Monthly Archives: December 2015
Directed by: Eamon Hardiman
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Kari Whi
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Whilst slasher directors are regularly mocked by critics, I wonder if they really get the appreciation that they deserve. I mean, let’s examine this a little more closely. With 1,000+ titles in existence, do you know how hard it must be to choose a unique mask for your antagonist? Let’s be thankful for those that just keep their killer off-screen throughout the runtime, because if not, there would be no masks left for up and coming filmmakers to choose from.
Eamon Hardiman found the solution for that conundrum by going for a pig headpiece. I can hazard a guess at how he came up with the idea, it likely went something like, ‘hmmm what guise should I use for my slasher? Perhaps a dog? No – they’re man’s best friend, so not shocking enough. A bull? Hmmm well, they’re pretty threatening, but they remind me of a burger. No, we can’t have a killer Big Mac. A pig? Well Evilspeak had hogs in it. Ok, that’ll do, let’s move along. Now l know that pigs get killed in slaughterhouses (but so do cows, chickens, sheep etc) and slaughterhouses are scary, so there’s more to this idea than just animal lovin’. In fairness to Hardiman, whatever the reason for his choice, Porkchop certainly led the way in creative killer garbs for the year two-o-one-zero…
A gang of dweebs head off to a campsite in the woods for a spot of the usual antics. They fail to take heed of the legend of Porkchop – a pig-masked killer that is rumoured to stalk the local vicinity. Before long he’s after the campers with a chainsaw and a sledgehammer…
One thing that we all know about the slasher genre is that originality is rarely found amongst titles. Halloween was indeed so iconic that many of its cinematic inventions are duplicated even today. In modern times, there’s a common element that we see more and more in post-Scream productions that makes no sense to me at all. It’s the process of filling a story with totally unlikeable characters. I have hurt my head thinking about this and I cannot uncover any logic in the approach or why we see it so often. On a basic psychological level, fear derives from the threat of something that could happen to you or someone that you care about. Whilst films are obviously just fantasy, there’s a big difference between how we feel towards a character like Laurie Stroud or how we feel about ‘forgot what her name is girl’ from Porkchop. It’s a trend in recent times for slasher movies to pack their casts with boring, loutish idiots and it’s amazing in many respects how many crews stick with this methodology
In Hardiman’s slasher, we get a stereotypical punk rocker(?) with an awful English accent (I thought he was Australian at first), a guy who is cheating on his girlfriend with a ditsy teenager, a porn obsessed geek, two foul-mouthed sluts and a robot (?) voiced by Dan Hicks as the source of comic relief. R2D2 and C3PO were perfect humour providers in the original Star Wars pictures and that may have been the idea here. I don’t remember seeing a prop made of yoghurt pots taking a chick from behind in any Star Wars movie though and they could’ve ripped off Jar Jar Binks (cringe) and it would’ve made the same nonsensical impact. We look on for an hour as these poorly acted, heinously scripted jerks make jokes that progressively become more vomit inducing whilst we are left begging for the killer to turn up and put us out or misery.
When ‘Pig-Head’ finally gets to slashing, the first couple of campers are butchered off screen, which is a huge disappointment because the pre credits murder was explicitly gory and promised so much. In fact, I have to ask whether that opening sequence was bolted on later, presumably after a distributor gave them more money to inject some pizazz. The scene builds up so well, with the killer’s boots traipsing through some undergrowth whilst a stunning chica whips off her top to unveil a lovely pair of jubblies. We get a superb machete through head effect and then what follows is a ski slope to ineptsville as the film leisurely strolls through its clichéd footpath. I can give credit for the eighties references (a hideously acted guy screams ‘you’re doomed’ ala Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th), the chicks are hotter than usual and the part where Deb uncovers the bodies of her chums is stylish with its red-ish tint and creepy scoring. My main gripe is with the characters, which are as appealing as having your appendix removed by Cropsy. Without anaesthetic.
All this leaves me wondering, what if Hardiman had scripted his cast to be likeable youngsters that we see bond over an hour’s build up? They wouldn’t have had to be good natured, we could’ve had an insecure slutty type like Donna from Humongous for example. The group could’ve grown as friends as normal people do and then when the psychopath makes an appearance, we might have rooted for them to overcome the evil, just like in any film with a well-developed protagonist. Instead, we get an overlong, poorly directed bore that I’d forgotten about moments after it’d finished.
