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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Random Escape, Random Invasion: Deadly Intruder (1984)

Deadly Intruder (1984)
Rating: *1/2
Starring:  Chris Holder, Molly Cheek, Tony Crupi

A loon escapes an asylum one night, killing to attendants who were chasing him with a trusted plank and then breaking into a house where he forces a rather lonesome (and chesty) gal down a kitchen sink, drowning her while we get a good look on her sizable melons.

One unproductive discussion between local cops and a dog shit in a mug later, we next see a shifty looking drifter who proceeds to visit a small town called Midvale, more particularly that one isolated ranch where one lonesome woman named Jessie is living at and was preparing for some guests that night. Said drifter wants to do some hard labor for her in exchange of sandwiches, unnerving Jessie. Very reasonable as this guy simply won't leave her alone and skulks around chopping wood for her, but with her friends coming over, she continues whatever she was doing and wait it out.

Surely enough, the skulker leaves Jessie alone when her dinner guests arrive but just as her party goes on a full swing, random people starts to get murdered nearby. Folks with car troubles, a fat repair man, attendees on a chop shop, just to name a few innocent bystanders who gets snuffed out by a really mad loon but the question posed is who the killer is? Is it the too-obvious but otherwise shady drifter? One of Jessie's guests? Or perhaps that escaped loonatic everyone was occupied about not too long ago?

One thing is for sure, while the good two-thirds of the movie is purely slasher trash, the last act disappointingly switches to a hostage thriller that lagged the film to a hobble and climatically ends with an unorthodox twist to the identity of the killer. It's edgy in a lack of a better word but it just don't work too well if the near totality of this last act was spent creating such a monster to make the twist anything but workable. 

Deadly Intruder is pure slasher trash that's a bit more uninspired with its plotting, hence forgettable despite its honest attempt to top a notch. Would have worked actually, but it's low budget really made it impossible as bad lighting and horrid scoring gets in the way too many times, if not the sleazy tone that's too crude even for a film of this kind. Not much can be said for positives, so I really suggest you good folks out there to stay away from this one.

Unless you're already a fan of this film. That being the case, good luck with that.

 Bodycount:
1 male bludgeoned with a wooden plank
1 male brained with a wooden plank
1 female drowned in kitchen sink
1 male crushed underneath a hydraulic car jack
1 male axed on the back
1 female gets her face shredded on a running fan belt
1 male had his eye plucked out with a screwdriver
1 male dwarf-tossed to a TV
1 female strangled
1 male beaten with a fire poker
Total: 10

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

101 Maniacs: Admin's Top Slashers 50-41

*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 order does not matter here! Muahahaha!...ha!


50. Sleepaway Camp  (1983)
When young tykes and lecherous cooks began dying one by one in Camp Arawak, kids and counselors alike are doomed to be the victims of a homicidal killer who may have an axe to grind. (In)Famously known for its cheese and the shock ending that came out of nowhere, a cult classic of its own strong following.

Bloody Best Scenes: How to deal with the camp bitch? Kill her via curling iron shoved down to her-


49. Death Stop Holocaust
A genuine chiller with a slow start but ultimately unsettling all around as two vacationing best buds find themselves targeted by a trio of masked hoodlums who proceeds to assault and stalk them all through the night. Nevemind the plot holes, it's all about depravity and bone-chilling hopelessness in this one.

Bloody Best Bits: There's a money shot involving Horsehead looking up the stairs, holding a reciprocating saw. It's no chainsaw but I'm starting to dig it!

48. Pandemonium (1982)
Well, it's either this or Student Bodies; Pandemonium somehow won the spot for being closer to its slasher roots and providing us a better ending. But enough about that! We need to help a Canadian Mountie save a bunch of cheerleaders on a cheerleading summer school from A.) a masked psycho, B.) an escaped convict, or C.) A really big chef.

Bloody Best Bits: The House of Bad Pies. For some reason, juicy steak doesn't sound too tasty anymore...

47. You're Next (2011)
Home Invasion done ala slasher movie, the hype and wait was really worth it for this title! When a family suddenly begins to dwindle down one member at a time, courtesy of three masked assailants, it's up for a wild card to save them with her survival skills. But what could be the reason behind the attacks?

Bloody Best Bits: Just when you thought it's safe to run for your life, out comes a thin wire...

