Reviews by Luis Joaquín González
a SLASH abover Paul Morris sent me an email a while back asking why I don’t review many slasher shorts on the site. I guess the reason is because I post a review once a week and I’m used to covering a feature-length movie. There’s only so much that you can say about a film that’s a few minutes long and I write about 800 words about each flick that I watch. Then suddenly it dawned on me, why don’t I just review a few together!?! Ta-da. (It’s hardly inventing the wheel, but you have to understand that sometimes, I’m not the quickest)
So, every now and then from here on out, I’ll post an update here that’ll feature the shorts that I’ve watched and my opinion on them. I own quite a few and with many I have zero information on how they were put together. I apologise in advance if I don’t provide all you need, but they’ll all be slashers and I’ll give what I can:
Dead Air 2014
Directed by: Zac Morris. Running time: 6 Minutes
Set at a dorm party on Halloween night no less, Dead Air focuses on revenge for a prank that went wrong some time ago. At just over five-minutes, it’s a fun little flick, but doesn’t particularly explode with an abundance of potential film making quality. Whilst it’s creatively shot, the killings are all off-screen, I didn’t think much of the performances and there are no new gimmicks or tweaks to the formula. Cool black mask though and I will admit, if this was a teaser for an up and coming slasher, I would be adding it to my ‘to watch list’.
I, Murderer 2014
Directed by Dipayan Chatterjee. Running Time: 7 minutes
A poignant and disturbing seven-minute flick from India that will certainly make you think. I don’t agree that the slasher genre is the right place for political or campaign messages, but I’ll make an exception here because it truly is beautifully shot and professionally edited. If we forget about the concept for a moment, we can credit the haunting mask and musical accompaniment, which is top-class. I guess in this over-populated rat-race of a world that we live in, we need to think more about this subject, take precaution and as we say in Spain, controlarse y tened cuidado.
Fear the Reaper2004
Directed by Keith Munden. Running Time: 28 minutes
The first of Munden’s Reaper trilogy, this one tells the tale of a supernatural murderous being that’s stalking and murdering youngsters around a small residential area. A plump teen has a bizarre connection with the killer and sees what he does in visions and dreams, which means she must try to stop him. A few good moments that border on suspense are ruined by a disjointed flow and the fact that we can barely see anything some of the time. Even when we are given clear day shots, it’s still tough to follow, because the plot has the narration of melted ice cream and even repeats a few minutes of the SAME scene toward the conclusion. I can only presume that the editor was with his friend LSD when he put this together. Still, for a big fat 0 budget, it does show signs of potential here and there.
Directed by Steve Goltz. Running Time: 11 minutes
After a group of kids run down an old man by a roadside, a masked killer follows them camping to take revenge. Here we have the debut movie from Slasher Studios; the team that would go on to bring us Dismembering Christmas and Don’t Go to the Reunion. It’s a dose of extreme slasherism that’s confidently produced and tells an entire I Know What You Did Last Summer-type story in eleven-minutes, which is some achievement. Keeping in mind the bite size runtime, the characters are well conveyed and the film goes all out to impress. A true tribute to everything that we love about slashers, the use of the teddy bear and a cool mask are welcome inclusions. With four murders, some gore and a sex scene, you get bang for your buck, it’s just a shame they couldn’t chuck in some suspense. Still, as slasher shorts go, it’s a definite must see.
She’s Not Alone 2012
Directed by Mike Streeter. Running Time: 8 minutes
The slasher genre went through a bizarre referential phase recently, where there were a host of entries that played like Z-grade Elvis tribute acts to the peak period. I can honestly say that I can’t name many that managed to pull off the retro gimmick as well as this classy and stylishly directed addition from Mike Streeter (a name to watch). Everything from the music, props, fashion and style is pure nostalgia. It annoys me with shorts that if crews only need to fulfil a few minutes of screen time, why can’t they make the most of each shot. We are given a plethora of good camera work during SNA and even some tricks that Carpenter himself would have been proud of. In fact, if someone told me that Carpenter had directed this, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to question. I can’t give She’s Not Alone any more credit that that.
Pesadilla Sangrienta 2006
Directed by Marceleo Cabrera/Felipe Paredes. Running Time: 7 minutes
A pretty nothing-ness slasher movie that was likely filmed on a cheap mobile phone. Zero dialogue, zero gore and you can’t see what’s going on most of the time. No real story with this one outside of a guy with a Guns n Roses-era Slash-style haircut stalking a girl that has one too, which only adds to the confusion. It’s great that people make slashers at home, but I can’t give them credit if they’re this bad.
Directed by Ryan Shovey. Running Time: 12 minutes
This one was originally meant as a teaser for a feature length slasher that thus far hasn’t materialised. It’s a shame, because Hunter really is a superb slice of slasherism that much like She’s Not Alone, shows heavy Carpenter influences. It’s set inside a house and so we don’t get given much space, but Shovey delivers suspense, shocks and some Argento-alike camera tricks. The killer is creepy as hell too. What I thought worked best was the fact that we got to know the two characters in only twelve-minutes, which was a sign of good scripting. I understand that the director is working on another slasher movie, so let’s hope it turns out to be as stylish as this.
Title Unknown 2011
Directed by Unkown. Running Time: 9 minutes
I have no information on this one or even its title, which is a shame because I kind of have a soft spot for it. The whole production reminded me of mid-nineties SOV titles like Savage Vows and it has a similar type of attractive obscurity. It tells the tale of an ambitious Deputy that wants to rid the town of a vicious masked killer, but the Sheriff is less eager, which raises suspicion in the eyes of the apprentice. Whilst there’s no gore and the score has been borrowed from other hits (even Halloween), the killer’s mask (reminiscent of the Monk from Terror Train) and a couple of impressive shots make this one interesting. It’s by no means a polished example of great filmmaking, but it gains points because it’s so reminiscent of the days of buying cheap VHS from stores/websites.
Directed by David Dinetz, Dylan Trussell . Running Time: 8 minutes
Chainsaw was presented by Eli Roth and it tells the tale of a huge maniac stalking a Haunted House at a theme park. It’s certainly amongst the most gratuitous shorts that I’ve witnessed and includes some extremely graphic shots of a chainsaw-blade cutting into flesh. Whilst it is an extremely modern picture with its MTV flash cuts and CGI, it had an interesting comment on voyeurism, which was a key theme of Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse. Bizarrely, the intro reminded me of the brilliant Derek Cianfrance drama, The Place Beyond the Pines. Definitely one for gore hounds.
