Directed by: Tim Cowles
Starring: Eleanor James, Emily Eaves, Jason Impey
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I’ve recently turned 34, which I tell you because I’m from a generation that grew up just before the invasion of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Hi5. I was in my twenties during the noughties, so I still got to experience the impact that these sites had on social interaction and relationships. It’s interesting, because I remember the times of having to call landlines or walk to knock on someone’s front door if I wanted to chat with them. Nowadays I can simply drop them a note on What’sapp or some other messaging service and ascertain where they are, who they’re with and whether they’re choosing to ignore me 😉 I’m often told that I should be more proactive on Twitter and Facebook, especially with regards to a SLASH above, but perhaps it’s because of my age that I haven’t quite grasped the necessity of a social media presence.
Whether these methods of contact are a benefit or a hindrance to our evolution as humans is impossible to answer, but it’s an interesting theory to think about. It’s one that was certainly on the mind of director Tim Cowles when he put pen to paper for this British slasher that hit shelves last year. Not to be confused with 2005’s Backslash, Backslasher was poorly received upon release and currently holds a 2.2 rating on the IMDB. This Is incredibly low, but there’s always the excuse that slasher movies are easy targets for mockery from stern critics because of their simplistic style. Seeing that the excellent Billy Club has dropped from 7.4 to 5.6 on the same website adds weight to this theory.
A young woman who’s obsessed with her social media accounts launches an online business that sells lingerie and sex toys. She Is running a blog to assist with marketing but soon discovers that someone maybe taking an unhealthy interest in her status updates. It soon becomes apparent that a masked killer is stalking her friend list and it looks as if she’s next in his sights…
Shooting films on a penny sweet budget must be tough, because creative concepts can get lost amongst the lack of funding. Backslasher tries hard to deliver something unique and intriguing but has suffered, slightly unfairly, due to its minimal production values. It choses an unusual starting path, which introduces our characters rather awkwardly. The best horror movies begin with a scare or shock sequence of some kind to set a tone, but it takes fifteen-minutes or so for the killer to even put in an appearance here. This makes the opening scenes a bit pointless because we are left trying to get our heads around what we are watching. A group of girls prance around in lingerie to introduce the theme of the products that they’re selling, but these parts are a nothingness in terms of the film’s horror backbone. I haven’t seen the old chestnut of a maniac stalking two lovers parked in a secluded spot for quite some time, so it was refreshing to be back at a set up that is so rudimentary yet satisfying. Cowles shows his knowledge of the period slashers in a couple of the murders, including an assault of a female jogger, which was last seen in Graduation Day. Dressing the killer in a common mask and hooded jumper underlines the film’s cheapness, but he is at least brutal and intimidating when he strikes.
What I really liked about Backslasher was its smartly ambiguous conclusion. The plot works along the line of you thinking you’ve guessed who is under the mask, but just when you believe you’ve really nailed it, your choice of culprit becomes the next victim. I felt initially cheated by the revelation scene, but later I understood that it was the perfect end to a story that focuses on the privacy and anonymity of Social Media. It’s extremely unusual for a stalk and slash film to include an ending that you’ll need to watch through again to really understand and in honesty it impressed me. Whodunits have been done to death and outside of tricking the audience unfairly, there’s very little that we haven’t seen before. Cowles takes a risk that might disappoint some viewers, but I appreciated his ambition to try an off-kilter resolution.
It’s unfair to criticise a low budget movie for being low budget, but Backslasher’s main issues are visible exactly because of that. The performances are predictably mediocre and the footage is grainy and poor in quality. We do get a guitar-based score that is fresh and uplifting, but when the horror starts, there are some misplaced sci-fi-like buzzing sounds that are notably out of place. Whilst the screenplay does have moments that are strongly commendable, it could have been structured to have a much smoother flow. I imagine the film would play much better with a murder in the pre-credits and most of the background characters are interchangeable because they’re given very little to do. There were a couple of times when people got killed and I couldn’t remember who they were, which showed they had been poorly introduced.
Backslasher is a project that writes cheques its budget can’t cash. It’s a creative concept that could have done with some fine tuning. Many people won’t have the patience to really appreciate it, which is a shame, but a lesson that can be learned. Tim Cowles shouldn’t give up on his filmmaking dream, but he’s still some way off delivering a really credible entry.
