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

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Welp, it's officially December 25 in my country

Ladies and Gentlemen, Twisted Sister!



 Happy holidays, everybody! Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Krampusnacht and/or whatever traditional Winter holiday you all celebrate!

TAKE CARE AND BE GOOD PEOPLE!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Night Sick Nick Came Home: Christmas Blood (2017)

Christmas Blood ("Juleblod") (Norway, 2017)
Rating: **
Starring: Julianne Aga, Pernille Baggeranas, Ida Malene Smith Bakke

A gaggle of gal pals are taking a holiday trip to a small isolated village at Northern Norway and are determined to make the best of it despite the recent tragedy. Unbeknowst to them, a serial killer dressed up as Santa Claus has just escaped from solitary, nearly six years after a 13-year long killing spree, with plans on completing a monstrous bodycount. Hot on the trail are a pair of detectives hailing all the way down South in Oslo, racing against time to figure out where Ole' Sick Nick is heading to and stop the maniac once and for all.

Christmas Blood (2017) is a film of halved narratives intertwined with each another, one being your typical teen slasher with a Michael Myers-esque killer Santa and a whole lot of drama to build up characters, the other a cop thriller where we follow an investigative crew absorbingly putting the pieces together to where their perp is gonna strike next. I could say that the direction did had me watching intriguingly to what is unfolding in the plot and I find myself enjoying every step in the way, but that's only half the truth.

At most, the cop-centered set-pieces are tolerable and the emergence of rivalries, dark secrets, and sexual tension within the girls have their entertainingly cheesy moments, but the pacing for both is a chore to sit through for their slow burn attempt and the editing did make it hard to keep up with the story at times, especially given the fact that the slasher half of the movie takes place in far up North of Norway which is apparently dark 24/7. You couldn't really tell the time and day unless a character or two points it out, typed on screen or at least is implied through the procedural half of the plot.

On the plus side, the gore effects in this movie are brutal at its best despite most of it being axe murders. It can get repetitive, yes, but there are moments where the kills get a bit fun for being implausible and some of the better kills were directed to deserving people (like a pair of scummy hicks and a cheating couple), as well as one shocker of a victim which is tastefully done offcamera. Do wished we get to know more of our killer Santa here, though, as his motive, while admittedly impressive for the numbers alone, was never explained any deeper than what is simply a demented killing spree. We did get something of an answer at the near end, but all it did was raise more questions and maybe a chuckle or two for the absurdity of it.

Ending on a padded Halloween (1978) "He's still out there"-style finale with a side of mercy killing, Christmas Blood (2017) is everything you would expect from a familiar Santa slasher flick which is either a good or a bad thing depending on how well you take your yuletide bodycounting. Personally, the film's dragging pace killed most of the enjoyment, but the bloody kills made up a lot for the fun lost so not entirely a dreck, thankfully.

Bodycount:
1 girl attacked, later seen hacked in half
1 male hacked on the head with an axe
1 male found murdered (flashback)
1 male found hacked on the face (flashback)
1 female hacked with an axe (flashback)
1 female gets a thrown axe to the back, hacked to death
1 male disemboweled, hacked on the head with an axe
1 male axed on the head and gut
1 female axed between the legs
1 male strangled, later seen with his spine getting ripped off
1 male decapitated offscreen, head seen placed on a snowman
1 female axed on the face
1 female axed on the gut
1 male found murdered
1 female hacked on the throat with an axe
1 male found gutted, shot
Total: 16

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Campus Christmas Slay Belles: Black Christmas (2019)

Black Christmas (2019)
Rating: ***
Starring: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue

To be brutally honest? Considering the love/hate diversity within horror fans when it comes to Black Christmas (1974)'s first remake back at 2006 in which the film was re-envisioned as a gory splatter flick filled with cannibalism, incestuous rape and maniacal inbreeding, I'm quite surprised we are even getting this 2019 reboot. More concerning is the fact that whoever did the marketing for Black Christmas (2019) thought it was a great idea to reveal who or what is behind the killings in its trailer and tries to pull a last minute red herring on us by dishing out a dumb twist hinting something otherworldly. Yeah, uh, no. The amount of spoilers the trailer spilled overcomes any lame attempt to keep the rest of the movie's twists as fresh as a fucking daisy, so is there even anything worth seeing from this reboot I'm sure nobody really asked for?

I dunno. There's a random marble bust crying black goo for some reason. Does that count for anything?