46. Club Dread
Somebody is killing off the staff at a vacation resort with a bloody kukri. Somebody who is a fan of a stoner's song. Some body in a pancho. Somebody...who's not afraid to kill in a ridiculous pineapple suit! What supposed to be a comedy film, Club Dread somewhat did the slasher elements so right it's no longer a spoof but a really great horror-comedy! Ah well, one man's failure is another man's treasure!

Bloody Best Bits: Would you really think you could outrun a killer riding a golf cart? Of course not, but there's that one dame who thought she could and suffered the consequences...

45. To Sir, With Love
Out of all the Korean slashers I've seen, this one really made the most impact for me; a lone survivor of a massacre retells the event that unfolded earlier that night, tangled with intrigue, grudges, secrets and a man wearing a creepy looking cardboard rabbit mask. Some might not buy the twist in the end but the totality was plainly savage and disturbing.

Bloody Best Bits: After being sliced to ribbons with a box cutter, one unfortunate fellow was forcefed with razors and boiling water. (And I scream in silence...)

44. Psycho II
One of horror's worthiest sequel. And not just any sequel, but that of a true classic! Deemed fit for society after being locked up, Norman Bates unfortunately begins to see and hear ole' mumsie again, beckoning murder. Will history repeat itself?

Bloody Best Bits: The reveal. Nobody saw it coming. Not even Norman.

43. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Picking Signs and angry mothers. Never a good thing for movies when drawing in a crowd but for us horror fanatics it's an invitation. For this slasher, said invitation should be spread! After years of growing up traumatized after his parents were brutally murdered by a robber dressed as Santa, Billy's Santa-phobia finally took toll on his psyche when he's forced to dressed up as the jolly fatman during Christmas Eve and unleashes a homicidal fury to all naughty boys and girls.

Bloody Best Bits: Love the intense scene between a post-murder Billy encountering a curious little sister of a victim.
42. Black Christmas (2006)
Sure, it's not the Black Christmas we get to know in the 70s but who cares? This title can firmly stand on its own feet as girls in a sorority house celebrating Christmas Eve are murdered by who they believe to be Billy, the house's original owner and a yellow psychopath who killed and partially ate most of his family some Christmas nights ago.

Bloody Best Bits: Oh God, um, lemme see: that one flashback when we finally see poor Billy stand up to his trashy step family and mum? Yeah, always cheered for that one! Also, there's that really cool and kinda depressing law few minutes towards the end. Let's just say Christmas just went bloodier that year.

41. Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers
How can you not love a perky, wise-cracking homicidal transgender who continues to depopulate a camp with a big smile on her face? Well, maybe a few personal reasons but nonetheless, Unhappy Campers delivered more of the good cheddary stuff than the original, thus a worthier popcorn flick for the fans!

Bloody Best Bits: Freddy and Jason vs Leatherface.

Angry Pig Pygmy: Piñata: Survival Island (2002)

Piñata: Survival Island (2002) (AKA Demon Island)
Rating: ***
Starring: Nicholas Brendon, Jaime Pressly, Eugene Byrd

Welp, just when you think you'd seen it all: killer robots running loose in a mall hunting teenagers, an alien slasher that makes doppelgangers out of his victims, death itself making various complicated accidents to kill off those that escaped its grasp. The world of slashers had been munching in and out all sorts of boogiemen tackling everything from the simpliest, to the complicated, and then the overly creative and original. With a title like Piñata: Survival Island, you can simply guess that this movie's going to involve a Piñata and true enough, our killer monster happens to be one.

How you ask? Well the movie surely took its time to explain it, opening with a voice over narration about a famine that struck a South American tribe some centuries ago, apparently as punishment for the tribe's multitude of sins. As the land dries up and starved most of its people to death, the tribe shaman molded a couple of clay piñatas for a ritual that's supposed to rid the land of this plague, placing the evil that caused all this in a hollow clay demon.

When the rites was done, peace and prosperity resumes across the land, and the cursed piñata was sent floating down the ocean, hoping nobody will ever find it.

Moving on to the present, during one Cinco De Mayo, a group of happy-go-lucky, drunk and horny teens representing five sororities visit an isolated tropical island for the annual Piñata Hunt, where the winning sorority will get a twenty thousand grand donation for finding and collecting the most hidden underwear stashed all over the place.