Panic Fear 2015
Directed by John Francis Conway III. Running Time: 5 minutes
Panic Fear won’t take up too much of your time, but it makes a statement with its structured shots and inventive camera placement. I appreciated the lengths that the director went to for realism by demonstrating how victimised we would be if a similar scenario were to strike when we least expect it. The smart use of muffled external sound worked wonders to set-up the theme of a killer invading a place of complete seclusion: our home. In fact, this one becomes more scary upon post reflection. I’ve seen thousands of people butchered in slasher films, but this one just felt a little more ruthless than usual.
Directed by Jarno Mahlberg. Running Time: 12 minutes
If I had to compare this Finnish slasher with any other that I’d reviewed of late, then it would have to be Murhapukki, which funnily enough hails from… Finland. Whilst I don’t like horror comedies that go out of their way to try to be funny, I’m a big fan of black humour or a slice of the tongue in cheek. Axecutioner overcomes its low budget with a huge chunk of fun that I thoroughly enjoyed. There’s some very cheap gore that is creatively displayed and the outlandish camera angles are Scott Spiegel-esque. It’s as standard as could possibly be in terms of plot (three guys go to a cabin in the woods to drink whilst there’s a masked nut on the loose), but it ticks the boxes with its overall campiness. This one reminded of cheesy eighties hits without broadcasting that it’s doing so.
Time to Die 2011
Directed by Madness INC. Running Time: 10 minutes
Whilst on the subject of Horror Comedies that work, here we have one on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. At nine minutes and thirty-nine seconds, Time to Die is nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds too long. From what I could make out from the bad audio, it tells the tale of a group of misfits that have paid for a time share or something along those lines to explain away the threadbare plot. Before long, a killer that looks like a throwback from the Kiss glam metal era offs a handful of them in slapstick ways. Look I appreciate that this is just a group of friends having fun, but I have to call it as I see it and what I saw sucked like a mosquito on steroids. To make a comedy work, you either need jokes that are, well, funny or an obvious source code for what you’re mocking. I had no idea what was going on here and wish they hadn’t have bothered. In fact, it made me wish it was time to…
Killer on the Loose 2015
Directed by Mark Baliff. Running Time: 15 minutes
Here we have an expertly taut and cunningly smart slasher from director Mark Baliff that definitely needs to be seen. It demonstrates style right from an opening credit sequence that incorporates a handful of creative shots of Halloween props to build the tone. We then cut to a blood stained girl that’s fleeing a hockey mask sporting stranger. She manages to sneak into an unoccupied house where a cat and mouse game of hide and seek begins with the would-be assailant. Killer on the Loose includes a bundle of references to Halloween and Friday the 13th (including an abode very similar to the Myers House and Night of the Living Dead playing on the TV). It’s no carbon copy though and builds up to a unique and impressive conclusion. What really stood out for me, aside from the aforementioned structured shots, was a strong use of sound and gothic lighting. If the slasher genre is left in the hands of filmmakers like Señor Baliff, we have loads to look forward to.
The Welder 2015
Directed by Justin Cauti. Running Time: 15 minutes
Three girls head to their college to meet Trey, the boyfriend of Alex, who’s celebrating her birthday. Little do they know that a psychopathic Welder that was mutilated ten-years earlier is back for revenge. With a decent budget, killer guise, location and score, I was disappointed that this one wasn’t better. Most of the characters are the brash-cocky-brat-type that ruined a plethora of post-Scream entries, except one; but he doesn’t last long enough to make an impression. With nothing to attract me to the victims, I was hoping for some gore or suspense, but aside from a couple of interesting shots, it was mainly put-together with minimal flair. It’s hard to find fault with the hulking maniac and his deranged heavy breath, but the film lacks the polish of others I’ve reviewed here. Still a killer Welder is a good idea for a feature length picture guys..
Directed by Will Morris. Running Time: 4 minutes
Porkchop was so bad that it ruined the concept of a cool killer ‘Pig Head’ guise. Thankfully, Squeal improves upon the lacklustre Chop but still falls short of giving us a great and gratuitous gammon gore fest. It tells the tale of a group of girls at a party that are stalked by said maniacal assassin; but this guy has a deranged but intriguing motive for his attacks. As expected, he looks pretty menacing clutching a scythe, but some awful acting and overuse of a strobe effect prevents the film from really impressing.
Night Night Nancy 2011
Directed by Lewis Farinella. Running Time: 5 minutes
I have often believed that surrealism would be a good blend with the Slasher genre, but in fairness we haven’t seen many attempts at introducing the concept. The idea here was definitely to make a visual interpretation of a bad dream and the net result was fairly impressive. A young girl wakes up alone and discovers that there’s a masked intruder in her house and so she tries desperately to escape his clutches. What I really liked about Night Night Nancy was the killer’s awkward limp and deranged breathing, which really gave the impression that he/she was seriously disturbed. I also thought that incorporating a mobile phone as a source of terror was smart and the conclusion conveyed a nightmarish quality. The final girl made some silly decisions, but mostly it worked well.
Forest Falls 2012
Directed by Ryan McDuffie. Running Time: 27 minutes
At just under half an hour, Falls is longer than many on this page and it’s also one of the most unique that I’ve featured. The plot line starts as have a million others, with a group of teens heading up to a secluded camp site to indulge in some beer drinking and partying. It’s when the killer reveals himself BEFORE starting the bloodletting that the film heads off on a pathway that’s ambitiously uncommon. Whilst I am not really sure if I enjoyed everything I saw here, I can’t knock director Ryan McDuffie for trying to break the mould. Our masked killer is no Jason Voorhees wannabee and dispatches his victims rapidly with a handgun, which takes the ‘slash’ out of any slasher flick. I also didn’t think that knowing who the killer was from the outset worked, because it removed any intrigue or mystery that may have made him more ominous. Still, there’s no denying that Falls is expansively produced and I was impressed by some of the acting. The sets are slick and well-lighted and the movie opens with a Doo-Wop song, which added some real culture. It’s just that for me, guns in slashers are like sausages at a Vegan banquet – totally out of place. The film just couldn’t recover from that.
Midnight Man 2011
Directed by Kyle Stackhouse. Running Time: 4 minutes
Midnight Man is another of the many shorts that chooses a ‘one woman alone in apartment’ set-up to deliver some creative visuals. Here we have a maniac with a creepy mask (reminded me of the the antagonist from Final Scream) stalking a blonde female in her bedroom. The director uses some neat sound and a couple of Carpenter-alike ‘boogeyman looming in the background’ shots to add class, but it’d been nice to have seen more of a struggle from the victim or even a chase sequence.
