Monthly Archives: June 2014
The Demon 1979
Directed by: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell, Zoli Marki
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I discovered The Demon on big-box VHS when I was about twelve-years-old at a jumble sale in my local village hall. It’s hard to believe that it was one of the first to jump on the Halloween-inspired slasher bandwagon, because nowadays, it barely gets a mention amongst the plethora of peak period entries. That does seem somewhat strange, because it received global distribution and plays closer to John Carpenter’s rule book that many of its contemporaries from back then.
It tells the tale of a mysterious hulking menace that kidnaps a teenager in the opening sequence and then proceeds to slash his way through anyone that he bumps into thereafter. He sets his sights on a teacher and her cousin that share a house in a secluded neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the abducted girl’s father hires a psychic to help find the shadowy madman and the pair set out to track him down…
If ever a movie were to be called a mixed bag, then The Demon would be first in the queue for the moniker. There’s some decent stuff here, but it pops up only on the rarest of occasions and the rest of the runtime is a bit of a puzzle. We begin with the family of the kidnapped child and their desperate efforts to track down the perpetrator. They hire an ESP specialist (delivered hilariously by Cameron Mitchell) to assist and it builds some intriguing momentum. After twenty-minutes or so, we are introduced to two new characters and a separate branch, which dominates the majority of the story from then onward. We cut between the two simultaneous scenarios sporadically, but they lack a connection aside from the antagonist and so the film becomes disjointed and begins to lose it’s way.
Our heroine Mary (Jennifer Holmes) is a school teacher that lives with her cute cousin Jo (Zoli Marki). They are given a lot of time to flex their acting chops, especially Marki, who gets a silly romance sub-plot, which is extremely long winded. Dialogue like, “Drive me to the moon” feels like it’s been lifted from Romeo and Juliet and the fact that wardrobe gave her dresses that look like shower curtains certainly didn’t help. Talking of shower curtains, did I mention that the final girl does indeed sport one in order to cover her dignity after being chased around the house in only her nickers for the climax? Seeing a bra-less heroine battle the killer was a new one on me.
During the bloated mid-section, the psycho pops up a couple of times to prevent us from nodding off. One of these events occurs outside a nightclub called, ‘Boobs Disco’, which sounds like my kind of joint. After boogieing to the pop strains of ‘Funkytown’, a South African lass is stalked and almost raped (?) by The Demon, whose techniques for attracting the opposite sex are those of the Borat variety. She is saved by two passing motorcyclists who receive a vicious right hook for their efforts, which leaves them in heaps upon the concrete. One of them is especially unfortunate because his bike explodes into a ball of flames after lightly bumping into a wall. I’m still scratching my head as to how that was possible. Spontaneous bike combustion perhaps? Well, he is The Demon, I guess…
There’s a great scene shortly after, which shows the maniac preparing for his showdown and it’s intercut with Jo getting ready for her date. Once he arrives on site, the slasher chills are extremely effective and deliver some shades of suspense. We don’t get to learn anything about the maniac’s motive and this adds depth to his aura of menace. The script conveys his anonymity superbly and the actor playing him is probably the best thing about the feature. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he is up there with Jason and Michael in the villain stakes and his hefty frame and creepy white mask combine chillingly.
The only copies available of The Demon are poor in quality and many scenes are dark and unclear. There’s minimal gore due the fact that the nutjob’s method of murder is to put a bag over the head of each victim and asphyxiate them. We can’t escape the scriptwriting shipwreck of the soap opera-esque character development parts, which are snooze-inducing, and they seem to have let Cameron Mitchell loose on the quaaludes before he turned up on set. Does this make The Demon a total waste of space? Well funnily enough, no. We may be somewhere off Halloween with what we have here, but there’s enough in the extremely cute actress, remorseless assailant and idea that a place in the world exists called Boobs Disco to have kept me engaged.
