Monthly Archives: April 2016
Bloody Creek 1993
Directed by: Gary Whitson
Starring: Ivory Blackwood, Michelle Caporaletti, Dave Castiglione
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Back in the days before we were all connected via the Internet, the best way to meet and converse with other horror collectors would be to attend film festivals. Nine times out of ten, they would be filled with geeky halfwits that would drop comments like, “Do you know that I have Killer Moon completely uncut on long play?” Or, “I’ve seen The Exorcist 1,998,764,647,576 times and can quote every line of dialogue, backwards.” This is when I’d pull my ace from my sleeve and say, “Well, I’ve got a pristine copy of Bloody Creek at home.” What would follow would be two-minutes of tense jealousy driven silence as the nerds would look me up and down and think, ‘What the hell is this Bloody Creek? Why does this skinny Spaniard have a copy??‘
In fairness, I’ve always owned quite a large collection of obscure pictures, but when my Japanese VHS of Cards of Death wasn’t enough, or if I couldn’t steal the limelight with my pre-cert print of Early Frost, I’d reach for my special weapon – Bloody Creek unrated. I mean, let’s be honest, before this review, you had no idea it even existed, right?
It was an early release from Gary Whitson’s WAVE Productions studio and it’s arguably the most traditional slasher of his filmography. My VHS is dated as 1994 and on the IMDB it’s listed as 1993, but I’m pretty confident that the IMDB have uncharacteristically got it right for once. The beautiful Tina Krause was discovered by Whitson in early ’94 and made her debut in Fatal Delusions the same year. Her china doll-like face combined with a sensational figure made her the poster girl of WAVE through the nineties and so I’m pretty sure that she’d have featured if it was made after she joined their team.
It tells the tale of a female author that’s writing a book about a number of killings that have taken place in Bloody Creek State Park. She is invited to the local Police station to interview those that investigated the case, but soon discovers that the killer may still be on the loose.
I guess that whether or not you’ll want to see Bloody Creek is dependent on your experience and taste for films that have been produced on this kind of budget. A lot of early WAVE releases were shot on a camcorder and filled with actors that had been picked up at conventions (like Krause) or from word of mouth. I knew what I was getting in to when I sat down to watch this picture and therefore found it easier to accept, but others need to be prepared for the non-existent funding so as not to be disappointed. Please keep in mind that I’ve taken this into consideration with my review.
So, the film lasts for whopping ninety-minutes, but would look much better without some of the bloatedness. The problem with directors that edit their own footage is that they are following their singular vision and its better when a third-party can advise on momentum. The movie’s stagnated pace is best demonstrated in the build-up to the first slaughter, which is shown via flashback (as is most of the runtime). We are introduced to the scenario by a detective that makes the fatal mistake of telling us beforehand that the girl is about to be butchered. Even in Zodiac – a cinematic account of a serial killer whose victims are globally known – David Fincher conveyed each murder from the outset in order to develop some tension. Here though, because we’d already been informed of the character’s fate, it was pointless to see her wake-up, get dressed, get in her car, drive, drive some more, reach the forest, set-up her camp, wander around etc etc. The only plot point of relevance and interest to us was HOW she died; – anything else was just filler. With that said, a voluptuous chick that goes camping on her own and downs a bottle of Cognac in a couple of gulps could never be considered unappealing. It’s just that this whole sequence would’ve played so much better if Whitson changed the detective’s dialogue from, “This is how the first victim was killed” to “It began like this…” – without any premature knowledge of the outcome.
Brushing aside the amount of over-emphasis for a second, I can say that I enjoyed Bloody Creek. It offers a wealth of slasher scenarios, a couple of cheesetastic gore scenes (they use leaves to cover the head of one bunny so it looks like she’s been decapitated!) and a few surprisingly ambitious twists. Sure, you can list continuity holes and enough inadvertent humour to rival Nail Gun Massacre, but I didn’t ever want to give up watching. The only thing that I thought was missing, was a decent ‘killer guise’, because without one, the maniac lacked an imposing presence. There’s also a chase and fight sequence in a swamp that I have to mention because it was so hilariously overblown. A pair of actors splash and tussle for about five-minutes, whilst accidentally swallowing mouthfuls of muddy rain water. Yuk!
