The Prey 1984
Directed by: Edwin Brown
Starring: Debbie Thureson, Jackie Coogan, Jackson Bostwick
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
If imitation is truly a form of admiration, then Friday the 13th was entitled to carry an ego the size of a Brazilian rain forest during the early eighties. The success of Sean Cunningham’s opus led to an invasion of almost identically themed titles, which ranged from the good (Just Before Dawn) to the rancid (Don’t go in the Woods). Interestingly enough, The Prey was generally thought of as yet another of those bandwagon jumpers, but recent cast-member reports have suggested that it was actually shot in 1978, two years earlier than Friday, but was shelved for a few years whilst finding a distributor. I find this hard to believe as it is CLEARLY borrowing from Halloween and that was released in October of that year. If I had to guess an earlier production date. I would say mid-1979, which still pre-dates Sean Cunnigham’s opus by enough time to give it the benefit of not being a rip-off. Just to think, with perhaps a little better marketing and a quicker post-production, this could have been the one with ten sequels and a remake under its belt. Forget Jason, we would have had the disfigured cave dweller from this one to contend with…
After a muted release, The Prey rapidly disappeared under the landslide of negative media coverage that engulfed the genre during its heyday. Despite some impressive gore, Edwin Brown’s effort didn’t even manage to garner the cult status of an appearance on the UK’s notorious video nasty list, which added vitality to many of its undeserving cousins. Still awaiting a second shot at recognition on DVD, it looks as if this slasher has long since been forgotten and scrapped to the video graveyard.
The only available version of the feature is missing huge chunks of footage that had been filmed from the original script but failed to make it to the final cut. This includes a background story for the bogeyman’s motives and some gratuitous extensions to the gore scenes. The reason for their exclusion remains unclear and I would be interested to see a director’s cut, although that’s becoming more and more unlikely with every year that passes.
After a murderous and appealing opening, we meet a van full of kids that are heading into the forest for a relaxing vacation. They are welcomed by the Park Sheriff who becomes a key player in the plot and a memorable figure in the film’s poor reputation (more on that later). As they head deeper into the woodland, we are made aware that they are not alone due to the constant point of view shots from an unseen maniac. After what seems like a lifetime, the killer finally gets to work on the youngsters and it’s up to the lethargic sheriff to come to their rescue.
The Prey is among the most widely panned of the early eighties slashers, which is probably the key reason why it hasn’t yet been offered a stab at secondary acknowledgement on DVD. The first factor that the film’s critics set-upon is the use of a large amount of wildlife stock footage, which digresses somewhat from the ‘horror’ structure of the plot. Although certainly over-used, I actually felt that the shots of nature worked well to build the backwoods surroundings of the storyline and I never found it as irritating as most describe it to be. I actually would never have criticised or even noticed its inclusion myself if I hadn’t have read other reviews previously.
I said in my description that I would return to the Park Sheriff and rightly so, because he has become something of a cult figure in slasher cinema – unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. His self-confessed ‘phoned-in’ performance sets a tone that’s impossible to take seriously from the start, but he is most fondly remembered for three exceptional slices of unintentionally hilarious cinema. One bizarre piece of scripting sees him telling a rubbish joke to a faun in the midst of the forest, whilst another equally peculiar sequence has him playing a four-minute solo on an ukulele, which offers absolutely *nothing* worthwhile to the storyline. The inadvertent humour doesn’t end there and there’s a slow-mo chase scene during the climax that is pure slapstick. In fact, it’s probably all the more amusing because it was supposed to look rather creepy. And while we’re talking of the climax, I cannot forget to mention final girl Nancy (Debbie Thureson)’s contribution. The Prey, just like many of its slasher brethren, boasts performances around the level of a high-school musical. Thureson’s portrayal of a woman awaiting her fate from the maniacal assassin is so randomly offbeat that at times I wasn’t sure if she was joking. Perhaps it’s best I don’t mention the ‘good chow’ lines from the opening scene.
