Monthly Archives: May 2014
Blood Junkie 2010
aka Rocky Trails
Directed by: Drew Rosas
Starring: Nick Sommer, Emily Treolo, Ross Bachhuber
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Over the past couple of days, I’ve watched Bloody Moon and Do You Wanna Know a Secret one after the other. Despite being similar films in terms of their genre and content, the most obvious difference between the two is one that I have highlighted previously: charm. Is Bloody Moon a better example of filmmaking than Secret? No; but at least it doesn’t have a cast full of unlikeable and egotistical cliches that we can’t relate to. Eighties slasher movies, no matter how bad that they may have been, were successful in giving us characters that we liked. There’s no bigger or better drama in cinema than hoping a hero or heroine that we’ve invested in prevails against an evil force.
Director Drew Rosas understands this and has given us a slasher movie that has stolen the keys to Dr Emmet Brown’s time-travelling DeLorean and taken us back to the category’s past glories.
Four beer loving teens decide to take a weekend’s camping trip on some secluded woodland. Due to the fact that one of them was babysitting and can’t leave her kid brother alone, they decide to take him along. During their hike through the woodland, they uncover an abandoned factory, which has various legends of a disfigured loon that dwells within. They soon begin to discover that those stories may be true.
I must confess that it’s been a while since I’ve seen a picture distributed by Troma. Whilst I have never been a fan of their love of toilet humour, they must take some credit for their part in helping to populate the slasher cycle with some good and bad additions. These include Blood Hook, The Creeper, Angel Negro and Girls School Screamers. Blood Junkie is arguably the cannon of their arsenal, which Ido mean as a compliment.
What we have here is a feature that’s hard to take a swipe at. Having seen as much DTV crap as I have over the years, it’s nice to finally get an entry where the amount of effort is so visually obvious that it radiates. Unlike The Sleeper, the eighties continuity here is OTT, but consistent. We see cassette tapes, moustaches, boob tubes and luminous tops; but what amused me the most was the Hair Metal posters that were shown on one guy’s wall. I lived through those times, listened to those tracks and it seems like light years away nowadays. The energetic score is better than any actual synthesiser accompaniment that I recall from the period and the dialogue is comical without being overtly obvious in its attempts. Each shot is planned to be more inventive than the last and the runtime becomes a livewire of creative ideas. For reasons that I can’t disclose here, Junkie is also a film that warrants a second viewing to really bring the best out of the unexpected ending.
What I thought was especially effective, was the director’s ability to change the tone successfully and with minimal effort. Time spent with the characters is campy and fun, whilst scenes that involve the killer often border on being quite creepy. His costume is a gas mask, which is anything but original, but it is ok because his motive is fairly unique. Much like a vampire, he has a taste for human blood and he knocks victims unconscious and drains them in a secluded room. This leads to an ingenious use of the aforementioned headpiece, because the nutjob inserts the protruding hose into a victim and then sucks through it to give himself a warm hemoglobin smoothie!
Despite the novelty of the blood draining part, the abduction, instead of slaughter of teens, does lead to a lack of slashing. The first couple of murders are committed off screen and it’s only later that the maniac begins to attack with brutality. There’s a gooey throat slashing that serves only to inform us of what we could have been in for had Rosas structured his antagonist’s MO more typically. The less is more approach doesn’t necessarily work in low budget slashers.
Still, Blood Junkie was a pleasure to sit through and there’s enough here to prove that Rosas is an exquisite horror filmmaker. His audacious directive style makes him something of a B-movie Wes Anderson and I am eagerly awaiting Billy Club, which should be released shortly.
At 72 minutes, Junkie could never be accused of outstaying its welcome and it’s a film that I feel deserves some of your time.
