Monthly Archives: September 2015
Movie Machine Massacre 2014
aka RedBox Killer
Directed by: Mark Demise
Starring: Melissa Mania, Tim Schultz, Eric Hamilton
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok so we all hate hypocrites, right? I dislike them too, but it looks like I’m about to become one. I said something in my review of President’s Day that I may need to adjust a tiny bit here. I stated that after watching, it’d be hard for me to excuse a film’s failings as ‘budget related’, because Chris LaMartina had made a slasher extravaganza on a meagre $5,000. What I didn’t keep in mind was that there are entries out there that were put together for not even a third of that funding. Entries like Movie Machine Massacre.
Shot on an old VHS camcorder, Mark Demise’s slasher is one of the cheapest things that I’ve ever seen. It’s likely that you could find more expensive products at a charity shop sale. I got the chance to ask Demise what the budget was for the production and he answered, ‘There was no budget’. Alrighty then! At the time of writing, it’s not listed on the IMDB, its only website is on Facebook and it only exists through word of mouth. It’s a real-life Urban Legend…
Queuing customers at RedBoxes are being slaughtered by a vicious masked killer. Before long the head of RedBox is asked to share his views on the situation, but when his secretary disappears, he decides to assist with catching the culprit…
This could in fact be the hardest film that I’ve ever reviewed. Saying that it was good would be wholly inaccurate, but completely criticising it would be somewhat unfair. To give you the basics, Movie Machine Massacre is as bare bones a feature as could be possible. Everything is shot handheld with one camera and we lack structure or definition in all that we see. The dialogue is purely functional and as it was filmed on VHS cassettes, the picture quality is shady at best. Demise chooses wisely to convey the majority of the action in the daylight or under brightly lit backdrops, but we still struggle sometimes to make out the visuals. Perhaps the parts that underline the film’s values the most are the ones that are filmed in what’s supposed to be the CEO of RedBox’s office. It is literally a small bedroom in someone’s house that Demise and co have placed a desk and a laptop in!
The cast is made up of amateurs with no previous experience and it’s not really acting because they pretty much play themselves. With such lightweight scripting, it’s tough to ascertain if there’s a central character to root for and victims walk onto the screen from obscurity only to exit and return to obscurity straight after they’re dealt with. Did they even have names? I don’t know. Still, I would ask you to put your glass of (strong) alcoholic beverage down for a second, because despite all of the stuff that I’ve mentioned above, Movie Machine Massacre actually has moments that I thought were quite good.
There’s a grim score that accompanies many of the stalking scenes and the shaky handheld camera is incredibly effective for bringing realism to proceedings. For the first twenty-minutes or so, I was so impressed by the way that the antagonist was handled that I was reminded of the creepy priest guy from Goodnight Godbless. This is especially evident in the parts that see him flicking through TV channels whilst toying with a knife, because the psycho padre in Godbless did exactly the same thing. I remember that also having a gritty underground vibe that was maybe inadvertent, but unshakeable. There’s just something about the grainy videography and the gothic tone here that manages to create an unsettling fear factor. It could be argued that Demise fails to build upon/sustain it for long enough, but it does leave an effect while it lasts.
Another thing worth mentioning is that Massacre actually has a point to convey. The director was tired of seeing mom and pop video stores go under amongst the plethora of online rental services and movie machines, so this is his camcorder recorded message to those guilty parties. He had originally called it, RedBox killer, but in order to prevent himself from being sued and because he believes his film will outlive the RedBox business model, Demise changed the name to the one that I’ve posted this review under. Oh and before I forget, there’s a rock group featured that play at a club where the killer strikes. It’s not unusual to see a band in a budget slasher, but these guys are surprisingly good. They’re like an eighties hair metal act with a rugged core and they really make the juxtaposition work. I’d buy their CD if I knew were one could be found…?
As I alluded to above, it’s impossible to recommend Movie Machine Massacre as a worthwhile feature, but I’m glad that I watched it. There are a lot of killings, a solid tone and an intelligent motive that we’ll most definitely agree with. The film gives a new meaning to the word ‘cheap’, but it’s still bizarrely alluring – even if we know it shouldn’t really be. I don’t think there’s anything else out there to compare it with, which is a subtle compliment in itself.
Directed by: David J. Gardner
Starring: Tracy Pacheco, Jason Hamer, Shannon Nelson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Towards the end of the nineties/beginning of the noughties, there were a host of slasher films that based their structures around a craze that was popular amongst audiences: Reality Television. Kolobos was the first that I witnessed and it proved to be a superb slasher that showed what could be achieved with a voyeuristic set-up. Soon after, we received a few more similar themed additions which varied in quality, with the worst of them being the heinous Voyeur.com. Less and less Reality-Slasher entries appeared as the years went by, but then in 2014, the wonderful Girl House brought panache back to the sub-sub-genre.
