Monday, April 6, 2020

Curse You, Satanic Cheese Lightning!: A Night To Dismember (Lost Cut, 1983)

A Night To Dismember (Lost Cut, 1983)
Rating: **
Starring: Samantha Fox, Diane Cummins, Saul Meth

Back at 1983, slasher fans got the displeasure of seeing A Night To Dismember, a bodycount movie that was nearly lost in a fire-related sabotage attempt but was salvaged, and then had its surviving footage and a couple of random clips from other (and arguably better) cult horror flicks spliced together into a hodge-podge patchwork. As you would expect from this, the resulting product was an atrocious mess, making very little sense from a narrative point of view and made kinda worse by its cheesy editing. For the longest time, this final product would come in as one of the worst slasher movies to have ever came up from the 80s (gaining cult status of its own from this notoriety, strangely enough) and it appears this isn't going to change ever.

Until 2019, at a Youtube channel called Hamilton Trash Cinema; Ben Ruffett, founder of the channel, happens to have inquired the movie's cinematographer C. Davis Smith about getting a copy of the film to screen and while Smith did not own any of the film's official VHS release, he did have a copy of the original extended cut on tape which includes Diana Cummings in the lead role. So, does this mean we will finally have a long lost classic at our hands and eyeballs here?

Mmm. Could be?

Our lost movie opens in a cemetery, where a cloaked man welcomes us to the story in an EC Comic Crypt Keeper fashion, to the power of ten dad jokes. He regales us a tale of two generations of women; the first is Mary, pregnant out of wedlock and keeping it a secret from the rest of her family out of shame, a predicament that got her so troubled that she decided to stroll out one night, into a freak lightning accident that (as the narrator wordily suggests) grants her otherworldly powers which may or may not include her just going bonkers.

Through clairvoyance and a ghostly voice egging her to destroy those who made her suffer, Mary unleashes bloody retribution against anyone she deems worthy of her revenge, from her cheating lover to her abusive family. This half of the movie ends with Mary giving birth and dying from it, leading us to the next generation psycho, her adult daughter Vickie.

Adopted and unloved, Vickie gets the reputation of being the crazy weirdo of the town thanks to her dark family history, a matter made worse when she and her adoptive family decided to move in to her birth mom's home. Add in the troubles of her suddenly seeing bloodied visions of decapitated heads and skeletal hands, it becomes clear to us that Vickie inherited her mum's insanity and supposedly supernatural need to destroy people.

Much like the case of another lost slasher The Intruder (1975), the story behind the lost cut of A Night to Dismember is more interesting of a tale than the movie itself; though the film has its charms, it's definitely not for everyone since the plot more or less narrows down to just two women going stab-happy and murder anyone that mistreats them. It does try to add more substance to it by introducing some supernatural aspects, but this is done so cheaply that it's either close to nonexistent or too laughable to be taken seriously.

In fact, the whole movie is a joke of a production from its wonky editing to wooden acting, inconsistent details to overly electrified score, but as mentioned before, this can be a fun deal if you're into feisty cheese and hammy terror. Its budget certainly shows as far as being a slasher film goes, definitely less a gory shlock but it boasts quite the maniacal energy on unleashing sizable killcounts, even if the methods used can be a tad repetitive or nonsensical. (Keep an eye on the house fire kill, it's whacked out of nowhere!) You could say that this lost cut is comparable to a very violent issue of an old school EC horror comic like Tales From The Crypt or The Vault of Horror turned feature length grindhouse flick, short on story but rich in pulpy horror goodness.

A better example of a so-bad-it's-good flick compared to its prior butchered release, this lost cut of A Night To Dismember is a tiny roughed-up gem of a find that only a brave few can enjoy. If you fancy yourself as the patient and forgiving kind then feel free to try this and brace yourself for a barrage of chunky stale cheese.

