Category Archives: Top 50 Slashers
The best of The Best
Kill Game 2015
Directed by: Robert Mearns
Starring: Pierson Fode, Joe Adler, Laura Ashley Samuels
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I was discussing expectation levels on a SLASH above last week and I wanted to ask you all something that’s kind of related to that topic. Has anyone else noticed that the nights when you’re tired and really don’t fancy going out with your pals or on a date turn out to be better than those when you’ve been counting the hours all week to the event? With me, this is always the case, but I really have no idea why.
I picked up Kill Game whilst out shopping last week and even though the cover looked slasher-esque, I wanted to make sure by briefly checking the IMDB. I immediately noticed the 3.5 score and a user review that was headlined, ‘This film will kill brain cells its (sic) that bad’. Still, I’m here to review every genre piece ever made, so I’m used to taking the rough with the smooth. Even though I’ve seen my fair share of turkeys, I really couldn’t prepare myself to sit through Kill Game after seeing that IMDB rating. In fact it took me two attempts to get past the 5 minute mark.
A gang of high-school friends that are notorious for their pranks become concerned when one of their number is viciously murdered by a villain wearing a creepy Marilyn Monroe mask. Before long they realise that they cannot flee and instead have to work in conjunction to unmask the vicious killer…
Slasher fans, if ever you needed proof that with our particular choice of genre, the IMDB is as trustworthy as a shady CIA operative, Kill Game is your trial swinging evidence. It’s your signed sealed and hand-delivered confession. 3.5 score? So bad it kills Brain cells? On the contrary dear Watson, this is a fabulous slasher movie and should certainly be added to your collections. I’m about to take extreme pleasure in telling you for why.
Perhaps a lot of it is because I’d been ready for a dismal slice of dreck and went in expecting the usual heinous script/cinematography/acting combo. Well as the runtime grew, a splash of credibility washed over me like a tidal wave hitting an underweight surfer on his first venture into the ocean. What I noticed initially was that Game is comfortably financed and never feels as if it’s struggling to display the necessities of the plot’s backbone. Props are used with confidence and each location is shot with stylish lighting and flamboyant photography. Characters are introduced strongly and given enough fluidity and individuality to stand apart, which means that they engage us as an audience. The small and subtle script gimmicks – like Courtney’s weight insecurities – add a level of realism to the players. It’s not quite enough for us to REALLY care for them, but we do – at least subconsciously – feel like we’re involved in their parts of the story.
I’m sure that most of you, like me, have grown tired now of the entries that throw everything at parodying or paying homage to the hits of the eighties. I mean, how many times do we have to hear dialogue that mentions Prom Night FFS? Kill Game on the other hand is a modern slasher that sticks to the rules without having the need to boast about its doing so. I guess it could be considered as a tweak on the I Know What You Did Last Summer style of inclusion, which in itself was a re-imaging of Rosman’s awesome The House on Sorority Row. Instead of us witnessing the fateful event and source for latter revenge at the film’s launch however, writer/director Robert Mearns utilises the approach that worked so well for Billy Club, by unraveling the mystery slowly as the synopsis unravels. This means that the runtime remains tense and we are never really aware of what will happen next. It helps that for the first half of the film, it’s really hard to guess who’s going to succumb to the assailant’s blade and a couple of the killings totally took me by surprise.
Another bonus is the fact that we are given an antagonist with an incredibly creepy mask and he stalks with a swagger that brings to mind Heath Ledger’s Joker. It could be argued that such a striking villain would have worked better if he were a Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers type of merciless assassin rather than a character seeking vengeance for a past event. As I said in my review of Halloween, Myers was so scary because he had no motive, whereas knowing that this killer will turn out to be someone we’ve been introduced to previously weakens his appeal. I guess Mearns was somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place because his mystery is one of the best things about his picture (I didn’t guess it), so he couldn’t risk scrapping it. Still, this is one of the stand out guises of the past twenty-years and that deserves praise. We also get some ferocious murders, including a brilliant decapitation and a couple of SAW-alike death-traps that may not be graphic but are still fairly unsettling. These assist in the creation of a dark seedy tone that on occasion becomes contagiously engulfing. I also have to mention a few thoroughbred performances that may not be worthy of award recognition but are delivered with desire and focus.
Kill Game is a sharp slasher spectacular with a great boogeyman, a compulsive mystery and a plush set-up. Some may be disappointed that the only nudity comes from a guy that could be a stunt double for a sumo wrestler and it does move slowly in places, but all in all it truly is a SLASH above. I’m really glad that I pushed myself to watch it. Oh and by the way it’s my Birthday today 😉 I’m 18…. I wish…
La Muerte Del Chacal 1983
aka The Death of the Jackal
Directed by: Pedro Galindo III
Starring: Mario Almada, Fernando Almada, Christina Molina
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My review of Bosque De Muerte from a couple of weeks ago got me thinking. There’s no doubting that the best overall slasher films are from the United States. However, because America has also unleashed so many ‘challenging’ entries, like Curse of Halloween, Angus Valley Farms and Fever Lake, the quality percentage on average of their entire output has taken something of a battering. It’s unfair of course to compare a country that’s not far from quadruple figures with a country with only a hundred or so releases. My point is that Mexican slashers, in general, are pretty damn good. The few that I’ve reviewed on a SLASH above (Bosque, Trampa Infernal, Dimensiones Ocultas and Ladrones de Tumbas) are all well worth a watch; and La Muerte del Chacal is yet another.
Directed by prolific horror (and slasher) craftsman Pedro Galindo III, Chacal was arguably the first Mexican entry to truly show signs of a John Carpenter influence. Like many of its hermanas from south of the US border, it was unfortunate not to have garnered a subtitled global distribution deal and therefore remains barely seen. I noticed that there has been a recent DVD release, but from the listing I found on Amazon, it doesn’t look to have been dubbed or translated in any way, which I thought was a shame.