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl: √√
Dead of Nite 2013
Directed by: S.J. Evans
Starring: Tony Todd, Joseph Millson, Cicely Tennant
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It still surprises me that since Cannibal Holocaust launched the ‘found footage’ gimmick that has been vital to horror hits like The Blair Witch Project and Rec, it hasn’t been used very often in the slasher genre. It’s strange because I can’t imagine another style of horror that would benefit more from that narrative. I remember considering posting a review of The Last Broadcast on a SLASH above, as it incorporates many of the ingredients that are commonplace amongst features on this site. In the end though, I decided that this was wishful thinking on my part as it is not, in fact, a slasher movie.
That argument cannot be levelled at today’s choice of post, Dead of Nite, which is a recent British entry to the cycle. It was released hot on the heels of Evidence – another title that utilised pre-filmed flashbacks as a structure, but chose the standard stalk and slash template as an overcoat. What is it they say about waiting ages for a bus and then two coming along at once?
A team of youngsters that run an online paranormal exploration site decide to visit the notorious Jericho mansion. It has a reputation as the most haunted place in the South East of England due to rumoured sightings of ghosts and a murderous history. They are locked in for the night to complete some research, however the next morning, most of them are found dead. All that remains are the tapes from their cameras…
To say that Nite starts badly would be one hell of an understatement. We open with Police taping off the scene of the massacre and the camerawork judders like it was being filmed by an epileptic. To make matters worse, these weren’t even scenes of found footage that could be excused due to a shaky hand. Many low budget horror films incorporate cameos from previous stars such as Kane Hodder or Robert Englund as a form of genre recognition. Here we get Candyman’s Tony Todd, but I’m not sure if you could consider his appearance to be a plus. He spends ten of his fifteen-minutes worth of screen time whispering inaudibly and then when he does raise his voice, it seems that the effort he took doing so made him totally forget that he was supposed to be ‘acting’. To be fair though, it’s not only Todd that could be accused of poor dramatics. The scenes filmed outside the mansion before the teens are locked in the abode play like a pre-school playground production of West Side Story. Someone call the drama coach, you guys have all got detention.
Anyway, when they finally bolt the doors, the screenplay goes on a self-discovery mission. If a script could suffer a midlife identity crisis, then Dead of Nite’s is in desperate need of counselling. After the obligatory shot of a full moon, the visitors decide to hold a seance. The ouija board spells out the word death and the glass flies off the table and smashes to smithereens against the wall. You could be forgiven for thinking that we have got a supernatural thriller on our hands, but after a sickle is grabbed from the wall by an ominous hand, the paranormal elements are never seen (or heard of) again. That’s not such a bad thing though, because when the slasher stuff starts, the film finally finds some credibility and delivers a few impressive chills.
Whilst Nite can be considered a ‘found footage’ film, these elements, much like the ghostly stuff I mentioned earlier, are kind of bolted on. One minute we will be watching a camcorder shot of the action and then in the next instant, we see everything through a fixed lens. Surprisingly though, this blend works extremely well in some places, like when the director cuts to isolated staircases and rooms to underline the atmosphere of solitude. After the fusebox is destroyed early in the runtime, everything is filmed in night vision and it makes the actor’s eyes illuminate like reflective motorway studs in the darkness, which was creepy. I liked the antagonist’s guise and Robin Scott Fleming delivers a decent score to help maintain the tension. The killer stalks with a traditional Michael Myers-alike strut and even if we only get a handful of murders, they are creatively delivered and fairly menacing.
Whilst there aren’t any true gore scenes and the mystery is easy to figure out, Dead of Nite has enough in its briefcase to at least deliver the odd moment that is worthy of praise. I wasn’t expecting much, but I enjoyed the few jolts and the attempt to make the stalking sequences as scary as possible. If you have seen everything else and keep what I’ve said in mind, you should check it out.
