Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Your Classic Scarehouse Kill: Haunt (2019)

Haunt (2019)
Rating: ***
Starring: Katie Stevens, Will Brittain, Lauryn Alisa McClain

From Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, the directors and writers who brought us the okay but overhyped monster movie A Quite Place (2018), comes this simple Fall-set slasher that's surprisingly generous in modest thrills.
In need of distraction from her abusive boyfriend, Harper (Katie Stevens) is coaxed by her two best roomies' into joining them in their Halloween night escapades at a local bar, where they meet and befriended Nathan (Will Brittain) and his two buddies. To keep that night's buzz going, the now group of six set their next course to a nearby remote "extreme haunt" advertised on a random flyer, not knowing that the masked and costumed people running it have no plans on letting them leave alive once they step in.

Haunt (2019), in its simplicity, run it course as a back-to-basics bodycounter at most, with masked killers hunting teens and ending them through all means sharp and pointy thus one can expect all the familiar slasher tropes of an arguably thin story (there was an attempt to fatten it up with a mystery, but obvious red herring was obvious), predictably bad decision making (Again, why split up? After witnessing an obvious murder?) and lackluster character dimensions. (The only one to get some backstory and development is our obvious final girl, while the rest are practically sacrificial lambs to the slasher dressed up as humans. To be fair, they were all well acted at least, both the kids and the killers)
Nothing strong in terms of actual scares too, mind you, as there are some parts of the movie where the slow and steady direction overstayed its welcome, most of which leading to either false scares or overseen curve balls which obviously didn't help the film regarding its fright factor. Nevertheless, taking notes from scare house slashers like The Funhouse (1980) and Dark Ride (2006), the film does the favorable grace of utilizing its tumbledown "extreme haunt" premise to a fault, giving us a fair twist to what would have been a familiar stroll down dead teen lane as our casts are forced to go through and/or survive everything from simple trick rooms turned deadly to crawl-in raggedy death traps. With the way these set-ups are shot, a good amount of Haunt (2019)'s cinematography has that claustrophobic and/or barren isolated tone in mind, giving the film the creepy atmosphere and tight tension most run-in-the-mill slashers desperately need, their effectiveness here varying but present nevertheless.

The killers can also be treated as one of the movie's strengths, albeit lacking a stronger motive behind their killings. Without spoiling much, they're malicious for the sake of being malicious, seen without subtlety to their appearances behind the cheap Halloween disguises and the little whisper-croaks they say before going for the kill. This lack of proper explanation to what they want and why definitely gave them a mysterious edge and strong presence, though I'm sure there will be others who will not share this opinion with me. Still, sometimes I will work with what I can get regarding a slasher villain and Haunt (2019) supplied an intimidating bunch for its run, dishing out real carnage.
At the end of it, Haunt (2019) does what it sets itself to be and seeing the gruesome practical effects used on a few memorable kills and the clunky traps laid upon our victims, I can say the film did well enough. Not too extreme, not too simple, it still has the pitfalls you would expect from the everyday dead teen horror, but crafted enough personal twists and freaky imagery from its modest production to give us this welcome sleeper hit. For a slasher-y festive Halloween watch, try pairing this back-to-back with 2018's Hellfest!

1 female burned on the face with a hot iron poker, disappears and presumably killed
1 female jabbed on the head with a hot iron poker
1 female stabbed though the head with a pitchfork
1 male brained, face peeled from the lips with a hammer claw
1 male shot on the head with a shotgun
1 female stabbed with a pitchfork
1 male had his head bashed in with a sledgehammer
1 male shot on the head
1 male brained with a sledgehammer
1 female repeatedly bashed on the face with a metal door
1 male brained with a bat
1 male shot with a shotgun
Total: 11

Sour Halloween Candy: Babysitter Massacre (2013)

Babysitter Massacre (2013)
Rating: *1/2
Starring:  Erin R. Ryan, Marylee Osborne, Joni Durian

Not wanting anymore bad blood among friends before they all ship out to college, Angela plans one last Halloween slumber party with her former babysitter club gal pals, the first they will have after an incident one Halloween night seven years ago that ended with one of them abducted and now considered deceased in absentia. Unbeknownst to them, the masked figure responsible for the kidnapping returns to finish what they started, taking their sweet time depopulating the neighborhood of one teenager at a time.
Feeling a whole lot like a throwback to late 80s do-it-yourself horror films, Babysitter Massacre (2013) introduces thin plot, heavy boobs and cheap gore through a production value of a couple of hundred thousand Dollars that undoubtedly shows and fails to be that entertaining.