It’s worth mentioning that Hardiman’s entry was successful enough to have a follow-up and a remake of sort that was filmed in 3D. I haven’t seen either so can’t really comment on whether the level of quality had improved, but I am mystified by Porkchop’s popularity. It offers little more than either Blood Reaper or Memorial Day and should really be thought of with the same amount of adulation. I’d go as far as to say that Camp Blood was better. Even Carnage Roa…. Ok, ok… that’s going too far…
Wishing you all the best for the Festive Period and a Slash-Happy New Year!
I hope that Santa gave you all that you wanted! Here’s to 2016 being a good year…
Directed by: Antti Kiuru and 6 more
Starring: Andres Pass, Aatto Paasonen, Ville Lähde
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My recent posts of Mexican and Spanish films such as Chacal, Masacre and Atrapados en el Miedo went down really well with my readers, so continuing along the linguistic thread, I thought I’d review this Finnish slasher from the year 2000. Shot by (a record?) 7 directors, I found this 27 minute short whilst on vacation in Estonia. I have literally no information about its production, but I’ll say that it’s the first addition from Finland that I’ve come across.
A group of young males decide to meet up for a drink over Christmas. Whilst the ground is covered with snow outside, blood begins to spurt because a psychopathic stranger dressed as St Nick begins brutally slashing through the revellers. Can they stop him in their tracks?
With so many entries that I still have left to review to complete the largest online slasher A-Z, I am guilty of overlooking the countless ‘shorts’ that people have recommended.The three that I did cover, Death O’Lantern, The Hook of Woodland Heights and Friday the 13th:Halloween Night were posted more for their obscurity than anything else and I guess the same could be said about Murhapukki. What we have here is an immensely enjoyable seasonal slash-fest and despite being cheaply put-together, I found loads to appreciate.
The film kicks off with a killer in a Santa suit stealing a car from an unfortunate individual. An OTT tone is set almost immediately when the assailant chops off the hand of his intended victim and then runs him down with the automobile that he just stole. Whilst the effects are the bare minimum of believable gore, it was fun to see spraying crimson and gruesome violence so early on in the picture. From then on, we are introduced to a group of guys that are gathered in two or three homes across a snow-laden landscape. As you can imagine, twenty-seven minutes allows almost no time for character development, but the plot is rapped around a typical ‘revenge for a past event’ core that unravels as more victims are dispatched.
I guess that the reason that I enjoyed Murhapukki is because it breaks the mould by not bothering with smart-ass ‘know it all’ characters or vomit inducingly blatant ‘homages’ to genre classics. Instead it includes a handful of recognisable elements, but doesn’t portray them with the mission of proving to the audience that the screenwriter(s) are knowledgeable of the greatest hits of the category. Our psycho Santa, for example, cuts up photos of his victims after murdering them -(due to identical clothing and hair, they look to have been taken the same day?!?) -, which we saw in Prom Night/Fatal Games and Graduation Day amongst others. There’s a Carpenter-alike shot of a bread knife on a kitchen table that disappears in the next instant when the camera returns to the focal point. We even get an effective Argento-esque ‘the maniac’s behind you’ moment that’s set-up in a bathroom mirror. We could say of course that these are tributes to the trademarks, but they’re conveyed more subtlety and not with the recent methodology of ‘let’s see who can include the most references to the eighties’, which has been done to death.
In a 27 minute runtime, the directors managed to pack in tonnes of bloody murders and a handful of chase sequences that meant that I was entertained all the way through the admittedly short runtime. One of the pursuits built impressive tension as the camera switched from POV to fixed-angles and the snowy landscape single-handedly mushroomed the underscore of isolation. Whilst the continuity is laughable (one guy gets a machete in the hand, but is fine moments later) and the acting is non-existent, I thought Murhapukki achieved a good-time slasher vibe admirably.
I often wonder when watching low budget entries, how so many can struggle to take a relatively simple formula and not have a ball with it. Pukki could act as a lesson to up and coming filmmakers that getting too mixed-up in parody and conceitedness is unnecessary. I could criticise the dramatics or flimsy plot, but there’s really no need to. Instead, I got more than I was expecting. Cheesy bloody deaths, amusing inebriated ‘gangsters’, a creepy score and a Santa-suited slayer in glasses… Are you really ready…?
