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

Monday, March 28, 2016

Double the Mayhem, Double the Cheese: Wicked, Wicked (1973)

Wicked, Wicked (1973)
Rating: ***
Starring: David Bailey, Tiffany Bolling, Randolph Roberts

Welcome to the Grandview hotel! One of California's finer beachside establishments with good food, good music, good lounging and... a killer wearing an over-sized monster mask ?!

It appears someone is lingering all over the hotel, stalking and murdering women before sneaking their bodies away to God-knows-where, leading to most of the hotel's staffs believing that these women just sneaked away without ever paying their bills. However, the hotel's guard-slash-former detective Rick Stewart doesn't buy this and believes something else might be at play here.

He decided to look further into this, much to the disapproval of his colleagues who fear his snooping might give the hotel a bad reputation, but when Stewart's ex-wife-slash- lounge singer Lisa James decided to show up and perform at the hotel, Rick is determined to find the maniac before they strike again...or at least before they see the former-missus dons a blonde wig!

As much as I want to describe my experience with Wicked, Wicked as simple as "weird", this proto-slasher actually won me over with its tongue-in-cheek undertone and, as gimmicky as it is, the utilized split-screen format, marketed here as "Duo-Vision".

It did took me a bit to get used to the two-screen storytelling, but once I adjusted to the cheesy gimmick, I found myself captivated and slightly-impressed on how they put it to use, giving us dual perspectives of some single scenes as well as utilizing it for flashbacks, reveals, and even a few details that fleshed out some of our likely suspects, without the need of halting the main story. It's silly, yes, but it helps in the very little way it can in making something out of the tepid story, which was already being boosted up as an entertainment piece by its high dose of camp and some worthwhile musical undertones. If anything, the movie appears to be poking fun at itself as a rather carefree and bodycount-friendly take on a psycho-thriller, a film entertainingly dumb enough to go well with hot buttered popcorn and switched-off brains.

This being said, Wicked, Wicked isn't going to be a movie for anybody expecting a well-written and well-executed horror flick as, for one, it wasted a potential murder mystery angle by revealing the killer way too early, leaving a good dose of the remaining run focusing on our leads figuring what we already know. The only real mystery left at that point was "why" the killer's committing the murders, but if one would focus on the split screen flashbacks, that department's pretty standard on my book as well.

Due to this, mighty good portions of the movie goes through a lot of fillers answering questions one could have already figured out by then, unnecessarily and unevenly slowing the film down. Fortunately, after so many cop-and-killer shenanigans that includes dirty pipes and hidden rooms, Wicked, Wicked managed to get back on its feet once the killer's little secrets were discovered by our hapless heroes, revealing what he does to the bodies that rings familiarity with later slasher flicks such as The Horrible House on the Hill (1974), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Pieces (1982), and soon wrapping up rather cheekily with a hilarious villain demise and a meta-joke that sounds awfully like what the gravedigger spat out at Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives.

All-in-all, I think Wicked, Wicked is a flawed treat, a new little guilty pleasure I can heartily enjoy only if there's nothing else to see. It ain't that great to be wholefully recommended but it wouldn't hurt to give it a peek if it's on TV.

Bodycount:
1 female repeatedly knifed on the gut
1 female repeatedly knifed on the gut
1 female repeatedly knifed on the gut
1 male shot death (flashback)
1 male brained with a fire poker (flashback)
1 female knifed on the gut
1 female decapitated with a guillotine
2 females found dismembered and sewn back
1 male falls and lands on a spiked fence
Total: 10

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Eastern Gialli Ala Gore: Corpse Mania (1981)

Corpse Mania (Si Yiu) (Hong Kong, 1981)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Ni Tien, Yung Wang, Tsui Ling Yu

When a decapitated (and apparently raped!) body of a woman was found rotting inside a seemingly abandoned household, the news stirs Chang, a local detective who finds this incident too similar from another many years ago; apparently, their district caught a man named Li who (under the agreement of his ailing wife) buys ill prostitutes off the streets and waits for them to expire so he can have his way with their corpses to satisfy his odd fetish.

Li was eventually institutionalized upon capture but was released some time later, believing he was fit for society again. That unfortunately appears to be a mistype as more bodies began piling up on the streets, seemingly in the name of Li’s vengeance.

