aka Kandie Land
Directed by: Eddie Lengyel
Starring: Haley Kocinski, Max Elinsky, Ari Lehman
Review by Donny Ybarra (Brother’s Grim)
I recently reached out to director/writer/horror aficionado Eddie Lengyel, whom not only let me screen the movie, but has been very eager to discuss this film too! What is nice is to be able to connect with filmmakers and discuss what it is that brings you together, in this case it is the love of the slasher genre! I explained to Eddie how much of a fan I am of slashers, I’m constantly on the lookout for new flicks, especially ones that have an iconic masked villain. Before digging right in I’d like to also point out that Mr. Lengyel has another upcoming project due out later this year called Naughty List, and yes, it is a Christmas slasher!
When you watch horror movies/slasher movies, what keeps you invested? For me it is the cast, and while there are some moments of dry acting, I’d say you can see the passion in this film from everyone in front and behind the camera, and that definitely counts. Now everybody knows Ari Lehman in the slasher world as the “kid Jason Voorhees”, but I have been watching some great indie slashers here lately and Ari is all in the horror mix and is fun in this film briefly. Having cast a horror vet in a slasher flick only adds to the appeal to me, kudos for bringing him on board. Another standout for me was Don Kilrain as “Jonah” who was our masked madman. With a name like KILRAIN, you expect to have one badass mother____%#^!!, and Jonah is that! Jonah is pretty imposing and is fairly creative when it comes to the kills. Another standout was Molly Miller as “Tiny”. Tiny was an interesting aspect to this film, she brought the “humanity” out of Jonah, and I don’t know if that is such a good thing! It was also nice to see Janine Sarnowski as “Luna” she was a familiar face from Chill: The Killing Games (which I loved!), and I really enjoyed her character in this one.
The plot for this one is straight up, you get a tragic past that creates this villain…who has grown to despise “pretty people”., so what do you think happens to a group of models that cross paths with this creepy brute?!?! Let’s just say, beauty is only skinned deep! I wasn’t really a fan of the scenes with the models, there was just not a character I cared about, I found the models rather annoying and not at all interesting (other than wanting them to die quickly), but they served their purpose.
Being a fan of iconic killers like Jason, Freddy and Chucky, what works for them is their motivations for killing and unique ways of doing so with a kickass look. I wouldn’t put Jonah up there with them, but I would say that if given a sequel I would love to see the “punish the pretty people” angle more to give our killer a little more edge. What brings this slasher up a notch from others is not only motivations, but the kills. This movie was pretty brutal, and dare I say offered up some inventive demises. You are treated to some old school practical effects too, no CGI blood! Also, the mask had no explanation with its origin, but it was fun to guess. Was it a “pretty crush” that turned Jonah down and he ended up taking her face? Who knows, but the hair on the side was creepy. The fact that the mask looked like old dried skin was creepy too, kinda reminded me of the Indian slasher from Ghost Dance a little before he is revived.
I’ll forgive many a slasher film for acting if I know that some thought when in to the body count, which this movie racks them up nicely. The pacing is pretty fast and you get kills frequently. When the movie starts winding down, there is a scene towards the end with a couple trying to escape via row boat, which I thought was pretty hilarious. Another funny bit was the “prophet of doom” on the hoveround, if anyone is going to escape this movie it would be that old lady, after all she does have a head start! I wouldn’t have minded more of a chase scene towards the end, although I did enjoy that last kill quit a bit, it really made me squirm a little. Also, I was hoping for a “final girl” when I realized that at the end, Luna was it! Which broke the slasher norms and made me think of the “final girl” Alley Oats (played by Deborah Rose) from The Boneyard. This made the movie believable and gave us someone that could be a kickass character later too!
I always look forward to reviewing these indie films, many boast about being a “homage” to the 80’s, while I think others just do. With this one I do get a little nostalgia from that decade, it’s almost a mix of Leatherface: TCM 3 (1990) and a tad bit of Twisted Nightmare. I could definitely see this one released towards the later part of the 80’s, when most slashers just ran through a checklist of what it takes to be a slasher, which with today’s horror releases it isn’t a bad thing. I say give this one a peep creepers, two thumbs up.
I found Scarred to be a relatively fast-paced slasher that was both unique and grisly. I appreciated that the core characters had been developed beyond the hooker/stripper stereotypes to actually carry a screenplay and build rapport with viewers. I don’t recall seeing the gorgeous Hayley Kocinski in Chill, which is strange, because she’s got the Eastern European-type of beauty (her surname’s Polish) that I adore. Still, I thought she was good as the lead. I totally agree with Donny that ‘Tiny’ (reminiscent in a way of the ‘kid’ from Burial Ground) somewhat weakened the killer’s menace, but there was enough of an enigma surrounding his hate of ‘pretty people’ to supply a macabre aura. Whilst most of the victims make dumbfoundingly stupid escape decisions and some of the acting is sketchy, I can’t deny that Scarred offers all you want from a slasher spectacular. My only question is, what happened to the girl from the prologue?
Killer Guise: √√√
Bloody Creek 1993
Directed by: Gary Whitson
Starring: Ivory Blackwood, Michelle Caporaletti, Dave Castiglione
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Back in the days before we were all connected via the Internet, the best way to meet and converse with other horror collectors would be to attend film festivals. Nine times out of ten, they would be filled with geeky halfwits that would drop comments like, “Do you know that I have Killer Moon completely uncut on long play?” Or, “I’ve seen The Exorcist 1,998,764,647,576 times and can quote every line of dialogue, backwards.” This is when I’d pull my ace from my sleeve and say, “Well, I’ve got a pristine copy of Bloody Creek at home.” What would follow would be two-minutes of tense jealousy driven silence as the nerds would look me up and down and think, ‘What the hell is this Bloody Creek? Why does this skinny Spaniard have a copy??‘
In fairness, I’ve always owned quite a large collection of obscure pictures, but when my Japanese VHS of Cards of Death wasn’t enough, or if I couldn’t steal the limelight with my pre-cert print of Early Frost, I’d reach for my special weapon – Bloody Creek unrated. I mean, let’s be honest, before this review, you had no idea it even existed, right?
It was an early release from Gary Whitson’s WAVE Productions studio and it’s arguably the most traditional slasher of his filmography. My VHS is dated as 1994 and on the IMDB it’s listed as 1993, but I’m pretty confident that the IMDB have uncharacteristically got it right for once. The beautiful Tina Krause was discovered by Whitson in early ’94 and made her debut in Fatal Delusions the same year. Her china doll-like face combined with a sensational figure made her the poster girl of WAVE through the nineties and so I’m pretty sure that she’d have featured if it was made after she joined their team.
