone that’s almost grey scale and the constant barrage of rain is a horror cliché that is used to the best possible effect. If Cunningham deserves credit for helping sustain a sense of mystery and suspense, the film really belongs to Tom Savini’s make-up effects and Bill Freda’s razor sharp editing. The pair create some amazing death scenes; with the impalement of a young Kevin Bacon and Jeannine Taylor’s gruesome end being two of the most memorable slasher murders of all time. Harry Manfredini’s musical accompaniment is powerful enough to single handedly change the mood and the poignant tranquility of his last piece, which successfully builds up to the closing jump scare – Jason’s screen début – is creative and unique.
When the killer is revealed and finally shows her face it’s a genuine shock, but also a bit of a cheat. The majority of the runtime sees suspicion point at Steve or maybe one of the campers but then it turns out to be a face that hasn’t yet been introduced to us. It’s hard to believe that this could really be the person that we have seen ramming axes through people’s faces and nailing counsellors to cabin doors, but once the final battle gets going, we just let the filmmakers take over and it turns out to be one of the best showdowns of the cycle. Betsy Palmer was heavily criticised by Roger Ebert and the like and Gene Siskel even went as far as to tell fans to write to her expressing their disappointment that she accepted such a poor choice in role. She was also nominated for that year’s supporting actress Razzie – one of the worst and most insulting things that can happen to any screen performer. Personally, I really enjoyed her natty Mrs Voorhees and think that she did exactly what was asked of her. That hammy as a sandwich schizophrenia is surprisingly effective and I just couldn’t imagine how the film would play without it. Oh and by the way Señor Siskel, Señora Palmer later stated that she received exactly 0 complaints through the mail and only letters praising her inclusion in the picture. So there :p
Friday the 13th is, for me, a four star slasher movie. It’s a suspenseful and exciting killer in the woods flick that has a couple of memorably edited scares, a wonderful final battle and some of the best character-driven situations of the entire genre. The only thing that it lacks is a solid central antagonist; or to be more clear, a Jason Voorhees. Of course though, we have to keep in mind that without this, we would never have had a mass-murderer in a hockey mask and the greatest legacies have to start somewhere. Whilst I am still convinced that part two, the first that I ever saw, is the best in the series, I have only the tiniest of disagreements with those that consider this to be their favourite.
Maybe it is just like what they say about Bond and that I saw the sequel first…?
Final Girl: √√√√
Night of the Demon 1980
Directed by: James C. Wasson
Starring: Michael Cutt, Joy Allen, Bob Collins
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Some of the video nasties from the early eighties were nowhere near as gruesome as their reputation would lead you to believe and half of the time they left you bewildered as to why they were banned in the first place. That’s not the case with Night of the Demon though, which doesn’t take long to let you know what philosophy these filmmakers believed in. We can safely assume that someone over at the BBFC was concerned that a contrast of images that includes a biker getting his ‘Johnson’ ripped off by a furry beast may be just a tad too much for public consumption. In the end, they decided that the best thing to do was to chuck this in a vault and hope that it quietly went away. It was resubmitted and heavily edited ten years later by ex-video nasty distributor, VipCo films. I found a copy on that label in a trade store on Regent Street, London. Imagine my unparalleled joy when I got home and watched it only to notice that it was time-coded and totally uncut. It turns out that I had discovered a pre-screener and it was a personal ‘up yours’ from me to the establishment. Sometime later I came across another version in Spain with a hilarious cover, which I have posted here.
In all fairness, director James C Watson is somewhat extreme with his over-use of visual suggestion. In the first five minutes alone, a fisherman is forced to a life collecting disability benefits courtesy of bumping into the ‘demon’ who was out on his rounds and hungry for a dismembered limb or two. The movie continues in this gratuitous vein all the way through, never bothering to add a touch of suspense or atmosphere development. Instead, it relies on grotesque images to boost the shock factor, breaking new grounds for gooey extremities.
The first scene takes place in a dingy little room that I guess is really supposed to look-like it’s a Hospital ward. A guy lays bed-ridden, with his face covered by bandages and plasters. Two doctors and a Sheriff discuss his injuries, stating that, ‘… his face is horribly mutilated (and) most of the skin is burned away’. Any man with his extreme medical condition must have some sombre tale of woe that (graphically) details how he ended up in such an uncomfortable position. When the lawman asks for his description of the events that left him so severely disfigured, he kicks it all off with the cheesy intriguing build up, ‘Those horror stories that you heard about the forest…they’re all true!’ So begins the flashback that will narrate us through his gore-laden adventure…
Apparently, the man without a face is Bill Nugent, an anthropology lecturer (a popular career amongst slasher alumni, I’m sure you’ll agree), that you could say is somewhat obsessed with uncovering the truth behind the legend of a murderous Big Foot. He and a group of budding students have decided that a journey out to the location where the stories came from should offer some clues to solve the mystery. They are to be joined on their excursion by Carla Thomas, the daughter of the unfortunate angler that I told you about earlier. She warns the volunteers of the dangers that lie ahead, by telling them the tale of a man who was brutally murdered whilst making-out in the back of a van with his girlfriend. The young woman who survived the murder was especially memorable, because she seems to think that portraying fear amounts to making ecstatic grunts that sound more like she had been sharing a bed with Ron Jeremy after he’d swallowed a bag of Viagra. Despite the fearful advice, the group decide to continue with their trip and head off in small boats down a long winding river into the wilderness, just like Burt Reynolds and his pals did in Deliverance.
