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…
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…
Directed by: Antti Kiuru and 6 more
Starring: Andres Pass, Aatto Paasonen, Ville Lähde
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My recent posts of Mexican and Spanish films such as Chacal, Masacre and Atrapados en el Miedo went down really well with my readers, so continuing along the linguistic thread, I thought I’d review this Finnish slasher from the year 2000. Shot by (a record?) 7 directors, I found this 27 minute short whilst on vacation in Estonia. I have literally no information about its production, but I’ll say that it’s the first addition from Finland that I’ve come across.
A group of young males decide to meet up for a drink over Christmas. Whilst the ground is covered with snow outside, blood begins to spurt because a psychopathic stranger dressed as St Nick begins brutally slashing through the revellers. Can they stop him in their tracks?
With so many entries that I still have left to review to complete the largest online slasher A-Z, I am guilty of overlooking the countless ‘shorts’ that people have recommended.The three that I did cover, Death O’Lantern, The Hook of Woodland Heights and Friday the 13th:Halloween Night were posted more for their obscurity than anything else and I guess the same could be said about Murhapukki. What we have here is an immensely enjoyable seasonal slash-fest and despite being cheaply put-together, I found loads to appreciate.
The film kicks off with a killer in a Santa suit stealing a car from an unfortunate individual. An OTT tone is set almost immediately when the assailant chops off the hand of his intended victim and then runs him down with the automobile that he just stole. Whilst the effects are the bare minimum of believable gore, it was fun to see spraying crimson and gruesome violence so early on in the picture. From then on, we are introduced to a group of guys that are gathered in two or three homes across a snow-laden landscape. As you can imagine, twenty-seven minutes allows almost no time for character development, but the plot is rapped around a typical ‘revenge for a past event’ core that unravels as more victims are dispatched.
I guess that the reason that I enjoyed Murhapukki is because it breaks the mould by not bothering with smart-ass ‘know it all’ characters or vomit inducingly blatant ‘homages’ to genre classics. Instead it includes a handful of recognisable elements, but doesn’t portray them with the mission of proving to the audience that the screenwriter(s) are knowledgeable of the greatest hits of the category. Our psycho Santa, for example, cuts up photos of his victims after murdering them -(due to identical clothing and hair, they look to have been taken the same day?!?) -, which we saw in Prom Night/Fatal Games and Graduation Day amongst others. There’s a Carpenter-alike shot of a bread knife on a kitchen table that disappears in the next instant when the camera returns to the focal point. We even get an effective Argento-esque ‘the maniac’s behind you’ moment that’s set-up in a bathroom mirror. We could say of course that these are tributes to the trademarks, but they’re conveyed more subtlety and not with the recent methodology of ‘let’s see who can include the most references to the eighties’, which has been done to death.
In a 27 minute runtime, the directors managed to pack in tonnes of bloody murders and a handful of chase sequences that meant that I was entertained all the way through the admittedly short runtime. One of the pursuits built impressive tension as the camera switched from POV to fixed-angles and the snowy landscape single-handedly mushroomed the underscore of isolation. Whilst the continuity is laughable (one guy gets a machete in the hand, but is fine moments later) and the acting is non-existent, I thought Murhapukki achieved a good-time slasher vibe admirably.
I often wonder when watching low budget entries, how so many can struggle to take a relatively simple formula and not have a ball with it. Pukki could act as a lesson to up and coming filmmakers that getting too mixed-up in parody and conceitedness is unnecessary. I could criticise the dramatics or flimsy plot, but there’s really no need to. Instead, I got more than I was expecting. Cheesy bloody deaths, amusing inebriated ‘gangsters’, a creepy score and a Santa-suited slayer in glasses… Are you really ready…?
Atrapados En El Miedo 1983
Directed by: Carlos Aured
Starring: Adriana Vega, Sara Mora, José Luis Alexandre
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My recent love-in with Mexican slashers (Muerte, Bosque, Masacre) made me feel the need to dig out the last few of my own country’s entries. I wanted to confirm to myself and y’all that Spain could compete with other nations that speak our wonderful language and prove that we are indeed the Hispanic kings of the slasher category. After seeing Atrapados en el Miedo, I wish I hadn’t bothered…
This one comes from Carlos Aured, who had made a name for himself with his cult pictures of the seventies. His career began as an assistant for Leon Klimovsky and he soon progressed to the director’s chair to unleash some solid horror features, such as: El Espanto Surge de la Tumba and Los Ojos Azules de la Muñeca. Like many exploitation gurus that had achieved a modicum of prior success, the slasher boom of the early eighties gave Aured the desire to grab a slice of the cash pie that the filmmaking world had been scoffing. Atrapados would be his very own addition to the cycle and it was, in effect, his last movie. What a way to signal your departure from cinema.
