Sunday, April 13, 2014

Because they were home: The Strangers (2008)

The Strangers (2008) (AKA "The Faces")
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward

Back in 2006, France released Ils (or Them for you non-French), a home invasion thriller that borrowed some slasher elements and yet was able to create something intense and utterly realistic. Cliches such as investigating noises in the dark as well as renting cabins deeply isolated in the woods may still be present, but at least the directors knew how to make the cast work and their choices realistic.

In 2008, a similarly plotted horror film called The Strangers came out, also focusing on a couple in a cabin deep in the woods only to be terrorized by intruders that night. What sets this from Them though is that the clichés are more exploited, or at least it appears to be.

The film opens with the aftermath; three bodies are found bloodied by two Mormon boys in a lakeview cabin. A car outside is burnt to scrap, and signs of struggle and attack was found all over the house.

We then see a couple at a wedding party, hours prior to this discovery; James Hoyt and Kristen McKay spends the night in Hoyt's backwoods cabin in hopes of proposing to Kristen. This unfortunately lead to a rocky strain to their relationship when she rejected him and left the two in a state of awkwardness and disappointment.

The silence was broken, however, when a girl came knocking on the door asking for someone they didn't know and then leaves when she realizes she's on the wrong house. Brushing this incident as a random encounter, James leaves Kristen to buy some cigarettes after phoning in a friend to pick him up. This proves to be a mistake when strange things started happening around the cabin in his absence; things are moved, phones ends up burnt in fireplaces, more strange knockings; it soon reveals that the girl they encountered before has returned. And she brought friends.
Do you see him?
Managing to survive their first assault, Kristen hides away until James came back and finds her cowering. Though skeptical and writing the attack as sheer paranoia, James soon realizes that there are indeed people outside terrorizing them, making it clear that their intentions are far from friendly.

As a whole, The Strangers felt more like the climax from a slasher movie drawn out to a feature as in most cases, the last third of a film from that sub-genre always involved our leads discovering the murders and tries their best to outwit and survive their attackers. The Strangers did this though with a disappointing drawback; by making the two leads undergo a troubled relationship early on the film, the sense of empathy and tension was rattled. We can't root for these people since we no longer feel frightened for their future but rather we're now merely observing ordinary people that may or may not deserve what's coming to them due to their sad and/or disappointing choices.
And why not just run them over with your car?
Of course, I'm not saying they deserved being terrorized in their own home by three deranged intruders but any further reason to root for them or find any interest for these casts is troubled.

There's no real story, too, as most of the movie's emphasis were more on the stalkings and psychological torture the intruders are unleashing to their victims which further frustrates some (or rather most) viewers due to their cliched responses from these attacks. What was working for the movie, however, is its slick look and well handled direction when it comes to evoking tension and shock scares from these scenes.

The film kept a gritty and retro-looking exploitation-like feel as the villains has no backstory and their identities are obscured all though the movie; though in today's day and age, you can simply browse through the web to see what these killers really look like without their masks, the effect of their lack of identity and motive sinks in quite nicely as a sense of catharsis can be felt out of the sheer randomness of their crime. Add the fact the film was based on real cases of home invasions and unsolved murders, and you probably will have the urge to check your locks before going to bed after seeing this movie.

It's not a perfect thriller but The Strangers knew what it wanted, just failed to see how to make it work properly. If they had given us a more worthy cast or set character for these killers to take on, we would have something better to talk about in this review. For fans of plot-less yet scare-driven thrillers, you could give this one a shot.

1 Male shot on the face with a shotgun
1 male knifed to death
Total: 2

Saturday, April 12, 2014

101 Maniacs: Admin's Top Slashers 60-51

*As of 2014*

Inspired and tempted by this delicious countdown,  Here be my personal Top 101 Slasher movies that really stood out the most!

Note: These are in no particular order (save the last ten) and they're all personal picks, so, nope. Your faves or your orders does not matter here! Muahahaha!...ha!

60. Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)
Upping the Wrong Turn franchise's game with loads more gore and smut, Dead End follows a group of teenagers competing in a Survivor-esque reality game show only to be hunted down for real by a family of deranged, inbred cannibals.

Bloody Best Bits: The opening murder pretty much sums up what to expect in this one, plus there's every scene Henry Rollins is in as a badass an ex-marine.

59. Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

A mockumentary for the slasher kind, Behind the Mask is perhaps one of the most original horror movie to be released on our time and stands proudly of it! Following the life of an aspiring masked killer, a student film crew slowly realizes that they can't just stand back and record while their subject begins to mutilate teenagers.
Bloody Best Bits: Every little bit where our titular psycho shows or explain to us how a certain cliché or gimmick can be done in real life. So far, I'm jotting down notes. (haha!)

