Monthly Archives: March 2016
Easter Sunday 2014
Directed by: Jeremy Todd Moorehead
Starring: Robert Z’Dar, Jeremy Todd Morehead, Ari Lehman
Review by Luis Joaquín González
When I launched a SLASH above, I wanted to create an online guide to the truest form of Halloween-alike slashers for fans to use as a reference point. My motivation was that I’d been stung hundreds of times reading a review of a ‘slasher’ movie only to go online and buy it then find out it was nothing of the sort. For me, writing the reviews wasn’t the important part, it was having a complete online list for genre fans. As the site has grown, I’ve had to start thinking more as a film critic and give an honest opinion on the direction, audio, blocking, camera placement etc of the pictures I featured. I took a few filmmaking courses and got an understanding of production from the earliest stages so that I could offer a constructive and informed view.
My earliest exposure to slashers was those of the peak period and therefore I’ve always used Halloween as the prototype. I’ve made my thoughts clear on A Nightmare on Elm Street many times and the reasons why I haven’t posted it here. However, from its success, we did get a host of genre entries that did fit with the category’s trademarks, but had antagonists with a repertoire of wise-cracks. These were the likes of Nail Gun Massacre, Psycho Cop, Doom Asylum, Hollow Gate and Happy Hell Night. Personally, I am a big fan of a macabre tone and don’t see the benefit of mixing slapstick with horror. I’m smart enough to know though that there’s an audience for pictures of that sort, or, well, they wouldn’t exist, right?
Easter Sunday, the yet to be released addition from Jeremy Todd Morehead, plays like something straight out of 1986 and includes a killer with an array of quips larger than his arsenal of weapons. It tells the tale of a vicious psychopath that murders his family on Easter Sunday whilst sporting a creepy mask. Sometime later, an up and coming rock group called, The Heartbreakers, accidentally bring the maniac back from beyond the grave…
I read an interview with director Jeremy Moorehead and he stated that he felt modern horror films had lost the humour that made them so addictive during the eighties. Many times on a SLASH above, I have said that the egotistic brats that populate a huge percentage of the post-Scream entries are no substitute for the goofy teens from the eighties. What Jeremy described as humour though, I would call charm; – and cinematically, there’s quite a difference between the two. After an intriguing and visually impressive credit sequence, Easter Sunday throws a whole heap of moods at us. We go from the throat slashing of a campy victim to a misplaced fart joke (?) and then on to the gratuitous murder of a sweet young child. This jumble of atmospheres continues throughout the runtime and creates a juxtaposition that I just couldn’t bring myself to digest, even though I really tried.
At times the comedic angle would wane and a dark, almost threatening, feel would generate from the scoring and some creative photography. During these parts, I felt myself subconsciously hoping that the runtime would maintain this flow, but alas, something silly would misplace all that’d gone before it. A fine example is when our protagonist (a spirited ‘look at me’ performance from director Jeremy Moorhead) informs his colleagues of how he fled the maniacal menace (a plot point that the viewer had witnessed and didn’t really need explaining). The scene is set-up well and it re-energises the momentum, but we then cut to a close-up of a character gulping down a burger in one mouthful and playfully jeering, which took the sting out of any ominous vibe. This is followed by the troupe discovering the dismembered head of their colleague in a refrigerator (a guy that was murdered then farted upon – no really), but instead of displaying fear or panic, we get a joke about the freshness of half a burrito that was left in the same fridge.
Look, I’m the first to admit that this approach may be one that I can’t personally appreciate and I feel guilty that I have to criticise the valiant work of a fellow slasher enthusiast. I don’t watch horror films for toilet humour and I can’t recall many slasher classics that succeeded with that approach. I almost coughed up ‘half a burrito’ when the lead told another player in a rare moment of seriousness, “No offence, but we’re not in the mood to joke around”!?! – Really? For me, that was likely the funniest part of the movie.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is, if your characters aren’t taking the horror in your movie seriously, how can your audience? Would the grotesque axe-murder of a pregnant woman work in the middle of Naked Gun? It’s a shame, because there’s some sure signs of potential on display here. We get CGI gore by the bucketload, a couple of generally creepy moments and an unexpected shock at the conclusion that I REALLY wasn’t expecting. It’s just that it was, once again, weakened by the moments that followed.
