School’s Out 1999
aka Schrei Denn Ich Werde Dich Toten
Directed by: Robert Sigl
Starring: Katharina Wackernagel, Niels-Bruno Schmidt, Nils Nelleßen
Review by Luis Joaquín González
In my review of Amerikill, I made an unforgivable error. I said that it was strange that there are so many killer clowns and hardly any psycho jesters in the slasher genre. Slaughter High got a well-deserved mention, but I failed to acknowledge School’s Out, which includes arguably the most slasheristic jester disguise of them all. I hope that you find it in your hearts to forgive me…?
I picked this one up back in the early 2000s on an Amazon multi-buy with Party Crasher, The Catcher and Carnage Road. There’s another German slasher called School’s Out Forever that I will likely review soon, but to the best of my knowledge, it has nothing else in common with this. Whilst researching, I found out that this was originally a TV production, which I’d never have guessed, because aside from a lack of gore, it looks plush enough to have been a cinematic release. I’m quite surprised by its lack of popularity amongst slasher completists and that it has picked up only a few mixed reviews. With this in mind, I thought it was about time that I set the record straight with a gloves-off autopsy here on a SLASH above…
We begin with a young girl heading along a dark road and listening to music, which immediately brought to mind the opening of Urban Legend. She even comes across a creepy looking stranger whose car has broken down just to confirm the homage. Jessica slows down to offer assistance to the incapacitated driver, but comes to her senses and speeds off when he tries opening her door. As she heads along the road, her cellular phone rings and the voice quickly identifies himself as the man she just left in a layby. He admits that he has her number because it’s painted on the side (she’s driving her father’s taxi) and pleads again for a ride into town. The mystery caller gives his best Scream ‘creepy mutter’ impression, but it doesn’t prevent the foolish youngster from turning around and returning to the scene…
Next up we meet a group of students that are going to stay over at their campus to celebrate graduation. Nina has recently broken up with her boyfriend and that’s just one of a number of delicate complexities that surround the relationships of the troupe. As they begin to party through the night, it soon becomes apparent that a maniac that was responsible for a massacre on the site a decade earlier has broken out of a local asylum. Their worst fears are realised when a masked killer begins slicing through the revellers with the same weapon that the escapee used all those years ago – a large pair of scissors…
School’s Out is a film that’s split into three distinct acts and the best way that I can review it for you is by describing how each one delivered varying moods. For the first thirty minutes or so, I was struggling to adapt to the tone, which was mainly due to the most unconvincing dubbing since The Blazing Ninja and some peculiar lines that had been awkwardly translated from the German script. There were a host of conversations that sounded unusual and noticeably peculiar, so I would have preferred to have viewed a subtitled copy. On top of that, the fact that it had started with the aforementioned elements that were clearly lifted from Urban Legend and Scream meant that my initial impression was that this was an extremely poor European rendition of its American brethren. We were given a few scenarios that attempted to bring the key players to life, but the staggered flow of the klutzy dialogue meant that I couldn’t buy into what I was seeing. With so little to keep me engaged, I began to fidget and lose interest whilst waiting for the action to commence.
When the killer gets to work though, the pace begins to tighten, which is mainly due to a couple of splendid decisions from director, Robert Sigl. Never has the inside of a school looked so gothic and he traps his characters amongst terrific backdrops, including an ominous spiral staircase and a room that’s filled with mannequins and tarpaulin maps. Without any gore, the crew rely on sharp editing and frantic movement to bring the kill scenes to life and there’s a tense moment when a fleeing bunny tries to grab the assailant’s weapon whilst he’s temporarily immobilised. Another notable sequence sees a victim slaughtered whilst her friend looks on through an air vent and there’s a fairly tight mystery that will keep you unsure of your choice of cast member that’s under the mask. I mentioned above that this is the most ‘slasheristic’ jester guise of those I’ve featured on a SLASH above and with a red mask and period costume it’s hard to disagree with that statement. Sadly, I also think it’s the weakest of the three; – because the plastic look of the visor is at odds with the rest of the attire. Amerikill and Slaughter High did it better for me.
The third and final part of School’s Out is my favourite and its authenticity allows the film to overcome allegations of being a complete Scream clone. Our heroine Nina and one of her friends survive the school massacre but they do not believe that the Police have pinned it on the correct suspect. We get some effective dialogue scenes that open-up new layers to the puzzle and they all lead to a final confrontation back on the campus that’s staged well enough to build drama. It’s unusual for a slasher to go for an aftermath plot-branch and I liked the way that the script didn’t push itself into corners or run up blind alleys. Nina makes for a subtlety appealing heroine, if again, let down by the scripting; whilst the motive, when revealed, is totally ‘out there’ but that’s pretty much par for the course.
Even if it may be a bit long-winded in places, School’s Out is a satisfying slasher film that has some slick embellishments. If I could track down a subtitled copy, I’d give it an extra half-star, but as it is, it’s still worth the effort of checking out. It was followed by an equally enjoyable sequel that has, strangely, become almost impossible to track down. On another note,I just noticed I’ve posted this on the weekend after Brexit. As a Spanish/Irishman that lives in the UK, perhaps reviewing a German slasher could be considered a political statement of kind…? Then again, perhaps not…
Bone Cave 2011
Directed by: Matthew Brooks
Starring: Justin Rose, Jeremy Jusek, Andrew Hart
Review by Luis Joaquín González
So here we have yet another extremely rare slasher movie, but it’s one that is refreshingly unique. Even as a fan of the genre, I often get tired of the amount of films that traipse along the standard clichés without even attempting to inject any authenticity. Bone Cave on the other hand is unlike anything that I’ve seen before and despite its limitations, it offers an encouraging slant on the stalk and slash formula.