58. Final Exam
As students in randomville, USA prepares for their final exam (as the title suggested) an equally random slasher shows up and starts to thin down the teen count. Well known for this simplistic plot, for having a slasher out of nowhere, and following everything by the book lesliewith much flair and atmosphere. A perfect Beginner's Slasher!

Bloody Best Bits: How far will you go to cheat on your exam? How about faking a terrorist attack?

57. The House on Sorority Row
When a group of sorority girls accidentally murders their cruel house mother and tries to hide every evidence of the crime from guests they invited for a party, what they didn't expect is that said house owner has a son. And he's crazily pissed off for what they did on dear ole' mumsie.
Bloody Best Bits: The near end. The great reveal.
56. April Fools Day
A Ten Little Indians-inspired plot had a group of teenagers invited to an island home for Spring break only to fall victims to harmless April Fools Day pranks and a deranged killer. Quite infamous for its twist (even if this wasn't the first slasher to do this) but never the less a fun, fresh and slick cult fave for the fans.
Bloody Best Bits: One scene shows what would happen if you don't stop horsing around on a boat. It's ain't gonna be pretty!

55. Night Crew: The Final Checkout/ Intruder (1989)
Employees working in a convenience store suddenly find their night shift to be their last, not just in their employment due to the owners selling the place, but probably of their lives as well when a butcher knife wielding intruder broke in and began murdering them. Hailed as one of the best slashers to be released at the end of the 80s decade, and for a good reason!

Bloody Best Bits: Am I the only one who noticed the large number of head-related fatalities in this movie?

54. Cold Prey II
While the first Cold Prey may be the best Norwegian horror for some, most slasher fans will agree that it's sequel (the first one at least) had done something most franchised entries fail to do: outdo the original! When the local police discovers a survivor of a killing spree walking alone with a bloody pickaxe, they soon made a fatal mistake of bringing in ALL of the bodies found in the scene. Hospital stalkings, here we come!
Bloody Best Bits: an "Oh Shit!" moment from our survivor when she walked in to a room where the killer's being revived by doctors who didn't know any better.
53. Bad Dreams
When a comatose 70s baby woke up a teenager on a clinic, not only will she be having problems adjusting to her new life but she'll also face the wrath of a derange cult leader, calling her from beyond the grave to join him in the afterlife. (or else) People call this a Nightmare on Elm Street 3 clone, I wouldn't blame them. But burnt specter and clinic premises aside, Bad Dreams works well on its own with unique twists and a really downbeat tone.
Bloody Best Bits: The Elevator scene. Fuckin' Creepy.

52. Jeepers Creepers
A slasher/monster hybrid that brings out the scares and thrills, old school style~! When two bickering siblings came upon an entire cave decorated with preserved corpses, they soon find themselves hunted down by a seemingly inhuman killer. Obviously, that turned out to be quite true.
Bloody Best Bits: There's something about empty hallways with echoing screams that's downright unnerving. See if you could stick to the end to experience that!

51. Pieces
A series of chainsaw murders began plaguing a campus in Boston and it's up to local detectives to figure out who's carving down the students. Completely cheesy all through-out with no sign of slowing down!

50-41 Coming up next week!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Surviving: Them (2006)

Them ("Ils") (France/Romania, 2006)
rating: ****
starring: Olivia Bonamy, Michaël Cohen, Adriana Mocca

Home Invasion scares me a lot. May it be a scene or the subject of a movie itself, the idea of having someone breaking inside your house to terrorize you for whatever reason they can think of is pure terror.

Them, or Ils, is another entry to the suspiciously growing number of French horror films featuring Home Invasion. High Tension, Inside (2007), In Their Sleep (2010), if I'd known better, the French seems to have a fetish for this stuff but comparing this title to the rest, Them is quite tame on the blood work, focusing instead on delivering tight scares through simplicity.

The plot is easy to follow; a couple on their vacation house suddenly find themselves terrorized by someone that broke inside their house. What first started as a series of unusual occurrences such as TVs being turned and left on, strange noises and one stolen car, it soon escalates violently as the intruder begins to stalk and harm them in their own home.
Enjoy each other while you can, lovelies.
What settles Them as a worthwhile viewing is that you could actually feel some grit and nihilism around the entire run despite the obvious horror clichés. The opening has us watching a bickering mother and a spoiled daughter getting stranded in the middle of an nearly isolated road; five minutes after this, the car won't start, the phone has a bad signal and the killer turns out to be hiding on the back seat. Further into the movie, more of the classic dos and don'ts such as wandering into an attic alone or yelling whilst on the run from a maniac nearly grounded Them as a stereotyped slasher but thankfully, these are gripes outnumbered by positives.