Edwin Brown attempts to emulate Joe D’Amato’s method of feature pacing, which to be fair is about as beneficial as a playboy using Eddie Murphy’s methods of contraception. The film drags along at the speed of a one legged tortoise and if it weren’t for the odd inter-cut shot of the heavy-breathing psycho, you could be forgiven for forgetting that this is a horror film at all. The score is a jumbled mix of ear piercing keyboard jaunts that sound like it was rustled up on a Casio keyboard and the photography is limp and lacks energy.
To be fair when the maniac does get focused on the slashing, the murders are lively enough to bring you out of your siesta and John Carl Buechler’s gore effects outshine the minuscule budget. It’s interesting for me that the things that most people criticise, I actually found to be rather credible. It’s almost as if the philosophy here was to build an environment through visual examples of wilderness desolation and a slow boiling climax. The problem is that we are not seeing the movie as it was intended to be seen, which means it is impossible to blame the director when a full cut may have delivered a clearer example of his vision. More than likely, this footage has long since been destroyed and will never resurface. This is a shame as there are parts of this effort that play really well.
The Prey is not gonna be anyone’s idea of a classic and it’s not my idea of one either. To call it one of the worst of the cycle though is incredibly harsh and I rather enjoyed watching it again.
You know, I used to go to school with a guy whose video cassette of The Usual Suspects ended before the last few minutes of the feature. When I asked him if he liked it, he said, “It’s ok, but who actually was Keyser Söze?” I realise that this might be an extreme example, but that’s why I’m never confident about rating films that are missing some footage. If it’s only a part of the vision, it’s unfair to judge…
Final Girl √√
aka I Corpi Presentano Tracce di Violenza Carnale, Torso: Violencia Carnal
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Starring: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Angela Covello
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
When I launched a SLASH above, my motivation was to focus solely on the slasher genre and not branch too far outside of the category. But with the differences being so slim between those and the Italian and Spanish Gialli flicks, I decided to post reviews of the titles that were most definitely inspiration to the style of cinema that we love today.
Being that I was first captivated by Halloween, I never paid attention so much to the European exploitation features that laid the groundwork for Carpenter’s classic. As I have aged and become accustomed to a higher level of filmmaking, I have grown keener on their classy style and twisted mysteries. Sergio Martino’s Torso or I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale is one of a number of my all time favourite Giallos and holds up superbly with the features released almost forty-years after.
A maniac in a white mask has been killing girls and mutilating their bodies around a college campus. After one murder, he leaves a scarf at the scene of the crime and Dani swears that she has seen it before. Soon after, she begins receiving anonymous and threatening phone calls, so she flees with four young beautiful girlfriends to the safety of an isolated country villa. Little do they know the crazed loon has followed them to the retreat and they’re next on his list.
Watching Torso is like seeing a ‘making of’ feature for the entire slasher category. There is so much that was definitely borrowed from this for the template and it is done here with such panache that you have rarely seen it bettered. The masked assailant stalking a love-making couple in a parked car has been conveyed a billion times since, but there’s something crisp about its authenticity here. The killer turning off the lights so that he could trap his victim, launched a great set piece and the murder is bloody and ferocious. There’s also a morally ‘purer’ final girl who is left alone to fend off the killer and the have sex and die rule is in full effect here too.
Martino directs with a wonderful flamboyance and his lens soaks up the gorgeous backgrounds and architecture with a wide overflowing frame. Giancarlo Ferrando’s cinematography is adept and skilful, utilising lush tracking shots that glide across the screen like a ballet dancer. We get a fantastic forest stalking sequence that is tightly crafted and full of suspense. It is aided by some off- beat scoring that helps to build the victim’s desolation. The smart finale shows the mastery of a tension maestro as Jane goes downstairs to find the corpses of her friends. Of course, the killer is unaware that she is in the house, so she has to watch on in complete silence whilst he dismembers the corpses of her buddies with a hacksaw! Martino takes time to develop a pulsating atmosphere and it builds up to a pitch perfect closing scene. I liked the fact that the mystery is strong enough to keep you guessing and there is a good number of red herrings so that you won’t have picked your choice for the culprit until later in the runtime. There’s also a nice dose of the macabre as the killings are intercut with a creepy doll very similar to the one used a decade later in Curtains.
