Girls Gone Dead 2012
aka Bikini Spring Break Massacre
Directed by: Michael Hoffman Jr., Aaron T. Wells
Starring: Katie Peterson, Shea Stewart, Brandy Whitford
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I often wonder if exploitation cinema may be reaching its date of expiration. For decades, a host of low-budget titles would provide horror, shocks, nudity and gore that would fulfill both morbid curiosities and rebellious desires. Having grown up during the tail-end of the exploitation boom, I experienced first hand the excitement of hunting out hand-drawn VHS covers and guessing what forbidden treasures might be included within. Nowadays of course, the most explicit content imaginable can be found quite easily with a Google search, which is why I wonder whether the market might be drying up for the exploitation genre.
Released in 2012, Girls Gone Dead was marketed as a T&A slasher; – a style that we saw in abundance during the noughties. Generally, T&A slashers lack technical quality in their attempts at delivering terror, so they up the ante with nudity and silicone enhanced ‘babes’. Good examples of the phenomenon are, Strip Club Slasher, Porn Shoot Massacre, Blood and Sex Nightmare, Fatal Delusion, Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre, Fatal Pulse and Massacre at Rocky Ridge. As I alluded to in my opening paragraph, I can’t help but assume that the growth of free-access online porn has stolen a percentage of the audience for titles that sell themselves on having a couple of extra nudity shots.
A group of girlfriends head off to the remote mansion of one of the troupe’s fathers for a weekend of crazy partying. Missy, the daughter of an over-zealous church member, promises that she will let her hair down and finally break the shackles that have been imposed on her by her incredibly strict mother. Excitement leads to disappointment when they learn that their ‘house of fun’ is actually located in a retirement community. The bad news gets worse when a hulking masked killer turns up with a large axe…
Whilst T&A slashers are my least favourite sub-category of our favourite sub-genre, I will never complete my mission of reviewing the entire pool of these flicks if I don’t go against my preferences from time to time. I’m reminded of something a girl I met in Kraków once told me, “Be more intelligent than the rest, without making it obvious”. Another suitable quote might be, “The smartest disguise is that of the clueless clown”. I mention these because, GGD is an interesting addition to the slasher collection and it’s one that may have a hidden layer.
I watched it straight after Most Likely To Die and whilst they are both modern slasher movies with slick productions, they are totally different beasts cinematically. MLTD spent a while expanding the complex identities of its unique personalities, whilst GGD rolls out the clichés without a second look. Directors Michael Hoffman and Aaron T. Wells have a ball with their cast of attractive bunnies and said bunnies carry the lengthy exposition parts comfortably. At 102 minutes, I was expecting the momentum to stagnate whilst watching the girls getting drunk and pulling off the predicted shenanigans, but the script has enough wit and endeavour to keep things moving. There’s a sub-plot about an adult porno/big-brother type website, which I initially thought was an unnecessary diversion. It leads to a house party sequence that includes a humorous (if misplaced) cameo from Ron Jeremy, tonnes of bikini-clad bimbos and an abusive wannabe Hugh Hefner with a face that you’d love to punch. With a crowbar. Thankfully, the killer turns up and puts an abrupt end to the decadence with his trusty hatchet. Due to the cameras that were capturing the boogieing hotties, some footage of the murders is posted online and we get to see our key players watch it, in jest, a short while later. The irony didn’t escape me that they were mocking the earlier massacre, whilst blissfully unaware that they’re next on the maniac’s list.
Eventually the killer turns up to take care of Missy and her pals, and begins picking them off one by one as they wander off to get up to mischief. Hoffman and Wells go all guns blazing and deliver some brutal murders and gratuitous gore. We get an antagonist dressed in a robe and cherub mask (nod to Valentine?) and there’s a few interesting set-ups, including the death of a valiant chica that I really felt deserved to escape the maniac’s clutches. It’s fair to say that 90% of the runtime sustains an ‘entertaining’ (but non threatening) tone, although the final twenty-minutes did deliver some really neat tension and a couple of scares. I mentioned earlier that these types of pictures are generally pretty shabby from a technical perspective, but that’s not the case with this one and the directors pull off some interesting stuff. Some other reviews that I have read criticised the mystery saying that it was too easy to guess who it was under the mask. In honesty though, I didn’t notice it to be worse (or better) than any other slasher/whodunit I’ve seen of late. One thing I will say is that I often complain about unlikeable characters in modern entries, but GGD managed to even make me root for the spoiled brat. That’s a real achievement.
Going back to the comparison with Most Likely to Die, for the best part of GGD, I was thinking that it lacked the intelligence in scripting and preferred ticking boxes over attempting MLTD’s more ambitious style of storytelling. Later though, I noticed the aforementioned ‘hidden layer’ and that GGD possibly included a subtle comment on modern voyeurism and the easy access to society’s ills via social media, which in effect makes them dangerously acceptable. Perhaps there was also a nod to parental relations and how there comes a time when padres need to accept generational differences. I also noticed a view on religious fanaticism and how certain ideologies have become outdated with the technologies and desires of modern society. Then again, maybe it’s just a silly slasher and I was overreaching when i noticed those depths…?
