Wednesday, August 26, 2015

We Don't Say His Name: The Gallows (2015)

The Gallows (2015) (AKA "Stage Fright")
Rating: ***
Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos

In 1993, a high school production of a stage play known as The Gallows went horribly bad when one of its actors, Charlie Grimille , was hanged for real when the prop noose malfunctioned.

Twenty years later, the same school is preparing a modern production of the same play and trying out for a lead role is Reese, a football player who is secretly doing this to get closer to his crush, fellow lead Pfeifer. Recording all this is his friend (?), Ryan, who is really nothing more than a bully and a jerk to just about everyone involved in this play and thinks that Reese is wasting his time.

After Ryan found out that the back door of the stage is broken, he coax Reese to join him and his girlfriend later that night to trash the set, thinking that this will help his friend get closer to his crush when he comforts her from the "incident". Dumbly enough, Reese decided to do this and went on destroying the set that very evening, unknown to them that someone, or something, is inside with them, armed with a noose and full of hate.

As a found footage and a slasher, The Gallows really had nothing new to show except, perhaps, a villain with a murder weapon of choice so unusual yet plain; the marketing itself seems to promote the killer's odd weapon, a noose, by comparing this film's villain and their tool with other sub-genre titans such as Michael Myers with his kitchen knife and Leatherface with his chainsaw. Needless to say, this will grab somebody's attention, but more likely not in a way these guys are hoping for; a hanging is a kind of kill that takes a while to set-up but with a resulting death that doesn't seem to have the same shock value as a powertool massacre, or the thrill of being chased by a maniac with a knife. However, seeing that this film is of a supernatural fare, I have to admit that this element did elevate the film's noose-based kills a bit, giving the killer more than one ways to use the rope-weapon against their victims.

To be fair, The Gallows is far from unwatchable; yes, it is a text book example of both a slasher and found footage horror, screaming teens, obviously edited ghost scenes and the like. And yes, I am aware that there are very little likable characters to go with the entire film. Hell, we have to sit through a bully terrorizing classmates who are just minding their own business for a good third of the film but it did try to entertain us, molding modest ghostly scares with a slasher film plot with much effectiveness with an average B-grade popcorn flick.

I'd seen all of this before but it does not bother me; in fact, the predictability of the movie gave it a so-bad-it's-fun vibe and some of the jump scares, as cheap as they are, did got me. I like that Charlie is a supernatural monster with a murder weapon so simple, and that our real lead is a nicer guy compared to the douche holding the camera. I like how the movie felt old school with its stunts and tricks, and how the darkened stage felt engulfing. I love the fact that the first guy to die suffered the most, both physically and emotionally.

The Gallows might be another sorry excuse for a found footage-slasher hybrid for many and this is perfectly understandable; years of Paranormal Activity movies and countless exorcism tapes being released had lessen the blow of these films, as well as the tired cliche of dumb victims being dumb and getting killed for it from our dead teenager flicks. And yet, films will always have their fans whatever the reason will be, may it be the camp value or underrated ingenuity, following a hype or simply because the film fits a certain taste. I for one is not an fan of this movie but I did enjoy it; it's bad with a modest charm, cheap but not contrived, a fair viewing if you just want something to watch before going to bed on a simple day's night.

1 male hanged on a noose
1 male hanged with a noose
1 female snared on the neck with a noose, hanged
1 male hanged on a noose
1 male hanged with a noose
1 male killed
Total: 6

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Skin is In: Skinner (1993)

Skinner (1993)
Rating: ***
Starring:Ted Raimi, Ricki Lake, David Warshofsky

Dennis Skinner is a drifter who always travel with a bag full of clunky metal tools. During one of his travels, he came upon a house renting out a room for some extra income and befriended the owner, a lonely wife named Kerry Tate. Though his presence puts a strain to Kerry's already rocky relationship with her husband Geoff, Dennis simply minds his own business, working as a janitor at a local factory and, as a hobby, moonlights as a serial killer who flays his victims and wear their skin as clothes.