Four youngsters head off to a secluded house in some woodland to spend a romantic weekend away from the rat race of Madrid. Little do they know that an escaped lunatic is also hanging around the site and he has murderous intentions for the foursome…
It’s only early December and already the Christmas parties have begun. There are few things worse than going to work after a night of heavy drinking. Your brain is a mangled mess of alcohol, cheap aftershave and cigarrillos and whilst you may be at your desk in body, you’re certainly not there in either awareness or spirit. The clock drags by like a one-legged tortoise on tranquillisers and a trip to the server room for a sly power-nap is an absurdity that seems more and more attractive. I look at Atrapados en el Miedo and I can only presume that Carlos Aured, for all his previous experience, was drinking a bit too much during the production. Either that or he’d gone insane. Actually, this was his last picture, so maybe I’m on to something there…
So where do we start? Well, with the ‘original’ aspect of a unidentified stranger breaking out of an asylum. This is demonstrated to us on-screen by a guy jumping over a wall that has a sign that says ‘mental hospital’ on it. Do we actually get to see this Mental Hospital? No. Did the crew in reality just stick a sign on the brick wall at the bottom of the producer’s back garden? Quite possibly. So with no idea who he is, what his motivations are or why he escaped, we are meant to be scared of this normal looking bloke with a curly mullet. Perhaps he was just at the asylum visiting his grandma? Maybe he was actually the groundskeeper? I mean, he was wearing a green woolly jumper. Ah, no, no; that can’t be the case. He breathes like an asthmatic after smoking twenty whole packs of Marlborough Reds. If you know your slashers dear reader, you’ll know that during the eighties, only Darth Vader and stalk and slash psychos did that; – and this sure as hell ain’t no Star Wars film.
Next up we see two Spanish chicas walking through a park. I have to give credit to Carlos Aured, because one of them, Monica, was honestly one of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen. (Except for my Mrs of course – you know, in case she’s reading). In fact, whilst watching, my partner said to me, “Do you think that girl’s pretty?” I replied, “What girl? Oh that was a woman on screen? Sorry I didn’t notice.” 😉 Anyway, Monica’s friend, who’s also at the high end of the ‘eye candy’ scale, attempts to steal a kiss in the most unconvincing lesbian clinch ever filmed. Clearly confused by her feelings, Monica sprints off into the trees where she is attacked by a stray dog. Don’t worry my dear, I’ve had days like that too. She is saved from a mauling by an unseen somebody who beats the aggressive mutt with a large branch. Just when she thinks her luck has marginally improved, Monica’s hero turns out to be our bogeyman and he begins strangling her with said branch. Her friend/would-be lover hears the commotion and sprints over to assist, but she too meets her fate at the hands of the escaped loon.
So now we are introduced to two pals and two sisters that are travelling to a remote house to study molecular science. Not really, they’re off to make ‘lurve’; a fact proven by one of the guys continually cracking sex-jokes that are so bad, even his best friend tells him to take a break. We look on as the pair of hombres go to a shop and get some booze, face the drama of not being able to buy any yoghurt and have to overcome the trials and tribulations of a puncture on their Mercedes. Meanwhile the muchachas stay at home and do very little aside from spout the silliest dialogue I’ve ever heard and look gormless. Eventually after offing the daughter of a couple of shopkeepers (who was minding her own business on a groovy bicicleta), the killer turns up and slowly begins ‘terrorising’ the couples.
I guess that with the Latin looks, cruddy dialogue, shaky photography and dumbfounding scenes, Atrapados reminded me a tiny bit of Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground. The only difference is that whilst Ground had bundles of gore, this lazy Spanish effort is essentially bone-dry. Also, I know that the music in Bianchi’s ‘classic’ was pretty off-kilter, but Código Exterior’s scoring for this is absolutely hideous. It starts with a poorly timed jazz-piece that’s as bad as an ogre playing the bagpipes and then continues to go downhill from there. If you recall Mask of Murder‘s heinous guitar lick that highlighted every ‘twist’ in the story, these guys manage even to ‘out-awful’ that with their accompaniment. It’s truly cringeworthy.