A pair of college kids hatch a life-changing plan to get rich by robbing a local ecstasy dealer and hosting a rave so that they can sell the tabs that they stole. As the party gets underway, it soon becomes apparent that a caped killer is lurking among the revelers and looking to slaughter the drug-induced teens…
For the first twenty-minutes or so, Bone Cave played like it was little more than a slasher by the numbers. It kicked off with a pair of poorly acted lovers being murdered in a cave by a caped menace with a painted face. There was nothing about the sequence that couldn’t have been copy and pasted from a million other genre entries and when the next cut showed us a couple of kids sitting outside a high-school, I felt like I was watching a lower budget knock-off of President’s Day. However as those same characters began speaking about their ambitious plan to rob a local drug pusher and host an illegal party, I began to realise that Ohio based director Matthew Brooks was on a thoroughly different wave-length.
Whilst there’s no denying that Bone Cave is a slasher movie, it’s one that plays like it’s only half-aware of the trappings, which I mean as a compliment. We get forty-five minutes of plot development from the three main players and perhaps because the dialogue has been written by a youngster (Brooks was in his twenties) it comes across as genuine as to how youngsters speak. It could be said that the pace during these parts isn’t as tight as it should be and a couple of killings might have made the runtime sharper, but Brooks’ flair for witty lines and realistic scenarios kept things afloat. If you’ve been a long-term reader of a SLASH above, you’ll know my thoughts on the challenges of mixing slapstick and terror into a palatable cocktail. There are many entries that have tried this formula (Easter Sunday/Slaughter Studios) and the majority of them are disjointed and shabby. It would be unfair to call Bone Cave a slasher/comedy, but the script delivers a nice blend of humor (from the dialogue) and horror (from the multiple victims). I expected the theft of the ecstasy tablets to be a small background sub-plot, but it is smartly expanded to generate a solid spine. It’s fair to say that there are no real surprises in later revelations and the killer’s identity is easy to guess, but most of the ideas here are novel and smartly delivered.
The second half of the film takes place inside the cave of the title, which was the location chosen to host the rave. The exteriors were filmed locally and are impressively conveyed considering the lack of experience and I can only guess that a hall was used for the other parts, but credut to the set designer(s) that worked hard to make it look as realistic as possible. Early on, I was a little worried that the lighting would be a problem, because we have about ten-minutes of footage that is illuminated by a couple of torches, but this soon improves and the crew did a good job technically. I also thought it was original the way that the killings were staged. Initially we get a torture porn-esque kidnap of a young girl that gets acid thrown in her face, but then the maniac goes on a rampage and runs into the middle of the party-goers with his custom blade and begins slashing… Cue pandemonium! We do get some blood splashing and a couple of gooey moments, but Bone Cave is fairly light on the gore score. It draws to a conclusion with the three main characters trapped with the maniac and they must overpower him in order to flee the carnage. If I were to be really harsh, I could say that the film might’ve worked better with a meaner spirit and I also didn’t think that the killer’s dialogue (he’s a real chatterbox) was effective. Still, earlier on I mentioned President’s Day and whilst the pair have very little in common, they share an alluring vibe that’s impossible to brush off.
All in all I enjoyed Bone Cave. It’s certainly full of innovation and a handful of smart accomplishments. The pace does stagnate a bit during the first half and some of the effects are visibly cheap (the grenade explosions are PSone-esque!!), but I guess that they made the most of an extremely tight budget. Matthew Brooks is certainly a talented filmmaker and his inclusion to the genre is worth a look.
Final Exam 1980
Directed by: Jimmy Huston
Starring: Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, Ralph Brown
Review by Luis Joaquín González
So following on from my review of Fatal Exam, I thought I’d cover this peak period sleeper and get all of the ‘exam’ slashers out of the way once and for all. I must admit that I hadn’t seen it for about twenty-years, so I was keen for a second viewing and thorough analysis. My perception from back then was that it was a bit too much of a Halloween magpie and I didn’t appreciate the unimaginative ‘look’ of the antagonist. I was about 15 at the time and my non-franchise favourites were the likes of My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, StageFright and Legend of Moated Manor, which all included killers with memorable masks. In comparison, Final Exam felt, well, a little bit ‘meh’, and I have never re-visited it… Until now…
Writer/Director Jimmy Huston shot Exam over six-weeks during the spring of 1980 and he utilised friends and students that he had recruited from word of mouth and a small advertising campaign. It would be his fourth motion picture and a complete change of tone from his previous work, which was mostly genre films that played like European productions. Despite the self-sourced nature of the development, the $53,000 budget didn’t stretch as far as anticipated, which resulted in a few scenes having to be re-written or completely scrapped. I couldn’t find any information in regards to the film’s box-office performance, but it certainly acquired a solid VHS distribution deal, because I own Spanish, British and Polish copies.
As a small college prepares to close its doors for the end of semester, a number of students remain on campus for the last of the exams. Their final preparations for the journey into adulthood take a turn for the worse when a psychopathic killer begins to butcher them one by one…
I won’t be making any headlines when I inform you that Final Exam is not a competitor to Halloween, Friday the 13th or even Curtains, but I do think that it’s a much better movie than its reputation would lead you to believe. In fact, I’d say that if all the slasher flicks of the past twenty-years had been a similar level of quality, the genre would be filled with a lot more critical acclaim.