What we need is a proper DVD with a commentary to answer some of the questions that I’ve raised here. Until then, I’m not saying don’t pick up a copy of this, but a few cans of lager will help you to appreciate it
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl: √√
Dead End 1999
Directed by: Iren Koster
Starring: William Snow, Victoria Hill, Matthew Dyktynski
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Not to be confused with Jean Andrea’s Dead End from 2003, this Australian picture is barely acknowledged by fans, despite the fact that it received global distribution. I picked it up many years ago on VHS and it’s one of those that I’ve wanted to cover for a while, but my VCR Machine has seen better days and I haven’t had the time to pick up a new one. Recently though, I came across a shiny DVD whilst on vacation down-under and watched it on the flight back.
It tells the tale of a former detective turned author named Todd Russell that becomes involved in a spate of brutal murders. They are extremely similar to the last case that he worked on before retiring from the Force, called the Evergreen killings. The fact that he had so much knowledge of the original slayings makes him the key suspect and as the evidence and bodies begin to pile up, he is forced to get involved for a second time. Could it be that Todd Russell has lost his mind and moral compass?
I guess that the first question to answer with this feature is whether it qualifies as a stalk and slash flick or is it a thriller? Well whilst it doesn’t follow the traditional path of stranded teens against a malevolent force, it includes many Giallo trademarks, such as brutal slayings committed by a masked assailant, so for me it’s definitely on the right website here. Before watching it, I had sat through 1988’s Out of the Dark, which is generally considered a slasher and is almost interchangeable in terms of plot content and delivery. I would go as far as to say that this is even grislier in terms of its murders and therefore underlines the horror categorisation. Amongst those murders, whether intentional or not, we get a rehash of Al Filo Del Hacha’s car wash set-piece, only this time the killer strikes with a hook rather than axe. Later, we see the menace stalk a young girl in an elevator, which was similar in many ways to a scene from Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche. The assailant even looks the same in a dark fedora and mask and it made me wonder, was director Iren Koster a fan of Spanish slashers? That could well be the case.
Dead End’s biggest strengths can be found in its accomplished dramatics and ability to wrap viewers up in the enigma of its storyline. I did work out early on who was behind everything, but I was never 100% sure. There are numerous twists that pop up throughout the picture, which help to keep us engaged and the intelligent pacing works to sustain the tone of intrigue.
Perhaps the only thing missing was a bit more development into the choice of victims. One murder sees a girl literally walk on to the screen before she’s shot, so we really don’t know enough about any of them to care what happens. I would have hoped for at least one tense chase sequence, but there’s still a whole heap of suspense to be found in the complexity of the puzzle. The revelation part is handled well enough and I was amused by the survival techniques of one soon-to-be victim. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that if all else fails and you look like Victoria Hill, then remove your underwear 😉
A film so driven by its characters needed good performers in order to succeed. Snow and Hill rarely have a weak moment and they are given a few tough scenes to work with. The star of the show is Iren Koster though, because he directs with an energy that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Aside from the obvious, filmmaking is mainly about placement, blocking, length of shots and location. In all of these, he did a sterling job. He has another horror movie under his belt that I haven’t got around to seeing, but I’ll definitely be checking it out soon.
Without hesitation, I would give Dead End a thumbs up. Whilst it may not be slashertastic enough to rival Friday the 13th or its brothers, there is loads here to warrant a viewing. I haven’t seen it reviewed anywhere else, so therefore it is yet another a SLASH above exclusive 🙂
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√√
Out of the Dark 1988
Directed by: Michael Schroeder
Starring: Karen Black, Lynn Danielson-Rosenthal, Divine
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Another of the late eighties slashers that disappeared soon after its release, Out of the Dark has recently seen a belated peak in popularity. I often get emails in regards to slashers like Cards of Death, Early Frost et al, which makes sense, because they’re rare as hell. Lately though I’ve had a few inquiries about this picture and a quick search on Amazon was all that was needed for me to understand why. There is a DVD available that you can purchase online, but it’s from a boutique distributor, which means that there are not many copies and each is costly. Luckily, my trusty VHS still has some views left in it and so I decided to revisit the movie for the first time In twenty-years.
A phone fantasy service is targeted by a loon in a clown mask, who calls and taunts the girls before murdering them brutally. The remaining models group together in order to stop the blood thirsty maniac, but it soon becomes apparent that he could be someone that they know.