While it the direction is slow-burning, taking at least a good third before the couple realizes the break-in, what worked here is the low cast count; by having only two leads and taking time to play around on what these couple are up to in their lives, we do get to see a bit of realism from these characters as ordinary people that you can meet in any day, not one-dimensional stereotype cartoons that plagues almost every horror movie made.

Once the horror starts, they get frustrated, confused and worn-out as something they never expected is suddenly happening to them for no explicit reason. It's all natural coming from them and the film's lack of explanation for these attacks comes out bone-chilling given the twists revealed later on. (Although, it's no surprise there's more than one of these hoodies. The title gave it away)

Shot in a grainy and hand-held quality, Them sports some great camera work and naturalistic shots. The last third of the film effectively utilizes these elements as it took place out in the woods and into an unused sewer tunnel, a claustrophobic final back-drop that's as intense as it is suffocating with low, flickering lighting and maze-like turns. It a brief chase scene reminiscent from those commonly found in slasher movies, ending with a uber-simplified and creepy final shot that makes you think twice whenever you see an empty lot.

Not by far the bloodiest home invasion flick, but otherwise workable for it's simplicity and steady tension. Best served side-by-side with a little something titled The Strangers (2008)!

1 female disappears, presumably killed
1 female strangled with a garrote
1 male pushed off and fell to his death
1 male bludgeoned to death with a dead branch
1 male hacked on the chest with a hay hook
1 male snared away with a garrote, killed off camera
1 female killed off camera with a hay hook
Total: 7
Thank to you, movie, I always looked back at empty lots like this...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bad Spanglish Mayhem: Deranged (2012)

Deranged (Spain/United Kingdom, 2012)
rating: 1/2
starring:Marcia Do ValesCraig FairbrassVictoria Broom
Wow. Just wow. This was an ordeal of horror movie.

A newly engaged Anna drives out to a summer home (in the middle of nowhere. With no cellphone signals) with three of her friends to celebrate. Said lucky gal, however, gets the unfortunate luck of being bitten by a rabies-infected guard dog and later dies from it while they're partying with a hired stripper.

Or so they think.

The DVD cover spoiled much of the twist as the prima-donna isn't really dead and now she's killing them all for reasons so cheesy and overly dramatic, I rolled my eyes, was tempted to end the film then and there, and care very little now on who lives or dies. The way I guess it, the guys in charge of marketing this film probably saw how bad the film is, so they selflessly spoiled the movie thus saving us from a colossal headache. (That or they're just stupid)

So with no mystery, no gore and no likable characters, Deranged is a horror film for the really dim and, well, deranged as anybody who could sit through this and enjoy every minute of it are bound to be bonkers! You would think cheesy lines and a short running time would help lessen the issues but no. It ain't worth it if the actress playing the killer happens to have an annoying voice and a thick accent, coming out something similar to a stereotyped cartoon of a spoiled Hispanic princess whining on how these girls might steal her husband away from her. (She's probably just jealous cuz one of them's top-heavy. Hmm...) 
Dear God, they're perfect!
I think I'm better off listening to a rake being dragged across a chalkboard than to her utter "threatening" lines while swinging an axe. The less I say about this movie the better! Just keep the fuck away from this shit. It's not even worth complaining about!

1 female stabbed on the back with a kitchen knife
1 female knifed on the gut, throat cut
1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 dog hacked with an axe
1 female hacked on the back with an axe
Total: 5

Friday, April 4, 2014

101 Maniacs: Admin's Top Slashers 70-61

*As of 2014*

Inspired and tempted by this delicious countdown,  Here be my personal Top 101 Slasher movies that really stood out the most!

Note: These are in no particular order (save the last ten) and they're all personal picks, so, nope. Your faves or your orders does not matter here! Muahahaha!...ha!

70. A Bay of Blood (Italy, 1971)
One of the more notorious entry to the giallo sub-genre doubling as a twisty take on a proto-slasher, complete with overly gruesome killing and random teenagers tossed in for a heightened count as a group of money-grabbers have their bloodlust awakened when a large sum of land is suddenly up for grabs! 

Bloody Best Bits: I could go with the crowd and say that the scene involving a skewered couple would be my fave scene, but I'm actually gonna go with the opening scene here. You can't beat the twist of of having the a murdered killed moments later after he'd done the dirty deed!

69. TAG: The Assassination Game (1982)
The very slasher film that proved my point that it's not always about the weapon that makes a slasher film but rather it is format! In a campus where assassinating someone with a toy gun is the latest craze, one obsessed participant gets too much into the game and began shooting people dead for real after refusing defeat.

