WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BODYCOUNT. HIGH RISK OF SPOILERS. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Barbarian In The Big City: Nikos The Impaler (2003)

Nikos The Impaler (Germany, 2003) (AKA "Nikos", "Survival of the Dead")
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Joe Zaso, Felissa Rose, Andreas Schnaas

Dare myself to see another Andrea Schnaas film after my lukewarm experience with Violent Shit and its sequel? Hey, why not? I did enjoyed Anthropophagus 2000 after all!

One night during a museum's exhibit showcasing obscure Roman art, a thousand year old Roman barbarian named Nikos was accidentally brought back to life after his mask got drenched in a burglar's blood during a shootout. Continuing his reign of bloodshed and terror that he was executed for, Nikos worked his way through trapped patrons (which includes a history class visiting for extra credit), slicing and smashing them with typical Schnaas splatter before escaping into the New York streets, killing one random victim to the next.

Plot-wise, this is all Nikos The Impaler had to offer. It may not look much as the movie is something what some people would call "Death Porn", wherein we pay a good renting money to see one guy kill tons of people just for the sake of the numbers and padding, much like the atrocities known as The Final Destination, The Collection or even the horrid The Summer of Massacre (2011). Once the killings starts, it's one sliced body part to the next in a very redundant pattern and will more likely upset those who were expecting more than a kill-a-thon.

Just as any of this kind of films, Nikos' quality is rather questionable; acting is varying in degree but I learned to overlook this seeing most of our casts were set to die a gory death in a matter of minutes or so. Strangely, the movie did try to mold some characters for us to familiarize ourselves with, but none of them really stood up from where I'm sitting so, yes, that was a wasteful effort. There's also some peeves regarding props, sets, lighting and audio, but I rather not get into that since Schnaas appears to be aiming for something else here.

The only thing that sets Nikos The Impaler apart from most Death Porn is that it had a little more charm to its slaying, giving us the juiciest practical effects a B-movie may not even handle, a momentum that can't be stopped by the next half, and an overall so-bad-its-good tone that simply was not meant to be taken seriously.

By the last third of the movie, it finally did what Friday the 13th: Jason Goes to Manhattan was supposed to do, having its killer roam streets, movie houses and gymnasiums, to murder anyone that gets in his way (literally), which includes Troma's Lloyd Kaufman in a brief cameo. Even more outrageous was the last few minutes of the film where, for some reason, the barbarian finally showed his supernatural powers and brought to life a zombie, a vampire seductress, a pair of ninjas, and a fat Hitler (with a bonus Hitler floosie for the kill count) to enlist them in his war against everything that walks on two legs, as well be there to heighten the kill count during his final (and hasty) showdown against what was left of our heroes.

It's a stretch, but the strangeness Nikos The Impaler possesses worked a lot for me; perhaps this is what draws in some of its fans albeit being a terrible movie. I find it quite charming, honestly, so while I am giving this film half of my full ratings, I do recommend it to anybody who just loves a dumb flick. By far, for a Death Porn, this sits proudly next to my other faves, such as Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers and Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.

Bodycount:
1 male had his face torn off
1 female had her throat cut with sword (flashback)
1 male hacked on the back with sword (flashback)
1 male slashed with sword (flashback)
1 male gutted with sword
1 male shot on the chest
1 male dismembered offcamera
1 female decapitated with sword
1 male got his face sliced off with sword
1 male found with throat cut
1 elderly female sliced in half with sword
1 elderly male beaten to death with a camera
1 male beheaded with sword
1 male had his arm torn off, bled to death
1 male ran through with a sword, sliced down between the legs
1 male beheaded by the mouth with a thrown sword
1 male torn in half
1 female skewered with a thrown pipe
1 female had her chest torn open
1 male crushed in two with barbell weights
1 male found with his eye socket crushed open
1 male found with his neck torn open
1 female seen with throat cut
1 male seen murdered
1 female found with throat cut
1 female found with head wound and throat cut
1 female seen nearly beheaded
1 female seen with her face mutilated
1 male torn in half
1 male had his head sliced in half with sword
1 female brained against the wall
1 female had her gut pushed out through her back
1 male hacked with sword
1 male incinerated in car explosion
1 female ran through the mouth with sword
1 male hacked on the head with sword
1 female stabbed on the chest with sword
1 male got his heart torn out
1 male hacked on the neck with sword
1 female hacked on the chest with sword
1 male nearly sliced in half with sword
1 male got his neck bitten open
1 male ran through the gut with sword
1 male had his head blown open
1 female had her neck broken
1 male had his neck torn off
1 female stabbed on the chest with a wooden stake
2 males decapitated with trashcan lid
Total: 49
hehe...Fat Hitler...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Summers of Massacres: Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers and 3: Teenage Wasteland Double Bill Review

The Late 80s is the franchising years of the slashers; in order to appeal to the still loyal fans of bodycounted grue, especially on a particular franchise such as Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street, plots were rehashed and re-molded to keep the story going, so long as the tickets still sell and people kept asking for more. It was a tough time for slasher movies, so some of these marketing geniuses even tried to bring back titles you wouldn't expect to get a comeback so late at that time of the year.