Over the past decade or more, the slasher genre has been engulfed with titles that can best be identified as ‘erotic horror’. Movies like Porn Shoot Massacre, Blood and Sex Nightmare and Massacre at Rocky Ridge are produced as much for the inclusion of T&A as they are for their maniacal killers. Out of the Dark can be considered as something of a pre-cursor to those entries, because it invests heavily in giving its young cast of females the opportunity to whip off their undies whenever possible. They work in an apartment where they provide phone sex services to sleaze-bag clients. We spend time watching them converse and make fun of the callers, which provides some development on the closeness of their friendships. Outside of the girls and their manager, who resembles a beaten up Rozlin Focker, we meet Kevin Silver, a fashion photographer that is dating one of the call girls. We also learn that he is a big hit with the ladies, because a female detective comments that he must, ‘get more ass than a toilet seat’. Nice
We only get a break from all this momentous intrigue when the maniac strikes. Like many of his genre colleagues from the late eighties, he has a repertoire of wisecracks that he unleashes after each slaying. Aside from Freddy Krueger, who was played with the right charisma by Robert Englund, and perhaps the inadvertently hilarious dude from Nail Gun Massacre, killers with a catchphrase rarely work. Bobo the Clown (the bogeyman here) has a fantastic mask and would have been even creepier if they’d have dropped the chatter and given us more stalking or chase sequences. The one time that we do get to see him lurk in the shadows and pounce is by far the best set piece of the movie. He puts a shovel through the head of an unsuspecting neighbour before throttling his intended target with a hosepipe.
Despite the masked killer and slaughter of bunnies, Out of the Dark is far more murder-mystery-thriller than it is out and out slasher. We spend most of the last half snooping around for clues and investigating who could be the assailant. I worked that out pretty early on, but when the revelation scene comes around, they still make a real go of it. Michael Schroeder, who had thus far filmed everything with the oomph of a budget soap opera, pulls of a fabulous Carpenter-esque shot of the looming killer in the background. The majority of his efforts to build a tense environment had failed by that point (he used the old ‘waiting for the lift’ suspense mechanism twice in a row without result), but I loved the inclusion of the Sergio Leone eyeball chestnut.
Producer David C Thomas had a crack at the slasher genre during the boom years, with The House Where Death Lives and had thrown everything into making this a success. The film has a fantastic B-Movie ensemble and was slickly produced. In the end though, it failed to even recuperate half of its production budget, which was probably due to a poor marketing strategy. If they’d have gone all out as a slasher and dropped the eroticism angle, it may have been more of a hit. You only have to look at the success of Maniac Cop and Child’s Play to know that there were still crowds for horror movies 1988
Alas, Out of the Dark is not much of a rumpus, but there are countless entries that are worse
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√
aka Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain
Directed by: Christian Viel
Starring: Jennifer Jameson, Chasey Lain, Ginger Lynn
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So before we kick off, it’s important that I tell you that this review is of the workprint that I got my hands on in 2002 (Thanks very much to Christian Viel) under the film’s original title of Samhain. It turns out that the copy released later as Evil Breed, was heavily butchered by Lionsgate and includes numerous scenes that were shot by a different director. I haven’t seen that version, so I’m unaware of exactly how much of this footage was kept, but judging by the reviews that I’ve read scattered around the web, it ended up as a bit of a jumbled mishmash. Please forgive me if you go and buy the DVD and it excludes most of the stuff that I’m going to write about here.
Secondly, I took the liberty of posting a picture of Chasey Lain. Now this is not from the movie, which was made after she got hooked on drugs and lost that traffic-stopping beauty. But hey, when would I get another opportunity, eh? Ok, back to the film…
If you were a director that was looking to cast female victims for a slasher movie, then surely it would make sense to add a couple of porn stars? It’s not as if they’re inexperienced in front of the camera, they have no qualms with the requisite nudity and how many unattractive porn queens can you name? Christian Viel obviously recognized the potential of mixing hardcore actresses with hard-gore effects and so he cast four of adult cinema’s sexiest and most notorious stars. Jenna Jameson, Chasey Lain, Ginger Lynn Allen and Taylor Hayes all turn up for cameos in arguably the most intriguing slasher flick to be released since Scream reinvigorated the genre.