Pizza Man 2015
Directed by Todd Condit. Running Time: 5 minutes
Interesting idea for a slasher movie, where the boogeyman is your Pizza Delivery guy! In honesty, these couriers get a hard time, because they bare the brunt of your wrath if the food’s late (even if it’s rarely their fault) and they don’t get a tip as would a Taxi driver. Shot in black and white, Pizza Man plays well on the fact that waiting around for a meal is the most antagonising thing in the history of food. Whilst there’s not a lot of suspense in the way the stalking is rolled out, we do get some gore and a killer Delivery Guy who’d make a great spouse for the chick from Pizza Girl Massacre don’t you think?
Directed by Steve Piché. Running Time: 3 minutes
Well this one wins the award for the shortest title of today’s post at under 180 seconds, but that surprisingly doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. A Slash abover Martin was involved in the production of this one over ten years ago and he kindly allowed me to review it for you all today. It only shows the stalking and slashing of an unfortunate wanderer, but there’s definitely a chunk of credibility on display. We get some nice low camera angles, a machete through cranium killing and a slow stalking maniac in a burlap sack, which regular readers will know is my favourite guise.
Tear Her 2014
Directed by Ricky Bird. Running Time: 6 minutes
Creepy little short from Hectic films that was made as a tribute to watching scary movies on VHS and dealing with inconsistent tracking. Rather than reminisce about my VCR though, the mazy screen and some chilling sound effects gave Tear Her a nightmarish feel, which helped to make it fresh. It shows a killer in a terrifying mask stalking an unfortunate model in a large dilapidated complex, which may not be much in terms of novel scripting, but works because it’s uniquely put together. I always have believed that the best horror is the type that goes the extra mile. Tear her does just that
Terror at Black Tree Forest 2010
Directed by: Dustin Ferguson
Starring: Allison Scott II, Paul Albers, Steve Carty
Review by Luis Joaquín González
One of the toughest tasks that blog authors/critics face is that we often converse with filmmakers before seeing their movies. Sometimes they’re generally nice people and if their movie sucks thereafter you do feel a shade of guilt for having to put into words all that was bad about their effort. It’s tough, honestly it is, but it’s something that we must do. When I posted the write-up of Cheerleader Camp: To the Death, Dustin Ferguson wrote a very honest comment beneath and warned me against his debut feature, Terror at Black Tree Forest. He said that he was expecting a negative rating, because he’s made 29 films since and has obviously improved upon his breakthrough flick. With this in mind, he’s made my job a whole lot easier, because my expectations are now already lower than Christ of the Abyss and I don’t have to worry about offending him. Nice…!
Twenty-years after the rape and murder of a married couple, the only survivor, a young child at the time, breaks out of his asylum and heads back to Black Tree Forest. He arrives just when two couples and a pair of campers are planning a fun-packed weekend and he soon begins lurking ominously as they unwind. Will any of them escape the blade of the vicious masked maniac…?
Despite being a pretty cool guy, it’s fair to say that Dustin Ferguson is also fairly modest. You see, if a filmmaker himself tells you that he’s picture’s bad, you can be pretty sure that it’s not going to be anything other. Fortunately, I’d have to disagree with him on this one, because Terror at Black Tree Forest may not be the Maradona of slasher movies, but it’s not quite the Ali Dia either.
Before the pre-credits, we are shown two trailers of seventies cult classics in an effort to relive the experience of watching rental VHS cassettes. The films chosen were Robert Englund’s ‘Slashed Dreams’ and the Christmas shocker, ‘Silent Night Bloody Night’. Whilst this is a fairly simple technique and not particularly authentic, it worked because Terror is shot with a lens-gimmick that gives the screen a static/fuzz that’s reminiscent of those 16mm prints that we all know and love. Even if the opening scene is the only one that is set in 1970 (the rest of the action is twenty years later) they choose to film the entire runtime this way, which is certainly unique.
Aside from that, what I feel really made Terror stand out was the killer’s bloodied burlap sack-guise and a deep haunting electronic soundtrack from Nathan Christensen. At times his accompaniment single-handedly carried the tone, because it’s so effective in its ability to unsettle the viewer. There’s a murder late-on that may be poorly lit, but the actor’s pre-death gargling and the strength of the keyboard sampling really does create a macabre feeling. We also get a tacky but solid ‘knife through eyeball’ gore shot that brought to mind Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2. Ferguson’s films almost always include a solid playlist and this, his first picture, is no different in that respect. As a director, it’s clear to see that he values in the importance of well- produced audio. His choice of camera movement and angles also show that he sees his pictures with a creative vision and I believe this is why his projects overcome their fund-related deficiencies.
So after all that I’ve stated above, why was Dustin so keen to prepare me for the worst? Well, there are a few reasons. I watched Terror on a three-hour flight, which meant that I was something of a ‘captive audience’. I can imagine that the mid-section may begin to drag for those that are surrounded by possible distractions, because the dialogue is predominantly routine and the characters lack intrigue. It’s also worth nothing that a lot of shots could have been shortened by at least a few seconds and it seems strange that this wasn’t noticed during editing. I can only guess that the financiers for the picture gave Ferguson a runtime and said it had to be filled?? The net result is a 1.5 star movie at just over an hour that could have been 2 stars if it were reduced to 52 minutes. I also thought it was strange that after a lengthy and smartly put-together chase sequence, the final stand-off between the heroine and the killer is left off-screen. Perhaps they ran out of budget?
As I said earlier, the boogeyman truly looks scary, but I had to read the back of the cover to make sure who he was because we don’t really get an explanation. I mean, sure, we can work out that he’s the kid from the opening scene, but in that case what happened to the rapist/murderer that killed his parents? Was he captured? Is he on the loose? Oh and whilst on the subject of the opening sequence, Terror has stolen the crown from Nail Gun Massacre for the most comical rape sequence in horror film history. Still, I’d prefer that any day to the grotesque stuff we saw in Gutterballs.