Dismembering Christmas 2015
Directed by: Austin Bosley
Starring: Nina Kova, Johnathon Krautkramer, Leah Wiseman
Review by Donny Ybarra (Brother’s Grim)
Oh, the weather outside is frightful. But the terror is sooo delightful! It’s getting cold outside now and snuggling up with your lovey and popping in some classic horror movies is the perfect way to spend your chilly evenings. As a rabid slasher fan, the Christmas Holiday has contributed to those chilly evenings by the fire with gifting some great horror films from the 70’s and 80’s. Some standouts like; To All A Goodnight, Home for the Holidays, Silent Night Deadly Night, Elves and the ultimate classic, Black Christmas (and I love the remake too, don’t judge me!), are always a fun watch. So what does a slasher movie called ‘Dismembering Christmas’ have to offer for the “old school” slasher fans? Plenty. Just don’t expect “the next big gimmick”. There is no found footage, no cgi and absolutely no convoluted twist. It’s golden age slasher horror for fans, made by fans.
Kicking the film off was a pretty awesome cameo from co-writer/executive producer Kevin Sommerfield, I thought it was a great scene and really set the tone for the film. You may have seen his other Slasher Studious film, Don’t Go to the Reunion (2013). The aforementioned plays more to the post-Scream crowd, here Dismembering Christmas plays it straight to the body count films from the 80’s. Now, after a bloody start, we are introduced to eight friends that are traveling to stay in a cabin for the Christmas Holiday, unbeknownst to them there was a few murders years ago and somebody wants to make sure they remember this holiday….cue horror synth!
The cast shines, some more than others, and when the survivor/survivors emerge you get some truly kickass scenes. But it wasn’t the cast that sold me as much as it was the setting. The most exciting aspect about this film was the chilly snowy setting. Here, you have the cabin out in the sticks with nothing but snow for miles, this already isolates the viewers and sets up a nice dynamic later for some great chase scenes. Speaking of chase scenes, this movie had some great stalk and chase, major thumbs up. From running through treacherous terrain, to having to maneuver through the interiors of the cabin, the hide and seek with this killer was highly effective. Also, there were some really nice pov shots of the interiors of the cabin and the decorations, I immediately thought of Black Christmas as “Billy” made his way throughout the house. The dark reds and hunter greens reflecting the walls and interiors were highly effective in adding class without overproduction. Lots of small details like that elevate this film where others fall flat.
Now, on to the slasher, my favorite part of the film. This killer sports a wicked mask, it kind of reminded me of an interpretation of “Boo Hag” from Canadian Folklore, pale with long dark hair. Armed with a very interesting blade, this slasher gave good KILL. The kills ranged from stabbings to decapitations, to a very fun “wreath kill”. Goltz and Sommerfield know what their fans want, practical creative deaths, giving this film a pretty decent body count. There is a set piece towards the end where our final character discovers the lair of the killer, this was a nice addition to developing the motivations for the killer.
On to the negatives, which mirror my one complaint with Don’t Go to the Reunion, the runtime for the movie. This movie was short, at about an hour and seven minutes of content, I would have loved for about 10 more minutes. But this is a minor complaint, and if anything it shows just how much I enjoyed this movie. Despite the shorter runtime, having to not suffer through filler is much welcome, so more run time does not always equal better movie either. I’m excited for what slasher studious has planned for the future, I would love to see them tackle a camp inspired horror, something like an expanded version of Slasher Studious short film Teddy (2011), if you haven’t seen I suggest you watch immediately! Pick this one up now!
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge! 1989
Directed by: Richard Friedman
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Kari Whitman
Review by Luis Joaquín González
What do you get if you cross an intelligent idea for subtle comment with a garbage bag bulging with eighties trash…?
