Los Inocentes 2013
aka Bloody April Fools
Directed by: 12 Directors
Starring: Charlotte Vega, Bárbara Mestanza, Mario Marzo
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok, I have to be honest; I just couldn’t live with it. You see, despite my respect and gratefulness to the country I live in (UK), I’m a patriotic Spaniard and I’m one that sees beauty in all things de España. Well, except maybe bull fighting. Oh and Magaluf. Anyway, I’m proud to state that I was the first slasher critic to give Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche a reputable ranking and here you’ll find an equally complementary review of José Larraz’s, Al Filo Del Hacha. I defended Jesus Franco’s cheese-tastic video nasty, La Sierra de la Muerte, and didn’t wince once during the corny closing of Los Ojos de Julia. So with this in mind, how could I live with the knowledge that the most recent Spanish slasher film to be reviewed on a SLASH above was the awful Altrapados en el Miedo. Since watching it, I’ve felt depressed, panicked, I’ve suffered insomnia, began drinking and smokin… Ok, I’m exaggerating, but still, something needed to be done.
I had to quickly find a film that could regain my home country some credibility, but with my copy of El Arte de Morir miles away in Spain, I was somewhat struggling. Then I remembered that I hadn’t yet got round to watching a DVD that I picked up a year back, called Los Inocentes. I came across it in a small shop in Aracena, purchased it and then totally forgot that I’d done so. Last Wednesday, I was tidying up my room and there it was staring at me, almost as if to subtlety say, “llevarme, verme, yo te ayudo… yo te salvo!!” – Could I have found the cure to drag me from the gutters of despair..?
A gang of kids get lost on the way to a party and so decide to spend the night in an abandoned school. It was the site of a gruesome accident a few years earlier, where a student was killed during a practical joke. Now someone haunts the corridors and the joke is most definitely on the partying teenagers…
It seems that when I watch slasher movies, I go through phases. I’m sure that as readers, you notice that I’ll post one or two ‘one star’ movies in a row and then a couple of much better ones. I don’t do this deliberately, it’s a coincidence, but I’m back on a roll, because Los Inocentes sits comfortably with Kill Game as one of the best modern slashers that I’ve recently seen. Much like a bottle of Sangria, it doesn’t blur the lines of what it has been produced to achieve. It’s a straight up slasher movie for fans of the genre and ticks and underlines the things that we expect and most importantly WANT it to do.
I guess that you could call it a mix between the stories of both Slaughter High and Friday the 13th, but it’s refreshing how the script never feels the urge to over-elaborate the homages. In a pre-launch interview, the crew openly admitted that they were referencing the peak period, but it’s a natural vibe that doesn’t overpower. We get a more typical final girl, ‘the have sex and die’ rule, heavy breath POVs and even a romantic sub-plot that is intelligently conveyed. Perhaps because the main characters are given emotive scenarios, we want them to prevail and I was extremely surprised by a couple of the deaths. Los Inocentes is a merciless movie at times and this tone is set from lift off, when the old ‘prank that went wrong’ chestnut is delivered with a starker more graphic flair than usual. In fact, this is quite a gory little movie that is filled with creative deaths of the like I’ve never seen previously. My favourites were the bee attack and a bizarre one with a girl’s brain, which is gooey, erotic and somewhat artistic in its delivery. The screenplay attempts to inject pitch black humour on occasion, including a genius play on words with the Spanish slang for a lighter; – ‘fuego’ (fire). In honesty though I preferred the moments when the atmosphere was more macabre.
The idea stemmed from a collaboration of twelve writers/directors that had met and studied at the notorious ESCAC School of cinema. Whilst some would question the concept of so many varying ideas on a production, one member of the crew, Laura García, said that she found it extremely natural and that she wanted the film to act as proof that ‘being a team’ really works. What we’re left with is an entry that strives to provide some deftly shot set pieces. The lighting is exceptional in places and the filmmakers do their best to bring the large dilapidated hi-school backdrop to life. We also get a nod to the recent ‘found footage’ trend where the action is shown through iPhone cameras, which leads to a pulsating escape sequence as the survivors hotfoot it through the woodland. There’s no killer guise for the antagonist and he isn’t even given a physical presence until the climax, but we do get a ‘killer calling card’; – a kind of ‘ginger bread man’ that’s left upon the corpses of victims. Writer Lluís Segura describes his vision of the classic slasher structure as starting out with 10 or so characters and killing them off throughout without knowing who’s doing it or the reasons why. You can see that they stayed true to this formula.
At times the film pushes the boundaries of reality and begins to feel a bit fairytale-ish. It’s not supernatural in any way, but some of the murderous set-ups defy logic, which seemed out of place with a concept that was so traditional. I was also disappointed with the performance of the actor that played the killer. In general, the acting was solid, but the best villains are restrained and not over-played. It looked like the person given this role (I won’t reveal so as not to ruin the mystery) knew what to do, but somehow didn’t really convince. Still, we get some truly beautiful women and a cute lead in Charlotte Vega – a girl that was born in Spain from English parents – who I predict that we’ll see more from.
Los Inocentes is pretty much a Slaughter High remake (El día de los Inocentes is like April Fool’s Day in Spain), but it is far more gritty and ruthless. There are a bunch of smart twists and gimmicks that bring the film to life, with the only real weakness being the killer’s revelation, which lacks the explosion of the source code that it was borrowed from. All is thankfully salvaged by a downbeat ending that we’ve seen before (even in a great eighties Spanish slasher), but was still a surprise. The DVD that I own comes with English subtitles so you should definitely check it out. I’m excited about the sequel that may already be on the cards…
Directed by: Eamon Hardiman
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Kari Whi
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Whilst slasher directors are regularly mocked by critics, I wonder if they really get the appreciation that they deserve. I mean, let’s examine this a little more closely. With 1,000+ titles in existence, do you know how hard it must be to choose a unique mask for your antagonist? Let’s be thankful for those that just keep their killer off-screen throughout the runtime, because if not, there would be no masks left for up and coming filmmakers to choose from.