What I can be sure of is that Girl’s Gone Dead is an entertaining and fun entry that is as close as it gets to an eighties cheese flick without being an eighties cheese flick. It’s overlong; for sure. Actually, if they removed all the cuts away to Ron Jeremy and his chums, the film would work a damn site better. Still, I managed to remain hooked and I couldn’t ask for more than that. In reference to my comment on the fading appeal of exploitation pictures, it’s fair to say, if they’re this fun, there’s still a market for them. Oh and one last thing, I’ve proved many times on a SLASH above that the IMDB is an awful guide to slasher movies. Well this one has a rating of 3.5 on there! Stop the world, I want to get off…
Bloody Creek 1993
Directed by: Gary Whitson
Starring: Ivory Blackwood, Michelle Caporaletti, Dave Castiglione
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Back in the days before we were all connected via the Internet, the best way to meet and converse with other horror collectors would be to attend film festivals. Nine times out of ten, they would be filled with geeky halfwits that would drop comments like, “Do you know that I have Killer Moon completely uncut on long play?” Or, “I’ve seen The Exorcist 1,998,764,647,576 times and can quote every line of dialogue, backwards.” This is when I’d pull my ace from my sleeve and say, “Well, I’ve got a pristine copy of Bloody Creek at home.” What would follow would be two-minutes of tense jealousy driven silence as the nerds would look me up and down and think, ‘What the hell is this Bloody Creek? Why does this skinny Spaniard have a copy??‘
In fairness, I’ve always owned quite a large collection of obscure pictures, but when my Japanese VHS of Cards of Death wasn’t enough, or if I couldn’t steal the limelight with my pre-cert print of Early Frost, I’d reach for my special weapon – Bloody Creek unrated. I mean, let’s be honest, before this review, you had no idea it even existed, right?
It was an early release from Gary Whitson’s WAVE Productions studio and it’s arguably the most traditional slasher of his filmography. My VHS is dated as 1994 and on the IMDB it’s listed as 1993, but I’m pretty confident that the IMDB have uncharacteristically got it right for once. The beautiful Tina Krause was discovered by Whitson in early ’94 and made her debut in Fatal Delusions the same year. Her china doll-like face combined with a sensational figure made her the poster girl of WAVE through the nineties and so I’m pretty sure that she’d have featured if it was made after she joined their team.
It tells the tale of a female author that’s writing a book about a number of killings that have taken place in Bloody Creek State Park. She is invited to the local Police station to interview those that investigated the case, but soon discovers that the killer may still be on the loose.
I guess that whether or not you’ll want to see Bloody Creek is dependent on your experience and taste for films that have been produced on this kind of budget. A lot of early WAVE releases were shot on a camcorder and filled with actors that had been picked up at conventions (like Krause) or from word of mouth. I knew what I was getting in to when I sat down to watch this picture and therefore found it easier to accept, but others need to be prepared for the non-existent funding so as not to be disappointed. Please keep in mind that I’ve taken this into consideration with my review.
So, the film lasts for whopping ninety-minutes, but would look much better without some of the bloatedness. The problem with directors that edit their own footage is that they are following their singular vision and its better when a third-party can advise on momentum. The movie’s stagnated pace is best demonstrated in the build-up to the first slaughter, which is shown via flashback (as is most of the runtime). We are introduced to the scenario by a detective that makes the fatal mistake of telling us beforehand that the girl is about to be butchered. Even in Zodiac – a cinematic account of a serial killer whose victims are globally known – David Fincher conveyed each murder from the outset in order to develop some tension. Here though, because we’d already been informed of the character’s fate, it was pointless to see her wake-up, get dressed, get in her car, drive, drive some more, reach the forest, set-up her camp, wander around etc etc. The only plot point of relevance and interest to us was HOW she died; – anything else was just filler. With that said, a voluptuous chick that goes camping on her own and downs a bottle of Cognac in a couple of gulps could never be considered unappealing. It’s just that this whole sequence would’ve played so much better if Whitson changed the detective’s dialogue from, “This is how the first victim was killed” to “It began like this…” – without any premature knowledge of the outcome.
Brushing aside the amount of over-emphasis for a second, I can say that I enjoyed Bloody Creek. It offers a wealth of slasher scenarios, a couple of cheesetastic gore scenes (they use leaves to cover the head of one bunny so it looks like she’s been decapitated!) and a few surprisingly ambitious twists. Sure, you can list continuity holes and enough inadvertent humour to rival Nail Gun Massacre, but I didn’t ever want to give up watching. The only thing that I thought was missing, was a decent ‘killer guise’, because without one, the maniac lacked an imposing presence. There’s also a chase and fight sequence in a swamp that I have to mention because it was so hilariously overblown. A pair of actors splash and tussle for about five-minutes, whilst accidentally swallowing mouthfuls of muddy rain water. Yuk!