A psychopathic killer in traditional Giallo garb is stalking the local port and murdering anyone unfortunate enough to wander close to an abandoned ship where he resides. Sherif Bob is struggling to uncover any clues to the maniac’s identity and so he enlists his brother Roy to help him capture the maniacal assassin. Before long Bob become the target for the boogeyman and decides to set a trap to stop him once and for all…
I feel really bad for saying this, because I understand that the majority of my readers don’t speak Spanish. Well, start writing emails to Anchor Bay and the like right now demanding an accessible copy, because Chacal is an outstanding slice of eighties entertainment. Like many European and South American titles of the peak years (Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche/Shock Diversão Diabolica), director Galindo either didn’t recognise or care to display the subtle differences between the Giallo and the Slasher. The killer’s guise, shadowy presence and the in-depth investigation that follows him are all elements lifted from the Bava/Argento school of murderous motion pictures. On the other hand, the utilisation of the ‘have sex and die’ rule, heavy breath POVs and the inclusion of a lone female as the final target are trademarks of the Stalk and Slasher. In fairness to Galindo though, his addition also adds a few of its own unique ingredients.
I’m not going to tell you the identity of the boogeyman because it comes as a shock, even though it’s revealed quite early in the runtime. It was essential for Gilberto de Anda’s script to unmask its antagonist prematurely, because the twist adds a unique level of emotional involvement to the final stretch toward the finishing line. Galindo ups the ante by including a speed boat chase, an asylum break-out and a fair few murders that may lack graphic gore but are still smartly conveyed. Some structured camera placement makes the killer’s lair (an abandoned boat), seem creepily isolated and the fact that he is accompanied by a trio of vicious Doberman Pinchers makes him seem all the more indestructible. A few set-pieces deliver sharp shades of suspense and there’s no better example of this than the slaughter of a female and her mother in a spacious living room. Nacho Mendez’s score is at times reminiscent of the best of Paul Zaza’s work and when he’s not ruining it by incorporating weird sci/fi-alike tweaks, he compliments the overall atmosphere superbly.
Chacal was filmed in Brownsville, Texas and it’s interesting that the characters all boast English-language names, such as: Roy, Bob, Joan, Sally and Jack. With that in mind, it seems strange that producer Santiago Galindo didn’t explore a wider release plan with dialogue translations because the film could have been popular on external shores. Still, they must have achieved a modicum of success because a sequel was released within twelve-months that continued the saga. I’m sitting looking at a copy right now and thinking that I need to pencil a review for you all shortly. In fact, it’s being inserted into my VCR as I type.
I guess the hardest question for me to answer for you is, should you watch Chacal in Spanish if you don’t understand the dialogue? To be honest, I would say, no. It’s not that you won’t be scared by some of the stalking sequences and kept on the edge of your seat when the killer strikes. It’s just that de Anda’s script has invested heavily in adding an authentic undercurrent of shock, rivalry, despair, shame and sorrow to the synopsis that would be ruined without understanding the concept. I am cautious of making the movie sound better than it truly is, but I really bought into the idea of a hero that’s been thrust into a situation that demands so much more than personal sacrifice. It’s also worth nothing that Mario Almada does a superb job of bringing that persona to life. I’m so convinced of its quality that I’ve placed Chacal in my top 50.
Get writing those emails peeps. The power of the slasher fanbase got us My Bloody Valentine uncut, so let’s do the same here (I’m available to provide translations if the price fits ;)) haha
President’s Day 2010
Directed by: Chris LaMartina
Starring: Bennie Mack McCoy IV, Lizzy Denning, Nicolette le Faye
Review by Luis Joaquín González
With Graduation Day, Memorial Day, Birthday, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and Valentine‘s pretty much slashed beyond slashable recognition, you must take your hat off to this production team for giving us an authentic theme for their genre entry. We don’t have a ‘President’s Day’ in the UK, so I had to check online to see if it was actually a calendar event. When I discovered that it’s a federal holiday in the States, I was astounded that this was the first stalk and slasher that had based its synopsis around that date.
The film comes from Chris LaMartina, who had previously directed Ameri-Kill; an extremely rare DTV effort that includes a killer in an audacious mask from 1999. When I bought Death-O-Lantern from Warlock Video, I tried getting a copy of Ameri-Kill too, but they had sold out of discs, so I’ve spoken directly with Chris and he’s promised to send me a copy. This particular addition is highly regarded amongst fans of the category, and when I recently asked the members of the a SLASH above Facebook Page if they could recommend any films that I should review, President’s Day was the one that most a SLASH abovers wanted. So without further to do…
A school is going through an extremely competitive period because they are currently holding an election for the role of ‘head of the student body’. Class joker, Barry, decides to run for president in order to impress new girl, Joanne, who has recently moved to the area. The task becomes a lot more dangerous, when the hopeful candidates begin getting slaughtered by a lunatic dressed as Abe Lincoln. Barry and Joanne team-up to attempt to stop the maniac, but could they be putting themselves in the firing line…?
As a critic, I have been guilty many times in the past of forgiving weak parts of slasher movies due to the fact that they were produced on stringent financing. If anything, President’s Day acts as proof that I can no longer use that explanation for poor filmmaking decisions, because the rumoured budget for this picture was a measly $5,000. With this relatively modest pocket book, LaMartina has created a stand-out slasher flick that does things the right way. On top of that, it is crisply shot, looks fantastic and includes gore effects as good as those seen in entries that were put together on four or five times the cost.
I often criticise horror comedies here on the site and you only need to read my reviews of either Easter Bunny Bloodbath or Slaughter Studios to see my opinion on slapstick scenarios combined with murderous mayhem. It takes a special filmmaker to give us a feature that can successfully merge the two styles in a paletable Cherry Falls-type way and I have to give credit to LaMartina for what he has achieved here. There are a host of amusing tongue-in-cheek sequences in President’s Day that could have given the picture an awkward tone that it would struggle to recover from. Instead, he admirably gets the mix of humour and horror spot on and creates an environment that allows viewers to enjoy the character development sequences without them having an effect on the darker moments.
The entire cast and crew of P-Day accepted parts in the feature with minimal payment, but they still put in visible effort to deliver solid performances. In a unique move, the story gives us an African-American anti-hero that we grow to like more and more as the runtime progresses. Our two main players differentiate from the Laurie Strode stereotype because they aren’t overtly innocent or virginal. Barry is an intelligent guy that is guilty of choosing fun over his studies and Joanne is looking for a fresh start after an unfortunate incident at her previous school. These depths to the two lead personalities make them more appealing and we do genuinely share their adventure and want them to overcome what’s thrown at them.