Our movie begins around Hawthorne College's Christmas holiday break, where we see Riley, a student at the College's MKE sorority, still struggling around the matter she is raped by AKO fraternity's president Brian Huntley and rightfully so seeing no one save her closest friends believes her, thus the case ending up more or less dismissed. In the midst of this, her friend Kris is also getting herself in the receiving end of the AKO frat's sourness as she petitioned to move the university's founder Caleb Hawthorne's bust away from the main building following the fact he was a notorious misogynist, as well as requesting a professor named Gelson to be fired due to his refusal to teach books that weren't penned by white men.

Undoubtedly, all of these spectacles irked someone bad enough to start a killing spree against sorority girls as the gals start to disappear one by one, snuffed out by a cloaked figure who seems to have mastered teleportation well enough to re-enact that jump scare-murder from Exorcist III: Legion (1990) with a length of fairy lights. As sorority sisters proceed to thin out, it'll be soon up to Riley and Kris to uncover and stop an unusual evil that's out for blood.

This being a PG-13 production, I wouldn't be surprised if Black Christmas (2019) took inspiration from the girl drama-centered horror reboots back at the early 2000s like When A Stranger Calls (2006) and Prom Night (2008) with its lacks of onscreen bloodshed and more focus on bittersweet teen talk. In here, though, it amplified gender politics and theatrics to the point that the movie's pretty much a feminism powerhouse that tries (Read: Tries) to paint its female characters more developed than your regular campus victim screamer both as an individual and as a group.

Now, blending feminism with slashers isn't exactly new as films such as The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) practically started out as a feminist satire of the bodycount sub-genre and the I Spit on Your Grave franchise roots for tortured women to empower themselves into either defending their lives or getting even against antagonistic men through an exploitative and gory manner. What Black Christmas (2019) contributes as a horror movie is an attempt to reach out to new age feminism, to be the woke movement fused with vengeful violence. This could have been a thought-provoking swing for what's basically a tamer variety of dead teen flicks, given that is the scripting and characterization had more work put to it after all of that drama of female friends facing oppressive male egos. Instead, aside from a couple of girls getting slightly fleshed-up backstories, the rest of the casts are still relative trope fillers that fall for your usual slasher cliches, with the male characters interestingly getting the exaggerated end by being either useless dead weights or misogynistic white maniacs filled with toxic masculity, frightened that women nowadays are "stepping out of the line." (Save for one guy. He black and tried to be helpful adorkably)

Frankly, the "girl power" subtext is so far from subtle that I find it hard to take Black Christmas (2019)'s message all that seriously, but I could still commend it for putting some effort to it and despite the near absence of the gooey red and chunky latex flesh, the film still find ways to be a decently entertaining B-flick. It looks good with its atmospheric winter shots, some of the kills were set-up nicely (Again, the Exorcist III tribute) and the crazed climax still holds up for me despite the trailer spoiling it, doubling down the fun absurdity with a surprise black magic lore, a brawl-out between final girls and an army of supposedly empowered killers, as well as the always welcome blazing inferno finale. The story does end with some plot holes and unanswered questions (Like how that black goo came to be and whether it can make a dancing toaster if we recite a different incantation to it), but seeing how lacking it is on many departments, I doubt we'll lose any sleep for it so it's still all good.

Far from being a new certified cult classic, nor does it come near deserving to be called a "remake" of a 70s proto-slasher classic (No, really, why bother calling it Black Christmas? It's hardly... Black Christmas!), Black Christmas (2019) can be forgettable with its lack of genuine surprises, but it is watchable nonetheless and certainly could have done way worse.

Bodycount:
1 female stabbed in the chest with an icicle
1 female strangled with fairy lights
1 female found stabbed on the face with a glass shard
1 male shot on the face with an arrow
1 male stabbed on the throat with a set of keys
1 female knifed on the chest, bled to death
1 male stabbed to death
1 male knifed
1 male knifed on the back
1 male smothered with a plastic bag
1 female had her neck broken
1 male stabbed on the gut with a sled
1 male stabbed on the gut with a shooting bow
1 male tazered to death
1 male stabbed with a shooting bow
1 male brained against a ledge
1 male shot on the back with an arrow, succumbs to wounds
1 male set on fire with a smashed lamp
7+ males trapped and burned to death inside a blazing building
Total: 25+

Friday, December 13, 2019

Y'Know, Freddy...

If you could transform into Mrs. Voorhees in Jason's dreams...
Wouldn't it be easier if you, I dunno, transform into Mrs. Voorhees again and not antagonize Jason by calling him a dumb dog and then fighting him? 

Why not, just hear me out, just tell him to stop the killing as Mrs. Voorhees and go back home to sleep? So you could avoid getting, well...
This is the reason you're only my Top 2 Slasher Villain, Freddy. 