I’m in a good mood, so I haven’t gone in to detail about all the little things that disappointed me with Bloody Creek (even if I had to bite my tongue to prevent myself from mentioning the horrendous score). It’s an astoundingly cheap production (the cop’s office is surely someone’s kitchen – it even has a microwave!), but I was in the mood for some junky fun and junky fun’s what I received. We get a sprinkling of gore, some terrifically hot chicas (a WAVE trademark although they’re not quite Tina Krause) and a devious assailant that constantly surprises with his unpredictability. Gary Whitson wrote a script that does well to keep you guessing and I can only take my hat off to him for that.
Look, I can’t recommend you hunt down Bloody Creek and I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it. In its defence though I expected the worst and was originally going to write a step-by-step sarcastically mocking review as I did with Curse of Halloween, but the feature impressed me enough not to. I can’t give it any more credit than that.
Final Curtain 2003
Directed by: Mike Goodreau
Starring: Michelle Algarin, Tricia DePaola, Mike Goodreau
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I’ve covered a few obscurities of late, so thought it was about time that I got round to giving this one a blast. Not to be confused with Brett Kelly’s identically themed (and titled) film of 2005, Final Curtain comes with its fair share of trivia. The IMDB lists eleven sequels, but I heard on the slasher grapevine that there are even a couple more and I have no idea how they’re funded because it’s almost impossible to find copies to buy on any format. I tracked down this one on eBay, but a brief scan through the usual purchase sites shows no listings at all.
The collection comes from Mike Goodreau and was shot on video as a throwback to the low budget flicks of the eighties. Goodreau has a few actor credits that I came across, but looks to have dedicated his directorial career to these films. It’s a shame that I haven’t yet managed to track down every instalment, because I’d like to see if they changed with yearly progression.
An ambitious businessman relocates to the small town of Taft, Massachusetts and hatches a plan to open an amateur theatre. Despite some friction from officials, the community are generally happy about the idea and he begins casting locals. It seems though that someone wants to tell their own story and they are willing to resort to murder to do so…
Not knowing anything about Mr Goodreau, I had to go into the film unarmed figuratively speaking. What I ascertained from what I saw was that he’s a big fan of theatre and probably a lot in reality like the character he plays here, Levi O’Neil. The background plot of him opening a small dramatic group is fairly engaging in the fact that it dominates the main chunk of the runtime. When the killer strikes, it comes out of nowhere and leaves us thinking, ‘Oh wow I forgot that I was watching a slasher movie.’ It takes twenty-minutes for said assailant to put in an appearance, but after, we get a handful of murders. They’re rolled out in the typical whodunit fashion, with the antagonist mostly off-screen, but despite their unimaginative nature (sword or knife stabbings), they are set-up impressively. We also get a few brazen attempts at gore that range from el cheapo to actually pretty good. In fact, we have to credit Goodreau for doing what he could on such a pocket-money budget.
That pocket-money budget is certainly visible in Final Curtain and it gives the film a ‘homemade’ sheen. Most of the audio is sketchy at best and the score, which is at least memorable, jumps like a scratched vinyl in places. I’m guessing that it was shot on a camcorder, but overall, it would be unfair to criticise the visuals. Despite some haziness, I don’t recall squinting to make-out what was happening too many times and there are a couple of bigger budgeted films, like Humongous for example, that couldn’t even achieve this level of clarity.
