Blood Junkie 2010
aka Rocky Trails
Directed by: Drew Rosas
Starring: Nick Sommer, Emily Treolo, Ross Bachhuber
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Over the past couple of days, I’ve watched Bloody Moon and Do You Wanna Know a Secret one after the other. Despite being similar films in terms of their genre and content, the most obvious difference between the two is one that I have highlighted previously: charm. Is Bloody Moon a better example of filmmaking than Secret? No; but at least it doesn’t have a cast full of unlikeable and egotistical cliches that we can’t relate to. Eighties slasher movies, no matter how bad that they may have been, were successful in giving us characters that we liked. There’s no bigger or better drama in cinema than hoping a hero or heroine that we’ve invested in prevails against an evil force.
Director Drew Rosas understands this and has given us a slasher movie that has stolen the keys to Dr Emmet Brown’s time-travelling DeLorean and taken us back to the category’s past glories.
Four beer loving teens decide to take a weekend’s camping trip on some secluded woodland. Due to the fact that one of them was babysitting and can’t leave her kid brother alone, they decide to take him along. During their hike through the woodland, they uncover an abandoned factory, which has various legends of a disfigured loon that dwells within. They soon begin to discover that those stories may be true.
I must confess that it’s been a while since I’ve seen a picture distributed by Troma. Whilst I have never been a fan of their love of toilet humour, they must take some credit for their part in helping to populate the slasher cycle with some good and bad additions. These include Blood Hook, The Creeper, Angel Negro and Girls School Screamers. Blood Junkie is arguably the cannon of their arsenal, which Ido mean as a compliment.
What we have here is a feature that’s hard to take a swipe at. Having seen as much DTV crap as I have over the years, it’s nice to finally get an entry where the amount of effort is so visually obvious that it radiates. Unlike The Sleeper, the eighties continuity here is OTT, but consistent. We see cassette tapes, moustaches, boob tubes and luminous tops; but what amused me the most was the Hair Metal posters that were shown on one guy’s wall. I lived through those times, listened to those tracks and it seems like light years away nowadays. The energetic score is better than any actual synthesiser accompaniment that I recall from the period and the dialogue is comical without being overtly obvious in its attempts. Each shot is planned to be more inventive than the last and the runtime becomes a livewire of creative ideas. For reasons that I can’t disclose here, Junkie is also a film that warrants a second viewing to really bring the best out of the unexpected ending.
What I thought was especially effective, was the director’s ability to change the tone successfully and with minimal effort. Time spent with the characters is campy and fun, whilst scenes that involve the killer often border on being quite creepy. His costume is a gas mask, which is anything but original, but it is ok because his motive is fairly unique. Much like a vampire, he has a taste for human blood and he knocks victims unconscious and drains them in a secluded room. This leads to an ingenious use of the aforementioned headpiece, because the nutjob inserts the protruding hose into a victim and then sucks through it to give himself a warm hemoglobin smoothie!
Despite the novelty of the blood draining part, the abduction, instead of slaughter of teens, does lead to a lack of slashing. The first couple of murders are committed off screen and it’s only later that the maniac begins to attack with brutality. There’s a gooey throat slashing that serves only to inform us of what we could have been in for had Rosas structured his antagonist’s MO more typically. The less is more approach doesn’t necessarily work in low budget slashers.
Still, Blood Junkie was a pleasure to sit through and there’s enough here to prove that Rosas is an exquisite horror filmmaker. His audacious directive style makes him something of a B-movie Wes Anderson and I am eagerly awaiting Billy Club, which should be released shortly.
At 72 minutes, Junkie could never be accused of outstaying its welcome and it’s a film that I feel deserves some of your time.
Killer Guise: √√√
To Become One 2002
Directed by: Neil Johnson
Starring: Emma Grasso, Jamie Giddens, David Vallon
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I’m in my early thirties and to be totally honest I envy those that were old enough to experience the initial boom years of the slasher category. Imagine going to see Halloween, Friday the 13th or The Prowler at the cinema, it would have been amazing! I have a wide age range of readers here on a SLASH above, with some in their teens and some much older. Despite the disappointment of being a child during the key period, I can at least say that I lived through and enjoyed the second onslaught of slasher pictures after the Scream rebirth.