TheCampusHouse.Com is without a doubt the most obscure of all these titles and it’s an addition that I was keen to add to the site. I picked up a copy years ago on DVD at a horror festival, but I’ve never seen it on Amazon/eBay or anywhere else for general purchase. The only information that I could find in relation to its production were three generous user reviews on the IMDB, where it boasts a healthy 6.7 rating. There’s literally nothing else that can be discovered from an online search and as far as I’m aware, it never secured a distribution deal. This makes it (yet) another a SLASH above exclusive. I’m good to you all, eh?
A group of students are invited to gain free lodging in a large campus house if they take part in a social project. An ambitious businessman is offering to pay for their courses if they allow themselves to be filmed around the clock for online viewers. Once inside the camera-laden abode, they bond quicker than had been expected, but the fun is shattered when one of their neighbours is butchered by a masked maniac. The group become nervous, but their fears are brushed aside by the Police, who believe the murder to be the work of a gang of escaped convicts that have now fled the area. As other people begin to disappear, it soon becomes apparent that the stories about the house’s haunted past may well be true.
I’d watched Redwoods Massacre the day before this and I have to admit that in comparison, Campus kicked off with an extreme amount of class. Seeing a dark-haired artist being stalked in moody flashing lights brought to mind the style that was apparent in Kolobos and there are certainly worse titles that this could be compared to. It has become a trend over the last decade to pay constant homage to the classics of the eighties. Whereas it’s relatively easy to duplicate scenes or mention titles in dialogue, Campus achieves the difficult task of actually capturing some of the charm that was present during that decade. Watching a gang of cheesy teens unpack their belongings to the strains of some pop-rock reminded me of Evil Laugh and the characters are more alluring than we usually find in modern efforts. There’s even a ‘psycho calling card’ for the first couple of murders. It is a creepy music box that echoed the doll from Curtains, the cassette player from Island of Blood and the rose from Rosemary’s Killer
Whilst this is most definitely a Reality Slasher, the onlooking cameras are brushed aside fairly sharply when the mystery begins to take-hold of the story. We are given a plot-branch from thirty-years earlier that adds an extra layer of difficulty to guessing who it could be that’s under the mask and I have to give credit to the screenwriters for the conclusion that they chose for the close of their saga. There are quite a few killings and the maniac looks extremely creepy in a white mask and cape. Perhaps what the film lacked most was some neatsuspense and any real brutality when he struck, but we are at least treated to a couple of lively photography gimmicks.
Now I consider Halloween to be the perfect slasher movie and its synopsis was structured through just the one night to compact the horror with developing the background story. Campus House is set over a number of days and despite the director’s constant attempts to maintain momentum (characters argue, a romance blossoms etc), the film borders on becoming too slow moving and therefore dull. The ambitious sub-plots spaced over a lengthy runtime were reminiscent of another unreleased film, The Inherited; and both entries could be accused of throwing too many ideas at a template that succeeds when it’s played straight. It is strange to criticise a slasher for trying too hard, but there’s a lot of talky-stuff here when really all we wanted was to get to the crimson splashing. I was generally disappointed that Campus couldn’t continue at the pace that it began with, because it had set high expectations with its handling of the early scenes.
What we are left with is a slasher movie that’s better than the majority of DTV efforts that get released en masse year upon year, but it has a few issues that prevent it from hitting the heights that were to be expected. A killer in a superb mask, a nice score, some creative directorial flourishes and an intelligent twist are let down by an uneven momentum and a failure to build upon that initial energy. Still, as I said above, it’s better than many that are produced on the same budget and it’s a real mystery as to why it didn’t get the shot it deserved.
President’s Day 2010
Directed by: Chris LaMartina
Starring: Bennie Mack McCoy IV, Lizzy Denning, Nicolette le Faye
Review by Luis Joaquín González
With Graduation Day, Memorial Day, Birthday, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and Valentine‘s pretty much slashed beyond slashable recognition, you must take your hat off to this production team for giving us an authentic theme for their genre entry. We don’t have a ‘President’s Day’ in the UK, so I had to check online to see if it was actually a calendar event. When I discovered that it’s a federal holiday in the States, I was astounded that this was the first stalk and slasher that had based its synopsis around that date.