Happy Friday the 13th, Jason Voorhees! 
And, yes, my dear readers. I'm quite aware without Freddy fucking up, we wouldn't have a movie to watch. Eitherways,  here's hoping you all have a lucky day!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A God Among Cleaners: One Must Fall (2018)

One Must Fall (2018) (AKA "1 Must Fall")
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  Vincent Lee Alston, Daniel de Weldon, Rebekah Lynn Dow

First heard about One Must Fall (2018) through a Youtube recommendation and is probably one of the few times that site recommended something that actually hits my interest. (For my gods' sake, NO! I do NOT want Epic Rap Battle of Histories, Youtube mods!) The trailer looked gooey in gore and teased the plot enough to get my attention so I noted myself to keep an eye for it and thankfully, it's an alright film once I finally get to see it.

Accused of fraud by her pig of a boss, Sarah (Julie Streble) is fired from her high rise office job and her gay best friend Alton (Andrew Yackal) gets the chopping block too for sticking up for her. Keeping their spirits up, the pair join forces and sign up for a new job as crime scene cleaners, which is recently getting a lot of work due to a suspected serial killer making their way through 1986 Louisville, Kentucky. Unbeknownst to Sarah and Alton, their crew is about to be this killer's new target when one day, they're called in to clean up an abandoned paint factory that law officials assume as just another crime scene, not knowing that the maniac responsible for the sticky and chunky mess is still lurking around the place, looking for fresh victims.

One of the things I came to like about One Must Fall (2018) is how it utilizes satirical comedy and playful writing to build around its premise and characters, to the point that it barely felt like a horror film and more of an indie comedy-drama with all of the banter thrown around the first half of the plot, save for some snippets of our nameless killer torturing and killing random victims in a span of a minute or two. This pun-filled direction did quite a lot of good in regards to the chemistry between the actors and even more once the film decided to shift gears into full-on slasher horror, which is by all means equally interesting and undoubtedly blood-red messy, making their demise reasonably cathartic and even worrying.

Regarding the horror elements, One Must Fall (2018) amalgamates tropes from slashers, torture porn and even serial killer movies, dropping most of the established comedic tone and replace it with a mean and sadistic run with an unnamed killer (played by Barry Piacente with an exotic suaveness) filling the scenes with monologues pertaining himself as God and why what he does is good for the behalf of everybody involved, whenever he's not making mince meat out of people. It could have been cringy for all of the dark preaching, but Piacante delivers his line with so much dry humor and confidence that his character comes out as both cruel and badass despite the simplicity of his appearance. In turn, the gore effects here are phenomenally done mostly in practical effects and sparing almost no one from the carnage, leading to a truly shocking finale that had me thinking this is one of those film that would end with no one left alive and kicking.

Minor spoilers, we do have some survivors and this is where I have a small gripe; with all of that carnage, I was egging to see a fair chance our protagonists would put up at least a decent fight and, yes, they somewhat did, but it was done and over so quickly that the ending felt a tad rushed. The only complimentary note to make up for the lack of a longer and more exciting exit is a certain douche's comeuppance and the quick-fix done to a character's uber-severe injury, the latter so hilarious looking for how bad it is, yet fitting with the movie''s more comical tone.

Hopefully, we get to see more of One Must Fall (2018) given the kind of ending it implies but, for now, it's safe to say this movie at least delivers what it promises, a fair and easy slasher-comedy that's rich in gore and characters you can mostly side with, neatly built around an interesting premise.

Bodycount:
1 female seen murdered
1 female seen disemboweled, bashed with a hammer
1 male implied suicide via shotgun, scalp and brain matter seen
1 male had his throat cut with a machete
1 male eviscerated with a concrete saw
1 male stabbed through the head with a garden shears
1 male garroted with a winched rope
1 male gets a thrown machete through the back, impaled
1 male scalped and stabbed on the groin with a machete, dies from wounds
Total: 9*

(*I left out the chunks of victims being cleaned out at the killer's lair as there's barely any full body to count and God knows how many dead folks make up that pile.)

Is that the Ecto-1 siren I hear?