We are treated to a complex mystery that you’ll either guess immediately or be shocked by when the killer is unmasked. Even if the motive is fairly nonsensical, it can be easily overlooked, because we had such a good time on our way to the conclusion. Dressing the killer as Abe Lincoln not only suits the theme, but he looks exceptionally creepy and there are a whole heap of creatively gory murders for us to feast our eye upon. They include audacious stuff such as death by hair straighteners, asphyxiation with a statue (?) and a voluptuous Latina is burned to death on a cooker! One early scene gives the film an ‘anything could happen’ tone, when a disabled girl in a wheelchair gets dismembered with an axe. It was reminiscent of the notorious sequence from Friday the 13th Part II, which at that far less politically-correct time was fairly controversial. It’s easy then to see that LaMartina has got the balls to go where others don’t and go there he does, continuously until the final credits roll. Despite the fact that the killings are fairly gratuitous, the atmosphere isn’t mean-spirited and maintains the subtle tongue-in-cheek tone even when the crimson is spread.
President’s Day is a solid entry that deserves a place amongst the slasher elite. There are many new-age stalk and slashers that get lost in their attempts to either try something different or pay endless tributes to the hits of the eighties. Chris LaMartina proves here that all you need to do is include enough of the recognised ingredients and have a bit of a ball with them. It really is that simple. It surprises me still to this day how many filmmakers fail to get it right.
Girl House 2014
Directed by: Trevor Matthews
Starring: Ali Cobrin, Adam DiMarco, Slaine
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I read some marketing gumpf during the production of Girl House that said it was going to be the Halloween of the digital age. Immediately after, my interest in the project waned because whenever a feature tries to capture an audience by claiming that it’s ‘the best thing since Halloween’, it turns out to be nothing of the sort. Later I learned that its synopsis was a reality porn show with girls locked in a house and stalked by a masked menace. This brought visions of Voyeur.Com, Porn Shoot Massacre and Strip Club Slasher streaming to my mind. From then, Girl House had been languishing on my ‘to do list’ for quite some time and only yesterday did I decide, with the enthusiasm of a hungover Monday Morning, to finally give it a go. I’m really glad that I did.
A beautiful student that’s struggling for the funds to get through college, accepts an offer to join the internet sensation, Girl House. It’s a website that offers viewers the chance to watch women 24/7 in a secluded mansion as they reveal all for the numerous cameras. Whilst there’s no shortage of sites that give you one on one access to chicas, this one allows you to get to know them as their lives are rolled out in front of your eyes. When regular visitor ‘Loverboy’ is unintentionally offended by one of the housemates, he decides to extract revenge in the most merciless way possible.
Over the past week, I’ve watched Babysitter Massacre, Blood Slaughter Massacre, Camp Blood and Blood and Sex Nightmare, so I immediately noticed how well funded Girl House looked in comparison. Make no mistake about it, Trevor Matthew’s slick debut is much lusher than the aforementioned entries and it looks ravishing as it bathes in its crystal clear colours. It’s blessed with an outstanding performance from Ali Cobrin as heroine Kylie Atkins. She achieves what Neve Campbell failed to in Scream, by giving us a gorgeous new-age lead that also conveys a sensitive and approachable side. She’s aided by a note-perfect turn from Adam DiMarco as her would be boyfriend and some genuinely likeable personalities amongst the background players.
The real casting achievement though in terms of bringing the screen alive is Slaine as the homicidal maniac. In a portrayal with barely any dialogue, he delivers a villain with initial shades of pathos. This gives him the opportunity to rip said shades to shreds as he grows more and more ruthless throughout the runtime. To do that with so little speech is in itself a mesmerising accomplishment and dressed in a skin mask and wig, he creates a villain that’s terrifyingly memorable. Calling this ‘Halloween for the digital age’ was in fact a half-truth, because Girl House’s boogeyman is not a Michael Myers clone. Unlike Carpenter’s film and its trillion imitators, this screenplay spends more time during its opening unravelling the situations that lead to the maniac’s murderous psyche. So many stalk and slash movies fail to maintain momentum during the character development parts, which makes Girls House stand out because it stays sharp through the elaboration of both its protagonist and also its antagonist.
All this is simply preparation though for a marvellous climax that sees the masked killer torture and murder the housemates in a suspense-filled bloodbath. It’s been a while since I’ve sat through a final sequence that’s so skilfully tense and the director throws literally everything in to the pot to create the right blend of gory and sleek bloodletting. There’s enough time left for a pulsating battle between the masked killer and our final girl, which is unpredictable, brave and extremely fast-paced. My partner and I were watching with our fists clenched in anticipation and thanks to some solid direction, the pace remains breakneck all the way through.
Girls House is a motion picture with something to say about the effect of porn on our lives, our obsession with image and overcoming our insecurities. Examining the concerns of our leading lady as she contemplates entering the world of seedy internet peep-shows displayed an intelligent social commentary with views from both sides. They even include a memorable quote from serial killer Ted Bundy that highlights the film’s ethical standpoint. This is all done subtly enough so as not to overindulge and it adds up to an intelligent and glossy scary movie.
I recently said that Blood Slaughter Massacre was the best recent slasher I’ve seen, but a week later, it has lost that title to this thoroughly enjoyable extravaganza. Even if they are cut from a different budgetary cloth, it’s a compliment that both can be proud of. If you haven’t already tracked this down, do so at the next opportunity. It is, quite frankly, a brilliant stalk and slasher
Killer Guise: √√√√
The Silent Scream 1979
Directed by: Denny Harris
Starring: Barbara Steele, Rebecca Balding, Cameron Mitchell
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Perhaps it’s because they were generally more amateurish projects, or maybe it’s just that funding was often hard to secure, but I’ve always wondered why so many slasher movies from the peak years suffered problematic productions. Titles like Moon In Scorpio, Scalps, Truth or Dare, Killer Party and especially Curtains never saw light of day as they were initially intended and the issues were certainly visible in the final print. Silent Scream was completed in 1977, but was considered unreleasable by director Denny Harris. He hired an entire new cast and brought in Jim and Ken Wheat to re-write the script at his own expense. Together they decided to make it more similar to the boom that had swept cinema around that time, the slasher genre.