In writing, Babysitter Massacre (2013)'s everything basic teen drama quirked up with that old "broken friendships being mended" party trick that tries its hardest to be significant and, truth be told, that dead horse of a plot line could not and will not save this film; while slashers aren't usually known for grandeur plotting, a lot of the good ones at least have a sense of direction and consistency within its character interactions, whilst Massacre here just resorted to filling in the gaps with countless annoying conversations and girly gossip that either goes nowhere or in circles, lacking no chemistry within its self-absorbed overacted girls.
Now, that's only half of the plot. The other half is where the slasher jig gets danced with two left feet, doubling down on gratuitous and voyeuristic T&A but lacking any memorable kill scenes due to majority of it taking place offcamera and those that does appear on screen are fast-cut edited and acted so cheaply, it's just embarrassing to watch as it led so much of the action a lot to be desired. Like no one would moan as if they're experiencing La petite mort while their fingernails are getting ripped off! Underplayed much? Surely, but the bad news crew doesn't stop there once we get a look at the killer's get up: a white featureless cloth mask that covers his entire head and a black jumper suit. I mean, yeah, it would look creepy in writing and probably in concept, but the way the film's shot, so crisp yet lackluster, the killer just look awkward and ridiculous, with me half expecting them to trip unto something or start breathing frantically as they realize there are no holes on the damn thing over their head. Blood and Black Lace (1964) made it work because it is artsy, Babysitter Massacre (2013) couldn't since it's just to trashy. And boring. And obviously cheap.
I guess if you can take anything from this movie, Babysitter Massacre (2013) can be hoot to poke fun at. After all, the ham it packs stinks up the whole movie to the point that it is so laughably bad, if you would look at it as a Z-grade shlock that deserves to be ripped apart for how inept it is, you'll certainly have a good time doing that and wouldn't feel bad about it. Plus, boobs. And butts. In and out of lingerie. Some people would approve, others wouldn't, all-in-all cheap exploit.

This is a hard pass. There are good do-it-yourself horror flicks out there and this movie ain't one of them. Not even close.

1 female implied killed with pliers
1 female had her fingernails pried off with pliers, throat cut with a knife
1 female hacked to death with an axe
1 male found murdered
1 female had her mouth and ear cut with a straight razor, throat sliced with a knife
1 male repeatedly knifed on the gut
1 female gutted with a knife
1 female had her neck crushed
1 male seen dead from face wounds
1 female scalded with boiling water, knifed on the head
1 female found stabbed to death
1 male found with throat cut
1 male found with throat cut
1 female found stabbed to death
1 male found with his eye stabbed out
1 female pepper sprayed, choked on her own vomit
1 female beaten with a hammer, claw buried into her chest
1 female strangled, neck crushed and snapped
1 male knifed in the gut, caught in house fire
1 female knifed, caught in house fire
Total: 20

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Got to see "Mr. J" today.

And the hype is real, Joker (2019) is one of the most compellingly beautiful films ever to be released in recent years, working so well as a dark character study of a broken man turned anarchic icon who wanted nothing more than to matter in the midst of real world troubles of poverty, mental illness and abuse, set in a glaringly realistic take on 1970s Gotham and starring Joaquin Phoenix in an Oscar-worthy performance.

Just a bit disappointed that no one walked out on the theater I was at. That would have been interesting. (A-Hyuck!) Nevertheless, if you are yet to see this, just keep in mind there will be no heroes in Spandex here. Nope. This is pure psychological crime drama with some shocking violence and thought-provoking moments, so if you're easily triggered, here's a puppy.

Otherwise, good luck and Keep Smiling!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Fashion Bug: Snapshot (1979)

Snapshot (Australia, 1979) (AKA "Day After Halloween", "The Night After Halloween", "One More Minute")
Rating: *
Starring: Chantal Contouri, Robert Bruning, Sigrid Thornton

In a probable attempt to cash in the stalker-stabber hype started by John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), this Ozploitation gets retitled as Day After Halloween during its American theater release and then The Night After Halloween for its video US release, even though the film itself have nothing to do with the Carpenter slasher classic, nor does it even take place in November 1st. Nope, what we have here is a thriller. A drama thriller. About fashion modeling and the grim exploits one can find themselves spiraling into with the profession, executed in grand Gouda with high brow acting and disco tunes.

In short, a dated feature length TV soap with nudity.
The story revolves around Angela (Sigrid Thornton), a meek hairdresser who finds herself unsatisfied with her working and living conditions, coaxed into doing fashion modeling by her (apparently famous) glamour friend Madalyn (Chantal Contouri). Though hesitant at first knowing how strict her mother is, Angela eventually gave in to the idea and starts doing nude photos for Madalyn's photographer friend who's handling a "Bermuda Cool" cologne ad campaign. Things go somewhat okay-ish for Angela until, after a couple more modeling gigs, she gets conned into doing shadier photo sessions, particularly the sleazy kind, and everything goes downhill here.

In addition to this, there's also a subplot of Angela's ex-boyfriend going stalker on her, mostly implied through a looming ice cream truck that keeps following her and her friend, as well as indications of break-ins that have Angela's clothes ripped or her finding butcher shop pig heads on her bed. (Eat yer heart out, Jack Woltz. Or, maybe not. At least your horse head had blood in it...) I guess this the "horror" part that this movie tries to market as a "conspiracy of terror" but, truth be told, its hardly exciting and the end result is pretty laughable by all standards pertaining to thriller cinema as the stalker is just a cringy whiner and there's minuscule blood shed because killcount? What killcount?
If you're in it for the cheese then you're in luck because Snapshot (1979) has the hammiest lines and soundtrack lyrics, the latter even includes a theme for Angela herself, done with a subtlety rivaling Narcissus's ego. I'm absolutely sure this didn't help sell this movie among horror enthusiasts but it may have been worth a chuckle or two for those genre film fans hunting down a bad movie to poke fun at. Aside from that, this Ozploitation cheapie is a lost cause and it ain't worth a fright junkie's attention given its slow pacing, lack of likable characters, overblown fondue fountain and, oh right, the story being really nothing more than a rising model's sudden fall into sleaze, drugs and booze which you may or may not have missed at this point. There are a few good hits of interesting set-pieces and notes that did help me stay patient with this film but the overall dramatics is an overwhelmingly drag so I ain't too please with this as an entertainment piece. Not one bit.