Unknown to them, the cursed piñata somehow got washed into the island and one of the groups mistaken it as a prop for the game. Upon breaking it, the evil was released, possessed the horned piñata as its body and began to beat anybody that crosses its path, stealing their souls to make itself more unstoppable.
What luck!
Obviously, this a horrid movie. It should be bad, really, as everything about Piñata is questionable in execution; the direction tries to be as serious as possible despite the silliness of its concept or the lack of any real plot development, the monster looks incredibly ridiculous which worsens every time it goes CG on us, and the characters are all dimwits. (Well, most of them were. One of the guys' educated enough to know what's going on at some point)
 
Some music video-style editings was tossed in once in a while that I just find really strange and unnecessary. In fact, I could have rated this film a little higher if they just kept the little guy and its gory kills purely traditional as the "guy in a rubber suit" gig didn't appeal much to the directors and they decided to give the killer piñata some CG enhancements, plus two pure CG forms that makes little sense apart from their attempt to make their creation "scarier". (Uh, no, making a monster look like a reject from a Diablo game is not scary. Decision to do so is!)

Still, can't hate a dreck this bad if it entertains and when I said that, I meant it in a so bad, it's laughably good tone. Sure, it's ridiculous but what do you expect from a film about a killer Piñata? A down to Earth drama about the hardships of being stranded in an island filled with piñatas loaded with booze and deers to hunt? Well, actually that does sound like a good film to watch, but that ain't the point for now! Piñata: Survival Island is no means a classic, but as a trashy slasher flick featuring an angry pygmy, there's enough gore and silly B-film worth of action and atrocities to keep us watching, laughing and chugging down bottles of booze alone or with your drunken friends, sitting proudly with the likes of other obscure cheese classics like Pieces or Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness!

To simply put it, what you think of the movie is all up to you; if you like your horror straight with a brain, then this is gonna be a very long sitting for you but if you're looking for a party film to bash and gawk at with your buddies, or just into the sins of the celluloid, then pack a dead brach cuz Piñata: Survival Island is your destination!

Bodycount:
1 male seen starved to death
2 female and 1 male seen starved to death
1 male bludgeoned with a dead branch
1 female has her head hacked open with a shovel
1 male hacked with a shovel
1 male has his groin ripped off
1 female bludgeoned with a dead branch
1 male bludgeoned to death with a stone axe
1 deer found eviscerated
1 male hanged on a vine noose
1 female beheaded with a stone axe
1 female mauled to death
Total: 14

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dangerous Antics: Hazmat (2013)

Hazmat (2013)
Rating: ***
Starring: Norbert Velez, Todd Bruno, Aniela McGuinness

Remember the show Scare Tactics? The one where an unsuspecting victim gets pranked by their friends and family in elaborate scenarios inspired by horror movies? Now, I always wondered what will happen if prank shows like this screw with the wrong guy? Maybe someone too unstable to understand that everything's a joke? Would there be misunderstandings? Lawsuits? Or perhaps, even murder?

Hazmat jabs an interesting plot from this idea, molding a slasher story about a crew running a show called "Scary Antics", currently setting up for a Behind-the-Scenes Special featuring a target named Jacob and his friends.

Well, the term "friends" may be pushing it a bit; technically, Jacob only has one friend who's willing to put up with his obsession over a power plant he believes to be haunted, but said friend's patience is growing thin. So unknown to Jacob, his buddy and two accomplices set him up for a prank with the Scary Antics crew at the very same power plant. But when the joke goes too far and one of the staffs get hacked with an axe by accident, Jacob loses it, dons a hazmat suit and gas mask, and the axe fatality begins to rise up.

It's a cool concept, one a lot of fans of similar-themed prank shows may find interesting, but I personally think Hazmat's execution was flawed, if not overly engaging; though we do understand that Jacob might not be the kind of friend you want to share bunk beds with, the company he hangs out with were sort of jerks. Though their intention to scare him straight seems reasonable, I sense a lot of hate against the weird guy and this kind of spite makes it hard for me to root for any of the casts save the killer. The staffs behind the fictional show fare a little better but nonetheless hardly interesting due to their two-dimensional characterization and their proneness to dumb decisions.

Okay, I know this is a slasher and these movies were never known for five star acting and writing, but what personally makes a good slasher movie for me is that its victims are likable enough to feel frightened for them in their predicament. Slasher movies hardly do that nowadays.