Pretty gutsy for its time, Corpse Mania is one of the many hack-and-slash nasties to be released in Hong Kong by its cinema masterhouse Shaw Brothers Studios and one of the few that made quite a name for itself among some slasher fans as it tackles the 70s Italian giallo sub-genre with a backdrop of putrid necrophilia, surprisingly gruesome killings, and a whole lot of Asian flair.

Staying true to its Italian crime thriller sub-genre, Corpse Mania took its time building around our characters, most prominently our lead suspect, a serial killing necrophiliac who seems to have returned to town with plans of settling old issues using a monstrously large kitchen knife. A lengthy flashback even took a good portion of the first third focusing on Li’s relationship with his wife, his deals with a local brothel, and the intimacy he had with the corpses which lead to his capture, something that placed the plot in an assured predicament that played quite well up to the twist reveal in the end.

We also have other thespians thrown in as an attempt to twist the story but, frankly, their purpose as a herring was too obvious for me, serving as nothing more than more meat for the kill count. Thankfully, these deaths were among the big pros to come out of Corpse Mania, gore-filled slaughtering that only a giant butcher knife (among other weapons) can muster, ranging from an effective looking decapitation to a poor fellow being dropped (and landing face-first) from a building. The execution for these slayings often took cues on some classic slasher set-ups like a hectic killer-in-the-backseat gig and a chase sequence set around an empty street, much to my glee, and the effects and make-up used for these slayings were quite impressive for its time and, dare I say, even for today.

As for the exploitation element of necrophilia, which is probably this film's biggest selling point, I found it quite "tame" compared to other necrophilia-themed horror flicks. (Nekromantik, anyone?) Though the idea of dead body love-making is still upsetting, none of that was shown on-screen (I guess some exploitation directors have their limits, too) and the only vomit-worthy thing to come out of this from this movie was the state of the bodies our killer made love to, all of them naked and topped with wriggling meal worms. Furthermore, the corpse humping became less and less the focus of the flick as plot began to dwell more into capturing the mad slasher, which is a quite impressive transition and shows how well its director, Kuei Chich-Lung can manage the story.

Past the cheesy dialogue (which may or may not be the subtitle's fault), gratuitous gore, and the Scooby Doo-like twist reveal that actually makes some sense, Corpse Mania is a rather competent looking production with great visuals, workable tone, and some decent acting for a Hong Kong 80s release. While we still have a few camp characterization and that one scene of hi-kicking action, I grew to love Corpse Mania for being one of the few foreign slasher/giallo hybrids out there to be set as a period piece, giving it a bit of timelessness as an exploitation piece. Slick and sick in all the right places, this foreign entry is a must see for all fans of obscure slasher and giallo flicks!

Bodycount:
1 female found beheaded and rotting
1 female seen with throat cut and rotting
1 male knifed on the gut
1 female found dead
1 male knifed to death
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 female slashed with a knife, pounded with a rock
1 male gets a thrown knife to the gut
1 male thrown off a building, face smashed upon impact
1 female decapitated with a cleaver
1 male strangled with a scarf
1 male executed via firing range
Total: 12

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Heavy Metal Full Moon: Hard Rock Nightmare (1988)

Hard Rock Nightmare (1988)
Rating: ***
Starring: Greg Joujon-Roche, Annie Mikan, Lisa Elaina 

Surely, there are bound to be other werewolf slashers out there save for the film adaptation of Stephen King's Silver Bullet, right? Other movies to feature a big hairy lupine monster stalking and killing victims in the most slasher influenced way? Why, of course! And here is one of them: a monster-in-the-backwoods rarity known as Hard Rock Nightmare!

Some time ago, young Jimmy was terrorized by his grampa who was claiming to be a vampire and a werewolf. (A "werewumpire", if I may) Unfortunately for the old geezer, Jim took all of this seriously and hammers a stake down at grampa's heart, much to the tyke and his gramma's horror.

This mistake traumatized Jim for life, but he manages himself by starting a band called "The Bad Boys" with his big-haired friends and big-haired girlfriend. All was good until one jamming session had them in hot water with the local cops for playing their music too loudly. Not wanting to get into more trouble, one of them suggests that they visit Jim's late grampa's home for a weekend of fun and rock'n roll, a plan that got our hero a little uneasy but agrees to anyway as he sees this as an opportunity to fight off his trauma.

One dream about his friends being zombies later, Jim and his buds made it to the house, rehearsing and sleeping with the girls as they planned, only to have one of them lose his noggin from an apparent werewolf attack. Perhaps the old coot's crazy talk of being Grampa Munster wasn't crazy afterall!