Preying on hookers and despised co-workers, Dennis' bodycount rises, unknown to him that his first and only surviving victim, a morphine addicted junkie named Heidi, is hot on his trail and hellbent on finishing him off for good. Its only a matter of time before Dennis, Heidi and even Kerry's lives intertwine, resulting to a strange and bloody situation.

Taking cues from slasher films like Maniac (both versions) and Don't Go In The House (1981), Skinner is a mid 90s entry to the sub-genre that, like the aforementioned titles, focuses on the exploits of its villain rather than a certain character or a group of would-be victims. Much of these kinds of horror flicks normally rely on the portrayal of their monster and I am glad to say that Skinner does not disappoint; Ted Raimi, the brother of Evil Dead (1981) director Sam Raimi, did a fantastic job bringing out the quirky madness that is Dennis Skinner, a man traumatized by a horrific childhood incident that involves one of his family members being skinned. Not only does he have the look of an average weirdo, but Raimi's portrayal for him had an air of charm that makes him a likable guy until we find out what he does whenever he is alone with a potential victim.

The character's obsession with skinning victims was quite amusing from the fact that the execution of this concept came off rather cheesy and features a lot of hokey-looking effects, a little guilty pleasure of a charm that hits my funny bone and intrigue right. Thankfully, the bleak direction and urban jungle backdrop maintains the horror with an added nightmarish feel, as well as the fact that many of the casts that we are supposed to root for are flawed and barely redeeming. (But not portrayed incompetently, mind you; Traci Lords and Ricki Lake deserved some recognition for their roles) If anything, Skinner not only showcases horror under the form of a serial killer, but also of personal demons and real life challenges such as addiction, unfaithfulness, and poverty.

Sadly, as much as it is effective as an atmospheric serial killer flick, the marketed gore is really no more than a bunch of off-screen and/or implied killings. There's only one scene where we did get a good flaying but from what I heard, you can only catch this if you got the uncensored version. This can be a big disappointment for gore hounds, but for those who prefer stories rather than grue might get something out of this, though the end might leave you asking what just happened and/or if that was just it?

Personally, I can overlook these little cons in favor to what this movie offered best: great performance and a strange story. Underrated and overlooked, Skinner deserves another round among the slasher and serial killer fans of today; that being said, don't miss this one when you get the chance to see it!

1 female skinned alive with a knife
1 female murdered, skinned with a knife
1 female had her neck broken, skinned with a knife
1 female killed, skinned with a knife
1 male killed, skinned with a knife
1 female brained with a lead pipe
1 female skin seen
1 male murdered, method unknown
1 female repeatedly shot with a shotgun, presumably dies
Total: 9

Friday, August 14, 2015

That Who Hunts: Predator (1987)

Predator (1987)
Rating: ****
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall 

When does one man's Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie becomes another man's slasher? When the film's very backbone resembles one.

Arnie is Major ‘Dutch’ Schaeffer, tough as nails and willful enough to lead an elite group of marines to Guatemala for a rescue mission against guerrilla forces. After dwindling down an entire guerrilla camp's number to a single female captive, they found no captives but instead is hunted down by a hunter armed with weapons and gadgets far too advanced to be of Earth.

It is understandable why many genre fans would dismiss this from a slasher film despite the bodycount friendly killings since Predator was marketed as an action adventure with a good dash of scifi and a whole lot of Arnold. (Then in the apex of his career as an action star) True enough, the film's first act featured enough gunfights to destroy an entire rebel camp (literally), making it seem like we are going to a direction where we will be treated with more macho-man badassery, but instead the film took a sudden turn for the horrifying and thrilling. 

Just as any slasher, we see something stalking the marines (through a thermal POV shot, no less) and, one by one, ritualistically murders them with blades and a high-powered laser; this tone shift pushes Predator into a backwoods survival flick-type, only with bulky men that did fight back (unlike our usual dumb teenagers), an alien killer, and a good load of kills. 