We are given the clichés of the category’s most notorious offerings with the characterisations (virginal lead, promiscuous friend, ‘horror’ nerd, bullying jock etc) but I found it intriguing how they were conveyed with a subtle depth. Radish, the curly haired geeky guy, was certainly a prototype for Scream’s Randy both physically and personally. He has a crush on our straight-laced heroine, Courtney, and his romantic pursuit shows moments of realism that are well-handled and recognisable. There’s an interesting scene, where the two have a heart to heart about her insecurities, which offers a delicate comment on the fear of rejection and the challenges of confessing true feelings. Courtney herself is clearly based on the sensitive Laurie Stroud-stereotype, but she carries a desire to overcome her social trepidation, which I thought made her more appealing. The ‘slut’ persona, Lisa, defends her actions in a humorous sequence that displays how she uses her appearance to progress. Hell, even the rebellious jock had something of a sadness about him and a desperation for recognition. All these common elements that are never explored in most slasher movies seem to be written with a keener focus and it gives the personalities an extra layer. Whilst it can be argued that the key players never really have an arc or reach the destination of their inner journies, the dialogue is memorable because it offers situations that we can relate to.
Whilst Huston deserves praise for his scripting and ability to derive convincing performances from an inexperienced cast, the look of the movie definitely belongs to Darrel Cathcart. As one of the most underrated DPs of the peak period, he really put his visual stamp down with some wide-framed set-ups and impressive camera placement. His input also greatly improved another eighties slasher (Death Screams from the same year), but Exam demonstrates the best of his work. There are countless postcard shots of the boogeyman in dimly lighted locations that are extremely impressive and even if the score is clearly ripped from John Carpenter, it assists with the creation of some creepy moments.
I always felt that Michael Myers was much scarier than Jason Voorhees, because his motives were ambiguous and never clarified. Jason killed to avenge the decapitation of his mother and Michael just murdered because he was ‘pure evil’. It’s true that when it comes to antagonists, less is always more; but the killer here is a total nobody and the ‘nothing at all’ approach doesn’t work. I’m not sure if it was an unsuccessful attempt at breaking ground from Huston or some expository scenes were cut from the final print, but we’re left with a villain that is little more than a cardboard prop. We didn’t even hear the traditional radio news report that informed us that, ‘an infamous murderer has escaped the local asylum killing two-guards…’ I’ve overcome my disappointment at his lack of a ‘killer guise’, because I took it as him being so deranged that he didn’t care about concealing his identity. It’s just that the story lacks a Dr Loomis type character to elaborate his menace with some hammy lines about, ‘The blackest eyes… The devil’s eyes…’ It’s strange that the film is so similar to Halloween in its structure, but so authentic in the finer details. It’s a shame that those are the ones that no one really notices.
Over the years, many reviewers have commented on the film’s sluggish first-half and the extreme lack of gore, which are fair criticisms that I can’t defend. Personally though, I felt that this captured the essence of the peak-period superbly and showed why the golden oldies will always be the best examples of the sub-genre. There’s no denying that the pathway to the conclusion builds a sharp momentum as bodies drop in rapid succession and the final face-off in a claustrophobic bell-tower is competently staged.
Final Exam is an important addition to the slasher grouping that overcomes its accusations of imitation with some solid examples of impressive filmmaking. There are a lot of elements that don’t really move the plot in a progressive direction (the artistic, yet unnecessary POV through a kitchen vent for example) that over-inflate the runtime, but all in all there’s a lot here that warrants respect. Jimmy Huston never really revealed any trivia about the production in later interviews, which only adds to the enigma.
We live in a world that’s full of injustices and whilst Final Exam is regularly brushed aside as an average picture, Porkchop gets remade in 3D. Let that sink in for a moment…
Los Inocentes 2013
aka Bloody April Fools
Directed by: 12 Directors
Starring: Charlotte Vega, Bárbara Mestanza, Mario Marzo
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok, I have to be honest; I just couldn’t live with it. You see, despite my respect and gratefulness to the country I live in (UK), I’m a patriotic Spaniard and I’m one that sees beauty in all things de España. Well, except maybe bull fighting. Oh and Magaluf. Anyway, I’m proud to state that I was the first slasher critic to give Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche a reputable ranking and here you’ll find an equally complementary review of José Larraz’s, Al Filo Del Hacha. I defended Jesus Franco’s cheese-tastic video nasty, La Sierra de la Muerte, and didn’t wince once during the corny closing of Los Ojos de Julia. So with this in mind, how could I live with the knowledge that the most recent Spanish slasher film to be reviewed on a SLASH above was the awful Altrapados en el Miedo. Since watching it, I’ve felt depressed, panicked, I’ve suffered insomnia, began drinking and smokin… Ok, I’m exaggerating, but still, something needed to be done.
I had to quickly find a film that could regain my home country some credibility, but with my copy of El Arte de Morir miles away in Spain, I was somewhat struggling. Then I remembered that I hadn’t yet got round to watching a DVD that I picked up a year back, called Los Inocentes. I came across it in a small shop in Aracena, purchased it and then totally forgot that I’d done so. Last Wednesday, I was tidying up my room and there it was staring at me, almost as if to subtlety say, “llevarme, verme, yo te ayudo… yo te salvo!!” – Could I have found the cure to drag me from the gutters of despair..?
A gang of kids get lost on the way to a party and so decide to spend the night in an abandoned school. It was the site of a gruesome accident a few years earlier, where a student was killed during a practical joke. Now someone haunts the corridors and the joke is most definitely on the partying teenagers…
It seems that when I watch slasher movies, I go through phases. I’m sure that as readers, you notice that I’ll post one or two ‘one star’ movies in a row and then a couple of much better ones. I don’t do this deliberately, it’s a coincidence, but I’m back on a roll, because Los Inocentes sits comfortably with Kill Game as one of the best modern slashers that I’ve recently seen. Much like a bottle of Sangria, it doesn’t blur the lines of what it has been produced to achieve. It’s a straight up slasher movie for fans of the genre and ticks and underlines the things that we expect and most importantly WANT it to do.
