Directed by: David J. Gardner
Starring: Tracy Pacheco, Jason Hamer, Shannon Nelson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Towards the end of the nineties/beginning of the noughties, there were a host of slasher films that based their structures around a craze that was popular amongst audiences: Reality Television. Kolobos was the first that I witnessed and it proved to be a superb slasher that showed what could be achieved with a voyeuristic set-up. Soon after, we received a few more similar themed additions which varied in quality, with the worst of them being the heinous Voyeur.com. Less and less Reality-Slasher entries appeared as the years went by, but then in 2014, the wonderful Girl House brought panache back to the sub-sub-genre.
TheCampusHouse.Com is without a doubt the most obscure of all these titles and it’s an addition that I was keen to add to the site. I picked up a copy years ago on DVD at a horror festival, but I’ve never seen it on Amazon/eBay or anywhere else for general purchase. The only information that I could find in relation to its production were three generous user reviews on the IMDB, where it boasts a healthy 6.7 rating. There’s literally nothing else that can be discovered from an online search and as far as I’m aware, it never secured a distribution deal. This makes it (yet) another a SLASH above exclusive. I’m good to you all, eh?
A group of students are invited to gain free lodging in a large campus house if they take part in a social project. An ambitious businessman is offering to pay for their courses if they allow themselves to be filmed around the clock for online viewers. Once inside the camera-laden abode, they bond quicker than had been expected, but the fun is shattered when one of their neighbours is butchered by a masked maniac. The group become nervous, but their fears are brushed aside by the Police, who believe the murder to be the work of a gang of escaped convicts that have now fled the area. As other people begin to disappear, it soon becomes apparent that the stories about the house’s haunted past may well be true.
I’d watched Redwoods Massacre the day before this and I have to admit that in comparison, Campus kicked off with an extreme amount of class. Seeing a dark-haired artist being stalked in moody flashing lights brought to mind the style that was apparent in Kolobos and there are certainly worse titles that this could be compared to. It has become a trend over the last decade to pay constant homage to the classics of the eighties. Whereas it’s relatively easy to duplicate scenes or mention titles in dialogue, Campus achieves the difficult task of actually capturing some of the charm that was present during that decade. Watching a gang of cheesy teens unpack their belongings to the strains of some pop-rock reminded me of Evil Laugh and the characters are more alluring than we usually find in modern efforts. There’s even a ‘psycho calling card’ for the first couple of murders. It is a creepy music box that echoed the doll from Curtains, the cassette player from Island of Blood and the rose from Rosemary’s Killer
Whilst this is most definitely a Reality Slasher, the onlooking cameras are brushed aside fairly sharply when the mystery begins to take-hold of the story. We are given a plot-branch from thirty-years earlier that adds an extra layer of difficulty to guessing who it could be that’s under the mask and I have to give credit to the screenwriters for the conclusion that they chose for the close of their saga. There are quite a few killings and the maniac looks extremely creepy in a white mask and cape. Perhaps what the film lacked most was some neatsuspense and any real brutality when he struck, but we are at least treated to a couple of lively photography gimmicks.
Now I consider Halloween to be the perfect slasher movie and its synopsis was structured through just the one night to compact the horror with developing the background story. Campus House is set over a number of days and despite the director’s constant attempts to maintain momentum (characters argue, a romance blossoms etc), the film borders on becoming too slow moving and therefore dull. The ambitious sub-plots spaced over a lengthy runtime were reminiscent of another unreleased film, The Inherited; and both entries could be accused of throwing too many ideas at a template that succeeds when it’s played straight. It is strange to criticise a slasher for trying too hard, but there’s a lot of talky-stuff here when really all we wanted was to get to the crimson splashing. I was generally disappointed that Campus couldn’t continue at the pace that it began with, because it had set high expectations with its handling of the early scenes.
What we are left with is a slasher movie that’s better than the majority of DTV efforts that get released en masse year upon year, but it has a few issues that prevent it from hitting the heights that were to be expected. A killer in a superb mask, a nice score, some creative directorial flourishes and an intelligent twist are let down by an uneven momentum and a failure to build upon that initial energy. Still, as I said above, it’s better than many that are produced on the same budget and it’s a real mystery as to why it didn’t get the shot it deserved.