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl √
Demons Never Die 2011
aka Suicide Kids
Directed by: Arjun Rose
Starring: Robert Sheehan, Ashley Waters, Jason Maza
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Oh Tulisa Tulisa. A couple of months ago I posted a review of Nine Lives here on the site. Admittedly it’s a hunk of junk, but the fact that it had a cameo from alcoholic nympho Paris Hilton, meant that at least it had a minor sense of allure. Well here we have Demons Never Die, one of the few slasher flicks produced in 2011. Ok so there’s no Gucci bag clenching heiresses in sight, but it does include a walk on appearance from Tulisa Contostavlos aka the new Cheryl Cole. (Just before finishing this review, I noticed she also has a sex tape floating about)
Hands up who watches X Factor? Come on boys, you’re only lying to yourself if you say no. Not many people know this, but I’ve had an action packed life so far and I once got through a couple of auditions for the big X. I sang Enrique Iglesias’ Hero to a producer and she said, “Yes!” What a great day that was. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those people that watch every show with my One Direction t-shirt on and my phone in my palm. I do however have it on in the background while the Mrs remains transfixed and if I could recreate that magic feeling when I got the golden ticket and sell it on to everyone that I know… Well let’s just say coke dealers in London would be out of business. Was it really that good? Heeeell yeah!
Anyway back to the film, or kind of. So Tulisa’s success as the Cheryl replacement on the aforementioned program has pushed her celebrity status up a few thousand notches and Arjun Rose (cool name) has capitalised on that timing to cast her in a bit part here. Did she improve sales amongst teeny-boppers? I would say probably yes. Does she improve the movie in any way outside of eye candy? I would definitely say no. Funnily enough she grew up in the same part of London as me and we obviously both come from ‘other’ European heritage, which is noticeable by our (not so) ‘strong British names’. The difference is that she is now a millionaire celebrity and me… well I’m definitely not. But hey, it’s not all doom and gloom, I get to review slasher films for you peeps every day.
When a girl is mistakenly thought to have taken her own life, a gang of youngsters launch a suicide pact. They plan to go out with a bang and decide to set-up a memorable occasion. In the meantime, they seem to be getting help in the form of a masked maniac. Who could it be that’s killing them off?
Back in the days when Internet was still growing, a small company called Google was desperately looking for an injection of cash. They had two meetings with Yahoo CEO Terry Selem over dinner with the possibility of a take-over. Google’s the chairman, Larry Page, was not over keen on selling, but admitted that an offer of $3billion would be tough to turn down. Selem was furious at the proposal and felt he had a much better plan B. “Five billion dollars, seven billion, ten billion. I don’t know what they’re really worth and you don’t either,” he told his staff. “There’s no fucking way we’re going to do this!” So talks closed down, both chased their own projects and went their separate ways. Some ten years later, Google reported gross profits of $7.8 billion in Q4 of 2011, whilst Yahoo managed $1.08. Selem is now in a different employment and Yahoo missed the chance to be the undisputed kings of the internet. That my friends is what you would call a bad decision.
Do you want to hear about another?
Ok check this out: You put together the funds to make a slasher movie. In a haze of trying to be original, some bright spark comes up with a maniac killing off people that want to die. No, seriously. So this brings up a major problem. How do you build any kind of sympathy or connection with people that the killer is in effect helping to achieve their aims? Now don’t get me wrong, the story does attempt to divert from this by revealing the ‘shock’ decision that they change their minds and actually decide against it. By that point though we are left with a bunch of cardboard cut out personalities and no one really to bond to.
Demons is obviously heavily inspired by Wes Craven’s Scream and includes a multitude of references. Many of them reach beyond the realms of just ‘inspiration’ in to flagrant copy and paste territory. For a genre that has survived on its ability to self reference, this is all acceptable if it’s handled correctly. Rose’s script lacks charm however and the wit to accompany its lack of authenticity and energy. A solid collection of capable actors are left without a challenging depth to their characters and therefore have no possibility to shine.
As slasher movies are not renowned for their strengths in dramatics, complexity in plotting or philosophical messages, they can only really aim for two emotions. The first and most obvious is fear – everybody loves a good scare. The only other option is to make the film as camp as possible and give the audience something to enjoy in a more humorous way. Demons however gets lost in its attempt to convey a message that a) we don’t understand and b) we don’t give a damn about; – and takes itself far too seriously to be fun. There’s a large-ish body count, a few attempts to mimic horror classics such as The Blair Witch Project and an unclear but interesting motive, but it’s technically weak and therefore just not good enough to deliver any thrills.