Well, you get Phantom of the Mall. This was the second slasher effort from Richard Friedman, the director of campy genre-parody, Doom Asylum. It became an attractive proposition for financiers after author Scott Schnied circulated a draft in 1982, because coming before The Initiation meant that it was the first slasher to incorporate a mall as a backdrop for some murderous mayhem. Soon after, it was signed up for a four-million dollar development with advanced special effects, but the production date was never confirmed and it kept being further delayed. As the eighties drew to a close, the budget was halved and different writers were brought on-board to make sure that the script could be completed within the tighter funding. Having read an interview with Schnied, it seems like the version that we were eventually delivered is nothing like what he had planned at the outset. In fact, it’s something of a twisted mishmash that is dismilar to anything that I’ve seen before (or likely will see after).
An un-named town in America sets about building a huge mall in its centre, but construction is held-up by a family that refuse to sell their house so that the development can continue across their land. When that same abode is burned to the ground in a fatal ‘accident’, production begins and the stores are opened quicker than expected. Local girl Melody, whose boyfriend was killed in the blaze, finds a job in the food court, but she’s still upset about the death of her beau. Before long, people begin disappearing in and around the mall and it seems that someone has an axe to grind. Could Melody’s love Eric have survived…?
For all intents and purposes, Phantom of the Mall is slightly bewildering in its structure. A story about a guy that ends up disfigured by a fire that also killed his parents, because greedy cigar-chomping politicians wanted to build a shopping centre where their house stood, should only throw pathos in one direction. Bizarrely, our antagonist turns out to be Eric; – the guy that we were feeling sorry for in the opening act – and because he had been portrayed to be a genuinely decent character, his transformation into a murderous villain is illogical and hard to comprehend. I understand of course that we are not expecting intense drama from a cheesy eighties slasher and I do like psycho killers with a believable motive. A better writer though would have recognised the obvious contradiction in the synopsis, and either made Eric have a dark side from the start (perhaps a fiery temper) or at least not conceived him to be as clean-cut and heroic as he came across in the opening scenes. From what I understand, Schnied’s original screenplay had Eric remain a good-natured vigilante type all the way through, which makes a lot more sense, but the latter adjustments deviated from a logical plot-path.
What we are left with is a movie that nods at the same kind of ‘obsession with image’ commentary that the wonderful Spanish film, Abrir los Ojos, delivered, but doesn’t really make anything of the concept. There were so many possibilities that could have been explored by the return of a disfigured former sweetheart that is seeking revenge and a reunion with the love of his life. Not one of these themes were developed to any level though and you could erase the link between the heroine and the phantom and just make it a film about a masked killer in the basement of a mall and nobody would’ve noticed any difference. Eric only murders wrong-doers and even protects Melody and her new admirer at one point in the runtime. This makes her decision to turn her back on him when he finally reveals himself the atom bomb that obliterates her appeal. She had been conveyed up until then as a sensitive heroine, but we forget about that as soon as she meets a handsome journalist and brushes off the disfigured hero that saved her life – twice. It is kind of like her saying, “I know you were my first love and suffered excruciating pain so that I could escape, but I met a guy with a car and a steady income that doesn’t live in the sewer or have a disfigured face, so see ya” . All this begs the question, why include another romantic angle when that of a saviour returning from beyond the grave is about the best that any writer could hope for? It all stinks of a poorly put-together plan of action, which is generally what you get from four separate screenwriters that don’t know or have contact with one another outside of the connection that they must finish a film on time and within budget. In principle, it’s the same as a few of my readers writing a paragraph each for a film that they watched once upon a time and me posting them together in one review here on a SLASH above.
These script issues are mainly notable because they prevent the film from fulfilling its obvious potential, but there are still bits and pieces that I enjoyed. It’s hard not to be entertained by a bunch of dweebs being stalked by a masked Kung-Fu kicking killer and this is definitely one for eighties aficionados. We get a host of bad hair styles and cheesy catchphrases along with an all-encompassing performance from Gregory Scott Cummings (Hack-O-Lantern/Click: The Calendar Girl Killer) as a hilariously OTT bad guy. He gets into a martial-arts fight with Eric that flows like Steve Seagal in extreme slo-mo and he delivers a teeth-gnashing portrayal of silliness. There’s one ok-ish killing that involves a length of rope and an escalator, but I don’t remember a single splash of blood which was a shame. In fact, the murders seem to abruptly cut before the money shot and despite the fact that I’ve never heard of an unrated copy, it’d be interesting to find out if such a thing exists. It’s only speculation, but those jumps do look a little too forced to be genuine. Perhaps it was just bad editing.