Killer Guise: √√√
Do You Wanna Know a Secret? 2001
Directed by: Thomas Bradford
Starring: Chad Allen, Jeff Conway, Jack McGee
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
When I was a young dumb teenager, I remember that I fell madly in love with an older woman. I was too scared to ask her out, but we spent loads of time together and my heart used to beat like a UFC afterparty. One time we got drunk on cheap cider and in a final attempt to make her mine, I sung her the Billy J. Kramer hit, Do you wanna know a secret? Anyway, when the key line of, ‘I’m so in love with you‘ dropped I serenaded her emphatically. She smiled in a mocking way, finished the drink that I paid for and went home without batting an eyelid. I never saw her again.
I was hopeful that this overlooked genre entry, which was titled after that song, might solve some of the deep-rooted confidence issues that have haunted me since that fateful day. Perhaps my experience with those words might be a bit more enjoyable this time around and maybe, just maybe, I would be able to leave the past behind and start my life again… Weep
A year after Beth’s boyfriend is brutally hacked to death, she decides to take a weekend away with her new beau and four buddies. Almost as soon as they arrive, a masked killer turns up and begins slashing his way through them, leaving the words, Do you wanna know a secret, beside each corpse. Who could be the killer and what is the secret?
If I may, I’d like to remind you of the opening to the film, Reservoir Dogs. Instead of setting up the introduction of a protagonist in a typical fashion, we meet a whole group of characters that are sitting around a table drinking coffee. Even if no clear tone is being set by what we see, the dialogue is so intriguing and well written that we can’t take our eyes away from the screen. Now I know that it’s unfair to compare Do You Wanna Know a Secret to Quentin Tarrantino’s breakout motion picture, but I did so to underscore the importance of developmental dialogue.
Thomas Bradford’s slasher leaves us in the hands of a pack of one dimensional players for the first forty minutes and despite only finishing this last night, I can’t remember a single word or sentence that any of them said. I’ve overhead conversations on trains that are more engaging, which leaves us with a chunk of tedium that would fail to maintain the attention span of a cyborg. I often gripe about poor attempts at slapstick in horror movies, but I would probably rather that than what feels like a lifetime of nonsensical chatter between people that are absolute nobodies to us. They flirt, they dance, they argue and they pose, but they have the chemistry of strangers and the intrigue of a dishwasher.
I’d completely lost interest by the time that the killer started slashing, but to be fair, they gave him an exceptional mask, which reminded me of the Tor Johnson one from Small Town Massacre. The kill scenes are delivered in ways that eliminate the chances of suspense and there’s not much gore either. Most slasher flicks give us a unique weapon or a method of murder that makes them stand out. Secret doesn’t bother with that though and does everything in the driest way possible. We finally arrive at the build up to the conclusion and the stupidity continues as the killer murders a police chief for no apparent reason in the toilets of a jailhouse. Our Reese Witherspoon wannabe final girl witnesses this and looks on as the masked assailant drives off in a rusty pick up truck. If you were left in that same position, outside a Police station, would you a) turn around and tell an armed law enforcement officer what you’d seen or b) take off after the murderous maniac alone with no weapon? Take a guess as to what she does. This all leads to a revelation scene that has been ripped off from Embalmed and then we learn the ‘secret’, which has the impact of a dandelion.
So was there anything that impressed me? Well, the photography was energetic in places and Jack McGee and Jeff Conway did what was asked of them with the limited script. It was just that I was disappointed, because such a clearly well funded picture should have been capable of so much more. Ideas for movies don’t always work, but this one didn’t even do the basics properly. With minimal gore, unattractive females and yawn inducing plot delivery, I really couldn’t wait for the final credits to roll.
So did this assist me in my issues with rejection from so long ago? No. Instead, I went on Facebook and looked up that girl to see what she was like eighteen-years later. Six kids, twice divorced and a figure that would scare a sumo wrestler. I had a lucky escape… 😉
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √
Bloody Moon 1981
Directed by: Jesus Franco
Starring: Olivia Pascal, Christopher Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganoff
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I always believed that the Máximo Espejo character in the brilliant romantic comedy, ¡Átame! (1989) was based on Jesús Franco. That film’s director, Pedro Almodovar, also used scenes from Bloody Moon in another of his Antonio Banderas led pictures, Matador from 1986. Does this mean that Almodovar is a fan of his fellow countryman’s work? It’s hard to say, but the amount of sleaze in Franco’s 180+ filmography makes it easy to overlook the fact that he could be a capable filmmaker when he put his mind to it.