Eamon Hardiman found the solution for that conundrum by going for a pig headpiece. I can hazard a guess at how he came up with the idea, it likely went something like, ‘hmmm what guise should I use for my slasher? Perhaps a dog? No – they’re man’s best friend, so not shocking enough. A bull? Hmmm well, they’re pretty threatening, but they remind me of a burger. No, we can’t have a killer Big Mac. A pig? Well Evilspeak had hogs in it. Ok, that’ll do, let’s move along. Now l know that pigs get killed in slaughterhouses (but so do cows, chickens, sheep etc) and slaughterhouses are scary, so there’s more to this idea than just animal lovin’. In fairness to Hardiman, whatever the reason for his choice, Porkchop certainly led the way in creative killer garbs for the year two-o-one-zero…
A gang of dweebs head off to a campsite in the woods for a spot of the usual antics. They fail to take heed of the legend of Porkchop – a pig-masked killer that is rumoured to stalk the local vicinity. Before long he’s after the campers with a chainsaw and a sledgehammer…
One thing that we all know about the slasher genre is that originality is rarely found amongst titles. Halloween was indeed so iconic that many of its cinematic inventions are duplicated even today. In modern times, there’s a common element that we see more and more in post-Scream productions that makes no sense to me at all. It’s the process of filling a story with totally unlikeable characters. I have hurt my head thinking about this and I cannot uncover any logic in the approach or why we see it so often. On a basic psychological level, fear derives from the threat of something that could happen to you or someone that you care about. Whilst films are obviously just fantasy, there’s a big difference between how we feel towards a character like Laurie Stroud or how we feel about ‘forgot what her name is girl’ from Porkchop. It’s a trend in recent times for slasher movies to pack their casts with boring, loutish idiots and it’s amazing in many respects how many crews stick with this methodology
In Hardiman’s slasher, we get a stereotypical punk rocker(?) with an awful English accent (I thought he was Australian at first), a guy who is cheating on his girlfriend with a ditsy teenager, a porn obsessed geek, two foul-mouthed sluts and a robot (?) voiced by Dan Hicks as the source of comic relief. R2D2 and C3PO were perfect humour providers in the original Star Wars pictures and that may have been the idea here. I don’t remember seeing a prop made of yoghurt pots taking a chick from behind in any Star Wars movie though and they could’ve ripped off Jar Jar Binks (cringe) and it would’ve made the same nonsensical impact. We look on for an hour as these poorly acted, heinously scripted jerks make jokes that progressively become more vomit inducing whilst we are left begging for the killer to turn up and put us out or misery.
When ‘Pig-Head’ finally gets to slashing, the first couple of campers are butchered off screen, which is a huge disappointment because the pre credits murder was explicitly gory and promised so much. In fact, I have to ask whether that opening sequence was bolted on later, presumably after a distributor gave them more money to inject some pizazz. The scene builds up so well, with the killer’s boots traipsing through some undergrowth whilst a stunning chica whips off her top to unveil a lovely pair of jubblies. We get a superb machete through head effect and then what follows is a ski slope to ineptsville as the film leisurely strolls through its clichéd footpath. I can give credit for the eighties references (a hideously acted guy screams ‘you’re doomed’ ala Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th), the chicks are hotter than usual and the part where Deb uncovers the bodies of her chums is stylish with its red-ish tint and creepy scoring. My main gripe is with the characters, which are as appealing as having your appendix removed by Cropsy. Without anaesthetic.
All this leaves me wondering, what if Hardiman had scripted his cast to be likeable youngsters that we see bond over an hour’s build up? They wouldn’t have had to be good natured, we could’ve had an insecure slutty type like Donna from Humongous for example. The group could’ve grown as friends as normal people do and then when the psychopath makes an appearance, we might have rooted for them to overcome the evil, just like in any film with a well-developed protagonist. Instead, we get an overlong, poorly directed bore that I’d forgotten about moments after it’d finished.
It’s worth mentioning that Hardiman’s entry was successful enough to have a follow-up and a remake of sort that was filmed in 3D. I haven’t seen either so can’t really comment on whether the level of quality had improved, but I am mystified by Porkchop’s popularity. It offers little more than either Blood Reaper or Memorial Day and should really be thought of with the same amount of adulation. I’d go as far as to say that Camp Blood was better. Even Carnage Roa…. Ok, ok… that’s going too far…
Atrapados En El Miedo 1983
Directed by: Carlos Aured
Starring: Adriana Vega, Sara Mora, José Luis Alexandre
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My recent love-in with Mexican slashers (Muerte, Bosque, Masacre) made me feel the need to dig out the last few of my own country’s entries. I wanted to confirm to myself and y’all that Spain could compete with other nations that speak our wonderful language and prove that we are indeed the Hispanic kings of the slasher category. After seeing Atrapados en el Miedo, I wish I hadn’t bothered…
This one comes from Carlos Aured, who had made a name for himself with his cult pictures of the seventies. His career began as an assistant for Leon Klimovsky and he soon progressed to the director’s chair to unleash some solid horror features, such as: El Espanto Surge de la Tumba and Los Ojos Azules de la Muñeca. Like many exploitation gurus that had achieved a modicum of prior success, the slasher boom of the early eighties gave Aured the desire to grab a slice of the cash pie that the filmmaking world had been scoffing. Atrapados would be his very own addition to the cycle and it was, in effect, his last movie. What a way to signal your departure from cinema.
Four youngsters head off to a secluded house in some woodland to spend a romantic weekend away from the rat race of Madrid. Little do they know that an escaped lunatic is also hanging around the site and he has murderous intentions for the foursome…
It’s only early December and already the Christmas parties have begun. There are few things worse than going to work after a night of heavy drinking. Your brain is a mangled mess of alcohol, cheap aftershave and cigarrillos and whilst you may be at your desk in body, you’re certainly not there in either awareness or spirit. The clock drags by like a one-legged tortoise on tranquillisers and a trip to the server room for a sly power-nap is an absurdity that seems more and more attractive. I look at Atrapados en el Miedo and I can only presume that Carlos Aured, for all his previous experience, was drinking a bit too much during the production. Either that or he’d gone insane. Actually, this was his last picture, so maybe I’m on to something there…
So where do we start? Well, with the ‘original’ aspect of a unidentified stranger breaking out of an asylum. This is demonstrated to us on-screen by a guy jumping over a wall that has a sign that says ‘mental hospital’ on it. Do we actually get to see this Mental Hospital? No. Did the crew in reality just stick a sign on the brick wall at the bottom of the producer’s back garden? Quite possibly. So with no idea who he is, what his motivations are or why he escaped, we are meant to be scared of this normal looking bloke with a curly mullet. Perhaps he was just at the asylum visiting his grandma? Maybe he was actually the groundskeeper? I mean, he was wearing a green woolly jumper. Ah, no, no; that can’t be the case. He breathes like an asthmatic after smoking twenty whole packs of Marlborough Reds. If you know your slashers dear reader, you’ll know that during the eighties, only Darth Vader and stalk and slash psychos did that; – and this sure as hell ain’t no Star Wars film.
Next up we see two Spanish chicas walking through a park. I have to give credit to Carlos Aured, because one of them, Monica, was honestly one of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen. (Except for my Mrs of course – you know, in case she’s reading). In fact, whilst watching, my partner said to me, “Do you think that girl’s pretty?” I replied, “What girl? Oh that was a woman on screen? Sorry I didn’t notice.” 😉 Anyway, Monica’s friend, who’s also at the high end of the ‘eye candy’ scale, attempts to steal a kiss in the most unconvincing lesbian clinch ever filmed. Clearly confused by her feelings, Monica sprints off into the trees where she is attacked by a stray dog. Don’t worry my dear, I’ve had days like that too. She is saved from a mauling by an unseen somebody who beats the aggressive mutt with a large branch. Just when she thinks her luck has marginally improved, Monica’s hero turns out to be our bogeyman and he begins strangling her with said branch. Her friend/would-be lover hears the commotion and sprints over to assist, but she too meets her fate at the hands of the escaped loon.