The film comes from Chris LaMartina, who had previously directed Ameri-Kill; an extremely rare DTV effort that includes a killer in an audacious mask from 1999. When I bought Death-O-Lantern from Warlock Video, I tried getting a copy of Ameri-Kill too, but they had sold out of discs, so I’ve spoken directly with Chris and he’s promised to send me a copy. This particular addition is highly regarded amongst fans of the category, and when I recently asked the members of the a SLASH above Facebook Page if they could recommend any films that I should review, President’s Day was the one that most a SLASH abovers wanted. So without further to do…
A school is going through an extremely competitive period because they are currently holding an election for the role of ‘head of the student body’. Class joker, Barry, decides to run for president in order to impress new girl, Joanne, who has recently moved to the area. The task becomes a lot more dangerous, when the hopeful candidates begin getting slaughtered by a lunatic dressed as Abe Lincoln. Barry and Joanne team-up to attempt to stop the maniac, but could they be putting themselves in the firing line…?
As a critic, I have been guilty many times in the past of forgiving weak parts of slasher movies due to the fact that they were produced on stringent financing. If anything, President’s Day acts as proof that I can no longer use that explanation for poor filmmaking decisions, because the rumoured budget for this picture was a measly $5,000. With this relatively modest pocket book, LaMartina has created a stand-out slasher flick that does things the right way. On top of that, it is crisply shot, looks fantastic and includes gore effects as good as those seen in entries that were put together on four or five times the cost.
I often criticise horror comedies here on the site and you only need to read my reviews of either Easter Bunny Bloodbath or Slaughter Studios to see my opinion on slapstick scenarios combined with murderous mayhem. It takes a special filmmaker to give us a feature that can successfully merge the two styles in a paletable Cherry Falls-type way and I have to give credit to LaMartina for what he has achieved here. There are a host of amusing tongue-in-cheek sequences in President’s Day that could have given the picture an awkward tone that it would struggle to recover from. Instead, he admirably gets the mix of humour and horror spot on and creates an environment that allows viewers to enjoy the character development sequences without them having an effect on the darker moments.
The entire cast and crew of P-Day accepted parts in the feature with minimal payment, but they still put in visible effort to deliver solid performances. In a unique move, the story gives us an African-American anti-hero that we grow to like more and more as the runtime progresses. Our two main players differentiate from the Laurie Strode stereotype because they aren’t overtly innocent or virginal. Barry is an intelligent guy that is guilty of choosing fun over his studies and Joanne is looking for a fresh start after an unfortunate incident at her previous school. These depths to the two lead personalities make them more appealing and we do genuinely share their adventure and want them to overcome what’s thrown at them.
We are treated to a complex mystery that you’ll either guess immediately or be shocked by when the killer is unmasked. Even if the motive is fairly nonsensical, it can be easily overlooked, because we had such a good time on our way to the conclusion. Dressing the killer as Abe Lincoln not only suits the theme, but he looks exceptionally creepy and there are a whole heap of creatively gory murders for us to feast our eye upon. They include audacious stuff such as death by hair straighteners, asphyxiation with a statue (?) and a voluptuous Latina is burned to death on a cooker! One early scene gives the film an ‘anything could happen’ tone, when a disabled girl in a wheelchair gets dismembered with an axe. It was reminiscent of the notorious sequence from Friday the 13th Part II, which at that far less politically-correct time was fairly controversial. It’s easy then to see that LaMartina has got the balls to go where others don’t and go there he does, continuously until the final credits roll. Despite the fact that the killings are fairly gratuitous, the atmosphere isn’t mean-spirited and maintains the subtle tongue-in-cheek tone even when the crimson is spread.
President’s Day is a solid entry that deserves a place amongst the slasher elite. There are many new-age stalk and slashers that get lost in their attempts to either try something different or pay endless tributes to the hits of the eighties. Chris LaMartina proves here that all you need to do is include enough of the recognised ingredients and have a bit of a ball with them. It really is that simple. It surprises me still to this day how many filmmakers fail to get it right.
The Last Slumber Party 1988
Directed by: Stephen Tyler
Starring: Jan Jenson, Nancy Mayer, Joann Whitley
Review by Luis Joaquín González
This was one of those flicks that I had been advised to avoid, but I let my love of the slasher genre get the better of me. I learned of its existence from the IMDB in 1998 and the fact that no one had yet bothered posting any reviews led me to immediately set about getting hold of a copy. I went around asking a few of my contacts in the horror community about it and the general consensus was that I should steer well clear. Those warnings only heightened my interest, and after ordering it from Amazon under standard international shipping procedure, I had to face a lengthy six-weeks for it to arrive at my door.