As you can imagine by the translation from the original Italian title, “Bodies bear traces of Carnal Violence” (in Spain it is called Torso: Carnal Violence), it has a nice load of gore in its uncut version. There are throat slashings, an eye gouging, mutilation and one guy gets his head squished by a car! The effects look quite poor compared to more recent splatter, but during the times of extreme censorship that would follow, they are gruesome enough to get it cut in most countries.
I mentioned the eye-catching locations, but even they do not come close to the looks of the cast. I must mention the voluptuous Patrizia Adiutori whose mystique green eyes give her an outstanding beauty. It’s nicely acted from a strong European cast and there’s also mounds of nudity for T&A fans
I am very fortunate to have some great readers and I love speaking with you all by email. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of you prefer the more modern slashers, which is because at 30, I’m a tad older than you now. I urge you all however to check out Torso as it is one of the best thrillers available and was definitely inspiration for Carpenter’s Halloween.
Sergio Martino may not have the reputation of Argento, but this is a stand out classic and should be seen and seen again. It is sleazy, but has the class to get away with it
Final Girl: √√√
aka The Secret Killer, Gatti Rossi in un Labirinto di Vetro, El Ojo en la Oscuridad
Directed by: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: John Richardson, José María Blanco, Andrés Mejuto
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Umberto Lenzi is a hard craftsman to define. His most available work outside Italy is the likes of Nightmare Beach (cheesy as hell), Cannibal Ferox (pure exploitation), Nightmare City (Bizarre) and Ghosthouse (Just plain bad). With that said though if you search harder, he has some extremely tense Gialli under his belt including the ‘Paranoias’ (two movies with the same title released within the space of 20 months, confusing I know), Knife of Ice (Stylish with subtle social comment) and Seven Bloodstained Orchids (riveting). It’s almost as if he had a lobotomy in the late seventies and could thereafter only helm trashy imitations of superior flicks. (But let’s not forget that not all of his prior stuff was ‘immense’, remember Superseven Chiama Cairo from 1965? – Ooof!) I was indeed intrigued to see which of the two Lenzis would turn up for this mid-seventies murder mystery, the talented filmmaker or the gratuitous hack… (Also forgive my overuse of brackets!)
Eyeball is Giallo through and through, but has some ingredients that allow it to be considered something of a proto-slasher. It’s also located in Barcelona in my home country and is a Spanish/Italian/American production, which means it had various cultural influences.
A group of American tourists head to Barcelona for a summer holiday. Almost as soon as they arrive the fun comes to an end as one of their number is ruthlessly murdered by a hooded killer in a red rain mac. The maniac is something of a sadist and mutilates the left eye of each victim. Could it be the mentally ill wife of one of the tourists or has someone else got a grudge against the troupe?
I am a big fan of history and there’s a story that I read about a year ago that has stuck with me. The Mary Rose was a warship in the impressive Tudor fleet of Henry VII. It served for just over thirty-three years in numerous wars, but was sunk, somewhat unexpectedly in 1545 during the Battle of Solent. For years historians believed that it was due to the evasive turns being too sharp for its unsteady structure, but Forensic examiners have recently discovered that the skeletons of crew members that were recovered hailed from southern Europe, most probably España. They were either mercenaries hired by the King, or more likely members of 600 shipwrecked sailors who had run in to a storm weeks earlier and with no food or water, had been forced in to service for England. Manning such a huge carrack-type ship in wartime would need a clear chain of command, but when Admiral George Carew was barking orders at his foreign crew, the most likely collective response was something along the lines of ‘¿Qué?’Therefore it was language barriers that sunk the great Mary Rose and that theory adds weight to Carew’s final words stating that his crew were, ‘knaves I cannot rule’.