Girl House 2014
Directed by: Trevor Matthews
Starring: Ali Cobrin, Adam DiMarco, Slaine
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I read some marketing gumpf during the production of Girl House that said it was going to be the Halloween of the digital age. Immediately after, my interest in the project waned because whenever a feature tries to capture an audience by claiming that it’s ‘the best thing since Halloween’, it turns out to be nothing of the sort. Later I learned that its synopsis was a reality porn show with girls locked in a house and stalked by a masked menace. This brought visions of Voyeur.Com, Porn Shoot Massacre and Strip Club Slasher streaming to my mind. From then, Girl House had been languishing on my ‘to do list’ for quite some time and only yesterday did I decide, with the enthusiasm of a hungover Monday Morning, to finally give it a go. I’m really glad that I did.
A beautiful student that’s struggling for the funds to get through college, accepts an offer to join the internet sensation, Girl House. It’s a website that offers viewers the chance to watch women 24/7 in a secluded mansion as they reveal all for the numerous cameras. Whilst there’s no shortage of sites that give you one on one access to chicas, this one allows you to get to know them as their lives are rolled out in front of your eyes. When regular visitor ‘Loverboy’ is unintentionally offended by one of the housemates, he decides to extract revenge in the most merciless way possible.
Over the past week, I’ve watched Babysitter Massacre, Blood Slaughter Massacre, Camp Blood and Blood and Sex Nightmare, so I immediately noticed how well funded Girl House looked in comparison. Make no mistake about it, Trevor Matthew’s slick debut is much lusher than the aforementioned entries and it looks ravishing as it bathes in its crystal clear colours. It’s blessed with an outstanding performance from Ali Cobrin as heroine Kylie Atkins. She achieves what Neve Campbell failed to in Scream, by giving us a gorgeous new-age lead that also conveys a sensitive and approachable side. She’s aided by a note-perfect turn from Adam DiMarco as her would be boyfriend and some genuinely likeable personalities amongst the background players.
The real casting achievement though in terms of bringing the screen alive is Slaine as the homicidal maniac. In a portrayal with barely any dialogue, he delivers a villain with initial shades of pathos. This gives him the opportunity to rip said shades to shreds as he grows more and more ruthless throughout the runtime. To do that with so little speech is in itself a mesmerising accomplishment and dressed in a skin mask and wig, he creates a villain that’s terrifyingly memorable. Calling this ‘Halloween for the digital age’ was in fact a half-truth, because Girl House’s boogeyman is not a Michael Myers clone. Unlike Carpenter’s film and its trillion imitators, this screenplay spends more time during its opening unravelling the situations that lead to the maniac’s murderous psyche. So many stalk and slash movies fail to maintain momentum during the character development parts, which makes Girls House stand out because it stays sharp through the elaboration of both its protagonist and also its antagonist.
All this is simply preparation though for a marvellous climax that sees the masked killer torture and murder the housemates in a suspense-filled bloodbath. It’s been a while since I’ve sat through a final sequence that’s so skilfully tense and the director throws literally everything in to the pot to create the right blend of gory and sleek bloodletting. There’s enough time left for a pulsating battle between the masked killer and our final girl, which is unpredictable, brave and extremely fast-paced. My partner and I were watching with our fists clenched in anticipation and thanks to some solid direction, the pace remains breakneck all the way through.
Girls House is a motion picture with something to say about the effect of porn on our lives, our obsession with image and overcoming our insecurities. Examining the concerns of our leading lady as she contemplates entering the world of seedy internet peep-shows displayed an intelligent social commentary with views from both sides. They even include a memorable quote from serial killer Ted Bundy that highlights the film’s ethical standpoint. This is all done subtly enough so as not to overindulge and it adds up to an intelligent and glossy scary movie.