After the success of Halloween, a German production team approached Franco to help them put together an entry strong enough to grab a share of the hottest cinema craze. Bloody Moon went on thereafter to become something of a grindhouse classic in cult circles. This was mainly due to its whacky dialogue, explicit gore and extreme nudity. After being released uncut pre-cert on VHS in the United Kingdom, it went on to join the DPP list and become a video nasty, which added to its notoriety. Much like I had done with Juan Simón’s Pieces, I wanted to go back and view it with an open mind to see what I made of it.
A group of German students head to a language school in Spain to brush up on their Español and catch a bit of sun. It becomes apparent that they are sharing the location with a disfigured murderer who has just been released from the local asylum. Girls soon begin disappearing, so could it be that Miguel has not been fully cured?
Checking out Bloody Moon after all these years, I found that I appreciated it much more than I did a decade ago when I wrote the review that you can find here. This time around, I watched it in Spanish and the dialogue is not as hilarious as the, “I love your tenderness” and “let yourself melt in my arms” slop that we got in English language prints, which helps to make it a bit less comical. Juan Soler utilises a bright palate of cinematography that brings the screen alive, but he does overuse the zoom effect too much. Screenwriter Erich Tomek pinches a lot from Halloween, including the isolation of the final girl in her knowledge that there’s a psychopath on campus. In that role, Olivia Pascal screams her way through each new scenario with a subtle vulnerability and we do genuinely want her to survive.
The mystery is clumsy in the amount of early information that it gives us, but there are still a few surprises to be had as it unravels. Franco includes a couple of tense sequences, like the claustrophobic finale, which sees Pascal’s character uncover the corpses of her chums spread around her apartment. Juan Molina’s gore effects haven’t aged well, because nowadays, we can see similar levels of goo in most DTV efforts. Still, there’s something quite unsettling about watching a young kid get mowed down by an automobile (no, really) and the famous buzzsaw murder of a promiscuous chick hasn’t lost any of it’s pitch black humour. After letting herself be tied to a table, the aforementioned bimbo quips that she’s up for anything with what she believes is a hunky Latin lover. It’s funny, because she’s expecting to get drilled (if you know what I mean) and instead, she ends up getting sawed and TOTALLY screwed!
I wrote in my notes that some elements of the extraordinary soundtrack were almost Pink Floyd-like and then I read that Franco had falsely been promised some authentic music from that band by his producers before signing on. No wonder that he later stated that he had countless problems with them and that may explain some of the outright weirdness that we come across in the story. I mean, if there were two opposing visions working on the project, then who knows what came from where.
Going back after all this time, I’m still not convinced that Bloody Moon is much more than a cheese-sleaze slice of trash. It’s enjoyable trash though, which I guess is most important. It’s a film that I feel often gets overlooked, because with the hottest collection of chicas that I can remember, some fun gore and more moments of WTF than you can shake a stick at, it deserves a lot more recognition than it currently boasts.
Bloody Moon is gleefully bad enough to be enjoyed and although it hasn’t aged as well as others, it’s still well worth re-checking.
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl: √√√√
Rose Of Death 2007
Directed by: L. Alan Brooks
Starring: Luke Jones, Sarah McGuire, Sandra Winogrocki
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Buenos días slasher fans, my apologies that I have been away for so long, but since the last time that we spoke, I’ve moved house twice and stumbled a bit upon the work/life balance tightrope. Funnily enough the site’s visit stats during my MIA status have shot through the roof, which means one of two things: 1) You guys and girls prefer when I’m not updating a SLASH above or 2) the legion of global stalk and slash admirers is growing. I’m hopeful that it’s the second.