Effects wizard Stan Winston devised some of the most amazing effects I'd seen in a genre film, utilizing animatronics and, for its time, impressive digital effects. The predator make-up is incredibly impressive and menacing as a creature. And seeing the film's no short of cash to waste on its effects, you can soothe the gorehound within you as the kills (those by the Predator at least) remains gruesome enough to rival a modest horror film kill, from heads blown apart with lasers to the cult iconic scene where a victim's skull was ripped out from the spine.

Acting around this part is genuinely modest since much of the focus is on the action; Arnold is still Arnold; big, buff, and bears the accent that makes me wonder why they keep giving him American characters to portray. I do like the fact how his character is bound by his role of being a leader of a search-and-rescue team which makes him easy to side with, even early on the film when he found out his team was used to assassinate nearly an entire compound, under the false pretense that they were rescuing a political head. The rest of the casts are pretty okay; they're nothing too dimensional but their characters are likable for a bunch of army cut-outs with sometimes-laughable dialogue.

Interestingly, in talks of the villain, this is not the first time we get a slasher film to feature an alien killer as, while some may argue, Alien (1979) appears to fit the label of a Proto-slasher with its stalk-and-maim plot, and too the uber-cheesy but weirdly enjoyable Without Warning of 1982, which features an alien hunter killing teens in the woods while using flying parasites as its weapon. (In fact, actor Kevin Peter Hall, who donned the heavy latex make-up as the Predator in this film, was also the alien hunter in Without Warning!) What Predator did that the other two aforementioned films didn't is that it gave its villain a full slasher treatment complete with a mask, bladed weapons, and a linear motivation to kill. Sure it may not be in par with the simplistic machete or shotgun, but a retracting saw-toothed wrist blades and a high-powered blaster is a welcome variety if it delivers the gore.

The way I see it, he had to be this high-tech to keep a "the fairness" to the killings as his targets are as armed and deadly as he is, once they get an advantage. And staying true to the butch finales of action films, once all but one was left, the final showdown between Dutch and the Predator had to be one of the most intense scenes in cinematic history, with the Predator, seeing how worthy of a foe Dutch was, accepted a fair brawl and disarms himself to go mano-a-mano.

In the end, Predator is a genre flick that can be enjoyed by both horror and action fanatics. Its had guns, it has guts, Arnold being badass, and a terrifying monster worthy of an icon; while it may lack a story, the entertainment value of it is a whole tirade of awesomeness! No genre fan can call themselves a genre fan without ever seeing this! Ever!

1 male found dead
1 male found shot on the head
3 males found skinned
1 male killed offscreen
1 male knifed on the neck
1 male killed, method unknown
A number of men killed during gunfight
1 male gutted
1 male had his chest shot open with a laser
1 male shot on the head with a laser
1 male gutted with retractable blades
1 male killed offscreen, later seen with stab wounds and had his skull torn out
1 male shot on the head with a laser
1 alien crushed by falling logs, decimated by a bomb
Total: 15+

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wednesday the 13th: Woensdag (2005)

Woensdag (Netherlands, 2005)
Rating: **
Starring: Sjanett de Geus, Marisa Goedhart, CĂȘfas Hoofs

All the way from your Dutch friends in Netherland, this rather simple slasher movie about teens in the woods, a horror-themed reality game show, and the ghost of an evil lumberjack.

Eight teenagers were chosen to participate on a new TV show called Camp Slasher. In it, they have to find clues hidden in the woods to solve the mystery behind the supposed ghost of a vengeful lumberjack skulking around. As the crew busies themselves in filming and the cast drowns themselves with beer, little do they know a real slasher is out prowling the night for victims to murder away.

With a budget of 5000 Euros, Woensdag doesn't hide how cheap it is seeing said gameshow itself is really nothing more than teens staying in a tent while pairs of them take turns being called out to look for clues while avoiding being captured by the lumberjack ghost. It's not very exciting as the novelty (if any) of the game didn't last too long and we are pretty much stuck watching the teens get hammered with booze and the crew doing "crew stuff". (Editing footages and fixing sounds never looked so "normal") Characterization, in this case, is unsurprisingly absent so do not bother establishing yourself with any of the casts as they can be easily replaced with any other partying side characters in a Friday the 13th sequel.