There’s a good slasher movie somewhere inside Jeremy Moorhead. If he sacrifices one tone to focus on the other, he could be a contender. In fairness, Easter Sunday is not a movie I’d ever really buy into due to my personal beliefs and it’s important that other viewers keep in mind that if you like Horror with Porkys humour, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this film. It’s fast moving, gory and fun with moments that are truly commendable. For me though it felt like an express train that kept getting caught in engineering works.
The Night Before Easter 2014
Directed by: Joseph Henson, Nathan Johnson
Starring: April Sinclair, Emily Chidalek, Alyssa Matusiak
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Wow we’re almost in April already, this year has really flown by. So here I have a film that I have to admit that I was interested in seeing. I don’t know directors Joseph Henson or Nathan Johnson personally, but they’re friends of JA Kerswell, the scribe that motivated me to begin writing-up slasher films. As a geeky teen, before I could afford my own dial-up internet connection, I used to head to my local library to check out Hysteria Lives and it was reassuring knowing that there were other slasher nerds in the world just like me. I was truly grateful when JA asked me to contribute to his website and from those humble scribbles, a SLASH above was born.
The reason that I was so keen to check out The Night Before Easter was because I can logically relate to Joseph and Nathan; two true fans that finally got the chance to make their own addition to our beloved genre. I’m a person of self-reflection and I would be a liar if I said that I didn’t think about the criticisms I deliver and that it’s easy to talk from afar without ever having made my own motion picture. So how would two equally as prolific slasher critics get on when they jumped in at the deep end?
Some friends decide to spend the night together to say goodbye to one of their group that’s moving to London. Their local town is shrouded in the rumours of a maniac called Alex Sykes who many years back butchered his family whilst dressed as an Easter Bunny. As the alcohol flows, the revellers are stalked by an identical looking spectre. Has Sykes returned to seek revenge?
I’m happy to say that there’s a lot of fun to be had with TNBE and it’s comforting knowing that the film is in the hands of a crew that understand what’s needed to tick the relevant boxes. We are treated to a storming killer bunny that really brought to mind the hulking maniacs of old. There’s also an abundance of gooey red stuff to keep gore hounds chomping and a couple of extremely creative kill-scenes. Alyssa Matusiak makes for a foxy final girl and the fact that we see her get inebriated means that she’s far more genuine than the stereotypical Laurie Stroud template. I was surprised to see that she hasn’t got any other pictures in the pipeline as of yet, because the actress showed immense potential in her debut role. Henson and Johnson play it safe with their direction, but one scene that I thought really worked was the murder of a partially sighted victim that’d lost her glasses. A blurred screen POV was used to convey her vision as the boogeyman stalked up to murder her and it reminded me of a similar sequence from Nightmare on the 13th Floor.
Whilst there’s truly a heap of credibility to be found in the slasher scenes, the character development parts were where the film struggled to maintain the same level of credibility. Unlike most of the Western world, I’m not a fan of Big Brother, and the reason for that is because I once returned home late from work and decided to give it a try to see what all the fuss was about. Perhaps because it was halfway through a series, I was confused as to the attraction in watching a group of strangers discussing another group of people that I didn’t know or have any interest in. It felt like sitting on a train behind a couple that are conversing about their work friends; – it’s hard to engage yourself to subjects that you have no knowledge of.
After an intriguing opening, TNBE introduces its players with them standing in a circle and talking of their lives at school. I can appreciate that as a concept, this might seem a viable way of unraveling key script members and I admire that these filmmakers understand the importance of character definition. However, there’s only so much of, “Riley dated Kelly, but Kelly’s such a b**tch” that I could listen to, before I had to ask, “Hold on, who’s Riley again? I think I know who Kelly is, but isn’t she with Barney? Hold on, who’s Barney…? Fred? Wilma? Yabba Dabba Dingle, can we get to the slashing please…?” Later, the discussions began to switch to heart pouring from some of the soon-to-be-victims about their weaknesses or whether they’ve been genuine to their friends. I guess that these were included in an effort to magnify the personalities, make them more human and build a level of sympathy for their demises, which thus would make them have a bigger impact on the audience. Again, this is a good idea, but I never attached myself to anyone from the story and therefore found these parts to be awkward and unnecessary. I’m not saying that it’s an easy task, but when you think about movies like Halloween or Friday the 13th that mastered the creation of intriguing characterisations in a horror universe, they did so with the simplest of methods that avoided overindulgence. The risk that Henson and Johnson ran was that a lot of time is spent in the hands of uninteresting cast members and it proved a challenge for the film to rediscover its momentum.
