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
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…