Saturday, February 11, 2017

It's old news, but...

I can't pass a reaction to this...

Image result for sobbing gif

Shop Smart and Drop Dead: Intruder/Night Crew: The Final Checkout (1989)

Intruder/ Night Crew: The Final Checkout (1989)
Rating: ****
Starring: Elizabeth Cox, Renée Estevez, Dan Hicks

From your friends at The Evil Dead franchise, one of the best late 80s slasher in existence!

It was closing time at the Walnut Lake Market when the fresh-out-of-prison ex-boyfriend of one of the checkers shows up and angrily confronts his gal for leaving him. The argument goes sour and the con went for the hysterics, prompting the rest of the staff to break up the fight, scuffle with the angry jailbird and scare him away. Cops are soon called and, with the threat seemingly gone, the night seems to be going for a calmer note, that is until the store owners break the bad news to their young employees that the store will be sold and they are all going to lose their jobs within a month.

Rightfully upset at first, the gang eventually tries to come in term with the store's fate and the fact that they'll be job hunting soon, continuing with their night restocking goods, cutting up produce and counting the day's profits. Unknown to them, this might as well be their final night as someone with a large butcher knife is doing his own little hunt, eager to put his weapon through and in places that'll bleed...

Story-wise, Intruder is the kind of movie that tries to make something out of the basic slasher formula which, by the time of this film's release in the late 80s, was already struggling to find a strong following as multitudes of direct-to-video titles and big name horror sequels kinda churned the subgenre way too many times to be considered fresh and enjoyable, if not degraded in quality. In a way, the movie does succeed at sparking something worthwhile with it's execution, making use of many crazy visual gimmicks and black humor borrowed from the Evil Dead movies, a gory and cheesily fun supernatural franchise in which Intruder's director, Scott Spiegel, had been a part of in more ways than one. It's a welcome influence that does the movie good in terms of dishing out popcorn friendly nightmares, focusing on the grim and bloody that fits any slasher from the golden early 80s, all the while tapping in a few late 80s cheese for those extra chuckles.

With some pretty decent character moments during the early parts of the film past the opening angry Ex attack, I also like how the movie took time to slow down and catch up with the casts who are enjoyably likeable with their bond and zany personalities. The gang are mostly devoid of the cliched horror victim labels ("mostly" as they constantly break the "don't investigate the weird noise" rule) and they actually act like regular and relatable working young adults, something that adds effect to their cathartic demises once the titular intruder begins his chopping spree and give us some of the best stalk-and-murder set-pieces to be featured along many late 80s bodycounters.

Using gruesome effects that are some parts hammy, many parts practical and overall disturbing, the bloody deaths are also the best reason to see Intruder. There's a sadistic temperament to how these murders were executed and shot, with many of the scenes working on a momentum to keep us anticipating when will the blade enter flesh, if not lingering on candid shots of severed heads being crushed or sliced in half, screaming expressions frozen unto them. It's the kind of gore and shock value that made censors squeamish and many concerned parents shocked by it's unrelenting brutality, so much so that even in this day and age, I often find myself in morbid awe with one or two of the movie's head oriented killings.

I knew about Intruder through my first HorrorHound magazine, in which the issue talked about their top 20 underrated slasher titles, among many other bodycount related topics such as a healthy insight into giallo cinema and a retrospective covering John Carpenter's Halloween and it's franchise. Intruder was ne of the 20 underrated titles and you could say this has a nostalgic impact on me as one of the few titles I managed to see early on during my "slasher renaissance" (I was a zombie and kaiju nut prior to my then newly found obsession for dead teenager flicks) and one that earned my liking for doing a lot of splattery things right on my book. This is still, of course, subjective, as many may not agree with the film's practically basic plotting or slow moments, nor can they all be easily swayed by the movie's crazy camera work (and to personally include my own nitpick, I would have actually given this movie a higher rating should they actually stuck with the cooler title "Night Crew: The Final Checkout"), but as I often believe that every movie has it's audience and Intruder's strong cult following is a fair proof of that and I am dang proud to be a part of it.