Terror at Black Tree Forest is a cheap and cheerful slasher movie that scores points for the level of creativity and a few good ideas. It’s got gore, brief nudity, a cool killer and a fantastic score, which is quite a lot for such an obscure flick. I would say that this is perfect viewing material for a train/plane journey when you have an hour or so to waste…
Stage Fright 2015
aka The Gallows
Directed by: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I was just thinking, it’s been a whole two-weeks since I reviewed a film called Stage Fright; I might be getting withdrawal symptoms… So here we have the most recent of the five identically titled stalk and slash movies and it is something of a crossbreed of styles that we need to discuss. I first heard about this project in 2011, when I read an article that described it as a cross between Friday the 13th and Candyman. A trailer soon followed that stated an October 2012 release date and included a host of shots that I don’t recall appearing in the version, now titled as The Gallows, that I saw last night at the cinema. I could find very little information regarding the name change and all pages/sites that hosted the original trailer have been deleted. It’s lucky that I kept a copy, which I’ve attached to this post so you can see the differences for yourself. It’s been reported that the DVD/Blue-Ray release will include a lot of the deleted scenes, so I’ll be looking forward to finding out via a commentary what it was that led to such drastic re-modelling tactics? I wonder if it had anything to do with the release of the musical Stage Fright that may have been the first to successfully copyright that title…?
Since The Blair Witch Project made a splash back in 1999, horror has been awash with found footage ghost stories. Paranormal Activity is likely the most recognised of these, but a quick glance at any horror playlist will find countless films with similar concepts. Supernatural slashers are nothing new but aside from a couple of half-hearted additions (Dead of Nite), we haven’t really had a true combination of that style and the slasher genre… Until now. I guess that you could call it the first ‘Paranormal Slasher’.
A school in a small town is going to relaunch a play called The Gallows after twenty-two years. The show has a haunted history, because the last time that some students attempted to open it, a youngster named Charlie Grimille was killed by hanging on stage. The accident was caught on camera, but the investigation is still open due to some suspicious circumstances. A new generation of actors that are playing key parts in the second production decide to break into the theatre and stay there for the night. Little do they know that some things are best left alone…?
Ok, so the first question that I need to answer for you is whether The Gallows is actually slasher-tastic enough to be on the right website here. Well, I’m happy to confirm that it is most definitely a stalk and slash flick, but it’s one with a few supernatural flourishes. It has the whole House on Sorority Row/I Know What You Did Last Summer ‘revenge for a fateful event from the past’ thing going on, which is a key ingredient of a host of genre entries. It’s also worth noting that Charlie Grimille is a typical antagonist with a hulking frame and Burlap Sack-type hangman’s mask. I have always had a problem with a Nightmare on Elm Street being classed as a standard slasher movie because its methods of slaughter are too fantastical and therefore far removed from the original source code: Psycho/Giallos. Here, the victims are killed by a noose, which is a far less outlandish gimmick.
When the psycho makes his presence known, the film becomes extremely tense as the four teens are left wandering the dark corridors of the theatre and desperately trying to discover an exit. Travis Cluff does a superb job of realising the panic of being trapped inside with an unknown intruder and an adept use of soundbites and shadows means that we are constantly left uneasy about what could happen next. Another sign that this is a slasher movie is the placement of the hulking killer, because he manages to convey the Michael Myers-alike ‘appear in the background’ trick extremely well. I guess that the only true ghostly ingredients are the inclusion of unexplained sounds and a TV and VCR that plays footage of the initial accident with no connected power.
Whilst the handheld camera approach works to provide a few moments of tension and an incredibly effective late jump-scare, it has to be said that the movie might have played much better if it had been shot like a more standard third-person horror. The story was unoriginal but good-enough, the boogeyman was scary and the location was immense; so one can only wonder how it might have turned out if completed differently. I was speaking recently with a SLASH abover Brandon who agreed with my review of Gutterballs. What I said was that the characters are so deplorable that you don’t really care what happens to them and therefore are left without anyone to root for. The main camera operator here, a guy by the name of Ryan, is also a jerk, which means he ruins the opening part of the movie and dominates your reaction to the fate of other players. It’s not the fault of the actor, who alongside the rest, did what was expected of him. It’s just hard to understand what the screenwriters had in mind when they were dreaming up his personality.
With that said, after an intro that struggles to sustain interest, The Gallows becomes a scary and unique horror movie and one that I’m glad to have seen in the cinema. We watch these films to be scared and entertained and Cluff’s picture does exactly that. The missing footage may explain some of the parts that are slightly unclear (it’s hinted that you should not mention Charlie’s name in a Candyman type way, but not really clarified) and I am actually looking forward to seeing a director’s cut of the feature. Until then, this copy has enough to be worth checking out…
Directed by: Stevan Mena
Starring: R. Brandon Johnson, Samantha Dark, Heather Magee
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok, so I’ve got a bit of a confession to make. The fact that I run a SLASH above and often post a plethora of the rarest entries here kind of gives the impression that I’ve seen them all, doesn’t it? Well, despite its reputation for being one of the most highly commended titles of the early noughties, I hadn’t watched Malevolence until last night. Shock! Horror! (I was going to mention that I haven’t viewed Haute Tension yet either but that’s enough surprises for one review ;))
Released initially as the mid-entry of a trilogy, Stevan Mena’s debut quickly became a fan favourite amongst collectors. A prequel hit shelves in 2010, called Bereavement, which further developed the background of Martin Bristol, the series’ villain. There’s currently a third chapter in production that looks set to be completed later this year. The photos of a killer in a Burlap Sack that I’d seen had led me to believe this was something of a Killer in the Woods/Friday the 13th rip off. I was startled to learn that it’s nothing of the sort…
After a typical genre opening (steadicam up to a house, a merciless killing), the film goes into Satan’s Blade territory with the unusual inclusion of a bank robbery. A group of down and outs pull off a daring heist that owes a damn site more to Reservoir Dogs than it perhaps should have, but manages to work well considering the restraints of the budget. After some tense twists and turns, the gang of thieves (and two hostages) end up stranded in an abandoned house. They soon learn that they are not alone, because they have entered the domain of a vicious killer who is intent on slaughtering them.
Of all the 311 reviews that I’ve posted here on the site, the one that splits readers the most is Tyler Tharpe’s Freak from 1996. I gave it a three-star rating and praised it’s method of story development and character driven plot. Many of you agreed, whilst some, quite blatantly, didn’t. It’s fair to say that this feature includes a lot more action than Tharpe’s slasher, but I did notice shades of the same slow-boiling and gritty approach. Aside from that slight similarity, I can’t think of another slasher movie that I can accurately compare with Malevolence. Sure, it has a handful of nods to Halloween (sound cues are almost cut and pasted) and a killer guise that resembles Jason Voorhees’ from Friday the 13th Part II, but aside from that it’s unlike anything that I’ve seen previously. During the first twenty minutes, a group of intriguing personalities are placed in engrossing scenarios that are shot creatively with sublime camera placement. The initial tale of criminals trying to pull off a score meant that we were only made aware that this was a horror film by the odd chime of a low chord and a growing undercurrent of dread. I could sense the kind of eerie peculiarity that is often found in Asian horror titles such as The Ring or Ju-on. It’s not that Mena was attempting to particularly mimic that style, but the grim aura of doom that surrounds characters that are untypical of slasher trademarks, creates a novel tone.