They arrive at the destination and we get another flashback (within a flashback) that shows us the fate of a previous victim of the hairy beast. Note that our bogeyman actually looks more like an unshaven member of the heavy metal group Twisted Sister than any kind of rare big-foot mammal. This story involves a guy in a sleeping bag being swung round in circles before plummeting on to a dangerously miss-placed branch. The next morning, the group decide to interrogate the local townspeople in a scene that was most definitely ‘borrowed’ by The Blair Witch Project some time later. They’re told tonnes of conflicting rumours by the villagers, but every story that they hear has at least one thing in common: a hermit who lives in the hills and goes by the fitting name of ‘Crazy Wanda’. Apparently, she had a baby that was, ‘Awful to look at… deformed…a Mongoloid.’ The somewhat straight talking interviewee also gives us her opinion on what made the sprogg look so retarded. “It could have been down to malnutrition”, she comments. Erm… Okey. Now that they finally have a real lead, they head deeper into the forest and conveniently further away from civilization, which makes any sort of rescue attempt a definite impossibility.
As darkness falls, the group sit around a bonfire and discuss their findings so far. They learn from the professor that they’ve arrived at the point where years earlier a motorcyclist took his last piss in the bushes, due to the creature showing up and ‘copping a feel’ with horrifying results. Apparently in the edited print, the actual castration is totally removed. In the full version, it’s not that it’s particularly gory, but any male that’s watching will most definitely flinch purely at the thought of it. During the night, the campers are awoken by mysterious sounds emulating from within the trees. Nugent and his buddy investigate and come across a black mass, which looks more like a Country dancing festival, but I suppose it was meant to look really creepy. A young girl lies in the middle of the chanting crowd and we see that she is awkwardly consenting to intercourse with a strange fellow that looks suspiciously like Davy Jones from The Monkeys. The anthropologist immediately thinks that it’s rape and spoils the party by popping off a few caps into the sky from his trusty firearm. The revellers take off running in different directions, leaving the heroic visitors to head back to their tents feeling like they’ve done a good deed. As wrongful repayment for their helpful services, the next morning they wake up to find that their boats are missing. That means they’re stranded without any ammunition; – or in other words, doomed. Their luck worsens when two of the teenage students take a stroll under the moonlight for a spot of nookie, which is always a bad idea. Their fondling comes to an abrupt halt when the guy’s back is violently scratched by the killer’s fury hand (or should that be paw?). They sit round and chat about the assault, but strangely enough, not one of them seems to realise that they’re on a crash course for destruction if they hang around this area any longer. What more proof do they need? I’d hate to enroll at the university that these guys attended. I’ve heard about students offering blood, sweat and tears for their assignments, but as Eddie Cochran so truthfully said, that’s something else.
Eventually the hapless group stumble across Wanda’s cabin, which is situated in an area where a few years ago, the dumbest movie murder ever transferred to celluloid took place. Two girls are grabbed by Big Foot and bashed into each other unconvincingly. They’re both holding knifes in their hands, which results in them spraying blood over one another, because they didn’t think of ‘dropping the blades’. After a while, we’re finally introduced to the crazy hermit who really doesn’t help too much, because she’s been left muted by her involvement with the walking carpet. Before the remaining hunters even have the chance to shout ‘Help me Wanda’, old Mr. Grisly turns up and reveals himself to the unwelcome tourists. He expresses his apparent distaste that they’ve come traipsing into his area without direct permission, by surrounding and then violently murdering them one by one, in one of the goriest final scenes in the whole history of splatter flicks.
Watching Night of the Demon is like attending a horror reunion filled with parts that were ‘borrowed’ from the more popular films released from the mid-seventies to when this hit the shelves. We start in traditional Friday the 13th territory, with victims getting picked off in the woods by an unseen assailant. Then we sail into the realms of Eaten Alive with a rape sequence, which is watched by a baying gang of hillbilly crazies. Chuck in some Rosemary’s Baby, as we get all sacrilegious with the inclusion of a demonic offspring and plenty of satanic cursing. Finally we take a trip into the world that was prominently inhabited by Lucio Fulci around this time, with a gore-tastic showdown that’s not a million miles away from the House by the Cemetery. There are some truly blood-soaked scenes that have made the uncut version highly sought after, selling for big bucks on eBay. The most amusing of the bunch, is when the monster pulls out one gentleman’s intestines and spins them around his head like a cowboy twirling his lasso. Perhaps his true ambition was to be accepted as a hairy Southern wrangler? Hey, now there’s a plot twist…
The cast manage to offer nothing but putrid performances all the way through. It’s not like they’re bad actors trying to look good; they just aren’t any kind of actors at all. Dennis McCarthy’s music sounds like he dropped a vial of acid and then blew the flute over some Jazz that’s been played badly and the photography seems to have been performed by a guy with a nervous twitch because it judders more than a Sumo wrestler on a bouncy castle. Most of the characters remain nameless (and pointless) all the way through. In fact I’m sure that it was only the professor that was addressed by a title? The plot suffers from narration that’s about as much use as Stevie Wonder guiding you through a mile-long maze, and we never even find out a reason why the Big-foot has such animosity against human kind in the first place? It would have been nice to perhaps learn an interesting motive for his apparent hatred.
Despite the back-garden amateurism of the production, Wasson’s slasher film pulls no punches. Even if it is absolute trash, it’s fun trash all the same. I actually found it to be highly unforgiving with its level of outright brutality and the gooey murders do add something of a grim tone to the final scene. I’m no stranger to gory mayhem, but it does succeed in its excessive overindulgence. It is too cheesy to be taken seriously, but for such a low budget picture, the hokey effects manage to really unsettle at times. The director even manages a superb jump scare at the end that caught me off guard.