As one of the last great slashers to be released in the 80s, Intruder does a majority of slasher fans proud for trying to breath some life back to the then-dying horror subgenre and still hold up pretty well after all these years. Should you wish to try and seek out this movie if you hadn't yet, I may warn you about the many cut versions released out there with loads of the gore severed out of the print, but in this day and age, I'm sure you can figure that out and I do hope you have fun with Intruder as much as I did. If not, well, I do think my band saw hadn't sliced meat for a long time now and it may need victims...

1 female stabbed with a butcher knife
1 male had his head chopped with a butcher knife
1 male ran through the gut with a butcher knife
1 male had his head crushed with a hydraulic press
1 had his face shoved to a meat hook
1 male had his head bisected through a band saw
1 male stabbed on the back with a butcher knife
1 male found decapitated
Total: 8

Yep, still a cooler title.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Hills Have Caste: NH10 (2015)

NH10 (India, 2015)
Rating: ****
Starring: Anushka Sharma, Ravi Beniwal, Siddharth Bharadwaj

It's not too often that I find myself sitting down with a Bollywood slasher nowadays and I could blame this on the fact that I don't always have the patience to watch 2 to 3 hours of familiar hack-and-stab which could have been easily squeezed into measly 90 minutes, nor do I have the willingness to reach for the fastforward button from time to time just to run past the musical numbers and get into the really juicy bits. However, this isn't to say I am not willing to try a title once in a while, especially if these risks lead to something as great as this gritty thriller, NH10.

After encountering a gang of muggers one night she drove home alone, a shaken Meera decided to travel with her husband Arjun to a resort outside their city as a mean both to ease herself  from the incident and celebrate her birthday with her loved ones. En route, however, the couple witness a group of men attacking and hauling up a girl and a boy into their van in front of an entire crowd on broad daylight. Sicken that no one tried to stop this, Arjun decided to play hero and tails the van in hopes of scaring the group into letting the young couple go, only for him and his wife to get caught as they stumble upon a brutal honor killing, with the men responsible having no plans on letting any witnesses leave alive.

What soon follows is a lengthy cat-and-mouse chase between a family of hooligans and our two leads, a premise that may not sound too original with the many survival horror flicks out there like Australia's Wolf Creek (2005) or UK's overrated Eden Lake predating this film. Now, I will not say that this is an issue for me as, should it was, I would've bashed all of the backwoods slashers out there for being too similar with Friday the 13th, but instead I will have to acknowledge the elephant in the room which is some concerns I have with one of our protagonists; though the talents portraying Meera and Arjun, Anushka Sharma and Neil Bhoopalam respectively, did a decent job with their roles as a couple who just wanted to do the right thing and getting paid for it with death and torment, I still found one of them disappointingly falling in the dumb horror victim trope with their decision to tail a van full of kidnappers, not really knowing what these men were capable of. Granted their intentions were good, the fact that the men they are sizing up were hardened enough to beat a pair of teenagers in front of a frightened crowd without much hesitation should have said enough that these guys were not to be screwed around and the issue could have been handled better. Nevertheless, at least the other lead was worth rooting for at a certain point and, this being a horror movie, we wouldn't have something to watch if everyone acted smart, right?

Thankfully and ironically, what instead made the ordeal workably scary (in turn making the story interesting) was the kind of villains used; inspired by real life cases of honor killings (essentially the  2007 Manoj-Babli honour killing case), the killers featured in NH10 were are not a clan of powertool-wielding cannibals, nor are they mute masked maniacs killing for fun, but is instead a family governed by a radical religious mindset which they believe puts them in the right and that their heinous crimes are acceptable among their community. You could say they are another variation of religiously inclined killer cults found in movies like Children of the Corn (1984), Southern Gothic (1988) or the near-Apocalyptic End of The Line (2007), but unlike these films in which their radical brutality borders being cheesy and/or outlandish, NH10's approach to its antagonists were comparibly more subtle and sticks pretty close to a level of believability, possibly reflecting the same kind of heinous nightmares that could have occurred to the incidents that inspired this movie.