1 male and 1 female decapitated with a machete
1 male brained with a rock, buried alive
1 female hacked to death with a hatchet
1 male gets stabbed through the neck with an ice pick
1 female hacked to death with a hatchet
1 female dies from childbirth (implied)
1 male knifed through the neck
1 male knifed to death
20+ individuals burned to death in house fire
1 female knifed to death
1 female stabbed and hacked to death (dream)
1 male hacked on the head with a hatchet, heart  punched out
1 female had her head ran over with a car
1 female hacked to death with a hatchet
Total: 34+

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Bachelorette Cabin: All Must Die (2019)

All Must Die (Utdrikningslaget) (Norway, 2019)
Rating: **
Starring: Linni Meister, Veslemøy Mørkrid, Anders Rydning

With just a few days away from getting hitched, Gina finds herself "kidnapped" and driven all the way to a rented country house in the woods by her friends for a horror-themed bachelorette party, complete with a creepy scavenger game where she has to wander around and find clues to get to a prize. In the midst of the drinking, skinny dipping and campfire confessionals, something appears to be bugging Gina regarding the whole shebang as the more the night goes forth, the stranger and more concerning her party becomes, particularly when someone literally wearing her face starts swinging an axe at her.

All Must Die (2019) is one of those movies that tries to be more than what it is at face value; with its anxious pacing and direction, the film is at an aim to be a psychological thriller of simplistic proportions and, to the movie's credit, it does succeed at building up to the macabre latter act with much sullen and uncertain tone until the reveal, giving us some time to work ourselves around our casts. The drawback, however, is that said reveal was anything new, so much so that you could actually piece it together quite early through how some of the characters react to everything that's happening, even more when the fairly bloody and chunky bodycount starts piling up on screen.

The film in turn, as much as it tries leaning off from the dead-partyers-in-the-woods deal, still suffers from a generic cookie-cutter mystery plotting plenty of B-grade slashers suffer from, but it does have that decent production flair and alright acting going for itself so those with a knack for simple backwoods psycho-drama could still get a kick out of film so long as they're not looking for high remarks.

1 female found dead from a cut throat
4 males found hoisted through hooks after brained from hammer blows
1 female hacked on the neck and gut with an axe
1 female stabbed to death with a pitchfork
1 female brained with a hammer, later found dismembered
1 male knifed on the gut
1 male stabbed and disemboweled with a hand held ice auger
1 female hacked with an axe
Total: 11

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Glitchy Bloody Poltergeist Footage: Paranormal Demons (2018)

Paranormal Demons (Germany, 2018)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Sascha von Hinrichs, David Brückner, Ildiko Preszly

Paranormal Demon's quote-unquote tagline basically sums up what to expect from the movie; it's a found footage supernatural horror ala the Paranormal Activity franchise, with a climax introducing a masked killer wielding a halberd to do murder like them Friday The 13th movies. Nothing beats a straightforward marketing I guess, especially since there's really nothing else going on for the movie save for that plot.

In that sense, the story is mostly predictable in its flow, starting with a pair of college kids filming a documentary project about disproving the supernatural and the main focus for their claim of falsehood is a particular footage of a supposed demon attack they found lurking around the web. Seeing the location of the attack happens to be just a car ride away, the duo recruit some help (Or as I like to call them, bodycount fodder!) and plan on driving there so they can investigate and prove that the footage was faked. But not before stopping by your usual doomsayer (or two) who warns them not to go to where the "Devil" lives. Can you guess if they listened?

A sizable chunk of this first act is where the supernatural aspect of the film makes its rounds with varying levels of subtlety, yet still trapping itself with as many paranormal cliches you probably have come across other titles dealing with hauntings, like seances, poltergeist activity and, seeing this is a found footage film, glitchy camera distortions. Noticeably, however, this is all what Paranormal Demons has to offer in regards of "spooky ghostly visuals", just repetitive flickering effects edited to suggest the otherworldly and gimmicky camera work that is an insult to the word inept, so it isn't hard to feel very little investment to the supernatural threat or the scares it is suggesting.

This, in turn, makes the movie feel padded out, more over considering in between these uninteresting scares are cringe-worthy scripting and bland characters that failed to grasp some suggested opportunities the story could have used for conflict, making itself at least a worthwhile watch. But, instead, the intention appears to be cheesing up these characters to near laughable exaggeration before ending them in gruesome ways, thus the slasher element of the last act surprisingly felt natural in its stride. A confused, yet satisfying turn that is overall welcomed.