Halloween Kills, Godzilla vs Kong and now this?! I'm Gonna have Nostalgic Feels this 2020, aren't I?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Beauties and Beasts: The Furies (2019)

The Furies (Australia/United Arab Emirates, 2019) (AKA "Killer Instinct")
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Airlie Dodds, Linda Ngo, Taylor Ferguson

Kidnapped and let loose in the middle of nowhere, Kayla finds herself in a sinister survival game where girls are hunted down by a group of masked killers, with the resulting carnage getting broadcast for the viewing pleasure of shadowy patrons. As she attempts to make her way to save a fellow kidnapped friend as well as stay alive herself, Kayla will soon understand that the game's rules are about to get as macabre as her fiends prowling around and that the line between friend and foe isn't as black-and-white as she expected.
The Furies (2019), for a good chunk of it, is pure eye candy for gorehounds and slasher fans as apart from delivering some credible backwoods stalk-and-stab fun that often leads to a gloriously gory murder scene done wholesomely in practical effects, there's also a sweet slice of ghastliness given to the designs of the plentiful killers featured here, ranging from the ghoulishly simple to the ridiculously creative. (Skincrow and Rotface for the win, baby! Dirty Ken can have a honorable mention, too!) The twist of this whole shebang being a death game, however, complicate matters as it added elements to The Furies (2019)'s otherwise simplistic survival horror route, deconstructing it into something both unique and frustrating.
On one end, it is nice to see something different being done to what could have been another backwoods bodycounter, even if said difference is nothing new with movies like $LA$HER$ (2001) and Paintball (2007) already bagging have the whole "we kill people for sport and viewers" thing within the slasher subgenre. (Among many, I assume) The game's rules did give our characters an interesting strategy to survive, doubling as a source of drama and conflict that eventually blurs the line between allies and monsters. Sadly, the story's deconstructive writing couldn't pick whether it wanted to be serious or outrageously exploitative, so it hardly elevated its tone and characters from more than one to two notes, thus making it hard to genuinely root for anyone (Save for Airlie Dodds, who did her most to make a sympathetic final girl out of Kayla) and the attempted seriousness forced upon us just feels laughable.
For its worth, The Furies (2019) is mercifully quick in pacing and it at least looks capable with the rest of its production past the gore effects; the abandoned gold mine oasis in the middle of a desert is a nice backdrop that we don't often see used around slashers, captured and used well enough through a competent camera work. Its expressively booming score may have the tendency to sound a wee bit cartoonish at times, but it works quite alright with the cheesier parts of the movie. All in all, if you can look beyond the lackluster world building and satire, this is a film one can well enjoy for its silliness and strong showcase of gore given they don't mind their slashers lean and swift.

Bodycount:
1 male eviscerated with a scythe
1 female had her face sliced off with an axe
1 female had her arms torn off
1 male had his head explode
1 female hacked on the neck with a machete
1 male impaled with a screw
1 female had her head hacked in half
1 male had his head explode
1 male axed on the chest
1 female had her throat cut
1 male had his head explode
1 male tortured with a hunting knife, killed
Total: 12

Friday, November 29, 2019

Ole' McDonald had a Punk: Maniac Farmer (2018)

Maniac Farmer (2018)
Rating: **
Starring: Jake Roark, Tyler Caldwell, Jeremy Snead

Looking at this film's poster, I wouldn't blame you if you thought this is going to be a splashy-red slasher film about a literal maniac farmer. I know I did, until I get to see the movie and man, oh man, this is far from the fun bodycounter I expected.

At a small rural Kentucky town, a punk calling himself "Blasphemous Rex" has gathered his own little group of delinquents to terrorize anybody he could under a twisted philosophy of embracing violence for the sake of violence, as if he's Alex from A Clockwork Orange only attired in a leather jacket, tight pants and black mascara. He pretty much sets himself serious for this cause by invading a house to murder its two occupants and killing off a rival gang leader.

So where does the Maniac Farmer-part come in? Well, lil' Rexy here just had to be a cocky cock one night and decided to sneak into the property of a very silent and rotund farmer. Despite getting the upper hand at first, Rex and his little merry band of mischief makers soon get their asses handed to them and most of them gets the bad end of the knife. Expect for Rex, who the farmer plans to break in spirit by keeping him alive yet isolated inside a barn, with nothing to eat but the mushed remains of not-beef.

All the while, we got two bumbling detectives looking into Rex's rap sheet which the movie implies to be so bad that it makes Rex "evil embodied". And here we are, watching said "evil embodied" ironically sniveling snot and crying for mercy, reliving horrid memories like a suggested male-on-male incestuous rape and the times he goes by the name "Carl".

As you can tell, Maniac Farmer (2018) doesn't stick to one horror trope and would rather juggle everything from hicksploitation, slasher, crime thriller and psychological torture porn. Writer and director Matthew Williams definitely wrote a script that works well enough with this idea to keep my attention for its unexpected twist, but there are many moments in the film that felt way too overplayed that it borderlines predictable and its message overcooked. Add the matter that the movie is dry on the blood and gore aisle despite having bucket loads of opportunities to be violent onscreen (Y'know? To show off Blasphemous Rex's infamous reputation and why we should root for his demise for the right reason?), the film is unsurprisingly flawed and can get a tad tiresome in its short seventy-plus minute run.