It tells the tale of a female author that’s writing a book about a number of killings that have taken place in Bloody Creek State Park. She is invited to the local Police station to interview those that investigated the case, but soon discovers that the killer may still be on the loose.
I guess that whether or not you’ll want to see Bloody Creek is dependent on your experience and taste for films that have been produced on this kind of budget. A lot of early WAVE releases were shot on a camcorder and filled with actors that had been picked up at conventions (like Krause) or from word of mouth. I knew what I was getting in to when I sat down to watch this picture and therefore found it easier to accept, but others need to be prepared for the non-existent funding so as not to be disappointed. Please keep in mind that I’ve taken this into consideration with my review.
So, the film lasts for whopping ninety-minutes, but would look much better without some of the bloatedness. The problem with directors that edit their own footage is that they are following their singular vision and its better when a third-party can advise on momentum. The movie’s stagnated pace is best demonstrated in the build-up to the first slaughter, which is shown via flashback (as is most of the runtime). We are introduced to the scenario by a detective that makes the fatal mistake of telling us beforehand that the girl is about to be butchered. Even in Zodiac – a cinematic account of a serial killer whose victims are globally known – David Fincher conveyed each murder from the outset in order to develop some tension. Here though, because we’d already been informed of the character’s fate, it was pointless to see her wake-up, get dressed, get in her car, drive, drive some more, reach the forest, set-up her camp, wander around etc etc. The only plot point of relevance and interest to us was HOW she died; – anything else was just filler. With that said, a voluptuous chick that goes camping on her own and downs a bottle of Cognac in a couple of gulps could never be considered unappealing. It’s just that this whole sequence would’ve played so much better if Whitson changed the detective’s dialogue from, “This is how the first victim was killed” to “It began like this…” – without any premature knowledge of the outcome.
Brushing aside the amount of over-emphasis for a second, I can say that I enjoyed Bloody Creek. It offers a wealth of slasher scenarios, a couple of cheesetastic gore scenes (they use leaves to cover the head of one bunny so it looks like she’s been decapitated!) and a few surprisingly ambitious twists. Sure, you can list continuity holes and enough inadvertent humour to rival Nail Gun Massacre, but I didn’t ever want to give up watching. The only thing that I thought was missing, was a decent ‘killer guise’, because without one, the maniac lacked an imposing presence. There’s also a chase and fight sequence in a swamp that I have to mention because it was so hilariously overblown. A pair of actors splash and tussle for about five-minutes, whilst accidentally swallowing mouthfuls of muddy rain water. Yuk!
I’m in a good mood, so I haven’t gone in to detail about all the little things that disappointed me with Bloody Creek (even if I had to bite my tongue to prevent myself from mentioning the horrendous score). It’s an astoundingly cheap production (the cop’s office is surely someone’s kitchen – it even has a microwave!), but I was in the mood for some junky fun and junky fun’s what I received. We get a sprinkling of gore, some terrifically hot chicas (a WAVE trademark although they’re not quite Tina Krause) and a devious assailant that constantly surprises with his unpredictability. Gary Whitson wrote a script that does well to keep you guessing and I can only take my hat off to him for that.
Look, I can’t recommend you hunt down Bloody Creek and I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it. In its defence though I expected the worst and was originally going to write a step-by-step sarcastically mocking review as I did with Curse of Halloween, but the feature impressed me enough not to. I can’t give it any more credit than that.
Marco Polo 2008
Directed by: Alton Glass
Starring: Cristina DeRosa, Eddie Goines, William L. Johnson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
When you look at all the ‘hard to find’ slashers, you’ll notice that the majority of them share familiar characteristics. Whether it be that they were self-funded and lacked solid distribution or were plagued throughout production, which led the crew to abandon circulation, there’s usually a common link to be discovered between them. That’s where Marco Polo stands apart. This one was completed in 2007 on a solid budget and with a talented cast, so it’s strange that it has become so obscure.
In fact, what we have here is a feature that truly frustrates me; and my frustrations stem from the fact that it’s better than a large majority of the slashers that I watch, so why isn’t it available for global consumption? It kicks off with a fast-paced sequence that offers a pre-credits introduction to our boogeyman, Marco Polo. In a periodic scene from 1342, Polo, his wife and daughter are pursued through some forest, where they are eventually cornered and assaulted by their weapon-clenching assailants. Director Alton Glass goes for an incredibly merciless approach by showing us in detail how Polo was made to suffer by being blinded by the thumbs of a hulking barbarian. As he lies screaming on the floor, he can only listen helplessly whilst his spouse is raped and his child slaughtered. It’s an uncommonly harrowing intro, which shows a level of graphic violence that was quite intense. We then fast forward to present day California, where we meet our likely victims.
It’s these parts that most proved to me that Glass has the potential to be a competent filmmaker. We see all of our characters together at a pool party and there’s a blend of African Americans and Whites. What stood out to me was that the dialogue was audacious and intriguing, because it’s not the usual Hollywood sugar coated chit-chat. One girl nags her black boyfriend for leering over a white chick and he responds by saying, “She must have some black in her to be that fine”. Then a bullish Caucasian belittles a guy that looks like a poor man’s Eminem with the line, “Stay White Brother!” We live in a world where touching upon such topics always carries a risk of offence, but in reality, the majority of us aren’t racists and can share good-natured (and even competitive) interracial banter. I admired the director’s ambition to strive for realism and this continues throughout the runtime.
After such a crowded launch, we get a closer look at what will surely be our two central players. Jared is extremely disappointed that his younger brother Kelly wants to play basketball in Italy and not follow his sibling into the business that their entrepreneurial father left them when he passed away. This leads to an interesting ‘head or heart’ conversation that offers enough depth to develop both personalities. They decide to spend a camping trip together before Kelly jets off to Europe and this gives us a logical pathway to alienate our intended victims. There are eight campers that board the Winnebago to the forest, and each of them gets enough screen time to stand out. It would be wrong to say that they broke away from the traditional clichés, but the annoying jock type guy diversified into a real hero that I found myself rooting for. Actually, I wanted most of them to survive and I guess it’s because they were given more than just basic lines to move the plot from A to B.
