Buried Alive 1990
Directed by: Gerard Kikoine
Starring: Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence, Karen Witter
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The tag-lines that were sprawled across this colourful cover would lead you to believe that it was more of a zombie adventure. ‘Some secrets are best left buried. But will they stay there?‘ and ‘The dead return!‘ make this sound as if it’s yet another attempt at a Dawn of the Dead rip-off. Bizarrely enough, these marketing ‘errors’ were seen a lot more than they should have been during the eighties, check: Embalmed, Ghost Keeper and Zombie Island Massacre for proof. I bought it anyway, as it was one of those titles that I had seen many times gathering dust on the top shelf of my local VHS emporium, and I often wondered what it was like. (Stalk and slash films aren’t my only vice, you know.) Anyway it turned out to be pure slasher cheese, right down to a masked killer preying on young female students in an all girl reform school.
I was also interested that this claimed to be adapted from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. By this, they mean the short story (one of his best) ‘Premature Burial’. There’s a TV movie that goes by the identical title and was released during the same year (although this was made twenty-four months earlier) that was also based on that novel.
It opens with some gloomy shots of an eerie looking building silhouetted by the foggy night sky. The sign outside reads ‘Ravens croft Reform School’ and Inside we see a group of teenage girls all deeply sleeping, except for one dark-haired youngster who looks as if she’s packing her things to make a daring escape. She puts her rucksack on her back and heads towards the exit. Just before she leaves, her friend calls her back and gives her a leaving present – a blue switch-blade – and then she says her goodbyes and heads out into the misty night sky.
She hotfoots it through the woods, until she spots a car driving along a road in the distance. She takes a break for just a second, and all of a sudden a masked assailant jumps out from within the bushes and violently knocks her on to the floor. He picks her up and drops her into a man made pothole and she falls into a corrugated steel tube that leads into a dank and spooky underground chamber. She awakes to see the grisly psycho standing menacingly above her. He injects her with a sedative, puts her in a straight jacket and then drags her by the feat to a cramped cell-like room. Once inside the assassin begins to brick and cement up the doorway, effectively leaving her ‘Buried Alive’…
Next we meet a young science teacher named Janet Pendleton (Karen Witter) who has just got a job teaching at the college. We also see the head doctor Gary Julian (Robert Vaughn), his twitchy assistant Dr. Schaeffer (Donald Pleasence) and a group of bitchy female co-eds who enjoy nothing more than pulling each others hair out. (Later quite literally) When another girl goes missing from the campus, Janet becomes suspicious and investigates the history of Ravenscroft, only to find a sincere and shocking secret. But who is it that is violently killing the young helpless girls?
With a cast including Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence, John Carradine and porn star Ginger Allen, and a plot that pits a group of saucy female co-eds against a vicious psychopath, Buried Alive should have had enough in its manbag to offer a decent entry to the cycle. Gerard Kikoine attempts to seduce you with his claim that this is adapted from the twisted mind of that famous author, but to be honest, apart from the odd black cat popping up here and there, it’s standard stalk and trash. In fact, it is so weakly put together that even the generous amount of genre luminaries seemed to succumb to the ‘pitiful performance’ bug. I mean, what the hell was Donald Pleasence thinking here? I never thought that I could describe one of his characterisations as ‘obnoxious’ – a million miles away from his legendary Sam Loomis. It probably didn’t help to put him in a dodgy toupee and a give the Nottinghamshire-born Brit a role that required a German accent. Anyway, he is by no means the only one here to be slummmmmmmmmingggggg… (Ahem, Mr Vaughn…!)
The screenplay by Jake Chesi must have been written in the director’s native French, translated to Swahili and then put through the Google translate equivalent of those days to make it look this jumbled. In one scene Miss Pendleton has another of her strange nightmares, which begun plaguing her as soon as she arrived on campus and reached quadruple figures before the final credits rolled. She ends up lying on the floor, panting, sweating and hysterically screaming. Dr Julian witnesses this unsettling episode and instead of rushing to her aid, asks with the oomph of water-logged crisp packet, ‘Is something wrong?’ I was expecting a sarcastic response along the lines of, ‘No, this is generally how I relax myself to sleep’ – but the screenwriter didn’t gives us that pleasure, unfortunately. Also at one point the doctor asks the shaky heroine if she’ll marry him. No harm in that you may think; but the funny thing is, the two of them only met a couple of days earlier. I kept wondering if I had fallen asleep for a while. I’m all for being spontaneous, but Mr Vaughn dear sir, I would at least recommend a substantial prenup.