Still, when the killer gets to work, the good outweighs the bad and The Night Before Easter overcomes it’s obvious budget deficiency to provide some thrills and spills. I can honestly say that behind the film’s lesser parts was the glaring logic as to why those decisions were taken and even if not everything worked, it was a bold effort all round. I am looking forward to Gory Graduation… Happy Easter
Reviews by Luis Joaquín González
a SLASH abover Paul Morris sent me an email a while back asking why I don’t review many slasher shorts on the site. I guess the reason is because I post a review once a week and I’m used to covering a feature-length movie. There’s only so much that you can say about a film that’s a few minutes long and I write about 800 words about each flick that I watch. Then suddenly it dawned on me, why don’t I just review a few together!?! Ta-da. (It’s hardly inventing the wheel, but you have to understand that sometimes, I’m not the quickest)
So, every now and then from here on out, I’ll post an update here that’ll feature the shorts that I’ve watched and my opinion on them. I own quite a few and with many I have zero information on how they were put together. I apologise in advance if I don’t provide all you need, but they’ll all be slashers and I’ll give what I can:
Dead Air 2014
Directed by: Zac Morris. Running time: 6 Minutes
Set at a dorm party on Halloween night no less, Dead Air focuses on revenge for a prank that went wrong some time ago. At just over five-minutes, it’s a fun little flick, but doesn’t particularly explode with an abundance of potential film making quality. Whilst it’s creatively shot, the killings are all off-screen, I didn’t think much of the performances and there are no new gimmicks or tweaks to the formula. Cool black mask though and I will admit, if this was a teaser for an up and coming slasher, I would be adding it to my ‘to watch list’.
I, Murderer 2014
Directed by Dipayan Chatterjee. Running Time: 7 minutes
A poignant and disturbing seven-minute flick from India that will certainly make you think. I don’t agree that the slasher genre is the right place for political or campaign messages, but I’ll make an exception here because it truly is beautifully shot and professionally edited. If we forget about the concept for a moment, we can credit the haunting mask and musical accompaniment, which is top-class. I guess in this over-populated rat-race of a world that we live in, we need to think more about this subject, take precaution and as we say in Spain, controlarse y tened cuidado.
Fear the Reaper2004
Directed by Keith Munden. Running Time: 28 minutes
The first of Munden’s Reaper trilogy, this one tells the tale of a supernatural murderous being that’s stalking and murdering youngsters around a small residential area. A plump teen has a bizarre connection with the killer and sees what he does in visions and dreams, which means she must try to stop him. A few good moments that border on suspense are ruined by a disjointed flow and the fact that we can barely see anything some of the time. Even when we are given clear day shots, it’s still tough to follow, because the plot has the narration of melted ice cream and even repeats a few minutes of the SAME scene toward the conclusion. I can only presume that the editor was with his friend LSD when he put this together. Still, for a big fat 0 budget, it does show signs of potential here and there.
Directed by Steve Goltz. Running Time: 11 minutes
After a group of kids run down an old man by a roadside, a masked killer follows them camping to take revenge. Here we have the debut movie from Slasher Studios; the team that would go on to bring us Dismembering Christmas and Don’t Go to the Reunion. It’s a dose of extreme slasherism that’s confidently produced and tells an entire I Know What You Did Last Summer-type story in eleven-minutes, which is some achievement. Keeping in mind the bite size runtime, the characters are well conveyed and the film goes all out to impress. A true tribute to everything that we love about slashers, the use of the teddy bear and a cool mask are welcome inclusions. With four murders, some gore and a sex scene, you get bang for your buck, it’s just a shame they couldn’t chuck in some suspense. Still, as slasher shorts go, it’s a definite must see.