Working well with the villains is the survivalist element of the story, which in turn takes a pretty decent advantage of the rural desert location and the steady yet well-paced direction that takes up enough time emphasizing the near hopelessness of their predicament. With hardly any soundtrack and an evident lack of cheese and humor, it's brings out the right kind of bleak tone and harrowing intensity as we see barely anyone who can aid our leads, and should there be any, we often can tell they're not to be trusted.

Once the second act begins, this is when NH10 begins to exploit it's horror premise as, by then, one lead is forced to leave the other behind due to a grave injury and embarks on an otherwise hectic race against time to find help. The "slasher" elements eventually kicks in these parts, though done in a reversed role similar to You're Next (2011) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978), with a wronged survivor finishing off their tormentors in a manner not uncommon to many new age slasher movies. Blood and guts are spilled, much to my delight, but I can tell some may see this as a curveball approach to what could have been a more thought out climax, tackling the honor killing social commentary perhaps a tad better rather than finishing the film with a typical hack-a-thon. Still, it's bound to cater to some people (such as, again, myself) so I wouldn't consider this that big of a flaw, especially if the last minutes pack all the juiciest kills and, by then, we probably have see enough misogynistic spatting and sadistic backwards zealousness to properly root for our survivor in their immediate thirst for vengeance.

NH10 is certainly my kind of horror thriller and one I am quite happy to see effectively out of Bollywood. While sort of lacking in originality and the social commentary was kinda dropped at the last minute, the execution was strikingly intense enough to forgive any shortcomings and I couldn't ask for a scarier and more thrilling Indian horror flick than this title. I say give this one a taste should you ever have the chance and buckle up for an exploitation ride, Bollywood style!

1 female shot on the head
1 male beaten to death with a steel rod
1 male shot
1 male shot
1 male stabbed on the eye with a pen
1 male found dead with a head wound
1 male ran down with a car
1 male crushed to death against a wall with a car
1 male crash lands head first to a stone step
1 male stabbed to death with a steel rod
Total: 10

Friday, January 27, 2017

Nightmares From A Sleeping Mind: Sleepwalker (1984)

Sleepwalker (Britain, 1984)
Rating: ***
Starring: Joanna David, Bill Douglas, Nickolas Grace

Not to be confused with Stephen King's 90s monster flick Sleepwalkers, this odd 80s mid-feature slasher hails all the way from Britain and tells the story of two couples going out for dinner, in which they discuss their businesses and personal lives in a not so chummy way. The night soon ends with the group staying over their host's home for some drinks and shut eye, only to fall victim to a hatchet wielding murderer who might be one of them.

While the plot sounds considerably easy, Sleepwalker's execution is anything but as the overall result almost didn't feel like a slasher until the last few minutes in which the murders finally happen, spending a good span of its 50 minute run focusing instead on the characters and their interactions with one other. It's a direction as tricky to follow as the characters' discussions and those expecting a bloodbath from the first minute to the last will get their patience tested as these scenes can get a tad too drawn out and tedious.

I cannot deny, however, the brooding atmosphere created throughout the flow of the short, as little hints were given to what may come at the end and the lengthy conversations somehow help build the uneasy and brooding tone the further we follow the story, turning what should have been a normal gathering into a series of passive aggressive verbal attacks littered with cruel insults, emotional abuse and hidden agendas. Watching these scenes can indeed be a chore and a nightmare of another kind for some, but the payoff was kinda well worth waiting through basically one large red herring as the shocking graphic killings comes strangely satisfying. (if not also laughable with the the victims' "theatrical" acting) and the twist, though nothing entirely big, just worked for me with its simplistic shock value and how the last few shots were quite disturbing in a surrealist way.