What prevented me from being really impressed was that as I alluded to above, the initial kill-scenes feel like they’ve been bolted-on to a TV show or documentary. When you think about classic scary movies, they’re not built upon much else than a horror core. You can have a mystery, sub-plots, in-depth character development, hidden meanings and even romance; but these elements should always be side-salads to a terrorising main course. Goodreau looked to be putting more effort into the trials and tribulations of the theatre plot branch, which reduced the impact of the murders. I don’t want to come across as being petty, but this didn’t ‘feel’ like a horror film for the most part and that prevented me from giving it a higher ranking. Other similarly funded features like Killer Campout or Bloody Creek managed to sustain a grim environment, but this one sacrificed some of its fear factor (and momentum) for the tale of a ‘theatrical’ journey. We spent a lot of time with the cast members, but never really knew who they were. Because of this, we couldn’t care less when they were killed.
Still, Final Curtain works in a cheapjack way. It’s one that much like Day of the Reaper, you need to be extra forgiving to enjoy, but me, I’m all about forgiveness…
Marco Polo 2008
Directed by: Alton Glass
Starring: Cristina DeRosa, Eddie Goines, William L. Johnson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
When you look at all the ‘hard to find’ slashers, you’ll notice that the majority of them share familiar characteristics. Whether it be that they were self-funded and lacked solid distribution or were plagued throughout production, which led the crew to abandon circulation, there’s usually a common link to be discovered between them. That’s where Marco Polo stands apart. This one was completed in 2007 on a solid budget and with a talented cast, so it’s strange that it has become so obscure.
In fact, what we have here is a feature that truly frustrates me; and my frustrations stem from the fact that it’s better than a large majority of the slashers that I watch, so why isn’t it available for global consumption? It kicks off with a fast-paced sequence that offers a pre-credits introduction to our boogeyman, Marco Polo. In a periodic scene from 1342, Polo, his wife and daughter are pursued through some forest, where they are eventually cornered and assaulted by their weapon-clenching assailants. Director Alton Glass goes for an incredibly merciless approach by showing us in detail how Polo was made to suffer by being blinded by the thumbs of a hulking barbarian. As he lies screaming on the floor, he can only listen helplessly whilst his spouse is raped and his child slaughtered. It’s an uncommonly harrowing intro, which shows a level of graphic violence that was quite intense. We then fast forward to present day California, where we meet our likely victims.
It’s these parts that most proved to me that Glass has the potential to be a competent filmmaker. We see all of our characters together at a pool party and there’s a blend of African Americans and Whites. What stood out to me was that the dialogue was audacious and intriguing, because it’s not the usual Hollywood sugar coated chit-chat. One girl nags her black boyfriend for leering over a white chick and he responds by saying, “She must have some black in her to be that fine”. Then a bullish Caucasian belittles a guy that looks like a poor man’s Eminem with the line, “Stay White Brother!” We live in a world where touching upon such topics always carries a risk of offence, but in reality, the majority of us aren’t racists and can share good-natured (and even competitive) interracial banter. I admired the director’s ambition to strive for realism and this continues throughout the runtime.
After such a crowded launch, we get a closer look at what will surely be our two central players. Jared is extremely disappointed that his younger brother Kelly wants to play basketball in Italy and not follow his sibling into the business that their entrepreneurial father left them when he passed away. This leads to an interesting ‘head or heart’ conversation that offers enough depth to develop both personalities. They decide to spend a camping trip together before Kelly jets off to Europe and this gives us a logical pathway to alienate our intended victims. There are eight campers that board the Winnebago to the forest, and each of them gets enough screen time to stand out. It would be wrong to say that they broke away from the traditional clichés, but the annoying jock type guy diversified into a real hero that I found myself rooting for. Actually, I wanted most of them to survive and I guess it’s because they were given more than just basic lines to move the plot from A to B.
When the killings start, they’re ferociously gory and Glass unleashes some tremendous visceral FX and a real injection of excitement. One guy gets chopped in half with a machete, there’s a unique decapitation and the brutal masked killer gives a credible Jason Voorhees impersonation. I liked the way that the film gave the players a slice of courage that convinced us that they wanted to survive. It’s tough to convey the true effect that a mass-killer would have on the average everyday Joe, but at least they weren’t just slashed and immediately rushed off screen to be forgotten. Every single box in regards to slasher trademarks is ticked (we even get a scary story around a campfire scene), but this film differentiates itself by including influences from thrillers like Fallen as well as a large dose of Friday the 13th. The biggest chunk of originality came from the conclusion, which I certainly wasn’t expecting.
