Thursday, January 21, 2021

Something Big, Mute And Stupid: Camp Slaughter (2004)

Camp Slaughter (Sweden, 2004)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Christian Magdu, Karin Bertling, Michael Mansson

(Why didn't I heed Bengt Wallman's review of this movie back at Hysteria Lives? Oh, dear gods, why?)

Not to be confused with the awful yet trying, low-budget time-loop slasher Camp Slaughter of 2005 (AKA Camp Daze), this is a Swedish teen horror flick that aims to be a tribute to old school backwoods slashers and the resulting product is definitely a textbook example of teens going to the woods and dying horrible deaths at the hands of a large (and dumb) man-monster. 

A problematic example, but an example nonetheless.

As the plot puts it, deep into the woods of a Scandinavian countryside resides a family with one too many screws loose in each member's heads, all of them living inside a crumbling manor with little to no contact or interaction outside. The matriarch of the house is particularly the nastiest of the bunch as she berates her braindead husband for not giving her a daughter and orders her adult son around to fetch her food at the ring of a servant's bell. She also happened to have birthed another son many years ago, who she ordered to be kept inside an earth cellar nearby, fed with rabbits, forced to wear a dress and have his head hidden in a potato sack.

This boy, unsurprisingly, grew up very mentally impaired and eventually escapes his captivity as a grown murderous mute, right around the same time a loud group of teens settle in at a nearby cabin. (not a camp as the title suggests) Some so-so killer stalking and skulking the grounds happen. The kids talk about beer, weed and the usual premarital sex before commencing on said indulgence of beer, weed and sex. Nightfall comes and our dress-wearing sack-masked loon finally attacks, out to hunt them down coz he simply has the madness. 

I would like to point out that all of this is done in very highly accented English, with the movie's casts poorly delivering the language in a manner similar to reading straight from their scripts. Double this with inept acting and a slug-worthy direction that paced the film to a lobotomized writhe, Camp Slaughter (2004) is just an unbearable experience to sit through with dwarfed touches of guffaw-inducing badness. Any endeavor to do genuine scares are laughable and the massacre the movie's slowly building up to is mostly littered with questionable visual effects of both practical and digital kind, not too mention lacking any sense of creativity or effective tension on the murders, too.

Looking also into consideration that hardly anybody from the characters are likable and the potato sack-masked killer crossdresser is just lame here despite the plot's venture into working in some Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)-inspired crazed family mess (which was only used for the first and last few minutes of the entire movie), there's honestly not a lot to like about Camp Slaughter (2004). It took me a while to find and see this movie in due time, and seeing the completely rotten cheese that it is, I can see why it's so damn obscure. Word to the wise: Skip this one! 

And maybe punt kick every copy of this movie off a cliff while you're at it.

1 female had her neck snapped
1 male stabbed and dismembered with a pair of garden shears
1 male axed on the chest
1 female killed in car collision
1 female knifed to death
1 female bound and buried alive
Total: 6

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Dark Minstrel Strikes!: Tuno Negro (2001)

Tuno Negro (Black Serenade) (Spain, 2001)
Rating: ***
Starring: Silke, Jorge Sanz, Fele Martínez

In this Spanish jab at an early 2000s teen slasher, music and murder goes hand in hand as a mythical slayer known as the Dark Minstrel is killing students at one Salamanca University, wherein campus boys occasionally dress up and perform as minstrels as a sort of tradition. Architecture freshman Alex (Silke) gets intertwined with the killings when she appears to have spoken with the Dark Minstrel themselves via dial-up age chatroom, hinting to her that someone will die in their gown later that night.

True enough, a newlywed bride had her brains beaten out with a mandolin before getting daggered to death and a few of Alex's coed acquaintances just happen to be performing that night as minstrels for the wedding, among other sultry businesses. As more students starts biting the big one and many of them being Alex's friends, she soon tries to figure out the motive behind these killings which may be linked to a 16th century legend about a group of poor minstrels who sang for money in order to pay for their schooling, only to be stricken troubled and murderous when wealthier scholars decided to be minstrels just for fun, basically taking away their livelihood.

All the while, a pair of inspectors are also looking into the recent murders, one of whom going by Victor (Fele Martínez) obsessing over uncovering the identity of the Dark Minstrel and has fallen in love with Alex, tangling himself into a love triangle with campus minstrel Eduardo (Jorge Sanz) who also has the hots for her. As the semester draws near its end, will the Dark Minstrel be stopped? Or will the cloaked-and-masked slayer succeed in ridding the campus of its undergrads?

For a decent bulk of the story, Tuno Negro can be a rather fun and engaging mystery that hams itself up with its attempts to sound serious and sophisticated talking about criminology and old century art and traditions. It boasts some fair stalk-and-chase scenes and murder set-pieces, a few including a claustrophobic murder inside a girl's bathroom's stall and a race against time with our leads trying to find a stalked friend using the killer's live footage feed, and I simply love the design of our killer minstrel and the concept of the legend their murders are centered on. 