It could be said that the director takes some risks with his filmmaking style; – especially in the way he invests deeply in the background of his story. Thankfully, those risks just about pay off and the film rolls through a crescendo of moods to maintain the uniqueness. Humans have a morbid fascination with abandoned places, such as Prypriat for example, and Mena seems to recognise this by setting the majority of the horror in a large dilapidated farmhouse. The scenes where the camera probes the vacant rooms and picks up on discarded objects from past memories are really quite creepy. He compliments this distinctive imagery with a smart use of sharp sounds and lighting. Whilst there isn’t really a stand-out score, our senses are kept constantly alert by the squawk of a crow or the sudden impact of bush crickets wurring from the surrounding wildlife. I’ve seen scattered comments about the lack of killings and it’s true that there are very few, but the couple that we are given are handled surprisingly well. Mena pays tribute to Carpenter’s methodology of the background placement of his silently ominous antagonist and the killer looks great in what can best be described as an ‘almost Burlap Sack.’
The plot point of having criminals on the run brought to mind Hitchcock’s Psycho and the film works along the same lines of constantly re-adjusting your evaluations. If I had any complaint at all, it would be that much like Freak, there is a certain level of attention needed to really enjoy the feature and gore hounds may grow frustrated with the amount of time it takes to get going. With that said, there’s so much that’s creatively delivered about the film that I could overlook the minor negatives and the shoddy-ish acting.
I had heard good things about Malevolence and to be honest I enjoyed it more than I was expecting to. It’s much easier to fill a film with nudity and gore than it is to provide craft. Mena delivers a slasher that is not only smartly put together and nicely shot, but it also tries something different and that makes it stand out.
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: √√√√
Killer Campout 2005
Directed by: Victor Franko
Starring: Jillian Swanson, Anthony Goes, Patrick Hickey,
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This is another total obscurity that I received in the post a few years back, but I’ve never got around to actually watching. I’ve been trying to review Camp Blood for a SLASH above since the start of the year, but I can’t locate my copy anywhere. Desperate to post a newish killer in the woods flick for y’all, I thought that I’d finally take the plunge and give this a viewing. Killer Campout is budget filmmaking at the lowest possible level, so there’s little more in terms of production value than a camcorder and an industrial sized container of corn syrup. I know that doesn’t sound like the most attractive prospect, but if I’m going to cover the entire genre, then I’ll have to sit through some of these from time to time.
It came from Victor D’Agostino (under the pseudonym Victor Franko) who had been working as an extra and picking up experience around the film industry since 2002. Amongst other things, he had assisted B-Movie director Jay Woelfel on the production of both Ghost Lake and Demonicus before finally getting the funds together to make his own slasher extravaganza three-years later. He hired locals and buddies to fill up the cast list and filmed it at a site that he knew extremely well.
Seven kids head off on a camping trip into some secluded woodland to smoke pot and make-out for a weekend. The forest is host to an urban legend of a monster of some kind that kills invaders of his domain. Before long, they soon discover this to be true, as a burlap sack sporting maniac begins to slash his way through them.
It would be foolish to have high expectations for a movie that cost $500 to produce, but prepare to be shocked señoras y señores, because Killer Campout is a real gem for the money that was put into it. What we have here is a tribute to Friday the 13th that pays homage in the best possible way and offers much more of a knowing nod than the likes of Blood Reaper or Day of the Ax managed. The killer looks splendid in a black burlap sack and traditional Killer in the Woods lumberjack get-up and he stalks with the kind of physically imposing frame that made Jason so memorable. D’Agostino didn’t have the budget to cast someone to play the maniac, so instead he performed the role himself. He really gave life to the hulking slayer, which may well have been due to his previous acting experience. A fine example of this is during the pulsating chase sequence in the closing minutes, where the final girl is pursued after she has sprained her ankle. Our bogeyman has a traditional slow-footed Michael Myers stalk, which means that her injury makes them equally paced and it generates some solid suspense. In another scene, the killer towers over the same cowering female after murdering one of her colleagues. She sits dumbfounded and in a state of shock and its one of those moments that makes you scream at the screen, “Get up and run for Gawd’s sake!” It was great to see the director transcending his budget in an effort to give us as thrilling a ride as possible.
The feature clocks in at fifty-four minutes, which doesn’t leave a great deal of time for character development, but the lightweight script still managed to chuck in some memorable gimmicks. These include a hilarious shoplifting skit and some wacky weed-smoking references that are delivered by a pair of rouge-ish chicks that are there to add a dose of humour. I was incredibly impressed with seventeen-year-old Jillian Swanson’s portrayal of the heroine, because with minimal dialogue and screen-time, she gave us a charming and approachable final girl. Her career blossomed for a couple of years after this and she appeared in a few other horror pictures, but she’s been missing since 2007, so I’m guessing that she’s given up on acting, which is a shame. Along with the energetic performances, I also found the gore effects to be worthy of credit, because they’ve pulled off some really effective visuals on shoelace funding. Amongst these was a gruesome impalement and an outstanding head-lopping trick that proved that with the right camera angles and a sharp mind, a lack of funding doesn’t effect what you can achieve.
Despite some crisp photography that is as radiant as anything that I’ve seen in slasher cinema, nothing can overcome the obvious amateurism of the sound mixing and editing. It looks as if scenes were completed and given musical accompaniment before everything was chopped together, so we get a whole heap of moments when two separate scores that don’t really fit are amalgamated into one set-piece. There are also times when the dialogue couldn’t be synced at the same times as the soundtrack for some unknown reason, which gives the audio an awkwardness that shows the film’s cheapness. They did make this work to their advantage in one place though, by giving the killer his own atmospheric POV that had a distinguished piece of music every time that he appeared on screen. It was a good way to make the best use of the budget restraints and its even something that they poked fun at later when the heroine grabbed a weapon during the conclusion.