I guess that you could call it a mix between the stories of both Slaughter High and Friday the 13th, but it’s refreshing how the script never feels the urge to over-elaborate the homages. In a pre-launch interview, the crew openly admitted that they were referencing the peak period, but it’s a natural vibe that doesn’t overpower. We get a more typical final girl, ‘the have sex and die’ rule, heavy breath POVs and even a romantic sub-plot that is intelligently conveyed. Perhaps because the main characters are given emotive scenarios, we want them to prevail and I was extremely surprised by a couple of the deaths. Los Inocentes is a merciless movie at times and this tone is set from lift off, when the old ‘prank that went wrong’ chestnut is delivered with a starker more graphic flair than usual. In fact, this is quite a gory little movie that is filled with creative deaths of the like I’ve never seen previously. My favourites were the bee attack and a bizarre one with a girl’s brain, which is gooey, erotic and somewhat artistic in its delivery. The screenplay attempts to inject pitch black humour on occasion, including a genius play on words with the Spanish slang for a lighter; – ‘fuego’ (fire). In honesty though I preferred the moments when the atmosphere was more macabre.
The idea stemmed from a collaboration of twelve writers/directors that had met and studied at the notorious ESCAC School of cinema. Whilst some would question the concept of so many varying ideas on a production, one member of the crew, Laura García, said that she found it extremely natural and that she wanted the film to act as proof that ‘being a team’ really works. What we’re left with is an entry that strives to provide some deftly shot set pieces. The lighting is exceptional in places and the filmmakers do their best to bring the large dilapidated hi-school backdrop to life. We also get a nod to the recent ‘found footage’ trend where the action is shown through iPhone cameras, which leads to a pulsating escape sequence as the survivors hotfoot it through the woodland. There’s no killer guise for the antagonist and he isn’t even given a physical presence until the climax, but we do get a ‘killer calling card’; – a kind of ‘ginger bread man’ that’s left upon the corpses of victims. Writer Lluís Segura describes his vision of the classic slasher structure as starting out with 10 or so characters and killing them off throughout without knowing who’s doing it or the reasons why. You can see that they stayed true to this formula.
At times the film pushes the boundaries of reality and begins to feel a bit fairytale-ish. It’s not supernatural in any way, but some of the murderous set-ups defy logic, which seemed out of place with a concept that was so traditional. I was also disappointed with the performance of the actor that played the killer. In general, the acting was solid, but the best villains are restrained and not over-played. It looked like the person given this role (I won’t reveal so as not to ruin the mystery) knew what to do, but somehow didn’t really convince. Still, we get some truly beautiful women and a cute lead in Charlotte Vega – a girl that was born in Spain from English parents – who I predict that we’ll see more from.
Los Inocentes is pretty much a Slaughter High remake (El día de los Inocentes is like April Fool’s Day in Spain), but it is far more gritty and ruthless. There are a bunch of smart twists and gimmicks that bring the film to life, with the only real weakness being the killer’s revelation, which lacks the explosion of the source code that it was borrowed from. All is thankfully salvaged by a downbeat ending that we’ve seen before (even in a great eighties Spanish slasher), but was still a surprise. The DVD that I own comes with English subtitles so you should definitely check it out. I’m excited about the sequel that may already be on the cards…
Kill Game 2015
Directed by: Robert Mearns
Starring: Pierson Fode, Joe Adler, Laura Ashley Samuels
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I was discussing expectation levels on a SLASH above last week and I wanted to ask you all something that’s kind of related to that topic. Has anyone else noticed that the nights when you’re tired and really don’t fancy going out with your pals or on a date turn out to be better than those when you’ve been counting the hours all week to the event? With me, this is always the case, but I really have no idea why.
I picked up Kill Game whilst out shopping last week and even though the cover looked slasher-esque, I wanted to make sure by briefly checking the IMDB. I immediately noticed the 3.5 score and a user review that was headlined, ‘This film will kill brain cells its (sic) that bad’. Still, I’m here to review every genre piece ever made, so I’m used to taking the rough with the smooth. Even though I’ve seen my fair share of turkeys, I really couldn’t prepare myself to sit through Kill Game after seeing that IMDB rating. In fact it took me two attempts to get past the 5 minute mark.
A gang of high-school friends that are notorious for their pranks become concerned when one of their number is viciously murdered by a villain wearing a creepy Marilyn Monroe mask. Before long they realise that they cannot flee and instead have to work in conjunction to unmask the vicious killer…
Slasher fans, if ever you needed proof that with our particular choice of genre, the IMDB is as trustworthy as a shady CIA operative, Kill Game is your trial swinging evidence. It’s your signed sealed and hand-delivered confession. 3.5 score? So bad it kills Brain cells? On the contrary dear Watson, this is a fabulous slasher movie and should certainly be added to your collections. I’m about to take extreme pleasure in telling you for why.
Perhaps a lot of it is because I’d been ready for a dismal slice of dreck and went in expecting the usual heinous script/cinematography/acting combo. Well as the runtime grew, a splash of credibility washed over me like a tidal wave hitting an underweight surfer on his first venture into the ocean. What I noticed initially was that Game is comfortably financed and never feels as if it’s struggling to display the necessities of the plot’s backbone. Props are used with confidence and each location is shot with stylish lighting and flamboyant photography. Characters are introduced strongly and given enough fluidity and individuality to stand apart, which means that they engage us as an audience. The small and subtle script gimmicks – like Courtney’s weight insecurities – add a level of realism to the players. It’s not quite enough for us to REALLY care for them, but we do – at least subconsciously – feel like we’re involved in their parts of the story.
