Directed by: Andrea Bianchi
Starring: Gino Concari, Patrizia Falcone, Silvia Conti
Review by Luis Joaquín González
It’s somewhat ironic that Lucio Fulci supervised this belated entry to the giallo catalogue. Despite being two years his elder, Andrea Bianchi’s work has always made him look like something of a protégé of the notorious craftsman. There are many Fulci trademarks to be found in the works of Bianchi. Most notably the extreme use of gratuitous gore and a taste for barely logical plot points. Over the years many have labeled Fulci as an inept filmmaker that hid his directorial shortcomings behind the talent of his special effects team. But titles like Don’t Torture a Duckling and Zombi 2 have pretty much taken the gust out of that argument. If these critics truly believe that Fulci was an incompetent director, then gawd only knows what they’d make of Bianchi. His most famous movie – the notorious Burial Ground – is great fun if you love blood and guts. But if you judge it on it’s merits as a motion picture, then it fails in just about every department. The acting was diabolical, the direction non-existent and I don’t even think that it was filmed from a script. I hoped that Massacre would keep the gratuitous exploitation edge, but I was also looking for a little more credibility from Bianchi this time around.
Massacre kicks off with a gruesome murder that was re-used by Fulci along with other gore scenes in the bemusing Nightmare Concert. A guy wearing red gloves, shades and a beanie hat is seen cruising along a lengthy stretch of road. He pulls up beside a young woman in a skimpy dress who greets him with the classic line, “Hey cutie wanna make love mmmm!” Unfortunately, ‘making love’ isn’t exactly what this guy had in mind, and he proceeds to chop off the woman’s hand and then decapitate her with an axe. Next up we meet a film crew that are shooting a zombie flick in the area called Dirty Blood. There’s a whole heap of tension on the set because it doesn’t look like any of the employees seem to get along with one another. The lead actress Jennifer (Patrizia Falcone) is dating a Local Police Captain called Walter (Gino Concarni). We soon learn from him that this maniacal killer has already murdered four other victims, and the authorities don’t have a clue to his identity. Things really get nasty after the producer calls in a medium to hold a séance and teach his cast and crew the ways of the supernatural. The circle is broken when an evil spirit invades the sitting and forces the Medium to end the seance. Only hours later an unseen maniac begins slaughtering his way through the cast list one by one. Will any of them survive…?
Surprisingly, Massacre is not as bad as I had initially expected. Silvano Tessicini did a credible job with the photography and the director even managed to build suspense in places. No really. As this is a Bianchi joint, the exploitation is spread thick and fast, and there’s more female nudity than an Electric Blue omnibus. Look out for the scene where a victim flees the marauding killer with only a short skirt covering her modesty! The gory murders reveal a great flair for the macabre from the filmmaker and there’s a body count to rival an Arnold Schwarzenegger machine gun frenzy. You probably won’t solve the twist and turn mystery with ease, plus the boathouse massacre is a tremendous piece of mayhem, which deserves a second look. Massacre also boasts some wacky pre-politically correct dialogue, which will make even the most sinister viewer smile. It’s also worth noting the amount of American stalk and slash clichés that have been incorporated with the more typical native giallo platitudes. At one point a fornicating couple are slaughtered whilst parked in the woods – an indisputable trademark of the USA teen slasher.
But still this is far too bizarrely structured to be anything other than good in a bad way. As was the case with Burial Ground, there’s just too much inadvertent humor to allow this to join the giallo elite. The murders certainly could have benefited with a little more directorial flourish and the musical accompaniment was continuously monotomous to the point of frustration. Bianchi certainly has an eye for a beautiful actress, and he always tries to include everything from lesbian proposals to soft-core pornography. Only problem is that he seems to prioritize acting ability way below bra size. It’s a flaw that’s only too evident from the start.
The net result is a film that will satisfy forgiving fans that aren’t expecting anything along the lines of Tenebrae or even Eyeball. To put it another way, if you could sit through Burial Ground without cringing at the screen then you’ll probably enjoy this.