Sleepwalker is certainly an strange one with it's Grand Guignol-esque production, utilizing an artsy visual style with its use of nightmare logic, blue gel lighting and obscure camera work, best seen once the carnage finally takes fold. It's more the reason why I like this short and though I still stand on my claim that the lengthy banters could have been trimmed shorter, I can definitely recommend this to my fellow slasher completists and lovers of rare and obscure cinema, particularly those patient enough to experience something that walks between the lines of familiar and not-so-familiar horror tropes. Uneasy at first, brutal at the last, Sleepwalker can surprise and entertain in most of the right buttons.

1 male disemboweled (dream)
1 male cut to death with a knife
1 female hacked on the head with a cleaver
1 male hacked on the chest with a cleaver
Total: 4

Friday, January 20, 2017

Halloween Monster Crash: The Barn (2016)

The Barn (2016)
Rating: ***
Starring: Mitchell Musolino, Will Stout, Lexi Dripps

Three demonic killers. Two unlikely heroes. One town to save from eternal damnation. Exciting? Could be.

Opening in 1959 Halloween, at the small town of Wheary Falls, we watch as a pastor gives his good blessings to his young mass-goers before they go trick-or-treating, warning them that a certain barn not too far from town is off limits. Naturally, one of the kids blows this warning off and, encountering the sinister forces that reside in said barn, pays the grave price of getting a pickaxe buried into her head.

Thirty years later at the neighboring town of Helen's Valley, bestfriends Sam and Joshua are two fun-loving teenage pranksters who, after being scolded by their town's church head and Sam's father for a Mischief Night gag-gone-wrong, are starting to dawn on the inevitable fact that their years of being immature delinquents are numbered once high school ends. Thinking they should end their last Halloween with a bang, Sam and Josh plans to attend a rock concert a couple of towns over the following night, as well as have some fun trick or treating for some sweets along the way.

Inviting a few friends to tag along, the duo's trip makes a momentary stop at Wheary Falls where Sam's expertise on all Halloween related easily recognizes our infamous barn. In the light of the holiday and to temp if the legends are true, the group makes a fatal mistake of beckoning the three demons, unleashing them from hell to murder and devour their unsuspecting victims once again.

Shot to resemble a late 80s horror movie, The Barn certainly captures the same nostalgic low budget affair that granted enough cheese and grue to keep fans of vintage horror satisfied, if not bumping into a few issues here and there.

The first hour of the film bleeds pure slasher-monster hybriding, with your typical kids splitting up and screwing with each other, leading to dumb choices and sex scenes paid gravely with a sharp tool down their gullets. Perhaps the only deviation that made The Barn stand out for me is that it spent enough of its running time building around our two teenage heroes with as much charm as any awkwardly geeky protagonists in a cheesy horror flick, with a side of religious crisis, low-key coming-of-age babble and a nerdy look into Halloween as a holiday which can be a hit-or-miss. Actors Mitchell Musolino and Will Stout plays Sam and Josh respectively in a style that comes in between fair and wooden, but their characterization and scripting works well with the tone of the movie so their pressence and interaction with the rest of the cast (who a few tried to be more than two-dimensional in terms of scripting) were a decent watch even when the monsters finally come out.