I enjoyed the creative ways that they dreamed up to kill off the cast though. They included a painful looking electrocution, a trough in the side of the head and a young girl that gets buried up to her waste in wet cement. When she screams for help, she gets her mouth ‘concreted’ to shut her up. The director at least shows promise with a couple of decent ideas, including some morbid shots of the rotten corridors of the creepy chamber, which are accompanied by the victim’s screams as they get dragged off to their demise. Each unlucky individual spots a black cat before they are dispatched, which as I earlier alluded to, is the only real noticeable element lifted from Poe. I remember also at least one very gory scene that will liven you up if you end up nodding off. A female teen is curling her hair on a food mixer (?) when she’s scared by an unseen menace (presumably the masked maniac), and ends up drilling into her head and pulling her hair completely off of her scalp…Ouch!
It’s also worth noting that the killer sports a Reagan mask to disguise his identity. This is interesting because Reagan’s rein was notorious for many things, and one of them was cutting the federal funding for mental institutions across the US, which meant many people still needing treatment were thrown out on to the street. I was thinking that maybe this was a slight dig at those policies, but then I wasn’t sure if I was right in crediting such an inane script with hidden intelligence.There’s really no point in including subliminal political statements in a screenplay, if you can’t develop characters, dialogue or even common sense; but hey ho.
This was the last film that John Carradine worked on before his untimely death in 1988, which sadly wasn’t the greatest to close the curtain on a five-decade career in the movies with. It’s not that it doesn’t try; it’s just that with a cast of sexy youngsters that were only too eager to reveal some skin, a decent enough budget and some senior faces with bundles of experience, the movie really shouldn’t have been this dull. Kikoine had worked with Jess Franco for years and although I am no great fan of his, we could have used some of his exploitation leering to liven things up. It’s occasionally interesting but mostly predictable and long winded.
Although it pains me to steer you away from the slasher genre and into the land of thriller features, I must admit that you’re better off taking a look at the other made for TV flick with the same moniker…it’s a much stronger effort and this one is sadly best left in the bargain bucket…
Final Girl √√
Atração Satânica 1990
aka Satanic Attraction
Directed by: Fauzi Mansur
Starring: Emilia Mazur, Gabriela Toscano, Ênio Gonçalves
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Completely off topic, but Brazil can boast a peerless reputation for producing some of the greatest soccer idols that mankind has ever known. Pele, Ronaldo, Bebeto, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and the magnificent Romario are just some of the football legends that have worn the fluorescent yellow shirt of their five-time world cup winning country. Being a massive football fan and former player means that I have the greatest respect for my Latin cousins from across the pond and whenever I go out in central London, the hottest parties are those at my favourite Brazilian club on the Charing Cross road.
With their notorious flamboyant lust for life and excellent titles such as City of God already very popular amongst critics, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this late addition to the slasher cycle. Shock Diversao Diabolica was an interesting entry from 1982, but nowhere near good enough to rival the key players from the US during the boom years. But Spain, France and Italy – three other great football nations – can boast slasher output that is nearly as good as their World Cup winning squads, which made the initial signs look promising for Satanic Attraction.
It kicks off in traditional satanic fashion in the midst of a crowded ritual. A masked figure makes his way through a pack of dancers and heads down some underground stairs to host a bizarre black mass in front of a crowd of hooded revellers. The strange cult leader picks up a huge dagger and heads over to a pair of blonde beaming twin children. The mysterious stranger then slices the wrists of the youngsters and pushes their arms together, presumably to link the pair with a bond of blood. The crowd look on in anticipation as the twins grin sadistically.
Sometime later we meet Fernanda, a radio announcer who hosts a controversial show on which she tells creepy stories to a captivated nationwide audience. Some listeners believe that her ramblings are dangerous and could result in violent consequences, while others are just happy to see so many people turning to radio for their source of entertainment. Her latest tale concerns a dark figure roaming the town and murdering young women with various gruesome weapons. The killer then uses the victim’s blood to reanimate his deceased sister in her beachside grave. After dismembered bodies begin turning up around the local town, Fernanda realises that her stories are somehow connected to identical murderous events that are taking place at exactly the same time as she speaks on air. What connection does she share with the ritualistic psycho and what links the killings to the hapless DJ?