From that point on, Hard Rock Nightmare tackles down all known slasher movie trite such as people leaving the group or splitting up to find help (inevitably falling prey to the werewolf's claws), POV shots of the monster heavy-breathing, and a few stereotyped characters getting their just desserts, just to name a few overused ones.

But for a film to end up this obscure, I would say the reason for this was that Hard Rock Nightmare was barely bloody and can be repetitive with its killings as a monster/slasher hybrid, something that may not sit well with the fact that the horror action also took a while to start. Thankfully, I still found some strengths that evened out the flaws, like how the movie was done away with a fair amount of cheese and a slightly comedic tone that it can be distracting enough to be hilarious, passing the running time loads of laughably bad performances that went sorta well with the silly situation, fever dreams, and the over-the-top twist reveal that felt more fitting with a Saturday morning cartoon, but doltish enough to be acceptable.

There's also the rock and roll soundtrack that was quite a surprise for me, seeing I'm the kind who thinks rock music in a horror movie is more cliched than the sex=death slasher rule. It also helps that the the songs featured here were pretty good, particularly the number the band played during the opening.

As a horror flick, Hard Rock Nightmare fails to be terrifying despite the attempted monster and slasher movie scares but it makes up quite a lot with its tongue-in-cheek scripting and campiness. It's as straightforward as it can with its approach and lovers of horror of the Cheddar kind can definitely find something to appreciate from this gem as one of the few epitomes of an entertaining popcorn flick! See it if you can coz it is worth the hunt!

Bodycount:
1 male gets a stake hammered through his heart
1 male had his head clawed off
1 female mauled to death
1 male mauled to death
1 male mauled offcamera
1 male dies from mauling
1 female doused in gasoline, set ablaze
1 male shot to death
1 male shot
Total: 9

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rave of the Blood Thirsty Grunge-Faces: Devil's Prey (2001)

Devil's Prey (2001)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Ashley Jones, Charlie O'Connell, Bryan Kirkwood

One thing I love about this hobby of collecting and reviewing slasher movies is that I get to re-experience some of the films from my more innocent years, hoping that it will stand against the test of time. My time.

Though some did manage to remain as entertaining as they were upon the first viewing (Tobe Hooper's Crocodile, Eli Roth's Cabin Fever, the first Wrong Turn entry, just to name a few), there were also some that underwhelmingly disappointed to the point I question myself 'what exactly did I saw in this?' (The Fear: Resurrection, I've Been Waitin For You, Halloween H20...yeah, I'm serious about the latter)

Devil's Prey falls in between the two as it's not that great of a movie (even when I first saw it), but you can tell the flick tried. Really, really tried.

The story is easy enough to follow as five teenagers (out of boredom) decided to attend a random rave located at the very backwoods part of town, only to be kicked out when they got involved in a fight. While driving home, they accidentally hit a fleeing gal (who luckily survives) and decided to help her, unknowingly marking themselves as targets for a blood-drinking cult of Satanists.

For an 88 minute movie, the plot is really nothing more than one very long chase scene with casualties coming from sides of the party, mostly from the cult who can't seem to capture five teenagers all at once. No, really, with their number, catching five teenagers should be a cakewalk but they kept going at these teens one by one, pretty much getting their arses handed to them, if not getting killed themselves. Worse even is the fact that this film attempted to put a twist halfway into the act, revealing a traitor among our protagonists that really came out of nowhere, making me further wonder what took that character this long to reveal their true agenda, as well as me questioning how organized this cult is because, judging from what I'm seeing, they're awfully sloppy as bad guys.

Bad writing and plot holes aside, everything else in Devil's Prey is your typical teen slasher with cardboard characters, T&As, loads of backwoods chases, and a decently monstrous bodycount, though the later act dwells into being a Satanist horror flick with rituals, black masses and human sacrifices, just to live up to the title. Nothing totally awful thanks to some decent camera work, energetic stalk and/or kill scenes, and popcorn friendly corniness that's just fitting as a late night runner; these being mentioned, Devil's Prey is honestly a bad movie made for anyone who can stomach horror idiocy from zero characterization and cheese, to needless sex scenes and a groan-worthy sequel-teasing twist ending, so it is no surprise that this title is rarely talked about.

Personally, I can dismiss it as well, but the little shred of nostalgia helped lighten the bad cheese punch. If I can be brutally truthful, Devil's Prey is replaceable (if not forgettable ) as Satanist slasher but, for the little entertainment it is worth for, it tried well for its part and I did enjoyed it as a time-waster. See it if you like but don't expect too much.