Good Examples of these would be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where in the follow-up takes place in almost after decade and brings back the lovable power tool wielder with another family, and even Halloween, forcing the big wigs behind its franchising to bring back the infamous boogeyman Michael Myers after the misfire that is Halloween III: Season Of The Witch didn't appeal much due to Myers ' absence.

In 1988 and 1989, two direct to video releases, shot back-to-back, showcased the return of Angela Baker, the Angel of Death from the cult hit Sleepaway Camp, now in full reign as a massacring camp counselor out to kill campers who are very naughty in her eyes (which, unfortunately for them, means just about anyone) on the first, and as a serial killer posing as a troubled youth on the next.

Will they do just fine for our blood-hungry needs? Let's see!

Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers (1988)
Ratings: ****
Starring: Pamela Springsteen, Renée Estevez, Tony Higgins

Recapping everything that happened in the previous entry through a campfire tale, a group of youngins from Camp Rolling Hills soon gets their short shorts sent back to their cabin by a now grown up Angela, released for good behavior, believed to be re-institutionalized and underwent a sex-change operation, who then secretly murders one of them for "telling nasty things about her." (Truth hurts! Ba-dum-bum! Tshhh!)

Through out the movie, Angela methodically kills off one camper at a time, who were either getting high on dope, fucking in the woods, flashing her boobs, taking picture of said girl flashing her boobs, snooping, lying, not apologizing for doing something bad or just simply being in the wrong place on the wrong time. (Each of them noticeably named after the 80's Brat Pack!) She easily disguised her murders as simply "sending the kids home", which oddly didn't raised anybody's attention seeing these kids are "sent home" all too often and quickly. Either ways, by the time the staff, or those that cared, noticed Angela sent home too many kids, they had no choice but to fire her.

And then all hell broke loose.

Pure 80s cheddar, with a hint of death porn, Unhappy Campers ditched the sort-of serious approach of the original and went on to a campy and unnervingly quirky story of one mad girl, hellbent on murder. Nothing really deep going on here unless you count Angie's little heart-to-heart moments with a loner girl who she has taken interest in, the film focuses a lot on creative killings and hammy one-liners that, thank the gods, aren't ear-bleedingly bad. (I chuckled at its ineptness) More over, the movie never felt like it had a story, just a day in a camp where kids are getting murdered, and bad hair is the law. That said, expect a lot of random teens being tossed to heighten the kill count and a redundant pattern for the next 80 minutes.

Unhappy Campers may not be the kind of successor you would want for a cult hit like Sleepaway Camp, but it made itself let loose favorably and became a worthwhile movie with colorful gags and murders that simply reeks nostalgia. One fan favorite scene had Angela kill two boys dressed up as Jason and Freddy with weapons associated with these slasher stars, plus one, so if we ever had one of those can this guy beat that guy? discussion, least we can thank her for making Jason vs Leatherface happen on screen.

A quick and quipped entry to a franchise no one would expect, but by far the best among the line's sequels. 

Bodycount:
1 female bludgeoned on the head with a dead branch, tongue cut off
1 female found burned to death on a grill
1 female set on fire on a grill
1 female killed with a powerdrill
1 male had his throat cut with a prop bladed glove
1 male chainsawed to death
1 male knifed on the back, drowned inside a toilet
1 female garroted with guitar string
1 female knifed to death
1 male gets a face full of battery acid
1 male decapitated with machete
1 male seen murdered
2 boys found with neck slits and stabs
1 male found dismembered with a throat cut
1 male found hanged
1 female knifed on the gut
1 female knifed to death
1 female presumably killed
Total: 19

Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland (1989)
Rating: ***
Starring: Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Michael J. Pollard

The next follow-up to the Sleepaway Camp legacy was rather a dry bone; opening strangely in the city, (rather new for a Backwoods slasher in the 80s) we watch one hapless teenage girl get chased down the alley and get ran over by a dump truck in broad daylight, through a populated street. The driver was, no surprise here, Angela Baker, now posing as that angry city kid living in the projects she just murdered, taking in her place to go on a camping program in the newly opened Camp New Horizon, which so happens to be nearby Camp Rolling Hills. (Ah, memories, right Angela?)