Final Girl: √
Sorority Girls and the Creature from Hell 1989
Directed by: John McBrearty
Starring: Deborah Dutch, BJ Davis, Dori Courtney
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Although I have to confess that’s it a real honour supplying y’all with a weekly dose of slasher trash to chew through, the constraints of time and the pressure of the everyday hustle and bustle of a young Spaniard in the United Kingdom do take their toll. Especially when you have a Mrs like mine who would much rather watch ‘Zakochani’ for the hundred-millionth time than anything with masked killers and screaming chicks in it.
Anyway it also helps a great deal when you guys and gals recommend me slasher pictures to post, because with a collection of so many titles, sometimes it’s hard to pick out just the one to watch. Funnily enough though, I got the strangest of emails recently. It was strange because it came from the address ‘free email service – do not reply’ and I have no idea who sent it. He/she recommended that I review Sorority Girls and the Creature from Hell and it’s one that to be honest, I had left at the bottom of my VHS pile and completely forgotten about. So thanks anonymous mailer…. This is just for you…
These late eighties slasher movies are usually a giggle because filmmakers would always try to spice up the formula with a supernatural twist or an ambitious synopsis. The censorship uproar that had left patchworks of earlier entries meant that producers could no longer utilise gory effects as a marketing gimmick and so instead they went for big-breasted bimbos and that’s just fine by me.
It kicks off with a haze of cheesy action. We are introduced to a guy who spends his time uncovering Native American artifacts in a secluded cave (he should’ve known better – hasn’t he seen Scalps?). At the same time, a group of prisoners are driven out to do manual labour in some woodland. The benefit of this work is not really clarified, because they seem to just be digging pointless holes among some trees. (Were they preparing their own graves? Wow what a great plot twist that would have been). But seriously, couldn’t they have painted a church, worked on a construction site or done something that helped local society? Anyway, the guards are momentarily disrupted by a sorority girl with a boob-tube and a push bike, which gives the jailbirds the opportunity to launch a violent, but successful escape attempt and they sprint off in separate directions.
A large number of the escapees are shot and killed or captured soon after by a sheriff with a machine gun that sounds like a GI Joe toy, but a villain called Gerome Disenso, who brings to mind a poor man’s Richard Marx, manages to flee into the forest. I guess by the search that’s made thereafter, he must be a dangerous criminal; however we never really find out why we should fear him. I mean, perhaps he was just a run of the mill down on his luck kinda guy that was doing a week in jail for jaywalking or something? It would have been nice to be told such things.
So next up, we meet a gang of sorority jocks (that look about 38) and some free and easy bunnies that are on their way to a party at the cabin that belongs to the archaeologist from the beginning. Unfortunately for them, and him, his relentless digging has uncovered an ancient demonic relic that has possessed him and sent him out to murder anyone that he bumps into. So with a bloodthirsty killer, a secluded location AND an escaped convict, these guys are in for the party of their lives… (Most likely the last)
By the first thirty minutes of SGATCFH, you would never tell that this is a slasher film and instead you’d probably be under the impression that you were set for a First Blood rip-off. We seem to be focused mainly on the jailbreak storyline and it’s only later that things fall back into the traditional set up. It’s been said that back in the glory days of the cycle, producers would pride themselves on the amount of helicopter shots that they could afford to put in to their pictures. The Burning had a good one and Maniac borrowed a few from Dario Argento’s Inferno. Well these guys managed to get a full military chopper out for the hunt for their man on the run, but I’m convinced that it had more to do with John McBrearty knowing a guy that owned one rather than him having a healthy budget to play with.
Why do I have this opinion? Well the film is filled with a cast that may be the worst ever put together in a barrel-bottom ensemble and that can only be because they couldn’t scrape together what was needed to fund anyone better. These guys greet things like the uncovering of a freshly mutilated corpse with the same emotional oomph that a normal person puts into changing the TV channel. I have grown accustomed to over or under-acting through the years, but completely non-acting is a new one for me. The killer, who has a cheesier than cheesy black and white heavy breath POV, is rarely seen under any kind of light, which is obviously because the make-up effects (or rubber mask) for him were so shoddy. Saying that though, I was impressed with the screenplay for the first 45 minutes or so, because it split the characters into separate groups and gave each of them a story that eventually threw them together in the cabin for the grand finale. Whilst this showed an impressive flair for structure from first-timer McBrearty, he didn’t give us any kind of central protagonist and so the final pair felt more like they’d literally been picked out of a hat than built up to battle the demonized assailant. We were introduced to a geeky virginal type in the early scenes and I felt sure that she would be the one that would end up being the heroine, but instead she was one of the first of the troupe to get splattered.