The reason I tell you this is because it feels like a similar lack of communication was behind the production of this forgotten Giallo. Italian is definitely a more similar language to Spanish than English, but still it must be the reason why so many members of the (Spanish) crew here seemed to have no idea what they were doing. I can’t explain why else an experienced cinematographer like Antonio Millán would shoot everything so flatly? He was in one of the most beautiful cities in Spain for gawd’s sake, so why such diluted focus on the gorgeous backdrops? The majority of non-natives who visit the shores of Spain in hordes throughout the year always pick up on the incredibly laid back lifestyle. Well it must’ve been something that Umberto Lenzi rather liked, because his direction here can best be described as ‘lazy’. There are only a couple of semi-decent set-pieces and he keeps the awesome disguise for his killer off-screen for the most part.
The dialogue too is quirky and off-beat and in the next breath hilarious. Martínez, the eccentric tour guide brings up Christopher Columbus’ heritage as they drive past the ‘Monumento a Colón’ on La Rambla. He states (falsely) that Columbus was Spanish, to which one woman replies, “Spanish or Italian, it makes no difference to me. He made a terrible mistake. You don’t think America’s worth all that trouble do you?” This leads to an awesome response from the guy sitting in front of her who quips, “Oh my God! You’re not a communist, are you?” Much later after a few killings, the inspector rounds up the survivors for interrogation and asks one lady who may be a witness, “Did you recognise him?” She says, “I didn’t see.” “It was dark in those bushes, don’t forget I’m not a night fighter you know” (What?!!!)
I may be sounding like Eyeball is totally rubbish, but it’s actually somewhat ahead of its time. It’s a cheesy slasher before cheesy slashers were invented and it’s a whole lot of fun. It’s nicely paced, with a fairly large body count and the mystery is intriguing even if the motive, once revealed, is astoundingly silly. The killer in a crimson rain coat and the final girl make this feel more like an American slasher than an archetypal Giallo and it doesn’t seem too dated at all. There’s a tad of nudity and two lesbians to check list the exploitation and I remember even at least one scene that builds decent suspense. What is most memorable about this is the pounding score from Bruno Nicolai, which will stay in your head for hours after the credits have rolled. You also get a bit of gore even if it is rather anaemic compared to the same director’s later stuff.
This is by no means classy Lenzi, but it’s still an entertaining mix of comedic dialogue, bloody killings and a campy motive. I don’t know if it was truly one that can be credited as inspiration for Halloween and the like, but for a great cheesy treat it’s thoroughly recommended
Final Girl: √
Home For The Holidays 1972
Directed by: John Llewellyn Moxey
Starring: Sally Field, Jill Haworth, Julie Harris
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
What we are gonna do here is go back, way waaay back. Back before Messrs Carpenter and Clark had ‘invented’ the slasher genre…
I was speaking recently to a screenwriter by email who I won’t name right now, because I am going to do a feature on one of his unreleased films at some point in the new year. Anyway, he had scripted (and co-directed) a few slasher flicks during the eighties and I asked him if he was a personal fan of the style or whether it had just been work for him at that time. He told me that he has always had a love for horror flicks and slashers in particular, but the only thing that frustrates him is that everyone seems to think that it all started with Halloween and Black Christmas. He said that this took credit away from the numerous earlier ventures that were equally as good (sometimes better). I do see his point and agree half-heartedly, but I guess the reason why people turn to those two films so regularly is because they actually cemented the trademarks for a new sub genre. They were so popular and so critically well received that it would have been impossible not to use them as reference points. Granted, neither of those could be considered as the first stalk and slash entries, but what they did was take a style of picture that hadn’t yet really been classified and give it definition. They placed the cherry on top, for want of a better way of putting it…
Now Home for the Holidays plays so closely to the rulebook (which hadn’t yet been written) that if you had told me that it had been shot in 1982 and I hadn’t recognised any of the actors involved with the picture, I probably wouldn’t have known any different. This one has it all from a goodie final girl to a hooded killer with a pitchfork.