Thankfully, we got some mostly fair acting from Maniac Farmer (2018)'s slow run to keep my attention occupied, even if it's through the "so-bad-it's-hilarious" mindset, like Rex's actor Tyler Caldwell's cheesy take on a savage punk-turned-horror victim whose highlights include a roaring monologue about the nature of violence to entice a crowd, as well as his character getting a talk to and even tormented by his own psyches. Jake Roark as the titular maniac farmer doesn't really have much to say in his role, but he does acted his silent role well enough to be somewhat alright, while Jeremy Snead and Alexander Davis hits a few right comic relief punches to keep their talkative cop duo Lenhardt and Dunigan far from being totally annoying.

No doubt about Maniac Farmer (2018) being a lackluster mess, but I will commend its attempt to make a name for itself by twisting the rules and expectations, as well as showing some sort of effort in its production despite the small budget and the do-it-yourself quality of the final product. As, however, some guy who prefers his hicksploitation chainsaw-wielding and/or consists of deformed cannibal mutants residing in Virginia, this is still far from being in par with my favorite cup of slasher tea.

Bodycount:
1 male gets a switchblade to the gut, later implied stabbed to death
1 female murdered offcamera, later implied beaten
1 female seen killed
1 male had his throat slashed with a switchblade
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 victim beaten to death with a toilet seat
1 victim smothered with a pillow
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 female seen killed, method unknown
1 female skeleton found
1 male presumably killed with a hatchet
Total: 11*

*An early scene mentioned three possible additional victims to Rex's murder spree, but not enough implications are given to conclude this. In addition, a scene at the near end shows Rex popping out of a couple of hiding places and seems to implied possible murders but, again, with no bodies or direct indication given, I had to leave them out.

Blasphemous Rex. Sounds like a Mad Max character... 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

That Fantasy Island (2020) Trailer...



First The Banana Splits (2019), now Fantasy Island? If we're gonna rebranding normal TV shows into horror films, may I suggest Love Boat next? It can be like that skit from Family Guy with the Somali pirates. Only, maybe, a murder mystery instead?

Yeah, that'll be funny...

A Real Tired Act: The Gallows: Act II (2019)

The Gallows: Act II (2019)
Rating: *
Starring: Ema Horvath, Chris Milligan, Brittany Falardeau

Well, shit. Look at that.

When The Gallows got released back at 2015, it barely made anything promising for itself as a supernatural found footage/slasher hybrid, but it did obtained a possibly very small number of genuine fans, with me being one of them as I appreciate its efforts and honestly had a good time watching the tame bodycount and cliched "haunted cam footage" tricks. By in no means, however, did I ever saw this as a possible franchise material so imagine my surprise that this sequel reared its ugly head and, oh, how I wished I just left it alone!

Ditching the Found Footage approach after three to four something minutes, Act II follows teenage Youtuber Auna Rue who aspires to be an actress by joining her school's theater group (That's good!) but blunders an audition. (That's bad!) Looking for another way to make a name for herself, she takes the advice from one of her online fans to try reading lines from a more known play (That's good!), only said play happens to be The Gallows, which is said to curse anyone who gets involved with it. (That's bad!) Thinking none of the supernatural consequences that might await her, Auna proceeds and actually impresses the theater group with her new readings (That's good!), but now the curse of The Gallows is hexed upon her and the murderous figure known as Charlie is out to get her. (That's also bad. For more tiresome reasons. Can I go home now?)

So, remember that slasher Smiley back at 2012? This movie is a near carbon copy of that flick, down to its focus on a mentally tormented protagonist whose whiny attitude failed to mend any kind of connection to my interest and a stupid twist that came out of nowhere concerning a death cult worshipping Charlie like some sort of harbinger. (Yeah, spoilers and shit. I don't care, the movie sucks. Y'all will be thanking me.)  Due to this, there are more poorly-paced supernatural spookiness and drawn-out "my life sucks because teenager!" talk going on here than actual noose killings and boogeymen stalking, a fact that infuriates me as this movie was showing some potential of being a creative bodycounter with Charlie finding more ways to strangle and hang people than just with his noose, all the while rocking some sweet cinematography. One scene involving some sheets and Charlie's silhouette is a perfect example of a wasted opportunity as it wonderfully blends the menace of its paranormal killer with an unexpected weapon of choice, but we have to throw all of that away because Act II wanted to be more inclined to teen drama tropes of boyfriends, unappreciative parents and the downside of popularity with some added flavors of ghostly "scares" and slow psychological and physical breakdowns. Apparently teen drama about a bland character have bigger priorities over working scares and/or a killcount in horror movies...