When the killings start, they’re ferociously gory and Glass unleashes some tremendous visceral FX and a real injection of excitement. One guy gets chopped in half with a machete, there’s a unique decapitation and the brutal masked killer gives a credible Jason Voorhees impersonation. I liked the way that the film gave the players a slice of courage that convinced us that they wanted to survive. It’s tough to convey the true effect that a mass-killer would have on the average everyday Joe, but at least they weren’t just slashed and immediately rushed off screen to be forgotten. Every single box in regards to slasher trademarks is ticked (we even get a scary story around a campfire scene), but this film differentiates itself by including influences from thrillers like Fallen as well as a large dose of Friday the 13th. The biggest chunk of originality came from the conclusion, which I certainly wasn’t expecting.
The real Marco Polo was an ambitious traveller that passed away peacefully, surrounded by his wife and daughters, in bed. There are definite question marks over the logic of using such a renowned historical figure as the film’s antagonist. The fact that the screenwriter has bolted-on a distinct and unflattering streak to his personality makes it all the more peculiar. It would have been easier if they’d just used an imaginary person – a conquistador perhaps – because Polo was everything but a sadistic butcher. Still, I cannot really find any other relevant criticism to aim at this slasher and I’m scratching my head as to why it’s so obscure. When a motion picture that is confidently produced and includes sharp direction, a rapid pace, unpredictability, interesting scenarios, a professional gloss and some gore, you’d think that it had achieved everything that was asked during pre-production. A friend of mine said that he had heard that this was extremely similar to See No Evil, but it’s not at all. Alton Glass’ entry to the sub-genre is much better and deserving of a more prominent status.
So why does the film remain on the missing list? It seems like it all came down to bad timing. Just as shooting was completed in 2008, the lead producer had to deal with some personal matters, which meant that the concept was pushed to one side. When he was finally able to re-focus his efforts on securing circulation, the digital boom had rendered him unable to find the right deal. Now, eight-years later, it can finally be seen on Amazon.com, but only if you reside in the US.
There are around sixty slashers that I know of that will never see light of day on the right format. There’s a strong argument to say that Marco Polo and Legend of Moated Manor are the best of those. I hope you one day get the opportunity to see if you agree.
Reviews by Luis Joaquín González
a SLASH abover Paul Morris sent me an email a while back asking why I don’t review many slasher shorts on the site. I guess the reason is because I post a review once a week and I’m used to covering a feature-length movie. There’s only so much that you can say about a film that’s a few minutes long and I write about 800 words about each flick that I watch. Then suddenly it dawned on me, why don’t I just review a few together!?! Ta-da. (It’s hardly inventing the wheel, but you have to understand that sometimes, I’m not the quickest)
So, every now and then from here on out, I’ll post an update here that’ll feature the shorts that I’ve watched and my opinion on them. I own quite a few and with many I have zero information on how they were put together. I apologise in advance if I don’t provide all you need, but they’ll all be slashers and I’ll give what I can:
Dead Air 2014
Directed by: Zac Morris. Running time: 6 Minutes
Set at a dorm party on Halloween night no less, Dead Air focuses on revenge for a prank that went wrong some time ago. At just over five-minutes, it’s a fun little flick, but doesn’t particularly explode with an abundance of potential film making quality. Whilst it’s creatively shot, the killings are all off-screen, I didn’t think much of the performances and there are no new gimmicks or tweaks to the formula. Cool black mask though and I will admit, if this was a teaser for an up and coming slasher, I would be adding it to my ‘to watch list’.
I, Murderer 2014
Directed by Dipayan Chatterjee. Running Time: 7 minutes
A poignant and disturbing seven-minute flick from India that will certainly make you think. I don’t agree that the slasher genre is the right place for political or campaign messages, but I’ll make an exception here because it truly is beautifully shot and professionally edited. If we forget about the concept for a moment, we can credit the haunting mask and musical accompaniment, which is top-class. I guess in this over-populated rat-race of a world that we live in, we need to think more about this subject, take precaution and as we say in Spain, controlarse y tened cuidado.
Fear the Reaper2004
Directed by Keith Munden. Running Time: 28 minutes
The first of Munden’s Reaper trilogy, this one tells the tale of a supernatural murderous being that’s stalking and murdering youngsters around a small residential area. A plump teen has a bizarre connection with the killer and sees what he does in visions and dreams, which means she must try to stop him. A few good moments that border on suspense are ruined by a disjointed flow and the fact that we can barely see anything some of the time. Even when we are given clear day shots, it’s still tough to follow, because the plot has the narration of melted ice cream and even repeats a few minutes of the SAME scene toward the conclusion. I can only presume that the editor was with his friend LSD when he put this together. Still, for a big fat 0 budget, it does show signs of potential here and there.
Directed by Steve Goltz. Running Time: 11 minutes
After a group of kids run down an old man by a roadside, a masked killer follows them camping to take revenge. Here we have the debut movie from Slasher Studios; the team that would go on to bring us Dismembering Christmas and Don’t Go to the Reunion. It’s a dose of extreme slasherism that’s confidently produced and tells an entire I Know What You Did Last Summer-type story in eleven-minutes, which is some achievement. Keeping in mind the bite size runtime, the characters are well conveyed and the film goes all out to impress. A true tribute to everything that we love about slashers, the use of the teddy bear and a cool mask are welcome inclusions. With four murders, some gore and a sex scene, you get bang for your buck, it’s just a shame they couldn’t chuck in some suspense. Still, as slasher shorts go, it’s a definite must see.
She’s Not Alone 2012
Directed by Mike Streeter. Running Time: 8 minutes
The slasher genre went through a bizarre referential phase recently, where there were a host of entries that played like Z-grade Elvis tribute acts to the peak period. I can honestly say that I can’t name many that managed to pull off the retro gimmick as well as this classy and stylishly directed addition from Mike Streeter (a name to watch). Everything from the music, props, fashion and style is pure nostalgia. It annoys me with shorts that if crews only need to fulfil a few minutes of screen time, why can’t they make the most of each shot. We are given a plethora of good camera work during SNA and even some tricks that Carpenter himself would have been proud of. In fact, if someone told me that Carpenter had directed this, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to question. I can’t give She’s Not Alone any more credit that that.