Throughout those times of the late nineties and early noughties, video stores were once again packed to the absolute brim with slasher movies and I remember very fondly hunting through the shelves for the newest releases. There was a (now defunct) label in the UK called Film 2000 that played a huge part in the circulation of the next phase. With a track record that included, Dead Above Ground, Camp Blood, Carnage Road, Granny and Paranoid (gulp), it’s tough to decide if they should be considered a friend of the genre or a foe. Another example from their catalogue was To Become One; and even if it has a title that sounds like an Adam Sandler, Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston rom-com tribute video, it’s actually a stalk and slasher.
We’re back in the world of Aussie horror here, which means we are either going to get an hour and a half with Katie Upton or an hour and a half with Katie Price. I think that’s what I like most about the entries from down-under, you never can be sure what you’re going to get.
Melinda is an uncannily unlucky teen. One year ago, her mother was brutally murdered by a gas-masked killer brandishing a sword right in front of her eyes. Now it seems that he has returned and is happily slicing his way through all of her friends, methodically clearing a path so that he can catch her on her lonesome. More and more bodies begin hitting the deck and Melinda will have to think quickly if she wants to stay alive.
Ok ok, let me take a deep breath here. Right. So… things started intriguingly enough with a murder in the first five minutes, which included some cheap but mindlessly diverting gore. Then, the bogeyman is back on screen, weapon in hand, within the next three. It’s like the director just skipped the generally poorly-acted character development stuff to jump straight into the action. I did think though that just like Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final, throwing your all into the opening was a bit of a risk. I mean, who can keep up that momentum for eighty-minutes? I was of course right, but even my cocky know-it-all-ness did not quite prepare me for what happened next.
You see, when the nut job’s unmasked only half an hour into the runtime, things take a turn for the… how can I call it? … Deranged! What begins as a typical slasher by the numbers with a homage to Halloween and Friday the 13th (there’s even a hammy old guy that tells the heroine that her friends are doomed) degenerates into… well, there’s nothing that I’ve ever seen before that could give you a comparable description. The final girl is dragged to a ‘hospital’ that is supposed to seem more like a cross between a torture chamber and a Nazi concentration camp (but really just looks like an ordinary basement). There we learn a ‘shocking’ secret that I won’t reveal and following that, we are left in the hands of some clunky dialogue and dramatics that have the credibility of an email from a dying African politician who wants to leave $200,000,000 in your account. Only if you’ll kindly supply your bank details and also your credit card number…
Ok so this project cost a measly $2,000 to make. That doesn’t make things any easier for me watching it though. Keep your $2k and spend it on something more worthwhile (film studies courses are fairly reasonable nowadays). The second half of the movie touches on grades of ineptness that have not yet been defined. It’s like the Z-movie version of the USS Enterprise; boldly going to sewerage plant levels of cinematic smelliness that no one has ever been to before. If I were to be generous, then I guess that I can credit the authenticity of the story. Having a good idea however does not mean that you have the ability to direct a slasher movie and the net result is absolutely awful.
There are a few unintentionally amusing scenes that I enjoyed. The best that springs to mind is when Melinda’s father tries to comfort her by singing a soppy lullaby into her ear. That’s exactly what’s needed when your friends have been pick-axed in front of your eyes. Neil Johnson’s heavy-handed approach at ramming the message that ‘we shouldn’t ridicule people with disabilities’ is forced down our throats clumsily, in a manner that would offend those that the story is using as subject matter. That’s just unforgivable and takes away any comedy that could have been enjoyed from the pure ineptness of the picture.
You could forgive the inane characters, fishnet script (the whole slasher part made zero sense), awful dramatics and the director’s needless switches between colour and black and white photography at the strangest of times if there was something there worthy of merit. I mean, even Camp Blood was kinda fun and certainly delivered a lot more logic than this. One character states, “We’re playing this out like a B-grade movie, when the killer finds us, he’s gonna pick us off one by one!’ Change the B to a minus Z and that statement might make sense.