After being acquainted with other campers from different social classes partaking in this "experiment with sharing", the pack was divided into three groups, wherein Angela systematically kills off one individual at a time, before moving in to the next group to start all over.

A little disappointing plot-wise; it's a routine runaround of simply Angela killing someone, ridding their bodies, lie about their deaths to another somebody who's gullible enough to believe her and may or may not be the next to die; kinda like Unhappy Campers only a little duller now that you know what to expect.

Even Angela's quippy personality is downplayed here; not that she isn't adorable with her one-liners anymore, just that her supposedly sullen city-raised character got rid most of the lovable cheekiness of her psycho persona. Also dropped disappointingly is the sub-plot of a father of one of Angela's victims, which happens to be a police officer, vowing vengeance against her if he ever found out she's back. This, sadly, was just a red herring and this guy is dispatched too quickly.

And yet, by far, Teenage Wasteland is still a passable watch for a slasher. It's quick in its pace, trashy and cheesy at the same time, glorifying itself with vicious murders and some gags against stereotyping; where else can you find a horror couple that didn't end up kissing each other in the end because the girl already had a boyfriend back in the city. (And it took her this long to tell him, why?), or have our killer compose her own rap song? And a catchy one, even!

It's silly, cheap but not too shabby on the bloodletting, this is one slasher junkfood meant to be enjoyed with a free mind, no-logic and a whole lot of quirkiness. Not the best in its series, but still passable on its own.

Bodycount:
1 female ran over by a truck
1 female accidentally snorted powdered lye, poisoned
1 male beaten and impaled with a dead branch
1 female beaten with a death branch
1 male got his face blown off with a firecracker
1 male bludgeoned with a dead branch, set on fire
1 female decapitated with an axe
1 female hoisted and dropped from a flag pole
1 female buried up to her neck and had her head shredded with a lawnmower
1 male got his arms tied to a van and torn off
1 male gets a tent spike hammered into his head
1 male shot
1 male and 1 female axed on the chest
1 male stabbed on the chest with a syringe
1 male stabbed on the eye with a syringe
Total: 16

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sexy. Sultry. Slasher. : Nurse 3D (2013)

Nurse 3D (2013)
Rating: ***
Starring: Paz de la Huerta, Katrina Bowden, Kathleen Turner

Just take one good look at the teaser posters and you'll know what is in store for us here; a sexy villainess and a whole lot of blood.

Brazilian Paz De La Huerta plays Abby, a provocative nurse working at a prestige hospital by day and moonlights as a serial killing vigilante targeting adulterous men by night thanks to a traumatising childhood where she killed her own cheating father. 

Things go intense for Abby the day new hires were welcomed, and she became the mentor of a newcomer nurse, Dani, whose pretty face worked through our titular nurse and instantly became her obsession. Attempting to get Dani into her life through means of blackmail and stalking, she sly through suspicious eyes using hercharms, perfectly moulding alibis to make it look like she's the victim of Dani's "obsession" while occasionally murdering those who got in too deep on finding out about her past, or those who hinders her from her goal.

In the near end, it all spirals down to Dani trying to prove her innocence and stop Abby before she completely destroys her life and pretty much slaughter everybody else around her.

The best way to describe Nurse 3D is that it's the bastard child of a slasher, an erotic thriller and a really smutty black comedy after one steaming orgy; while the plot is hardly original, the quippy writing, the everlasting supply of bust and butt shots, and erotic wordplay definitely did this movie proud as a horror-equivalent of a wet-dream thanks to the impossibly proportionate De La Huerta playing a strangely exotic and dangerous anti-heroine, and the wonderful traditional and CG splatter that works despite unnecessarily convertible for 3D.

There's a genuine grindhouse feel to the movie, busting out jokes and jobs that mainstream media is often careful about unless they wanted angry mothers complaining about their sons jerking off to the film; as provocative as it is however, Nurse 3D soon turns to dark and mean-spirited dimensions as Abby went on a killing spree in the same hospital she works at, as security, staff and even helpless patients are brutally murdered with much bloodshed as a slaughterhouse. I'll be frank here; while the film highlights that it's sexy, quick and slick, the murder spree in the climax is actually the biggest catch for me as I personally think effectively evoked the fears of being medicated in hospitals.

Just picture this: you're weak, alone, either undergoing or resting from a life-threatening surgery, and all of the sudden this maniac just comes right at you with a scalpel and stabs you to death. What did you do to deserve this? Nothing, you're just unlucky. Unlucky that you have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and unlike killers like Colt Hawker from Visiting Hours (one of the many 80s hospital themed slashers), she did it without rhyme or reason at this point. Now that's darkly unsettling.