So, a "Halloween slasher" Snapshot (1979) is not, but a boring movie about a stupid little stick figure with poofy lips who has the worst of luck of being taken advantage by multiple sleaze bags and a fucking ice cream truck. Horror!

1 male set ablaze
1 male crushed against a wall with an ice cream truck
Total: 2

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Basic Freak: Candy Corn (2019)

Candy Corn (2019)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: P.J. Soles, Tony Todd, Courtney Gains

As a Halloween tradition, a group of small town teens bully the local outcast Jacob Atkins, whose father owns and operate a clunky carnival and freak show called "Sideshow Spook House Spectacular" under his face-painted persona "Dr. Death". Jacob mostly keeps to himself and quietly braves the bullying but this year, he decided to finally fight back, only to be rewarded with the bullies giving him a beating that eventually kills him. Distraught from losing his son and angered at those responsible tailing it from the scene, Dr. Death swears to get even and revives his son with an ancient spell, turning the boy into a masked revenant out for blood.

Being a throwback of sorts to the good old 80s slashers, (probably the revenge-themed Southern gothic Pumpkinhead (1988) to be more precise) Candy Corn (2019) could have been a nod-and-wink type that throws its bare bone plot in a vat of cheese and self-awareness as most slasher throwbacks nowadays do, but it instead goes through a more sullen and serious story-driven approach which has its ups and downs.

For the positives, Pancho Moler of Rob Zombie's 31 (2016) and Courtney Gains of Children of The Corn (1984) did a spectacular job as Dr. Death and Sheriff Bramford respectively, two fathers whose agendas bloodily cross with one another as the bullies' ringleader happen to be Bramford's son. Their sour interaction sounds and feel often natural, but Moler pretty much chewed the scenery whenever he's on screen, with his Voodoo doctor get-up and air of unquestioned authority over the small cavalcade of misfits working for him, one of which happens to be played by Tony "Candyman" Todd. Other notable faces include P.J. Soles from the original 1978 Halloween appearing as a cheery police receptionist and Sky Elobar of the love-it-or-hate-it The Greasy Strangler (2016) (I hate it), seen here as yet again another greasy looking slob existing only to pad up the killcount.
The film's flaw, oddly enough, would be that the main teens responsible for Jacob's death (and one random girlfriend) are either unlikable or uninteresting, a crud move for any revenge themed slasher, especially one that is as plot-focused as Candy Corn (2019). It makes a good bulk of the story tedious to sit through and mostly predictable, part of the blame falling on the cliched and shallow scripting made for these teens, so much so that they felt like the random encounters slasher villains would kill just for the sake of boosting up the kill count, only here they've been given a shred worth of personality and faux focus. Sad, really, since most of the kills inflicted upon them are somewhat decent with their effects, both practical and digital, but the lack of real personality and depth to these kids made the murders lacking that justified punch, another con for the film.
Perhaps if its execution was less straight-faced or at least evened its focus, Candy Corn (2019) could have smoothened down the clanks its serious dramatic approach have caused and ran a bit better and tighter. Thankfully, the movie does have the grace to look and sound good with all the chilly Fall vibe and vintage John Carpenter-inspired synths at work, so as forgettable as it is, the movie is far being completely unwatchable. Not a lot more to say but, if you think you're in the mood for a simple dead teenager film then this is a film to consider. Not a complete recommendation, but worth at least a viewing.

1 male beaten to death
1 male disemboweled
1 male had his spine torn out from his back
1 female corpse found rotting under a bed
1 male found bleeding from his ears, dies
1 female had her tongue torn off, killed
1 male brained with a lead pipe, head carved off with a knife
1 male had his arms torn off, teeth pried off
Total: 8

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Slashers, Snuffs And Stefania Stella: Fatal Frames (1996)

Fatal Frames (Fatal Frames - Fotogrammi mortali ) (Italy, 1996)
Rating: **
Starring: Stefania Stella, Rick Gianasi, David Warbeck

So here we have an Italian giallo released midway into the 90s, couple of decades past the spaghetti crime thriller's golden years. It has all the workings of a stylish 70s Italian murder mystery, taking cues visually and thematically from films like Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, as well as star giallo familiars like Ugo Pagliai of The Red Queen Kills 7 Times (1972) and Suspiria (1977)'s Alida Valli, plus Western horror icons Angus Scrimm, Donald Pleasence, and Linnea Quigley in cameo roles. Promising, right? Well it would have been if the whole damn thing wasn't a two hours long of dull "tribute" to the giallo sub-genre as dampened as an overused cutting tool.

Still bummed after finding his wife decapitated in their own apartment, American music video director Alex Ritt (Rick Gianasi wearing a mane that would many any stallion jealous. Or confused) decided to take a music video job at Rome to help launch Italian singer Stefania Stella's career overseas and, too, take his mind off all things relating to his recently deceased life partner. Trouble, unfortunately, say nae to that and just happen to be right around the corner as a figure cloaked in black and brandishing a machete decided to terrorize Rome by hacking to death one of the dancers Alex wanted to meet later that night.