I’m sure that most of you, like me, have grown tired now of the entries that throw everything at parodying or paying homage to the hits of the eighties. I mean, how many times do we have to hear dialogue that mentions Prom Night FFS? Kill Game on the other hand is a modern slasher that sticks to the rules without having the need to boast about its doing so. I guess it could be considered as a tweak on the I Know What You Did Last Summer style of inclusion, which in itself was a re-imaging of Rosman’s awesome The House on Sorority Row. Instead of us witnessing the fateful event and source for latter revenge at the film’s launch however, writer/director Robert Mearns utilises the approach that worked so well for Billy Club, by unraveling the mystery slowly as the synopsis unravels. This means that the runtime remains tense and we are never really aware of what will happen next. It helps that for the first half of the film, it’s really hard to guess who’s going to succumb to the assailant’s blade and a couple of the killings totally took me by surprise.
Another bonus is the fact that we are given an antagonist with an incredibly creepy mask and he stalks with a swagger that brings to mind Heath Ledger’s Joker. It could be argued that such a striking villain would have worked better if he were a Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers type of merciless assassin rather than a character seeking vengeance for a past event. As I said in my review of Halloween, Myers was so scary because he had no motive, whereas knowing that this killer will turn out to be someone we’ve been introduced to previously weakens his appeal. I guess Mearns was somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place because his mystery is one of the best things about his picture (I didn’t guess it), so he couldn’t risk scrapping it. Still, this is one of the stand out guises of the past twenty-years and that deserves praise. We also get some ferocious murders, including a brilliant decapitation and a couple of SAW-alike death-traps that may not be graphic but are still fairly unsettling. These assist in the creation of a dark seedy tone that on occasion becomes contagiously engulfing. I also have to mention a few thoroughbred performances that may not be worthy of award recognition but are delivered with desire and focus.
Kill Game is a sharp slasher spectacular with a great boogeyman, a compulsive mystery and a plush set-up. Some may be disappointed that the only nudity comes from a guy that could be a stunt double for a sumo wrestler and it does move slowly in places, but all in all it truly is a SLASH above. I’m really glad that I pushed myself to watch it. Oh and by the way it’s my Birthday today 😉 I’m 18…. I wish…
Bloody Slumber Party 2014
Directed by: Larry Rosen
Starring: Melantha Blackthorne, Gloria Chung, Scott Churchson
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Horror anthologies were once the bane of my life. On a site that has promised to focus on only the truest stalk and slash entries, films like John Carpenter’s Body Bags have caused me no end of headaches. It’s true that the first story in that trilogy could be considered slasher-esque and is directed by the godfather himself, but do I post just that part of the feature and ignore the others because they’re so alien to the template? In fact there are a few similar type of collections that have one slasher amongst their runtime, but I’ve always been confused whether to include them because as an entire package, they’re not really genre films.
Director Larry Rosen has done something here that should make me grateful, because he’s eradicated that problem with his new film, Bloody Slumber Party. This is an anthology that includes three recognisable stalk and slash scenarios and is wrapped up in a lovingly audacious Slumber Party Massacre revamp. It starts with a group of girls that head off to comfort their friend, Kelly, who has just split with her cheating boyfriend, Rick. They sit around in a circle and decide to get drunk and entertain themselves by telling frightening tales. After the first one, the gorgeous Veronica gets a bit freaked out and heads downstairs alone to watch something on TV. She soon learns that she’s jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, because waiting in the shadows is a masked killer with murder on his mind. Has Rick returned to slaughter his ex-girlfriend…?
I’m not sure of the exact production cost of Bloody Slumber Party, but the crew have done an outstanding job of making their movie look as slick as possible. It launches with an impressive credit sequence that utilises the mask of Jason Voorhees as a backdrop and from then on the film continues to deliver a gloss of professionalism that leaves a lasting impression. It’s clearly visible how a lot of sequences have been planned with intriguing ideas to realize an effective atmosphere. This is most evident in the second of the three anthology stories, which shows the fate of a group of youngsters that come across a murderous drifter whilst traipsing through some woodland. Rosen choses a snow-coated setting to deliver an aura of isolation and it really makes the victims seem comparatively small and lost amongst the landscape. These parts are intercut with a sequence from back at the house, where Veronica is being tortured by the sadistic masked intruder. I was impressed by the way I found both parts to be equally as engaging and some smart editing means that we switch between the two at the tensest of times. This leaves us in a position where we are engrossed by what we’re currently witnessing, but also keen to see what will happen with the other branch of the plot.
There’s no denying that the key plot-branch is the killer stalking the slumber party, but the three added tales are welcome additions. In fact, they can be separated by what they provide, with the first being a gross out cannibalistic treat, the second being a more typical slasher yarn and the final providing a neat dollop of suspense. Our main antagonist outside of the anthology stories uses a similar torture porn MO to the nut-job from Babysitter Massacre and he sports an identical get-up to the guy from Runaway Terror. BSP doesn’t borrow much else from its peers, but when one of the chicas is tied up in a chair, we see her wet herself from the pure terror of the situation, which reminded me of Amy Steel’s misfortune in Friday the 13th Part II. Moments earlier, a gang of teens had been talking about a urine fetish and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an in-joke of type?