I’m in a good mood, so I haven’t gone in to detail about all the little things that disappointed me with Bloody Creek (even if I had to bite my tongue to prevent myself from mentioning the horrendous score). It’s an astoundingly cheap production (the cop’s office is surely someone’s kitchen – it even has a microwave!), but I was in the mood for some junky fun and junky fun’s what I received. We get a sprinkling of gore, some terrifically hot chicas (a WAVE trademark although they’re not quite Tina Krause) and a devious assailant that constantly surprises with his unpredictability. Gary Whitson wrote a script that does well to keep you guessing and I can only take my hat off to him for that.
Look, I can’t recommend you hunt down Bloody Creek and I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it. In its defence though I expected the worst and was originally going to write a step-by-step sarcastically mocking review as I did with Curse of Halloween, but the feature impressed me enough not to. I can’t give it any more credit than that.
Directed by: Todd Jason Cook
Starring: Rebecca Torrellas, Mike Gebbie, Lisa Whiteman
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Running a site that is purely dedicated to reviewing only the truest of stalk and slash entries is great, but I must admit that sometimes there are films that I’d like to cover, but can’t because they don’t fit the template. I believe I’ve stayed faithful to only posting genuine entries, but the one that I’m most unsure of is The Dead Pit. My rationale for including it was because, sure, it’s a zombie movie, but there is really so much in the first half that reminded me of our favourite film style. The hulking masked doctor, the terrorised final girl, stalking sequences and heavy breath POV shots; it’s hard not to look at those ingredients and think: stalk and slash.
Actually, it’s interesting that there have been so few true crossbreeds, but that’s where Zombiefied stands apart. Director Todd Jason Cook has said that he set out to make this picture the truest amalgamation ever released and so I was keen to see what he could achieve. Would this be a post that I would be confident could sit comfortably with the rest and tick the right boxes?
Well, it all kicks off in a bedroom with a naked chick and a guy sharing lines of coke. As if on cue, the girl says with a knowing nod, “I’m off to take the obligatory shower”. Whilst she’s scrubbing away (in gratuitous close-up), her partner hears a noise in the kitchen and goes to investigate. He comes across a creepy mannequin that’s holding an MP3 player, but before he has a chance to raise the alarm, he is stabbed from behind by an unseen killer. Next up, the maniac goes to take care of his bathing girlfriend, but just as we are waiting for the anticipated slashing, out jumps the ‘zombiefied’ corpse of her recently deceased partner and it begins chewing on her neck! So, a zombie, a hulking killer, blood, a jump scare, a fantastic pair of (natural) boobies and cocaine. It’s fair to say that there have been worse opening scenes.
Next up we head over to a heavy metal club called, Röcbar, where a concert is in full flow. As the group perform, the nut job from earlier (who’s now sporting a Nixon mask that’s identical to the one from Horror House on Highway 5) subtlety murder’s the DJ and inserts a CD into the music system. The new sound seems to have a strange effect on the crowd and they begin morphing into zombies and attacking those that haven’t yet turned – cue pandemonium. After a violent struggle, one band and their singer manage to escape the carnage and flee into the streets that are now filled with roaming re-animated corpses. We soon learn that a similar occurrence has happened once before, but not on such a grand scale. With the Police unwilling to assist, it’s left up to the gang of rockers to prevent the plague from spreading and find a cure. They’ll have to do so whilst avoiding the flesh hungry zombies and a malevolent masked killer…
It gives me great pleasure to tell you that Zombiefied is a truly entertaining horror flick that may be rough around the edges, but delivers a rugged ride that’s unlike anything I’ve previously seen. It’s full to the brim with bloody action and it rarely allows you to catch a breath as the corpses drop. The plot unravels amongst hordes of murderous zombies that chow their way through an impressive number of victims. The director flings everything into the cooking pot to conjure up a gore-laden stew. Your taste buds may not be totally tickled by every mouthful, but it’ll leave your belly too fulfilled to complain about the service.
Director Todd Cook has had a film reviewed here on a SLASH above previously of course, but Evil Night was a totally different beast that simply had no structure. People would walk on screen with no introduction, get killed and the same thing would happen once over. He does revert to a similar technique at times here, because there are a lot of nameless and eminently pointless victims that are lined up like pins only to be bowled over with minimal fuss. Zombiefied overcomes that though, because everything’s held together by a central concept that’s progressively intriguing and addictive. We follow a group of likeable characters that are desperately trying to find a cure for the epidemic and even if the way that the story choses to write out the authorities is laughable, there are various tweaks that maintain our engagement.
Not everyone agrees with my stringent view on what makes up a true ‘slasher’ movie, but seeing as I am strict with my idea of the guidelines, I wondered what I’d make of a zombie/slasher cocktail. In fairness to Cook, he shows respect to both genres and their principles. The living dead are the modern kind that sprint after their prey, but the slasher scenes are traditional, with a hulking masked killer that has a calling card (aforementioned mannequin) and a traditional slo-mo stalk. The army of gut-munchers are under the control of the boogeyman and sometimes he uses them to devour his prey instead of a blade or axe. Even if this concept sounds like it may be tough to digest, I have to give credit to Cook for making the blend so palatable. He pulls of a number of moods and even chucks in suspense on occasion, which magnifies during the slasher scenes. We also get fair amount of gore, a couple of hot-ish chicas, a riveting mystery, an open-ending and the chance of a sequel, which I’d personally like to see. Perhaps the best thing of all is that an hour and forty-five minutes is a long time for a horror movie, but it really flew by. I was watching without alcohol too!