I guess that Demon most definitely deserves credit for trying something a little different from the majority of early eighties killer in the woods flicks. The POV shots and various references keep it tightly nailed into the slasher genre, but at least it isn’t just another masked killer on a campsite offering. If you want some gory fun then check out the UNCUT copy only. Alongside Pieces, The Last Horror Film et al, it’s become something of a Grindhouse dish of the day…. I am sure that you’ll have a good time.
aka Night Crew: The Final Checkout aka Intruso en la Noche
Directed by: Scott Spiegel
Starring: Elizabeth Cox, Sam Raimi, Renée Estévez
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Every decade creates its own individual cultural characteristics that are easy to look back on and distinguish as key to that era. Even though perhaps there has been little invention during the last fifteen years or so, the tail end of the twentieth century delivered a multitude of creation within the entertainment industry. The fifties will always be remembered for the birth of rock and roll, whilst The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the introduction of the ‘make love not war’ anti-Vietnam mentality of Western youth signified the cultural identity of the sixties. Vivid images of white suited, medallion sporting men and disco divas became synonymous with the seventies, but it was the eighties that will be remembered for launching the most memorable generation landmarks.
Slasher films also played a strong part in defining the personality of those (in)glorious years. Despite the invasion of titles during the post-Scream outbreak of 1996, there will never be a time that can compete with the genre’s initial overkill period. It all began with the notorious, “kill her mommy” lines of Friday the 13th and despite a fall in popularity as the decade progressed, studios were still producing cycle entries consistently right the way through. I have said previously in my review of Maniac Cop that despite many believing that 1981 was the peak of the entire cycle, 1988 also should be acknowledged, if not only for the sheer amount of releases that hit shelves. Intruder is easily one of the best of those…
It tells the tale of a group of staff in a super market that are asked to work through the night, pricing down all the stock as they all have been made redundant due to the closure of the store. As they lock the shutters for the last time, it becomes apparent that an unwelcome guest has crept in amongst them. Before long, they are being stalked and killed one by one by an unseen maniac.
In film, as in life, timing is everything. Whether it be that of a screen comedian or the understanding of the span of suspense by a director, the clock can be a vital tool in the creation of cinematic perfection. The reason I write this is because as it stands, Intruder is an obscure slasher movie that is highly regarded by those that have seen it. If, however, it had been released eight years earlier, I would be writing the review of an out and out horror classic. Spiegel’s opus has enough wit, gore, audacity and creativity to be ranked amongst the best of its ilk and it is only purely due to the multitude of titles that it was released with that it has been so unfairly overlooked.
If Sam Raimi’s adventurous direction makes him the outlaw of Hollywood sensibility, then Scott Spiegel should be Billy the Kid. The Jesse James of eccentric cinematic vision. Here is a man whose modus operandi seems to be to imagine the most audacious and outrageous camera angle possible and then in the same breath attempt to shoot it. Although, much like mayonnaise on chips, you’ll either love his flamboyant approach or hate it; kudos should be given for his brazen audacity and outlandish vision.
What we have here is a pie-eating contest of slasher clichés, which add up to a mega-feast of tongue-in-cheek over-indulgence that leaves you begging for more after the final curtain. The gore is Intruder’s biggest selling point. Heads get lopped off, crushed and sawed in half; and much like the work of Fulci, everything is filmed in loving close-up. A movie can sometimes become an extension of the film-maker’s personality and having watched Scott Spiegel’s interviews many times, this, his signature feature, is truly a case in point. It’s a shame that such a modest, down-to-earth and clearly talented director has never reached the heights of his high-school buddies, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell.
Paramount Studios– the enemy of all gore hounds after their stringent censorship of countless genre classics – were responsible for changing the name of Intruder from the much better Night Crew: The Final Checkout. Their VHS release also, characteristically, cut out all the gore. The first copy that I watched was the BBFC’s rated version, which in all fairness was still a well-produced and competent slasher – but it’s the uncut print that is the real gem. Obviously Spiegel’s effort is no Halloween and it’s something that the director is well aware of. If, however, you asked me to pick the best fifty – hell, best twenty – genre classics, Intruder would certainly be amongst them somewhere alongside Carpenter’s seminal favourite.
Very few know that Intruder is a remake of an old Spiegel 8mm feature that he shot during the early eighties, titled Night Crew. Credit has to be given to Lawrence Bender’s slick production skills, which turned an equally gory, but ultimately mediocre Halloween-clone (which the aforementioned short most definitely was) into a stand-out slasher classic. This project would act as a learning curve for Bender who would go on – through Spiegel’s introduction – to become one of the most important producers of the last twenty years. It’s strange to think that this low-budget stalk and slash flick would be the first step on the career that would bring us Quentin Tarantino and a host of Hollywood hits including, Good Will Hunting.
OK, so the cast were never going to turn up at the academy awards, but they do enough to get the job done and a nod to Dan Hicks, who delivers a highly committed performance. One change that I would have made would be to have given Renee Estévez (sister of Charlie and Emilio) the lead role over Elisabeth Cox, who I felt was the weakest link in places. The ‘twist’ ending – which I really enjoyed – has been seen before, although I am convinced that it was just coincidental rather than Spiegel borrowing from other genre pieces. There’s also a decent whodunit plot running, which is stupidly ruined by the packaging on many versions that gives away the killer’s identity on the front cover. Doh!