Pesadilla Sangrienta 2006
Directed by Marceleo Cabrera/Felipe Paredes. Running Time: 7 minutes
A pretty nothing-ness slasher movie that was likely filmed on a cheap mobile phone. Zero dialogue, zero gore and you can’t see what’s going on most of the time. No real story with this one outside of a guy with a Guns n Roses-era Slash-style haircut stalking a girl that has one too, which only adds to the confusion. It’s great that people make slashers at home, but I can’t give them credit if they’re this bad.
Directed by Ryan Shovey. Running Time: 12 minutes
This one was originally meant as a teaser for a feature length slasher that thus far hasn’t materialised. It’s a shame, because Hunter really is a superb slice of slasherism that much like She’s Not Alone, shows heavy Carpenter influences. It’s set inside a house and so we don’t get given much space, but Shovey delivers suspense, shocks and some Argento-alike camera tricks. The killer is creepy as hell too. What I thought worked best was the fact that we got to know the two characters in only twelve-minutes, which was a sign of good scripting. I understand that the director is working on another slasher movie, so let’s hope it turns out to be as stylish as this.
Title Unknown 2011
Directed by Unkown. Running Time: 9 minutes
I have no information on this one or even its title, which is a shame because I kind of have a soft spot for it. The whole production reminded me of mid-nineties SOV titles like Savage Vows and it has a similar type of attractive obscurity. It tells the tale of an ambitious Deputy that wants to rid the town of a vicious masked killer, but the Sheriff is less eager, which raises suspicion in the eyes of the apprentice. Whilst there’s no gore and the score has been borrowed from other hits (even Halloween), the killer’s mask (reminiscent of the Monk from Terror Train) and a couple of impressive shots make this one interesting. It’s by no means a polished example of great filmmaking, but it gains points because it’s so reminiscent of the days of buying cheap VHS from stores/websites.
Directed by David Dinetz, Dylan Trussell . Running Time: 8 minutes
Chainsaw was presented by Eli Roth and it tells the tale of a huge maniac stalking a Haunted House at a theme park. It’s certainly amongst the most gratuitous shorts that I’ve witnessed and includes some extremely graphic shots of a chainsaw-blade cutting into flesh. Whilst it is an extremely modern picture with its MTV flash cuts and CGI, it had an interesting comment on voyeurism, which was a key theme of Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse. Bizarrely, the intro reminded me of the brilliant Derek Cianfrance drama, The Place Beyond the Pines. Definitely one for gore hounds.
Panic Fear 2015
Directed by John Francis Conway III. Running Time: 5 minutes
Panic Fear won’t take up too much of your time, but it makes a statement with its structured shots and inventive camera placement. I appreciated the lengths that the director went to for realism by demonstrating how victimised we would be if a similar scenario were to strike when we least expect it. The smart use of muffled external sound worked wonders to set-up the theme of a killer invading a place of complete seclusion: our home. In fact, this one becomes more scary upon post reflection. I’ve seen thousands of people butchered in slasher films, but this one just felt a little more ruthless than usual.
Directed by Jarno Mahlberg. Running Time: 12 minutes
If I had to compare this Finnish slasher with any other that I’d reviewed of late, then it would have to be Murhapukki, which funnily enough hails from… Finland. Whilst I don’t like horror comedies that go out of their way to try to be funny, I’m a big fan of black humour or a slice of the tongue in cheek. Axecutioner overcomes its low budget with a huge chunk of fun that I thoroughly enjoyed. There’s some very cheap gore that is creatively displayed and the outlandish camera angles are Scott Spiegel-esque. It’s as standard as could possibly be in terms of plot (three guys go to a cabin in the woods to drink whilst there’s a masked nut on the loose), but it ticks the boxes with its overall campiness. This one reminded of cheesy eighties hits without broadcasting that it’s doing so.
Time to Die 2011
Directed by Madness INC. Running Time: 10 minutes
Whilst on the subject of Horror Comedies that work, here we have one on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. At nine minutes and thirty-nine seconds, Time to Die is nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds too long. From what I could make out from the bad audio, it tells the tale of a group of misfits that have paid for a time share or something along those lines to explain away the threadbare plot. Before long, a killer that looks like a throwback from the Kiss glam metal era offs a handful of them in slapstick ways. Look I appreciate that this is just a group of friends having fun, but I have to call it as I see it and what I saw sucked like a mosquito on steroids. To make a comedy work, you either need jokes that are, well, funny or an obvious source code for what you’re mocking. I had no idea what was going on here and wish they hadn’t have bothered. In fact, it made me wish it was time to…
Killer on the Loose 2015
Directed by Mark Baliff. Running Time: 15 minutes
Here we have an expertly taut and cunningly smart slasher from director Mark Baliff that definitely needs to be seen. It demonstrates style right from an opening credit sequence that incorporates a handful of creative shots of Halloween props to build the tone. We then cut to a blood stained girl that’s fleeing a hockey mask sporting stranger. She manages to sneak into an unoccupied house where a cat and mouse game of hide and seek begins with the would-be assailant. Killer on the Loose includes a bundle of references to Halloween and Friday the 13th (including an abode very similar to the Myers House and Night of the Living Dead playing on the TV). It’s no carbon copy though and builds up to a unique and impressive conclusion. What really stood out for me, aside from the aforementioned structured shots, was a strong use of sound and gothic lighting. If the slasher genre is left in the hands of filmmakers like Señor Baliff, we have loads to look forward to.
The Welder 2015
Directed by Justin Cauti. Running Time: 15 minutes
Three girls head to their college to meet Trey, the boyfriend of Alex, who’s celebrating her birthday. Little do they know that a psychopathic Welder that was mutilated ten-years earlier is back for revenge. With a decent budget, killer guise, location and score, I was disappointed that this one wasn’t better. Most of the characters are the brash-cocky-brat-type that ruined a plethora of post-Scream entries, except one; but he doesn’t last long enough to make an impression. With nothing to attract me to the victims, I was hoping for some gore or suspense, but aside from a couple of interesting shots, it was mainly put-together with minimal flair. It’s hard to find fault with the hulking maniac and his deranged heavy breath, but the film lacks the polish of others I’ve reviewed here. Still a killer Welder is a good idea for a feature length picture guys..
Directed by Will Morris. Running Time: 4 minutes
Porkchop was so bad that it ruined the concept of a cool killer ‘Pig Head’ guise. Thankfully, Squeal improves upon the lacklustre Chop but still falls short of giving us a great and gratuitous gammon gore fest. It tells the tale of a group of girls at a party that are stalked by said maniacal assassin; but this guy has a deranged but intriguing motive for his attacks. As expected, he looks pretty menacing clutching a scythe, but some awful acting and overuse of a strobe effect prevents the film from really impressing.