So now we are introduced to two pals and two sisters that are travelling to a remote house to study molecular science. Not really, they’re off to make ‘lurve’; a fact proven by one of the guys continually cracking sex-jokes that are so bad, even his best friend tells him to take a break. We look on as the pair of hombres go to a shop and get some booze, face the drama of not being able to buy any yoghurt and have to overcome the trials and tribulations of a puncture on their Mercedes. Meanwhile the muchachas stay at home and do very little aside from spout the silliest dialogue I’ve ever heard and look gormless. Eventually after offing the daughter of a couple of shopkeepers (who was minding her own business on a groovy bicicleta), the killer turns up and slowly begins ‘terrorising’ the couples.
I guess that with the Latin looks, cruddy dialogue, shaky photography and dumbfounding scenes, Atrapados reminded me a tiny bit of Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground. The only difference is that whilst Ground had bundles of gore, this lazy Spanish effort is essentially bone-dry. Also, I know that the music in Bianchi’s ‘classic’ was pretty off-kilter, but Código Exterior’s scoring for this is absolutely hideous. It starts with a poorly timed jazz-piece that’s as bad as an ogre playing the bagpipes and then continues to go downhill from there. If you recall Mask of Murder‘s heinous guitar lick that highlighted every ‘twist’ in the story, these guys manage even to ‘out-awful’ that with their accompaniment. It’s truly cringeworthy.
I mentioned earlier Aured directing Atrapados like he had a monster hangover throughout the production, well this is especially evident in the film’s pacing, which completely slows to a standstill during the mid-section. There’s only so much of four people spouting absurd dialogue in a small house that I can take before my eyelids come over all heavy and I begin to snooze. When the killer finally turns up, we get a conclusion that might have been ok if we could make out anything that was happening. We’ve seen on the TV that directors shout, “Lights, Camera, Action!” It looks like Aured, in his drunken stupor, forget the ‘lights’ bit. I don’t know, I just feel that an 83 minute runtime that features only three on-screen killings seems a bit tame, but maybe I’m a tough cookie to please. Where I guess that the film does succeed is in its level of bad movie-ness that’ll appeal to those that love Nail Gun Massacre, Boardinghouse, Night Ripper and the like. I already mentioned the conversations and soundtrack, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Other things that stood out were that the girls getting attacked by the psychopath, but completely forgetting about it only moments later and when he returns for our heroine, she goes into a trance-like state and has to be escorted from the premises by her poorly-acted buddies. Just when you feel that every basic filmmaking principle has been shattered, the final credits show an HP Lovecraft quote that has absolutely *nothing* to do with anything we’ve witnessed…?
We live in a time now where a unified Spain could be a thing of the past as the likes of Cataluña regularly campaign for their own independence. I believe that we should stick together, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the back of the guys that made this particular picture, whatever autonomous community that they are from. We could revoke their passports for treason or something. I’m joking, of course, but one thing I will say is that Atrapdos en el Miedo translates to Trapped in Fear. I admit that it’s a cool title, but I have thought of one that’s far more suitable: Atrapado en el Baño con una Gran Caca… I’ll let you Google translate it…
Doom Asylum 1987
aka The House of Horror
Directed by: Richard Friedman
Starring: Patty Mullen, Ruth Collins, Kristin Davis
Review by Luis Joaquín González
So here we have more proof, if ever it were needed, that during the years between 1984 and ’88, we saw the most clichéd titles of the slasher genre’s timeline. After Halloween‘s initial launch, many knock-offs were circulated, but they did at least aim to bring something new to the table in order to garner a following. Whether it was a unique gimmick or an un-slashed calendar-date, the likes of Evil Judgement, My Bloody Valentine and The Prowler were far more authentic than Bloody Pom Poms, Cutting Class, Hollow Gate and Berserker attempted to be.
If I didn’t read that Doom Asylum had been shot in 1987, I would have guessed easily, because it has everything that the entries released on the back of Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street felt compelled to include. Comedic quipping boogeyman? Check. Bunch of attractive young-adults pretending to be teens? Check. Cheesy gore? Check. It’s almost like the producer brought a list of ingredients along to the set and stated that wages wouldn’t be paid until they’d all been ticked off. Where Asylum does differentiate itself a tad is that it goes for the same kind of parody/tongue in cheek outfit that both Return to Horror High and Evil Laugh had sported. Would it do a better job of looking slick whilst wearing it…?
Five bubble-gum teens head off to an abandoned asylum for a secluded break. The site is surrounded by the notorious urban legend of a deranged coroner that slaughtered two doctors before disappearing. When the kids arrive, they bump into Tina and the Tots; a peculiar punk band that use the location to rehearse their gritty sound. Before long the youngsters are being stalked and viciously slaughtered by a heavily disfigured killer…
It’s very unusual for a slasher movie to completely surpass my expectations. Upon re-visiting Doom Asylum for the first time in twenty-years though, I enjoyed my viewing infinitely more than I’d envisioned. What we have here is an entry that gets the mix of cheesy eighties humour and tacky horror spot on to build a good time vibe that is all encompassing. Both Scary Movie and Scream could be described as genre parodies, but one of them was sarcastic with its targeted mocking whilst the latter paid tribute whilst keeping its tongue firmly in cheek. It’s easy to see from the comparison in their popularity, which one went about it the right way and thankfully Doom is a pre-cursor to that style. Director Richard Freidman knew the rules of the category heavyweights and wanted to have a bit of fun with them whilst delivering some splatter. By doing so he’s produced a film that could have gone wrong in so many ways, but instead turns out to be a real treat.
Despite a minimalistic budget, Doom was shot on film, which means that the bright photography looks as crisp as a pot of Pringles and has aged extremely well. Dave Erlanger and Jonathan Stuart’s simple score grows on you as the film progresses and the final twenty-minutes, when the killer stalks the remaining survivors, are credibly atmospheric. As we approach the conclusion, the horror certainly tightens, which is a large switch in mood from the rest of the runtime. Doom is quite obviously a Mickey-take of the slasher craze that’d swept the decade and this is demonstrated in dialogue like, “If I don’t return, don’t come looking for me”. It also means that Friedman gets away with letting his characters merrily wander off to their demise dumbly, because it’s all pulled off with a ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ to the viewer. There is quite a lot of incredibly cheap looking gore here, but the producers must’ve noticed that they had more budget remaining than they expected as the production came to a close. The last two-murders are far more realistic (and credible) than the rest, including one guy getting his toes chopped off with a pair of pliers. It’s a tough thing to watch without flinching and what I found the harshest was that his girlfriend just walks off and leaves him to bleed out and die… Nice! An old VHS copy of this that I bought under the title, The House of Horror, was heavily cut, but thankfully Anchor Bay have restored all the bloody bits.