I ask myself, did Victor D’Agonisto get what he could out of $500? The answer is as blatant a yes as a yes can possibly be. This is a very good entry that delivers far more thrills, Friday the 13th references and slasher fun than most of the films released recently on ten-times the expense. Whilst I admit that you need to be lenient in places, I think slasher fans will lap it up if they can find a copy.
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√√
Cross Bearer 2012
Directed by: Adam Ahlbrandt
Starring: Isaac Williams, Natalie Jean, Victoria DePaul
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Being that a SLASH above is so genre focused, I guess that most of you that check us out weekly are collectors just like me. I mention this because I’m sure that you will understand when I talk about the desperation to uncover an obscure entry that you really want to see. You’ll have been through endless hours of searching on peculiar DVD sites, eBay and Amazon stores and every torrent portal that’s ever been listed on Google, and you’ll understand how much that raises expectations. Well even though it’s just over two years old, Cross Bearer has been the latest title that I’ve been hunting out for what seems like an eternity.
I first heard about it from Dead Girls co-director Steve Jarvis, who saw it at Shriekfest in November 2012. He gave it a, ‘bona fide, 14-carat, good housekeeping seal of approval’ and in general he knows a good slasher movie. It was soon listed on the IMDB with a 7.5 rating, which is an amazing score for such a picture. Shortly after, I found an incredibly positive review on the Horror Society website, which called it an, ‘extremely dark slasher film, full of grit and grime’. I was expecting it to be released straight away and I waited in anticipation, but only now, twenty-months later, have I managed to source a copy from Cologne, Germany.
It opens with a truly brilliant collage of shots of religious imagery and Audio snippets of fanatical preaching. Then we head to a seedy Pittsburgh apartment block where we meet a long haired religious nut with a beard who is spying on and recording a pimp and his hooker friends. As the story unravels, more characters are introduced including a sleazy strip club owner, a pair of lesbian strippers who are madly in love and a single mother who is a part-time drug courier. They all come together in a large rundown warehouse for a gore-tastic showdown with a hooded killer.
There’s some discrepancies on exactly how much was spent on the budget of Cross Bearer. Director Adam Ahlbrandt has stated as little as $3,500, but I would guess that it’s a whole lot more. The film really looks the business with it’s saturated colour and grainy images that capture the morbid tone. It also has an impressive soundtrack of songs that are professionally composed and produced. Add on top of that some excellent gore effects from Doug Sakmann that do not scrimp on costs whatsoever and you get a production that doesn’t look far off the same year’s Smiley. Bearer tramples the line between slasher and torture porn incredibly well and most of the on-screen killings are exceptionally brutal and visceral. Our butcher beats each victim to death mercilessly with a hammer and he only changes his MO on two occasions. In one of those, he uses the claw end of said hammer to rip out one victim’s tongue and in the other, he pours a bag of cocaine over an incapacitated girl until she froths at the mouth and chokes to death. I thought that was a pretty cool idea and even though we’ve seen something similar in Dead 7 from 2000, it was much slicker this time around
The film is made up of a mix of inspirations that are taken from the straight-ahead masked killer stalks teens stories of Halloween or Prom Night, whilst also digging deeper into the sadism of 70s titles like Three on a Meathook or Deranged. We also get some Scream era referential dialogue, with one character mentioning Friday the 13th part II, which I feel is of relevance to the choice of guise for the killer. Whilst it is not quite a burlap sack, the white ‘bed sheet’ headpiece is visually similar to Jason circa the second franchise installment, so I would include this amongst titles like Malevolence and Boogieman that went for a similar costume. Psychos in that kind of get-up have always been my favourites and when we see him stalking whilst spattered in blood, it does look exquisitely creepy.
In-between the kill scenes is time that’s spent with a group of seedy low-lives and it’s here that the film can’t maintain such quality. Firstly there is no central character for us to bond with, so there’s very little suspense in wanting to see anyone survive. We are given a bunch of drug addled strippers and pimps that don’t even marginally convince that they’re delinquents. Mind you, they shouldn’t need to, this is a horror film, not a ghetto flick. Because he has a cast that look about as gangster as Popeye, Ahlbrandt makes up for it by taking the level of exploitation so far in the first 10 minutes that it loses impact and becomes irritating. Every second minute we get another lurid sex or coke reference and it’s delivered so weakly that I was begging for some normal conversations. Such messages are conveyed more effectively with restraint and in the end it reminded me of one of those kids that wants to be a bad boy so he fabricates endless stories of debauchery that are simply unbelievable.
I also felt that it needed more stalking scenes to help sustain the atmosphere. The most that we usually got was a single shot of the boogeyman walking up to burst in on his intended targets and therefore there wasn’t really any tension. When we did finally get a chase sequence during the last 20 minutes, I thought it was darkly effective due to the antagonist’s loony-tune chants, like, “Come out harlot, I can smell you”. As I said, he looks intimidating in the backwoods get-up, but I think that showing him unmasked in the opening scenes was a bit of a blunder. It took away the anticipation of revealing the motives behind such aggression and therefore the fear factor was reduced.
It’s surprising for me that Cross Bearer hasn’t yet received the release that it deserves, because it is better than many of the other films that have come out recently. Its IMDB score has dropped to 3.7 at the last check and all that initial positivity has been replaced with much poorer reviews. I have it on good authority that a script for a second chapter already exists and it gives the assailant a sledgehammer upgrade. Unless this feature gets picked up for a better distribution deal soon though, I don’t think that we’ll ever see it. There are not many companies that will sponsor a sequel when the first film never really took off. There’s no denying that a great opportunity has been missed here, but I still think that you should give it a go. It’s far too good to be just one of those obscurities that people hunt out on portals in twenty-year’s time.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl: √
Scream Park 2012
Director Cary Hill
Starring, Wendy Wygant, Steve Rudzinski, Nivek Ogre
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Whenever I go to an Amusement Park, I am always in awe of the possibilities for a pulsating slasher film. Ghost Houses are dark and claustrophobic and I can visualise a chase sequence through a hall of mirrors, there’s just so much that could be done. The Funhouse was one of the first to utilise such a location to stalk some teens and it turned out to be one of the better entries of the key period. Produced in 2012, Scream Park went about taking this potential into more modern surroundings and that’s why I was extremely excited to check it out.
It was the debut movie of director Cary Hill and was packaged to DVD by a company called ProtoMedia Productions. Unlike most budget slasher films that are unleashed of late, I didn’t know anything about this one until it had literally popped up in the products I might be interested in field on Amazon. There has been a major surge in genre entries produced over the past couple of years and I am still trying to track down a handful of them.