Despite the problems with the feature in terms of the poor quality of the dramatics and the lack of gooey effects, I still thought that it was actually a fun flick to sit through. It’s just so incredibly cheesy and dumb that I think you’d be hard pushed to find someone that wouldn’t enjoy it. The ancient artifact that possesses the unfortunate excavator and sends him on a kill spree, speaks flawless English with a New York accent, which is impressive for something that’s been entombed in a cave since the days of the Native American tribes. We never get to find out why it needs the blood of those dead bodies in the first place and I was guessing for why it could be. Will it bring him back from beyond the grave so that he can cause havoc again? Is it a plan to rid the world of heinous acting? Your guess is as good as mine. Don’t you just love a villain with a clear motivation? Also could someone tell me the point of the prison break-out part of the story? Maybe I missed it or something, because from what I saw, it went absolutely nowhere, changed absolutely nothing and affected absolutely no one. Confused? I most definitely was.
Sorority Girls and The Creature From Hell mixes a kaleidoscope score (very similar in fact to the one from Ruggero Deodato’s BodyCount), some fun characters, loads of big boobs and a laughable story to make a cheese-drenched treat that a SLASH above readers will most definitely enjoy watching. It’s basically Scalps with an overdose of inadvertent stupidity and that my friends is surely a good thing. I loved it.
Final Girl: √√
The Hook of Woodland Heights 1989
Directed by: Michael Savino
Starring: Christine McNamara, Robert W. Allen, Michael Elyanow
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s easy to make a slasher film. No really, it is. Compared to any other cinematic genre, the funds and tools needed to get a masked killer movie on the shelves are quite simple to put together. That’s why a category so low on room for authenticity and creativity is as overcrowded as a central-London bus during rush hour. Although it may be a relatively simple task to pitch a dime store maniac against a group of your closest buddies and then package it as the most shocking cinematic gross-out since The Exorcist, creating a decent entry has become something of an impossibility for modern up and coming filmmakers.
Many, MANY budding directors have attempted bravely to give the cycle a new landmark feature, but the results have almost always been resoundingly dismal. Of the six-hundred-plus entries currently in existence, only a 3% have achieved recognition from celebrated cinema critics. 3%! Despite those shocking statistics, the genre continues to thrive on the bottom shelves of video stores across the globe and every now and then future stars are discovered hamming their way through a woefully uninspired killer in the woods yarn.
The huge personal satisfaction gained by a crew being involved in the production of a film that people have actually seen – that has actually gained some kind of back-hand distribution – also cannot be ignored. For most people it’s a dream that’s as far away as an undiscovered solar system; but for a select few – even if the said feature just happens to be an awful low-budget splatter flick – that dream has become reality.
With that said, it’s easy to understand the motivation behind the production of The Hook of Woodland Heights. Released on a twin-pack with the equally appetizing (in the cheesiest possible way) Attack of the Killer Refrigerator, Hook is one of those movies, made strictly tongue in cheek in order to be consumed in a similar fashion. Long live trash cinema…
It all kicks off with an introduction to our central characters. First off we meet Tommy, a weasel-like jock whose modus operandi throughout the runtime seems only to be to succeed in getting his leg over his frumpy sweetheart Katie. Kate is also no one’s definition of a genius and spends most of the movie attempting to do everything in her power to get herself killed. The pair head out to the serenity of the local woodland, blissfully unaware that Mason Kraine – a maniacal one-armed maniac – has taken it upon himself to escape the surprisingly cosy confinement of the local asylum and head out to bolster his already impressive list of victims. Will the angst-ridden youngsters be able to make-out in peace and avoid the now fork-handed psycho? Do ducks float on water?
Hook is an out and out slasher movie alright and seems content to swim amongst the platitudes of its brethren. There’s no danger of breaking any new ground here as director Savino stumbles through the clichés like a wrong-footed alcoholic on a Marine assault course.
With that said, in many places the film transcends its $32,000 budget. There’s some fun gore on display and the hilarious performance of the hyperactive killer is worth the budget rental price alone. It even plays host to by far the most bizarre murder ever committed to cheap videotape. Death by clipboard anybody? Exactly.