On the cheesier side, there are some comic moments that had me smiling like a corpse dissection with gross results and one drug-dealing hippie guy (who looks like stretched-up Tom Savini, way too old to be a "college student") getting a handful of ass from the last lady he should be doing it to, and too his demise that somehow involves early CG blood serpents for reasons. In fact, Tuno Negro used a good bunch of these early day computerized transition cuts and visual effects, all of which I can say definitely didn't age well and can be a bit awkward to look at.

The fact that a lot of the characters surrounding Alex's clique are just annoying and most of the deaths felt relatively tame does hold me back from from enjoying this film any more, sadly, though none of them have the same mildly-frustrating sourness as this movie's finale; after all of that sleuthing, slashing and one softcore lovemaking, the payoff didn't feel satisfactory as the reveal to our Dark Minstrel's identity hardly made sense and why this killer managed to escape is just groan-worthy. Ignorance kills is a quote passed around more than once in the entire story, but they're definitely ignoring one to two plot points and loose ends in need of addressing and tying up before the film simply open-ends abruptly. I can't hate this final act completely as it still has a good dose of workable craziness, such as one of the inspectors going trigger happy on any dude in a minstrel suit because of a hunch he has of multiple Dark Minstrels working around the murders. (Even though you can clearly tell these minstrel boys are just running for their lives coz, I dunno, the fucking cathedral was set on fire?!

Tuno Negro (2001) is undoubtedly far off from being anywhere as smart or fun as the likes of Scream (1996) or Urban Legends (1998), but I'm not taking it against the movie and the people behind it for trying. It's understandably obscure, though if you see yourself as the easily forgiving type and you just happen to come across a copy of this film, feel free to ty it out.

1 female stabbed to death with a pair of dressmaker shears
1 female stabbed to death with a dagger
2 males and 1 female found slaughtered
1 male had his throat cut with a dagger
1 male stabbed to death with a dagger
1 female set on fire
1 male found murdered with a throat cut
1 female hanged
1 male set on fire
1 male shot
2 males shot
1 male stabbed to death with a dagger
1 male seen caught on fire
3 males shot
Total: 19

Friday, January 15, 2021

So I'm 29, now...

Happy Birthday to me, I guess?
But now that I brought that up, in a few months, this blog will be ten years old...

Now THAT is a countdown worth waiting for!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

It's a Dog Kills Dog World: Office (2015)

Office (Opiseu) (South Korea, 2015)
Rating: **
Starring: Ko Asung, Sung-Woo Bae, Eui-sung Kim

One night, after a long day working in his bureau, mild-mannered section chief Kim Byeong-Gook took a hammer and slaughters his entire family, disappearing not long once the unspeakable deed was done. Word spreads quickly at the office and investigating police, led by Detective Jong-Hoon, are hoping to find some form of lead as to what caused such a violent outburst.   

Matters are revealed to be rather complicated as Kim's colleagues don't appear very fond of the man and some even have their own little horror stories involving him, save one Lee Mi-Rye, an intern looked down by bullying coworkers and seems to know more about the suspect, though refusing to divulge further. Worse even is that CCTV footage shows Kim entering the office but never leaving since, which could mean that he's still around the workplace, hiding within the building and methodically killing off his co-workers one by one.
Playing more like a mystery thriller than a down-to-basic bodycounter, Office (2015) has the great grace of looking good and competent production-wise, though in terms of narrative, it definitely needs more than a good polish; it occasionally jumps back and forth to flashbacks of various accounts in order to work out its mystery, sometimes hinting events that could have triggered our person of interest to turn psycho, other times acting no more than red herrings, though the way this direction's handled drag out way longer than it is necessary, thus makes following the plot a little tedious and bogged down by too much dialogue. Add the matter that the mystery fails to be anywhere as exciting as it makes itself to be, nor is its satirical stab on office hierarchy really that clever, and you have a horror-thriller that's middling in its attempt to captivate. 

Office slow burns its way down to an eventual slasher finale, in which we get one good twist and a killing spree perpetrated by a killer with supernatural ambiguity. It's a massacre that is, in a sense, satisfying to sit through as the victims were these obnoxious people that had it coming for some time, but it feels cheapened from its lack of stronger onscreen carnage and the fact that it took so long to get into it. Nevertheless, it's a welcome climax that could have happened a lot sooner and I'm just thankful the movie rewarded our patience with a decently bloody send off. 

All in all, Office (2015) has a lot of misfires to make itself the pitch dark murder thriller it wanted to be, but I wouldn't completely call it a loss. It has its creepy moments, some workable jump scares and, again, a fine brutal finale, thus I rather find it okay enough to be seen at least just once.

