Directed by: Eamon Hardiman
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Kari Whi
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Whilst slasher directors are regularly mocked by critics, I wonder if they really get the appreciation that they deserve. I mean, let’s examine this a little more closely. With 1,000+ titles in existence, do you know how hard it must be to choose a unique mask for your antagonist? Let’s be thankful for those that just keep their killer off-screen throughout the runtime, because if not, there would be no masks left for up and coming filmmakers to choose from.
Eamon Hardiman found the solution for that conundrum by going for a pig headpiece. I can hazard a guess at how he came up with the idea, it likely went something like, ‘hmmm what guise should I use for my slasher? Perhaps a dog? No – they’re man’s best friend, so not shocking enough. A bull? Hmmm well, they’re pretty threatening, but they remind me of a burger. No, we can’t have a killer Big Mac. A pig? Well Evilspeak had hogs in it. Ok, that’ll do, let’s move along. Now l know that pigs get killed in slaughterhouses (but so do cows, chickens, sheep etc) and slaughterhouses are scary, so there’s more to this idea than just animal lovin’. In fairness to Hardiman, whatever the reason for his choice, Porkchop certainly led the way in creative killer garbs for the year two-o-one-zero…
A gang of dweebs head off to a campsite in the woods for a spot of the usual antics. They fail to take heed of the legend of Porkchop – a pig-masked killer that is rumoured to stalk the local vicinity. Before long he’s after the campers with a chainsaw and a sledgehammer…
One thing that we all know about the slasher genre is that originality is rarely found amongst titles. Halloween was indeed so iconic that many of its cinematic inventions are duplicated even today. In modern times, there’s a common element that we see more and more in post-Scream productions that makes no sense to me at all. It’s the process of filling a story with totally unlikeable characters. I have hurt my head thinking about this and I cannot uncover any logic in the approach or why we see it so often. On a basic psychological level, fear derives from the threat of something that could happen to you or someone that you care about. Whilst films are obviously just fantasy, there’s a big difference between how we feel towards a character like Laurie Stroud or how we feel about ‘forgot what her name is girl’ from Porkchop. It’s a trend in recent times for slasher movies to pack their casts with boring, loutish idiots and it’s amazing in many respects how many crews stick with this methodology
In Hardiman’s slasher, we get a stereotypical punk rocker(?) with an awful English accent (I thought he was Australian at first), a guy who is cheating on his girlfriend with a ditsy teenager, a porn obsessed geek, two foul-mouthed sluts and a robot (?) voiced by Dan Hicks as the source of comic relief. R2D2 and C3PO were perfect humour providers in the original Star Wars pictures and that may have been the idea here. I don’t remember seeing a prop made of yoghurt pots taking a chick from behind in any Star Wars movie though and they could’ve ripped off Jar Jar Binks (cringe) and it would’ve made the same nonsensical impact. We look on for an hour as these poorly acted, heinously scripted jerks make jokes that progressively become more vomit inducing whilst we are left begging for the killer to turn up and put us out or misery.
When ‘Pig-Head’ finally gets to slashing, the first couple of campers are butchered off screen, which is a huge disappointment because the pre credits murder was explicitly gory and promised so much. In fact, I have to ask whether that opening sequence was bolted on later, presumably after a distributor gave them more money to inject some pizazz. The scene builds up so well, with the killer’s boots traipsing through some undergrowth whilst a stunning chica whips off her top to unveil a lovely pair of jubblies. We get a superb machete through head effect and then what follows is a ski slope to ineptsville as the film leisurely strolls through its clichéd footpath. I can give credit for the eighties references (a hideously acted guy screams ‘you’re doomed’ ala Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th), the chicks are hotter than usual and the part where Deb uncovers the bodies of her chums is stylish with its red-ish tint and creepy scoring. My main gripe is with the characters, which are as appealing as having your appendix removed by Cropsy. Without anaesthetic.
All this leaves me wondering, what if Hardiman had scripted his cast to be likeable youngsters that we see bond over an hour’s build up? They wouldn’t have had to be good natured, we could’ve had an insecure slutty type like Donna from Humongous for example. The group could’ve grown as friends as normal people do and then when the psychopath makes an appearance, we might have rooted for them to overcome the evil, just like in any film with a well-developed protagonist. Instead, we get an overlong, poorly directed bore that I’d forgotten about moments after it’d finished.