A father calls back his four estranged daughters for Christmas as he believes that his wife is slowly poisoning him to death and he wants them to get rid of her. Almost as soon as they arrive, it begins frantically raining and they become stranded in the creepy house. Before long a killer in a rain mac begins slaughtering them one by one. Can any of them get out alive?
I’m tempted to say now that they don’t make them like they used to, but I am in fear of sounding a bit older than my thirty years would call for. Home for the Holidays is a stylish, suspenseful treat and it’s a perfect Christmas scary movie. In all honesty, I watched this whilst suffering from a nasty dose of man flu. I felt quite tired, run-down and at first I found it hard to pay attention. This was by no means the fault of the feature, it’s just that it was early in the morning and I wanted to read the news, make myself a cup of tea and the usual palaver. Once the plot got in full swing however, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and the ending had me on the edge of my seat. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve seen it all before in other slasher movies, but somehow the fact that this pre-dates the overkill period means that you never can be sure of the rules that it abides by – if any. The twist at the end may not be mind blowing, but it’s the strength of the performances that add depth to the mystery.
Aaron Spelling was the executive producer and the initial plan was that this be shot for Television exposure only, but it later saw a second lease of life on VHS. As it wasn’t intended for cinematic audiences, it spends a lot of time with the characters and in lesser hands could have become tedious and over-talky. But TV director John Llewellyn Moxey builds a truly sinister environment and the constant battering of the rain and thunderstorms creates not only a foreboding atmosphere, but some great jump scares. It’s a tight script from Joseph Stefano of Psycho fame, but it’s the casting department that should really take a bow. The daughters are all clichés; one an alcoholic, one promiscuous, the baby faced goodie and the elderly superior who seems to be the most dependable. But they are so brilliantly conveyed that they never allow the story to feel unrealistic or banal. Sally Field is fantastic and charming as the trusting final girl, whilst Jill Haworth’s exceptional beauty demands a viewing on its own. Julie Harris was also very classy as the ‘is she or isn’t she’ wife and they even managed to get Walter Brennan to play the father!
There’s not much of a body count and we only really get to see the killer stalking on a couple of occasions, but still this is a wonderfully crafted and skilfully shot thriller that deserves to be seen this Xmas. It may not be quite as good as Black Christmas, but the truth is, it’s not lagging that far behind…
Final Girl √√√√
Someone’s Watching Me 1978
Directed by: John Carpenter
Starring: Lauren Hutton, David Birney,Adrienne Barbeau
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Just as Dino Everett, an archivist at the University of Southern California, has discovered John Carpenter’s first student flick, which beyond doubt adds clarity to the fact that the director is an originator behind the slasher genre, I decided to post another early Carpenter prototype slasher. The recently uncovered Captain Voyeur was filmed in 1969 and the black and white short sees a masked menace stalk a work colleague in POV shots before being gunned down at the end. This clearly pre-dates Bob Clark’s Black Christmas and shows that Carpenter was already using killer-cam shots way before the aforementioned classic.
Someone’s Watching Me was also filmed a few months prior to the pre-production of Halloween and despite the fact that it may be considered more of a thriller than an out and out slasher; it’s a fine example of the helmer at his imaginative peak.
Leigh Michael’s moves in to a stylish high rise apartment with all modern conveniences and immediately finds a great local job. All is going well until she begins receiving prank phone calls and gifts from an unidentified menace. She informs the Police, but because nothing has been particularly threatening, there’s nothing they can do. Frustrated and scared, Leigh decides to get to the bottom of the mystery without the support of the law.