Satanic Attraction looks to have been produced on a fairly decent budget and it’s immediately apparent that director Fauzi Mansur didn’t scrape the barrel for the effects that he decided would make his movie a hit. A few of the murders are extremely gory: meat cleaver through the head, dismemberment, gooey throat lashing’s and a spear pushed through a love making couple a la Friday the 13th II. The killer is seen mainly from behind and dresses in traditional Giallo-like black psycho-garb. Although part of the plot concerns searching for the maniac’s identity, the whodunit aspect is mostly left simmering on the backburner. Even though things stick closely to the typical Giallo/slasher rulebook, Mansur manages to mix in a share of supernatural elements that are both interesting and utterly confusing in equal measures.
As this is a Brazilian production, the original vocal soundtrack is in Portuguese and the producers didn’t opt for subtitles to export the feature to English speaking nations. Instead the movie has been dubbed by a gang of wooden planks, sorry, students from America and the United Kingdom. Obviously it’s impossible to tell what these guys were studying, but one thing’s for certain; they definitely weren’t considering a career in drama. This has to rank along with Samurai Reincarnation as the worst dubbing in cinema history. But that’s not Satanic Attraction’s only problem. The movie is nearly two hours long and a huge majority of this time is spent listening to the aforementioned ‘actors’ warble their way through a poorly translated script, with characters popping up all over the place without any rhyme or reason. The net result is an overlong dreary feature that takes an hour and a half to finally shift into gear as the killer goes on an excellent maniacal spree. When we reach the film’s conclusion, it just gets silly as one twist that was easy to predict gives way to yet another.
Unfortunately, Satanic Attraction is a major let down in every respect. It’s hardly worth tracking down for the excessive gore and all that’s left is a long corridor of confusion and horrendous acting. Put it this way, I think even Jag Mundhra’s Open House, which also incorporates a DJ could be better – seriously!
I’ll stick to watching Brazilian football for now…
Final Girl √√
The Night Brings Charlie 1990
Directed by: Tom Logan
Starring: Chuck Whiting, Al Arasim, Keith Hudson
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So… The Night Brings Charlie… In the place where I grew up, it most certainly did. And still does, but that’s beside the point.
There’s an amazing true story about a guy named Terry Wallis, who on Friday the 13th of July 1984, after celebrating the birth of his first born child, was involved in a terrible traffic accident. He was seriously injured, lost consciousness and fell into a coma, which left the doctor’s giving him little hope of recovery. His family thought otherwise though, and every other weekend they would take him out to their farm and speak with him, in the hope that their voices would stir their relative from his slumber. Nineteen, yes nineteen years later and believe it or not, on Friday the 13th, he regained full consciousness and said the words,’milk’ and ‘Pepsi’ to his mother who was beside him at his bedside. What a fantastic tale and a great example of the strength of human spirit. He went on to make up for lost time getting to know his teenage daughter. Funnily enough, it took him a while to realise that it wasn’t still 1984.
Tom Logan’s slasher also comes across like it has been comatose for a while. Despite its 1990 release date, it looks and feels like it was produced no later than 1983. The success of A Nightmare on Elm Street saw obvious changes begin appearing within the slasher genre, but none of those updates can be seen here. It’s like the last seven-years never happened for the crew involved in this one and much like Mr Wallis, they still thought that they were living in the early eighties.
A small town called Pakoe is being terrorised by a vicious serial killer. Sporting the traditional Southern loon garb of a lumberjack shirt and potato sack over his head, he is driving round late at night, killing youngsters and collecting their decapitated heads. The Police are stumped by the amount of teenagers left with spurting stumps, so they are put under huge pressure to bring the maniac to justice.