It appears this is all we will be treated with until the 40 minute mark hits, where it finally shows the movie's first real murders and push the story into action. This is where Woensdag succeeds in a passable manner; keeping an 80s slasher feel, the film had some good practical and make-up effects displayed as our masked killer starts to hack and slash his way through the meat. While some kills and fight scenes are poorly executed and is obviously edited, it is an admirable effort seeing the little money they had to work with and I just love how it kept up with the pace.

As a junkfood equivalent to a better slasher, Woensdag works; there's nothing much to say seeing it is as common as any other celluloid backwoods hack-a-thon out there, masked killer and all, but it can be a worthwhile time-waster. If you do get the chance to see it, I wouldn't recommend hyping for it too much.

1 female killed, bloodsplash seen
1 male and 1 female killed, bloodsplash seen (story)
1 male found with a throat cut
1 female dies from wounds
1 male found murdered
1 male found skewered through the head with a rod
1 male found strangled with a phone cord
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 female hacked on the head with an axe
1 male found knifed to a tree by the neck
1 female axed on the head
1 male gets a throat cut, stabbed to death with an improvised spear
1 male thumbed on the eyes
1 male axed to death
1 male gets a thrown hatchet to the head
1 male and 1 female killed
Total: 18

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Rise of The Machine: The Terminator (1984)

The Terminator (1984)
Rating: ****1/2
Starring:  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn

Yeah, I know. The Terminator is not, I repeat, is not a slasher movie. It's hardly a horror movie to be honest, so calling this a slasher is a real stretch. So why then am I reviewing this film in a blog site dedicated in covering slasher movies and bodycount friendly thrillers, you ask? One word: influenced.

The 21st century turns out to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the humans are nearly overruled by sentient machines. That is until one hero emerges, John Connor, and began a revolution against their mechanical overlords, a battle that appears to be going in favor with the humans; hoping to stop this, the machines sent back in time the Terminator, a highly advanced cyborg which is flesh on the outside, cold steel in the inside. Its mission is to assassinate the mother of  John Connor, a simple waitress in 1984 named Sarah.

Fortunately, the humans used the same technology and had sent back a soldier, Kyle Reese, to protect Sarah, who is now becoming well aware that someone, or something, is out to kill her. As the Terminator gets closer and closer in killing its primary target, it's up to Kyle and Sarah to survive its attacks and find a way to win a battle against an unstoppable machine.
Looking into the plot, The Terminator is really bare bone and follows classic chase movie tropes like Duel or Australia's Road Games (1981). To say the least, the entirety of the movie resembles the stalk and chase climaxes commonly found in most slasher movies released that year, only the killer wields guns instead of hatchets. From POV shots and some scenes of it committing methodical killings, the villain itself is a scifi parody of indestructible maniacs in slashers, its mask is an entire fleshy coating and its sole purpose is to kill, taking hits upon hits as its targets fought back, only to get back up and attack anybody that gets in his way. A young Arnold Schwarzenegger plays this mean machine and, even if he had very little lines, his bulked build and unfeeling gaze made him a very intimidating presence to go against with.

Thankfully, director James Cameron knew how to handle such a unique monster and decided to show off his skills in doing good build-ups, explosive action scenes, and a direction loaded with pretty decent special effects. Before you know it, what we have here now is a very workable hybrid of an action/scifi movie with a few hints of the horrific, such as merciless home invasions and immortal villains. It even went a few melodramatic on us as we see Sarah's trouble accepting that she is going to mother a hero that will fight back a war that is definitely going to happen; we can relate to this in a sense of accepting a responsibility that we hardly saw coming and how much of our normal lives we will be sacrificed to make it work. This is why Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, is such a powerful take on a Final Girl; while her transition may seemed rushed, the ordeal is enough to let her know that she may not have much to say against it, but she will and must learn to fight back.