This is a non-stop nail-biting ride of suspense with a great mystery and standout performances from the cast. Leigh Michaels is a great example of what would become a typical Carpenter Heroine. She’s brave, independent and strong and not easily bullied by her assailant. Hutton handles the role well and is bubbly and personable whilst showing an impressive range of emotions. She is supported by a very good ensemble, including Carpenter’s soon-to-be wife Adrienne Barbeau. The performances are so natural that they add a necessary sense of realism and there are no weak-links in the dramatics.
Perhaps it wasn’t as easy to notice in Halloween, but this offers a lot more insight in to the director’s real inspirations. The plot and style is pure Hitchcock, but the cinematography and framing is pure Carpenter. What a combination! Here he uses wide scale shots of claustrophobic locations to compound the tension and his love of character-perspective photography is used to immense effect. He also keeps his bogeyman off screen right up to the conclusion and the flick manages to be really creepy, without ever really treading too deep in horror stereotypes.
As I have said this is not much of a slasher flick, because there’s only one on-screen killing, but the stalking and final chase are fine examples of a pre-cursor to the genre’s template-setter. There’s even a scene where the killer moves a branch out of his POV shot, which was lifted by Friday the 13thtwo-years later. Threatening phone calls were a trademark of the category during the seventies and early eighties, but disappeared midway through the decade, only to be revived for Wes Craven’s Scream generation. They were used to good effect in Halloween, Black Christmas and When a Stranger Calls. Here, they are menacing instead of eerie, but well utilised as a method for sustaining tension and keeping the maniac’s presence never outside of the running plot.
It is easy to compare this to Rear Window, Deep Red and even Shaun O’ Riordan’s If It’s a Man, HANG UP from the TV series ‘Thriller’, – but it cannot be accused at all of being a complete imitation. I guess it’s like saying that Goodfellas was inspired by The Godfather, which is about as close as the similarities get. I believe that Carpenter was too good at his trade to ever be considered a copycat and everyone has an inspiration, even Sir Alfred Hitchcock. I think that if Sir Alfred had watched some of Carpenter’s work, he would have taken his hat off to him. It’s true that he does recycle some of the master’s inventions, but most importantly, he makes superb use of them and adds his own flair for tone and visuals to make for a classy cinematic delivery.
I can only thoroughly recommend this great thriller, even more so when you consider that it was a TV Movie and not given a cinema release. It was the first time in years that my partner and I checked if the door was locked, because it had that much of an effect on us. The use of location and some of the scaling photography was great and the car-park and final revelation sequences were unbelievably taut. Sharp, tense and full of great performances, it puts many modern day thrillers to shame.
Final Girl √√√√√
Mardi Gras Massacre 1978
Directed by: Jack Weis
Starring: Curt Dawson, Gwen Arment, William Metzo
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Of all the films that were banned in the United Kingdom during the Video-Nasty era of the eighties, Mardi Gras Massacre is probably the least notorious. It’s also one of the few that has remained on the rejection list, which isn’t because it’s extremely sickening or shockingly gory like so many of the titles that it shares its status with. It’s just that I doubt any distributor has had the heart (or the balls) to admit to wanting to resubmit it. The fact that it truly is a cinematic nightmare that’s so bad – well, It’s just bad – probably has quite a lot to do with the on-going abandonment.
Despite the somewhat suggestive title, a cover picture showing a hooded killer about to murder a bikini-clad bimbo and various misleading plot summaries that describe a masked maniac stalking the Mardi Gras festival, surprisingly this isn’t a traditional stalk and slash flick. Instead, it plays like a rip-off of 1962’s Blood Feast. It does however have enough ingredients to be considered a proto-slasher, which is why I have included it here. This would signal director Jack Weis’ last attempt at box office success and watching it through just once leaves it not too difficult to understand why. I’m betting – although I don’t know for sure – that it emptied drive in theaters quicker than a terrorist bomb threat, creating a similar amount of disgust and animosity towards those responsible for the sudden evacuation.