With Alex witnessing the crime, he immediately flags down the cops who proceed to find absolutely nothing. No body. No blood. No weapon. Confused but puffing up air of assurance, our long haired protagonist tries his hardest to convince everyone that there is indeed a murderous figure out in Rome slicing girls apart, but only to come out suspicious with his short temper and refusal to cooperate any further with the police. The officials, after receiving a tape recording of a murdered woman, would soon find out that Alex could be telling the truth and ties the kill with that of a certain "Videokiller", a serial slasher who have been terrorizing the US soil by slicing up women and video taping their handiwork, before sending the records to the cops. Has the "Videokiller" found their way to Rome to start a new killing spree? Or is it a copycat who somehow struck a demented motive to terrorize Alex for reasons unknown?

Looking through the bog that is Fatal Frames (1996), the movie definitely has most of the familiar elements associated with an old school giallo such as a fedora and glove wearing killer with a fetishistic motive, a focus on police work and amateur snooping, and red herrings getting offed in bloody yet stylized ways, complete with slow mo's and tinted lighting. These bits of spaghetti mystery goodness would mean well with a competent story but that is where Frames more or less tripped and fall over and over, resulting to a subpar interesting but overall idiotic plot that I'm sure could have been done and over with a bit sooner given that the characters and the production itself would stop doing one dumb decision to another.

Basically, there's a reason why Frames has a running time of two hours despite having a considerably straight-forward story compared to the giallo titles it is inspired by. The direction can be sum up easily as repetitive, cycling from unlikable an uninteresting characters getting shook up by a murder before going into the police procedural route to our long-haired lead trying to bitch his way out of the predicament, only to fall witness to yet another murder that mysteriously cleans itself up.  Making matters worse are the random intermissions of Stefania Stella music videos that's supposed to be alluring, but all they did was wig me out from the sheer amount of ego it reek, as well as halt the movie for no other reason than just to showcase some 30 something "Pop Sensation" and her very confusing assets with little pay off that matters. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Scripting for the film may as well added more dents to the far from sterling production here, seen from the number of actors with possible little grasp of English (Stefania being one of them, gods help me), reciting concerning dialogue in robotic tones. Heck, even the stars this movie managed to snag from the States couldn't help delivering their dialogue like toddlers in their first school plays, like Angus Scrimm from the Phantasm series doing a bit of ghoulish exposition as a spooky cameo ranting about our inner urges to "Kill! Kill! Kill!" Halloween franchise's Donald Pleasance also has a minor role here as an FBI agent, though his lines are dubbed over by someone else probably due to the matter that he allegedly died during this movie's filming. (Making this his last film to star in, and that one nod to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) bittersweet in its hilarity)

What saved this film from being a total car wreck for me were the cheesiness of these performances (I welcome anything that brings me unintentional laughter!) and the crazy twist ending that is needlessly over-complicated. Director Al Festa’s background as a music video director is undoubtedly shown here through the many stylish shots and editing (and the number of focus shots on his wife, Stefania. Yeah, now you know why she's almost in every screen here), but the net result here is still a laughable giallo littered with questionable and wasted performances, too many distractions and a padding problem that could have been fixed through rewrites. Fatal Frames (1996) can be a dreck, but, at times, it is a visually competent looking dreck.

1 female slashed and disemboweled with a machete (snuff)
1 female slashed and nearly decapitated with a machete
1 female seen slaughtered, nearly decapitated with a machete
1 female seen decapitated with a machete
1 female seen slaughtered, nearly decapitated
1 female seen slaughtered
1 male found dead with a gut wound
Total: 7

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Farewell, Sid Haig...

July 14, 1939 - September 21, 2019. 

Rest in Peace, Captain.

I guess, in your honor, a lot of us could really go for some tooty fuckin' fruity now...

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dearest Bitch, See How Accessible You Are?: The Fan (1981)

The Fan (1981)
Rating: ***
Starring: Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Michael Biehn

Just a while ago, I saw this movie revolving around an obsessed fan who goes cuckoo and stalky after not getting something he wants from a star he dangerously admires. It was sucky, stupid and a total waste of my time and money, The Fanatic (2019) downed itself with John Travolta in his worst role to date and a story so narking than scary, it's nauseating to stomach. Thankfully, I got The Fan (1981) to cleanse the sour sludge off my palate: far from a masterpiece, yet watchable for its confused dramatics and alright slasher-esque thrills.

Douglas Breen (Michael Biehn) is our titular obsessive fanatic, fallen head over heels for an aging broadway star Sally Ross (Lauren Bacall) and spends most of his free time away from working at a record store typing fan letters and having imaginary dates with Ross. One reply, however, puts him in a sour mood after being referred to as a "fan" since Breen sees himself better than a regular admirer. This sparks a downward spiral to his emotional psyche, stalking Ross to her upcoming musical stage play and proceeds to leave increasingly threatening love letters while slicing the star's friends and associates with a straight razor.

At times, The Fan (1981) works its way as a character-driven drama thriller quite well. As self-centered and short-tempered she is, our Sally Ross is a rather complicated gal with bouts of loneliness and insecurities behind her strong and brave face as she constantly seeks reassurance. Bacall conveys these characters rather beautifully on screen, including one bittersweet banter between Ross' on-and-off romance played by James Garner wherein she questions her ex-hubby about her ability to sing and dance, pondering if she's well enough to pull off another show. Her musical numbers do need some work to make it anymore worth past the cheese and cringe but, overall, she is one of the good things to come out of this movie. The other would be Michael Biehn.