Now, this isn't to say that the slasher elements were handled the best here in Paranormal Demons. In fact, the killer's design is average and the killcount is hardly that high nor is it creative (plus there is the nagging matter that this is footage captured by a guy who wont stop filming, even if the people in front of him were getting their heads torn off!) but I would say that it is, at least, watchable for how gory it can be and how well some of the found footage elements were used to make the kills and stalk-and-hack sequences that more entertaining. The finale it all leads to, sadly, lacks any real punch to it, but for what it's worth, the whole thing could have ended worse.

Honestly, I can't entirely put down this film as a waste of time since I did enjoy the cheesier side of its direction and, again, the bodycount heavy last act catered well enough to my inner gorehound. So, I guess what I'm saying is that this isn't for everyone, but those in the mood for a guilty pleasure, Paranormal Demons (2018) is a good candidate for a rent and a watch.

1 male had his throat cut
1 male killed, method unknown
1 male hit by an incoming car
1 male had his head torn off
1 female gutted with a sickle
1 male hoisted from the neck, disemboweled
1 male stabbed with a halberd
1 male slashed with a halberd
1 female dragged away, presumably killed
Total:  9

Monday, March 23, 2020

A Californian Survival Trip: Darkslide (2020)

Darkslide (Portugal/USA, 2020) (AKA Road to Red)
Rating: **
Starring: Sean Gray, Chris Blasman, Renee Dorian

After finding out that his kid brother Paul plans on ditching his position as a world champion skateboarder so he could live a freer life, Bruce loses his cool and confronts his bro, chastising him for his brash decisions and how he's wasting his talents as a sportsman by giving up. Paul retaliates by driving off in the middle of the night, never to be heard of until three weeks later when his empty car's found parked at a remote alpine lake, along with a surfboard floating on the freezing water, but no trace of his body.

Bruce, feeling guilty that he caused his brother's disappearance, decides to make things right by joining four of his friends on an epic road trip one day to film Paul's planned movie, all the while enjoying everything California can offer from strong waves for surfing on to flat dunes for grinding a gnarly board. All is well until the gang opted to stop by Paul's last spot as a way of pay respect, not knowing they'll discover what really happened to Bruce's brother and that they'll soon have to suffer the same fate.

Lengthily running for two hours, Darkslide (2020) is practically two one-hour movies in between a transition, with the first being a sports-themed road drama hammily narrated by the movie's main protagonist as he shares philosophy regarding the "Californian dream" and his thoughts concerning Paul's disappearances. It's absent of horror unless you count the cheesy dialogue as nightmarish for the hilariously wrong reasons, which might as well be the only worthwhile jig in this half since it does get funnier on a shallow B-grade bad movie way the more it tries to be dramatic. (Not to say it doesn't work at some moments, but the tongue-in-cheek approach weighs in more to consider the direction as "balanced") There's also some sweet camera work and skate and surf stunts to be seen for those who are into those, all until the movie does a 180 on the tone and shifts everything into survival horror mode.

Now, this next half loses some points for originality as its basically a cheaper, not-so-ballsy-gory clone of The Descent (2005), with four out of five of the characters surviving a nasty fall and finding themselves trapped inside a cave maze with something lurking around with plans on either killing them or procreating with them. A good chunk of this is spent on the usual bickering, planning and claustrophobic amateur spelunking, and the horror elements isn't going to kick in until the last twenty minutes. Needless to say, Darkslide (2020) is a challenge to sit through if you're not patient or if you have a low tolerance for B-grade cheesy plotting as the last act's hardly that exciting, especially with the reveal as to what's hunting them in the cave.

Still, I can tell there's an idea of a working story or at least a fun one somewhere amidst all of that chunky cheddar and borrowed horror pieces so I will give the film some slack for their efforts. Sadly, there isn't enough of a rewarding payoff after all of that, so I still find Darkslide hard to recommend to anyone unless they're as curious as a cat veering dangerously close to an electrified fence; if you think you can handle it, then by all means jump over and try this movie out. If not, then you're gonna have a really long time tolerating this movie. A really long.