I recently said that Blood Slaughter Massacre was the best recent slasher I’ve seen, but a week later, it has lost that title to this thoroughly enjoyable extravaganza. Even if they are cut from a different budgetary cloth, it’s a compliment that both can be proud of. If you haven’t already tracked this down, do so at the next opportunity. It is, quite frankly, a brilliant stalk and slasher
Killer Guise: √√√√
Directed by: Daniel Liatowitsch David Todd Ocvirk
Starring: Amy Webber, Donny Terranova, Nichole Pelerine
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So what is there to say about things that emerged during the noughties, eh? Well we didn’t get many life altering inventions, but for sure social networking and reality television became the media sensations of the last decade. Whether it be struggling stars trying to prevent that last nail entering their career coffin on, ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!’ or audacious personalities swimming in a pool of insecurities and trying to grab their fifteen minutes on ‘Big Brother’, the viewing stats for this rubbish were astronomical. It was the latter that proved to be the source code for this post-Scream slasher yarn, which set up a reality TV (or VHS) backdrop just before that style of interactive entertainment took the entire world by storm.
Five youngsters respond to an advert in a local paper asking for ambitious extroverts to be boarded up in a house for five days and have all their emotions and activities filmed. Almost as soon as they arrive however, they are locked in with a sadistic faceless killer and no chance to escape…
There was so much junk that came out in the late nineties and attempted to cash in on the new wave of slashers that it is really refreshing when you uncover an effort that’s even slightly above average. Kolobos however is much more than that – it’s an intelligent, stylish and creepy entry that has been bizarrely overlooked. It recalls the elements that make up the greatest titles of the category, including a good mystery, stylish direction, superb gore and a creepy tone.
The film is made by people who appreciate the genre and at the same time acknowledge its weaknesses. One of the personas is an actress who appeared in the fictional slasher movie franchise, ‘The Slaughterhouse Factor’. The group sit down to watch the films one after another and mock the poor continuity, cheesy deaths and silly plot and they could, in effect, be watching any number of dumb eighties titles. It is this recognition however that allows those same characters when they become trapped with the psychopathic killer, to do the right things, like sticking together and working in tandem to escape. The film has a somewhat surreal nightmarish quality, which is brought about by blurry imagery and a haunting score from William Kidd. The inspiration here seems to stem more from Argento than Craven and there’s some stuff that even he would be proud of. When they realise that they are imprisoned and become locked down, the directors use flashing red and white lights to illuminate the darkness and it builds a great environment of gothic horror. The house is layered with ingenious death traps that are triggered when one of the victims crosses an area that is covered with mission impossible-style red lasers. This means that every step they take could be the wrong one and it helps add to the tension
The realism portrayed in the way the actors handle the situations of impending doom is what sets this apart. They try desperately to survive and show emotions of paranoia and fear in how they have become the victims of unprovoked murder. Could one of these people that they just met and hardly know be responsible for the sudden deaths? The first slaughter takes you by surprise because it’s so out of the blue and from then on the gore is spread thick and fast. The effects are excellent and include an eye impalement, disembowelment and an acid shower that’s similar to the one from Whodunit. There’s some tight pulsating sequences and a sense of the macabre in all the aspects of terror and as the characters have been so well-developed, there’s more of an effect on the audience when they die.
We are treated to a couple of decent jump scares and an exciting final battle and the cast do a good job at developing themselves. I especially thought a lot of Amy Weber who is a good actress and brought to mind Jennifer Love Hewitt with more than just the fact that they look quite similar. They even managed to get Linnea Quigley to turn up for a cameo. On top of that it even has the odd cheesy scene, like when they all head in to the corner and begin grooving under a ‘disco ball’ for what seems like no apparent reason.
Kolobos starts very well, but doesn’t manage to keep the suspense at the same level all the way through. It just seems to throw too much of everything in to the final forty minutes, which lessens the impact a tad. I was also extremely disappointed with the final twist, which was smart but a bit of a cheat and totally unnecessary. I feel the movie would have been better if it finished on the seventy-three minute mark, but it does leave a bit of an ambiguous finale, which plays on your mind. Was it real or all a dream?
This is by no means perfect, but very few slasher movies ever have been. It is still one of the best titles of the last twenty years and in the top fifteen of all time. Superbly directed with style, panache, a fast pace and a great cast; Kolobos is a titan of slasher styling and should most definitely be added to your collection.
The strangest thing that I learned after watching this is that neither of the two directors have gone on to anything else. This is really bizarre as they showed immense potential here and should have at least been given another opportunity.
Final Girl: √√√