Bodycount:
1 female hacked with a machete
1 male bludgeoned with a dead branch
1 male knifed on the gut
1 male bludgeoned with a fire poker
1 male hacked with a machete
1 male shot on the head
1 male crushed underneath a car
1 female cut to death with a dagger
1 female stabbed on the gut with a dagger, immolated in explosion
3 males immolated in explosion
Total: 13

A Failed Murder Mystery: Final Examination (2003)

Final Examination (2003)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Kari Wuhrer, Brent Huff, Debbie Rochon

My grade for this Final Examination? Failed.

Shane Newman (Brent Huff), after successfully (but messily) busting a drug dealer, finds himself reassigned to Hawaii and solving a possible murder mystery involving a sorority girl who took her own life five years ago. It appears someone isn't too happy that the people possibly  very likely responsible for her death is out and being alive, so they're taking matters on their own hands and began killing them in the tamest ways possible.

Of course, Shane is there to uncover the mystery, but he'll be doing it in the most tedious and harrowing way possible, which is mostly snooping around, throw accusations, interrogate, all that "realistic" shit. I should not be seeing any issues with this but for a movie that runs nearly 100 minutes, the gag gets old pretty quick and the film does nothing to liven up the case. Not with its boring murders, mishandled mystery, bored-looking characters, and annoying cop-drama cliches.

It's really hard to call this a slasher with its primary focus being on the police procedural; in fact, Final Examination is more of a softcore thriller in the vein of Color of Night (1994) and Basic Instinct as one would notice the number of voluptuous nudity plastered just for the sake of it. Call me a hypocrite for saying that but I will tell you, while I do enjoy some skin, I expected at least some of these scenes would end up with victims missing a head or a limb. Unfortunately, we didn't get any killings as gruesome as that, which is a shame since the end product hardly lived up to the standards of any known erotic thrillers it attempted to mimic.

Instead, the film dragged what felt like an eternity with little to nothing interesting happening for most of its running time, actually making its multi-twist ending look like a desperate act to squeeze everything in the very last minute, hoping it isn't too late to save itself from being a bore-fest and, Surprise, surprise, it was too late.

It's movies like Final Examination that shows how tricky the sub-genre can be if you have no effin idea what you are doing. Mixing film genres is not a bad thing, but you got to be very creative and imaginative to pull it off. (like Dario Argento's Tenebre) This movie obviously have none of that so trash it!

Bodycount:
1 female drives off an unfinished bridge, immolated in crash
1 female garroted, drowned in pool
1 female drowned
1 male found bloodied, dies from wounds
1 male shot to death
1 female knifed on the gut, shot to death
1 male shot to death
Total: 7

The Ghosts of Dead Hookers Past: Blood Sisters (1987)

Blood Sisters (1987)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Amy Brentano, Shannon McMahon, Dan Erickson

A haunted whorehouse slasher flick. Seeing this was directed by Roberta Findlay, the wife of 70s exploitation cinema personality Michael Findlay, why am I not surprised?

As a hazing stunt courtesy of their all-girls fraternity, seven teenagers are to stay overnight inside an abandoned and supposedly haunted brothel wherein, 13 years ago, a double murder took the life of one man and one hooker. Sneakily joining them are the boyfriends of some of these girls, hoping to spice up the night with their presence as well as make the stay exciting by setting up some pranks.

But, as always in these movies, the guys and gals soon discover that they are not alone when ghosts of dead prostitutes began appearing (Which doesn’t really add up since we only saw one dead hooker in the beginning. Is there something this movie’s not telling us? Where the heck did all of these ladies come from?!) and someone dressed as a drag starts thinning down the live ones.

As a fairly forgettable bodycounter, Blood Sisters ticked all of the boxes on what makes a slasher movie terrible, with its only redeeming factor is it's decent cheesiness which, for some viewers, could be a good enough reason to try it. For all honesty, I never disliked Blood Sisters since I find its camp tolerable in standards, but I can also understand why many would be turned off by this.

The characters, for one, were scripted terribly and sitting through their shenanigans can be considered a chore for those who don’t have the openness or tolerance for bad acting. The director’s (or rather, the director's spouse's) exploitation background is also evident throughout, something that, again, might mean something for a selected few but comparing this with the other cheesy late 80s slashers being released for its time, the style and tone felt aged and hardly new. Special effects are atrocious and the killer, supposed to be dressed in hooker apparel, looked like they're wearing gramma's nightgown ala "spoopy ghost". Yeah, no, killer, Norman Bates got that covered...