Bloody Best Bits: A really intense moment where our gunner sneaks behind the bleachers to kill off a target during broad daylight, in front of a small crowd! 

68. Jason X (2001)
I still don't understand why the lukewarm approach to this? Maybe in par with Jason Takes Manhattan in terms of cheesiness, but Jason X still drove a powerful adrenaline when it comes to futuristic mayhem. After being cryogenically encased for decades, time may have changed but the old slaughtering ways still proves to be as dangerous as Jason wakes up homicidal inside a research ship in deep space.

Bloody Best Bits: Jason goes hand-to-hand against with a cyborg babe, leading to his momentary death and his revival: As an Upgraded Cyborg!

67. Pumpkinhead (1988)
It may have a 7 foot tall monster but Pumpkinhead used enough of our clichés and backdrops to be included and considered as a slasher! After his beloved son dies from an accident, a grieving father made a deal with a witch and summons a powerful demon to sic vengeance at those responsible.

Bloody Best Bits: That tear-jerking performance by Lance Henriksen as his character cradles and washes his dead son's body. (I blame the beautiful score that went on during this, too!)

66. Chopping Mall (1986)
When a trio of new-age security robots (for its time) malfunction due to a freak lightning storm, it spells nothing but bad news for eight couples who decided to stay in after mall hours as these killbots are packing heat! Best served with a bowl of freshly popped popcorn smothered in cheese sauce!

Bloody Best Bits: A classic kill: chick's head got blown up by a laser.

65. Evil Dead Trap (Japan, 1988)
A late 80s slasher entry from the Land of the Rising Sun, a small group of co-workers from a TV Station decides to play detective and solve the mystery involving a snuff tape delivered to them one night. What they find in the murder scene, however, was far more dangerous than they imagined.

Bloody Best Bits: The tape itself is rather disturbing to watch. Then there's the impaling scene that looks awfully well-done. (Japan and your ultra-violence! What will you think of next?)

64. All The Boys Love Mandy Lane
Invited to hang out on some boy's ranch over the weekend, Mandy Lane somehow lured in a psycho with a romatic obsession and will kill anybody that gets in his way. A sleepy little dead-teen flick that looks refreshingly calm, almost eerie and uneasy if you dwell in it.  

Bloody Best Bits: A killer thinks resourcefully as he saves a single bullet when he uses a shotgun to mutilate a girl's mouth. (Wait til' you hear how it sounds, too!)

63. Sorority Row (2009)
A supposed "re-imagining" of the cult classic "The House on Sorority Row" that's better off as a stand-alone movie, just like Silent Night (2012), which still features a group of girls being killed off one by one in link to a murder they themselves committed and kept quiet about for some time.

Bloody Best Bits: A champagne bottle shoved down to a throat before our hapless victim got her neck punctured. Talk about overkill, mate!

62. House of Wax (2005)
Sure it's nothing subtle, but this in-name-only "remake" of a Vincent Price classic delivers all the gooey goods a slasher can offer! A group of teens en-route to a football game painfully discovers a small town's secret, as mad killers with a talent for making life-like wax figures began to add them to their collection of macabre masterpieces.

Bloody Best Bits: Oh, where to start? The entire "waxing scene" was dreadfully fun. Then there's Paris Hilton getting a rusty pipe through her head. More of the latter actually... 

61. Gutterballs (2008)
A cult fave of the trashiest kind, when a pantyless bowler gets raped after hours in a disco-themed bowling joint, the following night spells bloody vengeance to those responsible, and those who just happens to be around, when a bowling-bag wearing maniac starts to pick them off  in various bowling-themed murders. Not for the weak of stomach, ideologically sensitive and lovers of bowling!

Bloody Best Bits: I hate rapists. So imagine my glee when one of them gets anally raped with a sharpened bowling pin!

Top 60-51 Coming Up Next Week!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Laziest April Fools Post EVUH

Sorry Dudes and Dudettes, but uncle Admin here's a little busy at work, eyeing to buy himself a collectible doll, and is being too artistic to think up an April Fools prank to you all. Not that I was good at it to begin with, though...

So, for this year, how about we relax a bit, soak up some sunshine out in the street and OH MY GOD! THEY GOT AN HD VERSION OF THAT APRIL SONG FROM KILLER PARTY!!!!