The only reason I wrote that this looks like it was filmed in ’83 and I didn’t go as far back as ’80 is because director Tom Logan has CLEARLY cut and pasted a scene from Friday the 13th Part III (1982). Three leather-clad bikers get chopped up in a barn by the hooded killer and the overall set-up is almost identical to the sequence from that Friday installment. In fact, many of the best parts of The Night Brings Charlie have been seen previously in either Halloween or Friday. There’s the old ‘killer seen standing by car and next look he’s gone’ chestnut and they chuck in a shower stalking sequence just to erase any of your doubts that you are watching a stalk and slash film. The final girl is the typical shy virgin type and they even remember the essential heavy-breathing POV shot.
The Night Brings Charlie is the movie equivalent of going on a date with a girl who shows you her breasts in the first ten-minutes, but then sits across the table from you for the rest of the evening and gets the early bus home. The opening murder is gooey as hell with a great throat slicing and a gallon of blood, but the rest of them are disappointingly dry and mostly off-screen. Also, whilst on the subject of breasts, what an outstanding pair one of the chicas has; and she soaps them lovingly for an extended period during the aforementioned shower part. This scene also plays host to the strangest product placement in the history of cruddy films. Do you take a can of fizzy drink with you in to the shower? No…? Well a girl does here. I enjoy playing the ‘guess who financed this movie’ game when watching low-budget flicks. If ever you see a car stuck behind a lorry that carries a massive logo in filmland, you know that there’s a marketing bod somewhere that is more hopeful than the crew that this movie is going to be a hit. Well Pepsi negotiated a strong deal with the producers of this particular slasher, because not only do we see a logo’d can in the shower when we’re looking at a far more attractive pair of cans, but we also see vending machines strategically placed more times than I could count in my drunken stupor. A spilt can of Pepsi even saves a girl’s life! How’s that for advertising?
Like a night at an elderly relatives birthday party, Charlie has moments that are painful and a few that are actually quite fun. The acting is stilted tosh, the script is most definitely a ‘first draft’ without any proofreads and the cinematography (or videotography) is as grainy as a sheet of sandpaper. Despite this though, Logan manages to chuck in a handful of minor jumps that are really well crafted and quite frequent. There’s also a hilarious scene where the killer alters the population number on the town’s welcome board with a piece of chalk after he has dispatched another victim. That’s the only one of the few attempts at homour that really works, because the main ‘comic relief character’ is more ghastly than laugh-ly. A boisterous lump by the name of Ella, she speaks openly about her bowel movements and states stuff like, “That’s the fifteenth person today who wants your nuts on a plate”. Pure class, eh?
As I mentioned earlier, the killer goes for the burlap sack dress code, but just to add his own stamp to the kit, he also sports what looks to be a pair of swimming goggles. (?!) There’s a twist in the story that’s ok and even if the runtime lingers on the edge of tedium, it doesn’t drag enough to make you want to turn it off. I am not exactly sure why, but whilst watching, I kept thinking of Twisted Nightmare from 1987. Maybe it was the barns? Or the boobs? Or the Pepsi cans? Or the bad acting? I can’t be sure, but something here most definitely reminded me of something there.
So should you rush out madly and spend a fortune hunting this one down? Quite frankly, no; – but if you come across it somewhere at an agreeable rate, you can give it a shot. Aside from an interesting killer guise and a few cans of Pepsi, there’s not much that you haven’t seen elsewhere and most likely handled much better.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Ladrones De Tumbas 1990
aka Grave Robbers
Directed by: Rubén Galindo Jr.
Starring: Fernando Almada, Rebeca De La Huerta, Germán Bernal
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The best thing for me about growing older is that you begin noticing new things that you never paid attention to before. Lately, I enjoy nothing more than locking the kitchen door, putting on some music and combining some herbs and spices for dinner. Ten years ago I’d have never believed that I could find such satisfaction from cooking.
So for all those like minded individuals, let me give you a Mexican recipe that I came across recently that’ll warm your cockles. Take an unstoppable zombie, some big haired denim-sporting eighties throwbacks, about 12 gallons of corn syrup and tomato paste. Add in a creepy location, some satanic references and about fifty-tonnes of melted cheese and then put it all in a gumbo pot. Leave it all to simmer for a while and what do you get? Well one of the greatest crazy splatter classics of the nineties!
A Satan worshipping monk is caught trying to sacrifice a local village girl in ancient Mexico. The priest condemns him and finishes him off with an axe to the chest. In his dying breath, the evil satanist swears vengeance on those that will ever remove the hatchet from his body.