Night Night Nancy 2011
Directed by Lewis Farinella. Running Time: 5 minutes
I have often believed that surrealism would be a good blend with the Slasher genre, but in fairness we haven’t seen many attempts at introducing the concept. The idea here was definitely to make a visual interpretation of a bad dream and the net result was fairly impressive. A young girl wakes up alone and discovers that there’s a masked intruder in her house and so she tries desperately to escape his clutches. What I really liked about Night Night Nancy was the killer’s awkward limp and deranged breathing, which really gave the impression that he/she was seriously disturbed. I also thought that incorporating a mobile phone as a source of terror was smart and the conclusion conveyed a nightmarish quality. The final girl made some silly decisions, but mostly it worked well.
Forest Falls 2012
Directed by Ryan McDuffie. Running Time: 27 minutes
At just under half an hour, Falls is longer than many on this page and it’s also one of the most unique that I’ve featured. The plot line starts as have a million others, with a group of teens heading up to a secluded camp site to indulge in some beer drinking and partying. It’s when the killer reveals himself BEFORE starting the bloodletting that the film heads off on a pathway that’s ambitiously uncommon. Whilst I am not really sure if I enjoyed everything I saw here, I can’t knock director Ryan McDuffie for trying to break the mould. Our masked killer is no Jason Voorhees wannabee and dispatches his victims rapidly with a handgun, which takes the ‘slash’ out of any slasher flick. I also didn’t think that knowing who the killer was from the outset worked, because it removed any intrigue or mystery that may have made him more ominous. Still, there’s no denying that Falls is expansively produced and I was impressed by some of the acting. The sets are slick and well-lighted and the movie opens with a Doo-Wop song, which added some real culture. It’s just that for me, guns in slashers are like sausages at a Vegan banquet – totally out of place. The film just couldn’t recover from that.
Midnight Man 2011
Directed by Kyle Stackhouse. Running Time: 4 minutes
Midnight Man is another of the many shorts that chooses a ‘one woman alone in apartment’ set-up to deliver some creative visuals. Here we have a maniac with a creepy mask (reminded me of the the antagonist from Final Scream) stalking a blonde female in her bedroom. The director uses some neat sound and a couple of Carpenter-alike ‘boogeyman looming in the background’ shots to add class, but it’d been nice to have seen more of a struggle from the victim or even a chase sequence.
Pizza Man 2015
Directed by Todd Condit. Running Time: 5 minutes
Interesting idea for a slasher movie, where the boogeyman is your Pizza Delivery guy! In honesty, these couriers get a hard time, because they bare the brunt of your wrath if the food’s late (even if it’s rarely their fault) and they don’t get a tip as would a Taxi driver. Shot in black and white, Pizza Man plays well on the fact that waiting around for a meal is the most antagonising thing in the history of food. Whilst there’s not a lot of suspense in the way the stalking is rolled out, we do get some gore and a killer Delivery Guy who’d make a great spouse for the chick from Pizza Girl Massacre don’t you think?
Directed by Steve Piché. Running Time: 3 minutes
Well this one wins the award for the shortest title of today’s post at under 180 seconds, but that surprisingly doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. A Slash abover Martin was involved in the production of this one over ten years ago and he kindly allowed me to review it for you all today. It only shows the stalking and slashing of an unfortunate wanderer, but there’s definitely a chunk of credibility on display. We get some nice low camera angles, a machete through cranium killing and a slow stalking maniac in a burlap sack, which regular readers will know is my favourite guise.
Tear Her 2014
Directed by Ricky Bird. Running Time: 6 minutes
Creepy little short from Hectic films that was made as a tribute to watching scary movies on VHS and dealing with inconsistent tracking. Rather than reminisce about my VCR though, the mazy screen and some chilling sound effects gave Tear Her a nightmarish feel, which helped to make it fresh. It shows a killer in a terrifying mask stalking an unfortunate model in a large dilapidated complex, which may not be much in terms of novel scripting, but works because it’s uniquely put together. I always have believed that the best horror is the type that goes the extra mile. Tear her does just that
Terror at Black Tree Forest 2010
Directed by: Dustin Ferguson
Starring: Allison Scott II, Paul Albers, Steve Carty
Review by Luis Joaquín González
One of the toughest tasks that blog authors/critics face is that we often converse with filmmakers before seeing their movies. Sometimes they’re generally nice people and if their movie sucks thereafter you do feel a shade of guilt for having to put into words all that was bad about their effort. It’s tough, honestly it is, but it’s something that we must do. When I posted the write-up of Cheerleader Camp: To the Death, Dustin Ferguson wrote a very honest comment beneath and warned me against his debut feature, Terror at Black Tree Forest. He said that he was expecting a negative rating, because he’s made 29 films since and has obviously improved upon his breakthrough flick. With this in mind, he’s made my job a whole lot easier, because my expectations are now already lower than Christ of the Abyss and I don’t have to worry about offending him. Nice…!
Twenty-years after the rape and murder of a married couple, the only survivor, a young child at the time, breaks out of his asylum and heads back to Black Tree Forest. He arrives just when two couples and a pair of campers are planning a fun-packed weekend and he soon begins lurking ominously as they unwind. Will any of them escape the blade of the vicious masked maniac…?
Despite being a pretty cool guy, it’s fair to say that Dustin Ferguson is also fairly modest. You see, if a filmmaker himself tells you that he’s picture’s bad, you can be pretty sure that it’s not going to be anything other. Fortunately, I’d have to disagree with him on this one, because Terror at Black Tree Forest may not be the Maradona of slasher movies, but it’s not quite the Ali Dia either.
Before the pre-credits, we are shown two trailers of seventies cult classics in an effort to relive the experience of watching rental VHS cassettes. The films chosen were Robert Englund’s ‘Slashed Dreams’ and the Christmas shocker, ‘Silent Night Bloody Night’. Whilst this is a fairly simple technique and not particularly authentic, it worked because Terror is shot with a lens-gimmick that gives the screen a static/fuzz that’s reminiscent of those 16mm prints that we all know and love. Even if the opening scene is the only one that is set in 1970 (the rest of the action is twenty years later) they choose to film the entire runtime this way, which is certainly unique.
