Saturday, June 16, 2018

Here we go again, Mikey!

So it looks like Blumhouse will be releasing Halloween (2018) later this year and, by far, it looks...passable.

So much like the case of Halloween H20 (1998), Halloween (2018) will be ignoring the continuities set up by prior sequels and will be a direct sequel to the original, with Michael not only surviving being shot six times but also apprehended by the cops at the very night he came home. The film will then take place 40 years later, with Laurie Strode (played again by Jamie Lee Curtis) being a badass grandma who's been training herself for the night Michael returns which, of course, we all know has to happen.

On one hand, I am pretty excited to see one of my childhood monsters back in the big screen hacking up teenagers and other unfortunates but I can't help but feel worried. One of the franchises I know that does this kind of "continuity hopping" is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series and, seeing the line up of films they've made throughout the years, the results are more or less... varying. Then again, it's not like the Halloween franchise didn't have its own personal collection of duds (Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Rob Zombie's Halloween II (2010) and that overrated Halloween H20. I'm serious'about the latter) so I guess I should keep my hype low. Real low.

Here's hoping for a triumphant return, Son of Samhain! Just wished this movie got a little more creative with its title. I mean, seriously? Halloween (2018)? That'll be confusing conversation-wise...

Baby-Face And The Robertson Family: Star Time (1992)

Star Time (1992)
Starring: John P. Ryan, Michael St. Gerard, Maureen Teefy

Looking at this movie's VHS box, one cannot help assume Star Time is going to be an obscure early 90s slasher featuring an admittedly creepy looking baby-masked killer. As producer-writer-director Alexander Cassini have it though, this is going to be anything but a straight bodycounter.

Disturbed TV fanatic Henry Pinkle (Michael St. Gerard) decided to end his life one night after finding out his favorite TV sitcom The Robertson Family got cancelled, but gets a change of heart when a mysterious old TV veteran Sam Bones (John P. Ryan) talked him out of it. Promising TV stardom should Henry be determined enough to do what is needed to be done, Sam have him express his emotion through "art", which in turn involves a  half-face baby mask, a hatchet ad breaking into people's homes to murder them. In short, Sam turned Henry into a serial killer for reasons that sum up to, well, nobody really knows.

Caught in this madness is Henry's social worker Wendy (Maureen Teefy) who at first assumed she messed it up after receiving a videotape of Henry informing her of his suicide, but later learns he is not only alive and well, but also "working" at a studio for a personal "manager". Intrigued by this, as well as worried for Henry, she went on to look further into his new job only to find something's amiss and it's not too long before she discovers the bloody trails of hacked-up bodies and who could be what the media dub as "The Baby Mask Killer".

Developed from a 30-minute short made at the American Film Institute, Star Time is pretty ambitious for what it is. Mostly a neo-noir satire of television stardom and the lengths of some people would go just to get their 15 minutes of fame, it's very light in violence despite having some slasher tropes thrown in from the side, focusing strongly instead on Henry and the strangely macabre dilemma he got himself into, thus making this film closer to an art house drama suspenser. It works well enough with actors Gerard and Ryan's often paired performances as a broken and gullible psycho and a mysterious yet obviously demented mastermind respectively, weaved strongly along the movie's disjointed and nightmarish direction that hammers down its overall tone as a weird yet philosophically honest dark parable, but its upmost interesting strength lies within the fact that nothing is ever assured.

As Star Time strongly suggests that it mostly takes place within our psycho's perspective, a lot of the oddly placed jump cuts to flashbacks and a few creepy imagery were never made clear whether it happened for real or if it was all in Henry's head, this including most of the first half wherein it slowly burns and preps Henry up for his debut performance. Visual set-pieces including a room full of TV screens that enlightens Henry into murder work a level of eeriness despite the obvious low-budget put to these bits and a good bulk of the scripting from this half are even hammed a bit or two in a probable attempt to reflect Henry's TV obsession and lack of his own certainty as a person, resulting to an out-of-place cheesiness that does nothing but unsettle knowing the state of mind that may have created these scenes. The creepiness of this direction, though, falters a bit once our caring social worker ultimately gets roped in at the second half. While we have moments questioning the believably of a couple of scenes (Like Henry seen lying fully nude on the floor next to a sleeping Wendy. Did that really happen?), the fact that it now has an outsider looking into Henry's reality should warrant better dread, intrigue and scares as said outsider may become a potential victim.