To Become One picks the wrong subjects to exploit and is not even laughably bad. The ever-reliable IMDB took a fair time to put this on their website and it’s not surprising, because it doesn’t deserve a place in cinema history. As Butt Head so philosophically stated when he and Beavis ‘’did’ America, ‘ This sucks like nothing has ever sucked before’…
Killer Guise: √√
My Bloody Valentine 3D 2009
Directed by: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Jaime King, Tom Atkins, Jensen Ackles
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This review brings back great memories for me as I wrote it just after getting out of this film’s premier in central London. That’s why I have chosen to leave it exactly as it was. I watched the film again recently and although I can say I was a tad generous here, I do still agree with most of what I said back then…
Taking a good look at the two heavily populated cinema ‘lives’ of the slasher genre, the most striking similarity is that they were started by the box office successes of a pair of stand-out features. Halloween in 78 launched a tidal wave of wannabes that included the much maligned but equally as heavily imitated Friday the 13th. The category had a good run, but eventually lost popularity mid-way through the eighties due to a restriction on gore and minimal funding and creativity from production teams. Wes Craven’s popular semi-parody, Scream from 1996, kicked off yet another major influx that sent the imitations crawling out of the woodwork and on to video-store shelves. Eventually, a lack of originality meant audiences and studios alike gave up on the cycle and it befell a similar fate that had sent its forefathers into obscurity.
There were thirteen years between the death of the Halloween-inspired glory days and Scream’s unexpected re-birth, so a believer in destiny such as I may have indeed been forgiven for predicting that the time was upon us once again in 2009 for another run of masked killers and gratuitous gore.
Indeed, during that year there were a few great months where it looked like it could be a possibility, especially for fans of the original My Bloody Valentine. Not only did we learn that we would able to see the full uncut version of the original, repackaged on a shiny new DVD with extras; but also we were treated to this highly financed remake at a time when the category had sunk to the lowest of depths.
Harry Warden’s name lives long in the memories of the townsfolk of a small town in West Virginia after he went on a maniacal killing spree, butchering 22 people on a cold valentine’s night. Despite rumours that he was buried alive in the mines that he stalked, the body of the maniac has never been discovered. Fast forward ten years and it seems that the evil has returned, because a gas-masked maniac begins stalking the village and killing everyone that was somehow connected to the original massacre. Has Harry returned?
As the title accurately informs us, a key gimmick for the release of this remake was the fact that it is filmed in explosive 3D. Now many have tried to bring horror into the third-dimension, but the likes of Friday the 13th III, Silent Madness and Freddy’s Dead had failed drastically to make the most of an ingenious tool in the creation of supreme virtual terror. So with all that was riding against it, does My Bloody Valentine 3D actually deliver??
Like hell it does! Buckle your seat belts baby and prepare yourself for a speed-train through slasher clichés that has never been taken to such extreme heights. This is a non-stop juggernaut of fast-paced gore and shock tactics that will keep your heart beating at the speed of a Japanese freeway. You can mock the brainless script and the at times overly-gratuitous exploitation, but this is a slasher movie and slasher movies exist to give you two-hours of freedom from the stress of everyday life in a virtual-world where you can leave your brains at the door.
Firstly, the film is immensely gory. So much so that even a hardened old horror-addict like myself was cowering from the screen in places. Pick-axes through faces, dismemberment, eyes popping out of their sockets; and best of all, it’s all filmed in fantastic 3D. This is a car-crash of over indulgence that has the balls to drive to the borders of cinematic acceptability and then smash through them with its pedal to the medal. The pace is unrelenting and the suspense at times absolutely immense. Patrick Lussier may not be the next Hitchcock, but MBV 3D is not to be categorised alongside Psycho or Halloween. This is a film that sets out to shock in any way possible and on that level it succeeds. There’s one or two tense jump out of your seat jolts and a few credibly created scares that are all the better for the stylish production.
The cast do a good enough job of keeping the plot moving fluidly and the healthy financing means that no expense has been spared in the producer’s effort to unleash total mayhem on audiences. Jamie King takes us back to the Laurie Strode/Ginny Field era of brave heroines, but somewhat authentically, she also has huge character flaws. The story shares much with its predecessor and Lussier also re-uses many of the scenes that made Mihalka’s hit so memorable. This may well be the first slasher remake that actually pays credit to its heritage and unlike Rob Zombie’s insulting Halloween re-hash, MBV 3D can sit comfortably alongside its grandfather.