To be fair, lead actress Ema Horvath as Auna Rue did an amazing job acting onscreen, it's just that the material she's been given to work with is so damn boring and dull, that I was hoping the producers filmed this in secret, pondered about it halfway only to abandon it and never speak of it again. But instead, they filmed it in secret, went all the way to finish it, sent it out there for our eyes to be subjected to, leading probably half of the horror community baffled why The Gallows (2015) even got this sequel? Who demanded it? How many of us demanded it? I, despite liking the original Gallows, definitely didn't saw a need to continue Hangman Charlie's onscreen horror Odyssey, so who is this supposed to target? The minuscule number of fans that I'm very certain is only around the hundreds? How's that a promising market?

Why the hell am I asking you all of these questions?

Bottomline, if you like the original Gallows, you're good and set with that. Never bother yourself to see this, though I'm positive that tiny nagging voice inside your head would convince you otherwise eventually so should that happen, a word of advice: prepare a drink and a back-up movie. Something nice and worth your time. You will need it...

Bodycount:
1 boy found snared and wrapped dead in a swing set
1 dog found hanged
1 female strangled with a measuring tape
1 female hanged on a gallows
Total: 4

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

TV Terror: American Horror Story: 1984 (2019)

American Horror Story: 1984 (2019) (AKA "American Horror Story Season 9: 1984")
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd, Leslie Grossman

American Horror Story is a horror anthology series that had my attention for only one season then, which would be their 1950s set fourth renewal Freak Show, undoubtedly their best season which caters a period dramas filled with a very colorful cast of men, monsters and everything in between. Didn't bother much with the rest as I hardly find anything to invest on politically-themed cults or school girl witch covens, but now that AHS had itself returned for their ninth season and getting well oriented with the hack-and-stab subgenre of 80s slashers, I say why the hell not?

In 1984, good girl Brooke Thompson finds herself targeted by an infamous serial killer known as the Night Stalker after finding him inside her home. After surviving his attack, she decides to leave town with her new friends from a dance aerobics class and drive up to Camp Redwood where they'll be working as counselors as a mean to both take her mind off the home invasion and for her own safety. Unbeknowst to her, Camp Redwood has a grim history back at 1970, when the camp's groundskeeper Benjamin Richter, AKA "Mr. Jingles" due to the jingle of keys he carries, went off the deep end and massacred a number of victims before getting apprehended and chucked into a psychiatric clinic.

It seems history will repeat itself tenfold later that night as not only has Mr. Jingles escaped captivity and made his way back to the camp to start another killing spree, but the Night Stalker somehow legged it all the way to the same woods to find Brooke and some of her friends and co-workers aren't as innocent as she hoped they'll be.

As a slasher series, American Horror Story: 1984 (2019) is flawed but played enough cards right to be an entertaining tribute to late 80s backwoods stab-a-thon that kept the series' signature style of story telling. Oozing with neon bright light and stylized synthetic music, with top-tier production and some wonderful talent up front and behind the camera, the story suggests something hip, hammy and probably crawling with cliches until it starts defying traits between heroes and villains, putting us through a deconstructive and reconstructive stroll down slasher tropes.

For the first five episodes, AHS 1984 is something of a cross between a Friday the 13th sequel and Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood (1971); we got not one, but two slashers stalking and killing folks all over in your typical backwoods horror swag, while the show's signature flashbacks and twists reveals our casts are hiding dark secrets of their own and some of them are bound to go cuckoo with a knife at the drop of a hat, given that they hadn't already. It's probably the best slice of the season and where the slasher influence stands strong, with heavy gore, two killers duking it out ala Freddy vs Jason (2006) with an unexpected turn and a lot of fine curve balls on the plot that somehow works and fits perfectly to the flow of the story, keeping me glued and pondering where the night will lead to.

By the time episode six rolls in, things shift into a more revenge-driven plot as it time jumps a couple of years, now following a plan to open Camp Redwood once more as a concert venue under the guidance and selfish gains of the season's revealed big bad. This turn promised some great ideas like a converted villain living a quite life being forced to wield the machete again in order to protect and a couple of prisoned characters escaping to get even to those that landed them there. Heck, there's even a concert-wide massacre in talk among the characters which would have been pretty epic for a TV series, but AHS 1984 have other plans.