Oh shit, these dudes rock...
wait a second, there's a real band called White Sister too?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Death to Palisade!!!: Severance (2006)

Severance (Britain, 2006)
Rating: ****
Starring: Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Tim McInnerny
The early 2000s was a pretty good year for European horror: Dog Soldiers brought some spark back to the werewolf sub-genre, Shaun of the Dead pays decent tribute to classic zombie clichés and The Descent got creative by bringing us a new reason to be afraid of the dark. As for slashers, those years were a Godsend: Creep (2004) had us crawling through the underground subways to meet a deformed abortionist and psycho, The Last Horror Movie twists and turned our fave sub-genre against us and Ripper (despite my unfavorable views to it) somehow gathered its own set of fans.

Coming from the same guy behind Creep, Christopher Smith forges another slasher in 2006, dashing in some witty British humor and a sweet Action film backdrop that may not reinvent the sub-genre but entertains either way.
Opening in media res, two Russian speaking women and a fat bloke are apparently chased by someone in the woods. As the women fell into a pit trap, the other got snared and got disemboweled by a husky looking hand clutching a hunting knife.

After that cold opening, we then follow a group of seven co-workers from the European Sales division of Palisade, a defense military arms corporation, on a bus trip to a weekend team-building "Luxury Lodge" deep into the Matra mountains of Hungary. Early on this scene we can tell who's who that are biting on another's leg and those that are trying to make the weekend work, a fact soon to be tested further as, thanks to a fallen tree, the group is forced by their non-English speaking bus driver to walk all the way to their destination and then finds out that said lodge was more of an isolated and dusty old cabin. (With a free pie!)

Over the course of a single evening, the gang settles in and shares conspiracy stories about their lodge after finding Palisade papers indicating their involvement on war atrocities some years ago. Of course, for them this is all bollocks. That was until later that night, one of them spots a masked man spying on her room and signs of somebody's presence was found nearby.

Rattled, the group then plans to leave on the following morning, finding first a way to callback their bus driver while those that are left behind decides to continue with their weekend plans either way. But after finding their driver mutilated and left for dead on a stream nearby, and one of their pal's leg got caught and cut off by a placed bear trap, the office outing just got bloody as someone with a deep hate for Palisade is out to get snuff them off one by one.

While most examples of horror comedy often loses track on their flow and becomes an uneven mess, Severance managed to keep the two genres stable and fairly distributed as a tone through out the plot. The only thing that matters now is how well you understand and take in the kind of humor this movie have; the comedy here relies on dry wit and dark touches as people die in very brutal manners such as chopped off heads, incineration by flamethrowers and one nasty anal stabbing, and yet laced in with some comical backlashes that can't help but give you some chuckles such as exchanges whether it's okay to leave a what could be a dying man to save themselves or a scene where a freshly decapitated head smiles at the fact that his theory about beheadings are proven true.

Mind that this is all done without exaggerating the gore and over the top lewdness that are commonly looms over most slasher-comedies, thus breaking away from the usual clichés that proves to be a refreshingly bold move. Instead of loud annoying teens, the soon to be victimized are all working adults played by choice-cut stars that may have appeared on a UK broadcast before, but for viewers who're not familiar with English programming, these casts may as well be unfamiliar yet praise-worthy faces. (I recognize Richard as Tim McInnerny, though, from Disney films and an episode of the revived  Dr. Who series) The roles they play are fleshed out and (for most) likable, if not entertainly disposable given their fates, thanks to a really strong and realistic script (which reminds a lot of folks of a comedy show called The Office), and relatable performances.

Slicing its way in a quick-cut pacing and harboring a decent twist for a slasher villain, or villains, Severance has a distinctive flow that gets better as the movie forges further. Some hints of action and survival elements are thrown in the near end while still retaining some of the comedy and even brought up some interesting final characters.

In the end, Severance proves itself to be an slight improvement of the director's earlier slasher, and when I mentioned slight, I meant Creep was a great movie, but this is better! (I'm a big fan of Creep. I dunno but that movie works for me almost as good as Severance did!) Though some may complain that the jokes are a little too dark or may have dwindle down the cathartic aftermath of each murder, fans of smart humor and bloody good backwoods horror will sure to have something to remember thereafter.

Let's just hope it isn't a gold-filled tooth in a pie, or a bloody severed leg in an icebox.

1 male slaughtered with a hunting knife
1 body seen buried underneath a mound
1 male found slaughtered
1 male beheaded with a machete
1 female set on fire with a flamethrower
1 male flayed alive with a carving knife
1 male shot on the chest with a shotgun
1 male ran through the back with a machete, shot on the head with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
3 males blown apart by a land mine
A number of passengers on a (passing by) commercial jet blown up with a rocket
1 male had his head crushed with a dropped rock
1 male shot dead with a submachine gun
1 male forced to sit unto a stabbed hunting knife to the arse
1 male shot death with a submachine gun
Total: 16+