Playing our villain, Biehn had the opportunity to make his fan-turned-stalker role far from the norm and he tried. Acting-wise, he doesn't have a lot of dialogue seeing most of his thoughts are played as voice-overs but he's still able to play out the maddened menace his character is slowly becoming through a lot of body language and vocal tone. It's terrifying at times, pitiable even knowing this incomprehensible obsession and violent streaks was simply caused by a simple fan letter, but not a lot of this fanaticism is properly explored and it left us with a shallow villain and a bunch of missed opportunities to dive deeper into his psychosis and fascination for the old actress, losing a bit of that sympathy card to make our villain as engaging or understandable as our lead.

Sleaze and violence is near absent in The Fan (1981), atypical to most slasher films being released around its time though not a lot of them did try to piece together soap-style drama and character study with exploitative hack-and-slash. While the story engages in very little kill count, the stalking set-pieces has their memorable moments including one indoor swimming pool attack that left one of Sally's colleagues' belly sliced open whilst doing some strokes and a quick yet passable train station stalking reminiscent of the subway scene from De Palma's Dressed To Kill (1981). The climactic crossing between Ross and Breen could have been longer, but it interestingly fits in tone and even gets genuinely intense during some of the attacks.

Half-and-half camp and class, The Fan (1981) is nowhere near a great piece of cinema, but it has enough engaging elements to be still entertaining. Recommended for fans of trashy melodramas, as well as patient slasher fans with a taste for the odd.

1 female slashed with a razor
1 male had his throat slashed with a razor, set ablaze
1 female stabbed on the gut with a switchblade
1 male stabbed on the gut with a switchblade
1 male stabbed on the throat with a switchblade
Total: 5

Monday, September 16, 2019

Broken Bones, Oozing Blood, Sumo Killers: The Guard From Underground (1992)

The Guard From Underground (Jigoku no Keibiin) (Japan, 1992)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Makiko Kuno, Yutaka Matsushige, Hatsunori Hasegawa

Formerly an art gallery curator, Akiko Narushima (Makiko Kuno) has taken in a new position as an office lady for the Akebono Corp trading company where she mostly works as an adviser regarding the paintings they purchase. At the same time, a murder case concerning a former sumo wrestler who murdered his lover and friend after finding them on a cheater's tryst is in talks of getting reopened after the wrestler got off on an insanity plea, unbeknownst to them that said towering sumo Fujimaru (Yutaka Matsushige) has recently taken a new job as a security guard at Akebono Corp.

After a brief encounter, Fujimaru develops a quick obsession for Akiko and began watching her through security cameras and keeping an earring she dropped, all the while living within the moist inner workings of the building and murdering a few staff that either rubs him the wrong way or just happens to be there. Eventually, Akiko will find out about her murderous admirer, forcing him to puts the building into lockdown and murder off all the unfortunate associates one by one.

From what I can gather, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa has a small cult status among genre fans for the variety of films he released from "pinkeiga" (Japanese theatrical smut films) to crime thrillers, as well as fair contenders for Asian horror cinemas such as Pulse (2001), Loft (2002) and Retribution (2006). There's definitely a style to his direction, more of it to do with the sullen atmosphere encapsulated by slow long takes and dreamlike visual imagery, a matter that's felt all over this cryptic early 90s Asian slasher through the many static shots and dim lighting within moist and dilapidated sets crumbed with concrete and rebar, putting good use to the film's minimalist budget and lean story.

Plot-wise, The Guard From Underground (1992) plays it majorly straightforward and steady around the horror department, with some cues of workplace politics satire strewn around to keep the story going like a security chief who decided to keep Fujimaru despite finding out about his murderous tendencies, just so he can have the killer get rid of an employee that's been getting on his nerves lately. There's no mystery behind the killer nor his motives, he is simply out to kill people because he can and his blatant interest towards Akiko can be pretty much sum up to a simple puppy dog interest after assuming she understands him, thus basically a workplace stalker situation with a bodycount.

John Carpenter's classic slasher Halloween (1978) definitely has its share of influencing Guard with how our sumo killer moves and shot in some scenes, like his first appearance where he is mostly kept hidden in the shadows, just seen from neck down. There's a stronger emphasis on building tension so the violence is noticeably low on gore, but with Fujimaru preferring to use his brute strength to thin down the office staff, the movie does still found ways to be brutal and bloody without breaking into the excessive, as seen in its memorable kills involving lockers, ladders and billy clubs.

Looking past some slow scenes and a few oddly mellowed acting (fair court on the latter though, as there's really no point fleshing out the casts as two-dimensional characters seeing most of them are par for the course of being dead in the end), The Guard From Underground (1992) can be visually enticing experience of a slasher movie as it lovingly tributes 80s bodycounters. It is far from being the best among its director's line of films but as a cult favorite, but its unique enough to be a watchable fare and a fine addition to any genre fan's collection.

1 male found mangled inside a locker
1 male forced to touch a live fusebox, later smothered with a plastic garbage bag
1 female had her chest stomped
1 male repeatedly beaten against steam pipes, brained with a billy club
1 male repeatedly brained with a billy club and a pan, gets boiling water all over him
1 female stuffed and crushed inside a locker
1 male hacked on the neck with a dislodged paper guillotine trimmer, later hanged
Total: 7

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Night Of The Swamp Things: Bloodstalkers (1976)

Bloodstalkers (1976) (AKA "The Night Daniel Died", "Blood Stalkers")
Rating: ***
Starring: Ken Miller, Toni Crabtree, Jerry Albert

Hicksploitation horror flicks have been out as early as the concept of evil rednecks touched the gritty reels of grindhouse cinema, with movies as gruesome as Herschell Lewis' Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) and as intense as Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) molding it as a staple horror trope. Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise that we often get dime a dozen of evil redneck movies until this day, with most of these good (or at least, watchable) Hicksploitation flicks setting themselves from the bad ones by how it often breaks expectations.