This, of course, was the case for a good while with Wendy trying to rationalize the situation to the best of her understanding, but one would expect she'll react more differently once she saw the freshly hacked corpse of a woman in an apartment Henry has access to. In all things fair, she did suspect Henry at first, but horror cliches are abound and we get to spend a bulk of the climax of her being persuaded that somebody else apart from Henry is after her and doing murder, thus leading us to this movie's cat-and-mouse chase and remarkably dumb moment. Things, gratefully, went on full circle as Henry finds himself atop a building again, now donning his mask and in for the kill, his psyche completely gone loony. Its around this finale 'where we get some depressing implications to what we may have suspected all along, again presented to us in an artistically macabre manner with a message to boot.

At most, Star Time is an odd duck that plays its stream-of-consciousness plotting that definitely delivers, whether it works in your favor or not. Personally, the only other thing I wish this movie did is show at least some onscreen violence, especially since it is more or less preaching the dangers of fame and the terrible effects of obsession, whatever it may be. It would honestly be a far darker and effectively more memorable film with the shock value it could have provided by doing so but, with what we have right now, I guess the "did-he-did-he-not" ambiguity could work just as fine. Not entirely the best example of a psycho-drama but its obscurity should entice hardcore collectors and those who has an eye for strange cinema.

1 male hacked with a hatchet, murdered offcamera
14 or 15 victims mentioned murdered
1 female found hacked to death
3 males found hacked to death
1 male falls of a building, left for dead (?)
Total: 20 or 21 (?)

Friday, June 8, 2018

Behind The Walls. Beneath the Floors: The Unseen (1980)

The Unseen (1980)
Rating: ***
Starring: Stephen Furst, Barbara Bach, Sydney Lassick

Taking a bit of a break from her abusive footballer boyfriend, TV reporter Jennifer Fast (Barbara Bach) takes off with her two journalist friends to cover a Danish festival at some random Californian town. Much to their inconvenience, however, the festivities drew enough attention to overbook local hotels but a seemingly kind museum owner offers them a stay at his own now-closed Gothic hotel at the edge of the town where he lives with his wife. What he doesn't let on, though, is that something resides underneath the floors and basement of the house. Something unseen until it is too late...

On occasions, when the wind is right, my head is screwed tight and my bullshit-o-meter isn't running at max, I can be very forgiving when it comes to genre films so long as a certain title is entertaining in its own special way. Take The Unseen for instance; it's not the bloodiest slasher title to be released and the story is pretty much Psycho (1960) with a slightly sleazier Hitchcockian feel and a modest bodycount, but the oddly twisted yet simplistic story honestly works for me, balancing between our likable would-be victims and their seemingly disturbed hosts with soap opera quality direction and scripting, all the while treating us with some workable suspense and, frankly, some decent murder set-pieces that didn't rely much on onscreen gore.

I guess the very reason why this film failed to most people's eyes is that while most of the positive notes can be found at the first half of the film, the second half threw a strange curveball that none expected and little are too happy about. Without giving away much, the titular unseen is finally, well, seen and it's barely threatening (pathetic even), leading us to a payoff that pretty much have us watching what's practically a giant toddler terrorizing an unwilling babysitter. Another villain does take its place in the form of Sydney Lassick's character who, in the midst of the story, turns out to be pretty scummy and off his rockers for his scandalous relationship with his "wife" and ultimately ends the former threat with much mushiness as Old Yeller's death before going hatchet happy on our Bach final girl.