Whilst we are discussing the dialogue, it was really something of a rollercoaster. I recall a scene where Kelly was speaking about her break-up and her words were almost too genuine and struck a chord with me. In the next instant though, a character will mouth an idiotic response that made me wonder if I’d heard correctly? It’s a shame that the screenplay can’t maintain its adroit realism consistently, because the script had given us some expansive ideas. It offered a subtle comment on the duality of friendships by demonstrating how bitchy and two-faced people can be and these social topics were smartly conveyed. I also appreciated the producers heavy investment in building a cast of actors with experience and a couple of them demonstrate a fine range of dramatics. I thought Samantha Hahn had some good moments as Kelly and the un-credited guy (?) that played Rick was frighteningly realistic as a control freak. It’s not unusual to come across average performance levels on this budget, but it’s worth noting that Rosen has pushed his personnel as far as he could to get a level of motivation and dedication to their roles. There’s the game of guessing who it could be that’s under the mask, which I didn’t figure due to a clever twist. I also was incorrect in my choice of final girl and couldn’t believe what I was seeing when the lass that I’d banked would be our lone survivor, ended up getting slashed.
Bloody Slumber Party isn’t a gore extravaganza and it does have minor issues, but honestly, I enjoyed watching it. In a market that’s awash with low-budget monstrosities, it’s nice to find a feature that engages consistently and delivers tension. I’m not sure yet when it’ll be released, but keep an eye on that pre-order button.
Prom Night 1980
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens
Review by Luis Joaquín González
This is another of those titles that to be honest, I should have covered on the site long ago. It was only when a SLASH abover, Ned, gave me a kick up the backside by reminding me that I hadn’t yet posted my thoughts on it that I converted it to MP4 and added it to my iPhone 6 Plus playlist.
Back in the days when I was hunting through video shops for slasher films, Prom Night was one of those that I couldn’t find for love nor money. I’d seen images of Jamie Lee Curtis facing off with a balaclava sporting nut job and had believed that it would be a classic slice of eighties special-ness. With a top-notch cast and a comparatively big budget, my eleven year-old brain saw nothing but slasher-tastic satisfaction. Eventually it got another limited VHS release and the nice guys at HMV (RIP) ordered me a pristine copy. Without a review to browse through (children of the Internet don’t know how lucky they are) I was on the bus home and fully expectant to enjoy a rival for Halloween.
A disfigured maniac that was accused of a heinous crime, breaks out of his asylum and heads back to the location of the event from a decade earlier. It’s Prom Night at the main high-school and Kim is highly emotional. Not only is she set to be the Prom queen, but it’s also the ten-year anniversary of the death of her younger sister – the victim of the escapee. When the body of a young nurse is found gruesomely slashed, it looks like the loony is up to his old tricks.
At the tender age of 16, I was mad about cars. No I’m not talking about toys; I’m talking about the real fuel-guzzling automobiles. I saved up some money from my weekend job and purchased a 1982 Ford Fiesta from a newspaper and fell madly in love. Over the year whilst I was waiting to pass my test, I bought a set of gold-coloured alloy wheels, a chrome exhaust system, a race carburettor, tinted windows and neon lights for the number plate. When I finally got my driving license, I was ready to hit the road, but just as I’d turned the first corner, the clutch went. A week later, it was the entire gearbox. I got it towed to the garage and they noticed that nasty brown rust had been devouring the floorboards. My world was shattered, but the car wasn’t worth the sum of the parts that I’d placed upon it, so it had to be scrapped.
Watching Prom Night after many years reminded me of that Fiesta so much. First things first, the film is beautifully shot and DP Robert New has done an amazing job of planning his photography with grace and dynamism. The opening scene takes place inside an abandoned school and there’s an adept aura of isolation and spookiness that surrounds the child actors. Paul Zaza’s scoring is as creepy as always and the film lets you know from the off that it’s slickly put-together. When our key players are introduced, they are awarded the space and time to bond with the audience and it’s interesting how the script hints that humans develop a specific personality trait that maturity doesn’t alter. It was almost as if they were subtlety stating that if you’re born with a nasty streak, it’s likely that you’ll stay that way unless you decide to change. During the story development parts, the underscoring of horror is provided by some stalking scenarios and the killer phoning and threatening his intended victims. This concept was clearly lifted from Black Christmas and shows that Prom Night is a slasher movie that knew its target audience. We get very few, if any, attempts at innovation and the crisp rolling photography through the town where this was filmed may well have been left-over footage from Carpenter’s Halloween. As with Humongous, Lynch was certainly a director that wasn’t ashamed of looting from his peers.
Jaime Lee Curtis heads up a note-perfect group of performers and I couldn’t point out any weaknesses in the casting. This was Peter Simpson’s first foray into slasherdom and the success that he received led him to begin development on the far more authentic Curtains. Prom Night was a big hit upon its release and is widely regarded as one of the genre’s most recognised features. Going back to the Fiesta that I told you about above though, the strong dramatics, superb score and lush photography don’t conceal the film’s limp and predictable spine.
Robert Guza’s script is extremely focused on its mystery, but we are given far too many clues to the maniac’s true identity. They were expecting the unmasking scene to be something of a shock, however it is obviously diluted by the fact that it’s exactly who we expected it to be. It’s almost like the screenwriters didn’t think that their audience would be smart enough to face a compelling puzzle without assistance. I felt that a lot of effort was wasted focussing on numerous red-herrings, when perhaps what the movie really needed was a larger impetus on generating suspense. It’s impossible to deny that Lynch is a director that shoots with panache and draws the best from his cast, but with Prom Night – I noticed this with Humongous too – there’s just never an air of unpredictability. Once we’ve picked who will survive, we know that they’re untouchable and it takes the tension away from the rest getting killed. It’s strange that a filmmaker so inspired by John Carpenter didn’t recognise the necessity of keeping his viewers hooked. Perhaps he just couldn’t pull it off.