1 female brained to death with a hammer (mostly implied)
1 elderly female had her neck broken with a hammer (mostly implied)
1 boy had his shoulder broken with a hammer, dies from internal bleeding (mostly implied)
1 male murdered, later found hanged with a throat cut
1 female knifed to death
1 male found dead from swallowed pills
1 male found slaughtered
1 female thrown off a building
1 male shot on the head
Total; 9

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Monday Morning Massacre: Kill Keith (2011)

Kill Keith (United Kingdom, 2011)
Rating: ***
Starring: Marc Pickering, Susannah Fielding, David Easter

A few years back, I took up Journalism as a college major and one of the many activities we did as a class was visit media stations to see the on-goings behind radio and TV shows. Fortunately, none of them involved lovelorn misfits and murderers armed with cereal boxes.

As the morning show program Crack of Dawn readies itself to bid goodbye to its arrogant co-host Cliff in order to swap in a celebrity replacement, young dim-witted newbie runner Danny aspires to be the show's next presenter in order to work with the other co-host half, Dawn, who he's in love with. This is easier thought than done as his attempts to earn his way to the top are not only hampered by Cliff himself, but also Danny's own stupidity and other weird encounters and mishaps around the studio. 

One of these mishaps, unfortunately, involves a mystery loon who starts targeting the potential replacements, threatening comedians, radio DJs and titular on-the-road co-host Keith ‘Cheggers’ Chegwin with an early grave courtesy of various food products and then some. Could Danny find a way to stop these murders in time to save his awkward clutter of a sappy love life before it gets messier? Or will he face a grisly soggy end at the hands of a demented Breakfast Cereal Killer?

Kill Keith (2011) is, in the whole of it, simply weird; from the marketing alone, it has little reference to Kill Bill (2003) in the actual movie despite the title alluding it for some reason, nor has it anything in common with Saw (2003) plot-wise in response to one of its tag lines. It does have the Richard & Judy shtick right in a way that it tries to satire early morning programs and the industry behind it, albeit clustering along a nutty sense of black comedy, a mad murder mystery and a hit-or-miss romantically cheesy subplot with a bumbling fool as a lead. It doesn't mix entirely well as the direction can get too over-the-wall in occasions, but the sheer absurdity of its tone and atmosphere does warrant a genuine chuckle and a fair intrigue from our part.

A few highlights include a gag wherein the audience are given the multiple choice questions to answer in exchange for cash prize, only no one ever gets it right despite the incredible easiness of it all. (The guy who writes them, Mr. Stokes is also a gem for how he curiously finishes one's sentences and how he eventually breaks into this adorkable feller who really values his job) Danny's daydream bits also have their little case of wonderment for how child-like they can get, which can be randomly amusing. And then there's the absurdly hilarious scene of one of the replacements, fearing for their safety, hiring a supposed look-alike that looks nothing like them (Like, really. The guy has grey hair and looks suspiciously like Tony Blackburn...), only for it to actually work as the killer starts targeting them!

The horror elements, in turn, are mostly pushed aside for the cheesy, low-brow comedy elements and I do have a feeling this may turn away audiences who are looking forward to a more slasher-centered story. I personally find little to argue about this as whatever kill scenes we do get have a decent splash of gore in it and the comedy it breeds still caters to my impish taste, but I wouldn't hold it against anyone who just doesn't get Kill Keith's brand of weirdness or its lack of promised solid horror. (Again, why compare this to Saw?) It's more or less a low-budget yet effortful, faux Edgar Wright-esque B-flick of varying genres, romantic exploits shining brighter compared to the slasher murders and tongue-in-cheek mystery on that sense and if that's something you can get by, then feel free to try this out! Not overly good, but entertaining enough especially when paired with a nice cold one by a pint.

1 male force fed with milk and porridge until he explodes
1 male had his head shredded with a cereal box full of razors
1 male electrocuted to death
1 male blown apart by a bomb
1 male caught on explosion
Total: 5

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Have A Dead Yapping New Year!: Steel Trap (2007)

Steel Trap (2007)
Rating: **
Starring: Georgia Mackenzie, Mark Wilson, Pascal Langdale

With a title like "Steel Trap", a video box art featuring a random woman caught in a buzzsaw-infested steel corridor, and a tag line promising Surviving Each Floor Is The Name Of The GameI ain't gonna blame you for expecting a low budget, Saw (2003)-inspired death game of a movie. Well, it has a game. And deaths. Not a lot of traps, though...

Set on New Year’s Eve, a party is held in a nearly-abandoned skyscraper and we see seven among the crowd receiving a rhyming text invite for what sounds like an exclusive event just a few floors down. Upon getting there, they all find a dinky kid's party set-up with cupcakes and streamers instead, as well as another rhyming clue; some of them find this odd, others wonder if they're in a scavenger hunt with a prize, one of them thinks they're being punk'd by a hidden camera show. 