Aside from that, what I feel really made Terror stand out was the killer’s bloodied burlap sack-guise and a deep haunting electronic soundtrack from Nathan Christensen. At times his accompaniment single-handedly carried the tone, because it’s so effective in its ability to unsettle the viewer. There’s a murder late-on that may be poorly lit, but the actor’s pre-death gargling and the strength of the keyboard sampling really does create a macabre feeling. We also get a tacky but solid ‘knife through eyeball’ gore shot that brought to mind Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2. Ferguson’s films almost always include a solid playlist and this, his first picture, is no different in that respect. As a director, it’s clear to see that he values in the importance of well- produced audio. His choice of camera movement and angles also show that he sees his pictures with a creative vision and I believe this is why his projects overcome their fund-related deficiencies.
So after all that I’ve stated above, why was Dustin so keen to prepare me for the worst? Well, there are a few reasons. I watched Terror on a three-hour flight, which meant that I was something of a ‘captive audience’. I can imagine that the mid-section may begin to drag for those that are surrounded by possible distractions, because the dialogue is predominantly routine and the characters lack intrigue. It’s also worth nothing that a lot of shots could have been shortened by at least a few seconds and it seems strange that this wasn’t noticed during editing. I can only guess that the financiers for the picture gave Ferguson a runtime and said it had to be filled?? The net result is a 1.5 star movie at just over an hour that could have been 2 stars if it were reduced to 52 minutes. I also thought it was strange that after a lengthy and smartly put-together chase sequence, the final stand-off between the heroine and the killer is left off-screen. Perhaps they ran out of budget?
As I said earlier, the boogeyman truly looks scary, but I had to read the back of the cover to make sure who he was because we don’t really get an explanation. I mean, sure, we can work out that he’s the kid from the opening scene, but in that case what happened to the rapist/murderer that killed his parents? Was he captured? Is he on the loose? Oh and whilst on the subject of the opening sequence, Terror has stolen the crown from Nail Gun Massacre for the most comical rape sequence in horror film history. Still, I’d prefer that any day to the grotesque stuff we saw in Gutterballs.
Terror at Black Tree Forest is a cheap and cheerful slasher movie that scores points for the level of creativity and a few good ideas. It’s got gore, brief nudity, a cool killer and a fantastic score, which is quite a lot for such an obscure flick. I would say that this is perfect viewing material for a train/plane journey when you have an hour or so to waste…
Memorial Valley Massacre 1988
aka Valley of Death
Directed by: Robert C Hughes
Starring: John Kerry, Cameron Mitchell, Julie Jachim
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Those were the days… The intrigue… The tension… The excitement… Oh hello a SLASH abovers and excuse me, I was just reminiscing about the times when I first discovered the Internet and opened the door to a world of slashers that stretched beyond my local video emporium. Strange as it may seem to you all, I was collecting these things even before I knew that they were part of a genre called ‘slasher’. Instead, I’d just pick up similar looking video covers and hope to see certain things that I recognised from the one that started it all for me, Halloween. Nowadays, you can check the web and know instantly whether a prospective picture is actually an entry to our beloved category or not. In moons gone by however, it was all about lucky dip.
When I eventually got onto the IMDB, I would use various investigative techniques to uncover entries to add to my list of ‘desperate to sees’. One of those was typing the word ‘Massacre’ into the search bar and examining each title to see if they were slashertastic enough for a purchase. It didn’t take long for me to uncover this beauty…. but upon discovery, a new challenge arose… locating a copy. During the late nineties, Amazon US weren’t keen on International delivery and despite them having twelve copies available on VHS at a reasonable price, I just couldn’t find a seller that’d distribute across the pond.
There I sat staring longingly at the picture from the listing, dreaming of the slasher fun that lurked inside the cardboard cover. For you pups, I guess it’s a lot easier, because additions such as this have become free content and can be downloaded in an instant from YouTube. Times have changed for the better for slasher buffs. Eventually I came across a Spanish language version in Jaén and I rushed home in excitement, eager to to witness whether Memorial Valley Massacre would satisfy me in all the ways I’d expected…? Well…
It tells the tale of a city businessman that has bought a huge piece of land and wants to open it as a camp site for people to bring their Winnebagos and spend a few days in the wild. During pre-launch, the production has suffered some unexplained events, including the deaths of a few construction workers. Despite no running water, the openning goes ahead as planned to coincide with Memorial Day, and the campers pull up in droves. Little do they know that they are sharing the grounds with a cave dwelling maniac that is out to kill….
I often go to Spain to visit my dad, younger brother and the rest of my family. Last year, whilst laying on a beach in Punta Umbría, I realised how much I miss Andalucía and felt sad that the branches of life had led me away from my true home. I returned to England and the weather was atrocious, which added to my gloomy feeling. In a semi-drunken stupor, I booked another vacation for the next couple of weeks and effectively went straight back to the Andalusian hills. From the moment I got off the return plane, it began raining; – and it continued to do so throughout my trip. ‘Tienes mala suerte’ my dad told me, but I decided that I’d at least try to go out and enjoy Sevilla with an umbrella; – and I did exactly that. That my friends is what psychologists call a ‘Positive Thinking Mindset’
You need a ‘Positive Thinking Mindset’ to really enjoy Memorial Valley Massacre, and if you engage one, you may find that your experience will be a lot like mine in rainy Andalucía. We may not have a sterling killer in the woods flick here, but instead it’s an entertaining campy ride that does provide some cheesy thrills – with the emphasis being on cheesy. For 92 minutes, MVM moves incredibly quickly and even if the action only really begins on the hour mark, the characters are silly enough to remain amusing throughout. It’s also worth noting that the picture is certainly authentic and I don’t remember another that goes for a killer that’s been borrowed from Disney’s Jungle Book. Looking like the fifth member of Twisted Sister – in a get-up that you could pick up in any dime-store fancy dress shop – his story is unique, if slightly underplayed. He was left in the forest as a child because a kidnap/ransom attempt went wrong and therefore grew up as a feral human. The filmmakers do however try to bizarrely build pathos for him in the early scenes, by showing him feeding a mouse and generally seeming at one with nature. These moments of vulnerability weaken his fear factor, but when he begins his kill frenzy, he becomes effectively merciless. One chap is set on fire and runs around screaming as he burns to death, whilst another likeable fellow ends up in a pit of spikes. It was refreshing that I felt like I wanted these guys to survive, because in more modern slashers, I couldn’t care less.