She’s Not Alone 2012
Directed by Mike Streeter. Running Time: 8 minutes
The slasher genre went through a bizarre referential phase recently, where there were a host of entries that played like Z-grade Elvis tribute acts to the peak period. I can honestly say that I can’t name many that managed to pull off the retro gimmick as well as this classy and stylishly directed addition from Mike Streeter (a name to watch). Everything from the music, props, fashion and style is pure nostalgia. It annoys me with shorts that if crews only need to fulfil a few minutes of screen time, why can’t they make the most of each shot. We are given a plethora of good camera work during SNA and even some tricks that Carpenter himself would have been proud of. In fact, if someone told me that Carpenter had directed this, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to question. I can’t give She’s Not Alone any more credit that that.
Pesadilla Sangrienta 2006
Directed by Marceleo Cabrera/Felipe Paredes. Running Time: 7 minutes
A pretty nothing-ness slasher movie that was likely filmed on a cheap mobile phone. Zero dialogue, zero gore and you can’t see what’s going on most of the time. No real story with this one outside of a guy with a Guns n Roses-era Slash-style haircut stalking a girl that has one too, which only adds to the confusion. It’s great that people make slashers at home, but I can’t give them credit if they’re this bad.
Directed by Ryan Shovey. Running Time: 12 minutes
This one was originally meant as a teaser for a feature length slasher that thus far hasn’t materialised. It’s a shame, because Hunter really is a superb slice of slasherism that much like She’s Not Alone, shows heavy Carpenter influences. It’s set inside a house and so we don’t get given much space, but Shovey delivers suspense, shocks and some Argento-alike camera tricks. The killer is creepy as hell too. What I thought worked best was the fact that we got to know the two characters in only twelve-minutes, which was a sign of good scripting. I understand that the director is working on another slasher movie, so let’s hope it turns out to be as stylish as this.
Title Unknown 2011
Directed by Unkown. Running Time: 9 minutes
I have no information on this one or even its title, which is a shame because I kind of have a soft spot for it. The whole production reminded me of mid-nineties SOV titles like Savage Vows and it has a similar type of attractive obscurity. It tells the tale of an ambitious Deputy that wants to rid the town of a vicious masked killer, but the Sheriff is less eager, which raises suspicion in the eyes of the apprentice. Whilst there’s no gore and the score has been borrowed from other hits (even Halloween), the killer’s mask (reminiscent of the Monk from Terror Train) and a couple of impressive shots make this one interesting. It’s by no means a polished example of great filmmaking, but it gains points because it’s so reminiscent of the days of buying cheap VHS from stores/websites.
Directed by David Dinetz, Dylan Trussell . Running Time: 8 minutes
Chainsaw was presented by Eli Roth and it tells the tale of a huge maniac stalking a Haunted House at a theme park. It’s certainly amongst the most gratuitous shorts that I’ve witnessed and includes some extremely graphic shots of a chainsaw-blade cutting into flesh. Whilst it is an extremely modern picture with its MTV flash cuts and CGI, it had an interesting comment on voyeurism, which was a key theme of Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse. Bizarrely, the intro reminded me of the brilliant Derek Cianfrance drama, The Place Beyond the Pines. Definitely one for gore hounds.
Panic Fear 2015
Directed by John Francis Conway III. Running Time: 5 minutes
Panic Fear won’t take up too much of your time, but it makes a statement with its structured shots and inventive camera placement. I appreciated the lengths that the director went to for realism by demonstrating how victimised we would be if a similar scenario were to strike when we least expect it. The smart use of muffled external sound worked wonders to set-up the theme of a killer invading a place of complete seclusion: our home. In fact, this one becomes more scary upon post reflection. I’ve seen thousands of people butchered in slasher films, but this one just felt a little more ruthless than usual.