And fight back she and her savior did; as a survival film, The Terminator had some of the most thrilling set-pieces I'd seen as adrenaline rushed car chases and lead-heavy shootouts peppered the screen whenever the big guy shows up. I love the synthesizer scoring used for these scenes in a way that it gives it a timeless feel as well as a nostalgic value.
So great characters, memorable villains, and stylish direction aside, perhaps another aspect of the film that was impressive was its special effects; for its time, the visuals concerning our robotic villain are just effective as it mixes fluid stop-motion, animatronics, and well designed make-up work. Everytime our Terminator gets badly damaged, we see more of its inner metallic structure until the stalk-and-kill friendly climax where it finally revealed its pure robotic form, giving us a nightmarish visage with glowing red eyes and a persistence that cannot be reasoned with. 

And to think all of this began after James Cameron dreamed of a robotic torso dragging itself to kill him with a knife; it's a scary image and this film captures not only the same sense of dread but also added a level of thrill and excitement that remains unbeaten by most action, scifi, and/or thriller films through out the years. Argue as you may whether The Terminator is a horror film or not, one can't go wrong with this classic.

This and its sequel, Judgement Day. But that is a story for another time...

1 male punched through the chest
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 female repeatedly shot on the head
1 female blasted to bits with a laser (flashback)
1 male killed in car crash (flashback)
2 female mentioned shot dead
1 male beaten to death
1 female shot dead
1 male shot with an automated rifle
1 female shot with an automated rifle
1 male crushed against the wall with a car
17+ Officers shot down during shootout
A number of civilians gunned down (dream)
1 female implied murdered
1 male beaten to death
1 male killed in pipe bomb explosion
Total: 32+

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Too. Much. Good Stuff! Trailer reaction: All Through The House, Goosebumps, Cooties, and more!

I've been posting slasher reviews non-stop lately. Let me try something different.

So we just slipped through July, the "half-year mark" month, meaning we are nearing the end of 2015. Seriously, how fast time flies nowadays? So, seeing this year had generously offered us some entertaining genre movies, I decided to look into some upcoming attractions either later this year, or in the next, and these are some of the few that interested me the most.

Although some did more than interests me. It made me giddy. (I'm looking at you, Goosebumps!)

All Through the House (2015)- Oh God, we have another killer Santa! And he looks...dang creepy!

Promised to be an 80s style slasher about a maniac in a Santa Claus mask and suit, I will see it just for the sake of, well, a killer Santa, as well as see how it holds up to classics like Silent Night, Deadly Night, and the new age Santa slasher, Silent Night.

Goosebumps (2015)- Oh. My. God. This is Jumanji for pre-teen horror fans. AND I LOVE JUMANJI! And Horror! And Friggin Goosebumps!!!!

Before trying my hands and eyes on a Stephen King book (I remember it was Cujo), I read Goosebumps as a kid. It was my stepping stone for literary horror and, judging from the trailer, this film might have the chance to capture the scares, thrills, and fun that is writer R.L. Stine's modern classic horror books. For kids! I can't friggin wait!

Cooties (2015)- Hmm, a comical take on a zombie invasion set in an elementary school where kids are the zombies.

Well, I am not much for children and I hardly seen any zombie flicks lately...BRING IT ON!

The Green Inferno (2015)- About fucking time, Roth! It's been so long since we had seen a proper jungle cannibal horror film (the 70s, I believe?) and this might be the first one made...with a modest budget!

But in all seriousness, WHERE THE HELL IS THANKSGIVING?!

Tales of Halloween (2015)- Looks like Trick'r Treat 2 will have to wait, and let's us all hope this one won't get delayed for, I dunno, years before being released!

Ten directors for ten films, all centered around Halloween. I love it, but let's just hope each of these segments are going to be stro- oh who am I kidding, it's always a mixed bag...

Lost After Dark (2015)- Holy Oil Spills! That looks so...basic...and I FREAKIN' LOVE IT! Hopefully it'll have more energy than this year's 80s-style slasher Charlie's Farm! We need another good swing at an 80s-esque slasher!