Massacre’s strengths are definitely its have a campy ball with the trademarks attitude and it’s cast of likably dumb participants. There’s an interesting relationship between hero, David Sangster, who’s the son of a millionaire businessmen that bought the land, and George Webster, the head ranger of the site. They don’t really get along at first, but instead of the more typical rookie/veteran bonding methodology, Robert C Hughes’ screenplay works slightly differently. We do get a hottie love interest for David, who’s there mainly to add eye-candy. His attempts to woo her are highly amusing, especially the speech that he uses to finally seal the deal. In fact, the dialogue here has some stand out lines like, “I’ve got cigars older than her” and “They couldn’t punch their way through a wet cracker”, which show that Hughes boasted a knack for the tongue in cheek. Having eighties slum artists such as, William Smith, John Kerry and Cameron Mitchell reciting such campiness just added the final gloss to the cheesecake.
This film plays much like Doom Asylum, which I reviewed recently, but it’s not quite as good. Whilst you could never call Doom particularly scary, it boasted gore and sharper direction, whilst Valley just feels too light-hearted, even in moments when it’s more ruthless than you expected. I believe this is because the killer just doesn’t look particuarly intimidating and the attrocious keyboard score doesn’t help. I’m no master musician, but just when you feel that the composer shouldn’t go a note higher nor lower, go there he does – and then some. The final thirty minutes of Valley are rapid with a handful of killings and a breakneck pace, but it still looks devoid of a certain something. Hughes’ direction never seems to draw you in and that’s why I couldn’t buy into what I was seeing. By no means is this a horror comedy but it would only take some minor script adjustments to make it one. And within its undecidedness on whether to go full-on gruesome tone or stay campy lies the movie’s biggest flaw.
We slasher fans know more than most that it’s possible to enjoy a shoddy movie and we pretty much created the ‘so bad its good’ saying. With MVM that’s exactly what happened for me. Due mainly to the minimal gore and nudity, it’s certainly not a worthwhile killer in the woods flick, but it’s one that serious collectors should be adding to their pile for its pure entertainment potential.
Scream Bloody Murder 2000
aka Bloody Murder
Directed by: Ralph Portillo
Starring: Jessica Morris, Patrick Cavanaugh, Justin Ross Martin
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Good Morning a SLASH abovers! I haven’t updated the blog for a while simply because I had to recover from New Years and Christmas. I’m nearly thirty-five and diabetic, so it doesn’t get any easier. Also, unfortunately my external HDD that has my review list on it is broken – so panic mode is at DEFCON 2. Luckily, I have a few DVDs in my room to go through, so I should be getting back up to speed…
Anyway, I’ve mentioned many times here that aside from slashers I’m a big fan of all different types of cinema. With this in mind, like most of the population of the world, I was drooling over the release of a new Star Wars movie. I got a ticket for 00:01 on the very first day it hit screens and even if there were bits I enjoyed, I must confess that my overall feeling was one of disappointment.
I was never a fan of the prequels because the scripts were so rushed and illiogical that I spent more time questioning what was happening than enjoying the action. My initial perception was the same about The Force Awakens, which – without giving away spoilers if there’s anyone left that hasn’t seen it – had an unconvincing villain, two characters that weaken the enigma of the force, plot branches based on convenience and an extreme lack of originality. I was gutted. In my review of Halloween Camp (the sequel to this film funnily enough), I wrote about human expectation levels. Well, I’m happy to say that the second time I saw TFA – with a mind clear of what I wanted it to be – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, the plot holes were still there, but the large amount of action and humour really meant that I could overlook the poor continuity.
What does this have to do with Scream Bloody Murder you ask? Well, I have mentioned this film a few times on a SLASH above as being one of the worst titles of the category. I picked it up in the year 2000 from a video shop in Bromley. My girlfriend of the time and I had been desperately searching out more slasher action and came across Ralph Portillo’s second slasher inadvertently. I remember being appalled that the crew had blatantly ripped-off Jason’s hockey mask and that huge shock had immediately turned me against the film. I wondered if now, after stealing from the classics has almost become a necessity, I might find that I could re-evaluate it.
A group of counsellors arrive to prepare a summer camp for the incoming children. There’s an urban legend surrounding the location about Trevor Moorehouse – a hockey masked killer that has never been captured. Before long, the teens begin going missing and it’s left up to the kind-hearted Julie to solve the mystery…
After Christmas, most of the Western world is riddled with guilt and feels the need to go on a crash diet to fit back into the jeans that felt so snug on December the 23rd. At lunch the other day, one of the girls I work with ate two rice cakes, with no butter, cheese, ham or any ingredient to improve the taste. Bewildered, I asked her, “What’s happened to your usual cheeky Nandos takeaway with a jam doughnut?” She looked up at me sternly and responded, “Christmas dinner happened”. Those dry, plain and boring snacks remind me so much of Scream Bloody Murder; – a film that has become well-renowned for its incompetence. It’s surprisingly hard though to understand exactly why this one gets as much stick as it does.. I mean, it’s bad – definitely; but is it worse than Curse of Halloween?? (Puts on a Darth Vader voice from the end of Revenge of the Sith), Nooooooooooooooooo
In fact there’s a bit here that I felt really worked. We get a mystery that attempts to convey itself smartly and I loved the flashbacks that demonstrate how a certain suspect could have committed each murder. The stalking scenes deserve a mention as they are credibly lighted and include creative character placement that builds surprise tension. One chase sequence through a forest was really impressive and the resulting victim’s dying attempts to get the attention of an unaware colleague were a smart gimmick. It’s fair to say that Jessica Morris is no actress, but she plays final girl Julie with enough goofy hotness to lead you to believe that if you got her drunk enough, you could tell her some cheesy garbage and she’d be yours for eternity. These things are definitely positives.
The majority of the negatives stem from the fact that as a director, Ralph Portillo reminds me of the kind of guy that goes to a supermarket to buy a pint of milk and returns six-hours later after reading the small print of every label to make sure he’s chosen the right carton. There’s a bunch of scenes that should have been merged together, shot more sharply or just completely removed, because they don’t tell us anything new. I preach about character development endlessly on a SLASH above, but it needs to be intriguing, well-acted and appealing. Watching cardboard cut outs discuss family members that we haven’t met for extended timeframes soon becomes a chore. I lost count of the number of potential friendship bonds that don’t go anywhere and the whole thing ends up playing like a soap opera. In fact, with minimal gore, nudity or foul language, Scream Bloody Murder could be exactly that. It even has a truly hideous soap opera-alike over-imposing and knocked up on a Yamaha Keyboard score.