From a technical perspective, Zombiefied is not a perfect movie experience. The thrash metal soundtrack is not for all tastes, it’s a bit casually scripted and it suffers the flaw that ‘plagues’ all zombie movies, which is, how much can really be done with the same MO? I honestly believe though that there’s so much here that works that you can accept those minor gripes because it’s a real extravaganza of horror excess. I liked it so much that I was disappointed to see that Cook doesn’t have any other projects currently in the pipeline. I would never have said that when all I knew of his work was Evil Night and Night of the Clown. I can accept titles like that if they lead on to a wider plan and Zombiefied may well be his masterpiece.
Finally we have a zombie/slasher that truly can fit in with its brothers here.
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…
Babysitter Massacre 2013
Directed by: Henrique Couto
Starring: Erin R. Ryan, Marylee Osborne, Joni Durian
Review by Luis Joaquín González
As fans of the slasher genre, if you got the opportunity to make your own movie, how would it look? Would you tick all the boxes in regards to the general trademarks that you know and love? Would you pack it with nudity and gore? I ask this because Henrique Couto’s Babysitter Massacre is exactly how I’d imagine a true genre lover might roll out a slasher flick. That’s not a critical evaluation by any means, but a brief outline of what you should expect from this overlooked entry.
A group of girls that grew up together have decided to spend Halloween at a slumber party to rekindle their friendships. They haven’t been as close since one of their number was kidnapped years earlier and has never been found. They used to run a group called ‘The Babysitter Club’ and charge a fee to look after younger children in the area. This all stopped after the disappearance of young April and they hold a girl called Bianca wholly responsible for the awful event. Little do they know that a masked killer has began stalking and murdering them one by one and he seems to have a specific focus on Angela, their bubbly host. Can they stop the psychopath before he kills them all?
What I thought really worked about Babysitter was that it went out of its way to highlight some of the category’s favourite moments without needing to revert to parody. I noticed nods to Slumber Party Massacre, Sorority House Massacre II, Halloween and others, but they were rolled out slightly under the radar, which made it more satisfying when I recognised them. The killer boasted a unique and surprisingly effective blank mask, which I felt really gave him an aura of macabre non-identity. He kidnaps the majority of his victims and kills them with more of a torture-porn approach, but most of these scenes are exceptionally brutal and fairly authentic. My favourite would have to be the opening shot, which sees a girl getting her fingernails pulled off by a pair of pliers… Ouch!
Scenes between cast-members are neatly staged and comfortably shot and Couto has written some expressive dialogue in places. Erin Ryan is solid as Angela, the final girl, and even if she is surrounded by a lot of lesser actresses, she keeps the dramatics believable. It’s strange because the sequences of characters in conversation seem to work much better than the moments when the killer strikes. There are quite a few murders, but we have absolutely no idea who most of the early victims are and none of them have any kind of build up or anticipation. What I did find interesting was the use of text messages as a tool to threaten rather than the usual deranged phone calls. Babysitter Massacre is definitely a modern advancement on the old When a Stranger Calls chestnut. There was one chase sequence in an office complex that was sharp and tense, but aside from that, the killer just turned up immediately in most of the other killings. It’s hard to tell how much of this was performed that way due to a lack of budget, but the film was crying out for more suspense. Especially because Couto had proved that he could deliver it when the opportunity arose.
The final third is again very torture-porn-esque and offers a set-up where two of a trio of kidnapped girls have to murder their friend with a claw hammer in order to have a chance to escape the concrete basement that they’ve been locked in. Whilst the idea is twisted and sadistic, it doesn’t make sense, because logic dictates that they should have at least waited and seen if they could use said hammer to retaliate against their abductor. This brought my rating of the feature down considerably as I felt that it was unrealistic and thrown together with minimal thought. Thankfully, the downbeat ending salvages the tone as the credits roll and I actually thought it was really quite a shock.
Babysitter Massacre is a fine example of exploitation that is packed to the rafters with nudity (seriously there’s loads), gore and a pretty good mystery. I just think that it had something of a stagnated flow, which in fairness may well have been because of the stringent funding. Director Henrique Couto is a cool guy and because of that, it’s hard to give his movies a bad rating. His personality shines through his work and he seemed to love splashing the screen with goo and getting most of his actresses naked as much as we enjoyed watching it. I am sure that no one knows more than he that there is room for improvement here, but in the meantime it’s a film that I definitely enjoyed.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Blood Slaughter Massacre 2013
Directed by: Manny Serrano
Starring: Matt W. Cody, Michael Roche, Carmela Hayslett
Review by Luis Joaquín González
A film called Blood Slaughter Massacre could only be, in any language, a slasher movie. I’ve written before about the amount of entries that have titles that start with ‘Blood’ or end with the word ‘Massacre’ and here we have a combination of the two with Slaughter (another common term amongst this genre’s features) chucked in the middle for the hell of it. I like the fact that there’s no messing around with this one, you get what it says on the box.