Bloodstalkers (1976) is a decent example of this as it starts out with your typical backwoods horror trope; a pair of city folk couples driving to the stix for a weekend getaway, the locals either giving them the stink eye or warning them to drive back unless they want to get attacked by something called "Blood Stalkers". Spooky stuff, but the couple scoffs it off as nothing but yokel talk and drives down anyway to a lake cabin deep in the country woods, unaware that something horrid is skulking around and now eyeing them the moment they step foot in its turf.

After spending a large run of its time focusing on character interactions and the casts mucking around ala beer guzzling, canoodling and skinny dipping, it wasn't until nightfall when something strong, huge and feral decided to siege the cabin, forcing our city slickers to cower, fight back and then try finding ways to survive the night against what could be our titular "Bloodstalkers".

A definite proto-slasher, Bloodstalkers (1976) lacks the refine stalk-and-chase actions one would normally expect in a forest-set bodycounter despite having the grounds and set-up to be one. Instead, the movie dwindles around on being one part siege film, one part creature feature and then, without spoiling much, a backwoods revenge flick, the latter being the strongest time the movie touched the slasher-style kill count, racking up dead bodies by all means sharp and pointy.

It's far from a smooth production sadly, as not only does the editing and direction made some of the supposedly intense scenes look laughable and feel padded, but there's also barely any lighting from its night scenes, really showing the budgetary restraints this movie finds itself roped at. Also, the uninteresting four main casts didn't help make the film any more memorable than what it is. Albeit far from horrendously bad, these characters are still as cookie cutter bare as the next drive-in grade horror victims would be. Nevertheless, Bloodstalkers (1976) still manages to be watchable for the little good things it did; with most of its first half centered between the two couples and their interactions, there's a workable slow burn to the tone and atmosphere that once the onscreen violence makes its show, the variety of kills and their okay-ish special effects made the wait well worth the time, especially when it comes with an insanely hammy reveal to what these "blood stalkers" really are and motive behind them.

For what it is, Bloodstalkers (1976) marginally works as a creature feature/hicksploitation hybrid that's flawed but is still an interesting watch, particularly within the fact that it sets some stepping stones to what would become our classic backwoods slashers. Not a solid recommendations, but if you get the chance to see it, treat yourself with some ham and cheese and enjoy the shlock!

1 dog shot dead
1 female found hung upside down, throat slit
1 male found with a sickle through the neck
1 female found hacked on the chest with an axe
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male hacked on the neck with a bowie knife
1 male impaled through the neck with a sickle
1 male hacked on the gut with an axe
1 male killed, method unknown
Total: 9

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Blood Money: Deadly Obsession (1989)

Deadly Obsession (1989)
Rating: **
Starring: Joe Paradise, Michael Balin, Robert Barrera

While most slasher films have their villain prepping up for a night (or day) of bodycounting under the name of vengeance, food or, in a few cases, love, this rare title opted for a more materialistic gain: a million Dollars!

In this movie, an insane grump going by John Doe works at a New York campus as a maintenance worker, bearing a grudge against the highly privileged. He storms up a plan to plant a poisoned carton of ice cream in the dorm's tuck shop and demand a million Dollars from the school in exchange for information of its location. Denise, a freshman, unknowingly ropes herself to this scheme when she gets to the tainted treat first, with John stalking her into the dorms to witness her fatal poisoning.

Unfortunately for him, Denise survives and ignites an investigation which jeopardizes his zealous get-rich scheme. Fearing Denise might identify him, John becomes obsessed with her and tries to finish the job himself, taking along the lives of anybody else who might get in the way.

A hybrid of crime thriller and slasher horror tropes, Deadly Obsession (1989) runs a clunky story that needs a bit of polishing as it clumsily juggles horror cliches of virginal final girls and dumb cops with police procedures and terrorist drama, often at the cost of how it handled some of its more suspenseful scenes. Nevertheless, film does have its moments that kept it a unique watch among slasher horror titles, not much to make this a hidden gem but still enough to be a fair one-off

The villain's motive, for one, puts our killer closer to movie maniacs with more purposeful reasons for being murderous creeps, something we don't often see in a slasher movie of this grade. The amount of cheese is also a guilty pleasure worth mentioning here, reeking strongly within the film's synthesizer scores, odd script and hammy actors who put their best foot forward to make their insane line work as much as they could try.

The horror elements does need some minor work, more of which to do with editing and lighting as seen in one chase scene that took forever with hardly anything visible. The bodycount isn't that high either, but when it wants to be thrilling, Deadly Obsession (1989) still manages a decent stalk-and-stab act once in a while, leading to occasionally violent attacks and a watchable final pursuit/cat-and-mouse chase taking place within the campus dorms.

Deadly Obssession (1989) hangs very far from being a rare unsung classic, but its cheesy and crazed attempt to mash ransom thrillers with dead teenager horror have its little highlights as a small obscure slasher for the slasher completists.

1 male repeatedly jabbed on the chest with a pike
1 female seen murdered
1 male seen stabbed on the head
1 male stabbed through the throat with a syringe
1 male shot dead
Total: 5

Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Family Game: Ready Or Not (2019)

Ready or Not (2019)
Rating: ***
Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O'Brien

We all know that the rich can be terrifying once all that money goes into their head and that one powertrip is just then a few notes away from happening. Films like The Purge franchise and Rob Zombie's 31 (2016) show what horror can do with this concept and Ready Or Not appears to be a solid contender for this class warfare from hell. If only it was a smooth consistent ride through and through.