Hook of Woodland Heights runs no longer than forty minutes, which is probably the perfect length for a picture of this genre. I mean, it manages to pack in all the necessary character development, whilst in the same breath laughing in the face of titles such as The Prey, which found it essential to pad their runtimes with pointless and irrelevant footage in order to bolster the length of the feature. The script packs in everything that’s needed to keep the plot running and the audience are never left feeling short-changed.
Rumour has it that none of the cast and crew saw a shiny circular dime for their participation in the production of this ambitious title, so kudos to director Savino for keeping them motivated enough to deliver enthusiastic, if not decent, performances. There are the expected continuity shotgun holes and the acting is as rancid as a blooper reel from a daytime soap, but Hook is by no means the worst slasher flick on the market.
Savino even tries to go all controversial by putting a pre-teen to the sword, but things never get too mean-spirited. This is mainly thanks to the killer’s laugh-inducing performance and his awful make up, which leaves him looking like an anemic Russell Brand.
OK so there’s nothing here to recommend, but if you’re like me and have an unhealthy addiction to slasher trash, give this cheapie a try. There are a lot worse efforts clogging up Amazon.
Rush Week 1989
Directed by: Bob Bralver
Starring: Pamela Ludwig, Dean Hamilton, Roy Thinnes
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I read it a lot, but have to argue that saying Halloween was the first American slasher film is just lazy journalism. Simply check out Black Christmas, Class Reunion Massacre, Drive-in Massacre, Savage Weekend or The Town that Dreaded Sundown for pieces that clearly pre-date 1978 and have many of the relevant trappings. There’s no denying however that John Carpenter’s seminal classic was the feature responsible for cementing the trademarks and turning them into an actual sub-genre that others could populate. The zillions of imitations that dominated horror cinema throughout the following ten-years are as much a part of eighties nostalgia as spandex or bad hair styles. A retro eighties party without someone dressing up as Jason or Freddy is no party at all. Even Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – the great PS2 game, which heavily parodied that era – referenced the slasher genre in a satirical way, confirming it’s importance as a referential milestone.
There are still about 10-15 slasher movies being released every year, most of them very low budget productions, but the eighties will always be recognised as the golden period. The whole cycle started with a bang. In 1980, Night of the Demon, Friday the 13th, Terror Train and To all a Good Night were all released before Summer and a new craze had been launched, which would continue without interruption for over twelve-months and carry on a lesser scale right through until the nineties.
So what does that have to do with Rush Week, I hear you ask? Well this was the last slasher movie to be produced in the golden decade, even though it was released a while later. That makes this an interesting reference point as you can see how much the genre had adapted during that period. If Friday the 13th was the flagship for the launch of ten-years of teen splatter, Bob Bralver’s slasher was the swan song.
During rush week, a young journalism student picks up on a story when she notices that young women seem to be disappearing after a seedy meeting with a photographer after hours in the science lab. A killer, dressed in a cape and old-man mask is stalking the dormitory and offing lonesome females. Who could be the masked menace and what are his motives?
Ok so we’re definitely not breaking new ground here. Set on a college campus, the movie follows the traditional route without ever attempting to add something even slightly adventurous to the norm. I guess the first thing to notice about the difference between this and its brothers from nine-years earlier is the lack of gore. Whilst Friday the 13th set a new tone with its gruesome death scenes and investment in special effects, stringent censors and bad media had left many movies with their ‘money shots’ on cutting room floors before they had reached audiences, so film-maker’s were much more prudent with their budgets in latter years. This killer has an authentic double-bladed axe, but the majority of the murders are off-screen and therefore lack any punch.
Bralver seems a director far more interested in Frat jokes and teen fart humour than he does horror and the majority of the runtime is filled with Porky’s style character development and a blossoming romance between the leads. The slashings take a back seat quite early in the picture and it made me wonder if they had chucked in a hooded killer to make the flick look more attractive to prospective financiers? There’s the chance to guess the cast member that’s hiding beneath the mask and cape, but the mystery is poorly handled and you’ll see through the apparent red herrings with relevant ease. There’s a smidgen of suspense during the final stalking sequence through the school corridors and some looming tracking shots help to build a nice atmosphere. To be fair, I have to mention that the movie does reference its brethren by casting Dominick Brascia (Friday the 13th 5/Evil Laugh) and Kathleen Kinmont (Halloween 4) in small cameos.