Performances apart from De La Huerta were spot on as well; playing our goodie girl is Katrina Bowden, who many of you backwoods horror fanatics will remember as the not-so-but-thought-to-be-doomed female lead Allison in Tucker and Dale vs Evil, here playing a similar trait but only with enough spunk to actually tackle our villainess in a cat-fight. Others thrown in would be Kathleen turner in a brief cameo as the Head Nurse, Judd Nelson as one of the main doctors with a taste for ass, and Adam Herschman from the comedy film Accepted (2006) as a hapless neighbor to Abby, who remains unaware of her true character.

Production-wise, the movie never looked cheap; there's some nice 70s artsy touch to the cinematography, camera work that loves the angle and everything just look crisp.

It's pretty sick at times, and I came to appreciate that, but in totality, Nurse 3D is a slasher trying to bring out more from its star killer. May not work too well altogether if you already seen movies like Orphan, or Single White Female, but old and new fans of slasher movies will love this fine example of the great lengths the sub-genre will go to entertain for our gory needs, challenge subtle tameness and succeed in being one of the few 3D movies out there that has a workable plot. (Hah! Take that The Final Destination! Take that My Soul to Take!)

So, my friends, call it a date night! The Nurse is waiting for you!

Bodycount:
1 male thrown off a building and lands on a gate railing, impaled
1 male seen stabbed to death with syringes
1 male paralyzed, killed in car crash
1 male had his throat cut with scalpel (flashback)
1 male dismembered with bonesaw
1 female killed offscreen
1 male electrocuted on the chest with defibrillator
1 male ran through the neck with scissors
1 male killed in botched surgery
1 male stabbed on the eye with scissors
1 male had his feeding tubes torn out from his chest
1 male stabbed on the neck with scalpel
1 male had his stitches undone, bled to death
1 female stabbed to death with scissors
1 male brained with baseball bat
Total: 15

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fear Him as you Fear God: Evidence (2013)

Evidence (2012)
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Caitlin Stasey, Radha Mitchell, Stephen Moyer


If a gimmick is dying, it's only natural one will try everything to keep it fresh, no matter how silly it will be.

The main problem with most found footage horror is that they're hardly believable; will you really record every horrible thing happening in front of you? Especially if this happens to be a large hulking guy obscured with a welder's mask and brandishing a blowtorch? Yeah, neither would I! But for a group of detectives in this film, these footage might be the only evidence they can use to figure out who just massacred a busload of teenagers.

Going through several hours of recordings, Detective Burquez (Radha Mitchell) and Reese (Stephen Moyer), along with techie Gabe (Barak Hardley) pieces together footages they recovered from phones found on the crime scene and coming up with as much suspects as possible. 

Looking into these records, we see up and coming actress Leann (Torrey DeVitto) and her friends taking a trip across the Nevada desert for a gig in Las Vegas. However, their trip is cut short when their bus went on a wreck thanks to a rigged barbwire, forcing the group into venturing to a nearby ghost town for shelter. What they didn't know, though, is that their night will plunge into a fight for survival as a masked maniac begins to hunt them down one by one.

Some might enjoy this refreshed take on a Found Footage horror that wasn't tackled since Cannibal Holocaust, mixing both amateur first-person recording and third world scenes to create one building story, while others will find this approach tedious, walking through every cliches known to the gimmick and to the sub-genre itself while making us believe that someone will hold a camera all night long just to see where they're going. Whether the story work in its fullest or not, what I came to enjoy in Evidence, enough to forgive any flaw, is that there's a good mystery to be enjoyed.

Multiple red herrings did come up, some being more suspicious than the other; the whole first third of the film actually focused on building up around these characters, but some of these casts just didn't quite work out too well. I see this as a way to prevent us with identifying with the cast, so that way it's easier to question them. In a way, it does help; among the list is a bus driver with a bad reputation, a hitchhiking lady with a dufflebag full of cash, her offcamera husband who's a traumatized Vietnam vet, and an angry boyfriend with temper issues. 

Once the slayings start, we get one killed off to the next, forcing us to recount on who might be behind the mask. These killings are a downer, sadly; because of the supposedly shaky and damaged quality of the film, we never get to see them that good, with the best ones I could make out is involves dismembering a victim with a blowtorch (via IR lens) and another being disemboweled. Still, I love the build up around this kills, utilizing the same old fear of an unseen attacker coming right around the corner to slash your throat with a glass shard. 

For a movie with a paper-thin plot, I'm quite thankful that these elements are handled pretty well at some point until the ending, which I believed could have been better. Not spoiling much, but it felt a tad too random and, sadly, broke a lot of legitimacy and continuity throughout the course of the film. I did felt a bit cheated but nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie up until that point.