Now the major difference between the titles that I mentioned earlier and Silent Scream is that for once the movie that we ended up with worked superbly. Whereas for example Curtains never escaped its muddled backbone, if I hadn’t have read the stories of a troubled shoot, I would have been none the wiser here.
In the rush to find housing before the new semester, four students end up at a recently refurbished house overlooking a remote beach. A couple of hours after they move in, they are shocked when one of their number is brutally murdered by an unseen fiend during the night. Little do they know that the deranged killer is closer than they could ever have imagined.
Whilst I have no doubt in my mind that Halloween played a part in the inspiration for the final version of Silent Scream, the fact that it was released so close to Carpenter’s classic means that it avoids many of the traditional trappings. Instead, the Wheat brothers seem to have followed the blueprint of features like Black Christmas and Psycho to come up with the synopsis for this doom-laden thriller. Even if we do get the standard troupe of teenage victims, there’s no sign of trademarks like the have sex and die rule. I found it refreshing that the heroine’s characterisation didn’t follow the path that would become a cliché and the story feels closer to reality because of that. The four key personalities are so well developed during the opening scenes that it’s tough to chose who we think will succumb to the killer’s blade first. This gives the picture an extra shade of suspense that only adds to the solid mystery.
Harris had been a big fan of horror movies and he rallied valiantly to get his first film produced. After watching how professionally everything had been put together, I had no idea that this was the work of a debutant and I’m still surprised that it’s his one and only motion picture credit. A slick juxtaposition of fixed camera angles and shots that loom ominously give the feature an extremely polished look and a fitting score from Richard Kellaway adds an extra layer of class. What impressed me most about the film was that the screenwriters took something as unoriginal as a tale of a bogeyman in the basement and twisted it continuously keep viewers guessing. The decision to include a corny doo-wop tune as the psycho’s calling card worked along the same methodology as utilising childlike themes such as a clown or a doll. Once combined, these elements gave Silent Scream an incredibly creepy tone of subtle menace that remained constant throughout.
It’s often forgotten that the art of acting is not just spouting lines of dialogue with emotion. I was saying to a friend just recently that if Brad Pitt ends his career without an Oscar, it would be almost criminal. It could have been easy for him to become a Rom-Com king and trade on his looks, but he always chooses audacious roles that for whatever reason he hasn’t yet been acknowledged for. Barbara Steele shows here that she can deliver a performance via body language and gestures that puts her a level above her peers. She steals every scene in a brilliant portrayal that must’ve motivated those around her to up their game. The dysfunctional family stereotype is skewed to perfection and it never reaches the realms of over indulgence.
Silent Scream is a brilliant slasher movie and amongst the best of the genre. Whilst it may be more of a Hitchcockian nod to Psycho than a true teenie-kill feature, it delivers blood and scares like the best of them. Quite why it is not as fondly thought of as The Burning et al is an enigma and I definitely think you should re-visit it sooner rather than latter.
Final Girl √√√
Billy Club 2013
Directed by: Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer
Starring: Marshall Caswell, Erin Hammond, Nick Sommer
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I don’t remember the last time that I’ve anticipated a slasher movie quite as much as I have Billy Club. To be fair though, it’s logical as to why I’m feeling this way. It’s from Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer, the creators of Blood Junkie, which was one of the best genre entries of the past decade. Junkie achieved the admirable feat of mixing campy SOV wit with a smart synopsis and it was shot with an ambitious pizzazz. It’s also worth noting that it’s not just a SLASH above that have been counting the days for the release of this one either. Horror forums, sites and critics across the world have been extremely vocal in their support for the project and I haven’t seen quite this kind of buzz since the 3D remake of My Bloody Valentine was rumoured.
With Billy Club, Rosas and Sommer have approached a theme that really needs a credible entry, – ‘the sports slasher’ – and their choice of sport is baseball. We’ve been here before of course in 1998 with The Catcher, but the fact that my one-star review of the film is the most positive that can be found on the net, should tell you all you need to know about its quality. Another title, Sawed from 2004 also included a psychopath with a b-ball bat, but aside from the weapon, it offered little else to be considered as a comparison. There was still a gap in the market for an addition that could stand the test of time due to such a unique and popular subject matter. Add on top of that the fact that it is based around Halloween and all the elements were there for a real slasher treat.
A guy travels back to his town of birth to meet up with his former teammates from his school baseball team. Things haven’t been the same for them since a kid that they used to know went mad and killed his coach in cold blood. Upon his return, it seems that he has stirred the wrath of the psychopath and before long he’s fighting to protect not only his own life, but also that of his hi-school sweetheart…
The second major motion picture after a successful debut for a filmmaker is always the hardest to produce. Despite the experience and critical praise that has been received, there’s a lot more pressure to improve upon what was done previously and it’s tougher to build the same level of motivation. I remember when Donnie Darko was released all those years ago, I waited patiently for Richard Kelly’s follow up. When Southland Tales hit screens five-years later, there was no sign of that same spark. I’m happy to say that this is by no means the case with Billy Club and in fact, it’s the total opposite. What we have here is a pitch perfect slasher movie and instead of being strong in just the odd area, the crew have delivered the complete package
As is common in these pictures, the bogeyman’s motive is linked to an incident from the key characters’ childhood. Instead of following the typical Halloween/Prom Night methodology of showing you this event at the outset, it is unravelled in glimpses as the plot gathers momentum. This authentic approach works wonders in sustaining the mystery and it also builds an underscore of tension that doesn’t waiver all the way through. I consider myself amongst the best at guessing the identity of a masked maniac in whodunits, but in honesty, this one had me stumped until the revelation scene. I’d like to be able to state that I was cheated by the screenplay, but I wasn’t; I’d been outsmarted at every turn. It also helps that we are given personalities that grow on us as the story unfolds and the performances are strong enough for us to develop bonds with the cast members. I was especially impressed with Marshall Caswell’s turn as the male protagonist and he looks to be a fine actor that can handle numerous emotional levels. I can’t believe that this was his first full feature
Blood Junkie was marketed as a horror comedy and it did have a number of scenes that were highly amusing. Club’s humour is far more subdued, but when it strikes, it’s handled with care. There’s a hilarious skit in the mid-section that sees a youngster accidentally consume a large amount of shrooms and the directors utilise colours and camera trickery to portray the effects of his hallucinations. In my review of Intruder, I highlighted Spiegel’s energetic photography as highly addictive and entertaining. Well there are examples of the same panache here and it works perfectly to set the tone. When the killer turns up, he does so with menace and his guise (a modified umpire mask and lumberjack get-up) recalls the best backwoods loons. In time honoured slasher tradition, he crosses faces from a team-photo, however this time it’s done with a blow torch that’s also used to stamp the victims with their shirt number post-mortem. You’d expect a film so ripe in so many places to be equally as gory and we are treated to some outrageous kill scenes. These do aim more for realism than extremity though and I believe that suits the film’s set-up perfectly. Whilst the chase sequences are suspenseful and the bogeyman does have that hulking Jason Voorhees-like frame, the best chills for me came from the discovery of the killer’s lair and the childlike score that accompanied it. I found these moments to exude an adept aura of creepiness.