Whilst I do admit that setting my expectations at -10 meant that I was thinking it’d be much worse, SBM still fails to deliver anything that really separates it from a million others. Unless of course you think ripping off Friday the 13th beyond imagination counts. It’s a shame that a film with such solid financing couldn’t be a bit higher in the ol’ quality stakes. Instead what we’re left with is an entry that has the odd moment, but pretty much remains the dry rice cake of possible lunch choices. Whereas me; I’m a large Zinger Tower Meal with Double-Chocolate-Milkshake kinda guy.
Staying on the Star Wars theme, it’s said that A New Hope – one of the greatest motion pictures ever (after Empire) – was saved in editing. It’s only a hunch, but if Raymond Chow had got his hands on the dailies of this, I wonder what he could’ve achieved? Oh and before I go, I must mention that some of the most convincing dramatics that I’ve ever seen appear in SBM. It’s when the kids are watching Portillo’s previous bore, Fever Lake, and they prevent themselves from falling into a catatonic state. That my friends is REAL acting. I’m surprised that Oscar nods weren’t given. It’s good to be back…
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…
Into the Woods 2006
Directed by: Chad Hundley, Michael Smith
Starring: Andrew Hyde, Chad Hundley, Colleen Mooney Wright
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I remember a couple of years back, my son Olivero loved travelling on the train. He was two-years old then and it was something amazing for him to be sitting on the carriages similar to those he’d seen in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. It was intriguing to witness his excitement, because for me, someone who has taken the same route day-in/day-out for nine-years, there’s nothing more predictable than waiting at the station every morning. When on my way to work, I know every house, tree and landmark that I pass, because I’ve witnessed them for almost a decade. In other words, it’s become a routine.
This obscure slasher flick from 2006 is a similar case in point to my journey, because it takes the standard slasher rule book and follows it step by step without injecting any panache at all. I found about it from the IMDB whilst looking up another film of the same title. It boasts there an impressive 6.7 rating and three extremely positive user reviews that were posted within months of each other (and within a year of this film’s release…). Even if I understand how easy it is to set-up fake IMDB accounts and post self-penned critiques as an effective marketing ploy, the optimist in me always finds a glimpse of hope in those emphatic write-ups.
A group of youngsters decide they want to go camping in the woods to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. They head out to a secluded location in the woods and come across another group of individuals who are also there to party. Before long a hooded killer turns up and begins hacking through them one by one…
Last week, I posted a review of Doom Asylum and there’s something about that picture that I want to recap so as to assist in underlining the biggest flaw of today’s feature presentation. Without checking my notes, I’m going to describe to you the characters that carried us through Doom Asylum, which I watched over two-weeks ago. We had the comedic blonde geek that could never make a decision and his kooky girlfriend who kept calling him, ‘mum’ for some strange reason (?). Then there was the randy black dude who fell in love with the drummer of punk group, Tina and the Tots. Tina herself was tough as nails and fought valiantly with the killer during the conclusion and how could I forget the cute psychology graduate and the dweeby guy that collected baseball cards? I’ve literally finished watching Into the Woods and If you were to ask me one personality trait of the youngsters that I’ve just witnessed, I’d struggle to tell you anything about a single one of them.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the script of every eighties slasher movie was a shining example of expert personality development. In fact, they were generally pretty slack when it came to giving their victims much time to do anything other than get naked and die. They did, however, utilise stereotypes, such as: virginal heroine, slut, jock, fat practical joker and lard ass Sheriff, which allowed us to separate cast members by more than a hairstyle or T-shirt colour. The really good entries would take these clichés and have a ball with them, so we would discover something to subconsciously bond with and grow to appreciate in that person. Into the Woods spends 40+ minutes frolicking with a bunch of absolute nobodies and there are few things to be found that are more underwhelming.The gang head off to a campsite to flirt, drink and chat the usual recycled quips, but the lack of anything remotely intriguing about them bored me to tears.
There are ways that a motion picture can bounce back from a cast that’s filled with cardboard boxes. I’m thinking of Sorority House Massacre 2, which overcame this by giving us a slick momentum and bundles of cheese. I was hoping that Woods might deliver some expert killings or bouncy gore, but despite a large body count, these parts were a lot like my train ride to work; predictable and uninspiring. It’s fair to say that the crew here were operating on minuscule funding; but hell, even Movie Machine Massacre generated a small slice of gloom and according to Mark Demise, in that production ‘there was no budget’. ;). Frankly, a 78 minute slasher flick should never feel overlong, but the Mrs had just finished painting her toe nails and I wasn’t sure if watching them dry from the corner of my eye was tantalising me more than what was going on with this feature. With a killer in an interesting hood that made him look ghostly, tonnes of cannon fodder and a good location, it should have been a straight forward task to make a fun stalk and slasher. Instead what we end up with is a film as exciting as seeing the word cancelled on the timetable when I go to the station that I told you about in my first paragraph. As regular a SLASH abovers know too well, it’s fashionable of late to pay homage to the hits of the eighties. Quite why directors Chad Hundley and Mike Smith chose Blood Lake as their flick to imitate is beyond me.
I think the scene that really killed the picture for me in terms of credibility was when there was the corpse of an earlier victim on the screen and as a fleeing chica stepped on him, the actor flinched not once, but twice in a row. Was that the best take that the two directors could get? Neither of them felt that they might need to shout cut and start again? They were shooting on video for gawd’s sake, so don’t even have the excuse of wasting celluloid. It was so bad that I included a clip of it above for you to see for yourself. Also, it’s great that Chad and Mike have a few mates in a rock band that’ll provide the music for their feature début and in all honesty, they’re not even that bad. I ask though, is soulful acoustic grunge-style accompaniment the right choice for a killer in the woods flick?
Let’s put it another way, amongst other things, President’s Day had its romance between the two leads, which was fun. Chill went with a gaming gimmick that added intrigue. Billy Club‘s mystery kept us engaged throughout, whilst Lost After Dark bundled us with immense gore. Into the Woods, well, it just exists really. There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years of computers being able to take over from humans in the future in a variety of jobs. Woods is an example of how a C64 might direct a slasher movie. Insert cassette with the guideline data and load press play on the tape. In other words, it’s a film with the personality of a cyborg. I’m not talking Hasta La Vista upgraded Arnie either…
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.