It's trashy but Blood Sisters will always have an audience. I halfheartedly like it but I think I'll give myself another round of Sorority Row (2009) to satisfy my  craving for dead sorority sisters, or maybe even that weird Dude Bro Party Massacre (2015). (More of the latter if I want cheese to go with them dead sorority types!)

Bodycount:
1 male and 1 female shot with a shotgun
1 female strangled with a lingerie
1 female hammered shut inside a coffin, left for dead
1 male and 1 female shot to death
1 female killed offscreen
1 female hanged with a cable noose
1 female falls to her death
1 female stabbed to death with a hunting knife
1 female stabbed to death with a hunting knife
Total: 11

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Mother Told Me To Never Do This: The Hitcher (1986)

The Hitcher (1986)
Rating: ****
Starring: Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Jim Halsey was just a young man delivering a car across the country when he stopped for a hitchhiker one rainy night. The vagabond introduced himself as John Ryder and while he seems calm and quiet at first, he changed once they passed by a rundown car; Jim jokingly asked if that was Ryder's reason for hitchhiking and he answered yes...coz he had cut off the driver's legs... and his arms... and his head...

And he is going to do the same to him.

Panicking from the sudden turn of events, Jim notices that Ryder hadn't put on his seat belt and the car door wasn't locked; after an excruciating moment of being with the tip of a knife, he kicked the hitcher out and drives on, sure that he will never see the maniac again.

That was until morning came and Jim finds himself not only stalked by Ryder, but also pinned for the maniac hitcher's killings. Now hunted down by both Ryder and local police, Jim has no choice but to survive this nightmare and find a way to escape it.

Best described as Steven Spielberg's 1971 debut road horror film Duel with a knife-wielding gun-totting psycho in place of a monstrous truck, The Hitcher was originally scripted as a gory slasher with more onscreen carnage and exploitation, but was toned down through various rewrites when the executives feared it was too violent to be picked up. The final result was less of a paint-by-number bodycounter and more of a Hitchcockian thriller on the road, a final draft that proved itself to be just as worthy of a watch as any bloody slashers in the late 80s.

This said, the movie is more of a situation study between an everyday man, Jim Halsey, and an unstoppable force, which comes into the form of a mysterious man who calls himself John Ryder. The entire film itself is an inescapable pattern of nightmare logic that gradually gets worse by the minute, focusing on Halsey being harassed with situation upon situation that puts not only a strain on himself in every way, but also to those that just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. People die, people get hurt, all in an apparently meaningless mayhem caused by one hitcher.

It was never fully explained who -or what- the hitcher is in turn, as Ryder's uncanny ability to appear whenever Halsey thinks he is safe from him, as well as efficiently do all of the slaughtering that no simple man can do alone, gave him and the entire movie a near-supernatural feel despite implications of being human. It's this kind of uncertainty that made the atmosphere and direction of this film so effective, as one can never be certain as what will happen next and that anybody can be a victim to the hitcher's madness, making scenes wherein body parts suddenly show up on food and victims are suddenly found kidnapped and in peril all that shocking.

And true enough, The Hitcher may be tame on the blood department, but the fantastic set-ups and brooding tension courtesy of the score and imagery helped the simplest things in making up for the movie's near-dry run, somewhat proving that "less is more" could work just as good in terrifying us.

Playing the titular villain is Rutger Hauer and he had one of the most intimidating and selling performances as a ruthless madman without a reason. He is rarely seen angry and mostly wears a wry and malicious smile on his face, much adding to the air of mystery and threat to the character that goes so well with his robotic tone and murders. Heck, it was even stated that actor C.Thomas Howell (who played Jim) was uneasy around him, which may have helped the boy's frightened performance and isolated well-being as effective as possible on screen.

Thrown in between these men is Jennifer Jason Leigh's character Nash, a tough and spunky gal who became the motivation for Howell's character to step up and end the wickedness once and for all, seeing her as a light of hope in his nearly hopeless predicament. It's going to be hard talking about this character without spoiling a few things for those of you who hadn't seen the film yet, but let's just say her presence and purpose was a good one, in a rather dark and horrifying twist.