I mentioned earlier Aured directing Atrapados like he had a monster hangover throughout the production, well this is especially evident in the film’s pacing, which completely slows to a standstill during the mid-section. There’s only so much of four people spouting absurd dialogue in a small house that I can take before my eyelids come over all heavy and I begin to snooze. When the killer finally turns up, we get a conclusion that might have been ok if we could make out anything that was happening. We’ve seen on the TV that directors shout, “Lights, Camera, Action!” It looks like Aured, in his drunken stupor, forget the ‘lights’ bit. I don’t know, I just feel that an 83 minute runtime that features only three on-screen killings seems a bit tame, but maybe I’m a tough cookie to please. Where I guess that the film does succeed is in its level of bad movie-ness that’ll appeal to those that love Nail Gun Massacre, Boardinghouse, Night Ripper and the like. I already mentioned the conversations and soundtrack, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Other things that stood out were that the girls getting attacked by the psychopath, but completely forgetting about it only moments later and when he returns for our heroine, she goes into a trance-like state and has to be escorted from the premises by her poorly-acted buddies. Just when you feel that every basic filmmaking principle has been shattered, the final credits show an HP Lovecraft quote that has absolutely *nothing* to do with anything we’ve witnessed…?
We live in a time now where a unified Spain could be a thing of the past as the likes of Cataluña regularly campaign for their own independence. I believe that we should stick together, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the back of the guys that made this particular picture, whatever autonomous community that they are from. We could revoke their passports for treason or something. I’m joking, of course, but one thing I will say is that Atrapdos en el Miedo translates to Trapped in Fear. I admit that it’s a cool title, but I have thought of one that’s far more suitable: Atrapado en el Baño con una Gran Caca… I’ll let you Google translate it…
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…
Masacre En Rio Grande 1984
aka Massacre in Rio Grande, Chacal 2, Caceria de un Criminal
Directed by: Pedro Galindo III
Starring: Mario Almada, Fernando Almada, Cristina Molina
Review by Luis Joaquín González
So this is the sequel to La Muerte Del Chacal, which I reviewed a week back and gave an impressive four star rating. Many sites have both films listed as being released in 1984, which I think is slightly inaccurate (Chacal was 83), but either way, it shows that the producers were keen to maintain the intrigue that the first entry had generated and get a follow-up out as soon as possible. In order to keep up with the pace that they set, I decided to post a write-up of Masacre now, so you could enjoy full coverage of the series.
Chacal’s synopsis included a twist that had a huge impact on the way I perceived the feature and its follow-up continues to run with the ramifications of that revelation. So as not to ruin the surprise if you haven’t yet seen part 1, I’m going to refer to the killer as The Jackal (El Chacal). I strongly recommend that you don’t watch this one first even if it is, unfortunately, much easier to find. I’m so glad that I bought both on VHS together many years back and was able to see them in order.
Following from the events of the last picture, The Jackal survived the confrontation with Sheriff Bob and is picked up in the sea clinging to a buoy by a passing fishing vessel. Once on-board, he (gorily) makes quick work of the two crewmen and mutilates then dumps one of their corpses so that the authorities will believe that he’s truly deceased. He heads back to the abandoned boat that he calls home, befriending a generous vagabond called Old Joe that feeds and shelters him. Before long he’s back up to his old tricks and slashing anyone that he comes across. It’s left up to Bob to put a stop to him once and for all…
As I stated in my review, I think La Muerte Del Chacal is a solid slasher and much like Halloween, I knew would that it would be tough to extend that level of panache into a franchise. That doesn’t mean that Masacre is a bad movie, it’s just that it’s enjoyable in a different, somewhat cheesier, kind of way. The first instalment worked because of the subtle rivalry between the goaded Sheriff and the deadly killer. It’s logical that the screenwriter had run the emotional aspect dry and the attempt to rekindle it here just isn’t as effective. We get to meet Bob’s alcoholic mother who I guess was supposed to fill the void of the authentic bond that we saw with Muerte. Despite the fact that she’s actually quite an enjoyable character and plays a key part in latter events, she’s no substitute for what we had last time and they try a bit too hard for the same undercurrent of intrigue.
Another thing that doesn’t work is that Sheriff Bob refuses to believe that El Chacal is still alive and spends the entire movie aggressively confronting anyone that levels that hypothesis. It could be argued that psychologically he just couldn’t accept that truth, which would make sense, but in that case he should have been removed from the investigation by his superiors. This would have opened up a far more palatable plot pathway that we could have digested convincingly. Throughout Muerte Del Chacal, we had sympathised with Bob’s despair because he was such a genuine and moral protagonist. Watching him deflect clear evidence here and behave like a bimbo from a more basic slasher premise minimises the semblance of heroism that made him so popular. It’s kind of like Rick Rosenthal turning Laurie Stroud into a brother-adoring slut for Halloween II. It just wouldn’t have been the person that we remembered.