Still, there’s a lot of silly eighties stuff, including a bizarre Saturday Night Fever-like boogie scene towards the climax. I also found it hard to keep a straight face when Jamie Lee called Leslie Nielsen’s character a ‘Disco King’ whilst he was awkwardly bopping like a one-legged ostrich. Oh and the fat joker guy in this one actually pulls (and scores) with a chica. So there was one authentic aspect after all ;).
Prom Night is a well-produced slasher movie that has moments of creepiness that are truly well delivered. It’s just a shame that it feels too much like a Halloween rip off and even lacks the authenticity of titles like: Friday the 13th, The Prey, Unhinged, The Unseen, Silent Scream, Small Town Massacre, My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, American Nightmare or even Graduation Day, Happy Birthday To Me and Embalmed. Also, the fact that it’s never really scary is a sin that, for such a visually competent picture, is hard to forgive…
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.
President’s Day 2010
Directed by: Chris LaMartina
Starring: Bennie Mack McCoy IV, Lizzy Denning, Nicolette le Faye
Review by Luis Joaquín González
With Graduation Day, Memorial Day, Birthday, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and Valentine‘s pretty much slashed beyond slashable recognition, you must take your hat off to this production team for giving us an authentic theme for their genre entry. We don’t have a ‘President’s Day’ in the UK, so I had to check online to see if it was actually a calendar event. When I discovered that it’s a federal holiday in the States, I was astounded that this was the first stalk and slasher that had based its synopsis around that date.
The film comes from Chris LaMartina, who had previously directed Ameri-Kill; an extremely rare DTV effort that includes a killer in an audacious mask from 1999. When I bought Death-O-Lantern from Warlock Video, I tried getting a copy of Ameri-Kill too, but they had sold out of discs, so I’ve spoken directly with Chris and he’s promised to send me a copy. This particular addition is highly regarded amongst fans of the category, and when I recently asked the members of the a SLASH above Facebook Page if they could recommend any films that I should review, President’s Day was the one that most a SLASH abovers wanted. So without further to do…
A school is going through an extremely competitive period because they are currently holding an election for the role of ‘head of the student body’. Class joker, Barry, decides to run for president in order to impress new girl, Joanne, who has recently moved to the area. The task becomes a lot more dangerous, when the hopeful candidates begin getting slaughtered by a lunatic dressed as Abe Lincoln. Barry and Joanne team-up to attempt to stop the maniac, but could they be putting themselves in the firing line…?
As a critic, I have been guilty many times in the past of forgiving weak parts of slasher movies due to the fact that they were produced on stringent financing. If anything, President’s Day acts as proof that I can no longer use that explanation for poor filmmaking decisions, because the rumoured budget for this picture was a measly $5,000. With this relatively modest pocket book, LaMartina has created a stand-out slasher flick that does things the right way. On top of that, it is crisply shot, looks fantastic and includes gore effects as good as those seen in entries that were put together on four or five times the cost.
I often criticise horror comedies here on the site and you only need to read my reviews of either Easter Bunny Bloodbath or Slaughter Studios to see my opinion on slapstick scenarios combined with murderous mayhem. It takes a special filmmaker to give us a feature that can successfully merge the two styles in a paletable Cherry Falls-type way and I have to give credit to LaMartina for what he has achieved here. There are a host of amusing tongue-in-cheek sequences in President’s Day that could have given the picture an awkward tone that it would struggle to recover from. Instead, he admirably gets the mix of humour and horror spot on and creates an environment that allows viewers to enjoy the character development sequences without them having an effect on the darker moments.
The entire cast and crew of P-Day accepted parts in the feature with minimal payment, but they still put in visible effort to deliver solid performances. In a unique move, the story gives us an African-American anti-hero that we grow to like more and more as the runtime progresses. Our two main players differentiate from the Laurie Strode stereotype because they aren’t overtly innocent or virginal. Barry is an intelligent guy that is guilty of choosing fun over his studies and Joanne is looking for a fresh start after an unfortunate incident at her previous school. These depths to the two lead personalities make them more appealing and we do genuinely share their adventure and want them to overcome what’s thrown at them.
We are treated to a complex mystery that you’ll either guess immediately or be shocked by when the killer is unmasked. Even if the motive is fairly nonsensical, it can be easily overlooked, because we had such a good time on our way to the conclusion. Dressing the killer as Abe Lincoln not only suits the theme, but he looks exceptionally creepy and there are a whole heap of creatively gory murders for us to feast our eye upon. They include audacious stuff such as death by hair straighteners, asphyxiation with a statue (?) and a voluptuous Latina is burned to death on a cooker! One early scene gives the film an ‘anything could happen’ tone, when a disabled girl in a wheelchair gets dismembered with an axe. It was reminiscent of the notorious sequence from Friday the 13th Part II, which at that far less politically-correct time was fairly controversial. It’s easy then to see that LaMartina has got the balls to go where others don’t and go there he does, continuously until the final credits roll. Despite the fact that the killings are fairly gratuitous, the atmosphere isn’t mean-spirited and maintains the subtle tongue-in-cheek tone even when the crimson is spread.
President’s Day is a solid entry that deserves a place amongst the slasher elite. There are many new-age stalk and slashers that get lost in their attempts to either try something different or pay endless tributes to the hits of the eighties. Chris LaMartina proves here that all you need to do is include enough of the recognised ingredients and have a bit of a ball with them. It really is that simple. It surprises me still to this day how many filmmakers fail to get it right.