Skip forward a few centuries to modern day and we are introduced to a gang of tomb raiders. As you expect, they come across the grave of the menace from the prologue. Before long, he’s back on the road looking for a virgin to impregnate and slaughtering anyone that gets in his way.
Most post Halloween slashers followed John Carpenter’s methodology of placing terror in locations that we all associate with normality. The backdrops of about 90% of the category are places such as schools, streets or holiday camps and the stalking rarely takes place nowadays on a site more related to the venues of old . Although this has a bit to do with limitations of budget, it’s mega refreshing to see that horror for Ruben Galindo Jr is still best portrayed through cobwebs, skeletons, dilapidated basements and crypts. The film has some incredibly lush visuals, with nice bright colours and the sets are gothic and well decorated. He also makes a very good use of his sound effects and the sky is filled with an ominous buzzing of midnight nature, which helps to build the spooky atmosphere.
The plot brings to mind titles such as Evilspeak with its opening and it’s quite supernatural in its theme. But when the killer gets going, the rules and methods stay loyal to the slasher category. Well in fact, I mean the Mexican version of it. It’s interesting to note that films from south of the US border, despite being obviously influenced by Friday and Halloween, actually have their own variations on the template and don’t always follow the traditional navigation completely.
This one though doesn’t waste too much time on delivering a coherent story and the film’s only real ambition is to get cracking with the action as soon as cinematically possible. Much like that other wonderful nineties Mexican slasher, La Noche Del Payaso – Tumbas rolls out its players with very little depth or development, but gets away with it because the rest of the movie is just so much fun. I liked the ‘slightly psychic’ final girl, who predicts the danger and her morally redeemed boyfriend is one that I really wanted to survive. I’m not sure if the English translated versions of this do justice to the hilarity of the dialogue, but for a Spaniard, the lines like ‘somos ricos’ (we’re rich) were delightfully silly in their delivery. It even goes for a cheesier than a dairy ‘happy ending’, which I could do nothing aside from beam at. The real hero of the feature is an elder lawman and he wins over the audience almost immediately with a sterling portrayal. It’s great that the remaining survivors work as a team to defeat the marauding psychopath and the final battle is outrageous and compelling.
The bogeyman has to be amongst the top ten of the genre. He is huge, creepy and unstoppable and he looks great stalking through the forest in his monk’s robe. The axe that he uses is one of the better tools for mass slaughter and as Galindo has proved in his previous efforts, he is not shy to splash some red stuff. We get gore here by the bucket load, which includes decapitations, dismemberment and an internal stomach rip. There’s a humongous body count and a few really good moments, so you will never get bored either.
I’d had a pretty rubbish day before I sat down to watch Ladrones de Tumbas and it was everything that I needed it to be. Despite being shot in 1990, it feels like it was a mid-eighties offering, which only adds to its charm. The only real negatives are the over the top dramatics, which at times border on annoyance, but with so much enjoyment to be had, any complaints are hard to level at this entry
Slick, sharp and always enjoyable, now it’s available with subtitles means that you must give it a shot.
Final Girl √√√
Trampa Infernal 1989
aka Hell’s Trap
Directed by: Pedro Galindo III
Starring: Pedro Fernández, Edith González, Charly Valentino
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Rumour has it that around the time that ABBA – the multi-award winning Swedish disco favourites –’s star had reached its zenith, the band grew disillusioned with singing in English and yearned to perform in their native tongue. Soon after, problems began to emerge in the one-time-wed-locked-watertight partnership and recordings became less and less frequent. The band dissolved, albeit unofficially, in 1982 and pop lost one of its most celebrated artists. Although they have never admitted that there’s any truth in those rumours, the fact remains that ABBA would never have been so successful had they not adapted from their homeland. If you want to appeal to the largest money-making media market in the entire world, then you must cater for English speaking audiences.
It’s amazing for me how such a small island that’s located a stone’s throw away from the European continent could have created perhaps the most recognised, although not most widely spoken, language in the world. Everyone speaks a little bit of English; whether it be simply ‘hello’ or a common swear word – you’ll find someone that can assist you in that tongue almost everywhere. Pedro Galindo obviously didn’t agree, because Trampa Infernal was never subtitled for global consumption until it was released very recently on budget DVD. That’s a real shame, because it’s actually a decent slasher movie that’s a lot better than many of its genre buddies from across the border even.