I saw some positive reviews floating around before I picked this up myself, but I am guessing that they were posted by crew members as a form of marketing, because what I saw was pretty irredeemable. I mean, what’s the moral of the story? What’s the point? Don’t commit suicide because a maniac will come and kill you? I wouldn’t care about the lack of logic if it at least had something, anything, to cover up the obvious amateurism. I grew up in the kind of areas that this film attempts to convey. Some of the people that I knew back then lacked an education or anything really to offer the tough society that we lived in. None of them however were dumb enough to run in to a dimly lighted forest instead of to the nearest crowd of people after witnessing a murder, which these fools seem to do consistently.
I remember one great song on the soundtrack that lifted the mood about halfway through. Congratulations to Jessie J; a fine example of the talent of London youth. As for Arjun Rose, a former stockbroker, he needs to try harder…
Final Girl: √√
Slaughter High 1986
aka April Fool’s Day
Directed by: George Dugdale
Starring: Caroline Munro, Carmine Lannaccone, Simon Scuddamore
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Producer Steve Minasian certainly had an extreme flirtation with the slasher genre when it was making fortunes during the peak years. He was involved (albeit minutely) with the production of the original Friday the 13th feature, before forming a partnership with exploitation king Dick Randall, which brought to the table three interesting entries. The Spanish/American produced Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche is a Grindhouse treat and one of my all time favourites. Its follow up, the troubled Don’t Open ’til Christmas, was a mangled beast, which took three directors to finally get to a (barely) passable state and still didn’t make a lick of sense. Slaughter High would be his third and final entry; and fittingly, it plays almost like a tribute to the cycle that he’d been so heavily involved with.
Caroline Munro returns to what she does best – well, gets most work from. Yes, she was the beauty that was stalked by Joe Spinnell in both Maniac and Fanatic; and she also appeared briefly in the aforementioned Don’t Open ’till Christmas. Having discovered a themed-calendar date that had not yet been knifed/slashed/pick-axed, the movie was initially going to be called April Fool’s Day. This was until Frank Manucuso Jnr – the producer most famous for his work with the later Friday the 13ths – beat them to it and secured the title for his 1986 slasher parody. Funnily enough there are copies of Slaughter High in Japan that were released as April Fool’s Day, which only adds to the confusion…
Marty Rantzen is a school nerd that suffers a constant barrage of bullying from a troupe of (middle-aged) students, which includes Carol (Caroline Munro) and the joker of the pack Skip (Carmine Lannaccone). As if you hadn’t already guessed, one April fool’s day the pranks go too far and Marty ends up horrendously disfigured and transferred to an asylum for the rest of his life.
You wanted by the book plotting? Well check this out: Five years later, the culprits are all mysteriously invited to a school reunion on their now abandoned campus, but no one knows who sent the invitations. Almost as soon as they arrive, things take a turn for the sinister as the caretaker is nailed to the door by a psycho in a Jester’s mask! Has Marty returned to seek revenge on those who taunted him? Or is someone else cooking up a reason for mass execution?
For reasons that are hard to fathom, the British crew behind Slaughter High pretend that the film is American, which explains why the accents sound as genuine as a Rolex on a market stall and switch between the UK and the US more times in 85 minutes than British Airways does in a year. Ex-Bond babe Munro slots straight back in perfectly as the scream-a-lot final girl, even if by 1985, she was looking a little too mature to be 21. I’d love to know how she managed to wake up early in the morning with perfect hair and make-up; – but hey, I guess we’re not supposed to ask questions like that. The rest of the cast seem too wrapped up in the bad-ness of their accents to care about acting, but Simon Scuddamore and Carmine Lannaccone kept up the camp spirit quite well. The most obscure thing about Slaughter High is undoubtedly Dick Randall’s brief cameo appearance that has to be seen to be believed. Surrounded by posters from his previous ‘hits’ (hey, there’s Pieces!), and looking exactly how you’d expect him too, he proves that his flair for dramatics was equally as unique as his filmography.