Intruder is by far one of the best slasher movies of the eighties and should be a member of every avid fan’s collection. It mixes black humour and gruesome slaughter outstandingly well and basically takes the guide book to making a slasher movie, reads it and then blows it out of the window by maximising every damn page/trapping. This is how slashers are supposed to be and Señor Spiegel is welcome back here anytime to have another crack at a genre classic…
Final Girl √√
Nightmare at Shadow Woods 1983
aka Blood Rage
Directed by: John Grissmer
Starring: Mark Soper, Louise Lasser, Marianne Kanter
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Firstly, before we get going, I must confess that this review is of the old US video version under the name of Blood Rage. The film played briefly in theaters as Nightmare at Shadow Woods and I also have Dutch and Argentinian copies that were released the same way. There was a budget disc that came out quite recently, but it cuts out all the good stuff, so if you are looking to track this down after reading, go for the VHS ONLY. Well, at least until it gets picked up and given the care and attention that it should have received long ago…
Although this overlooked little gem wasn’t marketed as an out and out gore flick, in its uncut form it certainly delivers on the red stuff. It was shot in 1982 and finished early the following year, but it didn’t get released until much later when the stalk and slash style of horror had seriously become old hat. There are many such examples that you can find here on a SLASH above, where features have been left on the shelf for whatever reason, but in the case of Woods, it is a real disappointment that such a fun little entry has become totally obscure.
There’s something uniquely satisfying about watching a gory film. It may be impossible to put it into words, but there’s a reason why an uncut version of a splatter fest will always favour that of a censored print. Humans have a morbid curiosity and it’s fun watching an actor getting his face cut in half with a bench saw when you know it’s just prosthetics…
We kick off at a drive in movie theater. A mother is far too busy making out with her lover to notice that her twin boys Terry and Todd have crept out of the car and headed out onto the forecourt. After a brief confrontation with a teenage viewer and his girlfriend, one of the twins hacks the unfortunate jock to death with a handy axe that he picked up on route. Clearly a quick thinker, Terry gives the hatchet to his dumb-founded brother and leaves him to face a life behind bars in an asylum for a crime that he did not commit.
Fast forward ten years and Todd, who has been in a catatonic state since that fateful night, begins to recollect the fact that it is actually his twin-brother that should be held accountable for the grisly murder and so armed with the truth, he escapes the hospital to clear his name and bring his sibling to justice. Meanwhile the news of Todd’s escape, coupled with the uncomfortable fact that his mother is about to get married, sends Terry back on a maniacal rampage.
What we have here is the slasher movie equivalent of a ’67 Pontiac Firebird. Nowadays it may look a bit clunky and rough around the edges, but that doesn’t diminish any of its coolness. John Grissmer obviously set out with the ambition to fill his feature with all the necessary ingredients for it to rival the hard-hitters of the horror market during that period and if it weren’t for a few post-production issues, he would have succeeded wholeheartedly. As I mentioned earlier, the gore is spread thick and fast throughout the runtime and there’s no space left for sentimentality as the killer stalks his victims with a mean-spirited air of arrogance. In most traditional slasher films, the antagonist is either an unknown entity with no other link to his victims than a lust for murder or more commonly it’s a psychopathic colleague that’s seeking revenge, but conceals his identity from those that he stalks. Grissmer’s psycho however kills indiscriminately and celebrates the fact that he is slashing those that look upon him as a friend. He taunts as would a playground bully and like the most fearsome schizophrenic, he has no apparent realization of the grotesque acts that he is committing.
Future Oscar nominee Ed French’s gore effects are heavily underrated and hold up well against some of the cycle’s more renowned bloody treasures. My favorite of the bunch would have to be when Maddy discovers the corpse of her boyfriend in the apartment complex and unaware that he has been murdered, she prods him to ascertain why he is failing to answer her questioning. As his body falls forward, the head splits completely in half through the middle and its a decent and credibly handled scare. This is one of many neat directorial flourishes on display and the final stalking scenes build some flashes of suspense and tension. The budget restrictions are obvious, but the film holds it’s own against its slasher siblings.
Mark Soper steals the show here playing both of the evil twins with an intelligent and well researched performance that defies his lack of experience. Instead of just going for the obvious and giving his separate characters distinctive vocal twangs, his body language, composure and stride are uniquely delivered and therefore look almost unrecognizable as the work of the same actor. He has a ball playing the maniacal killer and his ‘cranberry sauce’ lines are chillingly dark and brought to mind something that Jack Nicholson might ad lib. Louise Lasser, a good actress usually, is hit and miss here as the mother, but I guess that she did manage much more ‘hit’ and the role was a difficult one. I also quite liked the innocent (and heroic) final girl who was played well by an unknown who had very few previous screen credits. Bruce Rubin’s screenplay is conventional of the slasher genre, but smart with the majority of its twists and gimmicks and it does well to set up scenarios that develop the story and maintain the pace. Do you remember the scene in Halloween when Laurie Strode is screaming and in desperate need for help from her neighbours, but they dismiss her cries as drunken malarkey? Well, there’s something similar here when a kiddie is pre-warned not to open the door because there’s someone dangerous about. Later, when the heroine is fleeing and looking for a place to hide, guess which house that she runs to and begins frantically knocking?
What I did find disappointing though was that Rubin didn’t make the most of an ambitious plot by adding a possible element of mystery. We know from the start that Terry is the psychopathic sibling, but with a bit more adventurous scripting, we could have been left deciding which of the twins is the true killer until an archetypal revelation climax.
With that said, Woods still remains a top top splatter flick and would be a great sister companion for The Prowler or My Bloody Valentine from the same period. It is scary, well-written, fast moving, unique and on top of that mega gory. Ray Peterson was a rock and roll singer in the late fifties who had a four-octave voice. His songs were brilliant and he covered everything from doo-wop to up-tempo ballads, but only boasted a handful of minor hits. Woods in a way is similar to Peterson, because it has it all; and for reasons that only the immortal guardians can provide, it never got the respect that it deserves…..