The pacing for this last act can get tedious for those expecting a bit much from the twist, but I somehow find catering to my level of strangeness thus I didn't really mind the giant tub of man-child scenes, especially when Bach does a decent understandably frightened victim and the stalk-and-hunt that follows it aren't all that bad. In the end, The Unseen wraps up nicely with a bloody death and a bitter final shot, closing an uneven yet still decent horror movie that oneself earnestly appreciate.

True, it's far from being a hidden gem for most people and I perfectly understand their views of this film being underwhelming, but I think The Unseen still delivers what could as a slasher flick and it at least tried to offer something a bit different and creepier for its twist. May it work on your favor or not, one can at least agree this film is worth a rental or two.

1 female had her head caught on a floor grate, implied crushed
1 male body seen with a knife in its throat
1 female had her face repeatedly smashed against floor grate
1 male gets a boarded nail against his temple
1 male shot with a shotgun
Total: 5

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Patchwork Nightmare: The Cinderella (2011)

The Cinderella (Nang Phi) (Thailand, 2011)
Rating: ***
Starring: Victoria Coates, Pattaranan Deeratsamee, Wasit Pongsopha

I think I best remember Thailand for three slasher movies so far: the Final Destination-inspired killer phone number bodycounter 999-999999 (2002), the cheesy is-it-supernatural-or-not-slasher fare Scared (2005) and the kinda-metaphorical surrealist horror flick Sick Nurses (2007). Perhaps it's a fad or even a part of the culture, but I kinda notice how all of these have that little peck of supernatural taste to them so it came little to no surprise for me that this little addition to my fairly fun collection of Thai-slashers dabbles with the powers from the beyond.

We start the film with a very popular hunk getting hounded by girls as he leaves for a date. Things were going just fine until the guy drugs his date and ties her on a bed next to the rotting corpse of his sister. Turn out the dude's into rituals and he's planning on sacrificing her to make a resurrection spell work, but just before he could do it...he couldn't. Not with the paid actors doing better than he is.

Turns out the whole opening is nothing but a film shooting and our lead guy, Rashane, isn't exactly well-known for having a great personality, but everybody basically tolerates his big ego as his star power is more or less the reason the main producers are backing up the film. But when a work hazard results to Rashane getting shot in the eye with a crossbow and ran down by a van dead, the big wigs behind the movie decided to give a young co-star named Warut a chance to play the main role and, with the help of a mysterious acting coach whose methods include hypnotism (?!), he manages not only to nail it but also outdo Rashane as a star.

This, though, isn't sitting well with Rashane's occultist mother. Seeking vengeance against the people who in her mind tainted her son's good name, she revives Rashane using ancient dark magic and have him hunt and murder the staffs and cast one by one at the boutique resort where the filming is taking place.

Borderlining between torture porn and supernatural zombie slasher, The Cinderella comfortably dabbles with black magic and gory bodycount when not attempting to satirize the filming business with extremely obnoxious actors, overly superstitious family members of said actors and experimental acting coaches. It's nothing too deep or clever, not with its quick pacing killing off what little extra characterization from the casts and further plot thickening it could have gone through, the movie instead cheeses its way through its unconventional dilemma before unleashing a rather strange looking slasher committing equally strange and (often torturous) murders. With this, the story is pretty simple despite the crazy premise and hammy scripting, but the extremely graphic slayings to come later may cater well for those looking for a strange yet simple slasher about something that basically looks like Silence of The Lamb's Buffallo Bill's skin suit brought to life. There's a somewhat decent explanation to why our killer ended up looking like this (apart from the part he got mangled in that fatefully deserving car crash) which ties nicely to a surprise reveal and twist that are, again like the rest of the movie, coated with as much ham and cheese as it can allow.

Goofy fun and stomach-churningly graphic, The Cinderella's "seen it, done that" level of story telling may sit well for some audience, but for those who are looking for something a tad better than just another torture porn/slasher hybrid may just easily pass this off in a heartbeat. Personally, I enjoyed this little number for some genuine laughs and satisfying my little bloodlust for gory torture and onscreen death, but it offers very little else apart from a good twist so I find it as nothing else but a fine but guilty pleasure for me that I may get around seeing again perhaps after a couple of years or so out of curiosity or boredom.