Directed by Jarno Mahlberg. Running Time: 12 minutes
If I had to compare this Finnish slasher with any other that I’d reviewed of late, then it would have to be Murhapukki, which funnily enough hails from… Finland. Whilst I don’t like horror comedies that go out of their way to try to be funny, I’m a big fan of black humour or a slice of the tongue in cheek. Axecutioner overcomes its low budget with a huge chunk of fun that I thoroughly enjoyed. There’s some very cheap gore that is creatively displayed and the outlandish camera angles are Scott Spiegel-esque. It’s as standard as could possibly be in terms of plot (three guys go to a cabin in the woods to drink whilst there’s a masked nut on the loose), but it ticks the boxes with its overall campiness. This one reminded of cheesy eighties hits without broadcasting that it’s doing so.
Time to Die 2011
Directed by Madness INC. Running Time: 10 minutes
Whilst on the subject of Horror Comedies that work, here we have one on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. At nine minutes and thirty-nine seconds, Time to Die is nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds too long. From what I could make out from the bad audio, it tells the tale of a group of misfits that have paid for a time share or something along those lines to explain away the threadbare plot. Before long, a killer that looks like a throwback from the Kiss glam metal era offs a handful of them in slapstick ways. Look I appreciate that this is just a group of friends having fun, but I have to call it as I see it and what I saw sucked like a mosquito on steroids. To make a comedy work, you either need jokes that are, well, funny or an obvious source code for what you’re mocking. I had no idea what was going on here and wish they hadn’t have bothered. In fact, it made me wish it was time to…
Killer on the Loose 2015
Directed by Mark Baliff. Running Time: 15 minutes
Here we have an expertly taut and cunningly smart slasher from director Mark Baliff that definitely needs to be seen. It demonstrates style right from an opening credit sequence that incorporates a handful of creative shots of Halloween props to build the tone. We then cut to a blood stained girl that’s fleeing a hockey mask sporting stranger. She manages to sneak into an unoccupied house where a cat and mouse game of hide and seek begins with the would-be assailant. Killer on the Loose includes a bundle of references to Halloween and Friday the 13th (including an abode very similar to the Myers House and Night of the Living Dead playing on the TV). It’s no carbon copy though and builds up to a unique and impressive conclusion. What really stood out for me, aside from the aforementioned structured shots, was a strong use of sound and gothic lighting. If the slasher genre is left in the hands of filmmakers like Señor Baliff, we have loads to look forward to.
The Welder 2015
Directed by Justin Cauti. Running Time: 15 minutes
Three girls head to their college to meet Trey, the boyfriend of Alex, who’s celebrating her birthday. Little do they know that a psychopathic Welder that was mutilated ten-years earlier is back for revenge. With a decent budget, killer guise, location and score, I was disappointed that this one wasn’t better. Most of the characters are the brash-cocky-brat-type that ruined a plethora of post-Scream entries, except one; but he doesn’t last long enough to make an impression. With nothing to attract me to the victims, I was hoping for some gore or suspense, but aside from a couple of interesting shots, it was mainly put-together with minimal flair. It’s hard to find fault with the hulking maniac and his deranged heavy breath, but the film lacks the polish of others I’ve reviewed here. Still a killer Welder is a good idea for a feature length picture guys..
Directed by Will Morris. Running Time: 4 minutes
Porkchop was so bad that it ruined the concept of a cool killer ‘Pig Head’ guise. Thankfully, Squeal improves upon the lacklustre Chop but still falls short of giving us a great and gratuitous gammon gore fest. It tells the tale of a group of girls at a party that are stalked by said maniacal assassin; but this guy has a deranged but intriguing motive for his attacks. As expected, he looks pretty menacing clutching a scythe, but some awful acting and overuse of a strobe effect prevents the film from really impressing.
Night Night Nancy 2011
Directed by Lewis Farinella. Running Time: 5 minutes
I have often believed that surrealism would be a good blend with the Slasher genre, but in fairness we haven’t seen many attempts at introducing the concept. The idea here was definitely to make a visual interpretation of a bad dream and the net result was fairly impressive. A young girl wakes up alone and discovers that there’s a masked intruder in her house and so she tries desperately to escape his clutches. What I really liked about Night Night Nancy was the killer’s awkward limp and deranged breathing, which really gave the impression that he/she was seriously disturbed. I also thought that incorporating a mobile phone as a source of terror was smart and the conclusion conveyed a nightmarish quality. The final girl made some silly decisions, but mostly it worked well.