Doom Asylum doesn’t hang about to jump into the action and it’s impressive how rapidly the killer turns up and gets to work. In keeping us entertained from the off though, I think Friedman made the mistake of not considering his runtime. There are a lot of obviously ‘bolted on after’ scenes of the nut job strolling around in heavy breath POVs and they even went as far as to nail on footage from Todd Slaughter pictures from the 1930s. This gives the film a similar gimmick to the same year’s, Terror Night, but here it’s quite obvious that it was a post-production attempt to pad the runtime. I don’t even think they used the same actor to play the boogeyman watching these flicks? An abandoned asylum was where the action took place and the director really makes the most of it to give the film a maze of isolation. Apparently the site has now been demolished but fans of desolate places will appreciate the idea.
Much like Hide and Go Shriek and Blood Frenzy, Doom Asylum is a good late slasher flick that shows that some of the efforts that came prior to 1988’s re-emergence weren’t as bad as they’re reputed to be. Doing the basics well is more beneficial than going overboard; especially in this genre. Director Friedman would return to the cycle with Phantom of the Mall, a film that… well… I’ll let you know when I post the review shortly…
Only one question remains; and that’s who was paying the electricity bill for a dilapidated hospital? Was it the same person that shelled-out for the phone bill in the house from Silent Night Bloody Night:The Homecoming? How generous…
Curse of Halloween 2006
aka Into The Woods (?)
Directed by: Jeremy Isbell
Starring: Jeremy Isbell, Sherrie Wilson, Travis Azbill
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Hola a SLASH abovers! This month is our 4th birthday and today is Halloween, so I was just looking back at how we’ve celebrated this date over the past 48 months. In 2011, I posted a review of the best slasher film ever made: Halloween. I followed that a year later with the pretty decent Halloween Camp, which wiped the floor with its cruddy predecessor, Scream Bloody Murder. The choice for 2013 was an extremely obscure fan film, which was zanily titled, Friday the 13th: Halloween Night. My next annual post was the surprisingly rare and moderately appealing, Left For Dead. For the big 2015, I’m (kinda) proud to present a SLASH above‘s very first ‘no star’ movie… Yay!!
In the city where I live, there have been reports of people being spiked with hallucinogenic drugs. After watching Curse of Halloween, I woke up sweaty and couldn’t work out what day it was, where I’d been or what was my name. I was worried that I might have been a victim of a tad of inconspicuous LSD poisoning, so I decided to retrace my steps. I thought that I’d begin by re-watching this film and keep a timeline of everything that happens to see whether I’d maybe been infected by the curse…ooooooooh
We start off with a boat pulling up to a tropical coastline and the words Curse of Halloween burst on the screen in what looks like Bold Calibri font. Nope, there’s no Jack-O-Lanterns, pumpkins or typical objects reminiscent of this time of year, instead it’s a sun-kissed beach that’s accompanied with Hard Rock music. Alrighty then. Names aren’t this screenplay’s strong-suit so I’ll identify the characters (like this in brackets) that we meet so that we can reference them again as we roll. The first is an individual that has a gun to his head (Suicidal Dude) but doesn’t look particularly bothered by the fact that he wants to end it all. He mumbles some barely audible chatter about a pumpkin queen and a ghostly curse that led to the murders of all of his friends. Not only does this completely destroy the tension of guessing who may survive the oncoming events, but even on the second viewing, I couldn’t make any sense of what he was saying.
Next, we skip to an overweight male (The Driver) who is is heading along a dark road when he accidentally runs down a woman in white negligee (Negligee Chick) with a great rack. He stops the car and jumps out before picking up the injured female and taking her into a conveniently empty (and wide open) house. He leaves the stricken hottie on the sofa and goes outside to wave down a passing motorist for assistance. A six-seater pulls over to the roadside and out jump two young men. The first is later identified as Travis, whilst we’ll call the other one, Mr Ponytail, because he sports a long scruffy one. They leave their girlfriends in the vehicle and reluctantly follow The Driver who’s literally begging for help. When they enter the abode, Negligee Chick has disappeared (Like the Urban legend from The Cycle?) and Travis punches The Driver for reasons that are hard to comprehend. (Hey like the movie). Meanwhile, outside, the two girlfriends (Silicone Enhanced and Chubby) debate their current situation. Silicone Enhanced wants to get out to see what’s going on but Chubby doesn’t agree. Silicone Enhanced then sees Negligee Chick in the shadows and convinces Chubby by saying something like, “We’ll be safe if we take a flashlight.”(?) Was it a Swiss-army flashlight with a Bazooka that fights off evil demons? I don’t know. They did however feel that it would protect them, so exited the car and headed into the forest.
They stroll for a short time until they come across another large unlocked mansion. They enter and begin looking around, which made me ask, isn’t breaking and entering a crime punishable by lengthy imprisonment? Now we cut back to the six-seater and a new lass (Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket) is shown waking up on the backseat. I don’t remember seeing her there moments ago, but if she was, she’s been abandoned without so much as an ‘hasta pronto’ from her friends. Nice. Mr Ponytail, Travis and The Driver walk over to the vehicle, totally ignoring the snoozy Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket (can they see her, is she real?) and head off after their girlfriends to the other house. Once inside, Travis somehow separates from his buddies and is assaulted by a cloaked assailant (The Slasher) with a pale face. The hooded nut-job tasers him with a bolt of lighting that shoots out of the palm of his hand and looks like it was drawn on to the screen with crayon.
Now that Travis is seemingly out of the way, Mr Ponytail comes across Silicone Enhanced and starts getting it on with her after she flashes her boobs at him. This part stood out because it’s astoundingly obvious that a body double (or porn clip) was used for the nudity bit. The fact that it’s a totally different type of footage and these boobs were a gift of nature (not suspiciously pert like Silicone Enhanced’s) means they weren’t even trying to convince us of authenticity. (I’m an expert in boob analysis btw!) Next we see a poorly shot scene of Mr Ponytail getting tasered the same way that Travis did by The Slasher. Keeping in mind that Mr Ponytail and Travis have surely been dispatched, we head outside to find Silicone Enhanced back by the six-seater with Chubby. Strangely, she’s showing no recollection of the mysterious event that just occurred or why her frolic with Mr Ponytail had been halted prematurely. (Let’s be honest guys, it happens to the best of us…)
The Slasher emerges from the forest and mutters something like, “Don’t turn around”(?), before a new character that looks to be played by the same actress as Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket (I’ll call her Blonde Girl 2 without Brown Jacket) is shown strolling through the trees. Did they really re-use the same cast member to play two equally insignificant people? Well I’ve got a chance to find out because here’s Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket and she’s being dragged under a sofa, surely by The Slasher, who made it back to the house in record time. Then we see Mr Ponytail smoking a fag, but didn’t I say that he just got zapped by The Slasher…? Isn’t he dead? I guess not. Hmm… We cut back to Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket, but hold on, didn’t I say that she got dragged under a sofa? Well, she’s not under the sofa any more and looks fine exploring the house… Am I still on LSD? What’s going on here? She finds a food selection in the kitchen (looks like oven-cooked Garlic Bread and Chicken Nuggets) and heads outside to Mr Ponytail, The Driver and… Travis, who didn’t I say had been… Ah f**k it. Anyway they begin munching the freebies whilst blissfully avoiding any reference to anything that has happened previously. Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Chubby gets choked by The Slasher and locked in a room, but looks about as interested as a sleeping snail. This idiocy continues for a while, as people that we’d presumed were dead reappear and nothing makes a lick of sense.