Director Richard Friedman, who had achieved marvels with his previous slasher, seems to be on auto-pilot mode for this project. His characters are fairly well proposed, but aimless, and he shoots most scenes flatly. Whereas Doom Asylum set a tone of comedic fun, Mall seems to be lost in the confusion of its moral compass. Also, the fact that we know that it’s Eric hiding in the shadows destroys any suspense or mystery surrounding the killer’s identity and motivations. It’s hard to understand why no one in the production recognised the need for a slice of tension or intrigue, but instead, a film that took seven-years to finally shoot comes across like a rushed un-planned mess. How easy would it have been to keep Eric’s identity a secret and just have him reveal himself at the conclusion? It could’ve opened the door for a more emotional struggle from a heroine who had met a new love and was suddenly confronted with the guy that was hideously scarred whilst preventing her demise. Audiences generally bond with characters that face big decisions and that would’ve worked a lot better than the confusing dreck that we were presented with. Still, we can find consolation in the fact that it may be a shame for us viewers, but imagine how Scott Schnied must’ve felt when he watched this back. His great idea for a unique slasher was ruined by influences beyond his control. It’s a shame.
Phantom of the Mall is a disappointing movie because of all the things that it doesn’t do. There’s still a chance that someone could pick up Schnied’s original script and salvage the idea, but it is looking unlikely. If that never happens, we are left with a cheesy eighties slasher that’s entertaining in a bargain-bucket way, but it’s also a failed opportunity to make something truly exceptional.
Atrapados En El Miedo 1983
Directed by: Carlos Aured
Starring: Adriana Vega, Sara Mora, José Luis Alexandre
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My recent love-in with Mexican slashers (Muerte, Bosque, Masacre) made me feel the need to dig out the last few of my own country’s entries. I wanted to confirm to myself and y’all that Spain could compete with other nations that speak our wonderful language and prove that we are indeed the Hispanic kings of the slasher category. After seeing Atrapados en el Miedo, I wish I hadn’t bothered…
This one comes from Carlos Aured, who had made a name for himself with his cult pictures of the seventies. His career began as an assistant for Leon Klimovsky and he soon progressed to the director’s chair to unleash some solid horror features, such as: El Espanto Surge de la Tumba and Los Ojos Azules de la Muñeca. Like many exploitation gurus that had achieved a modicum of prior success, the slasher boom of the early eighties gave Aured the desire to grab a slice of the cash pie that the filmmaking world had been scoffing. Atrapados would be his very own addition to the cycle and it was, in effect, his last movie. What a way to signal your departure from cinema.
Four youngsters head off to a secluded house in some woodland to spend a romantic weekend away from the rat race of Madrid. Little do they know that an escaped lunatic is also hanging around the site and he has murderous intentions for the foursome…
It’s only early December and already the Christmas parties have begun. There are few things worse than going to work after a night of heavy drinking. Your brain is a mangled mess of alcohol, cheap aftershave and cigarrillos and whilst you may be at your desk in body, you’re certainly not there in either awareness or spirit. The clock drags by like a one-legged tortoise on tranquillisers and a trip to the server room for a sly power-nap is an absurdity that seems more and more attractive. I look at Atrapados en el Miedo and I can only presume that Carlos Aured, for all his previous experience, was drinking a bit too much during the production. Either that or he’d gone insane. Actually, this was his last picture, so maybe I’m on to something there…
So where do we start? Well, with the ‘original’ aspect of a unidentified stranger breaking out of an asylum. This is demonstrated to us on-screen by a guy jumping over a wall that has a sign that says ‘mental hospital’ on it. Do we actually get to see this Mental Hospital? No. Did the crew in reality just stick a sign on the brick wall at the bottom of the producer’s back garden? Quite possibly. So with no idea who he is, what his motivations are or why he escaped, we are meant to be scared of this normal looking bloke with a curly mullet. Perhaps he was just at the asylum visiting his grandma? Maybe he was actually the groundskeeper? I mean, he was wearing a green woolly jumper. Ah, no, no; that can’t be the case. He breathes like an asthmatic after smoking twenty whole packs of Marlborough Reds. If you know your slashers dear reader, you’ll know that during the eighties, only Darth Vader and stalk and slash psychos did that; – and this sure as hell ain’t no Star Wars film.