1 female corpse seen (film)
1 male shot in the eye with a crossbow and ran over by a car
1 male had his skullcap sliced open with a bonesaw
1 male gets a billhook through his head
1 male had his back flayed and salted, killed
3 males found murdered
1 female had her silicones cut out from her chest with a scalpel
1 male shot with a crossbow
1 male stabbed in the chest with an arrow
Total: 11

Saturday, May 26, 2018

TV Terror: Wolf Creek (2016 TV Series)

Wolf Creek (2016 TV Series)
Starring: John Jarratt, Lucy Fry, Dustin Clare

I understand how turning a film franchise like Wes Craven's Scream into a TV series sounds like a passable idea since the movies' murder mystery premise can be easily translated into a weekly small screen whodunit outing. (With varying results) But what about Wolf Creek? A slasher franchise that, so far, focuses on the murderous misadventures of a racist, sexist, foul-mouthed serial killing pig shooter from the land down under, played by veteran Aussie actor John Jarratt? Well, easy! Let the ole' pig shooter do his business while mostly focus the entire mini-series on a survivor's long perilous journey to get even.

On vacation in Australia with her family, 18-year old Eve Thorogood didn't see it coming: the man her family invited for dinner for saving their son from a croc earlier that day turns out to be a serial killer named Mick Taylor and he's making a quick work offing this family of tourists after feigning friendship, cutting daddy's throat, throwing a bowie knife to mum's face and shooting little brother with a rifle. He soon chases Eve to the outbacks, seemingly shooting her dead and assuming the crocs got to her body when he couldn't find it, though, unfortunately for Mick, the latter wasn't the case.

Surviving the attack, Eve gets rescued by a couple of birdwatchers the next day and finds herself hospitalized while her family's murder gets assigned to a detective Sullivan Hill who have been investigating a series of similar murders apparently committed by the same outback boogeyman for years. Wanting revenge for her loss, Eve steals a folder full of Hill's cases, buys a van and sets off to follow the bodycounting breadcrumbs left behind by Mick.

With only six episodes to follow through, this incarnation of Wolf Creek made a wise decision to make itself less about Mick and focus more on Eve's travels across the Land Down Under, facing other things that might kill her such as animal bites, animal traps, being wrongfully accused of carrying drugs, horny and vengeful biker gangs, and even another murderer hiding in plain sight. Each episode felt like a story of its own set within a larger plot, centering on one of these dangers in pure Ozploitation fashion thus developing the parts of the Wolf Creek universe that didn't get to be explored in the movies.

This direction help develop Lucy Fry's character Eve as a protagonist as she goes through these hardships and deadly close calls with expected and unexpected results, making friends and enemies alike as she defends herself and save a few people she comes across, thus making her more dimensional than a typical slasher heroine. Her journey, though littered with danger, is as adventurous as it can get, littered with colorful characters that varies in importance and purpose in the entire story, as well as a decent dash of intrigue, dark humor and some hardcore action.

On the other hand, the horror elements rest solely on Mick being the sadistic and foul-mouthed evil on two legs that he is from the films and, despite his limited appearances until the last few episodes where he eventually closes in on Eve, it works mainly on the fact that there's a little role reversal in play in which he finds himself hunted down for a change and he sets to fix this as soon as possible, in any way he can. The ensuing carnage first starts typically as Mick, as sure as hell that he's getting aware with another tourist purge, murdering folks (and inconveniencing some) as he always do and it is as brutal as it can get for TV, which meant we don't get a lot of gore and at least some of them occur offcamera but the deaths are passable and troubling in their own way. Once he figured out Eve is after him, his presence got considerably unnerving as you'll never know how close he is to catching our avenging heroine first or whether she will even have the chance against him now that he more or less have eyes at the back of his head, watching out for her.