It seems like they had a good budget to play with and the cinematography is crisp and adventurous. The leads carried the film really well and built some nice chemistry during the romance and I really liked Pamela Ludwig as the final girl. It’s amazing to think that her film journey quickly stagnated soon after, because she had enough talent to build a career in pictures. Her co-star Dean Hamilton would find his fortune as a producer, working both in Television and Cinema. His biggest investment so far, the awful chick flick Blonde and Blonder (which he also directed), was absolutely ripped to shreds by critics, but proved popular enough for a sequel and at the time of writing, he is working on a project with ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ director Joel Zwick.
If the producers had decided to veto the lashings of blood for fear of extreme censorship, they certainly didn’t scrimp on the nudity. There are more breasts on display here than feeding time in a maternity ward and I personally would have loved to have studied here at Tambers college as it seems every female student has the body of a Playboy model. In another slightly bizarre twist, hardly any of the developed characters that we meet become victims of the axe clenching madman. It seems women are simply introduced to take off their kit and then scream as the hatchet swings, which means that we feel absolutely zero sympathy for them. That adds ammunition to my suspicions that the slasher elements were a mere sub-plot to allow the story to focus on the romance/dorm ingredients that seemed to certainly be the priority.
So not much of a final farewell from Rush Week for the decade of decadence where the box office was stalked and slashed by masked killers like there would be no tomorrow. This is not necessarily a bad film, but will only act more as a small snack if your hungry for a full slasher buffet.
Final Girl √√√√
Bloodbath in Psychotown 1989
Directed by: Alessandro De Gaetano
Starring: Donna Baltron, Ron Arragon, Dave Elliot
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Some movies are overwhelming with a power to evoke passion in a viewer, which wraps them up in the director’s illusion throughout the runtime. A few motion pictures become truly life altering experiences, and Bloodbath in Psycho Town manages to fit in that category. The morning after I watched this barrel scraped ‘slasher’, I woke up to a hefty £200 pound fine for unpaid parking tickets that I was unaware that I had ever received. I got up and went to play for my local soccer team and we were knocked out of the London lower league cup by a crunching 3-0 defeat. Much later I received a phone call from the girl that I was seeing, telling me that she wanted to discuss a rumour that she heard about a ‘gentleman’s only’ weekend in Amsterdam, which I thought I’d got away with a few weeks earlier. Then to add more pain to this bizarrely unfortunate day, my beloved Arsenal were beaten 8-2 by their biggest rivals Manchester United in an early taster for the season ahead. Life looked pretty grim…
All these drastically unlucky occurrences began with ninety wasted minutes of my life that I spent in front of this totally forgotten Z grade Troma trash. It’s almost as if…well… the ESP plot line had escaped the feature and invaded my life. Hideo Nakata’s The Ring was a famous story about a video that could jinx viewers to the worst kind of misfortune. Well now I’m sure I’ve uncovered an earlier example of this bizarre phenomenon. To be honest, I was somewhat relieved when seven days had passed and I was still alive!
Eric and his girlfriend Donna head to the remote town of Casa Della with three days left to finish their video project for graduation. Eric has decided to make a documentary about the village because it has a long history of bizarre occurrences. They bed down at a dilapidated mansion, which is owned by Eric’s father and was the scene of a recent unsolved murder. Donna feels that the abode may well be haunted, but her boyfriend disagrees. The following day, the couple head out to interview the locals and ask them for their opinions on the tragedy that happened only a week earlier. All that they find is a group of psychic palm reading hippies, who seem afraid of Donna’s subtle telepathic abilities. Before long the inevitable hooded nut job turns up and begins stalking the dumb-as-you-like students. Despite being given hundreds of blatant warnings from residents and even voices from beyond the grave, they decide to get to the bottom of the mystery. Just who or what could be behind the recent disappearances?