And speaking of monsters, the slasher elements got kicking after a third into the film and for a while, I enjoyed what I was seeing. By doing a childish ritual involving three knocks and a rhyme during Halloween, the titular barn turns into a portal between Hell and Earth, unleashing a trio of demons who each comes with their own unique lore: The Boogeyman is a ghoulish miner armed with iron fingernails and a mean pickaxe that he also uses to tunnel from Hell and back, Hallowed Jack is a pumpkin-headed axe-wielding creature that can revive itself by possessing jack-o-lanterns, and The Candycorn Scarecrow is a living husk man with razor sharp candy corn for teeth. I love how each of these killers look so different from one another and how whenever they are on screen, it bounds to deliver blood deaths and delicious gore, so much so that I am willing to believe that a good chunk of the budget went to the practical effects used for these manic moments. I do, sadly, wished there were more scenes in which our monsters get to kill off folks individually rather than as a group, as I felt their lore were disappointingly underused to the point that the film could have go on without it, in turn almost simplifying these villains into your everyday slashers that just so happen to have really cool designs. (and for some of them, immortal on a condition)

This, sadly, is only one of the two main concerns I have with The Barn and the other was the last half hour. After a wonderfully brutal (and wonkily scored) massacre that leaves a good bulk of the town's population dead and eaten, the film then tries to have our two protagonists properly act out their roles as heroes and fight the monsters they unknowingly unleashed. This should have been a pretty rad direction and I was hoping that it could lead to some decent fights and perhaps more bodycount, but the action instead were as cheap as the budget could allow it, with some of the choreography being a chore to sit through and most of the monsters getting defeated way too easy for my taste. If that's not bad enough, there was also an unnecessary twist thrown in to give the film a more supernatural/religious taste, something that I felt slowed the film down and wasted too much time that could have been used on better scenes featuring our heroes, the monsters, or both.

Still, I can't really say that I hated the last 30 minutes or so of the film, since the last fight was as close to the kind of man-vs-monster brawl out I was wishing to see and the ending has this bittersweet touch to it. In fact, these little gripes didn't deter me much from enjoying The Barn, not with its likable leads, cool monster concepts and the generous amount of splattery grue. It's quality definitely shows the kind of monetary restrains the producers had to work with but, again, the tone, style and gimmick of the movie as a late 80s horror throwback managed to use these restrictions in the movie's advantage and I love overall results, more even when it managed to snag some fun cameos like Linnea Quigley (Of Night of the Demons (1988)) and Ari Lehman (the original Jason Voorhees). Perhaps not as much as I wanted to love it when I first saw its trailer, but with a better budget, The Barn could have been a greater movie for me.

The Barn was well worth my patience as a decent monster/slasher hybrid, a fair and fun addition to my ever growing collection of all things bodycounting. With the kind of ending we are given at the end, I do wish there will be more of Sam, Joshua and, of course, our three Halloween demons, but until then, I say give this one a shot should you ever get a chance! Perhaps you'll like it more than I did. Perhaps you already do!

1 girl gets a pickaxe to the head
1 male bashed to death with a rock hammer
1 female had an arm slashed off with a sickle, skewered
1 female hacked on the head with an axe
1 female clawed through the head
1 female hacked with an axe
1 male had his face flayed off
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male impaled with a pitchfork
1 male hacked on the head with an axe
1 male stabbed on the eyes with drumsticks
1 male had his face crushed with a length of chord until eyes popped out
1 male hacked with a pickaxe
1 male drowned in a bob-an-apple barrel
1 female bitten on the neck
1 male scalded with boiling soup
1 male had his heart ripped out
1 male slashed on the gut, disemboweled
1 male clawed on the face
1 male knifed on the head
1 female had her head crushed
1 female decapitated
1 female gets broken glass thrown and pierce into her face
1 male had his neck broken
1 male stabbed on the eye with a stalk
A number of victims killed offcamera
1 male disemboweled with a knife
1 male found with his carved carved and hallowed
1 male stabbed with a crucifix dagger, caught in a burning barn
Total: 25+

(Note: Due to the supernatural nature of the demons, I left them out from the count)

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Guess who just turned 25? I JUST TURNED 25 HAH! TAKE THAT, 24-YEAR OLD ME!!!! >8D

Ah, crap, I am getting old.
Just cut me a slice of my pie, Gourai...

(P.S. It is technically the 15th of January here in the Philippines so...yeah..time travel birthdays, my foreign friends and watchers!)