Beautiful in terms of imagery, nail-biting in direction, cast of interesting characters, effectively simple bodycount, what else can I say about The Hitcher? Perhaps the only flaw I can try to think about would be that, when it didn't hit you right, it can be a little sluggish at times; I find the slow pace necessary for build, but I know people who prefers their boogeyman killing a victim in every five minutes so the brooding and implied murders can leave an unsatisfied aftertaste for these kind of folks. There's also the numerous plot holes and dumb decisions but, again, this movie was originally going to be a slasher movie so these brain-fart moments are inevitable.

I can say it now that The Hitcher is not gonna be for everyone, but if you are the kind of person who can learn to understand and appreciate a good cult classic, open for ideas, or simply a true hardcore horror fanatic, this road horror is highly recommended for your viewing pleasure. Find it and buy it!

Bodycount:
1 male mutilated and beheaded (implied)
1 male, 1 female, 1 boy and 1 girl implied to be slaughtered
1 female and 1 driver missing, presumably killed
1 male found with throat cut
1 male found shot on the chest
1 male found murdered
2 males shot on the neck
4 males killed in car collision
1 male shot, killed in helicopter crash
1 male killed in helicopter crash
4 males killed in car collision
1 female chained between trucks, torn in half
4 males shot death with a shotgun
1 male shot on the chest with a shotgun
Total: 28

Beware: Bible Thumpers in the Woods: American Gothic (1988)

American Gothic (United Kingdom/Canada, 1988) (AKA Hide and Shriek, Dark Paradise)
Rating: ***
Starring: Sarah Torgov, Terence Kelly, Mark Erickson

Recovering from a traumatic breakdown involving an accidental drowning her own baby, Cynthia decided to cope with the loss and move on by spending some time vacationing with her friends. However, things didn't go as plan when their private plane suddenly go broke and forces them to land on a lonely deserted island. There, they discover an odd family made up of an aging couple and their three "children" (who are really middle-aged adults acting and thinking like 12-year olds) living in an isolated log cabin from the rest of the world.

Overly religious and outdated in thinking, the clan provides shelter to the stranded group so long as they don't have sex, curse in their household, or do anything against the family's Bible-thumping ways. However, it seems "thou shalt not kill" is not a part of these religious nutter's sacred commandments as, one by one, the three "children" began to kill Cynthia's friends under the pretence of a game, until our broken heroine was all that's left and we were left with 20 minutes of running time before the end credits.

Though the first act was definitely a slasher with an oddity of a killing spree and some classic backwoods cliches attempted, American Gothic decided to take a strange turn by having our supposed final girl snap into dementia and join the happy zealot clan, at least until her already fragile mind pushes her to a killing spree. I have to admit this was a rather nice direction, one that was rarely (if not never) attempted by any other slashers of its time. However, I believe it could have been done better than just packing everything in a twenty minute final jog; the first hour attempted to shock us with implied incest, religious banter, necrophilia and dead babies, but this third act was somewhat robotic and everything just falls into place too nicely to be anything shocking. No struggles, no slip-ups, almost everybody just dies and that was it.

Still, as flawed as this turn was, I guess I cannot fully dismiss American Gothic since it did brought something rather new to what would have been another backwoods slasher. It's a small gesture, yes, but a welcome try that went well along the movie's low grade campiness and absurdity, courtesy of acting from the okay-ish (with a little dash of laughable) portrayal of its villains and, again, the cult-worthy weird plot.

American Gothic is a nutty film and I believe we were supposed to appreciate it as that; it's not the goriest and/or bloodiest late 80s slasher around but it gets the job right in entertaining us with its obscure story and characters. If loopy homicidal families are your thing then make sure you get a dose of this cult fave at least once.

Bodycount:
1 baby drowns in a tub (implied)
1 male swung off a cliff, falls to his death
1 baby's corpse seen
1 male gets a toy's spear to the eye, stabbed with knitting needles
1 female found hanged with a jump rope
1 male found with a hatchet buried into his head
1 female had her neck snapped
6 skeletons seen
1 female bludgeoned with a washtub
1 male stabbed on the head with a toy's spear
1 female stabbed with knitting needles
1 male hacked on the neck with a sickle
1 male shot with a shotgun
Total: 18

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nixon's Zombie Parade: Zombiefied (2012)

Zombiefied (2012)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Rebecca Torrellas, Mike Gebbie, Tayvis Dunnahoe

For me, there are two ways one can plot a "slasher hybrid"; you can either start off or end as a slasher before/after making way to whatever the other genre is going to be (like what Severance (2003) or Hot Fuzz (2007) did as a slasher/action hybrid), or you can try molding the two building elements into a single unique abomination that still stays true to the subgenres. (Like what Without Warning (1981) or Chopping Mall (1986) did as a scifi/slasher hybrid)

Zombiefied tried to be the kind of hybrid that mixes zombie elements with that of a slasher movie's by having their masked killer not only be savvy with a knife, but also granted with the power to control an army of crazed cannibals. A unique concept. True. But how much was it a slasher, and how much did it played as a zombie flick?