Story is simple enough to be frank; Grace (Samara Weaving) has just joined the wealthy Le Domas family after marrying their estranged son Alex, happy to be a part of the clan after as she grew up in foster care. Her husband Alex (Mark O'Brien), however, is uneasy being around his family and gets more troubled once they call them in to partake in a particular Le Domas tradition.
"Who wants to play a game? It's time for Hide and Seek!"
Having made their money from games ranging from selling cards and boardgames to owning professional sports team, it is tradition for the Le Domas family to have the new member play a game on the night of their wedding, selected from an antique card box. As Grace pulls the "Hide And Seek" card, it becomes clear why Alex hadn't been home for some time as whenever someone pulls "hide and seek", the seekers get armed and the one hiding gets to be killed.

On paper, Ready Or Not (2019) sounds like a "reverse slasher" in the making, wherein the lead is the one doing the hacking and slashing once push comes to shove through their efforts to survive a predicament, like your in-laws going The Most Dangerous Game on you inside their very gothic mansion and backwoods property. The actual film's approach, however, is more of a survivalist thriller with a salad-tossed variety of comedy, as well as some horror elements like the classic Faustian deals, Satanic rituals and a few slasher film-esque deaths to keep the plot going and add a bit more meat to it.
"Run, Run, Run! Time to run and hide!"
This is all done with a flow and tone that frankly felt all over the place, a direction and style that mostly works for movies with outrageous yet fun stories such as what Ready or Not (2019) cooked up, even more should the pros overshadow the cons one way or another. The resulting film here does manage to do a fair round of its jokes and thrills right, reveling on dialogue and physical "splatstick" while working out decent cat-and-mouse hijinks that utilizes the backwoods mansion setting to a tee with the added bonus of being "humbly" gory and bloody for true horror hounds. It is far from a grand ride, mind you, as we still get the occasional run of predictable horror cliches and stale jokes poking fun at cartoonishly dumb rich people, a matter that hinders the full effectiveness of this movie as an intense horror thriller but does wonders as a black comedy!

Ready or Not (2019), nevertheless, still intends on shaking the foundations a bit such as withholding the common run of turning its obvious Final Girl into a machete-wielding slayer of evil and would rather maintain her status as a sassy yet resourceful bride-in-peril who must recognize most of her foe's inexperience within the killing grounds themselves and manipulates it somehow in order to survive. In turn, the running gag of having our murderous family hilariously offing the wrong people way too many times picture them as being far from the usual loaded maniacs who off people for the simple reason that they can literally afford the time and day to commit it, and that the aforementioned Faustian deal have more to say regarding their motives for doing this deadly tradition. Motives that involves wealth second and the Le Domas clan's very own survival first.
"Stay inside the shadows, all you girls and boys! Don't you make noise!" 
There is a lot playing around Ready or Not (2019)'s simple yet uniquely executed play of Devil pacts, human sacrifices and loyalty to one's family, may it be the fear of fitting in a new family, or the morals one might sacrifice at the price of their own family's survival, but the bottom ballpark is a darkly fun survival horror thriller that treats the elites as bumbling yet still threatening monsters for reasons both fantastical and relatable. Personally, it's far from a masterpiece, but I would agree that it's a guilty pleasure of a watch.

1 male shot repeatedly with a crossbow, killed offscreen
1 female shot on the face
1 female shot on the mouth with a crossbow, hacked with a battle axe
1 female crushed by a dumb waiter
1 male killed in car crash
1 male shot on the neck
1 female brained to death with a wooden box
1 elderly female explodes
1 male explodes
1 female explodes
1 female and 2 boys explode offcamera
1 male explodes
1 male explodes
Total: 15

Saturday, September 7, 2019

So, got to see IT: Chapter 2...

Anybody else cried a bit with Richie Tozier during that lake scene?

*Kicks away box of tear-soaked tissues*

Friday, September 6, 2019

Yeah, uh, Blumhouse? About your Black Christmas...

How much did you spend on your marketing team? Because you might want your money back as they pretty much spoiled the movie with this "trailer"...

Luckily for you, I'm a sucker for bodycounters so I'm gonna still see this one anyway...

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Many Lives Of Tree: Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Rating: ***
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu

When they announced Happy Death Day (2017) was getting a sequel back then, I wasn't really all that excited considering the talks of it being less a straight-up slasher and more of a scifi comedy. So for some time, I distanced myself from ever seeing the sequel and considered the original Happy Death Day (2017), now one of my new favorite modern slashers, to be good enough one-off until fate would have its way one day and I find myself reading a post from one of my favorite slasher review sites giving this movie a passing rate. Long story short, I got curious, decided to finally give it a whirl and my gods, this is one of the funnest scifi-comedy-horror tatermash I ever indulged myself with!

The first Happy Death Day (2017) has simple things going for it; be Bill Murray's Groundhog Day (1993) only as a PG-13 slasher where a sassy snob of a campus girl named Tree (Jessica Rothe) gets killed off by a masked figure called Baby Face, only to re-live the same day again and again after each death until she figures out who's behind the mask and stop them. By the end of it, a slasher gets killed, Tree lives to see the next day as a better woman and celebrates it by snuggling with her sweet new boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) before getting hilariously interrupted by his gawky roommate, Ryan (Phi Vu).