The film launches in the somewhat unfamiliar territory of a pistol duel. Two unidentified characters are shown sneaking around a dilapidated complex searching out one another for the inevitable final showdown. After some suspense and a couple of near misses, one of the pistoleers, Nacho, emerges victoriously. Next we learn that they were only paintball guns and the two competitors are actually youngsters from the local town. He and Mauricio are fiercest rivals and Mauricio is always trying to prove himself to be better than his soft-spoken opponent, but as of yet he hasn’t succeeded.
Later that night, whilst the victorious gunslinger celebrates his triumph with his girlfriend Alejandra and his buddy Charly, Mauricio enters the bar and says that he has one last challenge for his nemesis. He says that this will be the competition that will prove to the town once and for all who deserves the uttermost respect. Nacho is at first reluctant because Alejandra warns him of the perils of continual competitiveness, but he eventually succumbs to the weight of peer pressure and agrees; much to the distaste of his morally superior partner.
They plan to head out to the remote region of Filo de Caballo, because recent press coverage has reported that numerous people have been butchered by what locals believe to be a vicious bear. Mauricio proposes that whoever murders the animal can be regarded as the greatest and he also promises that it will be the last battle that he wages against his adversary.
After visiting the armoury to stock up on weapons and ignoring the warnings of the elderly store-keeper, the group set out to the remoteness of the secluded woodland. Hunters become hunted as they learn that the ‘bear’ is actually a homicidal Vietnam vet who is still unaware that the war has ended and considers all humans as his enemy. What started as a competitive adventure suddenly becomes a battle for survival as they are stalked and slaughtered by the malevolent assassin.
I picked up Trampa whilst studying in Madrid from a Mexican student who lived in the dorm room next-door to me. I remember that the copy I watched was faulty and the tape ended about 10 minutes before the final credits rolled, which meant I never got to see the final scenes. I still own that VHS today, but thankfully I came across the budget DVD recently on Amazon and immediately added it to my collection.
Gallindo’s slasher is a surprisingly good effort that excels mainly because of its skillful direction and enthusiastic plot, which attempts to cover areas not usually approached by slasher movies. It is in fact so good that I was reminded of the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger hit Predator on occasion. There’s something about the way that the creepy-masked assassin jogs through the forest and stalks the panic-stricken troupe as they struggle to escape the maniac’s ability to blend into the wilderness
Despite Gallindo’s obvious awareness of genre platitudes (the bogeyman even uses a claw-fingered glove a la Freddy Kruegar), Trampa attempts to add something different to the standard template. Whilst the majority of the runtime plays by the concrete rules of the category, the final third heralds a significant step in originality, as the maniac arms himself with a machine gun and entices the hero to his lair for the final showdown. From here on, the film rapidly swaps genres and becomes almost an action film, which depending on your taste will either excite or disappoint you. The last slasher that tried to crossbreed the two styles was that shoddy eighties entry ‘The Majorettes’, which made a real mess of the combination
As is the case with many Latin films (especially Spanish flicks by Almodovar and Amenabar), Trampa has a subtle undercurrent of a moral to its story, which is conveyed successfully without being forcibly rammed down the viewer’s throat. Over indulge in the temptations of competitive masculinity and you may not always be the winner. It’s a sugar-coated point, but it’s handled delicately enough not to detract from the fun of the feature.
Trampa may be cheesy, but it deserves to be seen and recognised as one of the better late slashers. The killer looks great in creepy army fatigues and white Valentine-style mask and the attempts at originality just about work. It may lack the gore that most sincere horror fans enjoy, but it has enough in terms of suspense and creativity to warrant at least one viewing.