So will I recommend this strange thriller to you all? Well, I will with a fair warning that Evidence is one confused bag of treats that tries to be a found footage slasher and a procedural thriller; It never quite get the two mixed in perfectly, but it has its occasional cleverness.

Bodycount:
1 male knifed on the throat
1 female dismembered with a blowtorch
1 female had her throat cut with a glass shard, disemboweled
1 male found shot through the mouth
1 male found murdered
1 male beaten to death with a steel rod
Total: 6

A Long Night of Clowns: Cut (2010)

Cut (United Kingdom, 2010)
Rating: **
Starring:  Deborah Burns, Dominic Burns, Lewis Copson

Remember how some time ago we had The Silent House? A movie from Uruguay marketed for its one single take? Well, here's another title that did the same, albeit shorter. Would it top, or would it flop? Let's see:

We have an opening scene involving another take on the urban legend about a babysitter being spooked by a large clown doll in the girl's room, only to discover from the girl's parents that they never bought the girl a man-sized clown doll. Doll turns out to be a deranged killer (which looked awesome, by the way) and just before we get a stab, we get cut off from the action when somebody turned off the telly.

So the opening's a movie withing a movie, and now we'll be treated with the film's theme song, with actual lyrics that involved the singer to peak a high note dramatically, all while we explore the house with a flying shot. As the real movie start, things get off a little dull as five people talked about...stuff (bad audio and accents. A terrible combination) until they begin to notice weird rustling outside their cottage and one of them waking up to find a face painted man looking right at him while he napped. Pizza guy then arrives, probably to heighten the kill count later, and soon enough, they're attacked by a group of face-painted hooligans in a nasty home invasion twist.

Not a lot to say with the movie; Cut's pretty short in its run so majority of the film had these five friends banter about something I'm not sure myself before anything interesting happens. The attack itself never really felt that thrilling since they included villainous monologues for a twist that just came out of nowhere, hence rushing everything to quick-cut tame murders and and a cheap shock ending.

The casts did pretty good on their roles but I've yet to understand what was this film all about, apart from being a sort-of okay home invasion. There's a motive, said during the film's climatic twist by the one who masterminded the attack, but thanks to the movie's bad audio, I never quite caught it. Still, I find the gimmick workable and there are some bad cheese moments that saved this film from total obscurity.

By all means, Cut is still a passable and creative effort that just needed a few tweaks. (Like, maybe, a better opening song?)

Bodycount:
1 male throat cut with knife, stabbed
1 female neck broken
1 male choked to death on choke-hold
1 male beaten to death
1 male stabbed on the back of his neck
1 male hacked on the chest with a sickle, bled to death
1 male killed off-camera
1 female throat cut with knife
Total: 8

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Mindful of Red Hoodies: Hidden (2009)

Hidden (Skjult) (Norway, 2009)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Kristoffer Joner, Cecilie A. Mosli, Bjarte Hjelmeland

Kai Koss had an abusive mother. It's been years since he had ran away from home and accidentally caused a car crash that killed another young boy's parents but now, as an adult raised by foster parents, he returns after finding out his mother passed away, seeing this as a way to confront his fear.

Strange visions begin to plague him soon, both imagined and unexplained, as he continues to struggle away from his dark past, but his situation went for the worse when two teenagers suddenly goes missing one night after they decided to break in to Kai's old house. Some suspected that he had something to do with it, but Koss thought otherwise with a suspect of his own: the other boy from that night of his escape, Peter, who many believe had died he accidentally ran through a cliff in panic. No body was found then save for the boy's shoes, however, so Koss is more than determined to solve this mystery and prove his innocence.

More murders soon occurs, all around Koss' gloomy estate, it's only a matter of time before the truth reveals itself, and Koss will have no choice but to face it.

Horror in Norway can be a hit or a miss; over the time, some good ones did came out to entertain our bloody needs. The more memorable ones being the 2006 snowbound slasher Cold Prey and its first sequel (the Third movie, not so much), as well as the Naziploitation zombie/slasher Dead Snow, but among others, we also got trash heaps like Hora, a cheap exploitation type that was simply a retelling of I Spit On Your Grave, and mediocre ones like Manhunt, a slasher film about people hunting people. (And that's it) Hidden falls in between these two, it's not good, but nor is it a total waste.

What I like from this film is that there's some well-handled atmosphere here done away with creepy shots of the dilapidated house (complete with littered creepy dolls and soaked up walls), a sense of alienation as nearly every other character around town are either suspicious or just plain uncaring and scares such as a pair of child's hands suddenly reaching out out of the shadows and ghostly visages that may or may not be there.