I recently went to see Fincher’s Gone Girl at the cinema and about halfway through, I got that exquisite feeling that comes only when you’re watching a great film. It’s best described as the dropping of your critical guard and just letting the filmmaker’s takeover because you are secure in the knowledge that these guys know what they’re doing. I had that same impulse whilst sitting through Billy Club and I honestly can’t give it any higher praise than that. It makes a change to see a movie that lived up to it’s potential and I was over the moon that it did so. Let’s work together to make it the success that it deserves to be and then we can remain in hope that Rosas and Sommer give us another slasher movie sooner rather than later. Club has already picked up three awards prior to its release and I’m confident that it will receive more after November the 4th. Pre-order your copy without delay.
I had always predicted that it would take a big budget hit to bring back the slasher genre. Movies like Billy Club are making me think otherwise.
– Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer have given me some T-Shirts to give away to lucky readers to follow the November the 4th launch. All you have to do to is answer the questions here and you will be in the mix to receive one. Check back on Halloween for the link 🙂
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl √√√
Sorority House Massacre Part 2 1990
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Starring: Robyn Harris, Melissa Moore, Stacia Zhivago
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This viewing experience was a bit like one of those moments in cheesy films when a character gets a warning like, ‘Don’t go in the basement‘, and then does it anyway. I’d seen the 3.6 rating on the IMDB, I had read the awful reviews posted in the slasher stratosphere and therefore wasn’t feeling motivated to insert this particular cassette into my aging VCR. It had been sitting on my shelf looking cold, lonely and rejected for over fifteen years. Let’s be frank, by 1990, the chance of finding a good low-budget slasher film amongst the rubble was like walking over to the most beautiful girl in the disco after 13 jägerbombs and convincing her to let you take her for a spin in your jalopy. My fiancé however is not as knowledgeable on crap horror films as me and she saw something in the desolate cover that convinced her that we were in for a good time.
Five sorority babes decide to renovate an old house so that they can study and party, but they are unaware that it was the location of a notorious massacre from five years earlier. As darkness falls, the girls are stalked and slaughtered by a hooded and hook-clenching nutjob. Can any of them escape alive?
Well you can’t make all of the people happy all the time. Mullholland Drive is amongst the highest rated films on the IMDB and one of my all-time favourites, but my friend Andy – whom I rate as a good film critic – can’t stand it. He feels it’s poorly paced and too complex. I tell you this because I had a great time with Sorority House Massacre Part Deux and was left somewhat confused by the scathing criticism that it’d received elsewhere.
Now maybe it was the four cans of lager that I’d ingested earlier in the day. Or maybe my brain had taken a temporary break from logical thinking. I’m not sure exactly why, but either way, I found that there was much here to appreciate. I mean, technically we certainly won’t be singing from any rooftops about what’s on display and bra size looked to be much higher on the list of essential casting attributes than acting talent. Once the slashing starts after a slightly lengthy chunk of padding though, the movie builds a solid momentum.
Rumour has it that back in 1989, Jim Wynorski couldn’t get in contact with Roger Corman, so ran the idea for this feature past his wife who gave him the go ahead to shoot in her husband’s absence. The director was only afforded an extremely short production timespan (seven days) and a Happy Meal budget, but managed to knock this together with all that he had. When Mr Corman finally got round to seeing the completed print, he liked it so much that he spliced in some footage from his previous slasher hit, Slumber Party Massacre and gave the go ahead to make it a sequel of sorts to another of his entries, Sorority House Massacre. There’s no doubt that the rationale for doing so was because he felt that it would be much easier to market this as a sequel than as an unknown stand alone. The fact that this story has absolutely nothing to do with either SPM or SHM though, does add an unnecessary amount of WTF??? I wasn’t the biggest fan of Carol Frank’s original Sorority House Massacre, because much like Offerings, I felt that she had taken the level of Halloween pilfering to a point that bordered on duplication. Thankfully, this ‘title only’ follow up adds enough pizazz to bring some credibility to the series.
It works because Wynorski knows his and his budget’s limits. Previous pictures that he had given us were never renowned for their levels of suspense or intrigue, so he played to his strengths and packed the movie with cheese and an exploitation overload. His female characters are buxom and spend the majority of the runtime in tight fitting lingerie. I am not sure what the record for boob shots in a stalk and slasher is, but I am pretty sure that SHM Part 2 is not far off that number. Our final girl is played by Robyn Harris, a British former page 3 model, whose accent leaps from Yorkshire to phony-American two to three times in one sentence. She overcomes this and the fact that she can’t act with her heart stopping beauty. Her thick wavy locks, voluptuous figure and angelic face, reminded me of Traci Lords during her adult-movie years, which is no mean feat. What better way could a screenwriter make you want someone to survive? Don’t worry about character background, just make sure that they’re undeniably hot…
There’s a mystery that is easy enough to solve but keeps things moving and an undercurrent of humour that is never overdone. When we finally get to the scenes that show the girls fighting to survive against the hooded menace, they are competently handled and mix tension and excitement to good effect. Movies like this usually work much better with large dollops of gore and the fact that most of the killings here are off-screen is probably the biggest gripe that I had. It doesn’t ruin the feature by any means, but I couldn’t help but wonder what we might have been treated to if Roger Corman had picked up that first phone call and passed a couple of hundred extra dollars Wynorski’s way. As I said previously, this shares very little with the original Sorority House Massacre and instead feels like a combination of Slumber Party Massacre and Killer Party. Its not going to be the one that makes you leave the light on at night, but it’s fun all the same.