A few minutes (that seem like years) later, a car drives by, crashes into a lamppost and we meet its occupants. There’s a pudgy dude (Big Guy) and his girlfriend who is… hey it’s Blonde Girl 2 without Brown Jacket. How could it be that she’s just pulled up in a car if we’d already seen her strolling nearby a few minutes ago… I give up. We now learn that she actually has a name though, which is Ashley. Mr Ponytail (remember him) gets accidentally stabbed by Silicone Enhanced, but then shows up without so much as a scratch a little later. Why doesn’t anyone stay dead, dammit? Travis and Big Guy see a load of stuff that I guess is meant to be quite freaky, whilst The Slasher murders Silicone Enhanced by throwing her off a cliff. A few more silly things happen and The Slasher reveals himself to be exactly who we thought it was all along. It’s not hard to guess though, because we can clearly see his face under the cloak in most scenes. He slaughters everyone except Big Guy and Ashley, but just as they’re about to escape, Ashley comes over all kooky and screams at Big Guy. One thing to note is that throughout all this confusion and crapola, I saw Christmas stockings on one of the walls. So it’s not really the Curse of ‘Halloween‘ then is it…?
So now we cut back to Suicidal Dude who’s still suicidal and still has a gun to his head. He tells us that even though we saw Travis get killed (at least twice) it turns out he was the only survivor of that fateful night. We are shown in flashback how Suicidal Dude helped Travis to recover from his horrendous experience by taking him away on holiday to an exotic island. Travis, Suicidal Dude and three girls – that seemingly don’t need or deserve any introduction at all – climb aboard a boat and what follows is ten minutes of absolute nothingness. We struggle to keep our eyes open as they drink beers and eat snacks on a lake whilst a score plays, ends and then starts again like a CD on repeat for TEN MINUTES. Did the director insert some random holiday footage to pad out his hour long feature? Quite possibly. Eventually, with only three minutes remaining, someone kills off the whole gang except Suicidal Dude without a single splash of blood. How does this relate in anyway to Negligee Chick, The Slasher or anything we’d seen previously? After two viewings, I still have no idea. Finally, we switch back to Suicidal Dude‘s ‘gun to head’ scenario from the prologue and he pulls the trigger before the film suddenly ends. No final credits, no special thanks, no blood, no inspiration, no explanation, no hope, no nothing; the screen just goes black.
What to make of Curse of Halloween then? Well, I honestly have no idea. Is it a new drug-like experience that was responsible for my dazed state the next morning? A legal high perhaps? Well if it’s not, I don’t really know what to say. In fact, I do: this should never have seen the light of day beyond Jeremy Isbell’s editing tools. It’s absolutely diabolical. I’d like to make a joke about the director and his dire filmmaking abilities, but the biggest joke is on me for paying $13.98 for this steaming pile of poo. The only way I can explain this mess is that Isbell lost the script after shooting and edited the footage whilst heavily inebriated. There just isn’t any other logical view as to why it has the structure of soup. If ever you get round to directing a horror flick, you can rest assured that no matter what happens, it will never be as bad as this. I guess that could be something of a motivational quote for debutants to be used in film schools. At least then I would get something for my $13.98. There are entries out there in slasher-land that are so hilariously inept that they have their own type of fan base, like Nail Gun Massacre or Splatter Farm. Curse, however, engages in a different kind of way. Your eyes remain transfixed as your jaw drops to levels that you don’t recall it ever reaching and you feel a deep-rooted intrigue as to how anyone would have cojones large enough to attach their name to a travesty such as this.
I recently had an interesting chat with an up coming producer who said its a shame Alfred Hitchcock didn’t do any commentaries. His reasoning was that it’d be great to hear how he worked and came up with his glorious ideas. For me, I’d pick a Jeremy Isbell talk-through everyday of the week. Watching him explain this catastrophe would be Oscar worthy. Happy Halloween… Beware of the curse…
Oh and btw, before I forget, if ever a movie could be judged on its trailer, check out the above… the music is from another film and the credits don’t even have the right title lol…
RATING: NO STARS
Bosque De Muerte 1993
aka Forest of Death
Directed by: Carlos Ortigozo
Starring: Jorge Reynoso, Sergio Bustamante, Alejandra Espejo
Review by Luis Joaquín González
It’s a shame that there are so many genre films that were never subtitled for English speaking markets. I’m aware of Turkish, Russian, Finnish, Croatian, South and Central American pictures that are solid enough to have achieved success in other countries. Titles like Trampa Infernal and Noche Del Payaso stand out because they inject a level of creativity without taking liberties with the original template.
I have seen some English language reviews of Bosque online but never heard of a subtitled copy, so I wonder if all of those authors were bilingual or there is a DVD available that I haven’t yet come across? If so, I’d be keen to pick it up, because much like my copy of the aforementioned Noche Del Payaso, this VHS is very worn and the sound and visuals aren’t the best. I’ve had some time on my hands of late though and so I watched Bosque with earphones and managed to get the gist of most of what was going on. It helped, obviously, that Spanish is my mother tongue.
Three couples head to a secluded cabin in some dense forest to spend the weekend enjoying themselves. The site holds a few memories for one of the girls, Sylvia, because she grew up there before her mum drowned in the lake and her dad disappeared. Before long they are being stalked and slaughtered by a killer in a rain slicker, but who could be behind the vicious murders??
Interestingly enough, the early nineties in Latin America saw an almost identical trend in horror production that had taken place in the cinema of their northern neighbours exactly a decade earlier. Whilst the slasher cycle was deceased in the US, the Mexicans and to a lesser extent, the Brazilians, were releasing some audacious pictures. This is one of the rarest of those entries, but it’s also amongst the best. It works by successfully mimicking the tone of an eighties slasher with perfection and accomplishing the tasty feat of being cheesy, mysterious, creepy and silly in the space of eighty-minutes. It’s also uniquely intriguing to see so many of the celebrated cliches rolled out so faithfully in el Español.