Anyway, the movie had an aura surrounding it throughout its production due to some exciting photos of a killer donning a mask that brought to mind the Tor Johnson one used in Small Town Massacre. That has always been amongst my favourites, because it gave the killer a haunting ‘deranged’ look, which had a similar effect as Michael Myers’ cherub-like Shatner. It was also refreshing to see a film that whilst paying tribute to the classics of the eighties, avoided the ‘done to death’ parody angle. No matter how much I love the genre, I’ve grown tired of watching filmmakers demonstrate the amount of references they can include in a runtime. We’ve moved to a time now where the best way of representing the cycle is by introducing a unique approach and avoiding the need for satire.
Two detectives that were involved in a tough case a decade ago are thrown back into the heart of it when a ruthless killer returns to their town and begins murdering the children of earlier massacre victims. The police are left stumped as the maniac stalks the city, but it soon becomes clear that there’s a method to his madness…
Last week, I posted a review of Camp Blood here on a SLASH above. Even if it is a low budget slasher movie just like this one, there’s a major difference that separates the way the two are presented and received. If you threw, for example, three-million dollars at the production of Brad Sykes’ entry, there would surely be improvements, but not really enough to completely alter the net result. Serrano on the other hand delivers a picture that totally outshines its budget and you can only wonder what he could achieve with that much more funding. I admit that it’s perhaps unfair to compare a campy David Sterling flick with a film that exudes such ambition, but as they share the same sub-genre, it exemplifies my point.
BSM is a true horror movie; and what I mean by that is it sacrifices the modern stereotype of regular attempts at humour to maintain a grisly tone. Like the best slashers, this one rolls out its antagonist in the midst of a dark and compelling mystery. It comes close to crossing into serial killer flick territory with the focus on its investigation, but it works by finding the right balance of the two styles. Our lead persona is something of an anti-hero, (an alcoholic cop), but we can overlook his character flaws because we hope that his heart is in the right place. There is a final girl here, but she’s kept somewhat in the background and doesn’t play the typical central role. The screenwriters have certainly taken a risk by avoiding the structure that’s commonly utilised in more recent films, but what we get instead plays in the most satisfying of ways.
With such a bright spotlight of focus shone upon the story, Serrano needed to develop a constant feeling of dread to keep up the film’s momentum. I’ve already highlighted that the killer looks extremely intimidating in that ghoulish mask, but the director makes the most of his hulking frame and menacing size to add extra trepidation to the kill scenes. Whilst there are a couple of gore shots (a shower murder very similar to the one from The Prowler and a chainsaw slaughter spring to mind), it’s the placing of the bogeyman in each stalking sequence that really delivers the necessary fear factor. He’s up there with the guy from The Orphan Killer as one of the scariest maniacs of the new-age and the director doesn’t waste a chance to make the most of his presence. He butchers a huge amount of victims and his sadistic brutality is extremely threatening. This is one of those films that develops its shocks because it makes you question how you’d react if you were to be placed in the situation that you see unfolding on the screen.
At two-hours and five-minutes, Serrano has a lot of ground to cover and he does so with a plot that may seem slightly convoluted to the lesser viewer. I’m not sure if a further prologue scene was removed late in the production, but I recommend watching the film through twice to understand the synopsis. The lesser actors survive due to solid direction and Serrano pushes his cast to the limit in order to draw the performances that he required. We even get something of a ‘The Departed’ moment during the film’s conclusion and it does succeed in leaving you unsure what’s going to happen next.
We live in a world now where every new production comes with pages of untrustworthy IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes reviews and exciting social media commentaries that build a level of anticipation that rarely proves accurate. I’m pleased to say that Blood Slaughter Massacre is better than I’d expected; – and that is a real achievement. What Serrano has built on a modest budget should set the standard for the slasher films of 2015. It is not a remake and It really is that good…
Killer Guise: √√√√
Camp Blood 1999
Directed by: Brad Sykes
Starring: Jennifer Ritchkoff, Michael Taylor, Tim Young
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I have mentioned Camp Blood a number of times on a SLASH above, but never actually got round to reviewing it. I picked it up back in the early noughties on big-box VHS and it was possibly the first no budget slasher of the new age that I got to see. Since then, I always thought of it as the quintessential example of a bad dime-store take on the slasher template. Over a decade has passed since I last watched it and the genre has seen its fair share of features that were financed on even smaller pocket books. This left me wondering if Blood would still maintain the status that I bestowed upon it on first viewing.
Two couples head off to explore a secluded woodland called Camp Blackfoot. Locals have named it Camp Blood due to the fact that a betrayed husband killed his cheating partner and her lover with a machete before disappearing into the wilderness. Legend states that he still roams the hills and murders anyone that is unfortunate or stupid enough to roam his region…
It was a strange feeling sitting in front of Camp Blood again after so long. Part of me was reminiscing the stack of VHS that I used to trawl through in my room when I’d just turned twenty and the other part was proud of the patience that I possessed to ‘appreciate’ so many turkies. Make no mistake about it, Blood isn’t like a bottle of fine wine. What I mean by that is my ten-year hiatus from exposure to it hasn’t turned it into Halloween. With that said, I did find things here that made me smile, which was most definitely more that I’d expected.