A villain in a Richard Nixon mask suddenly appears to wreck havoc at a small town by murdering a few victims and zombifying some using a strange music that drives people insane and cannibalistic. When he decided to bring forth his terror on a larger scale, he visits a club and infects the entire audience before unleashing them to do their flesh-munching frenzy. Surviving and escaping this strange predicament are a couple of band members who finds out that their (as well as the rest of the world's) only hope of stopping all of this falls to two friends who encountered and stopped this plague before. But with the Nixon killer still out there murdering anyone who got in the way and turning people left and right into zombies, it's only a matter of time before he and his army are unstoppable!

With all honesty, I enjoyed the ideas played around here as they gave something unique for the two subgenres mashed, but it felt like one was overthrowing the other.

While we do have a slasher-esque main villain by means of body language and apparent indestructibility very reminiscent of Halloween's Michael Myers (along with some Italian giallo-inspired calling cards ala posed mannequins), the fact that our Nixon killer seems more focused on zombifying people than downright murdering them chipped away the slasher feel, especially when it dawned on me that he only directly murdered a handful in a not so flashy manner. (Save the spindle kill. That was cool) If anything, he is more of a comic book bad guy scheming plans of worldwide destruction and only murdering victims when he deems it necessary or whenever he felt like just doing it. I personally have no trouble with this but the part of me aching to see him do some real slasher mayhem under the promise of a zombie/slasher hybrid was unfortunately underwhelmed, if not disappointed.

If there will be any other drawbacks here, it's going to be the heavy metal score and the fact that the middle act seems too stretched out just for the sake of repetitive zombie attacks and bodycount. Though, this is not that big of a gripe as I am sure some people out there will find the chaotic treating of hard rock as soothing and the mostly random zombie attacks as fun.

And speaking of zombies, they are the most on screen as majority of the play had these hungry flesh-munchers attacking random bystanders and/or groups, giving us some of the better looking latex gore and fake blood the film's low budget production can afford. I have a special relationship with zombie movies as, before I began rekindling my obsession with slashers, I used to watch and draw these walking and/or running dead with a passion as a preteen youth and thankfully, Zombiefied delivers better with its zombie elements.

What I find most enjoyable about these zombies, despite the wonky execution of their concept, is the fact that they're a unique breed, being violent brainwashed cannibals instead of the rotting shambling undead. This actually helped the film work around its small budget as it didn't call for complicated zombie make-up (since they are still alive) and brought out some unique mythos rarely tackled in a zombie movie, such as that the infected can still be cured (By playing the infectious song backwards. Clever?) and that the infection doesn't spread by bite or scratches. (The latter being pretty much the only reason the Nixon Killer sticks around.)

The last act has both zombies and the masked maniac taking on some of the cautious yet strong-willed (not so annoying) survivors, in a way that really felt like a true hybrid, with two of the leads discovering Nixon's cabin lair and battling him while he both sends his zombie horde against them and personally picks them off whenever he gets the chance. This was a rather good payoff but I really wished they found a way to incorporate this with the entire act instead. Nevertheless, the resulting product was still a fun watch, even if it didn't hit all my notes for a proper mash-up right.

To date, this is director Todd Jason Cook's best effort for a z-grade horror flick. If that name sounds familiar to you, then congratulations! You are a hardcore horror fan and you must have seen the obscure cheap cheesies Evil Night (1992) and the Lisa's Nightmare series (which he all directed), as well as Night of the Clown (1998). (which he starred at as five supposedly different characters!) Though this hardly made me a fan of his works, I was entertained at a level with Zombified so I give him and this movie a pass as a shlocky yet unique brand of both a zombie movie and a sort-of slasher.

For more zombie/slasher hybrids, I heartily recommend Dead Snow (2009), The Dead Pit and Trailer Park of Terror to go with this movie! Or if you are a literary person, try looking for that Friday the 13th Black Fire novel The Jason Strain. Now that's a zombie/slasher hybrid!