Despite these limitations, Masacre is still an entertaining stalk and slasher. Obviously aware that the level of quality had slipped a bar, to compensate, Galindo ups the gore factor with some audacious kill scenes. One guy gets power-drilled through the cranium and there’s a fast-paced triple machete slaughter of three English-speaking models. Their initial introduction leads to an absolutely mind-bending cheese-fest of a sequence, within which a group of six males break dance on stage in a strip club to a synthesiser monstrosity that sounds like it was helmed by an inebriated Jan Hammer. In fact, Nacho Mendez gave us many different shades of musical accompaniment for this movie that consistently interchange as the runtime lengthens. Juxtaposed together, they create a strange aura, because one moment we’re in the realms of Paul Zaza and then in the next it sounds like a clip from a seventies kids show.
The Jackal, who’s given a bit more screen time here, dresses in military fatigues and murders pretty much everyone that he comes in contact with. He doesn’t even spare the few that attempt to help him, which further demonstrates his malevolence. It would have been nice to understand his true motivations and maybe get an explanation as to why he feels the need to kill, because overall he ends up looking a little aimless. It’s hinted that his rage is genetic, because we learn that his dad was also a bit of a loon, but I still felt like something was missing. Sure, we know he wants to murder Sheriff Bob, but he gets various opportunities to do so and waits until the final stand-off to try. When a screenplay lacks the imagination to conceal the fact it’s been structured to fit, well, a screenplay, it can be a bit disheartening. I’m sure that the fact that it had to be written extremely quickly didn’t make things easier. With Chacal, it didn’t matter that victims weren’t given much of an introduction, whereas here, perhaps because of the lesser story elements, it’s a lot more visible that they’re rolled out only to be dispatched. This does remove a level of unpredictability from the overall package and dampens the shock factor.
I was speaking recently about Mexican slashers with Haydn Watkins and they’re an untouched pool that I really need to spend more time investigating. Aside from the obvious entries that are out and out stalk and slash, there are many Crime/Thrillers that include deranged maniacs (A Garrote Limpio/Atrapado con el Asesino etc). Masacre plays like one of those, because it has a drug bust and a lot of elements that were surely included to pad out the runtime. There were moments whilst watching when I felt disappointed with the quality comparison between this and it’s predecessor, but the totally freaky ending redeemed things and left me feeling satisfied. Taken as a stand-alone, Masacre en Rio Grande is a cheesy (and momentarily gory) eighties slasher. It’s putting the two together though that makes them a SLASH above the rest.
Además, si lees mi página y vives en México, me gustaría hablar contigo sobre la posibilidad de escribir reseñas o ayudarme para encontrar películas de allá. Obviamente yo os voy a pagar todo lo que puedo o podéis escribir algo en a SLASH above. Mándame un correo si estás interesado y nos vamos a hablar. Saludos
La Muerte Del Chacal 1983
aka The Death of the Jackal
Directed by: Pedro Galindo III
Starring: Mario Almada, Fernando Almada, Christina Molina
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My review of Bosque De Muerte from a couple of weeks ago got me thinking. There’s no doubting that the best overall slasher films are from the United States. However, because America has also unleashed so many ‘challenging’ entries, like Curse of Halloween, Angus Valley Farms and Fever Lake, the quality percentage on average of their entire output has taken something of a battering. It’s unfair of course to compare a country that’s not far from quadruple figures with a country with only a hundred or so releases. My point is that Mexican slashers, in general, are pretty damn good. The few that I’ve reviewed on a SLASH above (Bosque, Trampa Infernal, Dimensiones Ocultas and Ladrones de Tumbas) are all well worth a watch; and La Muerte del Chacal is yet another.
Directed by prolific horror (and slasher) craftsman Pedro Galindo III, Chacal was arguably the first Mexican entry to truly show signs of a John Carpenter influence. Like many of its hermanas from south of the US border, it was unfortunate not to have garnered a subtitled global distribution deal and therefore remains barely seen. I noticed that there has been a recent DVD release, but from the listing I found on Amazon, it doesn’t look to have been dubbed or translated in any way, which I thought was a shame.