There’s not too much to put into words about this one, mainly because not a great deal happens. I will tell you though that ‘Drip of Blood in a Timber Yard’ is a much more suitable title for this snoozer. Troma has an awful track record with the slasher genre. Movies like Angel Negro, Girl’s School Screamers and the abysmal The Creeper have made Blood Hook, Splatter University and Graduation Day – the best of their output – look like Apocalypse Now in comparison. Alessandro De Gaetano’s offering continues the low quality tradition by being so mind numbingly boring that you’ll believe you’ve been locked in a concrete tomb for the entire runtime. With a title like Bloodbath in Psycho Town, I must admit that I expected a few gruesome murders. Unfortunately we get one anaemic chance to see the killer use his blade, which is hardly a Bloodbath and just isn’t good enough over ninety minutes. This was in fact so yawn-inducing that the director included five pathetic sex scenes featuring the same unappealing couple in a weak attempt at upping the momentum.
The hero and heroine of the feature, the ‘stars’ of aforementioned sex-scenes, are eminently watchable for the simple fact that they represent mankind’s mysterious personality-link with wood. Yes, if you thought that you had previously viewed timber-like performances, these two will leave you convinced that they studied drama in a forest under the tuition of a wilting Great Oak. Eric was particularly amusing, as he effortlessly proved that not only the T100s in the Terminator movies are devoid of human emotion. His girlfriend, who should have known better after previously appearing in both Hide and Go Shriek and Shallow Grave, managed to dictate the tedium with her constant nagging, which was as unrelenting as the lack of action. Not only were they a pair of human tree-trunks, but they also looked completely disinterested. That’s awful for up and coming actors.
Funnily enough, a member of the crew has written a comment on the IMDB about Psychotown, which attempts to explain why the movie turned out so badly. He says that director Alessandro De Gaetano blew most of the budget in the local Spanish restaurant and then split town without paying the crew. Even though these reports are intriguing, the poster loses credibility by coming across as totally bitter. He takes a snipe at De Gaetano’s sexuality, which is a cheap shot and also says Spanish food is rubbish (unforgivable lol!). Anyway, it most definitely looks like there were some problems on the set and maybe this resulted in the awkward picture that exists today.
On the plus side, Psycho Town does manage to build a smidgen of atmosphere in places. I liked the Blair Witch-alike interview scenes, which of course pre-date that movie by a good ten years. It looks quite obvious that the plan was to build a slow boiling and atmospheric psychological slasher film, much like Unhinged from 1980. It’s poorly handled though and a huge majority of the runtime is mind numbingly flat and forgettable. This only just manages to slot into the slasher category, due to the brief appearance of the mystery killer in a bright yellow rain coat. I believe that with only one on-screen murder in its locker, most genre fans will allow this to pass them by. The whereabouts of the touted ‘bloodbath’ is one of cinema’s biggest mysteries and it is a dumb and misleading title. A few years later, my good ‘friends’ over at Troma went one step further, by calling it Video Demons do Psycho Town and gave it a cover that made it look more like a supernatural gorefest. That’s exactly what the feature DIDN’T need.
This is no longer obscure, because it has been packaged on DVD under the aforementioned new name. When I first heard that this was happening, I thought that knowing Troma, it would be something like, ‘Tonnes of Naked Chicks, Gore and Academy Award winning actors in a Huge Massacre’. To be honest, I wasn’t that far away.
I just can’t see any of you liking this one and it’s best left well alone.
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl: √
Directed by: Tibor Takács
Starring: Jenny Wright, Clayton Rohner, Randall William Cook
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
People often ask how and why I don’t class A Nightmare on Elm Street to be a proper slasher flick and so I thought I’d clear it up once and for all. Firstly, the biggest giveaway is the word ‘slasher’, but to explain in more detail, we have to go back. In fact, we have to go way way back, back to the roots of the genre. What do Blood and Black Lace, Psycho, Black Christmas and Torso all have in common? Well they all had a maniac armed with some kind of ‘melee’ weapon (knife, axe, pitchfork etc) who stalked and murdered his/her intended prey. Halloween made its bogeyman supernatural in a way, but his modus operandi was to kill with non-supernatural appliances. Now Freddy is most definitely a stalk and slash villain, but as soon I saw Johnny Depp get dragged in to a bed with a fountain of crimson spraying over the ceiling, it dawned on me that this has to be clarified somewhere else.
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion on this subject, but for me, instead of saying that these are not slasher flicks, I would give them a separate category within the genre. That way, the likes of Pledge Night could also get a shout. Here on a SLASH above however it’s all about the ways people are killed that gives a movie the benefit of a review posted by the man himself (well, me!).