Brad Sykes, for all his obvious signs of amateurism, does understand what people enjoy about slasher movies. It takes less than five-minutes for the inevitable boob shot (what a pairing) and the next sight that we are treated to is a lumbering maniac in a clown mask. The kill scenes are deftly edited considering the budget and for the un-trained eye (i.e. my Mrs), the various splashings of blood and an imposing menace could be considered as generally effective. To give you an example, there’s a sequence that starts dumbly, because our sympathetic hero type guy chases the assailant into the forest when there was absolutely no logic in him doing so (the killer was actually fleeing the scene). Anyway, it results in a fight sequence on a cliff that’s well staged and then we get a smartly crafted gore shot that was surprisingly audacious. There are countless ‘tributes’ to Friday the 13th of course, with the most obvious being the film’s title, which was what Camp Crystal Lake became known by after Jason and his mum’s rampages.
I guess the above paragraph may look like I am about to take back all the mocking things that I’ve said previously about Brad Sykes’ addition to the stalk and slash family. Well in honesty, my experience was less painful than I’d anticipated, but I won’t be adding this to any top slasher lists in the near future. You see, the few bits and pieces that are classic slasher fun are punctured by some of the worst and most bizarre filmmaking decisions I’ve ever seen. We spend what feels like a lifetime in the clutches of a group of poorly acted and whiny campers and when the killer finally turns up and starts chopping through them, we’ve completely lost interest in their plight. Our final girl sinks to levels of rancid dramatics that had me reaching for the vomit bag and the patently cardboard machete can only appear so many times without beginning to look comical. There’s a really good and creepy score that often borders on building a menacing tone, but just when I was about to write a positive comment, something dumb kept happening and I felt like the guy in the picture to my right >>. It’s strange, because Camp Blood includes all the ingredients to become a trash-slasher hit. It’s just that it somehow puts them together awkwardly, like trying to build a flat-pack wardrobe without the instructions. I guess the fact that I had prepared myself for something awful meant that I could better handle the unbelievable levels of amateurism when I put it on this time. I went in knowing that there was going to be a mountain of goofiness, which made it easier than when I initially saw this and had less of an idea of what to expect.
There’s no doubt that Blood was filmed on the smallest of budgets, which was obvious because the same actors were re-used to play different characters with minimal effort to disguise their identities. It was bizarre seeing faces returning to the screen as Police Officers or Nurses when we’d witnessed them get slashed just moments earlier(!) I’m sure that back in the day, I noticed this stuff and found it easy to criticise, whereas now I kind of appreciated the cheesiness, if that makes sense. In my opening paragraph, I called this the quintessential example of a bad dime-store take-on the slasher template. Whilst I stand by that statement, I feel now that I can add the word ‘fun’ before bad in that statement. Either I’ve developed a sense of humour over the past decade or I’ve just got used to sitting through so much worse. At least this one has its heart in the right place. So yeah, as discussed, Camp Blood is a (fun) bad dime-store take-on the slasher template
Killer Guise: √√√√
The PickAxe Murders Part III: The Final Chapter 2015
Directed by: Jeremy Sumrall
Starring: Nick W. Nicholson, Tiffany Shepis, A. Michael Baldwin
Review by Luis Joaquín González
In the slasher cycle, it’s fair to say that a genre parody has become such a cliche that the next step would be for someone to make a parody of slasher parodies. For a style of film that’s not bustling with unique character traits, we certainly ran out of the need for satire long before filmmakers realised that was the case. Credit is due to director Jeremy Sumrall though, because he has found a novel way of poking his tongue at the genre that he’s obviously a big fan of.
Franchises were as large a part of the early slasher phase as were masked killers and after the consistent success of the Friday the 13th continuations, every new movie was produced with the intention of starting a series. In most cases, the quality of films deteriorated on a chapter by chapter basis and that’s the genius behind the gimmick of The Pickaxe Murders III: The Final Chapter. Sumrall has introduced us to his boogeyman immediately from the third instalment and as we all know so well in horror legacies, part tres is generally the cheesiest. It’s one of those ideas that’s so good that I wished I’d thought of it myself and so I was indeed hopeful that the film would live up to its creative concept.
It opens with a text introduction that describes two previous massacres that were the work of a maniac that may well be the son of Satan and goes by the name of Alex Black. He was presumed dead, but two hikers discover an amulet that possesses a mystic power to bring him back from beyond. Before long, he’s up to his old tricks again and the residents of a small rural town have to fight to survive his Satanic wraith.
Jeremy Sumrall’s début film, Posum Walk remains unreleased and I’m the first to hope that his feature-length follow up doesn’t suffer the same unfortunate fate. The Pickaxe Murders is a bloody ride of no nonsense thrills that packs one hell of an exploitation punch. We don’t wait around long for our first slaughter and the victims carry on dropping at an impressive rate throughout. Alex Black looks tremendous in a guise that brings to mind the greatest backwoods burlap-sack sporting villains and he stalks and slashes with a similar imposing threat to Jason Voorhees’ finest moments. Whilst we can see that the production team were operating on a meagre budget, they hide the lack of funding well enough, and there are some impressive gore effects amongst the murders. A pickaxe is a superb tool for gooey mayhem, but Black also utilises his strength to crush throats, squeeze heads and rip off limbs.