A psychopathic killer in traditional Giallo garb is stalking the local port and murdering anyone unfortunate enough to wander close to an abandoned ship where he resides. Sherif Bob is struggling to uncover any clues to the maniac’s identity and so he enlists his brother Roy to help him capture the maniacal assassin. Before long Bob become the target for the boogeyman and decides to set a trap to stop him once and for all…
I feel really bad for saying this, because I understand that the majority of my readers don’t speak Spanish. Well, start writing emails to Anchor Bay and the like right now demanding an accessible copy, because Chacal is an outstanding slice of eighties entertainment. Like many European and South American titles of the peak years (Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche/Shock Diversão Diabolica), director Galindo either didn’t recognise or care to display the subtle differences between the Giallo and the Slasher. The killer’s guise, shadowy presence and the in-depth investigation that follows him are all elements lifted from the Bava/Argento school of murderous motion pictures. On the other hand, the utilisation of the ‘have sex and die’ rule, heavy breath POVs and the inclusion of a lone female as the final target are trademarks of the Stalk and Slasher. In fairness to Galindo though, his addition also adds a few of its own unique ingredients.
I’m not going to tell you the identity of the boogeyman because it comes as a shock, even though it’s revealed quite early in the runtime. It was essential for Gilberto de Anda’s script to unmask its antagonist prematurely, because the twist adds a unique level of emotional involvement to the final stretch toward the finishing line. Galindo ups the ante by including a speed boat chase, an asylum break-out and a fair few murders that may lack graphic gore but are still smartly conveyed. Some structured camera placement makes the killer’s lair (an abandoned boat), seem creepily isolated and the fact that he is accompanied by a trio of vicious Doberman Pinchers makes him seem all the more indestructible. A few set-pieces deliver sharp shades of suspense and there’s no better example of this than the slaughter of a female and her mother in a spacious living room. Nacho Mendez’s score is at times reminiscent of the best of Paul Zaza’s work and when he’s not ruining it by incorporating weird sci/fi-alike tweaks, he compliments the overall atmosphere superbly.
Chacal was filmed in Brownsville, Texas and it’s interesting that the characters all boast English-language names, such as: Roy, Bob, Joan, Sally and Jack. With that in mind, it seems strange that producer Santiago Galindo didn’t explore a wider release plan with dialogue translations because the film could have been popular on external shores. Still, they must have achieved a modicum of success because a sequel was released within twelve-months that continued the saga. I’m sitting looking at a copy right now and thinking that I need to pencil a review for you all shortly. In fact, it’s being inserted into my VCR as I type.
I guess the hardest question for me to answer for you is, should you watch Chacal in Spanish if you don’t understand the dialogue? To be honest, I would say, no. It’s not that you won’t be scared by some of the stalking sequences and kept on the edge of your seat when the killer strikes. It’s just that de Anda’s script has invested heavily in adding an authentic undercurrent of shock, rivalry, despair, shame and sorrow to the synopsis that would be ruined without understanding the concept. I am cautious of making the movie sound better than it truly is, but I really bought into the idea of a hero that’s been thrust into a situation that demands so much more than personal sacrifice. It’s also worth nothing that Mario Almada does a superb job of bringing that persona to life. I’m so convinced of its quality that I’ve placed Chacal in my top 50.
Get writing those emails peeps. The power of the slasher fanbase got us My Bloody Valentine uncut, so let’s do the same here (I’m available to provide translations if the price fits ;)) haha
Curse of Halloween 2006
aka Into The Woods (?)
Directed by: Jeremy Isbell
Starring: Jeremy Isbell, Sherrie Wilson, Travis Azbill
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Hola a SLASH abovers! This month is our 4th birthday and today is Halloween, so I was just looking back at how we’ve celebrated this date over the past 48 months. In 2011, I posted a review of the best slasher film ever made: Halloween. I followed that a year later with the pretty decent Halloween Camp, which wiped the floor with its cruddy predecessor, Scream Bloody Murder. The choice for 2013 was an extremely obscure fan film, which was zanily titled, Friday the 13th: Halloween Night. My next annual post was the surprisingly rare and moderately appealing, Left For Dead. For the big 2015, I’m (kinda) proud to present a SLASH above‘s very first ‘no star’ movie… Yay!!