Bodycount: (Note: Yes, I will be counting zombies since, well, again, they're alive and curable)

1 male repeatedly knifed, presumably bled to death
1 male had his neck snapped, forced head-first to a spindle
1 female bitten on the neck by a zombie
2 females cannibalized by zombies
A number of people cannibalized by zombies
1 male and 1 female found cannibalized by zombies
1 male zombie stabbed on the eye with a drum stick
1 female cannibalized by a zombie
1 female cannibalized by zombies
1 male cannibalized by zombies
1 female cannibalized by zombies
1 female cannibalized by zombies
1 male cannibalized by zombies
1 male cannibalized by zombies
1 female cannibalized by zombies
1 male cannibalized by zombies
1 male cannibalized by zombies
1 female cannibalized by zombies
1 male cannibalized by zombies
1 male cannibalized by zombies
1 female zombie knifed on the head
1 male murdered offscreen
1 female found dying from a mauled neck
1 female cannibalized by zombie
1 female cannibalized by zombies
1 female found cannibalized by zombies
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male zombie gets knifed on the gut
1 male cannibalized by zombies
1 male cannibalized by zombies
1 female zombie stabbed on the head with a butterfly knife
1 male gets a butterfly knife to the temple
1 female zombie knifed on the gut
1 male zombie hacked with a rake
1 female zombie hacked to death
1 male zombie hacked to death
1 male zombie gets a throat cut with a knife
1 male found beheaded
1 male zombie stabbed to death with a spear
1 female had her neck snapped
1 male had his neck crushed
Total: 42+

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Not As Sacrilegious As You Think: Devil In The Flesh (1998)

Devil In The Flesh (1998) (AKA Dearly Devoted)
Rating: ***
Starring: Rose McGowan, Alex McArthur, Peg Shirley

Wes Craven's Scream's Death-By-Elevated-Garage-Doggie-Door-Crushing victim Rose McGowan stars in this slasher-esque stalker teen flick wherein she plays not the victim, but the aforementioned Devil In the Flesh.

Although not as religiously sounding as the title makes itself to be, McGowan is Debbie Strand, a newly orphaned teenager who lost her mother in a freak house fire accident (accident, right...) and finds herself living with an overly religious (and possible racist) grandmother who demeans every little thing she do.

Apart from this, life as a cliched 90s teenager seems typical for Debbie; she's the new girl in school, made a friend, caught the eyes of a couple of highschool assholes (a jock and an "it" girl, of course) and gets a schoolgirl crush on her English teacher, Mr. Rinaldi. (All in her first day of class) Unknown to them though, Debbie herself is far from typical when it turns out, she can be very possessive and obsessive with her crushes. When too many buttons are pushed and too many hindrances are getting in the way, our Devil in the flesh snaps and begin killing her way to Mr. Rinaldi's heart, whether he wants her to or not.

I have to say, despite being a passable watch, Devil In The Flesh is rather forgetable with its downright predictable plot and lack of exploitative elements despite its flashy title and supposedly erotic tone. True, the talents involved were quite alright, with McGowan, McArthur and Shirley doing an okay job with their roles as a killer femme, a charismatic soon-to-be victimized teacher and an annoying zealous gramma respectively, and we did get some b-grade writing that's tolerable for its hammy nature, but the plot took a while to get around and it never bothered to try stepping up its game as neither an erotic thriller or a slasher.

From tame music video-esque sex scenes to nearly bloodless killings, you would expect a direct to video piece like this would be a lot more daring with the stuff they can get away with, like more conflict between characters for the sake of development, graphic massacres, or at least a few additional nudity to keep us on our toes, but all we got is an unevenly paced slasher fare with a fair bodycount, disguising itself as a mature run through all the basics of a paint-by-number stalker story.

At least we got some cheese on the side and McGowan stealing every scenes she is in (even if she never flashed herself topless), Devil In The Flesh is by in anyway no masterpiece but it is a worthwhile watch if you got nothing better to do, or if you are just curious what miss Rose did after Scream and before she was Paige Matthews of the Charmed TV series and Cherry Darling of Planet Terror (2007).

Bodycount:
1 male and 1 female burned alive in a flaming house
1 dog locked inside a trunk and poisoned with bug spray
1 elderly female bludgeoned to death with a cane
1 male impaled with a spear
1 female bludgeoned with a kettle
1 female shot on the head with a shotgun
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
Total: 8