So we really enjoyed watching Wynorski’s first sorority slasher and I’ll have to revisit Hard to Die when I get the chance. Robyn Harris is truly a delectable scream queen and the she alone makes this worth a look. Thankfully, there’s a lot more than just a hot chica and I thoroughly recommend that you track this down
Final Girl: √√√√
Rosemary’s Killer 1981
aka The Prowler aka The Graduation
Directed by: Joseph Zito
Starring: Vicky Dawson, Farley Granger, Laurence Tierney
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So here we have it, my favourite ever slasher movie. (I don’t include Halloween in that, because well – that’s everyone’s favourite). I found out about Rosemary’s Killer when I was at school and by the strangest possible means. My buddies and I used to have a sly cigarette in an old shed in the woods nearby to where I lived. We would always find ripped magazine pages covering the floor and as devious thirteen-year-olds, we would hope to uncover something interesting amongst the mess. Anyway, one night I went there alone and as if by fate, lying in the corner was a horror fanzine in pretty good condition. I was already a huge fan of the genre and so I scurried home to study the pages in the comfort of my bedroom. There in loving colour, my eyes first met with the iconic image from one of the finest killings of the category; – ‘The swimming pool murder’. You can see it in the picture to your right and it is also the background of a SLASH above. I immediately began a hunt for a copy on VHS, which much like my search for Graduation Day, would continue for much longer than I’d hoped.
Now without eBay and Amazon, my method for tracking down slashers was restricted to car boot sales around the London area. I found lots of titles during my travels, including Night Screams, Nightmare (Dutch uncut copy!) Ghostkeeper, Stormbringer,One by One, The Demon, Fatal Games and Psycho Puppet. However the one that I REALLY wanted remained elusive. It started to become an obsession, but after months of trying, I finally came to the disappointing conclusion that I would probably never see the darn thing. Then through a twist of fate, I found a video-search agency that came to my aid with an almost pristine copy. The price of £30 was daylight robbery, but for me it was mission accomplished and I probably would have paid £50
Avalon Bay is getting set for the first annual dance since a young couple were viciously murdered 35 years earlier. The youngsters of the community are eagerly anticipating the event and spend the day preparing and decorating the town hall. The junior Deputy is alone for the first time as the Sheriff has gone on his annual fishing trip and stress levels are raised when it’s revealed that a wanted criminal that slashed two young females could be heading to the area. As darkness descends, it becomes apparent that there’s a maniac dressed in World War 2 army fatigues stalking the Bay. Can the Deputy muster the courage to stop him?
Rosemary’s Killer is not only one of the best examples of stalk and slash cinema from the golden era, but it’s also one of the most underrated. The movie ticks every box in terms of the relevant trappings and instead of just ticking them, in a few places it completely surpasses them. I like the World War II gimmick and I think that the killer’s disguise is an absolutely brilliant touch. His calling card of leaving a rose by his victims is creepily effective and there’s a great moment towards the climax where he offers it, almost romantically, to the final girl before attempting to ram a pitch folk through her! In 2007, a low budget entry by the name of Rose of Death attempted to utilise the same idea, but failed to add the slash with panache necessary to pay tribute to this sterling effort.
It’s Zito’s pacey direction that sustains an awesome amount of suspense during the first half, which works, because even when not much happens, we are kept fully aware that something could at any moment. Other parts of the film equally excel in their technicality with some beautiful photography and a focused score. I especially liked the staircase stalking sequence, which in true popcorn fashion, keeps everything tight by having the intended victim make all the wrong decisions.
Vicky Dawson makes for a classy final girl and she works well in partnership with Christopher Goutman. For relatively inexperienced performers, they carry the picture comfortably and they deliver only one or two weak moments. I thought Dawson was unfortunate not to have built a longer career in cinema, because much like Amy Steel in Friday the 13th 2, she offers a sweet and alluring naivety, but shows brave independence when left alone to face the prowler. Before the final credits rolled, my wife who was watching with me said, “tough girl” – my sentiments exactly. Farley Granger added class to the cast list, but it’s been confirmed that he had a horrible time on set and suffered some uncomfortable sweating during the make-up effects. Laurence Tierney’s on-board too, although I have no idea why, his character is barely used to much effect and was probably a waste of budget.
Tom Savini’s effects once again steal the show and there’s no denying that Killer is amongst the best of his work. We feel at times that what we are watching is almost too realistic and the swimming pool killing even includes an aftermath shot that’s uncomfortable in its authenticity. It happens as the victim’s lifeless body sinks to the tiles below and her legs begin to twitch as her nervous system comes to terms with the fact that the lights are going out for the last time. The best part of the sequence was actually a mistake from Savini, because at the same time as the gallons of blood seep from her wound, some bubbles also appear under the water (from the pipe pumping the goo). Instead of re-shooting, the effects master recommended that Zito utilise the footage as is, because the bubbles look as if they were the last gasps of the dying teenager’s breath.
It’s been noted that the plot structure is similar to the same year’s My Bloody Valentine and the two would work superbly on a double-bill. Strangely enough, what one title lacks the other boasts in abundance and if you were to mix the two together you would have the perfect slasher film. Whilst MBV also has some great kill scenes (equally as gratuitous) and a good-fun factor that adds momentum to the plot, it lacks any decent suspense. Rosemary’s Killer on the other hand is nail-bitingly tense in places, but has some serious problems with its pace.
Now I picked my favourite slasher film when I was about fourteen years old and much like my love for the Arsenal (the closest team to where I lived), I must admit that it was a ‘teenager’s decision’. Adults have the ability to analyse; step back and view the bigger picture before making a choice. Young minds do everything spontaneously and I didn’t notice the faults back then in Rosemary’s Killer that I see now. As I said, it starts superbly and comes across almost like an anxiety marathon. My Mrs and I were watching it together in silence, knowing full well that there would be a shock at any moment (And I have seen this flick a lot of times). Then after about thirty minutes the rapidity dries up and the film can’t maintain the same thrust.
It’s not necessarily the fault of Joseph Zito, but the script wastes too much time building the mystery in locations that are drab and overtly dark. Some parts could have been much shorter or removed completely during post production to make the film slicker. I especially thought that the length of time used when the Deputy was contacting the Sheriff was ridiculous and ultimately ended up being a pointless diversion.