In the city where I live, there have been reports of people being spiked with hallucinogenic drugs. After watching Curse of Halloween, I woke up sweaty and couldn’t work out what day it was, where I’d been or what was my name. I was worried that I might have been a victim of a tad of inconspicuous LSD poisoning, so I decided to retrace my steps. I thought that I’d begin by re-watching this film and keep a timeline of everything that happens to see whether I’d maybe been infected by the curse…ooooooooh
We start off with a boat pulling up to a tropical coastline and the words Curse of Halloween burst on the screen in what looks like Bold Calibri font. Nope, there’s no Jack-O-Lanterns, pumpkins or typical objects reminiscent of this time of year, instead it’s a sun-kissed beach that’s accompanied with Hard Rock music. Alrighty then. Names aren’t this screenplay’s strong-suit so I’ll identify the characters (like this in brackets) that we meet so that we can reference them again as we roll. The first is an individual that has a gun to his head (Suicidal Dude) but doesn’t look particularly bothered by the fact that he wants to end it all. He mumbles some barely audible chatter about a pumpkin queen and a ghostly curse that led to the murders of all of his friends. Not only does this completely destroy the tension of guessing who may survive the oncoming events, but even on the second viewing, I couldn’t make any sense of what he was saying.
Next, we skip to an overweight male (The Driver) who is is heading along a dark road when he accidentally runs down a woman in white negligee (Negligee Chick) with a great rack. He stops the car and jumps out before picking up the injured female and taking her into a conveniently empty (and wide open) house. He leaves the stricken hottie on the sofa and goes outside to wave down a passing motorist for assistance. A six-seater pulls over to the roadside and out jump two young men. The first is later identified as Travis, whilst we’ll call the other one, Mr Ponytail, because he sports a long scruffy one. They leave their girlfriends in the vehicle and reluctantly follow The Driver who’s literally begging for help. When they enter the abode, Negligee Chick has disappeared (Like the Urban legend from The Cycle?) and Travis punches The Driver for reasons that are hard to comprehend. (Hey like the movie). Meanwhile, outside, the two girlfriends (Silicone Enhanced and Chubby) debate their current situation. Silicone Enhanced wants to get out to see what’s going on but Chubby doesn’t agree. Silicone Enhanced then sees Negligee Chick in the shadows and convinces Chubby by saying something like, “We’ll be safe if we take a flashlight.”(?) Was it a Swiss-army flashlight with a Bazooka that fights off evil demons? I don’t know. They did however feel that it would protect them, so exited the car and headed into the forest.
They stroll for a short time until they come across another large unlocked mansion. They enter and begin looking around, which made me ask, isn’t breaking and entering a crime punishable by lengthy imprisonment? Now we cut back to the six-seater and a new lass (Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket) is shown waking up on the backseat. I don’t remember seeing her there moments ago, but if she was, she’s been abandoned without so much as an ‘hasta pronto’ from her friends. Nice. Mr Ponytail, Travis and The Driver walk over to the vehicle, totally ignoring the snoozy Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket (can they see her, is she real?) and head off after their girlfriends to the other house. Once inside, Travis somehow separates from his buddies and is assaulted by a cloaked assailant (The Slasher) with a pale face. The hooded nut-job tasers him with a bolt of lighting that shoots out of the palm of his hand and looks like it was drawn on to the screen with crayon.
Now that Travis is seemingly out of the way, Mr Ponytail comes across Silicone Enhanced and starts getting it on with her after she flashes her boobs at him. This part stood out because it’s astoundingly obvious that a body double (or porn clip) was used for the nudity bit. The fact that it’s a totally different type of footage and these boobs were a gift of nature (not suspiciously pert like Silicone Enhanced’s) means they weren’t even trying to convince us of authenticity. (I’m an expert in boob analysis btw!) Next we see a poorly shot scene of Mr Ponytail getting tasered the same way that Travis did by The Slasher. Keeping in mind that Mr Ponytail and Travis have surely been dispatched, we head outside to find Silicone Enhanced back by the six-seater with Chubby. Strangely, she’s showing no recollection of the mysterious event that just occurred or why her frolic with Mr Ponytail had been halted prematurely. (Let’s be honest guys, it happens to the best of us…)
The Slasher emerges from the forest and mutters something like, “Don’t turn around”(?), before a new character that looks to be played by the same actress as Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket (I’ll call her Blonde Girl 2 without Brown Jacket) is shown strolling through the trees. Did they really re-use the same cast member to play two equally insignificant people? Well I’ve got a chance to find out because here’s Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket and she’s being dragged under a sofa, surely by The Slasher, who made it back to the house in record time. Then we see Mr Ponytail smoking a fag, but didn’t I say that he just got zapped by The Slasher…? Isn’t he dead? I guess not. Hmm… We cut back to Blonde Girl 1 with Brown Jacket, but hold on, didn’t I say that she got dragged under a sofa? Well, she’s not under the sofa any more and looks fine exploring the house… Am I still on LSD? What’s going on here? She finds a food selection in the kitchen (looks like oven-cooked Garlic Bread and Chicken Nuggets) and heads outside to Mr Ponytail, The Driver and… Travis, who didn’t I say had been… Ah f**k it. Anyway they begin munching the freebies whilst blissfully avoiding any reference to anything that has happened previously. Meanwhile, in another part of the house, Chubby gets choked by The Slasher and locked in a room, but looks about as interested as a sleeping snail. This idiocy continues for a while, as people that we’d presumed were dead reappear and nothing makes a lick of sense.