Director Carlos David Ortigoza leaves a lot of the runtime in the hands of his characters, but unlike the annoying geeks we see in most modern cycle inclusions, it’s hard to find something to dislike about this group. Our final girl Sylvia emits a positive nativity and innocent sexuality that makes you want her to prevail, whilst the macho Forest Ranger, ‘Jaguar’ (played by prolific actor Jorge Reyonoso) is a kick-ass anti-hero that you don’t know initially whether to love or hate. In an all action intro, he uses a rifle to shoot a wood poacher (?) that’s about to steal some trees and blows his leg clean off! Anyway, Jaguar and Sylvia had met 12 years earlier and shared a puppy love, which is conveyed by her discovering a heart that she engraved in a tree back then and Jaguar staring lovingly at a photo that he kept from when she was ten-years-old! (Not that you should find that disturbing in anyway at all).
Everyone is given hilariously OTT dialogue that ups the cheesiness and at times I found myself rewinding the tape to see if they’d really just said what I thought. A fine example is when one of the teens goes missing after swimming in a lake and Jaguar states with deadpan timing, “If he drowned, he drowned!” Also, in a manner that I’m not sure if was deliberate or not, it turns out the most of the deaths are caused by the inadvertently absent minded actions of victims being left alone by their friends. One hysterical chica, called Laura, literally pleads for Sylvia to stay with her in a room, but within two-minutes of our heroine searching for another of her (murdered) buddies, Laura gets an axe embedded in her forehead.
Another thing that I thought was intriguing, was how much of Bosque had been lifted from slasher classics of Mexico’s neighbours. The killer sports a rain slicker (Unhinged), looks on in ‘heavy breath POV’ through branches to survey his intended victims (Friday the 13th) and the kids pulling up in a van and being assisted by a Forest Ranger was reminiscent of The Prey. It’s not all freeloading though because Ortigoza includes some of his own gimmicks like the boogeyman throwing a decapitated head through the window to unsettle those he’s stalking. Also when his identity is revealed, thanks to some fine acting, he has a motive that builds momentary pathos.
It’s true that gore hounds and action buffs may get tired by the amount of time that it takes for the killer to get going (around sixty minutes), but personally I enjoyed spending a while with the cheesy antics of the youngsters and liked Bosque De Muerte. Quite why it hasn’t achieved greater success is beyond me, because it’s a really decent slasher that gets everything just about spot on.
Bloody Slumber Party 2014
Directed by: Larry Rosen
Starring: Melantha Blackthorne, Gloria Chung, Scott Churchson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Horror anthologies were once the bane of my life. On a site that has promised to focus on only the truest stalk and slash entries, films like John Carpenter’s Body Bags have caused me no end of headaches. It’s true that the first story in that trilogy could be considered slasher-esque and is directed by the godfather himself, but do I post just that part of the feature and ignore the others because they’re so alien to the template? In fact there are a few similar type of collections that have one slasher amongst their runtime, but I’ve always been confused whether to include them because as an entire package, they’re not really genre films.
Director Larry Rosen has done something here that should make me grateful, because he’s eradicated that problem with his new film, Bloody Slumber Party. This is an anthology that includes three recognisable stalk and slash scenarios and is wrapped up in a lovingly audacious Slumber Party Massacre revamp. It starts with a group of girls that head off to comfort their friend, Kelly, who has just split with her cheating boyfriend, Rick. They sit around in a circle and decide to get drunk and entertain themselves by telling frightening tales. After the first one, the gorgeous Veronica gets a bit freaked out and heads downstairs alone to watch something on TV. She soon learns that she’s jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, because waiting in the shadows is a masked killer with murder on his mind. Has Rick returned to slaughter his ex-girlfriend…?
I’m not sure of the exact production cost of Bloody Slumber Party, but the crew have done an outstanding job of making their movie look as slick as possible. It launches with an impressive credit sequence that utilises the mask of Jason Voorhees as a backdrop and from then on the film continues to deliver a gloss of professionalism that leaves a lasting impression. It’s clearly visible how a lot of sequences have been planned with intriguing ideas to realize an effective atmosphere. This is most evident in the second of the three anthology stories, which shows the fate of a group of youngsters that come across a murderous drifter whilst traipsing through some woodland. Rosen choses a snow-coated setting to deliver an aura of isolation and it really makes the victims seem comparatively small and lost amongst the landscape. These parts are intercut with a sequence from back at the house, where Veronica is being tortured by the sadistic masked intruder. I was impressed by the way I found both parts to be equally as engaging and some smart editing means that we switch between the two at the tensest of times. This leaves us in a position where we are engrossed by what we’re currently witnessing, but also keen to see what will happen with the other branch of the plot.
There’s no denying that the key plot-branch is the killer stalking the slumber party, but the three added tales are welcome additions. In fact, they can be separated by what they provide, with the first being a gross out cannibalistic treat, the second being a more typical slasher yarn and the final providing a neat dollop of suspense. Our main antagonist outside of the anthology stories uses a similar torture porn MO to the nut-job from Babysitter Massacre and he sports an identical get-up to the guy from Runaway Terror. BSP doesn’t borrow much else from its peers, but when one of the chicas is tied up in a chair, we see her wet herself from the pure terror of the situation, which reminded me of Amy Steel’s misfortune in Friday the 13th Part II. Moments earlier, a gang of teens had been talking about a urine fetish and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an in-joke of type?
Whilst we are discussing the dialogue, it was really something of a rollercoaster. I recall a scene where Kelly was speaking about her break-up and her words were almost too genuine and struck a chord with me. In the next instant though, a character will mouth an idiotic response that made me wonder if I’d heard correctly? It’s a shame that the screenplay can’t maintain its adroit realism consistently, because the script had given us some expansive ideas. It offered a subtle comment on the duality of friendships by demonstrating how bitchy and two-faced people can be and these social topics were smartly conveyed. I also appreciated the producers heavy investment in building a cast of actors with experience and a couple of them demonstrate a fine range of dramatics. I thought Samantha Hahn had some good moments as Kelly and the un-credited guy (?) that played Rick was frighteningly realistic as a control freak. It’s not unusual to come across average performance levels on this budget, but it’s worth noting that Rosen has pushed his personnel as far as he could to get a level of motivation and dedication to their roles. There’s the game of guessing who it could be that’s under the mask, which I didn’t figure due to a clever twist. I also was incorrect in my choice of final girl and couldn’t believe what I was seeing when the lass that I’d banked would be our lone survivor, ended up getting slashed.
Bloody Slumber Party isn’t a gore extravaganza and it does have minor issues, but honestly, I enjoyed watching it. In a market that’s awash with low-budget monstrosities, it’s nice to find a feature that engages consistently and delivers tension. I’m not sure yet when it’ll be released, but keep an eye on that pre-order button.
Prom Night 1980
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens
Review by Luis Joaquín González
This is another of those titles that to be honest, I should have covered on the site long ago. It was only when a SLASH abover, Ned, gave me a kick up the backside by reminding me that I hadn’t yet posted my thoughts on it that I converted it to MP4 and added it to my iPhone 6 Plus playlist.