All this talk brings us to Hardcover, a film with big enough cojones to walk the fine line between A Nightmare on Elm Street grouping and your more regular catalogue addition. I said in my review of Maniac Cop that not only 1981 was a dandy time for psycho killers, but 1988 was also packed to the brim and here is even more evidence. Hardcover was finished and ready to hit the screens that year, but so as not to put it up against Freddy, Jason and Señor Myers who all had sequels in the cinema, they pushed it back to the following April. The intention here was most definitely to rival Freddy Krueger and the plot adds some fantasy and supernatural touches. The disfigured killer armed with a cut-throat razor however, makes this picture more aligned to its counterparts that are featured on this page than those of the ‘Elm Street’ variety
Virginia discovers a really good novel at the bookstore where she works. It’s called “I, Madman” and it’s about an insane doctor who goes on a kill frenzy in the name of love. Virginia soon discovers that as she turns the pages of the story, the killer is committing the same horrid murders in reality. She tells her detective boyfriend, Richard, but he rubbishes it off, thinking that she is getting carried away. As more bodies turn up around town, it’s left up to Virginia to stop the maniac before he kills again…
Compared to the majority of later entries, Hardcover has high-ish production values and is a wonderful flick to look at as it bathes in its gothic set designs. The action takes place in an apartment building that brings to mind the hotel from Barton Fink and it has an edgy score from Michael Hoenig. For director Tibor Takács, horror is all about big crescendos and false scares and he makes some of them work. What he does very well is take a few slasher clichés and expand them by mixing reality with imaginative fantasy. We have the charming final girl who no one believes, the disfigured killer who only seems to reveal himself to her outside of his victims and the cops who think she’s a loon. But instead of making it a mystery on a surrealist edge so the viewer is unaware if it is all in her mind or not, we share her frustration and know that she’s telling the truth, which allows us to bond with her.
Jenny Wright is good in the role of the bespectacled loveable bookworm with a subtle sexiness and finds the right balance between fearful female and brave heroine. The scenes of her alone, at home and reading her beloved horror stories make her come across just like us slasher fans, who love to indulge in the frightful side of media. Clayton Rohner from Destroyer and April Fool’s Day plays it straight as her boyfriend and they make for an attractive pairing. The maniac is performed by special effects guru Randall Cook, who rumour has it was so impressed with his guise for the bogeyman that he asked to wear it himself. The killer looks creepy as hell and the way he just appears unexpectedly creates a couple of great jump scares. I mentioned earlier that the story juxtaposes the standard trappings with a dose of fantasy, but I won’t reveal the OTT ending for you, except to say, some psycho killers have a strange choice in-house pets!!
There’s some cartoonish goo when the killer strikes, which is fun, but there’s nowhere near enough of it to make this a gore flick. The reason for his spree is because he steals a feature from each victim (nose, ears, mouth) and adds them to his own face to replace what he mutilated in order to look ‘handsome’ for the woman he loves, whom he mistakes for our book-reading heroine. This is a cooler than cool motive and it adds a subtle suspense to the runtime as we wait to see what he looks like after each killing. The effects get better and better too and even though they give the maniac a voice and some lines, he (thankfully) refrains from the comedic quips that we saw continuously in the cycle after the birth of Freddy Krueger.
Some have said that the movie loses some power in its final third, but I didn’t really notice that it dwindles at all. I do often get frustrated when these features overplay the fact that no one believes the final girl’s stories and the Police are always inept, but this one gets it just about right and before long, Richard sees that his girlfriend is not the nutcase that his boss makes her out to be. I wonder how they explained away the aftermath to the authorities though!
Hardcover is a good, enjoyable lushly filmed thriller with some fun set pieces and a nice momentum. It could be argued that with access to such a good budget and strong cast that it could have made more of what it had, but I enjoyed it. It’s never going to be listed amongst the classics, but it delivers more than enough popcorn horror for slasher fans.