It’s not fashionable to give a slasher movie a good review and I can see without looking the piles of one-star write-ups that will be cluttering up column-space in the self-righteous brigade’s film magazines. I bet that many will be having a field day ripping this particular movie to shreds. Agreed, this is not an intellectual film. To be fair, in some places it doesn’t even do the basics right and there’s some shockingly poor plot holes towards the climax. For a fan of splatter flicks however, this is an hour and a half in paradise and I really enjoyed every moment of this long-overdue gore-soaked extravaganza.
This is not the next Shawshank Redemption and it has no intention of trying to be, so it should be judged on its merits as a gore film and on that level it is everything that you want it to be. Full frontal nudity, buckets of gore and all the things that your mama warned you about rapped up in a tense and riveting thriller with the added bonus of an intelligent twist (Was the killer really the only bad guy? I wouldn’t call the ‘hero’ good…) Prepare for the next invasion folks…
Just on that. The next invasion never came…. But I did hope for a while…
Killer Guise: √√√√√
Final Girl: √√√
Blood Reaper 2004
Directed by: Lory-Michael Ringuette
Starring: Bobby Mackey, Cameron McHarg, Alison Moon
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
A massive part of my youth was spent hunting out slasher flicks in video rental stores across the UK and Spain. My mother/friends and I used to take bus and train rides across cities and I would seek out backstreet ‘mom and pop’ video shops looking through the horror sections and then negotiating a fee for the release to take any slasher trash with me. I clearly remember reading through countless covers on the way home wondering if I had found another Halloween. However the films were rarely as good as I hoped and the best fun to be had was in the hunt.
After the 1996 rebirth, the task became a lot easier, because store chains such as Blockbuster would supply a large number of features from low-key distributors as well as the biggest box office draws to hit the rental market. Companies like Film 2000 and Hollywood DVD would unleash slasher upon slasher, picked up for a minimal fee and packaged as the next Scream to unsuspecting audiences.
Thanks to conversations with slasher directors such as Steve Jarvis and Jason Collum, I have learned that most DTV movies are only stop gaps anyway. They are generally picked up or put together by companies who want to package a number of titles and flog them to European/Asian markets, where Western movies are easier to shift. I’ll give you a brief description of the most common methodology and how it works. A US exporter will take one mid-budget feature with a relatively known actor – let’s say for example Extramarital with Traci Lords and Jeff Fahey. They will then offer it outside the US (especially places like Japan) as a bulk deal with a few other flicks that have been developed on shoe-string financing. These titles are the likes of Camp Blood, Paranoid and unsurprisingly Blood Reaper. That’s why there are so many of these released and some even make an ok-ish profit if their distributors are honest with them. The days of self-financing and walking around cap in hand to try and get a print sold are becoming rarer because there’s a market for almost everything and making a film is easier than it once was. I often get asked about Cards of Death, which was released by Sony in Japan on VHS in the eighties, but never got a chance anywhere else. Even though it was shot in the US in 1986 and ticks the boxes of most other SOV pictures of that year, it has become mega obscure and your chances of hunting out a copy are pretty much zero. Why? Well it’s simply because the best offer that the filmmakers got was an international package deal. This meant that it was wrapped up with a few bigger titles and shipped out to Asia.
Blood Reaper was directed by Lory-Michael Ringuette, who was also behind the relatively enjoyable tongue in cheek romp Tele-Zombie from 2004. I can’t shake the belief that low-grade slashers are created by fans of the genre that have the means to achieve something that poor London kids like myself can only dream of – make their own movie. That’s not always the case though and as I mentioned earlier, some of these things are made simply as a moveable unit. Here though, Blood Reaper does seem like a tribute of kind to Friday the 13th and there’s no harm in that.