For readers that still find themselves mysteriously allured to learning more about this long-erased from existence exploitation offering, let me tell you exactly what was going on over at the festival that particular year…
After a seemingly never-ending black screen displaying the title in what looks like Times New Roman fonts, the camera pans into a nightclub. That’s right, there’s no credit sequence or any kind of opening, it just dives straight into the, err, action. A smartly dressed guy enters a club and approaches two cheery hookers. He begins flashing a few bucks and tells them that he’s looking for something ‘special’. He asks them who they think is the most ‘evil’ woman in the bar tonight and they point out Shirley, a dark haired strumpet that’s seated at the opposite end of the dance-floor. He heads on over and asks her, ‘I have heard that you are the most evil woman in this room?’ To which she replies cheekily, ‘Listen honey, I could probably take first prize in any evil contest!’ So with that, a sale has been made and the two of them head back to the Gentleman’s apartment. I should make it clear now that we never learn this mysterious stranger’s name, but he looks like Robert Mitchum might have done if he’d been smashed in the face with a shovel repeatedly, so I’ll call him Bob.
Bob seems like a polite sort of guy, kind of like a bizarre throwback from the cinema era of the forties – complete with three piece suit, Bogart-worthy dialogue and even a classic brylcream-laden side-parting. (Or was it a toupee?)
Once inside his bachelor pad, he proposes that the couple retire to the next room to engage in something ‘special’. Although cinematically they’re only meant to be crossing the hallway, in reality, they must have hurried along to the nearest soundstage, (it was in fact a warehouse) because the room’s the size of a five-a-side football pitch.
The hooker doesn’t bat a fluttering eyelid to the fact that the décor resembles a satanic mausoleum and she’s even less concerned when Bob re-appears dressed from head-to-toe in traditional psycho garb, which includes a striking copper-mask. She strips naked and lies down on the bed, whilst the soon-to-become murderer gives her a massage to get her in the mood. Shirley’s clearly enjoying herself at this moment in time, so much so that she even remarks, ‘Maybe I should pay YOU for this.’
By now, I was rather scratching my head and considering re-evaluating this particular movie viewing experience. I mean, here I am watching a psychopath in full killer-costume massaging a hooker in her skin suit with her legs spread like a tonne of margarine. Eventually the tone is set, when Bob finally reveals his less than erotic motives. He ties the escort down and again begins asking her if she’s, truly a naughty girl. (Kinky, eh?) Then he grabs a dagger and stabs her in the hand, remarking, ‘This hand accepted the money for evil.’ Next up, it’s her feet, presumably for transporting her to the place where she committed such…oh, you know… Finally, the masked menace performs a cack-handed autopsy, in order to remove a body part that she uses for all this apparent wrongdoing. This sequence is undeniably the film’s gory highlight, which most probably single handedly got it added to the DPP list quicker than a moggy flees a rabies-ravaged Rottweiler. And no, it isn’t the ‘body part’ that you’re thinking of by the way – it’s her heart, actually.
Cue some chop-socky editing as we switch scenes and we see that poor old Shirley’s corpse is being loaded into an ambulance for her last journey in an automobile. Kudos to Bob – the artistic maniac, who tried to disguise his work by dumping her body in the middle of a set of train tracks. Whether the 10.30 to New Orleans Central splattered her across the landscape we’ll never know, but still, ten out of ten for creativity.