The Last Slumber Party 1988
Directed by: Stephen Tyler
Starring: Jan Jenson, Nancy Mayer, Joann Whitley
Review by Luis Joaquín González
This was one of those flicks that I had been advised to avoid, but I let my love of the slasher genre get the better of me. I learned of its existence from the IMDB in 1998 and the fact that no one had yet bothered posting any reviews led me to immediately set about getting hold of a copy. I went around asking a few of my contacts in the horror community about it and the general consensus was that I should steer well clear. Those warnings only heightened my interest, and after ordering it from Amazon under standard international shipping procedure, I had to face a lengthy six-weeks for it to arrive at my door.
Whilst I was waiting for the postman to bring me my padded jiffy bag, it seemed the more days that went past, the further my curiosities strengthened. By the time it turned up, I was just off to work and all day I was looking forward to getting home and finding out if it would live up to the hidden gem status that my expectations had automatically allowed it to become. Looking back after so much time, it’s comical how blissfully unaware I was of what awaited me…
At first we meet a group of jesting teens that are celebrating in high spirits on their last day of school. Tracy (Nancy Meyer), Chris (Jan Jensen), Tommy (Danny David), Scott (Paul Amend) and Billy (Lance Descourez) all plan a slumber party at Linda (Joann Whitley) ‘s house. They plan to spend the night drinking, taking drugs and doing the usual cheesy antics that eighties teens in slasher movies love to do. Meanwhile, whilst they all merrily head off home to prepare for their fateful gathering, elsewhere in the town it seems a lunatic patient from the local asylum has escaped sporting a surgical mask and clutching a very sharp scalpel. He gets the address of his psychiatrist’s home and heads over there to carry out the threat that we learn he gave only days before. – He warned the doctor that he would locate and kill him. Then we find out that the medic is Linda’s father, so the vicious butcher has conveniently discovered a house full of partying teens to work through. As the beer flows at the party, the unwelcome guest turns-up and before long the blood begins to flow too…
Ok, ok so I should’ve listened, but there’s no need to say, ‘I told you so’. The Last Slumber Party is a heinous movie. As soon as I heard the ear-numbing hard rawk track that burst out of my speakers in the first five minutes and saw the cheesy POV shots in the muggiest of bad quality cinematography, I realised that I had made a big mistake. Every single cliché in the book is present and accounted for, but they’re conveyed like a twelve-year old’s tribute to Slumber Party Massacre. The only thing more sickening than the atrocious acting and the horrid Bontempi score – that doesn’t even sound like it’s played in tune – is the incredibly inept plot that must’ve been made up on the spot as they went along.
It’s pretty obvious that the editor just pasted scenes in any order without even browsing through the script. In fact, I’m not even sure if there was a script to browse through. There’s a moment that could have added some spice to the bog-standard template, when a second killer appears inside the house. This brief attempt at originality is shattered almost immediately though, because he’s removed from proceedings without letting us know who he was, where he came from or why he was there. Was it a kid pulling a prank? We can’t be sure, because like many things, there’s just no explanation. Keeping all this in mind makes me believe that the choice for the ending, which I won’t reveal, was director Steven Tyler’s desperate attempt to escape the massive plot inconsistencies. Things just plod along like a random YouTube playlist and I’ve begun to believe that The Last Slumber Party was the source code for Click: The Calendar Girl Killer‘s bewildering structure. It’s just the ‘why’ that I’m struggling to comprehend.
I know it’s routine for a slasher victim to be dumb, but these folks are unbelievable. When the unlikely leading girl finally realises something’s not quite right in the house, she sets off to investigate and find out where everyone’s disappeared too. She takes a brief look around outside, but fails to locate any of her buddies. As she turns to re-enter, a bleeding victim staggers through the door and drops to the ground in front of her – dead. Faced with the obvious fact that there’s some sort of psychopath at work in the home, what do you think that she does? Run to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm or maybe call the cops? No, of course not, instead she decides to walk back in and around the death trap finding a few more bodies on the way, before grabbing a knife and setting off to uncover the killer! Confused? You will be. Each murder is identical to the last, as a line of nobodies have their throat slashed with an incredibly bad gore effect. The Michael Myers-lite assassin, –who shows us the extent of his insanity by keeping his eyes wide open and holding a scalpel up to the camera menacingly MULTIPLE times – offers nothing new or exciting at all.
On the plus side there are loads of unintentional laughs on offer, like when the first two victims get killed. A nurse heads outside the hospital to a bus stop where she waits to head home. There’s another guy sitting there who’s fast asleep on the bench (?). Before she gets a chance to wake him up, she bumps into the maniac and… (unsurprisingly), has her throat cut by a scalpel. The lazy bystander manages to snore his way through her hysterical screams for help, but conveniently, he stirs just after she’s been dispatched. Of course this leaves him defenceless, unaware and wide open to get, you’ve guessed it, his throat slashed by a scalpel…. Oh, How I cried! Perhaps the most amusing thing of all, is the way that the film’s described on the back cover:
“The plot is twisted inside out leaving you stunned and clinging to your chair as you witness shock after horrifying shock. The ending will leave you breathless.”
I certainly agree; it was indeed hard to catch my breath after I had been snoring for 80 minutes.
As you’ve probably guessed The Last Slumber Party is really bottom of the barrel stuff. It’s cheap, inept, badly shot, jerkily edited, awfully scripted and has all the tension of grass growing. It’s not even able to redeem itself by being bad in an always-endearing Nail Gun Massacre kind of way. The most intriguing thing about Slumber Party is the fact that it ever secured distribution. I think it’s great that someone with a few dollars to waste can make an independent movie and get it released. But to make a small film like this a success, you need a little bit of, what’s that word? Ah yes, TALENT. Sadly it seems none of these guys were aware of that part