Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Stick A Pin In An Understudy's Eye: Opera (1987)

Opera (Italy, 1987) (AKA "Terror At The Opera")
Rating: ***
Starring: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini

In a way, I understand the cult following this late 80s Dario Argento giallo made for itself as the film is a lowkey mad masterpiece visually, but this isn't to say I have my own set of reservations about it.

Taking cues from Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of The Opera, the film sets off when the leading lady of a production of Macbeth gets into a car accident after ranting about the opera's experimental direction. (Apparently she's not a fan of ravens. Or laser beams) This leads to a young understudy, Betty (Christina Marsillach), to step into the role, something she's not entirely thrilled about as she sees this as an omen of terrible things to come. The Macbeth curse, if you may.

And surely enough, as Betty sings her part that night, we see a gloved individual sneak into one of the closed off opera boxes to get a better view of the show and we know this creeper is up to no good when they start to reminisce about that one time they attack a woman while another is bound and forced to watch. Their little impromptu private viewing gets interrupted, however, when a staff finds them, leading to the gloved fella to brain the man dead against a coat hook, their struggle causing a set of stage lights to go hurling down.

Despite this fiasco, the show is a somewhat success, much to Betty's and the rest of the production team's delight, though the incident with the lights did lead to the police and an attending inspector to investigate and find the murdered staff. Freaked out by this, the young starlet opted to cool off by hanging out with her stagehand boyfriend and make love with him at his apartment later that evening, only for it all end with Betty getting tied to a pillar and have pins placed under her eyes by the gloved and now-hooded prowler, forcing her to watch them brutally dispatch her lover before simply cutting her loose and exiting the scene.

In shock, Betty wanders off into the rainy night and gets picked up by the production's director, Marco (Ian Charleson), who happens to be driving by. As she confides with him of what just happened, Betty also vaguely recalls a nearly-forgotten childhood memory of the same hooded killer murdering her own mother some time ago, which may mean that the killer knows her and it won't be long before they target her once again, killing anyone who gets in the way.

By the 1980s, a decent lot of Italian giallo films start to resemble less like crime pulp fiction as much of their focus swayed more on keeping up the splatter and kill count high, a response towards the rising popularity of American slashers around that decade. This is evident in Opera's vividly bloody murder set-pieces, which is undoubtedly among director Dario Argento's most memorable contributions in giallo horror for their nightmarish nature and strikingly creative execution. While not overly gory, the bloodletting is generous and the attacks are simply ferocious, done with the key extravagance of a creative eye only the likes of Argento possess as his signature visuals of color tints and expressive camera work make their way into brutal close-ups of a stabbed jaw or an amazing gun murder involving a slow-mo shot of a bullet going through a door's peephole, through an unfortunate victim's head and finally to a nearby phone, destroying it.  

What doesn't work, however, is the overall quality of the film's mystery; with the way the plot flows through its run, Opera indefinitely shows little care about the suggested whodunits as there are hardly any police presence and very little of the characters introduced got any further development than a single (and often strange) note. (Though, I got to say I love the fact that we never saw the original leading lady's face. Makes me chuckle for reasons) This meant that our killer could have been anyone among the crowd, which cheapens the story halfway into an exploitative slasher flick, all the way down to its ridiculous climax of using vengeful ravens to out the killer and a mountain of mad ramblings and expositions in an attempt to piece things together and look smart or dramatic. 

I'm also not a big fan of some of the murders being clashed with heavy metal for what I take is symbolic chaos. It's too obnoxiously on-the-nose and it just doesn't work for me, but even that's vanilla compared to my biggest gripe about the movie; you see, Opera could have ended in, well, the opera, as Betty is forced at gunpoint by the killer to enter a room filled with paperwork. The killer ties her up, locks the room and douses everything in gasoline, intent on ending both of their lives in what's best described as a lovelorn murder/suicide. A fire broke, an intense escape happens and then we're suddenly in the alps. The fucking alps. Weeks later. Without spoiling much, we have ten to fifteen minutes to spare (depending on which release you got), the killer is still out there and then we're treated to one of the most convenient endings I've seen in a giallo, ruining whatever gruesomely gothic atmosphere this movie had before we're in the fucking alps.

Opera is as standard as any late 80s bodycounter is and I'm willing to accept it as a flawed cult classic seeing all the best things about it is undeniably enjoyable. what it lacks in intrigue and a satisfying ending, it makes up with an eloquent aesthetic and carnal display of brutality and madness. See it if you like and maybe you'll enjoy it enough to compel somebody else to see it, hopefully without taping pins under their eyes...  

1 male repeatedly beaten against a coat hook
1 female killed, method unknown (flashback)
1 female killed with a dagger (flashback)
1 male gets a dagger through the throat, stabbed to death
1 female strangled, stabbed in the chest with a pair of dressmaker shears
1 female shot through the head
1 male found knifed in the gut
1 female mentioned strangled
1 female shot
1 female found knifed on the chest
1 male knifed to death
Total: 10

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Eulogy For Euphoria: Sound of Violence (2021)

Sound of Violence (USA/Finland, 2021)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger

Remember back in 2013 when Canada introduced to us Discopathe? That trippy slasher movie where a guy is somehow triggered into mad serial killings whenever he hears disco music? Well, this Finnish-American production explores a similar aspect of musical madness, albeit on a more psychodrama approach with a small taste of exploitative murders ala SAW sequel-inspired machinations and sonic-based body horror. 

The scene begins in 2002, as we watch ten-year old deaf girl Alexis finds her PTSD-suffering, Vietnam vet father in the middle of butchering her mother and brother with a meat cleaver. She strikes him dead with a vengeful swing of a meat tenderizer, an act that not only miraculously restores her hearing, but also makes her experience a euphoric sensation unlike any other.