Now as good as this series can get, it is not without it's own flaws and though some of these would be my own nitpicking, one can agree that giving Mick a backstory to what can be summarized as his first kill felt unnecessary and adds little to the character. If any, it kinda killed off some of the mystery to who or what he is as, in all honesty, one cannot get away with this much murder in this day and age., nor can anyone survive the treatment he got from both the films and Eve in the end of this mini-series. There is a matter of the supernatural being introduced in the last few shots of the finale but it personally felt misplaced and, if hinted to be anything connected to Mick, just a too easy of an explanation as to how our villain operates as a slasher character.

All in all, the small number of episodes perfectly paced what is technically the best of Ozploitation cinema presented in TV format. Among the many slasher series I've seen, Wolf Creek the series is a masterfully crafted tale of a slasher victim's outback odyssey of revenge tops them all hands down, so much so that I basically watched the entire series in a matter of two days after and before going to work. It is just that good. So for all of those who are yet to see this series, I high recommend this hack'n slash drama for your viewing pleasure and to quench any need for small screen bodycounting mayhem.

1 crocodile shot on the head (S1, E1)
1 male stabbed with a bowie knife, throat cut (S1, E1)
1 female gets a thrown bowie knife to the face (S1, E1)
1 boy shot with a rifle (S1, E1)
1 female murdered, severed hand seen (S1, E1)
1 male stabbed in the groin with a bowie knife (S1, E3)
1 male murdered offcamera (S1, E3)
1 male found castrated and hung by the legs, bled to death (S1, E3)
1 male suffers a heart attack, killed in vehicular crash (S1, E3)
2 males seen dead from vehicular crash (S1, E3)
2 males killed in explosion (S1, E3)
1 male shot (S1, E3)
1 male shot with a rifle (S1, E4)
1 female brained with a hammer (S1, E4)
1 female body found rotting (S1,E4)
1 male mentioned shot, suicide (S1, E4)
1 female captured, presumably killed (S1, E4)
1 male found with a throat cut (S1, E5)
1 male found beheaded (S1, E5)
1 male skeleton found (S1, E6)
1 male shot dead with a rifle (flashback) (S1, E6)
1 girl pushed down a small cliff (flashback) (S1, E6)
1 male repeatedly stabbed with a bowie, bled to death (S1, E6)
Total: 25

A Little Message From A Fan of The Merc With A Mouth

Hey, True Believers! Still bummed out from Thanos' rampage back at Infinity War? Still crying over the fact that most of your favorite superheroes just turned into space dust? Still in that fetal position after seeing Peter Parker get terrified about "not being ready to go"?

No? Well, #$@! I'm still gonna shove to you MY cure for that noise!

Deadpool 2, mates! All the funny dumbassery, violent and explosive action, and cool characters to be killed off in one mercilessly dark yet hilarious scene featured in a film about the coolest Merc With A Mouth there is! If you're yet to see it, well, what are you doing reading this dumb post/excuse to update this blog? Go watch the dumb movie, you!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hardly Ever Missed, Did I?: Targets (1968)

Targets (1968) (AKA "Before I Die")
Rating: ****
Starring: Tim O'Kelly, Boris Karloff, Nancy Hsueh

If there will be films out there showing the transition of cinematic monsters from folklore ghouls such as vampires and mummies, to maniacal men of slasher flicks, Targets is one of them.

In one of its two parallel plots, Boris Karloff plays a semi-autobiographical character named Byron Orlok, an aging veteran horror actor who wanted to retire, believing he and the roles he plays are outdated as there are far more horrible things people can be afraid of like mass killings and war. This, though, isn't sitting well with most of his colleagues, seeing his claims as either a horrible joke or Orlok just not being satisfied with the current project he is working in, much to the concern of his secretary Jenny and a young script writer named Sammy Michaels. In the end, Orlok agrees to at least make a final in-person promotional appearance at a local drive-in theater for his fans before leaving Tinseltown for good.