Back in the days when I was hunting through video shops for slasher films, Prom Night was one of those that I couldn’t find for love nor money. I’d seen images of Jamie Lee Curtis facing off with a balaclava sporting nut job and had believed that it would be a classic slice of eighties special-ness. With a top-notch cast and a comparatively big budget, my eleven year-old brain saw nothing but slasher-tastic satisfaction. Eventually it got another limited VHS release and the nice guys at HMV (RIP) ordered me a pristine copy. Without a review to browse through (children of the Internet don’t know how lucky they are) I was on the bus home and fully expectant to enjoy a rival for Halloween.
A disfigured maniac that was accused of a heinous crime, breaks out of his asylum and heads back to the location of the event from a decade earlier. It’s Prom Night at the main high-school and Kim is highly emotional. Not only is she set to be the Prom queen, but it’s also the ten-year anniversary of the death of her younger sister – the victim of the escapee. When the body of a young nurse is found gruesomely slashed, it looks like the loony is up to his old tricks.
At the tender age of 16, I was mad about cars. No I’m not talking about toys; I’m talking about the real fuel-guzzling automobiles. I saved up some money from my weekend job and purchased a 1982 Ford Fiesta from a newspaper and fell madly in love. Over the year whilst I was waiting to pass my test, I bought a set of gold-coloured alloy wheels, a chrome exhaust system, a race carburettor, tinted windows and neon lights for the number plate. When I finally got my driving license, I was ready to hit the road, but just as I’d turned the first corner, the clutch went. A week later, it was the entire gearbox. I got it towed to the garage and they noticed that nasty brown rust had been devouring the floorboards. My world was shattered, but the car wasn’t worth the sum of the parts that I’d placed upon it, so it had to be scrapped.
Watching Prom Night after many years reminded me of that Fiesta so much. First things first, the film is beautifully shot and DP Robert New has done an amazing job of planning his photography with grace and dynamism. The opening scene takes place inside an abandoned school and there’s an adept aura of isolation and spookiness that surrounds the child actors. Paul Zaza’s scoring is as creepy as always and the film lets you know from the off that it’s slickly put-together. When our key players are introduced, they are awarded the space and time to bond with the audience and it’s interesting how the script hints that humans develop a specific personality trait that maturity doesn’t alter. It was almost as if they were subtlety stating that if you’re born with a nasty streak, it’s likely that you’ll stay that way unless you decide to change. During the story development parts, the underscoring of horror is provided by some stalking scenarios and the killer phoning and threatening his intended victims. This concept was clearly lifted from Black Christmas and shows that Prom Night is a slasher movie that knew its target audience. We get very few, if any, attempts at innovation and the crisp rolling photography through the town where this was filmed may well have been left-over footage from Carpenter’s Halloween. As with Humongous, Lynch was certainly a director that wasn’t ashamed of looting from his peers.
Jaime Lee Curtis heads up a note-perfect group of performers and I couldn’t point out any weaknesses in the casting. This was Peter Simpson’s first foray into slasherdom and the success that he received led him to begin development on the far more authentic Curtains. Prom Night was a big hit upon its release and is widely regarded as one of the genre’s most recognised features. Going back to the Fiesta that I told you about above though, the strong dramatics, superb score and lush photography don’t conceal the film’s limp and predictable spine.
Robert Guza’s script is extremely focused on its mystery, but we are given far too many clues to the maniac’s true identity. They were expecting the unmasking scene to be something of a shock, however it is obviously diluted by the fact that it’s exactly who we expected it to be. It’s almost like the screenwriters didn’t think that their audience would be smart enough to face a compelling puzzle without assistance. I felt that a lot of effort was wasted focussing on numerous red-herrings, when perhaps what the movie really needed was a larger impetus on generating suspense. It’s impossible to deny that Lynch is a director that shoots with panache and draws the best from his cast, but with Prom Night – I noticed this with Humongous too – there’s just never an air of unpredictability. Once we’ve picked who will survive, we know that they’re untouchable and it takes the tension away from the rest getting killed. It’s strange that a filmmaker so inspired by John Carpenter didn’t recognise the necessity of keeping his viewers hooked. Perhaps he just couldn’t pull it off.
Still, there’s a lot of silly eighties stuff, including a bizarre Saturday Night Fever-like boogie scene towards the climax. I also found it hard to keep a straight face when Jamie Lee called Leslie Nielsen’s character a ‘Disco King’ whilst he was awkwardly bopping like a one-legged ostrich. Oh and the fat joker guy in this one actually pulls (and scores) with a chica. So there was one authentic aspect after all ;).
Prom Night is a well-produced slasher movie that has moments of creepiness that are truly well delivered. It’s just a shame that it feels too much like a Halloween rip off and even lacks the authenticity of titles like: Friday the 13th, The Prey, Unhinged, The Unseen, Silent Scream, Small Town Massacre, My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, American Nightmare or even Graduation Day, Happy Birthday To Me and Embalmed. Also, the fact that it’s never really scary is a sin that, for such a visually competent picture, is hard to forgive…
Lost After Dark 2015
Directed by: Ian Kessner
Starring: Robert Patrick, Jesse Camacho, Kendra Trimmings
Review by Donny Ybarra (Brothers Grim)
Happy Saturday a SLASH abovers… I am proud to present the first guest post from long time slasher fan and all round knowledgeable guy, Donny Ybarra. You may have seen some of his reviews online and I am happy to have him contribute to the glossy pages of a SLASH above. Here he’s chosen snazzy new killer in the woods flick, Lost After Dark. I am sure that you’ll enjoy his review as much as I did…
There is this current surge of “throwback” horror movies, most are set in the 80’s, with an emphasis on the body count slasher flicks. These particular types of horror films are made to celebrate the “golden age of slashers”, it also happens to be my favorite type of film. These throwback films have become extremely popular lately too, most have been quit successful with finding a cult following. Movies like; Billy Club, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, the Legend of the Psychotic Forest Ranger, The Sleeper, Scream Park and many more have hit dvd/blu with welcome arms. The aforementioned films go back to simple stories that are big on gore and have some camp appeal, which set themselves apart from the post-Scream teen slasher influences and all of the other trends in horror that have dominated recent years. What I love about this movie is that it is set in 1984, kudos to director Ian Kessner and crew for really demonstrating their knowledge for what makes this year/decade great! From clothing to catch phrases, it’s all there.
Speaking of the 80’s, what sets this film apart from say recent “slashers”, like Unfriended (even though I quit enjoyed it), is that you don’t hate the teens. The teens in LAD are modeled from some characters you could have most likely seen in a Friday the 13th/Elm Street sequel. Because you get some character development, you are saddened to see these teens killed, and THAT is what gives this flick some rewatchability too. In a market that is congested with shaky cam documentary style filmmaking, it was great to get back to classic storytelling that didn’t involve any gimmicks.