The other thorn on the bush here is it's direction; after a third into the movie, we finally get our killer and some bloody good axe murders but after the cast figures out that they're momentarily safe inside a locked office, which also happens to be their base of operation for the prank, it halts and lagged around with us watching these guys thinking of ways how to get out unscathed.

It's a bold move that was meant to build some character in between the stalking and killings, to see if they're smart or witty enough to find a way on surviving. Unfortunately, they hardly made any impression apart from being your typical slasher victims who keep making bad decisions such as doing a prank show in an abandoned plant without supervising first all possible exits or not allow employees to carry cellphones in case an emergency happens. Hell, one of them did suggest ganging up on the killer, a fact that I keep pondering on everytime I watch these films, but I guess one regular guy with a hazmat suit and axe is strong enough to take on seven to six adults. Yeah that's uh, some real math work there...

Yet, I can't hate Hazmat for dumbing down its victims. It is, afterall, a slasher movie and victims in these kind of films are classically shortsighted, eventually leading them to their own demise. Asking them to be smarter is like asking a cat to stop licking its groin clean: it's not pretty but it's just the way it is and you must live with it.

The rest of the production look pretty fair for a low-budget indie and I do applaud their good use of resources; the plant itself is really claustrophobic and it would have been used a lot better with more victims being stalked around in it. The killer's get-up, while simple, did looked menacing enough thanks to the well-handled cinematography and lighting. The murders are pretty basic axe hackings which was okay in terms of bloodiness but I did wish they tried varying it once in a while. Some of the effects were done in CG with a good eye on details so it's no big flaw.

It's a misfire on some aspect but Hazmat has its heart on the right place. Hell, it could have been just me and my ideas on what makes a good dead teenager movies, but I'm sure this bodycounter deserves the attention it is getting. Perhaps a few tweaks on the movie's flow and direction could have made it better, all in all worth a look for die-hard slasher fans.

Bodycount:
1 male hacked on the gut with an axe
1 male axed on the gut, bled to death
1 female gets an axe to the back of her head
1 male had his limbs cut off with an axe, hacked on the gut
1 male axed on the temple
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 male stabbed on the eye with the pick end of an axe
1 female hacked on the neck with an axe
1 female hacked with an axe
Total: 9

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Outback Hunt Continues: Wolf Creek 2 (2013)

Wolf Creek 2 (Australia, 2013)
Rating: ****
Starring: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn

How hard is it to follow-up an Ozploitation cult classic that gathered enough notoriety among the normies to have them walking off the theater and enough love from pure hardcore horror fans to worship it? Well, it took them seven to eight years to think one up so, it might have been a hard and who would blame them? Wolf Creek has everything in near perfection as a stalker-horror film despite the low-budget, minuscule kill count and pacing issues around the first act. And yet here we are nearly a decade later, watching John Jarrett don the role of our fave Outback hick, armed again with his trusted rifle and bowie knife.

Taking a different route on its story, Wolf Creek 2 mirrors a plot direction similar to that of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) wherein we are treated to two leading stories with their own casts that somewhat interconnects into one narrative.

Opening with a the re-introduction of Mick Taylor, an outbacker who happens to be just driving by for the day when two bored cops pulled him over and wrote a phony speeding ticket despite him going under the limit. Big mistake: no sooner as these two blokes drove off a fairly good distance, the driver got his head blown open with a hunting rifle, leaving his poor chap swerving into a small ditch. Mick returns to check on his masterpiece and finds the other cop desperately crawling away from the crash, only to treat him with his infamous "head on a stick" trick and torch him alive. Yep, looks like we're in for a bloody one!

We then shift our attention to Rutger and Katarina, a German couple on vacation in Australia, partying their nights away before traveling days to see Wolfe Creek crater. As they reached their destination, the two decided to camp out later that evening to flirt, a fatal mistake as Mick's been watching them, waiting for the moment to catch the lovers off-guard but soon grows impatient when they refused to go with him despite his sly wit and charm. After watching the outbacker kills and butchers Rutger, Katrina tries to escape across the cold desert night, pursued by Mick, just before being spotted by a bystander, Paul, a British surfer.

Noticing the worn out girl on the middle of the road, Paul helps her out and inevitably marked himself a doomed man as Mick continues to chase them and eventually murders Katrina. Over the next day, Paul finds himself stalked and pursued across the hot desert by a mad man with sinister plans for him once he is caught dead or alive, and will murder anybody that gets in the way.