If I wasn't aware that this film is part-slasher, I would have thought this another one of those spook movies popularized by Asian horror such as the Ring or The Grudge with all this Gothic sensibilities and psychological trauma; nonetheless, we eventually get a red-hooded killer murdering people who makes a rather creepy onscreen debut wearing a doll's face mask. This element in the story was supposed to be mystery for us and our lead to figure out, but the way it's handled is where I'm a little bit disappointed; some clues were given and played out with twists, turns and red herrings in an attempt to sway us off into figuring it out soon. Some worked, some just gave it away, in the end the conclusion is nothing but a little teasing that could have been more shocking if it wasn't so obvious.

Those who are expecting a typical bloodletting will surely be disappointed; the kills here are tame and most of them are simply implied (the nastiest being a sharpened plank to the eye), focusing instead on the plight and horrors one traumatized man had to lived through again and their everlasting effects on his psyche. There's more psychological horror here than actual dismemberment, but I'm quite open to this approach as it did gave me something rather different from your average hack-a-thon and it is properly acted. Tension is well around the movie and these scenes simply had their moments, just wished some of the flow wasn't so draggy.

Skjult is a good watch for patient viewers and lovers of psycho-chillers; not a title I would grab for keeps, but I would rent it again if I have the time and felt like it.

Bodycount:
1 male and 1 female immolated in car crash
1 elderly female seen dead
1 male killed offcamera, clothes seen
1 female killed offcamera
1 male missing, presumably killed
1 male stabbed on the eye with a sharpened plank
1 male impaled through with a javelin
1 male falls off a cliff
Total: 9

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Loincloth Family Cannibal Dinner: Offspring (2009)

Offspring (2009)
Rating: **
Starring: Jessica Butler, Kelly Carey, Holter Graha

I went out and decided to see Offspring after finishing the Off Season, a novel written by Jack Ketchum, who in turn had written the book this film was based on, just to see if the it will live up to the books' signature splatterpunk notoriety.

Our opening act? Some guy burning the midnight oil working on some animation while his wife and baby daughter are asleep upstairs gets a strange sighting of a raggedy girl dropping a flower on his front lawn; at the same night, a drunken single mother drove home only to find the lights are still open, the kitchen a mess, the babysitter hacked and disemboweled by kids wearing cavemen outfit and her baby dead inside a plastic bag, before biting the big one herself as one of the kids attacks her with a hatchet.

Strange, and yet gory. I shall continue.

The murder soon sets off an ex-cop to handle over the case, seeing that he had seen the likes of this before. Apparently, the culprit is a clan of cannibalistic cave dwellers whose laughable outfit animal skin and homegrown culture of blood and mayhem had been terrorizing the town for many years, which now targets the Halbards, the local married couple we saw in the opening, the next night, breaking into their house and begins to slaughter the husband, tries to rape the wife for breeding and chases after their house guests, Claire, her young son Luke and the Halbard's infant daughter deep into the woods.

There's also the case of Claire's psychotic soon-to-be-ex-husband driving all the way to find her, but with the bloodthirsty killers hot on everybody's trail, who shall live or die is a matter most complicated and insane.

This should have been a good film, but I saw a lot of cons that prevented me into fully enjoying this brutal and nearly-unforgiving movie; plot-wise, this is the original 1977 The Hills Have Eyes done in a seaside community and with realistic gore. Both films had cannibals wearing fur skin and animal bones, picking off people for meat and breeding to ensure their survival only to be challenged eventually when one of their targets decided to fight back. What makes the plot of original The Hills Have Eyes work is that, the wild cannibals lived in an area where food is scarce, forcing them to resort to cannibalism for sustenance; in here, the cannibals in Offspring lives in a seaside community in a time wherein modern norms such as internet and cable TV are fully grasped, so making the cannibals untamed savages just simply sticks out like a fish out of water, making the entire story hard to be taken seriously.

But it's a horror movie! It's not meant to be taken seriously, you say? Well, I would say so too, but the film here is seemingly trying to take itself seriously as one would notice the lack of any icebreaker to its sinister and mean-spirited tone. It struggled to shock us, and sometimes it succeeds, but we're alienated to feel anything for these characters since they all lack any proper development and a decent (or should I say experienced) cast to play them. For the cannibal's case, any explanation to why these savages are there in the first place would have also helped build a more menacing character for them; hints are given that these guys are around for a very long time, devolved into monsters that cares very little to who they hunt down just for the sake of food, but other than this obvious trait, nothing else. They're simply there.