Happy Death Day 2U (2019) continues where the first left off, making itself look like it's re-hashing the time loop whodunit game again only focusing on Ryan's perspective in this round; after waking up in his car and stumbling his way back to the dorms to do the aforementioned walk-in between Tree and Carter's kissing session, Ryan gets word from his geeky lab mates that a machine they're building for a thesis suddenly got a peak of high energy the day before. This should have been exciting news for our hapless dork if only the dean hadn't just shut down their project due to it causing too many power outages (and other monetary concerns), as well as the matter that he'll soon get lured into an empty room and stabbed by another Baby Face.

Before you could say déjà vu, Ryan re-awakens inside the same car and quickly notices that he is repeating the very morning he had just a few minutes ago. Rightfully panicked, he rushes to Carter for help, only for Tree to realize that Ryan is now in his own stalked-killed-looped situation and that he may have something to do with these loops after he mentioned his thesis project: an experimental quantum reactor that's close to being functional. Nevertheless, Tree agrees to help and find who's working the knife underneath the Baby Face mask but gets a surprising find when she, Carter and Ryan unmasked... Another Ryan!

True to their word, this is where Happy Death Day 2U (2019) stopped retreading the time loop whodunit gag completely as it turns out Second Ryan is killing First Ryan to stop him and his machine from further ruining the timelines. An argument breaks out and First Ryan stubbornly activates the unstable reactor to destroy Second Ryan, leading to a burst of energy that sends everybody in the room flying and knocked out. As Tree wakes up, she sees in horror and completely understandable rage that she's back reliving her original time loop, though with a few differences: Carter is actually dating her bitchy sorority president Danielle (Rachel Matthews ), there's no Baby Face Killer going for her throat and, cutting deep into her heartstrings, her late mother is now alive and well.

Turns out, as this timeline's Ryan theorizes, the reactor caused Tree to drift into an alternate dimension and seeing this as a chance to live a new life with her beloved mum, she decides on staying and help Ryan fix his time machine, even if it meant dying each day. Literally. This shift of focus is what strays Happy Death Day 2U (2019) from its slasher kin and, as one might expect, it unsurprisingly has its ups and downs.

On a positive note, the comedy of this film is just one of the best thanks to Rothe once again playing Tree with all the needed snark and warmth that turns her character's warranted irritation into a comical journey of wisecracks and physical gags, including a twisted suicide montage that ranges from simple yet campy self-kills to punk-rocked bodily decimation for that nice dash of dark comedy.

Apart from Rothe, the most of the teen casts also got their funny sides going such as Rachel Matthews reprising her role as a kinder, more dim-witted yet still pretentious sorority president who, apparently even in another dimension, is still the hilarious thorn on Tree's side (Hehe. Tree? Thorn? Get it?...I'll stop now), this time stepping up the funnies with her newfound fascination on acting a role for The Miracle Worker, although confusing Anne Frank with Helen Keller which surprisingly comes in great slapstick use to what can be another highlight for this movie. And then there are Ryan’s quantum physics lab partners Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin), two atypically awkward yet lovable nerds spatting out some of the goofiest one-liners concerning everything from Yoo-hoo chocolate drinks to using the school computer to access porn. Let's just say I'm glad these two didn't get the knife's end coz that would have ended me.

The emotional Mcguffin of choosing between living a life of one's own over one that isn't clearly theirs for the sake of a loved one also gave our lead a wonderful exercise of serious emotions that honestly almost left me a bit teary-eyed, thus not only do we get to see more of the fun snide but we also get treated to some workable wholesome development that further explores our main girl's human side, this time as a loving daughter whose relationships are shaken further into heavy choices the more she stays, dies and resets in her current dimension.

As a downside, this meant the slasher run of the movie are set aside for the dramatics and funnies, more or less leaving the horror elements feeling a tad misplaced and often uninteresting; there is still a masked slasher out stabbing people in Tree's misplaced dimension, though the only reason why she got involved because of her persistence on saving a sorority housemate from a soon-to-be-escaped slasher. The killer's real identity isn't that hard to figure out in turn, not with it plastered obvious from the get-go, so the stalk-and-stab sequences failed to be that thrilling save for the two attacks at the beginning prior to the dimension hopping and the bloodletting is lean-close to being dry if it wasn't for that Paramore-tuned montage.

Normally, I would be disappointed as a slasher fan for the lack of Baby Face doing their creepy baby mask stalker gag and a ingenious loopy twist on the dead teenager story, but Happy Death Day 2U (2019) aims to wander further into different terrains and with most of the routes it took being a fun ride through and through, I can learn to look pass the lackluster bodycounting facets and enjoy this as the PG-13 horror scifi dramedy it is, mostly played for laughs. Far from scary, bloody or thrilling, it’s still a sequel worth watching whenever you're feeling open to something new and fun!

1 male knifed on the chest
1 male knifed to death
1 female knifed on the gut
1 female falls to her death
1 female electrocuted in a tub with a live hair dryer
1 female drinks chemicals
1 female jumps off a plane
1 female runs into a woodchipper
1 female drops off a clock tower
1 female found murdered
1 male shot
1 male and 1 female immolated in gas explosion
2 males and 1 female reported murdered
1 female drives to a power station, killed in crash
1 male shot dead
1 female shot
1 male stabbed and impaled through the chest with a magnetized screwdriver
Total: 20...ish. Still