Final Girl √√
Hide and Go Shriek 1987
aka Close your Eyes and Pray
Directed by: Skip Schoolnik
Starring: Bunky Jones, Brittain Frye, Annette Sinclair
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
As I have said in previous reviews on the site, despite the fact that many collectors believe that the slasher genre died early on in the eighties, there were still a few decent entries released right the way through the decade. Whilst Hide and Go Shriek is not quite up to the standard of say, The Prowler or My Bloody Valentine, it makes a good enough slasher Tortilla without adding any new herbs or spices to the age-old recipe.
During a break from school, eight teenagers decide to spend the night in one of their friend’s father’s Department store. Little do they know that they are not alone and an unseen maniac begins killing them off one by one…
What this distinctive latter entry to the cycle does exceptionally well is create a sleazy atmosphere for its plot to unravel within. The opening shots of graffiti-covered back streets in a gloomy American city, set an impressively grim tone, which acts as a launchpad for the murderous mayhem that eventually follows. In a way, the obvious low budget means that the subdued-lighting becomes a benefit rather than a hindrance and it keeps in check with the gritty undercurrent of dread. Much like Spiegel’s Intruder from the same year, Hide makes the most of its spacious locations to build some intense chase sequences. Once the kids are trapped inside, the director manages to keep the suspense running-high by throwing a handful of tricks at us. You can always rely on mannequins to be one of the creepiest props for creating false scares and here we get a couple of really good ones thanks to some razor sharp editing. This was Schoolnik’s debut picture, but he was no stranger to horror because he had worked as an editor on Halloween 2. I know that John Carpenter was heavily involved behind the scenes with that sequel, so maybe Schoolnik picked up some tips from the master? Either way, I am sure that it helped him to understand timing, which he used in a few impressive flourishes that are dotted throughout the runtime.
John Ross’ score is interesting as it somewhat resembles Brad Fiedel’s legendary composition from The Terminator. I realise, of course, that this sounds incredibly cheesy, but it’s actually quite pulsating and distinctive. The killer spends most of the runtime in the shadows and the only real development of his persona is his mad cackling after each murder. As a bit of a gimmick, he steals the clothes of each victim after they’re dead (both male and female) and cons his next target in to the false sense of security that he’s actually their friend. He then leads them to secluded corners and brutally murders them using various creative methods. The slaughter scenes are gruesome, if not graphically outstanding and we get one of my favourite and most startling decapitations of all time late on in the feature. (I posted it above) There are moments during the finale, where things get quite tense and although not a master of suspense, Schoolnik does keep the pace very high.
When the teenagers realise that they’re trapped inside with a marauding maniac, they run to the store front to scream for help and are relieved to see a Police car parked directly outside the front door. They bang on the double-glazed glass to try and get the attention of their only chance of safety, but look on in horror as their cries go unheard and the patrolman drives off in to the night. It was a great way of underlining their desperation, isolation and sense of impeding doom, which really helped to keep the momentum running. It’s also worth noting that the body count material here are also a lot smarter than usual and after working out that they’re being picked off one by one, they get in to a corner, grab a weapon and decide to stick together until help arrives.
The film seems to continue working really well up until the climax, which springs something of a poorly played twist upon us. I mean, without ruining anything, I would say that it is like going to a fancy-dress party stark naked. Many may give you credit for having the biggest balls of them all, but really it’s a stupid idea, because for sure you are going to offend some people. I can see what the filmmakers were trying to do, but instead of being scandalous, the conclusion is just distasteful, thoughtlessly delivered and well, a tad peculiar. Much like the previous year’s City in Panic, Shriek gets lost in its ambition somewhat; and if you are going to use a social comment in your screenplay, then you need to be a bit smarter so as not to offend. Unfortunately the script handles everything with butter fingers and comes across like a deep-rooted chauvinist doing a marketing campaign for feminism, you know?
Performance wise, almost everything was ok, but Bunky Jones let the side down with a torrid cocktail of overacting and just plain shouting. The kids are all picked more as eye candy and there are some hot chicas here, especially the unfortunate who loses her head (quite literally). We also get the usual amount of silly late-eighties shenanigans and campy fun before the terror starts (watch out for the hilarious moonwalk and musical chairs in a van scenario. Pure comedy gold!) I felt that a few more murders would have made the film better as a whole, but these guys had a neat defensive strategy, which is why the killer didn’t work his way through that many of them.
A poorly handled conclusion doesn’t subtract too much from the rest of the feature and Shriek is good enough to keep you entertained.This would go well on a double bill with the equally fun Terror Night from the same year, which has finally seen light of day. It’s often overlooked, but Shriek does have moments that deserve a standing on your slasher shelf
Final Girl √√
Worth a look…
Laser Moon 1993
Directed by: Douglas Grimm
Starring: Harrison Le Duke, Bruce Carter, Traci Lords
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Whilst everyone with even a passing interest in horror films would agree that the eighties was the most popular period of the slasher, perhaps it was wrong to state that the genre had completely died before the beginning of the next decade. Shifted maybe, but not died.
You see, watching as many of these films as I do allows you to spot the patterns that a part time viewer would miss out on. I’ve noticed that there were a lot of ‘thrillers’ released following the closure of the initial golden times that continued the slasher tone throughout the years that horror had given up on it. Titles like, The Babydoll Murders, Extramarital, Dead End, Out of the Dark, Whisper Kill et al took elements of the slasher genre, dunked them in a ‘cop on the case’ coating and then marketed them as suspense flicks. With lashings of nudity, a masked killer, lingering POV shots, stalking set pieces and a brazen final girl, many were not all that different from our favourite brand of horror that’s seen here on a SLASH above.