Personally, the last few episode is where the season derailed itself a bit with its load of dumb character moments, plot holes and wasted opportunities. It leaves us questions that remained unanswered despite teasing us an explanation, a few bland characters getting added in for no solid purpose apart from kicking up the kill count and that one massacre these last episodes are building up to failing to deliver because, well, they literally didn't deliver under the reason that the characters simply changed their minds. It's somewhat disappointing for those looking for a gore-out death porn-style finale, but I can't really say that much ill to this as it still does have the cheesy and sometimes funny charms one can hope for from a real slasher story (Like how certain non-ghost characters appear to not have aged at all after a certain time-skip, or Kajagoogoo getting slaughtered), with some deep thoughts regarding labeling, revenge and trauma amidst the blood-soaked bodies and meat-tainted blades.

This all leads to a season finale that's as bittersweet wholesome as it is bonkers, with ridiculous end games for a notorious killer and a real bitch that did got me chuckling for how highly cathartic it is, as well as for the amount of onscreen brutality conflicted upon the two villains. Follow that with the tear-jerking ballad of Mike and The Mechanics and a powerful message of happiness and comfort after all the doom and gloom, we're pretty much set to experience this series' more demented yet arguably fun and lukewarm season.

In the end, American Horror Story 1984 is one busy series for cramming all of the tropes we know and love/hate about slasher movies into a mostly alright TV drama despite the schizophrenic time-jumps and inconsistent lore. It's hardly as big and grand as the aforementioned Freak Show, but it runs the show with much gusto, passion and bloodlust. (Oh, the bloodlust.) that it's not hard to find something to at least like about this show's more bodycount-friendly ninth renewal.

Bodycount:
1 male and 1 female knifed through the head (Episode 1)
1 female knifed through the eye (Episode 1)
6 females seen slaughtered (Episode 1)
1 male had his neck crushed (Episode 1)
1 male crushed with a dropped car, face stomped (Episode 1)
1 male found pinned to the door with knives (Death A) (Episode 1)
1 female stabbed to death with a road spike (Episode 2)
1 male shot on the head (flashback) (Episode 2)
1 male shot (flashback) (Episode 2)
1 male shot on the head (flashback) (Episode 2)
1 male stabbed through the head with a road spike (Episode 2)
1 male disemboweled with a karambit, throat cut (Death B) (Episode 2)
1 male stabbed on the throat with a karambit (Death C) (Episode 2)
1 female shot on the head (flashback) (Episode 2)
1 male slashed with a machete (flashback) (Death D) (Episode 2)
1 male stabbed through with a machete, throat slashed (Episode 3)
1 male stabbed through the neck with a machete (Episode 3)
1 male killed in car crash (flashback) (Episode 3)
1 female gets a broken oar to the mouth (Episode 3)
1 male pushed into a spiked pit (Episode 3)
1 male decapitated with an axe (Death A) (Episode 3)
1 male found dismembered (flashback) (Episode 4)
1 female knifed on the chest (Death A) (Episode 4)
1 male impaled through the head with a tree branch (Death A) (Episode 4)
1 female found disemboweled (flashback) (Episode 5)
1 male knifed on the neck (flashback) (Episode 5)
1 male weighed down in a lake with a chained anchor (Death A) (Episode 5)
1 male shot to death with arrows (Death A) (Episode 5)
1 male eviscerated with a knife (Death A) (Episode 5)
1 female knifed to death (Death A) (Episode 5)
1 male shot dead (Episode 5)
1 victim shot to death (Episode 6)
1 victim hacked to death with a machete (Episode 6)
1 male knifed to death (Episode 6)
1 female had her throat cut with a knife (Episode 6)
1 female found with a throat cut (Episode 6)
1 boy had his head shredded by a boat propeller (flashback) (Episode 7)
1 male shot dead (Episode 7)
1 male found covered in stabs (flashback) (Episode 7)
1 male found stabbed to death (flashback) (Episode 7)
1 male found stabbed to death (flashback) (Episode 7)
3 males found stabbed to death (flashback) (Episode 7)
1 female knifed on the gut (flashback) (Episode 7)
1 male shot with a shotgun (Episode 7)
1 male knifed on the neck (Episode 7)
1 male found gutted (Episode 7)
1 male found stabbed to death (Episode 7)
1 male found slaughtered (Episode 7)
1 male found slaughtered (Episode 7)
1 male found slaughtered (Episode 7)
1 male found slaughtered (Episode 7)
1 male gutted with a knife (Death B) (Episode 7)
1 female knifed on the chest (Episode 8)
1 male knifed through the chest (Death B) (Episode 8)
1 male shot on the head (Death C) (Episode 8)
1 female knifed to death (Episode 8)
1 male repeatedly stabbed and slashed with knives (Death D) (Episode 8)
1 female shot on the head (Death B) (Episode 9)
1 male had his throat cut with a knife (Death A) (Episode 9)
1 male shot on the head (Episode 9)
1 male bled to death from gunshot wounds (Death B) (Episode 9)
1 male hacked on the neck with a machete (Episode 9)
1 male slaughtered (Death B) (Episode 9)
1 male had his legs crippled with a sledgehammer, knifed on the head (Death C) (Episode 9)
1 male stabbed in the eyes with branches (Death D) (Episode 9)
1 male slaughtered with a chainsaw (Death E) (Episode 9)
1 male and 1 female slaughtered offcamera (Death B) (Episode 9)
1 male knifed to death (Death C) (Episode 9)
1 male murdered offcamera (Death F) (Episode 9)
1 male murdered offcamera (Death G) (Episode 9)
1 female dismembered, pieces fed to a woodchipper (Death A) (Episode 9)
1 female stabbed in the head with a knife (Death B) (Episode 9)
1 male knifed to death (Death E) (Episode 9)
1 female had her throat cut, presumably murdered offcamera (Death C) (Episode 9)
Total: 82