Despite those issues, this is still one of the best entries of the golden period. It does drag a bit in the development of the plot, but the excellent kill scenes and two fantastic leads more than make up for it. Joseph Zito was widely tipped to be a future horror maestro after his work on this and Friday the 13th The Final Chapter (one of the better sequels of the series). When horror began to lose its way towards the second half of the decade, he moved over to action-orientated flicks, which didn’t give him the same chances and his career unfortunately faded.
I would say that Rosemary’s Killer, even under its superb two alias titles, is a perfect example of a solid horror director’s work. It’s also a time-capsule from the best year of the slasher genre thus far. I’ve seen it more times than I care to remember but still not once too many. Enjoy…
Killer Guise: √√√√√
Final Girl √√√√√
Slumber Party Massacre Part III 1990
Directed by: Sally Mattison
Starring: Keely Christian, Brandi Burkett, Maria Ford
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I feel a bit strange posting a review of Slumber Party Massacre III. It’s mainly because I’ve never covered the first chapter, which is one of the biggest and most popular slasher movies of all time. Still I watched this one more recently and I decided that none of you would really care or even notice the chronological order of which I work through the series and so I took them from behind. (Oooh yeh!)
I’ll go in to this in more detail when I get round to tackling Amy Jones’ cheese and marinara extravaganza that launched the franchise, but I always felt that it was one of those movies that was blessed with a reputation that was built upon the back of a Brontosaurus. What do I mean by that I hear you ask? Well it became successful based on elements or an element that didn’t actually exist in reality. Or in other words, it gained a legion of imitators and a legendary status whilst not really bringing anything new to the template. Oh, you didn’t know that Brontosauruses were frauds? Well, you learn something new every day my friends…
A young girl decides to enjoy the final hours of having her parent’s house to herself by inviting some friends over for a slumber party. Before long, their boyfriend’s gate crash and the frolics begin to flow. Little do they know that a psychopath is amongst them and he’s brought a large power tool along for the ride…
Let’s be honest with each other here; Part II was as good as a single’s disco in Pripyat town centre and the series really needed to up the quality levels if it wanted to sign off in style. In the end, they did what everyone that’s having a bit of a visionary nightmare should do when the chips are down… went back to basics. By doing so they created not only the strongest entry of the entire trilogy, but also one of the best slasher movies of the late eighties/early nineties.
Número tres doesn’t play by the rules of either of its predecessors and instead begins as something of a mystery/whodunit. Not a huge amount of time or effort is spent on disguising the identity of the nut job though and he reveals himself about halfway through, which allows for a pulsating final rout. Instead of him waiting around for victims as they wander off to do something stupid like making out in a deserted place or searching for a missing friend, he just confronts and goes after the remaining five or six as a group and it’s something that we don’t get to see often enough. It also allows the stranded girls to work together in conjunction to save themselves when the maniac finally traps one of them alone. This leads to a gobsmacking moment when sexy semi-scream queen Maria Ford’s character, Maria, who had fought valiantly to protect two of her buddies moments earlier, is slowly murdered whilst those same ‘friends’ watch on without doing anything to help. No fair! I’ll come back to that scene in a bit.
For the first slaughter, which happens after only eight-minutes, the maniac remains off screen, but for the next couple he dons an awesome guise that’s exceptionally creepy. One of the things that I thought was weak about part one was the fact that the killer looked like such an ordinary guy. So much had been borrowed already from John Carpenter’s Halloween that I was somewhat disappointed that they settled on a bogeyman in a denim jacket and jeans. Thankfully, this time around we get a full-on masked, power-tool clenching nut job and in effect, the complete slasher package.
Whilst SPM 3 can hardly be classified as a gross out classic, it does have a few extremely brutal murders and the film feels credibly menacing when compared against the two earlier efforts that share its branding. The comedic slant has been lessened to an almost bare minimum and an eerie score from Jamie Sheriff builds some credible tension. Director Sally Mattison does well to enlighten the tone on only the rarest of occasions and the feeling of dread remains consistently strong all the way through. Aside from a couple of flat shots that I felt could have been more creative, she did a solid job on her debut and pulled off some decent stuff. It’s interesting, because the SPM series are famous for having female screenwriters and directors, but you’d never in a million years guess that was the case by what you see on the screen here. Some of these chicks get a pretty horrific time, especially Maria in the scene that I said I’d come back to earlier. After being pinned down, stripped and sexually assaulted (almost raped) whilst her friends just stand there and look, she’s disemboweled by a power drill after begging for her life. It’s pretty grim to be honest and not what I’d have expected.
We cut away from the action now and then to a bumbling cop who ignores various calls from the girls and thinks that they’re just having a drunken party. This is of course is the most basic and simple screenwriting method of removing the chance of any armed-police attending the scene. Midway through, he introduces a plot-branch about a cop that had committed suicide very recently. Then we learn immediately after, that the father of Jackie, the likely heroine, is a successful lawyer. I was sure from that chain of events that we were going to be given a really good back-story and motive that unraveled more as the flick came to a close. I mean why else put those sequences in that order? Was it an investigation from Jackie’s dad that forced the cop to kill himself? Did he leave behind an orphaned deranged killer that’s seeking revenge on the lawman’s daughter and her friends? It seemed fairly logical by what we had seen to expect something along those lines, but what we got was; well, not quite what we’d been promised.
It looks as if they rushed the back-story parts and left one too many loose ends. I mean, who was the long-haired guy from the beach? Why did he climb into the basement? What was it exactly about the uncle? Was he an abuser? Was that sexually or psychologically? Is the girl watching this with me really not wearing any knickers? Well at least one of those I can find the answer to, but the rest are ongoing mysteries. Excuse me, ahem…
Still, whining aside, as far as slasher movies go, this is a rip roaring one and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of the reasons that I fell in love with the genre in the first place. Cheesy pop-rock tracks, beautifully dumb women, awful acting, a threatening masked killer, some effective scares, oh and Marta Kober! Did I tell you that the busty brunette that got speared in Friday Part II turns up for a cameo and gets a pretty good kill scene? Is that enough? No? Well how about death by vibrator? Does that tickle your fanciful spots? (No pun, honest)
SPM 3 is not a perfect movie, but what it does well, it does really well. I have added it to the 30 greatest all time slashers list. Let me know of you agree. Peace…
Killer Guise: √√√
The Burning 1981
Directed by: Tony Maylam
Starring: Brian Matthews, Brian Becker, Jason Alexander
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Tony Maylam’s The Burning is one of the most notorious non-franchise slashers of all time. Even before pre production had begun in the summer of 1980, the movie had an incredible buzz surrounding it. Enough so in fact that superstar horror FX maestro Tom Savini rejected the chance to return to the Friday the 13th series for Steve Miner’s classic sequel and instead took this project for a lesser salary.