But where does the dividing line of separation come in to effect? When do we say that a film lacks the ingredients to join its siblings on this site? Let’s take for example the obscure ‘thriller’ from 1999, Resurrection. It was released obviously to cash in on the craze started by Se7en, but it includes a killer in a VERY cool mask, has a large amount of gore and a typical slasheresque revelation scene. You could maybe mention that it differentiates itself by focusing more on the Police and their hunt for the maniacal madman, but ladies and gents let’s not forget Night School from 1980, Pieces from ’82 and countless others that have included hardened detectives.
If you look up serial killer films on Wikipedia, you’ll find many stalk and slashers listed there, which proves that I’m not alone with this theory. Nevertheless, I would never call Se7en a slasher, or Silence of the Lambs, Citizen X, Zodiac, The Bone Collector, Just Cause etcetera etcetera. I guess that the crux of what I’m saying is that with such a huge similarity between the two styles, the structures can become blurred from time to time and leave interesting results.
Laser Moon has a masked killer stalking bunnies too, but instead of going all out for slasher classification, it’s tried to make itself into something of an engaging mystery. It tells the tale of a media personality whose ratings have dwindled excessively over a recent period. Add on top of that the fact that his marriage has crumbled and you could comfortably look at him as the perfect advert for anti-depressants. Things get worse when he is targeted by a loon who claims to be the elusive killer that has been offing young women around town. Can he pull himself together in time to help bring the madman to justice?
Cigarette smoke fills a dimly lighted room as a low key jazz song accompanies the opening credits. It was an intro that brought to mind those old cabaret places that you see in the movies of yesteryear. Places a downtrodden cop goes to drink a shot of bourbon and fill up his ashtray. In fact there’s a skit in one of the Naked Gun sequels that involves one of these bars and makes fun of the fact that they have become totally passé. Admittedly, these are great settings in filmland to develop a character’s feeling of depression or solitude. The problem here is that once the director sets that dreary tone, he forgets that it’s not a good idea to keep us there.
I’m no stranger to tedious movies, because maintaining a good momentum is a hard to come by skill. I couldn’t escape the bizarre feeling though that these filmmakers were well aware of the snooze-inducing pace and were actually quite comfortable to paddle within it. There’s a murder in the first five minutes that gives us the impression that we are going to see a few more, but to the best of my recollection the masked maniac only turns up once again before the showdown. Between that we get a mid-section filled with the development of flat characters and a couple of strange sub-plots that don’t go anywhere at all. It became more and more frustrating as the runtime rolled on and in the end I fast forwarded through to see how long I’d have to wait to see another killing. I obviously had to spin it back after to watch through for this review, but if I hadn’t seen the masked maniac again, I definitely would have just turned the TV off and gone to sleep.
The main issue here is that writer/director Douglas Grimm has filled the movie with dialogue that attempts to be moderately intellectual. There’s nothing wrong with that you may think, but it makes the film play more like a character study, which clashes with the concept of a thriller. We end up getting rapped up in the breakdown of the protagonist’s marriage and an obsessed fan called Maria, which makes us loose track of the nut job on the streets. I forgot to mention by the way that said nut job here is armed with a surgical laser and that is a new one for me. To be honest I assumed that such devices were used much in the same way as a scalpel and not a ray gun that can blast a hole in someone’s head instantaneously? Anyway, the majority of the slasher parts are weak and uninspired (kudos for the lovely LOVELY babes that play the victims though) and I was astounded by the low level of authenticity on display. Let’s see how many films you can name in five seconds that have a serial killer calling a radio station? I managed three (City in Panic, Open House, Play Misty for Me). And you…? Yawn.
So this film is undeserving of the amount of words that I’ve given it. I was actually eminently frustrated in places whilst I was waiting for some action. It all ends with an incredibly far-fetched twist that borders on the incomprehensible. (Without leaving a spoiler, I’d have to say that it would be impossible that no one would notice). It’s become a platitude to call a film a ‘cure for insomnia’, but Laser Moon would work perfectly in that way. Whilst it does generate a slight level of interest, it fails miserably by advertising itself to the slasher and thriller crowd, because we like our shocks fast and slick. Moon has the speed of a Easter Mass when you’ve had one too many red wines beforehand.
Co-star Traci Lords, who tries her hardest and looks great here, has spent years trying to erase her porn star past. I can imagine that this picture does not improve upon the worst of her memories from those times. It’s not that the film is lazy, it’s just that watching it does nothing to its viewer except make them feel that way.