More high octane and gloriously bloodier than its predecessor, Wolf Creek 2 is a great example of a slasher sequel following the sacred bigger and badder rule with much understanding and respect to the original. Not only that, but the movie clearly knows how to pay tribute to its influences as hints of The Hitcher and Duel, as well as obscure titles like Mirage (1990) and Next of Kin (1982) managed to seep through the cracks and gave us the same action filled vehicular manhunt, continental roadkill and elderly manslaughter such titles were known for.

In a way, the film is more or less a vehicle itself to re-establish Australia's own new age boogieman; Jarrett does a great job portraying the killer hick with the same wicked sense of humor and perkiness as the first film, dwelling into some hints behind his homicidal intention which mostly involves exterminating his country -or in a term more befitting, his world- of foreigners. A lot of this prejudice is later shown and put to a creatively intense use as Paul and Mick engages on a trivial game that may cost a digit or two per wrong answer. Clearly, we see a bit more of our killer's view of his country and the lengths he's willing to go to show how much pride he have for it.

True to this claim, anybody can and will die and the film made it sure we get to see that; the mere fact that the movie shifts focus from a German couple to a British bystander around the 40 minute mark clearly makes a stand that it's going to be unpredictable at some level, with an added bonus of splashier gore. Yes, it's may have the same torturous gore scenes and doomed-from-the-start victims that not only we have seen from the first Wolf Creek but in most survival slashers made, this sequel did it with a style that leaves up unbalanced and watching even if we're a tad familiar to what we are seeing, a bigger death toll that gets a lot more brutal than the last, and a broader black humor.

The only flaw I see here, sadly, is that the sense of despair that made the original gripping and disturbing was lost underneath the explosive truck attacks and gory shootings. I see this as a mean to cater to a wider market and audiences who may prefer something different, so those hoping to see the same grit and psychological trauma of the first may need to look elsewhere.

Best described as a true, if not a perfect example of a Australian slasher movie, Wolf Creek 2 slaughters its way from elevating a tension-filled Outback creeper to a bodycounter starring an anti-hero in the making. May this be a good or a bad thing for you blokes, there's no denying that Mick has finally stepped unto the limelight and nothing will stop him now!

Bodycount:
1 male has the top of his head shot off with a hunting rifle
1 male got his spine severed with a bowie knife, set ablaze
1 male beheaded with a bowie knife
1 female shot through the cheeks with a hunting rifle
1 male seen repeatedly stabbed on the gut
1 elderly male shot on the head with a shotgun
1 elderly female shot on the face with a shotgun
3 females seen murdered
5 female and 3 male corpses seen rotting
1 female hit with a hammer and falls into spiked pit
Total: 19
a few days to kill...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Outback Hunt is On: Wolf Creek (2005)

Wolf Creek (Australia, 2005) (AKA "Boogie Creek")
Rating: ****1/2
Starring: Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi

Ah, the memories I have with this movie. It was a few weeks after my Grandmother passed away that I finally get to see this film on cable TV and seeing I was house-sitting for the family as we prepare to move in to gramma's house some days later, I get to see this alone. Late at night. Uncut. What I was able to learn that night was, clearly, this film was made to scare and disturb.

Based on a real murder case known as the Backpacker Murders, Two English tourists, Liz and Kristy and their Australian friend Ben are on a trip to the land down under, partying their nights away as they journey across hot desserts and wildlife to see a 30,000 year old crater known as Wolfe Creek. Upon reaching said destination, however, they find themselves under the complications that their car won't start and stranded as day passes to night. They are soon rescued by a Mick Taylor (John Jarrett), an outback hick who tows them to his home and invited them to stay overnight around his camp until help arrives in the morning. Needless to say, if Mick's eccentric nature was not a clear sign of a problem, the tourists will soon find out his real intentions as rotting corpses are found and a hunting rifle is drawn at them.

There's some ingenuity regarding, if not as a whole, Wolf Creek's direction and characterization; while we never get to know our leads that deeply, they are however likable as their sincere nature and fun-filled mission to travel and experience everything Australia had to offer in a sense of simply hanging out with your friends is a nice alternative to scripting character development and making them root worthy, especially once we get our first hint of trouble: Mick's thousand yard stare.