A group of youngsters head in to the forest for a nice relaxing break, however on arrival they are warned of the legend of a killer who strikes whenever there’s a full moon. Before you can say, ‘I knew it’, a gas-masked villain turns up with his trusty blade…
So we all know (or you should by now) that DTV slashers nowadays are usually as well-made as a cup of tea mixed with cranberry juice. But for every one hundred Psycho Wards, the law of average means there must be a Fright Flick somewhere, right? I tend to look at each new example with an open mind, because if I didn’t, this review would be just one line. Blood Reaper may not be much of a movie, but it does at least do a few things right.
Firstly, the score from T Reed is absolutely brilliant and the sound bites are in general extremely effective. There’s a mishmash of ideas, from the killer’s heartbeat to the buzzing of wildlife throughout the forest location. It all builds up a neat horror environment and there’s some cheap, tacky but fun gore effects including a brilliant decapitation and another that you can see in the clip above. Ringuette tries a few adventurous shots, which include some underwater photography and the odd sequence that had been well thought out.
Unfortunately, these few pluses don’t cover up the fact that Reaper commits the worst of all cinematic crimes and that’s boredom. The pace here flows like a Spanish village in the summer at 3pm and a lack of fluidity from the director means that the efficient musical accompaniment doesn’t build any suspense. It also has moments of complete stupidity that are obvious signs of amateurism. We don’t really get any background on the killer’s motives and various characters/scenes never get an explanation. Whilst I am at it, what the hell was with the guy who turned up only to sing an awful country oddity and then disappear straight after? It’s very funny in an unintentional way, but I’d love to know the thought process behind that sequence?
Continuity in a slasher movie is never worthy of a magnifying glass, but Blood Reaper feels like it was shot and edited by a retarded gibbon and then just given straight to the distributors without it even being checked. This may sound implausible, but believe me when you are watching a maniac struggling to get at two people that are hiding behind a wall that he could easily walk around, you begin to lose hope. Chuck in the usual amount of cringe-inducing dramatics, non-developed characters and grainy picture quality and you have nothing here but a chance to laugh at some stupidity.
Imagine yourself going to the theater. It starts with a colorful dance sequence with beautiful players and great music. But then as the show begins, everyone forgets their lines and the props fall apart. That’s what level you will get with Reaper, which is no less and no more than a rush-released, uninspired mess. I have been to funerals that are more sharply paced.
At last check, there are 4 copies of this available on the UK Amazon and 3 in the US. That means that there were quite a few produced and put on to the market, so in many ways this was by no means an unsuccessful or risky pick-up by the low-grade labels. Luckily, I’m old enough to know now that funky back-cover blurbs guarantee nothing and thanks to sites like a SLASH above, you can always check before you buy. If you pick up this one from the bottom shelf, do yourself a favour. Put it straight back…
Final Girl: √
My Bloody Valentine 1981
Directed by: George Mihalka
Starring: Paul Kelman, Neil Affleck and Lori Hallier
Updates review from the release date of the special edition DVD
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
And so… the slasher ‘Holy Grail’ has been re-discovered and after thirty years of patience, we can finally see the almost-complete version of this hugely popular early-eighties genre piece.
Notorious for being the film most tortured by censors upon its initial release, My Bloody Valentine has become something of a cult classic with a large number of fans. Even the most lukewarm horror enthusiast must admit to being slightly excited by the prospect of witnessing all the notorious gore that has, up until now, only been seen in a set of studio stills. The previously available print was missing over three minutes of footage, which thankfully producer John Dunning has now located. The online campaign to get the full uncut copy restored and released was one of the largest of its kind and thanks to the efforts of the movie’s legions of adoring fans, we now have a special edition disc with nearly all of the glorious splatter intact.
A small mining town in Canada has become famous over the years after a maniacal ex-miner went on a killing spree in the early sixties. He was the only survivor from a fatal accident on Valentine’s night that stole the lives of numerous workers and left him having to survive by feeding on the corpses of his colleagues. Harry Warden murdered the supervisors that he considered responsible for the tragedy and stuffed their hearts into candy boxes to remind the townsfolk that their incompetence should never be forgiven. Twenty years later and the town is preparing for its first Valentine’s dance since the gruesome massacre, but it seems that it is not only the decorations and romantic spirit that has returned. As a mutilated heart is sent to the local Sheriff with a gruesome warning that there will be more murders, it seems apparent that Harry Warden has come back once again….