In the meantime, we have Bobby Thompson, a clean-cut insurance agent and Vietnam War veteran living in the suburban San Fernando Valley area with his family. Underneath his quiet demeanor, though, is a deeply disturbed gun collector just waiting for the right time to put his sharpshooting skills to the test on some worthy targets. One morning, he finally gets to do what he wanted murdering his wife, his mother, and a delivery boy at his home before spending the afternoon on a killing spree, shooting people in passing cars and, eventually, at the very same drive-in where Orlok is to make his appearance that evening.

More of a thriller than horror, Targets is an interesting fiend of a movie that tackles the subject of human monsters and their place within society, particularly in cinema and the then-ongoing Vietnam war. On one end (and perhaps at a first glance), one might draw the conclusion this film will be nothing more than to show jarring scenes of a madman hunting innocent people down like deers but with Karloff's half of the film focusing more on his character's career and his point of view of what truly makes a horror film scary, this title sides a tad closer to being a dark, modest and quite clever satire of what can be considered terrifying within the ever-evolving modern horror media, thus bridging itself to the unnerving shootout happening in media res, perpetrated by the nihilistic and psychologically damaged.

Amazingly, both halves of Targets work quite well thanks to the strengths they're focusing on; with Karloff's half, it's mostly character study so it definitely helps that his role's a fun one with his "old timer" wit and somewhat snarky remarks for his own works, as well as the fact that his character kinda has a point to his opinion concerning his job as a character actor and the state of horror in that day and age. It also helps that he's surrounded with a decent amount of fair performances by the likes of Peter Bogdanovich and Nancy Hsueh as an enthusiastic script writer and well-meaning assistant respectively, adding some layers within the Orlok character through his interactions with them, thus further shaping some backdrop to his consideration for retirement.

In contrast, we don't exactly get to see much why our gunman spirals into the need to commit his crime despite the presence of dialogue and interaction at his part of the plot. Played by Tim O'Kelly with much  normalcy and quiet demeanor, Bobby spends a fair amount of his screentime being a guy who can easily blend in with the crowd, spending time with his wife and family all the while keeping up with a little collecting hobby. The only bits of red flags here and there are that young Bob here is a Vietnam vet, his collection happens to be of guns and he, at one point, aimed his rifle at his own father during a shootout session. We can tell at that point that he's not right in the head but the lack of further explanation and the way he pulls off this rather near-realistic shootout as if it's simply a thing he has to do (despite he himself not understanding why as well) makes up quite a lot for Target's lack of exploitative blood work and gore for just how depressing and uneasy these shootouts can get. (One scene had us looking at the aftermath of a shot victim in which their own child sits next to them, crying.)

The only matter here that I think could have gone better was the ending; with Bobby now terrorizing the same drive-in where Byron is at, our gunman was soon forced to make a run for it when he realizes he's outnumbered, coming across Karloff's character as he approaches to confront the madman. Without giving away much, let's just say the downfall felt too quick, reducing a killer to a sniveling coward just after a few blow and leaving Byron to question himself if that was what he was afraid of? I guess it can be seen as the film's attempt to further ground the killer in a more realistic plight, if only they didn't show him later smiling, being escorted to a cop car while remarking how he "hardly ever missed", thus pinching a slight side of misplaced cheese and dark humor.

With all of this, Targets is clearly not a slasher film, but it is an interesting watch that says quite a lot regarding "human monsters" in cinema and might as well be one of the few titles out there to drive horror cinema to the modern era. Whether you look at it as a spree killing horror movie or a cinematic satire, this is one recommendable title I encourage all true fright fans to see.

1 female corpse seen (film)
2 males drowned in flood (film)
1 female shot
1 female shot
1 male shot
1 passenger shot with a rifle
1 passenger shot with a rifle
1 passenger shot with a rifle
1 female shot with a rifle
1 passenger shot with a rifle
1 driver shot with a rifle
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male shot on the face with a rifle
1 male dies from a rifle wound
1 male shot on the head with a rifle
1 male seen shot on the neck with a rifle
Total: 17