A few minutes (that seem like years) later, a car drives by, crashes into a lamppost and we meet its occupants. There’s a pudgy dude (Big Guy) and his girlfriend who is… hey it’s Blonde Girl 2 without Brown Jacket. How could it be that she’s just pulled up in a car if we’d already seen her strolling nearby a few minutes ago… I give up. We now learn that she actually has a name though, which is Ashley. Mr Ponytail (remember him) gets accidentally stabbed by Silicone Enhanced, but then shows up without so much as a scratch a little later. Why doesn’t anyone stay dead, dammit? Travis and Big Guy see a load of stuff that I guess is meant to be quite freaky, whilst The Slasher murders Silicone Enhanced by throwing her off a cliff. A few more silly things happen and The Slasher reveals himself to be exactly who we thought it was all along. It’s not hard to guess though, because we can clearly see his face under the cloak in most scenes. He slaughters everyone except Big Guy and Ashley, but just as they’re about to escape, Ashley comes over all kooky and screams at Big Guy. One thing to note is that throughout all this confusion and crapola, I saw Christmas stockings on one of the walls. So it’s not really the Curse of ‘Halloween‘ then is it…?
So now we cut back to Suicidal Dude who’s still suicidal and still has a gun to his head. He tells us that even though we saw Travis get killed (at least twice) it turns out he was the only survivor of that fateful night. We are shown in flashback how Suicidal Dude helped Travis to recover from his horrendous experience by taking him away on holiday to an exotic island. Travis, Suicidal Dude and three girls – that seemingly don’t need or deserve any introduction at all – climb aboard a boat and what follows is ten minutes of absolute nothingness. We struggle to keep our eyes open as they drink beers and eat snacks on a lake whilst a score plays, ends and then starts again like a CD on repeat for TEN MINUTES. Did the director insert some random holiday footage to pad out his hour long feature? Quite possibly. Eventually, with only three minutes remaining, someone kills off the whole gang except Suicidal Dude without a single splash of blood. How does this relate in anyway to Negligee Chick, The Slasher or anything we’d seen previously? After two viewings, I still have no idea. Finally, we switch back to Suicidal Dude‘s ‘gun to head’ scenario from the prologue and he pulls the trigger before the film suddenly ends. No final credits, no special thanks, no blood, no inspiration, no explanation, no hope, no nothing; the screen just goes black.
What to make of Curse of Halloween then? Well, I honestly have no idea. Is it a new drug-like experience that was responsible for my dazed state the next morning? A legal high perhaps? Well if it’s not, I don’t really know what to say. In fact, I do: this should never have seen the light of day beyond Jeremy Isbell’s editing tools. It’s absolutely diabolical. I’d like to make a joke about the director and his dire filmmaking abilities, but the biggest joke is on me for paying $13.98 for this steaming pile of poo. The only way I can explain this mess is that Isbell lost the script after shooting and edited the footage whilst heavily inebriated. There just isn’t any other logical view as to why it has the structure of soup. If ever you get round to directing a horror flick, you can rest assured that no matter what happens, it will never be as bad as this. I guess that could be something of a motivational quote for debutants to be used in film schools. At least then I would get something for my $13.98. There are entries out there in slasher-land that are so hilariously inept that they have their own type of fan base, like Nail Gun Massacre or Splatter Farm. Curse, however, engages in a different kind of way. Your eyes remain transfixed as your jaw drops to levels that you don’t recall it ever reaching and you feel a deep-rooted intrigue as to how anyone would have cojones large enough to attach their name to a travesty such as this.