1 male found with a mauled face
1 male found dead, body hoisted on cave wall and left to rot
1 female had her face bashed in with a skateboard
1 male bitten on the neck, chest pried open
1 male had his gut pried open, bled to death
Total: 5

Friday, March 20, 2020

Blinded Birds: Knife + Heart (2018)

Knife + Heart ("Un couteau dans le coeur") (France, 2018)
Rating: ****
Starring:  Vanessa Paradis, Nicolas Maury, Kate Moran

Summer of Paris, 1979; gay pornographer Anne Parèze (Vanessa Paradis) is terribly reeling from her recent breakup with her lover and editor Loïs (Kate Moran) and will soon have her wits and compassion tested when one of her actors, out one night to celebrate his latest film, was found killed at a leather and jockstrap bar. Initially unshaken by the news, Anne is instead inspired by the atrocity to create her most ambitious project, a pornographic murder thriller called Homocidal. This, of course, sparks disgust from some of her co-workers who are outraged by this exploit, as well as worry from the rest as their number starts to suspiciously drop like flies the more they proceed with the filming. It wasn't until Anne gets an encounter with a masked figure that she starts to take this personally, but at that point, could it all be too late?

Drenched in neon glow and electronic synth, Knife + Heart (2018) strives to get the feel and look of an early 70s Mario Bava giallo fashioned around a stylized underbelly of pre-AIDS crisis France where sex and drugs were norms to be explored and enjoyed. With this, one would expect an exploitative sharp-edged horror thriller full of gore and explicit smut but, surprisingly with some softcore visuals and campy elements, the movie instead worked through its casts to tell its story and the result is a melancholic yet strangely warm mystery with a modest bodycount and broken sympathetic characters.

This is far from claiming Knife+Heart is a tamed beast, mind you, as much of the exploitative elements can still be seen around the first act where the film feels greatly like an adult slasher/giallo hybrid. A notable pair of rather brutal dispatches around this act have strong sexualized feel to them, juxtaposed only with enough stylized editing, camera work and scoring for an arthouse finish that kept the film decently away from being labeled as a simple yet violent erotica trash, but as the movie progresses into its second act which focus more on Anne's personal investigation on the killings, the direction have the murders parked back to let the story focus more on our lead's amateur snooping, as well as finding and fighting off her own personal demons.

It is around this part of the plot that the film dove into cheesier territories that honestly felt too fantastical compared to what's already happening and I'm not just talking about the spiritual symbolism that got chucked in for the film's need for sophisticated babbling, or that random genetic diseases given to some random guy just to give him monster claws. Basically, there's hint that Anne have some sort of connection to the killer and it has something to do with a dream-like vision of a burning house she's been getting throughout the film. It is eventually explained what this burning house is alluding to, but I find this reveal awfully weak since it just sounded and felt too coincidental to earn any solid hold.

On the other hand, the reveal did gave the killer a sympathetic backbone as, without spoiling much, it ties strongly to their motive as to why their going after Anne's filming crew. It is difficult to follow for a while as you work the pieces together but once the emotional finale runs its course, you can't but feel a tad sorry for the masked slasher considering what they have gone through.

Frankly, despite the convoluted nature of its mystery, Knife + Heart still works well enough as a horror movie thanks to Gonzalez’s and Mangione’s excellent scripting, making our queer characters little like the usual gay caricatures seen in these types of films and more like actual people with shades of insecurities and a need to feel loved and belonged. This could have been explored further with an edge seeing that the movie did hinted some drama regarding social injustices against queer communities but the normalized treatment dulled the blade enough to the point this indifference more or less could be dropped. Might be a good thing for some but I feel this was a missed opportunity to give some of our characters more angles to develop with.

Definitely for mature audiences for all of the boundaries considered and broken, with some good humor thrown in from time to time to keep the film far from being too serious and gloom, Knife + Heart (2018) is a surprisingly intriguing queer slasher that promises thrilling murders, wholesome laughs and genuine heartbreak. Not everybody's cup of tea, but a definite keeper for genre fanatics!

1 male repeatedly stabbed in the rectum with a bladed dildo
1 male unknowingly fellates a bladed dildo, knifed through the head
1 male repeatedly knifed on the back
1 male caught on fire (flashback)
1 male found bleeding to death from a cut throat
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male knifed to death
Total: 7

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Friday, March 13, 2020

Man, This Coronavirus Outbreak is Sure Getting Out of Hand...

So much so that people are being asked into staying indoors.

Welp, fine by me! Thank goodness it's Friday! The 13th! 

Let the slaughter-marathon begin!

(But in all seriousness, stay safe everybody! Stay calm and drink your fluids!)