Forest Falls 2012
Directed by Ryan McDuffie. Running Time: 27 minutes
At just under half an hour, Falls is longer than many on this page and it’s also one of the most unique that I’ve featured. The plot line starts as have a million others, with a group of teens heading up to a secluded camp site to indulge in some beer drinking and partying. It’s when the killer reveals himself BEFORE starting the bloodletting that the film heads off on a pathway that’s ambitiously uncommon. Whilst I am not really sure if I enjoyed everything I saw here, I can’t knock director Ryan McDuffie for trying to break the mould. Our masked killer is no Jason Voorhees wannabee and dispatches his victims rapidly with a handgun, which takes the ‘slash’ out of any slasher flick. I also didn’t think that knowing who the killer was from the outset worked, because it removed any intrigue or mystery that may have made him more ominous. Still, there’s no denying that Falls is expansively produced and I was impressed by some of the acting. The sets are slick and well-lighted and the movie opens with a Doo-Wop song, which added some real culture. It’s just that for me, guns in slashers are like sausages at a Vegan banquet – totally out of place. The film just couldn’t recover from that.
Midnight Man 2011
Directed by Kyle Stackhouse. Running Time: 4 minutes
Midnight Man is another of the many shorts that chooses a ‘one woman alone in apartment’ set-up to deliver some creative visuals. Here we have a maniac with a creepy mask (reminded me of the the antagonist from Final Scream) stalking a blonde female in her bedroom. The director uses some neat sound and a couple of Carpenter-alike ‘boogeyman looming in the background’ shots to add class, but it’d been nice to have seen more of a struggle from the victim or even a chase sequence.
Pizza Man 2015
Directed by Todd Condit. Running Time: 5 minutes
Interesting idea for a slasher movie, where the boogeyman is your Pizza Delivery guy! In honesty, these couriers get a hard time, because they bare the brunt of your wrath if the food’s late (even if it’s rarely their fault) and they don’t get a tip as would a Taxi driver. Shot in black and white, Pizza Man plays well on the fact that waiting around for a meal is the most antagonising thing in the history of food. Whilst there’s not a lot of suspense in the way the stalking is rolled out, we do get some gore and a killer Delivery Guy who’d make a great spouse for the chick from Pizza Girl Massacre don’t you think?
Directed by Steve Piché. Running Time: 3 minutes
Well this one wins the award for the shortest title of today’s post at under 180 seconds, but that surprisingly doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. A Slash abover Martin was involved in the production of this one over ten years ago and he kindly allowed me to review it for you all today. It only shows the stalking and slashing of an unfortunate wanderer, but there’s definitely a chunk of credibility on display. We get some nice low camera angles, a machete through cranium killing and a slow stalking maniac in a burlap sack, which regular readers will know is my favourite guise.
Tear Her 2014
Directed by Ricky Bird. Running Time: 6 minutes
Creepy little short from Hectic films that was made as a tribute to watching scary movies on VHS and dealing with inconsistent tracking. Rather than reminisce about my VCR though, the mazy screen and some chilling sound effects gave Tear Her a nightmarish feel, which helped to make it fresh. It shows a killer in a terrifying mask stalking an unfortunate model in a large dilapidated complex, which may not be much in terms of novel scripting, but works because it’s uniquely put together. I always have believed that the best horror is the type that goes the extra mile. Tear her does just that
Directed by: David Noble
Starring: Courtney Shay Young, LaTasha Williams, Elgin Foster
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I remember reading a report a few years back about a slasher movie that was being produced in Louisiana and how local residents were excited about its release. It had been named after a regional dance/music trend, but the one photo that was attached to the article showed a hulking killer pursuing a petrified blonde girl through some forest. I filed the news-clipping under ‘items of interest’ in a SLASH above‘s sprawling HQ (my room) and heard nothing else on the subject. Then, about a year ago, I dug-out that preview and set myself a mission of discovering the status of that peculiar picture. Zydeco is an impossibly obscure title and another a SLASH above exclusive. It’s a slice of small-town filmmaking that takes pride in its heritage and so I was keen to see how it’d play.
Two chicas from Chicago head down to explore the sights of Louisiana. Once there, they inadvertently upset the local townsfolk and become the targets of a giant merciless killer.