Founders Day (2014)- Okay, I have to thank The Vegan Voorhees for this one; seriously, just how badass can a trailer be? That cool plague mask, that intriguing mystery, yeah, I'm definitely seeing this film once its out!

And there you have it! So much good stuff indeed and I can't larking wait! Hopefully this year ends with a bang full of awesome horror goodies!

Last Prank: The Jokesters (2015)

The Jokesters (2015)
Rating: ***
Starring: Nathan Reid, Gabriel Tigerman, Luis Jose Lopez

We all love a good prank. The more inventive, meaner, and/or wittier it is, the better. This is what four guys collectively known as Prank Masters live for and they are great at it!

An internet sensation that boasts hundreds of webisodes of them pulling jokes on each other as well as other unsuspected victims, it seems, though, they're nearing their final run when their leader, Ethan, finally got hitched and is ready to move on. However, one of the boys planned something for the newlyweds, something so daring with the sole purpose of being their series finale.

The joke was to have the remaining pranksters crash their friend's honeymoon at a cabin in the middle of the snowy woods, dressed up as masked villains armed with axes. Freaking the couple out with shadowy figures and creepy noises, things suddenly went too far when an obviously pissed off Ethan shows up with a shotgun and threatens to kill them. Technically, this would have made an interesting turn if one of the boys did got killed off by their stupid prank, but that wasn't the case for The Jokesters; turns out the mastermind of this scheme, Nick, had tampered the guns useless and once their buddy sees this, he goes ape on the former pranksters and gets a beating in return.

Understandably angry at this, Ethan and his wife, Gabby, gave the guys the most stern and intense scolding I'd seen in a prank, which thankfully ends with the two forgiving the three and letting them stay overnight, but not before stripping them naked in the snow and made them apologize in front of their own camera.

All's well until morning came when one of the boys was found dead with a blueish infection spreading on his arm, then people starts to die in a way these pranksters never expected...

For an 80 minute film, The Jokesters mostly resembles an unholy birth child of MTV's Jackass and the horror-prank show, Scare Tactics, only much more entertaining and interesting. Seeing the film takes a good bulk of its run building up around the characters and their final prank, we get to see the cast at their boldest in the film's "behind the scenes" footage approach that, I admit, can be realistic with its conflict among those who are against the joke and those who are victimized by it. So while it does take a bit before the actual horror happens, the films preoccupies us with the working of a prank that is feasible and, at times, funny.

Around the time the third act happens, however, The Jokesters suddenly look like a different movie altogether thanks to its sudden tone shift; without spoiling anything, a prank awakened a friend's bloodlust and began a killing spree. While some may get a bit shocked about this, I kinda saw the clues around the first act that this guy is a bit off in the head. Was it a bit extreme? Perhaps, but seeing this guy got into the most trouble than the rest of the dudes, there's a bit of a hint.

Now seeing the film was shot as a found footage and this happens in the last couple of minutes, the massacre does felt a bit rushed (thanks to the small amount of victims to work with and too the film's minor pacing problem) and half of the murders were done offcamera and heavily implied. Those that we do get to see delivered some blood, with the film's realistic approach working with it as gurgles and death rattles add to their notoriety. I wouldn't say its bad, but if the film had more budget, it could be greater.

With so much Found Footage titles coming out every year, The Jokesters can be easily disputed as another one of those horror movies where you question why the guys are still recording, but, plot wise, this film found a way around that plot hole and it is clever. Plus, I can tell a lot of effort were put to make this movie a thrilling ride, keeping the story as unpredictable as possible, and seeing they sort of pulled it off, I deeply appreciate this.

It's not going to be for everyone (especially for those who cannot stand immature pranksters) but The Jokesters delivers and it delivers fairly. Worth checking out!

1 male hacked to death with a shovel
1 male shot, face bashed in with a shotgun
1 male attacked, ran over with a car
1 female presumably killed
Total: 4