Now, apart from these chaps, we also have Jarrett's character drawing some memorable light, even more than all three of them combined and for a good reason; despite looking like a Crocodile Dundee knock-off, the serial killing hick is perhaps the film's biggest strength and one of the most genuine addition to slasher villains that will haunt ages. On the exterior, he looks like a grungy yet well-meaning coot who just wants some company over his lonesome trailer, but once he catches you off-guard, he's more than happy to bring you hell in any way imaginable.

Knowing his sudden presence is too good to be a true good Samaritan, we anxiously wait for him to snap; when it did happen, it was all too suddenly as we're re-introduced to our casts in media res of a horrendous situation, gagged, beaten and assaulted. Around this part, it's all familiar footings as Mick engages to a cat-and-mouse game to the unfortunate backpackers, torturing and hunting them at the dead of night. Some old cliches are found around this act but they're thankfully overshadowed by a level of intensity and realism of the situation, creepy even as Mick's witty comebacks has a bit of sick naturalism in it. (though his sudden ability to reappear in the right moment in the right time is sheer movie magic) There's also some nice grainy visual that utilizes night shots of vast plains and rocky mountains, coming up as a bit of a taunt at the victims as if showing how helpless they are in their predicament.

While there is a bit of wait before all this chaos happens, it's well worth it; the movie is notorious, unsettling and brutal, pulling off the most terrifying acts of depravity and torture despite the miniature kill count. Genius actually as with only two leads trying to escape we get to focus more of our attention to them, thus amplifying the tension; just goes to show that a slasher can sometimes work without a high bodycount just so long as the thrill pumps it running and fear, may it be the casts' or ours, keeps it alive. (And judging from the appalled "normie" critics, I think this movie pulled its job quite perfectly!)

It's not gonna be everybody's cup of rainwater but for those who had the guts to sit through this nightmare better brace themselves; sadism, degrading assault and complete hopelessness are waiting to greet you at Wolf Creek.

Bodycount:
1 female corpse seen headless and rotting
1 female got her spine severed with a bowie knife, killed
1 male shot through the eye with a rifle
1 female shot with a rifle
1 male corpse seen crucified to the wall, rotting
Total: 5

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sing Until You Scream: Stage Fright (2014)

Stage Fright (Canada, 2014)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Minnie Driver, Meat Loaf, Allie MacDonald

Musicals. Loved by some, hated by most.

People singing at the drop of a hat while something horrifying is happening sounds more of a comical plot than a straight horror trope so it's very rare to have a film that works on both sides unless you are looking for cheese.

Now, I myself is a fair fan of musicals and I don't mind the cheesy songs so long as they're catchy and memorable. As far as I can tell, however, the only worthy horror musicals out there are REPO! The Genetic Opera, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Little Shop of Horror (1986) as they perfectly mixed humor and horror with catchy tune sthat deserve our ears, so I am crossing my fingers with this new entry, promising blood, laughs and bloody good numbers.

Coming from the same great guy who brought us the short The Legend of Beaver Dam, Jerome Sable, Stage Fright tells the story of Center Stage, a performing arts summer camp that helps aspiring theatre actors, directors, musical conductors and the likes reach the greatness of their skills and talents. This year's production happens to be an infamous piece known as the Haunting of The Opera, wherein ten years ago since it was last produced, a lead singer (Minnie Driver) was brutally murdered by a masked assailant, leaving her children under the care of the play's producer, Roger McCall (Meat Loaf)

Just so it happens, however, that said children works at the camp under their adoptive father's supervision as cooks and the mere news of the production sparked the passion for singing in one of the kids' heart, much of the disapproval of her brother and some of the divas. After a successful audition, Camilla (Allie MacDonald) gets a chance to play the lead, meaning her dreams might indeed come true, that is until someone wearing a prop mask began killing the actors and staffs in bloody ways, apparently out of hatred for musicals.

Stage Fright is a passable slasher that did deliver the goods but not without going through the bad; the first third seems to hold on its claim as a slasher musical comedy with a splashy red opening kill, followed by a funny and corny song about being different yet loved by everybody in camp. (since they're all into musicals and stuff) But after our lead got her part in the play, the film stops and lagged around with some uninteresting character developments and shots of a maniac looming around in the air vents in a Phantom of the Opera fashion. Some jokes and songs were tossed around but they're not as catchy or crowd pleasing than the first few in the batch.