Now, on to the meat and bones of the movie…pun intended! The movie starts out with the last two surviving members (of what was prolly another group of horny teens with bad decision making skills), fight their way from someone that looks like a Rob Zombie stunt double. This is by no means a bad thing, but a cool mask would have been a great addition to this greasy fella, but more on him later. The opening kill happens on the tail end of the 70’s, luckily for us the movie takes a huge jump to the year of 1984! We are then introduced to the sibling of our dear massacred flower child, Adrienne, who is still waiting for big sister to return home from what everyone thinks was a bad 70’s “trip”. Adrienne and pops have a touching moment before lil sis goes back to the plan her and her buds concocted, which consisted of swiping the keys to the family cabin for the weekend. The plot from this point on is fairly straightforward, kids sneak a bus out from Principle Mr.C (who is played respectively by Robert Patrick), and get stranded without gas on their way to the cabin. As the kids make their way around, dare I say, lost after dark, they come across the Joad house. One thing to keep in mind is, Junior Joad hates visitors!
JJ (as the kids should have called him), is a long haired cannibal creeper, which I always enjoy. Nothing says terror like happening across a psycho in the woods that happens to eat his victims and then adds their remains to a personal victory alter. Ian Kessler should be proud, he created a character that I say fits nicely in between the killer mutant from Humongous and Madman Marz from Madman. He grunts and talks in a muffled manner that is very reminiscent of some one that spent way too much time in the woods by themselves. Our dear JJ has quit the arsenal of weaponry too! He takes out all the cool guys and gals with bear traps and pickaxes, he gives good blood splatter! One kill involving broken glass and an eyeball made me squirm, and that’s hard to do for this seasoned slasher fan! Fulci would definitely be proud!
One by one the kids are taken out in gory ways, chase sequences ensue and it all ends in a way that makes you want a sequel. Some highlights from the film involve a hilarious “reel missing” sequence that was pretty funny. Another groovy thing is from time to time the picture of the movie would crack or a scratch would appear, it wasn’t overdone so that was a plus. My favorite thing about the movie is that who you think will be the “final girl/guy”, sadly will not be. This movie did a good job of keeping the kills unpredictable. I won’t say if there is a survivor, but I will say I was quit pleased with the end, despite is seeming a tad rushed.
In a movie market that is congested with shaky cam documentary style filmmaking, it was great to get back to classic storytelling that didn’t involve any gimmicks. There are some great shots of the interiors of the house and the unique display of “artwork” from the killer, think Leatherface but with an eye for installation art. All those add up to a worthy “throwback” slasher that actually succeeds at throwback! Give it a spin, it’s pretty RAD!
Thanks to Ed Peters for sending me a screener from Anchor Bay Entertainment, I really enjoyed it!
Directed by: David J. Gardner
Starring: Tracy Pacheco, Jason Hamer, Shannon Nelson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Towards the end of the nineties/beginning of the noughties, there were a host of slasher films that based their structures around a craze that was popular amongst audiences: Reality Television. Kolobos was the first that I witnessed and it proved to be a superb slasher that showed what could be achieved with a voyeuristic set-up. Soon after, we received a few more similar themed additions which varied in quality, with the worst of them being the heinous Voyeur.com. Less and less Reality-Slasher entries appeared as the years went by, but then in 2014, the wonderful Girl House brought panache back to the sub-sub-genre.
TheCampusHouse.Com is without a doubt the most obscure of all these titles and it’s an addition that I was keen to add to the site. I picked up a copy years ago on DVD at a horror festival, but I’ve never seen it on Amazon/eBay or anywhere else for general purchase. The only information that I could find in relation to its production were three generous user reviews on the IMDB, where it boasts a healthy 6.7 rating. There’s literally nothing else that can be discovered from an online search and as far as I’m aware, it never secured a distribution deal. This makes it (yet) another a SLASH above exclusive. I’m good to you all, eh?
A group of students are invited to gain free lodging in a large campus house if they take part in a social project. An ambitious businessman is offering to pay for their courses if they allow themselves to be filmed around the clock for online viewers. Once inside the camera-laden abode, they bond quicker than had been expected, but the fun is shattered when one of their neighbours is butchered by a masked maniac. The group become nervous, but their fears are brushed aside by the Police, who believe the murder to be the work of a gang of escaped convicts that have now fled the area. As other people begin to disappear, it soon becomes apparent that the stories about the house’s haunted past may well be true.
I’d watched Redwoods Massacre the day before this and I have to admit that in comparison, Campus kicked off with an extreme amount of class. Seeing a dark-haired artist being stalked in moody flashing lights brought to mind the style that was apparent in Kolobos and there are certainly worse titles that this could be compared to. It has become a trend over the last decade to pay constant homage to the classics of the eighties. Whereas it’s relatively easy to duplicate scenes or mention titles in dialogue, Campus achieves the difficult task of actually capturing some of the charm that was present during that decade. Watching a gang of cheesy teens unpack their belongings to the strains of some pop-rock reminded me of Evil Laugh and the characters are more alluring than we usually find in modern efforts. There’s even a ‘psycho calling card’ for the first couple of murders. It is a creepy music box that echoed the doll from Curtains, the cassette player from Island of Blood and the rose from Rosemary’s Killer
Whilst this is most definitely a Reality Slasher, the onlooking cameras are brushed aside fairly sharply when the mystery begins to take-hold of the story. We are given a plot-branch from thirty-years earlier that adds an extra layer of difficulty to guessing who it could be that’s under the mask and I have to give credit to the screenwriters for the conclusion that they chose for the close of their saga. There are quite a few killings and the maniac looks extremely creepy in a white mask and cape. Perhaps what the film lacked most was some neatsuspense and any real brutality when he struck, but we are at least treated to a couple of lively photography gimmicks.
Now I consider Halloween to be the perfect slasher movie and its synopsis was structured through just the one night to compact the horror with developing the background story. Campus House is set over a number of days and despite the director’s constant attempts to maintain momentum (characters argue, a romance blossoms etc), the film borders on becoming too slow moving and therefore dull. The ambitious sub-plots spaced over a lengthy runtime were reminiscent of another unreleased film, The Inherited; and both entries could be accused of throwing too many ideas at a template that succeeds when it’s played straight. It is strange to criticise a slasher for trying too hard, but there’s a lot of talky-stuff here when really all we wanted was to get to the crimson splashing. I was generally disappointed that Campus couldn’t continue at the pace that it began with, because it had set high expectations with its handling of the early scenes.
What we are left with is a slasher movie that’s better than the majority of DTV efforts that get released en masse year upon year, but it has a few issues that prevent it from hitting the heights that were to be expected. A killer in a superb mask, a nice score, some creative directorial flourishes and an intelligent twist are let down by an uneven momentum and a failure to build upon that initial energy. Still, as I said above, it’s better than many that are produced on the same budget and it’s a real mystery as to why it didn’t get the shot it deserved.