Final Girl: √√√
Directed by: Charles Cullen
Starring: Ken Tignor, John Murray, Patrick O’Brien
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Oooh wee this is an obscure one! Not even listed on the IMDB and impossible to find/track down any information on, Boogieman (not to be confused with 1980’s The Bogeyman) is a trashy piece of rural filmmaking at its most cheap and most charming. I was told about it long ago by Steve Jarvis from Cinematrix films, so I tried to track it down but couldn’t even find a sniff of it for love nor money. It’s from director Charles E Cullen who has quite an impressive CV of no-budget features and he has created his own brand of humour and style of storytelling that has gained a global cult following. I managed to get in contact with him some time back and he was more than happy to send me a copy of the film and its sequel.
Now if you are fans of the slasher genre, which I am sure that you are if you are checking this site, then there’s no doubt that you have watched a low budgeted movie. Well take the most minuscule funding that you can imagine, cut it in half and then subtract another of the remaining halves and you should have a very good idea of what you are getting yourself in to with Cullen’s intriguing feature…
There’s a hooded maniac on the lose in a Southern town murdering anyone unfortunate enough to step in front of him. The Mayor wants ‘The Boogieman’ out of the way, so he hires a witch doctor and releases a criminal from the local jail to stop him. As more bodies pile up, can the two mercenaries catch him before he wipes out the entire town?
Produced in 1989, Boogieman was initially played in nightclubs in the area that it was filmed and achieved a local following that has steadily grown because it has become so impossibly rare. It was shot on film surprisingly enough, but never got picked up for distribution and was transferred to disc some ten years later. Rumour has it that it was stored in a chicken coup, which probably explains the incredibly grainy picture with a permanent line on the left side of the screen. It was filmed in colour, but the print I watched was black and white, which I believe was an effort to hide some of the wear and tear marks. It plays ok, but has a rather rugged and scruffy look about it that somewhat underlines the apparent lack of budget.
In many ways, this reminds me of Nail Gun Massacre, which is a film that has armies of admirers for the fact that its so damn amateur and hilarious with its attempts at trying to be somewhat sleazy. Well Boogieman, with all its shaky photography and mind blowingly cheesy special effects, would appeal to that kind of audience. It has some fantastic dialogue and can’t help but entertain with its delivery. I smiled like a Cheshire cat when the Mayor and the witch doctor first met the criminal that they have employed to help them put an end to the maniac’s killing spree (We know it’s him because he is described in text upon his appearance that states, ‘Jake Steel A Bounty Hunter’) The Mayor introduces him to his colleague by saying, “He has been convicted of murder, robbery and rape” To which his buddy replies, “Pleased to meet you”, as if he has just been told that he is a mechanic by trade. I also enjoyed it when one of the early body count numbers was getting out of his car and waved goodbye to his wife and said, “I’m going up the woods to kill something” (!).
There’s tonnes of violence here and a host of cheapo gore effects that brighten up the screen every 145 seconds or so throughout the movie. Although most of them are extremely fake, there is the odd decent murder (the second chainsaw gutting was awesome) and the killer gets through a humongous number of locals (I counted up to twelve before I gave up). Don’t expect any character development here though, because some of the guys and gals don’t even walk on the screen, they just literally get killed. With a budget THIS small, you can imagine it was impossible to pull off some of the death scenes and make them look realistic. I must admit that I was somewhat worried when I saw that the second on screen slaughter was being intercut with a hand drawn (in what looks like crayon) cartoon to describe what was happening, because they didn’t have the funds to display it on camera. Thankfully that gimmick is only used the once and almost every other gore effort is shown in loving black and white pot-marked footage. Two unfortunates even get covered in gasoline and set on fire!
So what else can I tell you? Well the killer looked like a real hill-billy nut with his white hood and lumberjack shirt and interestingly enough, the score was very professional and worked fine as accompaniment. It seems like they struggled a bit to stretch the plot to a feature length runtime, so there are a few mindless shots that don’t really do anything and after the tenth one, the film loses the hilarious oomph that it started out with. Oh and do we ever find out the motive behind this massive bloodbath in a backwoods West Virginia town? Of course not; the film just literally ends.
I couldn’t recommend this to you really, because it could get me thrown in to an asylum for making insane statements such as that. Make no bones about it, Boogieman is a terrible TERRIBLE movie. But you know what? I enjoyed it. It never takes itself seriously and its just a bunch of slasher fans having fun with a camera and some tomato sauce. It’s an interesting one for students and fans of rural films, but it has very little (as in nothing) in terms of professional qualities.