You know, I was so close to posting this on my Slasher Shorts page, because at 45 minutes, it barely qualifies as ‘feature length’. The reason I changed my mind is because much like Death O’Lantern and Friday the 13th: Halloween Night, it’s quite a rarity and deserves at least one ‘full’ review on the web. Perhaps the reason it’s become so obscure is because it’s such a strange runtime to sit through. We open with a text description of the notorious ‘Bloody Benders’ from Kansas, which I thought was a credible launchpad. Next comes a slickly produced credit sequence that shows a young girl fleeing through a forest from an unknown pursuer. I sat up in my seat and thought, ‘Damn, this looks good’, and it really did… at least up until I heard the twang of a country guitar…
I’m reminded of when the geeky cashier in Burger King only gives you one Ketchup to go with your XXL Bacon Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal. You’re left desperately trying to squeeze the last remaining drips from the sachet so as not be eating dry salty chips whilst wondering, “Do they pay for these sauces from their salaries or something?!?”. Zydeco looked to have run out of salsa in those first ten-seconds of pre-credit sequence and it rapidly took a downward spiral into Poopsville. We follow the two poorly acted girls as they visit sights around Louisiana and even if we could perhaps accept the uninspiring dialogue, the lack of any actual horror was proving less forgivable. I was left struggling to ascertain what tone Noble was aiming for. There’s the historical intrigue with the Bloody Bender intro, the effective chills from that initial chase scene, but then we slump into comedic dialogue and a collage of the girls on a shopping trip. I mean, what were they trying to make the audience feel…?
I stopped watching Zydeco on the twenty-five minute mark because my train had pulled into my station and the next day, I wasn’t overly keen to pick up from where I’d left off. Thankfully, director David Noble seemed to realise that the ante should be upped and when I eventually got round to finishing the feature, the introduction of the Jason Voorhees-alike killer did seem to offer slight redemption. Our antagonist is a big hefty menace and he takes out a handful of victims, which results in at least one tacky but fun gore scene. (It includes slasher regular and all round cool guy Jade La Font getting gutted!!)) I didn’t notice a huge amount of panache in the way that Noble decided to shoot the movie, but one lengthy tracking shot, which looked to have been filmed with the cameraman on a quad bike or something, was really rather audacious. It was in fact so impressive that the editor included it three times, but I’m not convinced that the only reason for its repetition was because they were proud of how it looked.
You see, Zydeco has a unique structure for a slasher that starts out fairly well, but kind of gets progressively stranger as the film rolls along. We have our main story, which is the fate of the two city girls and their eminent misfortune in and around Louisiana. Then there’s also a plot-branch involving a brother that has hired a Private Detective a while later (exactly how much later is left un-clarified) to hunt out his missing sibling. These two timelines coincide quite well until the final scene, which I won’t spoil, but it left me with the impression that they ran out of budget before finishing the original script. I could even speculate that the whole Private Detective part was bolted on to pad out the runtime and explain away the bizarre ending. If I went into detail about why I think this, it would ruin a twist that in fairness, I wasn’t expecting. If you manage to locate a copy of Zydeco though, you’ll automatically see what I mean. It feels like there’s a part of the movie that they didn’t have the funds to film and so they had to include a wrap-up scene to get it to a format that was at least releasable. I guess that this could explain why Zydeco has become hard to find and why they re-used that impressive footage. The idea was obviously to get as much out of what they had as humanly possible.
Then again, with no concrete information, all that we have is my ramblings on a SLASH above and what do I know? Maybe this is how it was all meant to be. Maybe people like collages of badly acted girls doing shopping in slasher movies. Well if that be the case, give Zydeco five-stars and hunt it out. Me, I’ll leave it with just the one (and a bit)
Terror at Black Tree Forest 2010
Directed by: Dustin Ferguson
Starring: Allison Scott II, Paul Albers, Steve Carty
Review by Luis Joaquín González
One of the toughest tasks that blog authors/critics face is that we often converse with filmmakers before seeing their movies. Sometimes they’re generally nice people and if their movie sucks thereafter you do feel a shade of guilt for having to put into words all that was bad about their effort. It’s tough, honestly it is, but it’s something that we must do. When I posted the write-up of Cheerleader Camp: To the Death, Dustin Ferguson wrote a very honest comment beneath and warned me against his debut feature, Terror at Black Tree Forest. He said that he was expecting a negative rating, because he’s made 29 films since and has obviously improved upon his breakthrough flick. With this in mind, he’s made my job a whole lot easier, because my expectations are now already lower than Christ of the Abyss and I don’t have to worry about offending him. Nice…!