We are treated to a few really inventive murders that include such novelty set-ups as: disembowelment by an engine, exploding intestines and death by drowning in a bog of mud.(?) Perhaps the dumbest of the bunch was when one girl decides to take a bath (in an abandoned school) after the blood from her friend’s ‘bursting guts’ sprays all over her face. She climbs in to the tub and turns on the taps, but the water that’s gushing through the faucet is laden with sulphuric acid. So, does she simply step out of the bath and save herself? Or does she remain seated until she’s melted to a bloodied skeleton? Well, what d’ya reckon…?
Despite being credited only to George Dugdale, the film was co-directed by Mark Ezra, and both handled different parts of the shoot. I don’t think they really did enough with the horror side of the movie though and I felt it could have done with some more stalking set pieces or chase sequences. The efforts at jump-scares were too slowly framed and the film never really builds enough of a rhythm in its flow when the action starts. Harry Manfredini cuts and pastes his Friday the 13th score, which does keep things moving, but at times I got the feeling I was watching a (low budget) sequel instead of a completely different movie.
The saddest thing I learned about Slaughter High, is the fact that actor Simon Scuddamore tragically took his own life shortly before the film hit the shelves for release. It’s a real shame, because he was one of the more motivated performers on display and maybe could’ve developed a career. The reason(s) for his suicide are unknown, but watching him play the role with his tongue stuck firmly in cheek and clearly disguising the problems that he may/may not have been suffering at the time makes his performance look far more credible. It also gives the film a somewhat morbid air of mystery as to why he chose to end his life at a time when he should’ve been celebrating.
Slaughter High lacks the polish of the flicks it emulates, but there’s still a great deal of fun to be had with the tongue-in-cheekness of the whole thing. The unrated versions give some pretty good splatter and I think the Jester mask is one of the cycle’s best. You can’t ask for much more than a hulking killer, an experienced scream queen, some bloody deaths and a plot that doesn’t bore whilst not taking itself too s
seriously. The net result is a movie that succeeds in doing exactly what it set out to. It’s as routine as brushing your teeth, but those are the routines none of us should be without.
Also keep an eye out for Slaughter High that’s currently in production with a targeted release date of September 2013. From what I understand, it is not a direct remake, but it has the same title, so it must be a tribute of some kind… Update from Feb 2013: It looks like that Slaughter High has disappeared or been withdrawn, but a Spanish film that’s currently in the editing suite called ‘Los Innocentes’ has a very similar concept
Final Girl √√
Into The Darkness 1986
Directed by: David Kent-Watson
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Polly Jo Pleasence, John Saint Ryan
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
When discussing icons of cinematic genres, none can be more recognised than Donald Pleasence’s involvement with the slasher cycle. His portrayal of Sam Loomis in Halloween became an iconic ingredient to slasher cinema and perhaps one of the actor’s most recognised performances. His contribution to the category continued and Pleasence donated his unique screen persona to various entries prior to his demise in 1995. Alongside starring roles in four sequels to Halloween, he also featured in Ten Little Indians, Alone in the Dark and the rancid Buried Alive. Another obscurity on his long and illustrious CV was this mid-eighties mishap, which has been pretty much extinct since it’s release in 1986.
UK produced slashers have never been able to rival their American peers when it comes to popularity or creativity. Whilst blockbusters such as Friday the 13th and Halloween dominated the box offices, British offerings such as Goodnight Godbless struggled to exert themselves to any recognition in the annals of horror history. That’s why I had set my expectations extremely low for Into the Darkness.
The movie was shot in Malta and credit to the producers for picking a Mediterranean location to create this addition to the stalk and slash group. It all opens with that old slasher chestnut of a young child witnessing the wrongdoing of his less than respectable parents. A sure-fire excuse to turn a youngster into a homicidal maniac. In this case, it ‘s a young boy who looks on as his flirtatious mother sells her body on the streets of Malta to all that can afford her hefty price. We see through Michael Myers-style POV shots as the parent tells her son, “You’re loving mother’s a whore!” That is of course the psychological landslide that will click into action a forthcoming massacre.