Maniac Cop 1988
Directed by: William Lustig
Starring: Tom Atkins, Laurene Landon, Bruce Cambell, Robert Z’Dar
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Ok I am going to be a tad controversial here and I know that many of you will disagree with me (especially JA Kerswell over at Hysteria Lives), but 1981 is not my favourite year of the slasher period. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the reason why people will think I’m crazy. ’81 gave us the best entry to the Friday the 13THseries, not to mention a sequel to Halloween. We also had, to mention just a handful, My Bloody Valentine, Pieces, Pranks, The Prowler (my personal favourite), The Burning and Small Town Massacre – all of those are genre classics that actually achieved a run in the cinema instead of just a quiet transfer to budget VHS. (Also in February of that year in a pueblo blanco in Spain, someone special was born – well, me…) – However the best time of the cycle for this particular slasher enthusiast was 1988. Hold on, hold on – allow me to explain why…
Ok, so admittedly, my justification for this is based on personal experiences. I was knee-high to a hubcap back then and can clearly recall searching video stores, after seeing Halloween on TV, for more guilty pleasures that I could sneak up to my room and add to my forbidden collection of ex-rental VHS. What a large amount of trash that there was for me to choose from. Who can honestly admit to not enjoying the cheese on toasts that were Hack-O-Lantern, Iced, Demon Warrior, Memorial Valley Massacre, The Last Slumber Party or Fatal Pulse? Or the gore splattered Evil Dead Trap, Demonwarp or 555? For a decent mystery with a good twist you could do much worse than Al Filo Del Hacha, whilst franchise fans had an outright extravaganza with Installments to Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13TH and Sleepaway Camp to contend with. Just to think, I haven’t even mentioned Scott Spiegel’s wonderfully audacious and awesomely gory, Intruder. You see, my argument is gathering steam…
Despite that impressive collection of titles, the biggest players of the category had admittedly been running a little dry on ideas. Halloween 4 was pręty good, but we will never get to see how John Carl Buechler’s The New Blood may have looked if big brother hadn’t gone mad with his scissors during certification. The genre was screaming out for a new icon to lead the way in to the brave oncoming decade and in 1988 we very nearly had one. (Well, two if you are amongst those that consider Child’s Play to be a slasher flick.)
This competently produced and visibly slick offering boasted a brilliant synopsis that had the potential to revitalise the slasher the same way that Halloween had done ten-years earlier. Carpenter has said that he thought that his seminal flick was so successful because he had taken horror away from the cliché of desolated environments and on to the streets and schools that we associate with secure normality. Maniac Cop attempted to build on this by turning the Police – the entity that we immediately associate with safety when horror strikes– in to the film’s bogeyman.
With a script from Larry Cohen, a director in William Lustig who had already had a successful stab at stalk and slash cinema with Maniac and a dreamy ensemble of B-Movie favourites, this looked to have more than enough in its locker to rival the titans for a place at the peak of the splatter-laden pyramid…
A serial killer is talking the streets of New York at night and murdering seemingly innocent bystanders. Witness reports have mentioned that the maniac is dressed as a Police officer, which makes tensions run high around the city. Could there really be a maniac cop on the force or is it a disguise for something far more sinister?
Some critics deny that this is a slasher picture and instead label it as a revenge flick in the vein of Death Wish et al. I completely disagree with that assessment, because the strong, silent bogeyman and countless examples of genre self-recognition mean that it’s definitely got the right recipe to sit alongside its brethren here on this website. In fairness, the larger budget allows Cohen to crossbreed various cinematic styles and there is something here for action audiences, those who like vigilante flicks and also back-street exploitation thrillers.
From the off you can tell that Maniac Cop is a SLASH above the usual plop that was littering shelves or being released DTV this late in the cycle, due to some decent photography and the obvious qualities that an experienced director and production team automatically bring. Lustig cloaks the screen in lingering shots of dark and dilapidated streets that bring a sleazy Taxi Driver-esque feel to the opening. This brings an abundance of energy to the feature and the killer, who is seen mainly in silhouette, has a supernatural ambiance not too dissimilar to that of Michael Myers.
Turning a cop in to the bogeyman offers a wealth of potential for set pieces and one of those is especially effective. Two backstreet muggers attempt to rob a barmaid of her bag, but after a brief struggle, she manages to escape and run to the supposed safety of a uniformed officer. It’s a well-delivered opening sequence as the shadowed maniac hoists the female up high and snaps her neck in front of the on looking thugs, who are rightly bewildered by the sight of a Policeman sinking to lower depths of criminality than even they could muster.
Compared with Lustig’s Maniac from 1980, the film is much more restrained in terms of gratuitous special effects. Terror is conveyed in the brutality of the death scenes, the choices of victims and a haunting score, which is authentic and memorable. The prison murder sequence is incredibly vicious and was deemed too gruesome by the BBFC, who removed it, almost completely, from the 18 rated print. But that’s the only gooey shot in the entire picture and the rest of the kill scenes are relatively tame. I liked the police station massacre, which was neatly paced and creepy, but again was surprisingly dry on the gore score.
Cohen attempts to transcend the normal template of the slasher cycle by focusing on the media reaction to the effects of a killer at large. It doesn’t take long before citizens begin to fear the boys in blue and one character rightly mentions that criminals now have a valid justification to fight back against the Police. Things come to a head when an elderly woman shoots an officer who was only trying to help her with her broken down vehicle and the town mayor rightly begins to panic.
It’s in these multiple plot additions that Maniac Cop somewhat looses its way. The direction fails to sustain the high energy levels that it began with and before long things begin to become predictable. There’s so much going on in the first twenty-minutes that it leaves little time to tie up all lose ends. The story hints at a whodunit mystery initially by keeping the monster in silhouette and showing characters that share his build or act suspiciously. Then the plot does a U-Turn and chooses to reveal the nut job’s identity about halfway through. There’s an underdeveloped sub-story about his motive, which never gets resolved and the conclusion feels somewhat rushed, uninspired and ultimately disappointing when you consider how the script had started with so much creativity.
In terms of eighties horror, excuse the pun, but Maniac Cop has a cast to die for. Tom Atkins plays it straight and delivers a rugged and approachable performance and the film does miss him after his early exit, which was as much as a shock as when Tom Skerritt bowed out of Alien back in 1979. It takes guts to kill off your tough and sympathetic leading man. Cult favourite Bruce Campbell doesn’t get the comedic style of script that plays to his strengths and he is somewhat subdued here, although it was an interesting choice to make him more of an anti-hero. He is exposed as an insensitive adulterer quite early on in the runtime, but just about manages to win over the audience with his unique style of B-Movie charm. Overall the dramatics were never weak enough to ruin the momentum and Robert Z’Dar was the perfect choice for the marauding psychopath.
Maniac Cop is a good horror film and one of the best late entries to the slasher cycle. I don’t want to steer you away with my minor gripes, but I am slightly disappointed because it had everything that was needed to be great instead of just ‘good’ and ended up following the pattern that we have seen time and time again. Still, the opening 30 minutes are absolutely amazing and Atkins’ grizzled performance itself makes this worth a look. Also, keep an eye out for the goof when Laurene Landon is handcuffed to a dead Police officer and just before the scene fades he sits up and moves out of the way of the smashing glass!
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl √√
Directed by: Michael J. Murphy
Starring: Patrick Olliver, Jacquelin Logan, Catherine Rowlands
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It is said by some historians that back in the times before humans began to travel and integrate, a name was thought to be much more than just a term of identification.
In places like Israel, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia, names were given as a pathway to destiny and could also be earned by acts of courage and strength. A person would be judged as much upon what they were called as a star sign today distinguishes characteristics for those that believe in horoscopes. Ancient Hebrew forbade the true name of God to be used in writing or speech and it was thought that his spirit could be summoned by verbally addressing him. Nowadays of course names mean very little and such superstitions have long been banished to memory. Kids get lumbered with the trend of the month when it comes to Christenings and I’ve seen everything from ‘Biscuit’ to ‘Rainbow’ to ‘Pilot Inspektor’. (The last one is Jason Lee’s son!)
Michael J Murphy’s slasher from 1985 pushed two separate words together to conjure up the title, ‘Bloodstream’. Fifteen years later, Steve Jarvis and co from Cinematrix films coincidentally did exactly the same thing. What really stands out as a bizarre and inexplicable link is the fact that both films never secured distribution. So two motion pictures released within twenty years of each other in a niche genre with identical titles suffered exactly the same unusual fate. Could it be that their names somehow jinxed their destiny?
This is another a SLASH above exclusive and a total rarity that I am posting for your perusal. It’s from cult horror helmer Michael Murphy and British film has far too few directors like him. His style can be compared to that of Nathan Schiff and he has released well over twenty-five pictures on the smallest of budgets. Invitation to Hell and The Last Night are the most recognised, with the latter being considered by some to sit within the stalk and slash grouping. Whilst The Last Night’s place amongst the category is indeed questionable, Bloodstream has none of the same identity issues. It’s a slasher through and through.
When up and coming director Alistair Bailey is fired from a project by notorious VHS distributor William King, he believes that his footage has been left in the trash can. He soon discovers however that King tricked him and is planning to globally sell the movie that he spent ages working on. As the lust for revenge strengthens, Bailey decides to don the same disguise as the one used by his antagonist and make a new feature. Only this time, the effects will be real…
Interestingly enough, Bloodstream is a project that was made with the mission to deliver a unique message to specific parties. Murphy’s career up until that point had been blighted by poor deals with shady producers, which meant that he had seen little financial gain from his experiences. He had been stiffed on both of his previous efforts, and so he created this ‘revenge’ story that sees characters similar to those that had wronged him getting slaughtered in the worst possible ways. Although it must have been a personal triumph to make his point so vividly, it no doubt contributed to the fact that the film failed to pick up any kind of release and was forgotten fairly quickly. It’s not even listed on the IMDB.
Shot on Super 8mm, the only available version is tough to watch even for a fan of the category. The quality of the production is obviously unprofessional in everything from the visuals to the performance of its participants. Somehow though, the strength of its creativity gives it some kind of escape ticket from the clutches of mediocrity and it touched me because it plays like it has been created as a back garden tribute of kind to the horror genre.
The synopsis has no mystery angle and we learn the maniac’s identity right from the start, but it all manages to unfold in an interesting way. The killer is the central character that guides us through the story and even if he seems open to the idea of vicious avengement, he would probably have done very little if he had been left to his own devices. Instead, he is guided by a willing partner whose motivation is far more shallow. This relationship between the two is intriguing and well written. It made me consider the fact that there are hundreds of slasher films without an ounce of authenticity that are available to find quite easily. This one, despite its novel approach, remains locked away, which seems somewhat unfair.
The majority of the runtime is filled with ‘film within a film’ scenes that are blended into the story by the fact that our antagonist watches a constant stream of VHS movies in his bedsit. Murphy uses this as an excuse to pay homage (rip off) everything from Mad Max to Friday the 13th Part II, because we get to view everything that our protagonist inserts into his VCR. The director even takes on The Exorcist and other classics that I’ll leave you to discover for yourself. There’s no doubt that these are included as a form of padding to extend a minimalistic story, but the runtime rarely drags and the cocktail just about works. When the maniac finally begins his rampage, the kill scenes are bloody in the tackiest possible way and surprisingly brutal. The first one, which ‘borrows’ an idea from Happy Birthday to Me is edited and structured superbly and shows impressive technical craft from Murphy. Such moments made me believe that he most definitely should have been offered the chance to work with a bigger budget during his career. Dick Randall and the like may have missed a trick by not looking him up.
Bloodstream has a big enough number of victims and the right amount of outright weirdness for me to have enjoyed it. Whilst it can by no means be considered a good movie, it earns points for its peculiarity. I’m sure that now Michael Murphy has forgotten the financial loss and frustration at not seeing his project picked up for circulation, he must be quite happy that his VHS message to dishonest distributors has become a cult rarity.
Whilst I can’t recommend that you hunt this one out for its ability to generate even the lowest level of fear, it is worth tracking down because it is truly a warped take-on the slasher template.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl: √