Twenty-years after the rape and murder of a married couple, the only survivor, a young child at the time, breaks out of his asylum and heads back to Black Tree Forest. He arrives just when two couples and a pair of campers are planning a fun-packed weekend and he soon begins lurking ominously as they unwind. Will any of them escape the blade of the vicious masked maniac…?
Despite being a pretty cool guy, it’s fair to say that Dustin Ferguson is also fairly modest. You see, if a filmmaker himself tells you that he’s picture’s bad, you can be pretty sure that it’s not going to be anything other. Fortunately, I’d have to disagree with him on this one, because Terror at Black Tree Forest may not be the Maradona of slasher movies, but it’s not quite the Ali Dia either.
Before the pre-credits, we are shown two trailers of seventies cult classics in an effort to relive the experience of watching rental VHS cassettes. The films chosen were Robert Englund’s ‘Slashed Dreams’ and the Christmas shocker, ‘Silent Night Bloody Night’. Whilst this is a fairly simple technique and not particularly authentic, it worked because Terror is shot with a lens-gimmick that gives the screen a static/fuzz that’s reminiscent of those 16mm prints that we all know and love. Even if the opening scene is the only one that is set in 1970 (the rest of the action is twenty years later) they choose to film the entire runtime this way, which is certainly unique.
Aside from that, what I feel really made Terror stand out was the killer’s bloodied burlap sack-guise and a deep haunting electronic soundtrack from Nathan Christensen. At times his accompaniment single-handedly carried the tone, because it’s so effective in its ability to unsettle the viewer. There’s a murder late-on that may be poorly lit, but the actor’s pre-death gargling and the strength of the keyboard sampling really does create a macabre feeling. We also get a tacky but solid ‘knife through eyeball’ gore shot that brought to mind Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2. Ferguson’s films almost always include a solid playlist and this, his first picture, is no different in that respect. As a director, it’s clear to see that he values in the importance of well- produced audio. His choice of camera movement and angles also show that he sees his pictures with a creative vision and I believe this is why his projects overcome their fund-related deficiencies.
So after all that I’ve stated above, why was Dustin so keen to prepare me for the worst? Well, there are a few reasons. I watched Terror on a three-hour flight, which meant that I was something of a ‘captive audience’. I can imagine that the mid-section may begin to drag for those that are surrounded by possible distractions, because the dialogue is predominantly routine and the characters lack intrigue. It’s also worth nothing that a lot of shots could have been shortened by at least a few seconds and it seems strange that this wasn’t noticed during editing. I can only guess that the financiers for the picture gave Ferguson a runtime and said it had to be filled?? The net result is a 1.5 star movie at just over an hour that could have been 2 stars if it were reduced to 52 minutes. I also thought it was strange that after a lengthy and smartly put-together chase sequence, the final stand-off between the heroine and the killer is left off-screen. Perhaps they ran out of budget?
As I said earlier, the boogeyman truly looks scary, but I had to read the back of the cover to make sure who he was because we don’t really get an explanation. I mean, sure, we can work out that he’s the kid from the opening scene, but in that case what happened to the rapist/murderer that killed his parents? Was he captured? Is he on the loose? Oh and whilst on the subject of the opening sequence, Terror has stolen the crown from Nail Gun Massacre for the most comical rape sequence in horror film history. Still, I’d prefer that any day to the grotesque stuff we saw in Gutterballs.
Terror at Black Tree Forest is a cheap and cheerful slasher movie that scores points for the level of creativity and a few good ideas. It’s got gore, brief nudity, a cool killer and a fantastic score, which is quite a lot for such an obscure flick. I would say that this is perfect viewing material for a train/plane journey when you have an hour or so to waste…