It’s worth mentioning that Hardiman’s entry was successful enough to have a follow-up and a remake of sort that was filmed in 3D. I haven’t seen either so can’t really comment on whether the level of quality had improved, but I am mystified by Porkchop’s popularity. It offers little more than either Blood Reaper or Memorial Day and should really be thought of with the same amount of adulation. I’d go as far as to say that Camp Blood was better. Even Carnage Roa…. Ok, ok… that’s going too far…
Blood Junkie 2010
aka Rocky Trails
Directed by: Drew Rosas
Starring: Nick Sommer, Emily Treolo, Ross Bachhuber
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Over the past couple of days, I’ve watched Bloody Moon and Do You Wanna Know a Secret one after the other. Despite being similar films in terms of their genre and content, the most obvious difference between the two is one that I have highlighted previously: charm. Is Bloody Moon a better example of filmmaking than Secret? No; but at least it doesn’t have a cast full of unlikeable and egotistical cliches that we can’t relate to. Eighties slasher movies, no matter how bad that they may have been, were successful in giving us characters that we liked. There’s no bigger or better drama in cinema than hoping a hero or heroine that we’ve invested in prevails against an evil force.
Director Drew Rosas understands this and has given us a slasher movie that has stolen the keys to Dr Emmet Brown’s time-travelling DeLorean and taken us back to the category’s past glories.
Four beer loving teens decide to take a weekend’s camping trip on some secluded woodland. Due to the fact that one of them was babysitting and can’t leave her kid brother alone, they decide to take him along. During their hike through the woodland, they uncover an abandoned factory, which has various legends of a disfigured loon that dwells within. They soon begin to discover that those stories may be true.
I must confess that it’s been a while since I’ve seen a picture distributed by Troma. Whilst I have never been a fan of their love of toilet humour, they must take some credit for their part in helping to populate the slasher cycle with some good and bad additions. These include Blood Hook, The Creeper, Angel Negro and Girls School Screamers. Blood Junkie is arguably the cannon of their arsenal, which Ido mean as a compliment.
What we have here is a feature that’s hard to take a swipe at. Having seen as much DTV crap as I have over the years, it’s nice to finally get an entry where the amount of effort is so visually obvious that it radiates. Unlike The Sleeper, the eighties continuity here is OTT, but consistent. We see cassette tapes, moustaches, boob tubes and luminous tops; but what amused me the most was the Hair Metal posters that were shown on one guy’s wall. I lived through those times, listened to those tracks and it seems like light years away nowadays. The energetic score is better than any actual synthesiser accompaniment that I recall from the period and the dialogue is comical without being overtly obvious in its attempts. Each shot is planned to be more inventive than the last and the runtime becomes a livewire of creative ideas. For reasons that I can’t disclose here, Junkie is also a film that warrants a second viewing to really bring the best out of the unexpected ending.
What I thought was especially effective, was the director’s ability to change the tone successfully and with minimal effort. Time spent with the characters is campy and fun, whilst scenes that involve the killer often border on being quite creepy. His costume is a gas mask, which is anything but original, but it is ok because his motive is fairly unique. Much like a vampire, he has a taste for human blood and he knocks victims unconscious and drains them in a secluded room. This leads to an ingenious use of the aforementioned headpiece, because the nutjob inserts the protruding hose into a victim and then sucks through it to give himself a warm hemoglobin smoothie!
Despite the novelty of the blood draining part, the abduction, instead of slaughter of teens, does lead to a lack of slashing. The first couple of murders are committed off screen and it’s only later that the maniac begins to attack with brutality. There’s a gooey throat slashing that serves only to inform us of what we could have been in for had Rosas structured his antagonist’s MO more typically. The less is more approach doesn’t necessarily work in low budget slashers.
Still, Blood Junkie was a pleasure to sit through and there’s enough here to prove that Rosas is an exquisite horror filmmaker. His audacious directive style makes him something of a B-movie Wes Anderson and I am eagerly awaiting Billy Club, which should be released shortly.
At 72 minutes, Junkie could never be accused of outstaying its welcome and it’s a film that I feel deserves some of your time.