Five Canadian/American students and their teacher head to Southern Ireland as part of their history course. Upon arrival they are told the legend of a cannibalistic clan that roamed the hills of Scotland and murdered locals for food. The cannibals were eventually caught and burnt at the stake, but it’s rumoured that one of the tribe escaped and headed to the woodland of Ireland to find refuge. After the kids have settled and begun doing what all massacre-fodder does in these flicks, the mandatory goody two-shoes (and definite heroine candidate) begins to be spooked by a shadow creeping around late at night. Could it be that the flesh hungry maniac is still at large in the Forest? Well what do you think…?
Samhain suffered terribly throughout a nightmare production and seems to have been jinxed right from the get-go. It had been initially scheduled for an October 2002 cinematic release to coincide with the Halloween based date of the story, but over a year later, the best that it could muster was a trip to DTV land on the Film 2000 label. (Yeah, the guys that gave us crap like Paranoid, Carnage Road et al). Almost as soon as the shoot started, Wal-Mart refused to develop Jenna Jameson’s nude make-up shots and Chasey Lain began acting like a drugged-out primadonna on set, which upset cast and crew members. Finally to add insult to injury, the producers got cold feet just before the flick was about to hit shelves and began talking of re-editing everything and removing all the gore. Reports have said that they were unhappy about the copious amounts of violence and wanted to trim scenes down so it would achieve an R rating. Veil of course disagreed, seeing how his entire synopsis was boosted by its creatively graphic display. Eventually after months of arguments, the director parted company with Warehouse productions and the feature was locked in the vaults.
It is because of these issues that Veil’s slasher is a tough one to rate accurately. The workprint that I received came without a completed soundtrack, but all the gooey parts were full and intact. I was impressed that it boasted a few credible jump-scares, some luscious cinematography and a couple of the most disturbing set pieces that I’ve seen for some time. One guy is disemboweled via his rectum before being strangled with his own intestine, Jenna Jameson is stripped naked and gutted in unflinching close up and Chasey Lain ends up ‘spilling her guts’ after an unfortunate rescue attempt from her boyfriend (Richard Grieco).
Even if the murders are uncommonly gruesome, Samhain never feels mean-spirited, which is due to the characters being thinly portrayed as little more than typical slasher clichés. The dialogue was not so much inspired by Wes Craven’s Scream as it was flagrantly cut and pasted, and they never really invested in developing the personnel beyond a basic level. Certainly the inclusion of Jenna Jameson was a great move by Veil, due to her massive global following and profile. Her fans will be pleased to know that she whips off her top (as expected) and so do Chasey Lain and Taylor Hayes too. Samhain is no soft porn movie though, and when it gets its hands dirty with the horror parts, the tone really does turn grim. Veil’s direction is sharp and he provides some much-needed injections of suspense. Even if the film includes countless nods to Halloween (going as far as to include footage from the movie), Veil choses to follow the Joe D’amato ‘gross-out’ methodology. There are a few attempts of humour in the script that feel somewhat misplaced and unnecessary, because there was real comedy to be found in Ginger Lynn’s shameful attempt at an Irish accent. I have to give her some credit for a great battle with the hulking killer though and it was well choreographed by Alan Chou. Hilarious pronunciation aside, she probably gave the most energy to her character and out-performed the majority of the non-porno actors and actresses, which isn’t a huge compliment, but still…
The final cut that is available of Samhain removed most of the gore that was in this workprint, which is a shame, because I would have liked to have seen how it would have looked with sound and all the trimmings. Despite Veil’s vision never being completely fulfilled, this version is worth checking out for a slice of exploitation that we haven’t seen to such an extent since the times of titles like Giallo a Venezia (1979). That also had a few extreme moments, but more importantly for this comparison, it was poorly acted, roughly made and never gained much recognition. It may not be Veil’s fault that this one ended up in such a mess, but the net result is still a feature that could, would and most certainly should have been a contender. It ultimately wasn’t though.
Final Girl: √√
* Review originally posted 12/11/2002