Next up we see two Spanish chicas walking through a park. I have to give credit to Carlos Aured, because one of them, Monica, was honestly one of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen. (Except for my Mrs of course – you know, in case she’s reading). In fact, whilst watching, my partner said to me, “Do you think that girl’s pretty?” I replied, “What girl? Oh that was a woman on screen? Sorry I didn’t notice.” 😉 Anyway, Monica’s friend, who’s also at the high end of the ‘eye candy’ scale, attempts to steal a kiss in the most unconvincing lesbian clinch ever filmed. Clearly confused by her feelings, Monica sprints off into the trees where she is attacked by a stray dog. Don’t worry my dear, I’ve had days like that too. She is saved from a mauling by an unseen somebody who beats the aggressive mutt with a large branch. Just when she thinks her luck has marginally improved, Monica’s hero turns out to be our bogeyman and he begins strangling her with said branch. Her friend/would-be lover hears the commotion and sprints over to assist, but she too meets her fate at the hands of the escaped loon.
So now we are introduced to two pals and two sisters that are travelling to a remote house to study molecular science. Not really, they’re off to make ‘lurve’; a fact proven by one of the guys continually cracking sex-jokes that are so bad, even his best friend tells him to take a break. We look on as the pair of hombres go to a shop and get some booze, face the drama of not being able to buy any yoghurt and have to overcome the trials and tribulations of a puncture on their Mercedes. Meanwhile the muchachas stay at home and do very little aside from spout the silliest dialogue I’ve ever heard and look gormless. Eventually after offing the daughter of a couple of shopkeepers (who was minding her own business on a groovy bicicleta), the killer turns up and slowly begins ‘terrorising’ the couples.
I guess that with the Latin looks, cruddy dialogue, shaky photography and dumbfounding scenes, Atrapados reminded me a tiny bit of Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground. The only difference is that whilst Ground had bundles of gore, this lazy Spanish effort is essentially bone-dry. Also, I know that the music in Bianchi’s ‘classic’ was pretty off-kilter, but Código Exterior’s scoring for this is absolutely hideous. It starts with a poorly timed jazz-piece that’s as bad as an ogre playing the bagpipes and then continues to go downhill from there. If you recall Mask of Murder‘s heinous guitar lick that highlighted every ‘twist’ in the story, these guys manage even to ‘out-awful’ that with their accompaniment. It’s truly cringeworthy.
I mentioned earlier Aured directing Atrapados like he had a monster hangover throughout the production, well this is especially evident in the film’s pacing, which completely slows to a standstill during the mid-section. There’s only so much of four people spouting absurd dialogue in a small house that I can take before my eyelids come over all heavy and I begin to snooze. When the killer finally turns up, we get a conclusion that might have been ok if we could make out anything that was happening. We’ve seen on the TV that directors shout, “Lights, Camera, Action!” It looks like Aured, in his drunken stupor, forget the ‘lights’ bit. I don’t know, I just feel that an 83 minute runtime that features only three on-screen killings seems a bit tame, but maybe I’m a tough cookie to please. Where I guess that the film does succeed is in its level of bad movie-ness that’ll appeal to those that love Nail Gun Massacre, Boardinghouse, Night Ripper and the like. I already mentioned the conversations and soundtrack, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Other things that stood out were that the girls getting attacked by the psychopath, but completely forgetting about it only moments later and when he returns for our heroine, she goes into a trance-like state and has to be escorted from the premises by her poorly-acted buddies. Just when you feel that every basic filmmaking principle has been shattered, the final credits show an HP Lovecraft quote that has absolutely *nothing* to do with anything we’ve witnessed…?
We live in a time now where a unified Spain could be a thing of the past as the likes of Cataluña regularly campaign for their own independence. I believe that we should stick together, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the back of the guys that made this particular picture, whatever autonomous community that they are from. We could revoke their passports for treason or something. I’m joking, of course, but one thing I will say is that Atrapdos en el Miedo translates to Trapped in Fear. I admit that it’s a cool title, but I have thought of one that’s far more suitable: Atrapado en el Baño con una Gran Caca… I’ll let you Google translate it…