So here we have one that I believe not many have heard of, Rose of Death. It’s a cheapo quickie from 2007 that was included in the Tomb of Terrors 50-film DVD pack that I picked up a few years back. Much like the slashers of yesteryear it tells the tale of a group of kids that go too far with their bullying on Prom Night. A sadistic event leaves two teenagers, Rose and Kevin, dead and the wrongdoers agree a pact, never to tell anyone about what happened that fateful night.
Ten years later, the murderers attend their high school reunion, but it soon becomes apparent that someone must have worked out their secret. A masked menace and his accomplice begin killing them off one by one by the most brutal means possible. Who could be behind the killings?
For many years, Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2 held the record for the longest pre-credits sequence in cinema history. Rose of Death runs it close here with the opening slaughter of the unfortunate prom attendees. There’s a story that I guess makes sense, regarding a jilted jock ex-boyfriend who sets out to teach his geeky love rival a lesson, but accidentally murders him in cold blood. In order to cover up the grim deed, he and his buddies decide to get rid of Rose, who is the only surviving witness. This sequence is effectively brutal in its content, but it is filmed so badly that I began to lose interest after four minutes of struggling to make out what was going on.
We are plagued by the usual mind numbingly bad acting, mumbled speech and braindead dialogue, but its the lack of ilumination that’s the real issue. I noticed that some times, even during key moments, it was impossible to see anything at all. We learn later that the two corpses were put into an automobile and pushed into a lake, but if the producer invested any money in this effect, it was wasted because all that was visible was blackness. This continues throughout the runtime on every occasion that the camera heads outside into the night sky and it doesn’t take long to become frustrating.
We fast forward ten years and the plot then stumbles through the development of the guilty parties after the events of the prologue. If I had the chance, I’d ask what skin cream that they use because they haven’t aged a day. Soon enough, a gruesome twosome of killers begin to slash their way through the troupe and we get one slightly ok gore effect. As a nod to Rosemary’s Killer, they leave a freshly picked calling card at the scene of each death. The girl’s name was Rose, so they leave a bright red one.
To be fair, the momentum tightens during the second half of the story, because we are asking ourselves who the vigilantes could possibly be. The budget piggy bank must’ve been empty by the time that we get to the big revelation scene though because the whole thing is left pretty much unexplained. Without giving too much away, I was scratching my head with perhaps the most important of all questions, which is: how? Please let me know if you have any idea.
ROD has some good ideas in both it’s script and filmmaking technique, but it’s plagued by the obvious lack of funding. I liked the referencing of The Prowler and they even find the time to put in the old head in a toilet trick, which we saw in both Curtains and The House on Sorority Row. The odd flash of genre recognition is not enough to make up for the moments of ineptitude though and the film is just awkward to watch.
L. Alan Brooks’ slasher couldn’t help but bring to my mind the title of the underrated Nicolas Refn film, Only God Forgives. I feel that in this case though, even the almighty may not be quite forgiving enough…
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl: √
Sorority House Massacre Part 2 1990
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Starring: Robyn Harris, Melissa Moore, Stacia Zhivago
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This viewing experience was a bit like one of those moments in cheesy films when a character gets a warning like, ‘Don’t go in the basement‘, and then does it anyway. I’d seen the 3.6 rating on the IMDB, I had read the awful reviews posted in the slasher stratosphere and therefore wasn’t feeling motivated to insert this particular cassette into my aging VCR. It had been sitting on my shelf looking cold, lonely and rejected for over fifteen years. Let’s be frank, by 1990, the chance of finding a good low-budget slasher film amongst the rubble was like walking over to the most beautiful girl in the disco after 13 jägerbombs and convincing her to let you take her for a spin in your jalopy. My fiancé however is not as knowledgeable on crap horror films as me and she saw something in the desolate cover that convinced her that we were in for a good time.