Of all the peak period genre entries, none can boast the depth in terms of personnel that was put together here. Alongside the aforementioned magic of Savini, the cast included Jason Alexander, Ned Eisenberg and Oscar winners Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter. The grim and unique score came from former Yes keyboardist, Rick Wakeman and directorial duties went to Tony Maylam, who at the time had been predicted for big things after his work on rock band Genesis’ outstanding concert video from 1977.
There can be little doubt that the hype and quality in recruitment was down to an early example of the skills of production partnership Harvey and Bob Weinstein, whose company Miramax films would go on to become one of the most successful entertainment brands in Hollywood over the next three decades. This was the first feature length motion picture to be released under that brand and thereafter, they would go on to distribute over fifty films, including classics such as The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction and even Wes Craven’s Scream. If that wasn’t enough, then can you believe that the script was co-written by future Paramount Pictures CEO Brad Grey? Astonishing…
After a prank goes wrong, a sadistic camp caretaker returns to the site where the accident took place, looking for revenge. Armed with a shiny pair of shears, Cropsy begins to stalk a group of counsellors with mutilation on his mind…
In the UK, The Burning was one of the first entries to join the video nasty list and it received perhaps higher persecution for the fact that Thorn-EMI accidentally released the full uncut print instead of the censored copy that the BBFC had cleared. The tapes were impounded and destroyed, but bizarrely, Thorn-EMI were more fortunate than David Grant who was sent to prison for doing the exact same thing when he distributed a longer version of the film Blood Splash a year later. I paid an absolute fortune for an unedited version of this when I was a nipper and it was a mistake as the cassette had an infuriating line running through the middle, which made it almost as bad as just sticking to the 18 rated VHS. Watching it now though, on the BlueRay pre-screener that I was sent, is a glorious experience and the film looks as if it could have been a production from the last decade. The masters have obviously been well looked after and playing it on my Plasma allowed me to turn out the lights and almost feel like I was in the cinema in 1981.
Maylam attempts the John Carpenter methodology of slowly generating an undertone of dread that boils along in the background and then attacks like a shark in the places when the killer strikes. A great example of this is the infamous ‘Raft Massacre’ sequence, which boasts an almost perfect build up. Wakeman’s scoring warns us that something is about to happen, but the camera never reveals enough to let us be sure. When the loon finally strides on to the screen, the bloodletting is quick, brutal and graphic. To this day, you can count on one hand the amount of times in slasher cinema that an antagonist has taken out so many victims in one fell swoop. Tom Savini proves once again here why he was the go to guy for the most realistic special effects back in the overkill period of the slasher cycle.
What I like about the script is that it spends time developing its characters and their performances really add the necessary realism that makes what happens later seem all the more shocking. Jason Alexander steals every scene as a quick-witted camper, whilst Brian Matthews, Leah Ayers and Ned Eisenberg were solid and flawless in their roles. The dialogue and banter works not only to add fun to the parts where the horror takes a backseat, but also to develop a genuine level of believability in the set up and I found it easy to forget that I was watching a group of actors. The screenplay also separates itself from the multitude of its genre brethren by having a ‘final boy’ instead of the usual heroine left alone to face the marauding maniac. The thing is that despite the fact that Brian Becker does a good job with the role, the decision is a risk that just doesn’t pay off.
The Burning has become a true cult classic and has legions of admirers in not only slasher but also horror movie circles. Personally though, I think that it is slightly overrated and perhaps undeserving of so much notoriety. Despite its visible slickness, it lacks a real cutting edge in its moments of terror. Whilst the gore is great and almost like a snuff film in places, the murder sequences lack jump scares or suspense and there’s very little true tension. This is most evident in the conclusion, which I found to be really disappointing. Our hero heads up with an axe to take on the boogeyman and we’re expecting at least a fight. There’s a revelation that builds up a deserving target, at least in the eyes of our nut job caretaker, but Maylam’s attempts at prolonging the money shot are overwrought. In the end it’s more ‘was that it?’ than ‘oh yeah that’s it!’ if you get what I mean. Whilst the notorious ‘Raft Massacre’ is magnificent in terms of the excellence of the make-up FX and it’s an all round great postcard of slasher genre splatter, has anyone ever wondered how it might have looked had it not been SO rapidly edited?
As I highlighted earlier, the script doesn’t bother with a traditional female heroine and instead develops a male geeky type guy in her place. The thing is though we are not talking about a loveable mummy’s boy here. Instead, he is conveyed as an unlikeable pervert and it’s just too hard to bond with him or even want him to survive. It’s funny because before this, we watched The Prowler and Joseph Zito opted for a conventional lead character there and the difference is impossible not to notice. When Vicky Dawson was trying her darnedest to fend off the pitch folk clenching maniac, my partner shouted, “Go on girl!” But there was never any chance of the Mrs doing the same thing here. We ended up saying that Todd should leave Cropsy to get on with it and save himself instead of risking his life for the dweeby Alfred.
I have regular conversations with you guys and girls about these slasher films and I know that not all of you will agree with my view. That’s the beauty of the genre though; everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Tom Savini delivers on the goo-o-rama, there are some nice performances, it’s beautifully produced and Rick Wakeman’s score is a masterpiece. If I could however take maybe 15% of its reputation and give it to Nightmare at Shadow Woods, I would feel a lot better about the whole thing. Tony Maylam’s biggest film after this was Split Second with Rutger Hauer. Maybe this picture would have been better if Steve Miner had also opted not to work on Friday the 13th Part 2 and followed his friend Tom over to Camp Blackfoot? Just a thought…