The story takes place in 1988 and there’s a lot of effort put into visually bringing that era to life for us. Our main characters of the story are heading to a hair-metal concert and the director actually takes us inside the venue to witness the band in action. We don’t only get two rock groups that dress and act in a style that’s perfectly retro, but there’s also an audacious massacre sequence that is both hilarious and gruesome in equal measure. We’ve been transported to the eighties many times before of course, but Pickaxe actually ‘feels’ authentic. Sumrall is a director that pays the closest attention to detail and because of that, he has a huge career ahead of him. There are many occasions when we head into a deep dark forest setting and everything is so finely lighted and so purely shot that I had to remind myself that this was only his second full film… and the first to be released (hope hope)
There’s an old saying where I come from in Andalucía that translates to something like, ‘an excellent artist can never overcome the canvass he paints upon’. Pickaxe Murders reminded me of that proverb, because I often felt that director Sumrall was by far the most talented person in this crew and the rest of them somewhat let him down. Watching the dialogue scenes and the actions of his characters made me visualise his standing there and showing them how they should perform. What he couldn’t do though is improve the levels of their dramatic ability and the net result is like Fernando Alonso giving his all in a Robin Reliant instead of the Mcclaren F1 that he deserves. I could mention the lack of an alluring central character or that the plot sometimes seems as if it loses track of where it’s supposed to go next, but all those minor moments where I was feeling critical are made up for by that amazing rock sequence and an overall tone of fun. Sorry to utilise a platitude, but this is most definitely a film made by a fan for fans. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but overall it works and that’s what matters most. Also, whilst I can’t be sure if it was intentional, I am thirty-four-year’s old and the fact that I look younger than these, ahem, ‘Hi-School kids’ was a real ego-booster. Well, one of them was clearly getting silver fox sideburns, so was that part of the humour? During the eighties, the ‘teens’ in these movies were notorious for being closer to the big four-zero than their supposed age…?
The pre-screener I watched to write this review was only 80% finished and Sumrall told me that there’s still a bit that needs to be done before release. Still, I think The Pickaxe Murders III is a slick genre entry with lashings of potential and it will satisfy slasher hounds immensely. From a personal perspective, I thought there was a tad too much nudity (regular readers will know I’m surprisingly prude… unless it comes to undeniably HOT Chicas, which these aren’t)) but that’s part of the exploitation package and I accept that. We can only hope that Pickaxe gets the release and success it deserves, because I’m eagerly awaiting the prequels 🙂
Killer Guise: √√√√
The Demon 1979
Directed by: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell, Zoli Marki
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I discovered The Demon on big-box VHS when I was about twelve-years-old at a jumble sale in my local village hall. It’s hard to believe that it was one of the first to jump on the Halloween-inspired slasher bandwagon, because nowadays, it barely gets a mention amongst the plethora of peak period entries. That does seem somewhat strange, because it received global distribution and plays closer to John Carpenter’s rule book that many of its contemporaries from back then.
It tells the tale of a mysterious hulking menace that kidnaps a teenager in the opening sequence and then proceeds to slash his way through anyone that he bumps into thereafter. He sets his sights on a teacher and her cousin that share a house in a secluded neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the abducted girl’s father hires a psychic to help find the shadowy madman and the pair set out to track him down…
If ever a movie were to be called a mixed bag, then The Demon would be first in the queue for the moniker. There’s some decent stuff here, but it pops up only on the rarest of occasions and the rest of the runtime is a bit of a puzzle. We begin with the family of the kidnapped child and their desperate efforts to track down the perpetrator. They hire an ESP specialist (delivered hilariously by Cameron Mitchell) to assist and it builds some intriguing momentum. After twenty-minutes or so, we are introduced to two new characters and a separate branch, which dominates the majority of the story from then onward. We cut between the two simultaneous scenarios sporadically, but they lack a connection aside from the antagonist and so the film becomes disjointed and begins to lose it’s way.
Our heroine Mary (Jennifer Holmes) is a school teacher that lives with her cute cousin Jo (Zoli Marki). They are given a lot of time to flex their acting chops, especially Marki, who gets a silly romance sub-plot, which is extremely long winded. Dialogue like, “Drive me to the moon” feels like it’s been lifted from Romeo and Juliet and the fact that wardrobe gave her dresses that look like shower curtains certainly didn’t help. Talking of shower curtains, did I mention that the final girl does indeed sport one in order to cover her dignity after being chased around the house in only her nickers for the climax? Seeing a bra-less heroine battle the killer was a new one on me.