Skip forward a few years and now we’re in sunny London. An unseen assailant follows a prostitute into a rural abode and whilst watching her undress, he draws a huge blade from within his coat. The hooker screams at the recognition of her demise and the screen fades to black. Next up we meet a seedy agent that is looking to cast models for a ‘big-bucks’ photo shoot on location in Malta. After convincing Jeff Conty – an unemployed actor played by prolific UK TV star John Saint Ryan – that his dire financial status requires him to accept the opportunity, Jeff reluctantly agrees. Early the next morning the gang of beaming big haired models and the photographic crew meet at the airport for their pre-briefing. One of the hopefuls won’t be making the trip overseas, due to the fact that she has been brutally strangled Michael Myers style by the murderer. Almost as soon as the crew touchdown on the Mediterranean island, the killer gets to work, slaughtering the models one by one with his trusty blade. But who is behind the vicious murders?
Despite being somewhat sluggish in places, Into the Darkness is undeserving of it’s AWOL status. Brit-director Kent-Watson builds some impressive suspense scenarios and despite the heavy Halloween homage, the film offers a few credible set pieces. Suspects are developed conceivably and the numerous red herrings add spice to the final pay off. Slasher movies are not overly renowned for their huge dramatic performances and Watson’s effort is no exception to the rule. Pleasence is incredibly hammy in his brief cameo, whilst his daughter Polly failed to inherit any of his unmistakable screen presence. To be fair, Ryan carries the movie fairly well and the killer has a ball playing ‘off his rocker’ insanity towards the conclusion.
The climax also warrants a mention, as it’s by far the film’s grisly highlight. Once the diversionary tactics have been crossed off and the assassin’s identity has been revealed, the final battle heralds a few decent twists. The abandoned location sets the mood adequately and the likable final girl (an early performance from Jeanette Driver) does quite a good job against the killer. She lacks the courage and grit of Jamie Lee Curtis and Amy Steel; in fact she cowers away at every opportunity, but as an approachable heroine, she ticks the right boxes. It’s also worth noting that Chris Rea provided the majority of the songs for the soundtrack, which must have cost the producers a small fortune.
Although we are still waiting for a valuable contribution to the slasher cycle from British cinema, Into the Darkness is not as bad as its ‘missing list’ status would have you believe. The IMDb lists that the feature has a title for a DVD release, so maybe in the near future it will achieve a second outing and a stab at recognition.
Final Girl √√√
Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche 1982
Director Juan Piquer Simón
Starring, Christopher George, Ian Sera, Lynda Day George, FrankBraña
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I must admit, it’s been cool being Spanish lately. What with the immensely popular and equally as successful Rafael Nadal tearing up tennis and La Furia Roja wining the European and then World Cup whilst playing the best football imaginable, it has to be said that from a patriotic standpoint, all is going well for my country.
The thing is, when we look at slasher movies, our output leaves me pretty much lost for words when it comes to competitive banter. It makes it harder that despite a few stabs, Mil Grititos Tiene La Noche is the most recognised (but not the best) effort of my country’s involvement in the slasher cycle. Just a quick browse through the reviews online and as of yet, I haven’t seen one that praises Spain’s weapon of choice for stalk and slash recognición
So I took it upon myself to start preparing my defensive arguments. A legend of Spain from Simón’s era is singer/poet Joan Manuel Serrat. His most renowned LP was Mediterraneo, which got him expelled from fascist Spain for its intelligent subtle lyrics and views on the struggle of Spaniards under El Generalissimo, Francisco Franco. A fine example is the track, Barquito de Papel (small boat of paper). On first impression, it seems quite harmless and even my brother still likes to look at it as a song about a young boy, at a time when money in villages was invisible, floating the aforementioned barquito down a local stream (something he used to do.). But lines like, “Without a boss, without a direction it travels where it wants to” were a shrewd dig at the struggles of our people under fascism and the truth was in the subliminal messages.
What if Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche was made under a similar pretense? What if Simón’s slasher was really a social comment on our obsession with image? Maybe he was hinting that you can’t build the perfect person and that we should all accept that everyone has pluses and minuses and we could get lost in the search forever? Or maybe the chainsaw wielding maniac was our lust for credit and the message was that we are starting to dismember our economy (just look at how we stand at the moment)? Ok so I’m reaching…
In the end I decided to try a different trick. I returned home and told my flatmate, a film (but not slasher) fan, who generally trusts my judgment that Simón’s effort had a 7.5 rating on IMDB and was an intelligent psycho thriller. I wanted to see if the movie’s reputation had led it down a path of poor reviews because people had read so much rubbish about it that they went in looking exactly for that. Media opinion can have a big sway on our considered expectations.