Final Girl √√
Directed by: Alec Mills
Starring: Leon Lissek, Christine Amor and Ian Williams
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Not to be confused with Bloody Moon, Jesus Franco’s gore feast of 1980; this Australian lensed slasher utilises the popular ‘killer on campus’ plot line that’s so frequently used by its US counterparts. It’s fairly amusing how much Alec Mills tries his hardest to Americanise the setting, but thankfully he refrains from asking the cast to perform unconvincing accents. Strangely, the characters that are actually supposed to be from the States still speak in flawless Australian twangs – go figure…
In the small town of Coopers Bay, there are two Hi-schools situated right next to each other. There’s Winchester, an all boys comprehensive and St Elizabeth’s, a girl’s only Catholic faculty. They are separated by woodland where pupils from both can meet and engage in the things that attract the attention of maniac killers. It’s not surprising then that an unseen one begins murdering the youngsters as they indulge, choosing to strangle them with a length of barbed wire before removing their eyes and burying them under the soil. Mary, the daughter of a Hollywood movie actress, becomes involved when the killer targets her and Kevin, her boyfriend. But who is this twisted psychopath and why does he want to kill all the kids?
Blood Moon opens with a terrific score courtesy of Brian May and some superb cinematography. The dense woodland in which the kids are pursued is brilliantly conveyed and I was immediately impressed by the general production values on display. After a couple of murders, we’re introduced to a predictable troupe of troublesome teens and our obvious final girl. There’s an interesting subplot that sprouts as one of the local poor kids falls for Mary, the daughter of an actress. The rich Winchester boys hate the local working class, so it’s almost like a homage to Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story but without the decent soundtrack (Instead we get ‘reach for the earplugs’ Heavy Metal). Shakespeare and the slasher genre, what a combination. I bet the poor author would turn in his grave.
There’s one really gruesome – if not graphic – murder, involving a desk, a young girl’s head and a deranged killer; but aside from that, there’s hardly any gore and most of the slaughters are left to the devices of an active imagination. There’s a tad of nudity and one of the girls is a real hottie. She brought to mind a young Angelina Jolie, but she was taken out pretty early, which was a shame. The performances are fairly poor throughout, with only Leon Lissek standing out as the troubled teacher. Although the plot mostly keeps things directly by the slasher rulebook, there are a few twists that you probably won’t guess and we also get some background on the reasons for the murderer’s insanity. His modus operandi was suspiciously similar to that of real life serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, especially the ‘sexual’ motive and removal of his victim’s eyes. Whether this was coincidental or not is purely sceptical, but an interesting slice of trivia all the same.
British born Alec Mills’ lackadaisical direction left a lot to be desired and he failed to generate any true suspense. He’s a much better camera man and his CV boasts Return of the Jedi and various James Bond movies through the seventies and eighties. It’s a fairly slow-moving story, but when the killer is revealed things begin to perk up right up until it ends rather suddenly leaving one or two unanswered questions. Like what happened to Kevin? Did he survive?
Even though the bodies start piling up toward the finale, the movie certainly could have benefited from a few more excursions into the well-lighted woodland with the killer and his length of barbed-wire. It was a decent choice of weapon that was literally begging for some creative special effects to make the most of its possibilities, but as previously mentioned, Bloodmoon is bone dry. As it stands, there was too little horror, no gore and an excessive amount of frolics that didn’t really do create any type of mood. It feels like a poor teen comedy with the odd slaying chucked in as a cheeky bonus, which is definitely not a good thing. Imagine an hour and a half long Neighbours episode, but with an unseen killer chucked in and you will be a lot closer than you actually think.
The storyline also feels half-hearted and un-finished. There are some good ideas that could add to the skeleton-thin characterisations, but they are never thoroughly developed and the whole thing feels thrown together. I felt sympathy for Helen Thomson’s plight and the rejection from her parents, but the script didn’t really take it anywhere
You can ignore most of the reviews that completely slate Blood Moon; it really isn’t all worthy of such criticism. It’s just that it’s best described as the sort of film that you’ll watch once and forget about immediately after. As far as Australian slashers go, it manages not to feel as cack-handed as Houseboat Horror or To Become One but then that’s still not much of a worthy compliment. I would call it an ideal hang-over movie. You know, one you watch in bed whilst nursing a sore head and your expectations are completely lowered.
Oh and I mentioned earlier the rubbish ‘Heavy Metal’. Well make sure to place those earplugs back in as soon as you see the end credit because the last song is a killer: ‘Blood moon is rising, stay home tonight’ and ‘Blood Moon arising over building and over hill, take care if you will!’ You get the picture…
Final Girl √√