We then head over to the morgue, where we meet the town coroner and the two nincompoop detectives that are soon to be on the case of the bizarre ritualistic killer. Seeing how this was released during the ‘do you feel lucky’ era of grizzled lawmen on the edge like Dirty Harry, Serpico and Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle, we explore the notion that cop and killer are two sides of a similar jaded coin. This particular psychopath may not be the kind of guy that women would want to spend too much time alone with and he may not possess the warmest of intentions towards naughty natured hookers, but at least he’s not a lady-bashing light-fingered alcoholic, which is more than can be said for our male-protagonist. Just to think, he was supposed to be on the righteous side of the law. Anyway, he heads out to interview a few of Shirley’s buddies, which results in him meeting Sherry (Shirley, Sherry – all we need is a Shelly and we could have an alternative to the Three Degrees.) Sherry is yet another of the town’s down and out sex-sales-women, and she arouses more than just the suspicions of Sergeant Mike Abraham – our very own Dirty Harry. The two begin a relationship, which punctures the plot of Bob and his sacrificial slaughters. It also results in a bad movie moment straight from the abyss of the largest cheese dairy in the universe. After the two have a heated argument, Sherry heads down to the local discotheque to drown her sorrows the old fashioned way. Among other things, she fights with a couple of bimbos, shows John Travolta how it is really done by clearing the dance-floor and boogieing like a Bee Gee on speed and then ends up getting dragged away by the local constabulary. A good night all round then!
Meanwhile, Bob is busy working his way through the Mardi Gras band of gold, repeating the same gore effect ad naseum. At one point, he even makes one naked hooker do a ballet routine in her patterned knickers. After he’s watched her performance and come to the conclusion that this particular youngster was two cans short of a six-pack, he feels a tad of sympathy and tells her to get out of his house. She almost becomes the one that got away, but at the last moment, he changes his mind and she ends up becoming just another hokey gore effect to add to the collection.
Next we finally learn the true motives for this sacrificial killing spree. Apparently, he offers the victims to an Aztec goddess in order to receive super-human powers, which brought me to the conclusion that he possesses all these exceptional abilities, but acting is still something that he hasn’t quite got to grips with. The festival comes around and if you hadn’t already guessed, Dirty Harry ends up chasing the Aztec warrior through the carnival, while passers-by stare blankly into the camera, completely unaware that they were unpaid extras in the biggest pile of cheese that was released during horror’s heyday. Does the lawman prevent any re-occurrence or sequels from emerging years down the line? Well now, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
On the surface at least, Mardi Gras Massacre offers everything the fans of exploitation find so immensely appealing. Graphic gore, excessive nudity, a masked maniac and the added bonus of a ‘video-nasty’ disqualification – it’s all here for the taking baby! Scratch beneath that glossy veneer though and what you’re left with is a vial of tedium-drenched campiness that is so beguilingly awful that it almost defies description.
Now I’m the last one to stand up for political correctness and often I wonder how stringent our ancestors will be forced to live their day to day lives in years to come. The problem is that MGM is so shamefully misogynistic that if it were released today, I’m sure it would cause women’s rights activists to bend over backwards in disgust. The lowlights of all this anti-feminism include: A heavy-handed detective with a fetish for call-girls, a maniac that enjoys spending his time disemboweling them and a lowlife hooker as the film’s female protagonist. Come to think of it, every woman in the damn thing was classed as either a) a dishonest slapper or b) an under achiever worthy only of an autopsy by dagger. Does anyone get the feeling that Jack Weis had something deep-rooted against the fairer sex of the species?
One thing that I noticed about this stinker is the fact that it tries to include everything that was in demand around the mid to late seventies. There’s disco music and THAT hilarious dance scene to tickle fans of Saturday Night Fever. Then we have the grizzled cop that I told you about earlier and of course the satanic references to stay in vogue with Cop Thrillers and The Omen et al. But Weis is such an awful director, that he fails to make use of any of the clichés that he steals and to be honest, the film is so tedious that even the copious amount of gore scenes don’t salvage it
Mardi Gras Massacre is a cheesetastic Grindhouse rarity that will have you gobsmacked at its ineptness, but in fits of laughter at some of its attempts at being a sinister horror effort. I cannot really recommend it to anyone seriously but for those that like a laugh it needs to be seen to be believed.
Final Girl √