Killer Guise: √√√
Los Ojos De Julia 2010
Directed by: Guillem Morales
Starring: Belén Rueda, Pablo Derqui, Lluis Homar
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I had been long anticipating the release of this one, as on paper it looked like exactly my kind of flick. Shot in my home country, by a director that had received rave reviews for his thriller, The Uninvited Guest and with links to Guillermo Del Toro, it sounded like a combination of the highest quality. Spain has enjoyed glorious recognition recently for our cinematic conquests under the likes of Almodovar, but I have always felt that we have been authentic with our style of drama, even when it was confined within Spanish borders. Although I’d be wrong to say never, I must admit that there’s rarely a middle-ground with our unique methodology. It’s either Oscar worthy or very, very bad.
Of late, I don’t read reviews before seeing a film myself, because I like to have a mind completely free of pre-judgement. Whilst waiting for my DVD to arrive however I had a quick browse at a write-up that started with, ‘Spanish filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (he’s Mexican), returns to the horror genre with his next script (he didn’t write it). Oh the joys of researching your subject! After that, I read no more. Del Toro is at the stage now that he is so successful that anything related to him builds excitement. His work is deserving of such accolades, but it could be either a good or bad thing for an up and coming director like Guillem Morales. He would have to pull out all the stops to deal with the gargantuan expectations set by that reference and he may struggle to get the recognition that he could deserve in the aftermath.
After Julia’s twin-sister Sara commits suicide in her basement, her sibling suspects that she was actually murdered. They shared a degenerative problem in their eyes, which means that at any moment, they can lose sight if put under extreme stress. The Police believe that Sara had lost the will to live when an operation failed and therefore she had to come to terms with the fact that she could never see again. Julia decides to explore her sister’s private life, because she can’t shake the belief that a more sinister force is at work. She soon begins being stalked by an unseen menace and decides to prove alone that she is right before she completely loses her vision.
Ok so let’s clear up a few home truths. This is not a slasher movie per-say; it’s a thriller that utilises elements from the genre. Morales is gleefully aware of the trappings and proves it by including obvious references, such as a heavy-breath POV shot and some typical use of shadow play. Like most Spanish films, the plot here is brought alive through strong realistic performances and the ability to place the viewer in the shoes of the protagonist. Belén Rueda is superb as the ‘final girl’ and her portrayal is honest, heartfelt, colourful and note-perfect. The film touches on a juxtaposition of emotions from cheesy romance to teeth-clenching suspense and the simple transition is all down to the pedigree of the actors.
What makes up an adept Giallo? Well for me, it’s a compelling mystery, a dose of suspense and most importantly some panache in the photography. Los Ojos de Julia ticks all those boxes and excels in its capability to generate momentum. There are some great set pieces here, including a chase sequence through a corridor that makes good use of its lighting and there’s a terrifically creepy moment in a room filled with blind people that is startling in its delivery. Morales shows the flair of a young Argento and the technical knowhow to pull it off. Seasoned veterans may work out the mystery (I did), but there’s enough red-herrings to keep you transfixed.
At 105 minutes, this is no quickie, but it makes up for its possessiveness with runtime, by keeping you on the edge of your seat. I found it easy to keep track of the characters and I enjoyed the multiple moments of tenderness that break-up the suspense. Where Ojos does struggle is with its overuse of cliché in the final third. After such a great opening, the script seems to run up blind alleys quite a bit and an intelligent heroine is reduced to the usual run upstairs instead of out of the door antics. It has the cheesiest ending that I remember for some time, but for an old romantic like me, it was totally acceptable. The lack of a humongous body count (six killings) may be a deterrent for my regular readers, but this does include enough slasher moments in its wallet so that you won’t be that disappointed. There’s a couple of macabre killings and an unwatchable scene involving a syringe and an eyeball.
Los Ojos De Julia is a stylish modern return to the Giallo with a couple of decent murders and some neat suspense. It utilises some of the best parts of Spanish drama to keep the plot rolling and chucks in some nice sequences, camera tricks and even a few scares. It’s not perfect by any means, but as good as any of the Hollywood thrillers that have been chucked out recently. If anything, take a gander for the brilliant performance from the gorgeous Belén Rueda.
Kick the slasher genre as much as you want, but this proves that there’s still life in the old dog yet.
Final Girl: √√√√√