A horror themed amusement park called Fright Land has seen its number of visitors dwindle to the point that they have to close the doors for the last time. The manager has asked the remaining workers to stay behind and help to clear up and so they decide to bring in some booze and have a party. Little do they know that they are not alone and before long they are forced to battle with a pair of masked maniacs…
I recall in my review of Runaway Terror, that I mentioned the importance of marketing your product to give it the best possible chance of being competitive. Well here we have another example of great digital advertising, because the information that I found about Scream Park made it sound almost too good to be true. There was an 8/10 review on the IMDB and a few anonymous comments on boards that had flung praise all over it. Chuck on top of that a quality cover that shows a menace in a burlap sack clenching an axe and I was chomping at the bit to get involved. At a cool £9 including delivery, it didn’t even burn a hole in my wallet.
The credits pop up on a black screen with white lettering as an obvious nod to the early Friday the 13th films and then we get an interesting POV shot from a rollercoaster, which showed initial ingenuity. Immediately after though, as our characters are introduced, the pace drops to a near standstill and our old friend tedium begins to creep in. Now no matter what film school that you attend, you will always learn that an opening scene is necessary for setting the tone of your feature. You won’t see a pie in the face gag at the beginning of The Exorcist and a gruesome murder won’t launch Naked Gun for a specific reason. Scream Park gives us thirty-two minutes of humdrum conversations before the first kill scene and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you had already switched it off long before then. It doesn’t help that the dialogue is as conventional as ketchup on chips and it’s delivered by actors that seem to be devoid of any recgognisable human emotion.
When it finally gets itself in gear though, Scream Park breaks the mould by having a twosome of assailants that stalk the youngsters across the theme park. Upon their joint introduction, things do get more exciting and the murders boast a spark of inventiveness. The first guy to go is the token black security guard and he is hoisted up on a rope and then stabbed in the heart with a switchblade. Moments earlier, he had been watching Night of the Living Dead on his TV and it made me wonder if he was related to the guy from Silent Night Bloody Night: The Homecoming; also a black security guard that was murdered whilst watching the same flick. Next up a girl with a World Cup winning cleavage is boiled alive in a chip fryer and the killings continue to occur at an impressive rate. They even find the time to scalp one unfortunate dweeb before playing fancy dress with his hairpiece. One of the psychopaths gets unmasked quite early in the runtime and he’s a typical backwoods loon that took us too deep into the territory that ruined 2009’s The Cycle. The reason why John Lithgow, Dennis Hopper and the like got so many villain roles is because playing a deranged nut is not as easy as you’d think. It takes something special to make the old backwoods hillbilly stereotype work and the actor here just doesn’t have it. His accomplice was more of a traditional silent assailant, which worked much better, but bizarrely, they chose to get rid of him first.
Whilst the screenplay does show amateurism, the photography is creative and sharp. Hill utilises a bright palette of colour, which makes the sets of the fairground jump out and grab our attention. He tries hard to highlight the ‘amusement park’ theme as much as possible and it results in some fairly decent gimmicks. There are shades of suspense in some of the chase sequences and it all closes off with a fairly impressive twist. Most of what’s wrong with the movie is down to inexperience and lack of funding, which would be unfair to grumble about too much. Much like what I said in my write-up of Methodic, the talent is there and most likely Hill will learn from what he got wrong here and improve as his career develops.
Scream Park has some good ideas, some fun killings and a bucketful of ambition. What ruins it more than anything is the snooze-inducing first half and unconvincing acting throughout. Cute final girl aside, the film needed stronger characterisations to carry the development moments and without them, the pace struggles. Still, its heart is in the right place and that counts for a lot.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl √√√
Mask of Murder 1985
Directed by: Arne Mattsson
Starring: Rod Taylor, Valerie Perrine, Christopher Lee
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Following hot on the heels of my reviews of Out of the Dark and Dead End, Mask of Murder is another of those mystery thrillers that borrows plot points from the slasher movies and giallos that had been popular around the time. It was a joint Swedish/Canadian production that was shot in Uppsala län, and it was that unusual blend of cultural heritage that initially caught my attention.
Christopher Lee’s credits over the last twenty years have included three mega-blockbusters, which isn’t bad going for an actor that made his first movie appearance way back in the midst of World War 2. He was initially John Carpenter’s choice to play the Sam Loomis character in Halloween, but he didn’t accept; something he admits he’s always regretted. He even went as far as to call it the biggest blunder of his career.
Obviously annoyed that he’d missed out on some supreme slasher action, perhaps the reason he took a supporting role here was because he didn’t want to make the same mistake twice? Or maybe he was blackmailed into doing it? I really don’t know, but one thing is certain however, he was definitely slumming it.
It’s all set in a small snowy Canadian town. Almost immediately, a loony in a mask grabs an unsuspecting woman and slices her throat with a straight razor. Later that day in another location, a second victim suffers the same fate at the hands of the gruesome killer. He removes his disguise and heads back to a remote cabin where he proves his dementia by gnashing his teeth and staring into the screen. Ooooh scary…
We next get to meet the members of our cast over an evening’s gathering. First off there’s John (Christopher Lee) the chief of the local Police Force. His best detective, Bob (Rod Taylor) has been having problems with his wife Marianne (Valerie Perrine). These difficulties must have a lot to do with the fact that his partner Ray (Sam Cook) is busy banging her every time that he gets the chance. The dinner party is cut short when Bob receives a call informing him that they have the assassin surrounded. They rush to the scene and to cut an overlong story short; the city of Nelson should be a little quieter from now on. But the tranquillity doesn’t last. It begins to look like there’s a copycat murderer at work when more women turn up with their throats slit. Is someone mimicking the murders? Or is the killer back from beyond the grave?
Why Christopher Lee turned down Halloween but chose to play a part in this turkey is one of the world’s biggest mysteries. It’s up there with the Bermuda Triangle, Roswell and Big Foot. I mean seriously come on; surely the screenwriter must have known that the killer’s identity was patently obvious from the start. This is perhaps the dumbest and most basic premise for a murder mystery that I have ever seen. The Scooby Doo cartoon offers less obvious plot twists. Swedish filmmaker Arne Mattsson directs so sloppily that he manages to drag surprisingly wooden performances from an inviting ensemble of screen veterans. Lee’s the best of the bunch, but he’s not on screen long enough to warrant his fans to hunt this down. The pace moves like a traffic jam, and perhaps the most obnoxious thing about Mask of Murder is the horrible music that accompanies every ‘twist’ in the story. It sounds like one of those guitar-sporting beggars that you sometimes see on the street had been recorded whilst heavily inebriated.