The real Marco Polo was an ambitious traveller that passed away peacefully, surrounded by his wife and daughters, in bed. There are definite question marks over the logic of using such a renowned historical figure as the film’s antagonist. The fact that the screenwriter has bolted-on a distinct and unflattering streak to his personality makes it all the more peculiar. It would have been easier if they’d just used an imaginary person – a conquistador perhaps – because Polo was everything but a sadistic butcher. Still, I cannot really find any other relevant criticism to aim at this slasher and I’m scratching my head as to why it’s so obscure. When a motion picture that is confidently produced and includes sharp direction, a rapid pace, unpredictability, interesting scenarios, a professional gloss and some gore, you’d think that it had achieved everything that was asked during pre-production. A friend of mine said that he had heard that this was extremely similar to See No Evil, but it’s not at all. Alton Glass’ entry to the sub-genre is much better and deserving of a more prominent status.
So why does the film remain on the missing list? It seems like it all came down to bad timing. Just as shooting was completed in 2008, the lead producer had to deal with some personal matters, which meant that the concept was pushed to one side. When he was finally able to re-focus his efforts on securing circulation, the digital boom had rendered him unable to find the right deal. Now, eight-years later, it can finally be seen on Amazon.com, but only if you reside in the US.
There are around sixty slashers that I know of that will never see light of day on the right format. There’s a strong argument to say that Marco Polo and Legend of Moated Manor are the best of those. I hope you one day get the opportunity to see if you agree.
Directed by: Chris LaMartina
Starring: Sean Quinn, Jenny Saurallo, Andrew Hughes
Review by Luis Joaquín González
How ya didling a SLASH abovers? Here we have another obscurity that I’ve spent years tracking down to examine for y’all – I’m just too damn nice! Amerikill was the first horror flick from esteemed director Chris LaMartina and it really is a ‘junior project’ in every sense of the word. Whilst it has become a cliche of the genre that most slasher films have actors in their mid-thirties unconvincingly playing teens, Amerikill turns that totally on its head. You see, this was Mr LaMartina’s High School project and he shot it with his friends at the age of 14!
I learned of its existence when I purchased Death O’Lantern from Warlock Home Video. They had a large catalogue of titles and what stood out to me about this one was the killer’s awesome Jester guise. I immediately tried to buy a copy, but was told that there were none left and there likely wouldn’t be any more available. Dejected, I set up an eBay search and tried all the usual methods of allocating a copy, to no avail. My recent review of President’s Day put me in touch directly with filmmaker Chris LaMartina and after a few begging emails, I managed to finally get him to send me a pristine DVD…
A small town High School is thrown into chaos when ‘Jester Face’ – a vicious masked serial killer – begins butchering local kids. A group of friends set out to solve the mystery by watching ‘cheesy slasher films’ to uncover the killer’s logic.
Before we kick off the review, I think it’s important that I mention something that will better allow you to understand this film. In terms of maturity, I was something of a late bloomer. I’ve just turned thirty-five and when I look back on the silly things that I did in my past, I wish that I had the ‘intelligence’ or ‘cultural understanding’ that I posses today. Adult minds are filled with analysis of past experiences, consideration of consequences and a greater fear of risk, whereas youngsters only think, ‘That looks cool, let’s do it!’. At the age of fourteen, I had no idea what a protagonist was, the difference between gibberish and complex dialogue or the reasons why I enjoyed certain films more than others. My list of ‘essential good movie ingredients’ was the size of a postage stamp and I could mindlessly sit through crap like Ninja Terminator or Day of Judgement without flinching an eyelid. Now of course, the smallest mediocre element can force me to reevaluate my rankings and even a great eighties cheese-fest like Commando has lost some of its appeal.