It wasn't until the first kill in the camp that the ball got rolling again, revealing the killer in his KIZZ inspired kabuki mask and a rock-and-roll high note. My problem with this, though, was that it was around a quarter before the hour mark that this murder happens, meaning viewers who are a little impatient with their grue or a tad intolerant with musicals might have been tempted to switch off the film by then. To be honest, even the kill count wasn't much to be desired and so was the gore; we get one shoved light bulb, throat stabbing and a very bloody evisceration but the rest are pretty tame and simple murders

Still, the acting was right on the mark, the cinematography and score was simply beautiful and energetic, and the last few minutes of the movie was pretty cool with some workable twist, played straight with much intensity and creepiness even if you saw some of it miles away.

All in all, Stage Fright needed some polishing but otherwise it is a nice debut feature for a production used to making shorts. Perhaps some more murders and a few tweaks on the pacing would've improved it but fans of slasher and musicals (if there are more out there), you may have something to try here.

Bodycount:
1 female repeatedly stabbed on the throat, knife to the mouth
1 male shoved mouth-first to a lamp bulb, electrocuted
1 female found with nails driven to her face
1 male stabbed with a pair of scissors
1 female has her throat cut with a saw blade
1 male knifed to death
1 male eviscerated with a buzzsaw
Total: 7

Happy Easter Everybody...

Mmm. Candy.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Surfs Up, Chicklette!: Psycho Beach Party (2000)

Psycho Beach Party (US/Australia, 2000)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Lauren Ambrose, Nicholas Brendon, Thomas Gibson

Let's say you got a huge melting pot and you put in a bit of Scooby-Doo inspired whodunit and retro-ness, a 60s teen drama with a lot of surfing, and a series of 80s slasher-style killing spree. The result? More or less, you'll get this fun and very weird dead teenager film!

Set in the loving, sunny and sandy 60s America, young Florence Forrest just wanted to surf; while most girls around her age were interested in boys and sex, she wanted to ride the waves with the dudes and just have a good time. But hindering her from her saltwater tide-riding dreams would be the occasional bullies, Florence's overbearing mum, and the fact that Florence herself has multiple personalities, triggered whenever she sees a certain shape or pattern.

Oh, and did I forget to mention there's a gloved killer out offing people? Well, yeah, there's that too and they already took out one girl on a crowded drive-in theater a night before so it's inevitable that a manhunt will happen.

But fate seems to finally opening up to Florence whilst the chaos; consulting a surfing legend known as The Great Kanaka, a gang of rowdy and lovable (yet interestingly pale) beach boys gave her a shot and taught her how to surf. Things were going fine with Florence  earning a surfer's name, "Chicklette", that was until the bodycount began to rise and her over-sexed counterpart "Ann Bowman" suddenly surfaces and smittens some boys including The Great Kanaka himself! 

Could there be a reason behind the murders? Are there any connections? What is it behind Florence's multiple personalities? And did any character in this film ever noticed those breasts on that supposedly male cop?

Based on an off-Broadway play of the same name, Psycho Beach Party is something of a John Waters version of a 60s teen film (possibly Gidget (1969)?). Camp is skyrocket high on this film and nailed everything a vintage beach film should be; hammy lines, cheesy acting and even some humorously questionable special effects  used on some scenes just to authenticate the nostalgic feel of the film. But what I applaud for Psycho Beach Party is that it manages to ring in some good casts and build enough likable characters to have us watching in interest.

Unfortunately, while it got the 50s surfer film part right, the rest of the mix didn't go in too well; the psycho-drama didn't sink in thanks to this movie's upbeat and spoofy tone so any sense of empathy or plight are either uneven or totally absent. Murders are also simplified and mostly strays away from the red stuff but some are a bit comical enough in a satirical sense and morbid enough to be forgiven.

It's more of a matter of taste and audience that makes Psycho Beach Party works; some may find the lack of any real depth and the point that the script may not work well on the big screen as it did as a play, but I'm sure there will be those who will appreciate the uber-high level of cheesiness and nostalgia the movie reeks off and dwells in so generously. Least to say, everybody involved in the production tried and I'm a sucker for unique dead teenager films that really worked for it. So that being said, I'm more than willing to overlook any flaws for the silly entertainment this film has to offer. It's not a perfect spoof or hybrid in anyway, but it passes with flying, -er I meant, surfing colors.

Bodycount:
1 female gets a throat cut with a knife
1 male found dismembered
1 male knifed on the chest, castrated
1 female found beheaded
1 boy thrown off a swing set, killed
1 male shot to death, falls to his death
1 male knifed
Total: 7