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

My Blood is Liquid Offering: Lake Nowhere (2014)

Lake Nowhere (2014)
Rating: ****
Starring:  Wray Villanova, Laura Hajek, Nathan Andrew Wright

This is what would happen should Evil Dead (1981) and Friday The 13th (1980) had a happy, stabby mongoloid baby raised within the era of Video Nasties and Grindhouse exploitations.

A fun throwback to old school backwoods slashers with a mysterious supernatural twist, Lake Nowhere (2014) starts with a trio of faux commercials, one being a beer ad which I am sure is funded in secret by werewolves (or hardcore furries, whichever one offends you more) and the two others being cheesy trailers for what appears to be a Satanic Cult/Giallo hybrid and a scifi creature feature involving giant killer plants and a mutated farmer. (Would pay good money to see at least one of these turned into a real film!)

The main plot then follows your classic gaggle of party-hungry teenagers getting away from it all at a cabin deep in the woods. One of them decided to stroll around the woods with her adorable dog, soon stumbling upon an old tombstone with a cryptic prayer carved into it. Unknown to her, the prayer, when read aloud, seemingly unleashes something dark, ancient and feral into the forest which may or may not be associated with the masked maniac that's been lurking around and spying on them the moment they step foot into the woods.

Done in a fittingly speedy pace with the same contrasted tone and rough texture of a forgotten low-budget vintage horror number, Lake Nowhere (2014) is an impressive love letter that kept much of the simplistic hammy fun of your usual slasher-in-the-woods affair, all the while working in a supernatural angle that soon introduces a surprise threat that eventually trails the story into an artsy finale that boasts quite the haunting atmosphere and imagery. It is gritty and raw when the time calls for it, more or less rewarding patient viewers a second half that packs nifty practical gore effects and a killer whose intimidating presence, design and motive remain apt to the movie's mysterious tone, a feat that I find quite grand for a film that runs in a short 51 minutes.
The actors also did well enough on their roles, playing out their parts as natural as possible to give their rather two-dimensional characters some level of being relatable. The only real drawback I see here is the lack of details as to what exactly their characters are dealing with as, while it is strongly suggested that there is something supernatural about the killer, the film didn't dwell any further into the nature of the otherworldly threat and how it relates to not only the masked murderer, but also to one of the characters. This leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but thankfully there's a strong Fulci-inspired nightmare logic at play once the movie's direction turns for the bloody and horrifying, giving us a chaotic fever dream of a killing spree and an expressively eerie last act to make up for the loose ends.
Sometimes cheesy and messily gory, Lake Nowhere (2014) is late night VHS weekend entertainment nostalgia in a short yet horrifyingly eventful running time. Flawed and unoriginal it may be plot-wise, there's no doubt of it's an amusing retrospect to old school dead teenager films, greatly earning its place as a praiseworthy horror effort with a lot of heart and passion behind it. What else is there to say but grab a copy!

Bodycount:
1 female had her throat cut with a knife (faux trailer)
1 creature burned to death (faux trailer)
1 victim attacked by mutated plants (faux trailer)
1 victim dragged away by mutated plants (faux trailer)
1 male attacked by mutated plants (faux trailer)
1 dog murdered, later seen eaten
1 male hanged, disemboweled with a machete
1 male had his neck bitten open
1 male decapitated with a machete
1 female hits her head against an exposed nail (?)
1 female stabbed on the head with a machete
1 male murdered offcamera
1 female gets a machete to the jaw
Total: 13 (?)