Whilst I was waiting for the postman to bring me my padded jiffy bag, it seemed the more days that went past, the further my curiosities strengthened. By the time it turned up, I was just off to work and all day I was looking forward to getting home and finding out if it would live up to the hidden gem status that my expectations had automatically allowed it to become. Looking back after so much time, it’s comical how blissfully unaware I was of what awaited me…
At first we meet a group of jesting teens that are celebrating in high spirits on their last day of school. Tracy (Nancy Meyer), Chris (Jan Jensen), Tommy (Danny David), Scott (Paul Amend) and Billy (Lance Descourez) all plan a slumber party at Linda (Joann Whitley) ‘s house. They plan to spend the night drinking, taking drugs and doing the usual cheesy antics that eighties teens in slasher movies love to do. Meanwhile, whilst they all merrily head off home to prepare for their fateful gathering, elsewhere in the town it seems a lunatic patient from the local asylum has escaped sporting a surgical mask and clutching a very sharp scalpel. He gets the address of his psychiatrist’s home and heads over there to carry out the threat that we learn he gave only days before. – He warned the doctor that he would locate and kill him. Then we find out that the medic is Linda’s father, so the vicious butcher has conveniently discovered a house full of partying teens to work through. As the beer flows at the party, the unwelcome guest turns-up and before long the blood begins to flow too…
Ok, ok so I should’ve listened, but there’s no need to say, ‘I told you so’. The Last Slumber Party is a heinous movie. As soon as I heard the ear-numbing hard rawk track that burst out of my speakers in the first five minutes and saw the cheesy POV shots in the muggiest of bad quality cinematography, I realised that I had made a big mistake. Every single cliché in the book is present and accounted for, but they’re conveyed like a twelve-year old’s tribute to Slumber Party Massacre. The only thing more sickening than the atrocious acting and the horrid Bontempi score – that doesn’t even sound like it’s played in tune – is the incredibly inept plot that must’ve been made up on the spot as they went along.
It’s pretty obvious that the editor just pasted scenes in any order without even browsing through the script. In fact, I’m not even sure if there was a script to browse through. There’s a moment that could have added some spice to the bog-standard template, when a second killer appears inside the house. This brief attempt at originality is shattered almost immediately though, because he’s removed from proceedings without letting us know who he was, where he came from or why he was there. Was it a kid pulling a prank? We can’t be sure, because like many things, there’s just no explanation. Keeping all this in mind makes me believe that the choice for the ending, which I won’t reveal, was director Steven Tyler’s desperate attempt to escape the massive plot inconsistencies. Things just plod along like a random YouTube playlist and I’ve begun to believe that The Last Slumber Party was the source code for Click: The Calendar Girl Killer‘s bewildering structure. It’s just the ‘why’ that I’m struggling to comprehend.
I know it’s routine for a slasher victim to be dumb, but these folks are unbelievable. When the unlikely leading girl finally realises something’s not quite right in the house, she sets off to investigate and find out where everyone’s disappeared too. She takes a brief look around outside, but fails to locate any of her buddies. As she turns to re-enter, a bleeding victim staggers through the door and drops to the ground in front of her – dead. Faced with the obvious fact that there’s some sort of psychopath at work in the home, what do you think that she does? Run to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm or maybe call the cops? No, of course not, instead she decides to walk back in and around the death trap finding a few more bodies on the way, before grabbing a knife and setting off to uncover the killer! Confused? You will be. Each murder is identical to the last, as a line of nobodies have their throat slashed with an incredibly bad gore effect. The Michael Myers-lite assassin, –who shows us the extent of his insanity by keeping his eyes wide open and holding a scalpel up to the camera menacingly MULTIPLE times – offers nothing new or exciting at all.
On the plus side there are loads of unintentional laughs on offer, like when the first two victims get killed. A nurse heads outside the hospital to a bus stop where she waits to head home. There’s another guy sitting there who’s fast asleep on the bench (?). Before she gets a chance to wake him up, she bumps into the maniac and… (unsurprisingly), has her throat cut by a scalpel. The lazy bystander manages to snore his way through her hysterical screams for help, but conveniently, he stirs just after she’s been dispatched. Of course this leaves him defenceless, unaware and wide open to get, you’ve guessed it, his throat slashed by a scalpel…. Oh, How I cried! Perhaps the most amusing thing of all, is the way that the film’s described on the back cover:
“The plot is twisted inside out leaving you stunned and clinging to your chair as you witness shock after horrifying shock. The ending will leave you breathless.”
I certainly agree; it was indeed hard to catch my breath after I had been snoring for 80 minutes.
As you’ve probably guessed The Last Slumber Party is really bottom of the barrel stuff. It’s cheap, inept, badly shot, jerkily edited, awfully scripted and has all the tension of grass growing. It’s not even able to redeem itself by being bad in an always-endearing Nail Gun Massacre kind of way. The most intriguing thing about Slumber Party is the fact that it ever secured distribution. I think it’s great that someone with a few dollars to waste can make an independent movie and get it released. But to make a small film like this a success, you need a little bit of, what’s that word? Ah yes, TALENT. Sadly it seems none of these guys were aware of that part