But when one of them gets attacked and murdered by a man in a black mask and suit, it's soon clear to these yaps that they've been lured to a trap, with their cell signals blocked and all means of escaped rigged. As their number continues to snuff out one by one, they'll have no choice but to fight back or die trying figuring out why exactly they're being hunted.

As you can tell, Steel Trap (2007) is basically a run-in-a-mill slasher that sticks close to the classic stalk-and-stab formula, maybe a tad too much as its dose of mystery and elaborate survivalist thrills fail to make itself stand out more for how little effort went into them. It's more of the usual bodycount flair of unlikable and bland characters getting killed by a dime-a-dozen maniac, spending their time alive and in-between kills uttering horribly written dialogue, paired with awkward acting and disarrayed editing. It's a fact that undoubtedly unimpressed many expecting something in the spirit of Saw 2 (2005) or even Cube (1997) based on its misleading marketing, and perhaps those who like their slashers packing more punch as well. 

If the cornball characters and their equally corny lines and delivery weren't an odd enough clutter to sit through, the lackluster scares and murder scenes further question this movie's take on workable horror as they're presented with little sense of tension and exploit; they mostly go through a brooding cycle of capture, forget, exposition and then kill, repeating this plot flow like a bad mantra with hardly any bloodshed until the climactic reveal. In all fairness, though, I do love the manic, spoon-fed exposition-filled take of the climax, down to the final act with its very much expected twist and unexpectedly hammed up performance of our surprise mastermind, giving us some last minute worthwhile entertainment before the credits roll.

Perchance, if one is to see this just for the misplaced hilarity of it all, you could say that Steel Trap (2007) is still a fair run for a slasher, albeit very understandably forgettable. It has "they tried" written all over itself and the little effort they put in, the one that actually hits it right, could worth their while, at least as a single night's rental to poke and laugh at. Apart from that, we're really better off watching something else.

1 male knifed in the neck
1 female hanged on a noose
1 female gets a hatchet to her head
1 male brained to death against a floor
1 female had her heart cut out with a buzzsaw
1 male brained to death with a meat tenderizer
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
Total: 7

Friday, December 25, 2020

Festive Fears With The Family: Home For The Holidays (1972)

Home For The Holidays (1972)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Jessica Walter, Sally Field, Eleanor Parker 

On a stormy Christmas Eve, married Jo (Jill Haworth), alcoholic Freddie (Jessica Walter) and young Christine (Sally Field) are summoned back to their old country home by their sister Alex (Eleanor Parker) to help settle a disturbing family matter; their father (Walter Brennan) suspects that his current wife Elizabeth (Julie Harris) has been slowly poisoning him as she's rumored around town to have murdered her own husband the same way years ago. Paranoid and desperate to save himself, he orders his daughters to do the unspeakable: murder his wife!

With some of the sisters not being big fans of their patriarch and his condescending tongue, the women mostly scoff off his demands and see his ramblings as nothing more than senility finally getting to the old man. After one uneasy Christmas Eve dinner and an incident with Freddie getting suicidal-drunk, Jo decided to brave the storm and ride out to catch a flight back, only to be pitchforked dead by a figure in a yellow rainslicker and red gloves. It appears that there is indeed a murderer within the family, but could it be Elizabeth as their father suspected all along? Or perhaps another lunatic out to thin down the family?

As a made-for-TV proto-slasher, Home For The Holidays plays less like your standardized bodycounter filled with murdered teens and masked hulks, and more like a cozy Sunday afternoon whodunnit thriller packed with a few familiar horror tropes. Little slasher set-ups like a bonafide chase through the dark, rainy woods and the killer skulking around ala point-of-view shots do occasionally pop up, but majority of the play doesn't abide by the typical slasher trappings completely, thus the twisty surprises in its direction often come genuine and enticing, even if the story bogs down into TV soap territories more often than it needs to. Thankfully, the film doesn't overstay its welcome and gets the intrigue rolling as soon as the women are made aware of their father's plight, squeezing in Gothic sensibilities, Hitchcockian flair (Psycho (1960) screenwriter Joseph Stefano did wrote this) and an impressive performance from its casts to keep this murder plot exciting albeit the minimal, bloodless bodycount.

Hardly a complicated film to sit through, Home For The Holidays (1972) is a simple holiday thriller in the vein of paperback mystery novels, or at least a longer episode of Murder, She Wrote. If you fancy yourself a fun whodunnit that doesn't go all-out exploitative, this is a fair title to indulge in and enjoy during the Winter holidays or whenever it's raining outside. 

1 female stabbed in the back with a pitchfork
1 female pulled into a bathtub, drowned
1 male murdered, method unknown
Total; 3