Surprisingly though, there are some things that I liked about the film’s set up. For example, the killer has a pillow case over his head and if you squint your eyes it almost looks like the kind of burlap sack that Jason wore in Friday the 13th Part II. Also, the throat slashings are fairly bloody and in one scene a girl is murdered in a cinema – a trick that has become a slasher trademark after He Knows You’re Alone, Cut and Scream 2. The only problem is that the gore scenes are so leisurely executed that the gratuitous blood gushes just look like a poor attempt to flog a dead horse. There was never really a moment where I felt like things might improve or that I was perhaps being a tad over-critical. My suspicions were confirmed once and for all when I witnessed Rod Taylor sniffing his adulterous wife’s underwear. (Don’t ask!)
Mask of Murder was once amongst the rarest fossils of the genre, despite being released in quite a few countries. Nowadays though, its available on a Swedish DVD, although I must admit that I haven’t seen what the quality is like or what version it is on that disc.The first copy that I ever found was the BBFC rated print, which is missing 124 seconds of footage, but then I came across a VHS in Spain that’s totally uncut. It doesn’t really make much of a difference though because the film is as exciting as root canal surgery and almost as painful…
Killer Guise: √√√
Long Island Cannibal Massacre 1980
Directed by: Nathan Schiff
Starring: Loren Winters, Shepherd Sanders, Jeff Morris
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Firstly I have to apologize that I haven’t been posting reviews at the usual rate just recently. I have had a few changes in my life and what with moving house, getting a new job and a gorgeous new girlfriend to slowly break down mentally until she has no other choice but to agree to watch slasher films with me (lol), I have been finding time a little hard to come by. So it’s going to be just the once a week for the meantime, but I do have some good titles in store for you. Thanks as always for looking. We are still growing month on month and I really appreciate that you keep reading my reviews. If I was a millionaire, I would send every one of you a double vodka Sangria and a Tortilla con Salchicha Polaca, but unfortunately, I am not 😦 Anyway… on to our feature presentation….
Long before Andreas Schnaas began walking the streets of Hamburg with a camcorder and a bucket of pig’s intestines and long before studios like Sub Rosa were releasing any kind of horror junk that they could get their hands on, Nathan Schiff was directing no-budgeted gore films that rapidly gained cult status. His first, ‘Weasels rip my flesh’, was a throwback from the cheesy sci-fi movies of the ’50s and it proved to be successful enough to give him the funds for a follow up. The resulting feature is widely regarded as the director’s best work as a gore auteur and it acts as concrete evidence of what can be achieved on the merest of funding. And boy, do I mean the merest. ME-ERE-A-RE-EST. A new lease of life on DVD has opened Schiff’s work to a wider audience, and interest in his back-catalogue has reached an all time high.
Long Island Cannibal Massacre is not a standard slasher film like the multitude of horror flicks from this period were, but it does include many of the trappings that were prominent at that time. The film starts as it means to go on with a gruesome and audacious excuse to brighten the screen with colourful goo. A young girl that we see sunbathing in a remote field is assaulted and knocked unconscious by a masked assailant (wearing a costume extremely similar to Jason Voorhees’ in Friday the 13th Part 2, which would be released the following year). The maniac drags the girl into the bushes and ties her arms behind her back, before disappearing into the trees and leaving her struggling on the floor. He returns with a lawn mower and gives us the first gratuitous murder of the feature. You can see it just above…
Next up we meet Inspector James Cameron (played by John Smihula, who would appear in all of Schiff’s films); – a hard as nails wild card with a bitterly poetic view of crime on the streets. He soon gets involved in the mass of murders when he discovers a decapitated head on a beach whilst working undercover. When he fails to get the support that he needs from the local constabulary, Cameron quits the force and takes matters into his own hands. The vigilante soon discovers a circle of torture, slaughter and cannibalism that’s stranger than anyone could imagine.
As I said earlier, this is not a typical slasher movie and it combines elements from numerous genres. The inclusion of a masked maniac and various cinematic references to Carpenter’s Halloween mean that it has enough of the right stuff to slot into the category and in effect on to a SLASH above. Instead of having just the one psychopathic killer though, the plot gives us a gruesome-twosome; and even they play second-fiddle to an altogether more abominable bogeyman. This is where LICM really separates itself from the multitude of its brethren, because its conclusion owes more to monster features such as ‘Scared to Death’ than it does ‘Black Christmas‘ et al.
Nathan Schiff is a gore director, and the reason anyone watches his films is simply to see as much blood spraying fun as possible – and on that note the movie doesn’t disappoint. It’s also worth noting that he does try his hardest to provide an engaging plot and in places the movie succeeds quite impressively and shows strengths where some of the more heavily financed entries that I could name came up short. The revelation of the killer’s identity was certainly unexpected, and credit to the director for being so ambitious with his story telling.
Shot on Super 8mm, the picture quality is exactly as what you would expect, with the cinematography looking jaded and somewhat murky. Fortunately, Schiff wisely decided to shoot all the action under the security of daylight, which means the film isn’t ruined by a lack of visual clarity. The music was lifted from various bigger budgeted horror classics and it’s an enjoyable exercise for enthusiasts to try and recognise where we’ve heard those famous themes before. Despite the director’s lack of experience, he does manage to pull off at least one decent jump-scare and the photography is creative, which allows you to overlook the places where it isn’t completely clear.
In a feature such as this, the blood and guts is always the most important aspect and here it ranges from the outlandish to the outstanding. The chainsaw murder in the closing is uncomfortably detailed and kudos to the actors, because they took some huge risks with the deadly blades so close to their anatomy. Although there’s nothing here that would have forced Tom Savini to seek another profession, the effects are decent and gratuitous enough for fans to enjoy. If you ask your friends to act in your feature film, the performances are never going to win any awards, so I didn’t expect too much, but was impressed with the effort that was made, if nothing else. That’s neither here nor there however, as everything is just padding to give the plot an excuse to let the crimson flow.
So is Nathan Schiff an unsung horror hero? Not really; but if bucket loads of red corn syrup and dead animal’s internal organs are what you’re looking for then his movies are a lot better than really they should be. He’s some way off being the next Lucio Fulci, but his cheapo style has a neat little personality and is fun all the same… As Samuel L. Jackson said in Pulp Fiction, “Personality goes a long way…”
Killer Guise: √√√√