I tell you this because it has a lot to do with how you may perceive Amerikill. Did I think it was a very good movie? No, not particularly. Would I have done so when I was an impressionable fifteen-year-old? Hell yeah!! You see, this is a ‘fan boy’ film in the truest sense and ticks all the boxes that we know and love. It is very obviously inspired by Wes Craven’s Scream but also verbally pays homage to some peak period slasher hits such as, Sleepaway Camp. What surprised me most though was that there were a few signs of credibility that transcended the dime store budget and pre-pubescent age range.
For a start, it’s amazing how there are so few visible weaknesses in the dramatics. Whilst we are not talking method actors by any means, we see very little flat or wooden line delivery, which is a real achievement considering the amateur cast members. It could be argued of course that the kids were literally ‘playing themselves’; but in comparison with most budget stalk and slashers, Amerikill has no bad performances that really stand out. We get a whodunit mystery that waddles along admirably and even if I guessed who was under the mask early on, I never felt completely sure of my decision, and there was even a twist of kind before the credits rolled. As I mentioned earlier, the maniac has a truly creepy disguise and it led me to wonder why there are so many killer clowns, but so few psycho jesters? This dude outshone Marty Rantzen from Slaughter High, simply because he looked much more ominous in black with a white face mask that was splashed with blood. We get a number of kill scenes that include some bare bones attempts at gore and they all take place to the strains of a rock soundtrack that actually includes a few decent songs.
I guess that the reason I can’t really say that Amerikill will appeal to all slasher buffs is because it is very much a teenage movie. It was almost awkward for me watching the production, because I felt like an old guy that was trying to fit in. That’s no fault of the filmmakers of course, they couldn’t change their age; but it’s important that you prepare yourself before viewing the film. We do get a semblance of a plot narrative, but there’s no central character or script cohesion, which is totally understandable considering the lack of experienced heads on set. In fact, it’s pointless really to criticise Amerikill because it’s astounding how much the director managed to get right. Even Tim Ritter was two-years older when he made Day of the Reaper and that’s nowhere near as slick as this.
When all is said and done, Amerikill is much better than it has any right to be. We can ignore the lack of Police, the flimsy structure etc, because this is a high school project and if you leave your brain at the door, you might even enjoy some parts of the film; – I know I did. There’s fun to be had with the cheesetastic gore and we see a glimpse of the light humour tone that was so successful in President’s Day. Also, have you ever wondered why might happen if a masked killer bumped into a trio of school bullies? No? Well Chris LaMartina has – and his interpretation of it is actually pretty funny… I’m glad I saw Amerikill.
Fatal Exam 1985
Directed by: Jack Snyder
Starring: Mike Coleman, Terry Comer, Carol Fitzgerald Carlberg
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Good morning a SLASH abovers… So, here we have one that I never thought that I’d be adding to this website. I’ve owned Fatal Exam on VHS for many years, but I didn’t bother covering it because I’ve always considered it to be a bit of an outsider. I guess that it just about scrapes the guidebook in terms of what’s needed to fit within the standard template, but I was under the impression that it was a little too Satanic to really be a traditional entry. Still, with so many of you asking me to include it (12 at last count), I decided to dust off my VHS cassette and give it a whirl.
A college professor gives six students an assignment to stay in a secluded house and investigate some murders that took place a few years earlier. As the weekend unfolds, strange occurrences begin to unsettle the visitors…
The best way that I could describe Fatal Exam to you is by comparing it with one of those all-day conferences that companies send you on to do some ‘networking’. As you enter the site at 8:30 in the am, you see crates of beers being lined up behind the bar and a sign that reads, “Free drinks and snacks after the event”. You sit in a chair for the next six hours battling exhaustion, boredom and the desperate desire to fidget, whilst maintaining positivity by picturing the booze and cocktail sausages that you’ll eventually be consuming (and stuffing in your briefcase whilst no one’s looking). In the case of James Snyder’s long-forgotten debut feature though, it’s like a fourteen-hour lecture on the collaboration of a steel plate with only a stick of celery and a cup of soda water to look forward to when it’s finally finished.