I recently had an interesting chat with an up coming producer who said its a shame Alfred Hitchcock didn’t do any commentaries. His reasoning was that it’d be great to hear how he worked and came up with his glorious ideas. For me, I’d pick a Jeremy Isbell talk-through everyday of the week. Watching him explain this catastrophe would be Oscar worthy. Happy Halloween… Beware of the curse…
Oh and btw, before I forget, if ever a movie could be judged on its trailer, check out the above… the music is from another film and the credits don’t even have the right title lol…
RATING: NO STARS
Bosque De Muerte 1993
aka Forest of Death
Directed by: Carlos Ortigozo
Starring: Jorge Reynoso, Sergio Bustamante, Alejandra Espejo
Review by Luis Joaquín González
It’s a shame that there are so many genre films that were never subtitled for English speaking markets. I’m aware of Turkish, Russian, Finnish, Croatian, South and Central American pictures that are solid enough to have achieved success in other countries. Titles like Trampa Infernal and Noche Del Payaso stand out because they inject a level of creativity without taking liberties with the original template.
I have seen some English language reviews of Bosque online but never heard of a subtitled copy, so I wonder if all of those authors were bilingual or there is a DVD available that I haven’t yet come across? If so, I’d be keen to pick it up, because much like my copy of the aforementioned Noche Del Payaso, this VHS is very worn and the sound and visuals aren’t the best. I’ve had some time on my hands of late though and so I watched Bosque with earphones and managed to get the gist of most of what was going on. It helped, obviously, that Spanish is my mother tongue.
Three couples head to a secluded cabin in some dense forest to spend the weekend enjoying themselves. The site holds a few memories for one of the girls, Sylvia, because she grew up there before her mum drowned in the lake and her dad disappeared. Before long they are being stalked and slaughtered by a killer in a rain slicker, but who could be behind the vicious murders??
Interestingly enough, the early nineties in Latin America saw an almost identical trend in horror production that had taken place in the cinema of their northern neighbours exactly a decade earlier. Whilst the slasher cycle was deceased in the US, the Mexicans and to a lesser extent, the Brazilians, were releasing some audacious pictures. This is one of the rarest of those entries, but it’s also amongst the best. It works by successfully mimicking the tone of an eighties slasher with perfection and accomplishing the tasty feat of being cheesy, mysterious, creepy and silly in the space of eighty-minutes. It’s also uniquely intriguing to see so many of the celebrated cliches rolled out so faithfully in el Español.
Director Carlos David Ortigoza leaves a lot of the runtime in the hands of his characters, but unlike the annoying geeks we see in most modern cycle inclusions, it’s hard to find something to dislike about this group. Our final girl Sylvia emits a positive nativity and innocent sexuality that makes you want her to prevail, whilst the macho Forest Ranger, ‘Jaguar’ (played by prolific actor Jorge Reyonoso) is a kick-ass anti-hero that you don’t know initially whether to love or hate. In an all action intro, he uses a rifle to shoot a wood poacher (?) that’s about to steal some trees and blows his leg clean off! Anyway, Jaguar and Sylvia had met 12 years earlier and shared a puppy love, which is conveyed by her discovering a heart that she engraved in a tree back then and Jaguar staring lovingly at a photo that he kept from when she was ten-years-old! (Not that you should find that disturbing in anyway at all).
Everyone is given hilariously OTT dialogue that ups the cheesiness and at times I found myself rewinding the tape to see if they’d really just said what I thought. A fine example is when one of the teens goes missing after swimming in a lake and Jaguar states with deadpan timing, “If he drowned, he drowned!” Also, in a manner that I’m not sure if was deliberate or not, it turns out the most of the deaths are caused by the inadvertently absent minded actions of victims being left alone by their friends. One hysterical chica, called Laura, literally pleads for Sylvia to stay with her in a room, but within two-minutes of our heroine searching for another of her (murdered) buddies, Laura gets an axe embedded in her forehead.
Another thing that I thought was intriguing, was how much of Bosque had been lifted from slasher classics of Mexico’s neighbours. The killer sports a rain slicker (Unhinged), looks on in ‘heavy breath POV’ through branches to survey his intended victims (Friday the 13th) and the kids pulling up in a van and being assisted by a Forest Ranger was reminiscent of The Prey. It’s not all freeloading though because Ortigoza includes some of his own gimmicks like the boogeyman throwing a decapitated head through the window to unsettle those he’s stalking. Also when his identity is revealed, thanks to some fine acting, he has a motive that builds momentary pathos.
It’s true that gore hounds and action buffs may get tired by the amount of time that it takes for the killer to get going (around sixty minutes), but personally I enjoyed spending a while with the cheesy antics of the youngsters and liked Bosque De Muerte. Quite why it hasn’t achieved greater success is beyond me, because it’s a really decent slasher that gets everything just about spot on.