Often the silliness does have its charm if you look at the film with cheese, but its dead serious tone really kills it. Interesting to say, this isn't the first time we had a fur-coat wearing killer in a slasher movie; a late 80s cheapo known as Memorial Valley Massacre also had a wild jungle man as a menace, but unlike the clan in Offspring, he's no cannibal and he kills to protect his territory. Honestly, that film was a lot more watchable than this sullen sulk-fest as, at least, it knew how silly its own plot is and just gave us a cheesy good time ala B-flick, So is there anything that makes Offspring a worthwhile watch anyhow? To be frank, yes: gore.

a family that preys together
Offspring is really brutal; dead babies, children being shot or forced into bonfires, wives being raped in front of their friends, husbands and/or children, gooey disembowelments, beheadings, the film somehow captured the splatter and mayhem the books they based on have, but with a proper amount of budget, I'm sure they could had done closer. It may look like a cheap excuse to enjoy the film, but it will all depend on taste. Personally, I couldn't give this film a higher rating since at the end, I still felt empty; I didn't enjoy it, but I never found it as a waste of time either since it did offer something to watch in a worthwhile. I'll still prefer the books for that matter, but for all of you who're looking for a cheap gore flick to satisfy your sick and twisted fantasies, I wouldn't recommend it, but try and see if you'll like this one.

Bodycount:
1 female seen dismembered
1 baby found dead inside a plastic bag
1 female hacked with a hatchet
1 male sliced open with a dagger, disemboweled
1 male eviscerated with a machete
1 girl shot
1 male ran through the neck with a machete
1 female shot
1 male shot on the head
1 boy shot, forced to a bonfire
1 boy shot
1 male stabbed on the chest with a dagger
1 male had his head sliced in half with an axe
1 male neck broken
1 boy hacked on the chest with a hatchet
Total: 15

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Drugging-ly Uneventful: Camp 139 (2013)

Camp 139 (2013)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Ricardo Andres, Greg Bronson, Michael Cooley

How can you mess up a backwoods slasher? Apart from doing everything by the book without an effort? Well, I'll tell you: underplaying the clichés.

Camp 139 looks like any other backwoods horror flick ever made, though it's opening showed us something rather different; in 2007, a kid is seen strapped to a hospital bed while a doctor tries to inject him with a drug. A brief struggle happened and doc was stabbed on the face with the syringe. More orderlies came in to restrain the boy, successfully drugs him, not even giving a bat's eye to the may-or-may-not-be dead doc with a friggin needle on her face.

Cut forward to the present, two couples decides to go out to the woods for the classic rest and relaxation, with the added bonus of weed smoking, complimentary of a drug-scoring brother one of them is related to, and premarital sex. One suspicious encounter with a local sheriff later, they did get to their site, set up camp, tell spooky stories about some haywire medical experiment done by the Government to create super soldiers (an abandoned military hospital was nearby, as it should) and went on to the next day. So far, this is nearly at an hour mark, and no dead bodies yet.

The following morning, the girls went on for a swim at the falls until one of them caught something lurking in the woods and was freaked into leaving. Safe to say, one of these girls didn't return to the site, leading one of them to go out and look for her, and finally gave us our much awaited murder.

Sadly, this uninspired review you're reading right now is nowhere as dull as these killings are; turns out some guy in a baggy gas mask is taking nearby campers and disemboweling them with his bare hands, and how long did it take for the rest of our cast to figure something's wrong? Well, it's an hour passed and a few minutes counting down to a hasty "climatic fight" against the killer, ending in just a few seconds to give the last ten minutes explaining what just happened. I could go on what it was in detail, but to save myself from wasting another brain matter doing this review, all I could say is that one of the campers is the culprit, a character they met before knew this was gonna happen, all ending with a bad end. The End.

A very lame and cheap attempt to bring something entirely new to the genre, Camp 139 is really nothing more than a bodycount-tame wannabe slasher, taking cues on conspiracy and/or experiment-tied origins and atmospheric build-up as a strength, only to mess it up and drag along pacing problems, uninteresting dialogue, cardboard scripting and acting, no-budget special effects and low gore and/or scares into the wreck.

Positives? I got nothing. Probably gave some tiny shred of rating for the on-screen child disembowelment, but everything else is pure horseshit. Skip it!

Bodycount:
1 female stabbed on the face with a syringe (?)
1 female had her gut cut open off camera, disemboweled
1 male disemboweled with a garden claw
1 male stabbed on the back with a lobotomy needle (?)
1 girl disemboweled (flashback)
Total: 5 (?)

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Music of the Night: The Phantom of The Opera (1989)

Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera (1989)
rating: ****
starring:  Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White

"Pray for them, who giveth their soul unto Satan"

Rarely heard. Rarely discussed. A shame it had to be that way, it's really good!