120 minutes is a risky runtime for Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest motion picture achievement, so you can imagine what to expect from a flick by Jack ‘no idea what momentum means’ Snyder. Despite the glamour and glitz, filmmaking can be a long and frustrating process, because crews spend hours shooting the same thing at countless angles in order to get the right ‘tone’ for every scene. A talented editor makes his mark thereafter by removing excessive overindulgence and making sure that a taut but descriptive pace is amalgamated from the mounds of footage. Fatal Exam plays like Snyder didn’t trust his audience to understand anything without being held by the hand, so every sequence is conveyed without any dynamism or brevity at all. When a character mouths a statement in a group conversation, we see a separate reaction shot from each person, which is totally unnecessary and monotonous, because really we only needed the one – or even none at all. Also, a simple action, like someone getting an item from their car, will be displayed to us by them exiting the house, heading along a pathway, opening the boot, picking up the item and then returning. All this wasn’t necessary, because the same point could be emphasised in a single line of expository dialogue. In the world of Señor Snyder however, he yearns to show you e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in the finest detail, which gets very boring, very quickly. The film even starts with our protagonist climbing out of bed, brushing his hair, cleaning his teeth, eating a bowl of cereal, getting dressed, entering his car and driving to school. I mean FFS! JUST START THE DAMN MOVIE FROM THE DAMN SCHOOL!!!
In fact, the first forty-five minutes could have been removed and replaced with a simple text intro that would’ve worked a whole lot better. We could’ve read something like, ” Ambitious student Nick and a gang of his college buddies are given an assignment to spend a weekend at the house where the sadistic Malcolm Nostrand killed his family two-years earlier. Here’s what happened once they settled in.” That would have given us the same amount, if not more, information than we gained from the coma-inducing hour of watching bad actors do a big pile of nada. The net result is something that I can only guess was created to test the patience of Buddhist monks. Either that or it was funded by the CIA as a potential psychological weapon of torture? I’m joking of course, but the truth is that this is a sleep-inducing marathon of pointless nothingness. Apparently the film was completed in 1985, but sat on a shelf for five-years because the crew ‘ran out of budget’. I am not surprised, think how much $$$ was wasted on shooting scenes that were completely devoid of relevance. 16mm film isn’t cheap, you know. By the way, I must give a shout out to Carl Leta, the guy that scored the movie. He really played like a man that knew what he was up against, but battled valiantly to try and bring some kind of atmosphere to what he was given. It was amusing that the score was getting creepier and creepier, but all we could see on screen were a gang of halfwits doing another big pile of na….
The reason that I was in no rush to post Fatal Exam here was not only because it’s an arduous feature to sit through, but mainly because it plays more like Blood Cult than it does a typical slasher flick. We do get an antagonist in a cool grim reaper-alike guise, but he’s one of a number of villains that appear in the final thirty-minutes, which is alien to the more standard ‘central boogeyman’ trademark. Ironically, I wrote two paragraphs about the film’s lacklustre editing strategy, but the one noteworthy slasher sequence that we do get on the 78 minute mark is cut so rapidly that we can barely make out what’s happening. It’s a shame, because after sitting through all that nonsense for so long, I felt as if I thoroughly deserved the ‘free beer and sandwiches’ for my effort. What I got though was the aforementioned mouldy stick of celery and a glass of flat tomato juice.
I’m not sure what else I can tell you about Fatal Exam. I guess it’s like an even more tedious version of Girls School Screamers, but with a silly satanic sheen and the worst digital special effect at the conclusion that I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’d recommend watching it if only to see that C64-type moment of cheesy eighties madness. So this is nowhere near as good as the similarly titled Final Exam, but does it stoop to the lows of Fred Olen Ray’s Final Examination? Hmmm… That’s one I am not willing to investigate