My Bloody Valentine is certainly a fine example of all that gave the most popular eighties slashers a significant standing in the annals of horror cinema. It boasts a likeable cast that make up for their lack of A-list dramatic credibility with a warmness and depth of character that although laughably cheesy, evokes sympathy from the audience. The love triangle between the three leads is an intriguing sub-plot and the script is strong enough to allow the characters to work their way into the hearts of viewers.
It can also lay claim to arguably the best arsenal of marketable gimmicks ever to be included in a single splatter feature. If the authentic calendar date doesn’t get you interested, then it’s impossible to resist the excellent guise for the maniacal killer and the creepy mine location. Warden’s gas mask adds an extra dimension to the killer’s essential clichéd heavy breath and a pickaxe makes for an exquisite tool for gory slaughter. You can almost visualise the director’s smile upon witnessing for the first time the awesome sight of his bogeyman strolling through the dimly-lighted shaft and stalking his intended victims. In terms of slasher visualisations, it’s pure poetry-in-motion and Mihalka understandably milks the possibilities. On top of that you have the killer’s calling card, which was a slasher trademark that disappointingly disappeared from the genre just after 1981. Graduation Day had a stopwatch, The Prowler had a rose, Curtains had that creepy doll but I liked this one the best. This maniac puts the hearts of his deceased victims in valentine decorated boxes and pencils a riddle, such as: ‘From the heart comes a warning filled with cheer, remember what happened as the 14th draws near’. I agree, it’s cheesy as hell, but sets a nice tone for the feature.
Mihalka is no John Carpenter and he struggles to sustain suspense, but he does an impressive job in building an overall atmosphere and creates one or two decent jolts. The cast are surprisingly good for complete amateurs and their above-average performances are a welcomed bonus. It was a conscious decision from John Dunning, the producer, to use actors that boasted far more potential than they did impressive CVs, because he wanted to invest heavily in the special effects. Mihalka has said that people don’t go to see a slasher movie to witness a ‘name’ actor. He is right in acknowledging the fact that the amount of money a producer would spend on such a performer just to see him get splattered on the wall is an entirely pointless exercise.
The movie began filming in September 1980, but the set designer took the time to make sure that everything was decked out in hearts and banners and they made things look like it actually was Valentine’s Day. Mihalka makes good use of the spooky mine as a setting and most of the murders are imaginative and well thought out. In one scene, a young lass is trapped in a room where miner’s uniforms are dropping from rails and surrounding her. In her panic she tries to find a way out of the claustrophobic confinement (all courtesy of the imaginative killer), but she bumps into a costume with the maniac in it. If that isn’t bad enough, he goes on to slaughter her in a most gruesome fashion. (One of the best kill scenes – ever!)
A great uncut trailer for this feature…
You only need to take a brief look at this site to see that I’m a slasher fan, but My Bloody Valentine has never been amongst my favourites. I often wondered how the movie could have even been considered to be better than the likes of Intruder, The Prowler or even Curtains, because to me it felt like I wasn’t watching the vision that Mihalka had initially intended. Now, with most of the gore intact, the film feels ‘complete’ and in its entirety it is a totally different concept. Despite popular belief, there were many early slashers that were stylishly produced and genuinely strong entries to the horror catalogue. My Bloody Valentine is one such feature and it’s well-deserving of its legion of admirers.
The plot is actually pretty smart for a slasher flick. I won’t go into too much detail because I can’t say anything without spoiling it all for you, but watch how they manage to keep you guessing toward the film’s climax. It’s also worth noting that James Mangold borrowed that classic body (or in his case, head) in a tumble dryer scene for his part-slasher, Identity in 2003.
If you are even a half-hearted fan of early eighties stalk and slash flicks then I urge you to part with your pennies for this excellent example of non-franchise slash with panache that sums up everything that was great about the early eighties domination. No collection is complete without this sitting on a shelf next to Joseph Zito’s The Prowler and Mark Rosman’s The House on Sorority Row. The Harry Warden legacy has finally come full circle…..
Killer Guise: √√√√√
Final Girl √√√√