During the bloated mid-section, the psycho pops up a couple of times to prevent us from nodding off. One of these events occurs outside a nightclub called, ‘Boobs Disco’, which sounds like my kind of joint. After boogieing to the pop strains of ‘Funkytown’, a South African lass is stalked and almost raped (?) by The Demon, whose techniques for attracting the opposite sex are those of the Borat variety. She is saved by two passing motorcyclists who receive a vicious right hook for their efforts, which leaves them in heaps upon the concrete. One of them is especially unfortunate because his bike explodes into a ball of flames after lightly bumping into a wall. I’m still scratching my head as to how that was possible. Spontaneous bike combustion perhaps? Well, he is The Demon, I guess…
There’s a great scene shortly after, which shows the maniac preparing for his showdown and it’s intercut with Jo getting ready for her date. Once he arrives on site, the slasher chills are extremely effective and deliver some shades of suspense. We don’t get to learn anything about the maniac’s motive and this adds depth to his aura of menace. The script conveys his anonymity superbly and the actor playing him is probably the best thing about the feature. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he is up there with Jason and Michael in the villain stakes and his hefty frame and creepy white mask combine chillingly.
The only copies available of The Demon are poor in quality and many scenes are dark and unclear. There’s minimal gore due the fact that the nutjob’s method of murder is to put a bag over the head of each victim and asphyxiate them. We can’t escape the scriptwriting shipwreck of the soap opera-esque character development parts, which are snooze-inducing, and they seem to have let Cameron Mitchell loose on the quaaludes before he turned up on set. Does this make The Demon a total waste of space? Well funnily enough, no. We may be somewhere off Halloween with what we have here, but there’s enough in the extremely cute actress, remorseless assailant and idea that a place in the world exists called Boobs Disco to have kept me engaged.
What we need is a proper DVD with a commentary to answer some of the questions that I’ve raised here. Until then, I’m not saying don’t pick up a copy of this, but a few cans of lager will help you to appreciate it
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl: √√
Out of the Dark 1988
Directed by: Michael Schroeder
Starring: Karen Black, Lynn Danielson-Rosenthal, Divine
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Another of the late eighties slashers that disappeared soon after its release, Out of the Dark has recently seen a belated peak in popularity. I often get emails in regards to slashers like Cards of Death, Early Frost et al, which makes sense, because they’re rare as hell. Lately though I’ve had a few inquiries about this picture and a quick search on Amazon was all that was needed for me to understand why. There is a DVD available that you can purchase online, but it’s from a boutique distributor, which means that there are not many copies and each is costly. Luckily, my trusty VHS still has some views left in it and so I decided to revisit the movie for the first time In twenty-years.
A phone fantasy service is targeted by a loon in a clown mask, who calls and taunts the girls before murdering them brutally. The remaining models group together in order to stop the blood thirsty maniac, but it soon becomes apparent that he could be someone that they know.
Over the past decade or more, the slasher genre has been engulfed with titles that can best be identified as ‘erotic horror’. Movies like Porn Shoot Massacre, Blood and Sex Nightmare and Massacre at Rocky Ridge are produced as much for the inclusion of T&A as they are for their maniacal killers. Out of the Dark can be considered as something of a pre-cursor to those entries, because it invests heavily in giving its young cast of females the opportunity to whip off their undies whenever possible. They work in an apartment where they provide phone sex services to sleaze-bag clients. We spend time watching them converse and make fun of the callers, which provides some development on the closeness of their friendships. Outside of the girls and their manager, who resembles a beaten up Rozlin Focker, we meet Kevin Silver, a fashion photographer that is dating one of the call girls. We also learn that he is a big hit with the ladies, because a female detective comments that he must, ‘get more ass than a toilet seat’. Nice
We only get a break from all this momentous intrigue when the maniac strikes. Like many of his genre colleagues from the late eighties, he has a repertoire of wisecracks that he unleashes after each slaying. Aside from Freddy Krueger, who was played with the right charisma by Robert Englund, and perhaps the inadvertently hilarious dude from Nail Gun Massacre, killers with a catchphrase rarely work. Bobo the Clown (the bogeyman here) has a fantastic mask and would have been even creepier if they’d have dropped the chatter and given us more stalking or chase sequences. The one time that we do get to see him lurk in the shadows and pounce is by far the best set piece of the movie. He puts a shovel through the head of an unsuspecting neighbour before throttling his intended target with a hosepipe.
Despite the masked killer and slaughter of bunnies, Out of the Dark is far more murder-mystery-thriller than it is out and out slasher. We spend most of the last half snooping around for clues and investigating who could be the assailant. I worked that out pretty early on, but when the revelation scene comes around, they still make a real go of it. Michael Schroeder, who had thus far filmed everything with the oomph of a budget soap opera, pulls of a fabulous Carpenter-esque shot of the looming killer in the background. The majority of his efforts to build a tense environment had failed by that point (he used the old ‘waiting for the lift’ suspense mechanism twice in a row without result), but I loved the inclusion of the Sergio Leone eyeball chestnut.
Producer David C Thomas had a crack at the slasher genre during the boom years, with The House Where Death Lives and had thrown everything into making this a success. The film has a fantastic B-Movie ensemble and was slickly produced. In the end though, it failed to even recuperate half of its production budget, which was probably due to a poor marketing strategy. If they’d have gone all out as a slasher and dropped the eroticism angle, it may have been more of a hit. You only have to look at the success of Maniac Cop and Child’s Play to know that there were still crowds for horror movies 1988
Alas, Out of the Dark is not much of a rumpus, but there are countless entries that are worse
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√