A masked maniac is stalking a college campus and murdering co-eds, leaving them with missing body parts. Armed with a chainsaw, the police are baffled as to his identity and bring in extra help to solve the case.
One thing that critics never acknowledge is that this is in fact a tribute (dare I say rip-off) of Narciso Serrador’s La Residencia. That movie probably had a big effect on Simón when he was younger and the influences are undeniable. The film was shot in both Boston and Madrid with producers from Italy, Spain, England and America. As far as I am aware cast members like Frank Braña, Gérard Tichy and Silvia Gambino could not speak English, so you can imagine some of the on-set confusion.
Admittedly there are some great inadvertently humorous moments that I can’t provide an reasonable defensive excuse for. The best of these is when a Bruce Lee lookalike violently attacks an undercover Police officer and then the pair laugh it off as it’s all down to ‘…Some bad chop suey’. This was actually intentional as the actor was from a Kung Fu movie that Dick Randall was working on at the time and Simón wrote the scene on the spot to include him in a cameo. Oh and I can’t forget to mention when the Lieutenant tells his colleague to, ‘take some uppers’ to stay awake and help with the case. Also, what about when one goofy big-breasted floozy spouts, “The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and f***ing on a waterbed at the same time” – Or the Footloose-esque boogie scene, which sees a bunch of leotard clad eighties bunnies twisting and dancing and seems to have been choreographed by Stevie Wonder but offers absolutely *nothing* to the story? I could go on, but I’ll save some moments for you to uncover for yourself.
Now inept Police forces in slasher movies are as essential as a twisted killer, but Christopher George and Frank Braña manage to take things to a whole new level. I may not be a master detective, but I would say that anyone who has been found in the vicinity of a gruesome chainsaw killing more than once and has no solid reasoning as to him being that close would probably be considered at least a ‘considerable suspect’. Well these bozos let college student Kendall (Ian Sera) work alongside them throughout the runtime and he even finds the clue that cracks the case! .
Credit has to be given to Basilio Cortijo for his brilliant gore effects, which are very well done. The film is one of the goriest of the period and for that alone it is well worth a look. It also never gets boring and has become a classic Grindhouse/drive-in favorite with a strong and loyal following. You definitely can’t knock the director for his effort and if you watch it with an open mind, some of the murder scenes are effective if not creepy. Also, many critics pick up on this perhaps unfairly, but the girl smashing through a mirror at the beginning DOES have something to do with the plot. It is meant to signify the return of the murderer’s psychosis (it was launched by a smashed mirror in the opening). It’s not handled in the best way, but that was the point that they were attempting to get across. I just actually got an update from one of the cast and apparently a lot of scenes were shot that didn’t make the final print. Reportedly, one of those was the aftermath of the aforementioned mirror scene where the girl says that she’s ok and the maniac is shown lurking nearby. In fact it is that same bunny that gets her head lopped off immediately after. All this got me thinking that maybe Simon’s film would have made more sense with everything included. Who knows what else was left on the cutting room floor? There was definitely a few gore scenes that were not featured, so who knows?
Ok so I have tried to give a different perspective and can openly admit that there is a lot to laugh at with the production of this feature, but then there were with most slashers of the early eighties that were not European produced (Graduation Day, Fatal Games et al). My flatmate actually really enjoyed it (partly because she thought she was cool by working out the killer’s identity – by his shoes!) and she gave it the thumbs up (admitting however that it’s not scary).
Mil Gritos does deserve a place in the annuals of slasher history and kudos to Simón who said he never cared what the critics said; he just really enjoyed making these movies. It may not have got the reviews that he initially intended, but I loved watching it all the same. You need to see it for the breathtaking scene when Lynda Day George summons every bit of her minimal acting ability to scream, ‘Barstard, Baaarstaaard….BAAARRRSTAAARD! It’s up their with the napalm scene from Apocalypse Now and the opening of The Godfather. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Just as the advert said, it’s exactly what you think it is…
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl √√