Monthly Archives: December 2013
The Collector 2009
Directed by: Marcus Dunstan
Starring: Josh Stewart, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernández
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
When Saw was released almost a decade ago, a lot of horror websites had billed it as a macabre slasher movie, but then after it hit screens sometime later, it turned out not to be a slasher flick at all. Its surprising success, and that of the multitude of copycats that followed, allowed the birth of a new sub genre, which was affectionately named, torture porn. The differences in structure between torture porn and that of our favourite category are small, but obvious enough that director Marcus Dunstan could merge the two together for this nerve-jangling cross-breed from 2009.
Whereas Saw and its brothers are big on slash, they are generally low on stalk, but The Collector fixes that by giving us a masked menace that imposes himself on the audience as would a Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. His lack of vocal characterisation and background development is straight out of an old skool classic, but he utilises the tools of murder that we find more generally in modern horror.
An ex-con that is determined to help his wife pay off a debt to some ruthless gangsters, plans a burglary at his new employer’s country home. He is unaware however that a maniacal killer has also targeted the family, and has set up deadly traps and devices to fulfil his lust for murder.
I must confess that Marcus Dunstan had not been a name that I had initially recognised until I was informed that he had written the screenplays to parts IV, V and VI of the Saw franchise. The intention here was to set this up as a prequel to that series, however the content owners declined and it proved to be the right decision. The mystery surrounding the identity of the antagonist, much as in Halloween, is perhaps one of the strongest things about this story, and it gives the villain a boosted fear factor. For a hardened horror veteran such as myself, it’s unusual that there is a feature that can both keep my eyes transfixed in tension and force me to recoil at the gore that I’m witnessing on screen. I can truly say that I found this to be much scarier than anything that I have witnessed within more recent gore led flicks.
What we have here is an exhilarating motion picture and it’s one that bursts with suspense and energy. Much of that is thanks to the fact that we are guided through the mayhem by an un-archetypal hero; a criminal who redeems his unlawful motives by striving to assist the victims that he comes across throughout the bloody death trap. There’s a point in the runtime where he could escape the minefield of blood-letting, but he returns; not for selfish reasons, but because a young girl that reminds him of his daughter, is still trapped inside the house. The pair then team up against the menace and work in tandem to survive, which drives our hope that they can conquer the assailant.
Dunstan directs the action impeccably and the camera at times feels like a webcam that is giving us a sneak view inside the production of a snuff video. We see close-ups of colourful spiders in the opening, which turn out to be not just artistic flair, but symbolic of the antagonist’s modus operandi and predatory instinct for trapping and executing his prey. There’s heaps of goo splattered throughout the numerous kill scenes and as a nod to the stalwarts of the genre, they even include the ‘have sex and die’ rule. One youngster loses his fingers, before falling into a floor laden with bear traps, whilst another is catapulted onto a wall of spikes. Perhaps the most gruesome moments are saved for our hero, and he suffers constantly when pitted against the maniac inside the house. Unlike the heroines that we have seen conquer seemingly unstoppable villains time and again, we feel that mano a mano the pair are on an almost equal footing without the deadly appliances, so we are constantly anticipating the moment that they come face to face. When that finally happens, it doesn’t disappoint and somehow the fight scenes seem all the more realistic due to this.
The screenplay does suffer from a lack of logic somewhat in places. Whilst our killer is mysterious and ominous, it’s physically, practically and financially impossible that he could rig the house the way that he did in order to achieve his goals. It’s true that cinema is a form of entertainment that should be allowed to push the boundaries of reality, but the story aimed for continuity in so many other places that the key aspect of the horror flies in the face of all that was built up around it. Still this is hardly a big complaint and it is one that is easily forgiven when we are biting our nails and wondering what could come next. I felt that Josh Stewart’s Arkin was outstanding as the lead character and Fernández brought so much to the bogeyman’s role without saying a word. In certain lighting, his eyes shine like crystals and this makes him look almost superhuman. His motives are never really disclosed to us, which helps to maintain the aura of fear that surrounds him.
There was a time when new-age horror movies were called ‘MTV’ by long-time enthusiasts and unworthy to share a stall with the classics of old. The Collector is one of the most frightening pictures that I’ve seen for ages and could never be accused of being diluted for PG-13 audiences. If you’re looking for a film that makes you double check if you have locked the door tonight, you could do a lot worse than this. I loved it..
Merry Xmas to you all!
It’s that time of the year again!!! Thanks so much for keep coming back to a SLASH above... I honestly didn’t know that there were so many slasher fans in the world. It’s like one big family 😉 xxx Peace and prosperity and plenty of slasher reviews next year
Silent Night Bloody Night 2013
Directed by: James Plumb
Starring: Philip Harvey, Victor Ptak, Alan Humphries
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Merry Christmas to all my readers!!! So the film featured in my last review, Silent Night, was a VERY loose re-imaging of Silent Night Deadly Night from 1984. It was in fact so loose that if I hadn’t had read the press pack that came with the pre-screener, I would have thought that it was just a stand alone feature. Silent Night Bloody Night: The Homecoming however didn’t even bother to get creative. It’s an almost word-for-word duplicate of a film of the same title that was made some forty-years earlier. The original Silent Night Bloody Night boasted an intriguing concept, a uniquely gothic tone and some solid performances. This British back garden rehash is as much of a tribute to that cult classic as would be a One Direction cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. In fact, it may even be worse…
Christmas Eve 2012, Jeffrey Butler returns to a small town after finally deciding to sell the house that had been left to him in the will of his Grandfather. William Butler had burned to death in mysterious circumstances twenty-five years ago and it has been vacant ever since. Three key figures from the local community, including the town Mayor, have mixed feelings on letting the property go on the market and want to purchase it for themselves. To make matters worse, a serial killer that has broken out of the local asylum decides to take refuge in the dilapidated abode. Before long, the maniac begins systematically slaughtering the locals, but what could all these events have in common with one another?
I would hate to play group poker with director James Plumb on my team. Here’s a guy who doesn’t hold anything back… even for a second. I knew from the moment that a Mark 4 Ford Transit (in production from the years 2000 – 2006) turned up in a prologue dated 1987 that I was in for a gruelling seventy-eight minutes. They even scribbled over the number plate with a whiteboard marker in a pathetic attempt to cover up the fact. Continuity, anyone?
So anyway, the plot gets rolling and they manage to achieve the almost impossible task of making what was a slightly complex but logical story seem like it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Did screenwriter Andrew Jones find an online copy of the original script written in Imperial Aramaic and run it through Google translate before submitting it as his final draft? For the first thirty minutes, I had no idea who was the protagonist, what was going on or why I should care about anything at all. Strangers walk on to the screen and say a few lines before getting killed in sequences that may have been edited by Wallace ‘Wally’ Karue from See No Evil, Hear No Evil. I could write a thousand words about the way that scenes look to have been chopped together on a freeware version of Windows Live Movie Maker, but the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered and so I can’t either. One couple got dispatched with an axe rather bloodily whilst underlining the have sex and die rule for the second time in fifteen-minutes. It was a shocking waste of circus potential though, because the nameless female is the only person in the history of sexual relations that can get down to it whilst keeping all of her clothes on. How cool is that? Maybe it had something to do with the size of his hatchet? Boom Boom.
Forty minutes in to the original Silent Night Bloody Night, we had spent that time establishing a group of suspicious, shady characters in a smartly convoluted plot. In this dumb and pointless reboot, I wasn’t interested In anyone or anything that I was seeing, except I was wondering who would be foolish enough to pay the bill for a phone in an abandoned house. Our maniac killer uses said tel to ring and, ahem, ‘terrorise’ his intended prey in the same kind of ways that were so scary the last time that this story was told. The difference back then was that the actor playing the psycho’s voice was stern and terrifying, whilst Adrienne King shows how rusty she is here by sounding like an amateur dramatics group cast her off after the first audition. I am not sure about you, but I don’t enjoy paying a premium price to watch awful dramatics. I’m also not the biggest fan of flat, lazy camera angles, cardboard characters, an awful score and a noughties registration Ford Transit being teleported back to 1987 for the opening scene. I did however like the security guard at the mental hospital. Anyone that drinks Red Stripe beer and watches Night of the Living Dead whilst working with the criminally insane is a legend in my eyes.
It’s hard to find much positive to say about Silent Night Bloody Night: The Homecoming, but there were a few things that I liked. James Plumb seemed to save all of his minimal directorial ability for the final chase sequence and it went really well up until we saw that dreaded Ford Transit again. (In case you forgot, it’s the one that was used in the prologue from twenty-five years earlier). I guess that you could say that the killer’s guise was decent and there’s a fairly large body count, but it’s not enough to warrant you tracking this down. Yes it’s low budget and yes it’s good that people still want to make slasher films, but I just felt that it was offensive to the classic that it attempts halfheartedly to rehash.
The most talented person in this production was the one that put together the box-art. He/she made it look like a free vodka for eternity gift voucher and that’s just irresistible. If you, like me, are on a mission to see every single slasher movie, then make sure that you borrow your friend’s copy and save yourself a miserable Christmas of regretting wasting your wonga.
Final Girl √
Silent Night 2012
Directed by: Stephen C. Miller
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King, Donal Logue
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
On a SLASH above, I often analyse the stats of my visits and around this time of year, the traffic that I get on certain pages is astronomical. I guess that you’ve already worked out that those are the reviews for Home Sick, Black Christmas, To All a Goodnight, Don’t Open ’till Christmas, Home for the Holidays et al. The logic in making a festive slasher is undeniable. I mean, it’s natural that people think, ‘Hey it’s Christmas, let’s watch a themed horror movie’ and so there’s cash to be made for ambitious producers. Santa pickaxing teenagers is the perfect visual present for the advent calendar countdown.
But would such a feature truly offer the same level of entertainment in the middle of spring?
I think about this, because for me, there’s a certain stigma about watching an Xmas themed horror flick at any other time of the year. They lose their charm somewhat. I wanted to have some reviews ready to post earlier for Xmas, but I just couldn’t motivate myself to sit down and put one of them on. As soon as I read my six year-old daughter’s letter to St Nick in early December however, I was ready to rock and roll…
On Christmas Eve in a small Midwestern town, the police search for a killer Santa Claus who is picking off citizens in secluded places. As the bodies begin to pile up, it seems certain that it’s someone who knows the local inhabitants…
So I heard that Silent Night is a semi-remake of Silent Night Deadly Night. I also have no idea what semi-remake means, but after watching, I can say that it’s more of a total re-imaging. We’ve got a killer in the guise of St Nick and a few minor references (including a rehash of one of the killings), but aside from that there’s very little else that you’d recognise. The good news is that the film doesn’t need to borrow from anywhere, because as far as Christmas entries go, it’s one of the best by a country mile.
Slasher movies were as popular as bell-bottom slacks in 2012, so I was over the moon when I found out that this was being developed on a good budget. What we ended up with was proof that there’s still life in the aging recipe if you do it the right way. Steven C Miller -who had previously given us the underrated TV Movie, Scream of the Banshee – does a wonderful job in the hot seat and delivers us a juggernaut of slasher fun that rips and roars it’s way through a slick runtime of thrills.
He doesn’t hang around to introduce audacious killings as the film’s vocal point. Our maniac is on screen from the opening minute and he doesn’t stay away for long thereafter. We are treated to goo by the bucket load, including a gruesome scene where a girl is dismembered and then pushed into a timber cutter. Although her screams of pain are disturbing, the film avoids being too mean-spirited by giving us a reason to dislike the victims before their demise. We also get a head split with an axe, lopped off fingers and a couple of frantic chase scenes before the inevitable money shot. Even if the script looks to be set up like a standard slasher, it works so that we never really know what could happen next and there’s a fine blend of tension in the unravelling of the Police investigation.
I was impressed by the way that the plot breaks the unwritten slasher code with its revelation of the psychopath’s identity, but it all made sense in the end. Jamie King’s Aubrey Bradimore is a tough, likeable and brave heroine that reminds of the ones of old and she delivers by far the best performance of the pack. McDowell is hammy as hell as the sheriff, but he gets the job done and overall the dramatics are suitable for the content. Screenwriter Jayson Rotwell deserves a thumbs up for some memorable dialogue and if lines such as, ‘Don’t put Avocado on the burger’ can’t grab your attention then you’re surely not in tune with the overall mood. Donal Logue, who plays one of the key suspects, gets a strong scene with King in which he talks about why so many people go crazy around the festive period. He highlights that Christmas has become more of a blue-chip marketing tool than a religious celebration and it’s an interesting point that caught my attention.
The final showdown is set-up in an Argento-esque haze of red lights and sprinklers that creates an impressive tone of isolation. Even if the heroine gets a convenient route to escape (she just happened to land next to a loaded weapon), the suspense that surrounds the outcome means that we can easily forgive a bit of unlikely fortune for the good guys. It climaxes with a chance that we haven’t seen the final chapter in this story and let’s keep our fingers crossed that there is still belief amongst financiers that this is a franchise that has legs.
I seriously can’t give Silent Night any higher praise than saying that it’s a perfect tribute to the pictures of old. I was left wanting more and I’m hopeful that there will be other projects in the pipeline that can follow this example.
Slasher films of late seem to have forgotten that they ought to be gory, outrageous and fun. Miller’s entry is the perfect example of these three elements and for that it deserves to be seen. There was criticism that it didn’t bring anything new to the table, but with so many failed attempts at updating the template, I for one was just relieved to see things done the right way.
Final Girl √√√√
To All A Goodnight 1980
Directed by: David Hess
Starring: Jennifer Runyon, Forest Swanson, Linda Gentile
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So 11 more sleeps to the big day! I am already stocking up on Vodka. My Mrs always nags at me for even having one beer (so I get shouted at all weekend), but she promised that I can have a drink during the festive period… Of course, she doesn’t realise that it’s like given a cat the key to the dairy and saying you can have one lick of milk 😉 As she is Polish, I am Spanish and we live in UK, we get to celebrate Wigila (the 24th), the big X (25th) and el Día de Reyes on the 6th of Jan. That’s an awful lot of alcohol haha – Anyway, I have set up some slasher action for the period and this entry is intriguing and collectible for two significant reasons. Número uno: It was the first slasher movie to include a Santa-suited psycho, before Silent Night-Deadly Night, Psycho Santa and Christmas Season Massacre et al took it beyond cool and into the realms of ‘please go invent something new’. Número dos: it was the directorial debut of David Hess – a man who was to the horror genre what Johan Cryuff was to football.
You’d most likely be surprised by Hess’ hugely impressive contributions to show business and the things that he achieved prior to his acting exploits. His professional career began as a singer-songwriter for the small label Shalimar Music in 1957. He penned ‘All Shook Up’ for The King shortly after and the song became a massive hit. In fact, it was just recently voted as one of the top 20 all time rockabilly classics.
Throughout the months that followed, Hess would see Conway Twitty, Andy Williams, Sal Mineo and Pat Boone take his tracks to the top end of the charts, before he settled for a career behind the scenes as head A&R man for Mercury Records. In 1972 his fortunes continued to improve when he was offered the lead role in Wes Craven’s cult classic ‘The Last House on the Left’. He gave such a nasty and memorable performance that would allow him to continue to play tormented characters in movies such as Autostop, Rosso Sangue and Ruggero Deodato’s Bodycount.
By the time 1980 came around, he was ready to broaden his horizons in the film industry and so he took to the director’s chair for this cheap and cheesy festive shocker.
The opening scene is conveyed so rapidly that it felt like my finger had brushed the FF button and it had remained playing on >>32. It is Christmas vacation at the Calvin Finishing School for girls and the co-eds are celebrating by chasing one female around the dormitory. She heads out onto the balcony, trips over a bizarrely placed plant pot and takes a tumble to the concrete floor below. We can only presume that the girl died, although we’re never given an explanation to the scene. We don’t even know who any of these characters are?
Two years later, Xmas; and a large amount of the youngsters are going home. A few eager chicks decide to hang around and prepare for their own on-site celebrations. The gang of fun-loving ladies includes a curvaceous man-eater called Melody (Linda Gentile), who spends her time being swapped among the guys like a football card. There’s a suspiciously accented English girl named Trisha (Angela Bath), and a traditional inadvertent comic relief character, Leia (Judith Bridges). Finally we meet the Jamie Lee Curtis-lite goody-two-shoes sure-to-be heroine by the name of Nancy (Jennifer Runyon). Their house is run by Ruth Jensen (Katherine Herrington) and Trina Ronsoni (Judy Hess), who judging by that surname must be related to the director – maybe his wife? She also shows a brilliant knack for comic timing, by quipping at one point, “I’ll stop off on my way back. That is if the grim reaper doesn’t come calling”. Like, really???
Anyway, Christmas alone for the girls wouldn’t be much fun, so they literally fly in a gang of randy would-be bed-sharers including a stereotypical geek, Alex (Forest Swanson). It doesn’t take long for the masked Santa-suited slasher to turn up and begin cutting his way through the revellers. He then buries their bodies in the backyard with the professionalism and speed of a gang of landscape gardeners. So who will survive this Christmas Massacre?
To all a Good Night isn’t as bad as its hideous reputation would lead you to believe. In fact it’s actually fairly watchable in a so bad it’s good kind of way. What makes it perhaps rise above its amateurism in the filmmaking department is the hilarity of some of the dialogue, which seems to have been written on a notepad at a Russian vodka buffet. For example, Trisha bumps in to the maniac in a secluded spot of the garden and goofs in her comical sub-Brit accent, “Oh Tom, take that bloody mask off and take me to bed!” She gets what she rightly deserves. It’s also worth noting that on planet eye test, all the guys here are captivated by the extremely dumb and slightly scary Leia. They then defy logic by completely ignoring the smart and decent Nancy. Leia, the aforementioned flat chested redhead, also provides most of the nudity, while the shapely Melody remains fully clothed throughout? Not being content with constantly ripping off her clothes, Leia also goes nuts towards the conclusion of the movie and spends the final third of the runtime singing and ballet dancing round the corpses of her chums. The killer, obviously realising that she’s a slice of cheese, bap and a burger short of a cheeseburger, doesn’t even give her the dignity of putting her out of her misery!
Mark Shostrum’s gore effects may well be the most spectacular ever filmed. We’ll never know if that’s true however, because the picture is just too dark. Day for night filters are used without any other form of lighting, and at times the lack of clear vision ruins the movie. The only good killing that I remember featured the maniac dressed in a suit of armour and it was thankfully filmed inside the house, so the lighting was at least passable.
Despite losing about six of their colleagues in the first thirty minutes, the remaining victims fail to acknowledge that there is a maniac stalking the campus. Instead they continue to mouth inept comments when each morning’s roll-call shows another disappearance, such as, “They must have gone to bed.” Even when the heavily-mutilated body of Ralph the albino gardener is discovered, they still refuse to accept that a maniac might be trying to cut down the guest list for their Xmas party. The utter stupidity of the youngsters destroys any sympathy for their eminent demise.
On the plus side, there is a humongous body count and as I said, it’s fairly amusing in an inadvertent kind of way. Whilst an abundance of time makes many slashers seem dated, in many ways, To All a Goodnight is helped by its age. The campy charm makes this one-star movie worthy of the two that I’ve given it below. It’s another fine example of intolerable rubbish-ness being salvaged by 80s ‘did they really’ nostalgia.
Unfortunately, Hess passed away two-years ago, but before he did, he said that filmmaking was something that he’d like to try again, although he admitted that he had neither the time nor the cash flow to apply such focus. It is a shame that he never got round to it, because modern slashers lack the goofy charm of this one.
Final Girl √
See No Evil 2006
Directed by: Gregory Dark
Starring: Christina Vidal, Glenn Jacobs, Zoe Ventoura
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
You know, it’s a shame that no one told Randy the Ram from Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler that he could have cured his depression by re-launching himself as a slasher movie villain. Whilst leotard-sporting grapplers that have made the switch to the silver screen have never been huge dramatic successes, the likes of The Rock and Jesse Ventura utilised their intimidating glares and hulking frames to create memorable presences in cheesy flicks.
This particular title was the first full motion picture produced by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and it turned out to be a belated attempt to grab a bite of the slasher pie. They gave Glenn Jacobs, one of their leading stars, the chance to portray the film’s antagonist and the logic in doing so was unquestionable. Bogeymen need to be surly and unusually big. Jacobs ticks those boxes and to be fair, he’s probably one of the better things in this rarely mentioned slash extravaganza.
A group of male and female convicts are given supervised release and the task of helping to renovate an old hotel. For every three days that they spend working on the clean up, they get their sentences reduced by a month, so they are keen to get cracking. Once on site though, they begin to ignore their duties and frolic in the usual slashertastic ways. Hidden within the mass of corridors however is Jacob Goodnight, a demented serial killer that has a fetish for removing his victims eyeballs…
Many of the newer stalk and slash films that hit shelves after the release of Scream tried their hardest to imitate the self-recognition and humour that was made a modern stereotype by Kevin Williamson’s screenplay. Thankfully Gregory Dark’s entry doesn’t bother with parody and instead returns to the old skool maniac against naughty youngsters set-up, which is extremely refreshing. The location for the carnage is a large dilapidated hotel and whilst it was hard to tell how much of the exteriors were CGI, they did help to create an impressive tone of isolation. Inside, we are treated to a lot of gloomy corridors and decayed rooms, which equally unsettle in a Silent Hill-type way. Our resident psycho stalks about in the shadows before making his screen entrance, which doesn’t take long – and the runtime is neatly paced so that we are never left waiting around for some action.
As I alluded to earlier, Jacob Goodnight is an effective menace and pulls off a magnificently gruesome killing. One young woman climbs out of a window on a chord that is supported by her boyfriend in an attempt to flee for help. She scales halfway down the building and notices that her beau is no longer speaking with her, because he has just been dispatched (off-screen). Straight after, the maniac slices the rope and looks on as she smashes through a glass conservatory below. Due to some remaining rope-threads, she remains suspended inches above the ground whilst bleeding profusely. Barely alive, her wounds attract a pack of wild dogs that gratuitously maul her to death! This sequence was the first that I previewed for See No Evil and I was extremely excited about the film’s release thereafter. It’s one of a number of gooey moments scattered throughout the picture, but I must admit that I was slightly disappointed that the ‘spoiled bitch’ girl didn’t suffer a more gruesome demise.
The story is populated by the usual slasher stereotypes, but none of them are given any real development. I watched the film only yesterday and am struggling to remember the name of the heroine and that shows how much effort they put into bringing her to life. In fact, they are so paper-thin that I almost wanted the bad guy to emerge triumphant. I mean, why not? He was the only one that got any backstory and therefore was far less of a stranger. We are given facial freeze screens and text as a form of introduction to the troupe, which is the screenwriting equivalent of a microwave spaghetti Bolognese. The acting ranges from ok-ish to dire, but frankly, DeNiro couldn’t have put any emotive expression into these cardboard lines. From a technical perspective, there are tonnes of those annoying MTV flash cuts that are totally unnecessary and I still somewhat cringe at hearing Hip-Hop in a slasher movie. Maybe that’s just a sign of my advancing years :(. We do get a tighter momentum around the forty-minute mark, which reminded me of Robert McKee (Brian Cox)’s ‘Wow them in the end’ speech from Adaptation, because the unexpected twist at the conclusion really was a surprise. It is just a shame that it was ruined by the ludicrous cheap-gag in the credits that I won’t spoil for you; but the words, ‘corpse, dog and urinating’ may give you an idea.
In hindsight, the script feels like it was little more than a first draft, which was barely given a second look before they began shooting. It seems strange that WWE were in such a rush to release their big screen debut that they totally overlooked the importance of character development in their screenplay. There’s fun to be had with the death scenes and I recall a few shades of suspense, but I couldn’t help but feel that the story’s depth was replaced with gore scenes. The script also spent time building the mystery of the killer removing the eyeballs of his victims, only to brush it off later with an underwhelming explanation. It was like, wow is that REALLY it?
Despite the sloppiness, See no Evil does deliver on occasion and has moments that are genuinely quite we’ll done. Fans looking for a quick fix won’t be disappointed and It also has a low-budget clone (rip-off?) by the name of Psycho Ward, which you may fancy as a double billing? I’d be the first to admire your tolerance levels if you sat through those two in a row…
One thing that I will say is that my partner loved it and gave it an a SLASH above ranking of 4/5 . But then again, she liked Spaceship Terror and said that Halloween was too slow moving… so keeping that in mind, who would you agree with? haha – (PS… she’s the boss, not me ;))
Final Girl √