Molding together period settings with drama and slasher film horror, The Phantom of The Opera stars Jill Schoelen as Christine, a young aspiring opera starlet in a modern day New York, who somehow finds herself knocked unconscious by a freak accdient while trying to sing the unfinished piece Don Juan Triumphant, composed by one Eric Destler AKA The Phantom of the Opera. (played by Robert Englund)

Upon Christine's awakening,  the story suddenly shifts to 1880s London; here, she works as a singer in a prestige opera house, wherein during the night of a big performance, she was given the opportunity to play the lead role as a replacement since the prima donna for that night, Carlotta, was stricken frightened after finding a skinned and murdered man in her closet.
A nasty surprise!
The culprit? The one and only Phantom, a man who sold his soul to the devil in exchange to have his music immortalized in history. The catch, however, is that he'll be disfigured with a rotting disease that had been eating his face away, thus maddening him into murder, skinning some of his victims to steal their skin. He, however, shows a soft side for Christine, who he began teaching how to sing behind the walls.

Doomed High Class
Though Christine's performance that night was well-received and given a standing ovation by the audience, the house's owner and a visiting reviewer decided to downplay her talent in favor of Carlotta, who was one of the opera house's source of publicity. This lead the Phantom to a bloody trail of vengeance and mayhem, and eventually, meeting up with Christine for the first time,  asking her to join him in a bonded (and unbreakable) union with hopes of immortalizing, not his, but their music. Whether Christine agrees or not may not be the case here, as the Phantom is purely determined to have her by his side, and murders anyone who dares to get between them.

Despite some strong gore, The Phantom of The Opera is far from just being another slasher; the direction of the movie is solid and strong, giving each main and supporting characters their own amount of screen time, though most of it revolves around Schoelen and Englund, to properly develop themselves and help the flow of the story, leaving us with a wonderfully performing cast and some depth to their role.

The Devil's Curse
What I find interesting here is that, also unlike most slashers, the killer here has a bit more background and character; though murdering for someone you love isn't entirely new to the slasher sub-genre, what differentiate this film from others is that the Phantom just doesn't kill anybody that comes across him, preferring to simply walk away from trouble unless provoked. He is more open to the streets, looking for wenches and bars to drown his sorrows in; probably the one, if not the only version of the Phantom that had walked around in public, surgically grafting flayed skin over the ones he is missing so he wouldn't stand out much. If one would take note, most of the murders he committed here were done as an act of exaggerated vengeance to those who questioned his and/or Christine's talent, dispatching them brutally and gleefully in bright red blood. He's crazy, but his strong romantic approach also made him calculating, passionately expressive and very tragic.

Schoelen's role as the sweet and talented Christine Day comes off as a cross between a distressed lover and that of a classic slasher survivor; the character may not had reached the same level of emotional depth as Englund's role, but she is likable and well-acted enough to overlook any shortcomings from scripting. In the end, Schoelen still had the lead role by the neck and gave us a performance quite good even for an exploited version of what could have been a romantic period thriller.

The Phantom shows his savagery
Speak of the devil, another aspect I'm quite fond of from this film is that it's a period horror flick, meaning there's the challenge of authenticity in terms of props and background, something the production team handled pretty good. Thanks to this, the movie itself have some very high class feel to it, though the added elements of supernatural horror and very gory murders still grounded this film back as straight horror, despite the lack of teen victims and gratuitous nudity. (one nude woman sleeping and that's it)

Fans of the original novel would see this version retained some of its grittier elements, compared to most of its stage musical portrayals where the titular character is given more plight to the point he's too sympathetic. Not that I have a problem with that, as I, myself, is a fan of the musical, but those portrayals had stripped away the very reason why the Phantom was feared to begin with. Nevertheless, I wouldn't say boosting up the kill and blood count here was the answer, but it's a novel idea, and one that I came to enjoy fully on its own.

The many faces of Englund Phantom
The Phantom of The Opera is one of the better underrated slashers that needs to be seen and experienced. A Box Office flop may it be, but it's a step up for the sub-genre, and too Englund's horror performance, delivering everything a true gore hound will ask and, in the meantime, something rarely done in bodycount films. Recommended!

Bodycount:
1 male eviscerated with a push knife, flayed
1 male stabbed on the gut with a bayonet
1 male beheaded with a bayonet
1 male stabbed on the gut with a bayonet
1 male had his face crushed with a towel and smashed to a wall
1 female head found in a bowl of soup
1 male impaled on a spike
1 male found with throat cut
1 male had his heart torn out
1 male stabbed and set on fire with a sharpened candle holder
1 male stabbed with a dagger (?)
Total: 11 (?)