Five sorority babes decide to renovate an old house so that they can study and party, but they are unaware that it was the location of a notorious massacre from five years earlier. As darkness falls, the girls are stalked and slaughtered by a hooded and hook-clenching nutjob. Can any of them escape alive?
Well you can’t make all of the people happy all the time. Mullholland Drive is amongst the highest rated films on the IMDB and one of my all-time favourites, but my friend Andy – whom I rate as a good film critic – can’t stand it. He feels it’s poorly paced and too complex. I tell you this because I had a great time with Sorority House Massacre Part Deux and was left somewhat confused by the scathing criticism that it’d received elsewhere.
Now maybe it was the four cans of lager that I’d ingested earlier in the day. Or maybe my brain had taken a temporary break from logical thinking. I’m not sure exactly why, but either way, I found that there was much here to appreciate. I mean, technically we certainly won’t be singing from any rooftops about what’s on display and bra size looked to be much higher on the list of essential casting attributes than acting talent. Once the slashing starts after a slightly lengthy chunk of padding though, the movie builds a solid momentum.
Rumour has it that back in 1989, Jim Wynorski couldn’t get in contact with Roger Corman, so ran the idea for this feature past his wife who gave him the go ahead to shoot in her husband’s absence. The director was only afforded an extremely short production timespan (seven days) and a Happy Meal budget, but managed to knock this together with all that he had. When Mr Corman finally got round to seeing the completed print, he liked it so much that he spliced in some footage from his previous slasher hit, Slumber Party Massacre and gave the go ahead to make it a sequel of sorts to another of his entries, Sorority House Massacre. There’s no doubt that the rationale for doing so was because he felt that it would be much easier to market this as a sequel than as an unknown stand alone. The fact that this story has absolutely nothing to do with either SPM or SHM though, does add an unnecessary amount of WTF??? I wasn’t the biggest fan of Carol Frank’s original Sorority House Massacre, because much like Offerings, I felt that she had taken the level of Halloween pilfering to a point that bordered on duplication. Thankfully, this ‘title only’ follow up adds enough pizazz to bring some credibility to the series.
It works because Wynorski knows his and his budget’s limits. Previous pictures that he had given us were never renowned for their levels of suspense or intrigue, so he played to his strengths and packed the movie with cheese and an exploitation overload. His female characters are buxom and spend the majority of the runtime in tight fitting lingerie. I am not sure what the record for boob shots in a stalk and slasher is, but I am pretty sure that SHM Part 2 is not far off that number. Our final girl is played by Robyn Harris, a British former page 3 model, whose accent leaps from Yorkshire to phony-American two to three times in one sentence. She overcomes this and the fact that she can’t act with her heart stopping beauty. Her thick wavy locks, voluptuous figure and angelic face, reminded me of Traci Lords during her adult-movie years, which is no mean feat. What better way could a screenwriter make you want someone to survive? Don’t worry about character background, just make sure that they’re undeniably hot…
There’s a mystery that is easy enough to solve but keeps things moving and an undercurrent of humour that is never overdone. When we finally get to the scenes that show the girls fighting to survive against the hooded menace, they are competently handled and mix tension and excitement to good effect. Movies like this usually work much better with large dollops of gore and the fact that most of the killings here are off-screen is probably the biggest gripe that I had. It doesn’t ruin the feature by any means, but I couldn’t help but wonder what we might have been treated to if Roger Corman had picked up that first phone call and passed a couple of hundred extra dollars Wynorski’s way. As I said previously, this shares very little with the original Sorority House Massacre and instead feels like a combination of Slumber Party Massacre and Killer Party. Its not going to be the one that makes you leave the light on at night, but it’s fun all the same.
So we really enjoyed watching Wynorski’s first sorority slasher and I’ll have to revisit Hard to Die when I get the chance. Robyn Harris is truly a delectable scream queen and the she alone makes this worth a look. Thankfully, there’s a lot more than just a hot chica and I thoroughly recommend that you track this down
Final Girl: √√√√