Now as an adult, Alexis works as a music teacher’s aide and is deeply interested (or, rather, obsessed) with experimental music. She hides her past well enough, though she still longs to feel that same sensation she felt during the night she murdered her father and, with her deafness apparently making a haunting comeback, Alexis sees herself growing desperate to replicate that high. She soon piece things together that the sound of pain is what sparked both her hearing and the otherworldly euphoria, thus setting her plan to explore the joy of pain-based music and create an orchestral masterpiece out of the suffering of others. 

Less of your typical paint-by-number bodycounter and closer to a descent-to-madness character study, Sound of Violence (2021) tackles the meaty subjects of re-occurring childhood trauma and creative addiction behind the sympathetic eyes of a troubled individual slowly being consumed by her commitment to an unexplainable elation. It is an idea that's handled in a manner that gives our main character an intriguingly solid motivation and, with the source of her needed jubilation stemming from torture and death, this ingeniously gave the film ways to ensure the finesse of the narrative doesn't overshadow the horror-tainted entertainment value of the film.

Working well with this approach is Jasmin Savoy Brown's performance as our disturbed yet inspired murderous musician Alexis Reeves, giving the role a sense of normalcy at first rather than overworking the brooding psychopathy head on. This hands us a window to look into and understand the situation our soon-to-be killer finds herself in and what she's going through because of it, as everything she built for herself gets threatened to be taken away by fate unless she does something drastic about it. This, of course, does not excuse her for the murders, but we see her plight and genuine remorse after each deed done, thus we couldn't completely paint her as a monster but, instead, as someone who is sincerely losing control of her own life and is willing to do the extreme to keep whatever good left she sees in her life.

Said extremes are the horror aspects of the plot, wherein Alexis pushes the boundaries of her mental stability, as well as the warm living flesh of her victims, just to feel a sensation of color and lights that's never really explained. People, in turn, gets kidnapped, tricked and/or drugged into participating in her symphony of pain and torment, resulting to outlandish deaths and murder scenarios including a chair rigged with moving knives and hammers that syncs up to a synthesizer keyboard and a plot involving drugging a harpist into playing a harp with razor-thin strings. At times, the extravagance of these murder scenes clashes with the implied seriousness and drama of the story (wait til' you see the beach finale. The cheese levels were a little high there), but it does help put Sound of Violence on a more memorable light as a horror feature and it doesn't stray away too much from the tone of the movie.

If there will be anything I could nitpick about this film is that the fact it felt lacking on some parts introduced, like the police procedural that's more of a red herring than an actual plot point with how little time we get to spend with these scenes and how flat they are whenever we do get them. I do get much of the focus is supposed to be through Alexis' perspective, but these procedurals had enough appearances to warrant some form of conflict, but alas they're just there to imply somebody is made aware of the bloody mess our killer's leaving behind and that's it.

Still, I see a lot of potential from this movie to be a B-flick favorite for those who love their horror weird. It's undeniably posh in some parts, but it has enough madness and bloodshed to satisfy a horror hound's craving for a modern psychodrama!

1 female and 1 boy found hacked to death with a meat cleaver
1 male brained with a meat tenderizer
1 male hit by an incoming car (flashback)
1 male stabbed and beaten to death in a weaponized chair 
1 male had his head cooked with electric shocks through theremin-rigged electrodes, explodes
1 male bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer
1 female had speakers ran through her body via impromptu surgery, dies from her wounds 
Total: 7 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Foul Faculty Fatalities: Teacher Shortage (2020)

Teacher Shortage (2020)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Brinke Stevens, Debra Lamb, Julie Anne Prescott

While the common set-up of campus slasher movies is that it deals with teenagers getting hunted down by a loon, producer, director and writer Troy Escamilla’s Teacher Shortage flips this trope around to have teachers getting the stabbing end this time.

Ryan Billings (Chris Jehnert), the young new addition to Prescott High School's English department, sees himself tagged along to a mandatory team building weekend of booze, bitter retirement talk and table bingo with his fellow teachers. Unbeknowst to every one of them, someone in a cloak and devil mask is making slim pickings out of the mentors and it isn't too long before only a handful of them are left to fend for themselves. Could this, perhaps, has anything to do with a bullying incident ten years ago that led to a tragic end?

Well, yes. Yes it does.

Albeit the gimmick of focusing the bodycount carnage unto the teaching staff, Teacher Shortage still runs a very basic slasher plot of people gathering at a location for insert reason here, only to be carnally bumped off by a masked maniac with an obvious beef with either one or all of them. This makes the plot mostly predictable and some scenes tedious to sit through, especially since the acting can be a bit stiff (a lot of sitting and talking here, folks) and, due to the movie's crowdfunded budget, audio quality is lacking at times. Though, the inclusion of a gay sub-plot and a few jabs at the state of modern American school system do add a small layer of thought and drama that works well enough for a low budget horror movie.

On a stylistic sense, Teacher Shortage isn't all that bad either as it does boast a decently creepy looking killer, as well as a good set of bloody eye-candy murders lensed in Italian giallo-inspired red tint. The short end of the stick, however, is that there are moments where the color gets a little intense in its saturation, so much so that it can be arduous to look at, and the editing done for some gets a bit uneven. Still, there are a couple of fun sequences here that showcase the director's well-maneuvering eye on stalk-and-stab scenes, particularly the first murder of a teacher set in a nearly empty school building and the climactic bar murders.

The last act could have been better, though; we're basically treated to an uninspired reveal and an exposition monologue as to why they're killing off teachers, while the remaining living character just sits bounded, mostly sobbing. It goes long enough that by the time we get to see a fight, it wasn't too far into the run before it simply ends the moment our killer got dispatched brutally. Not particularly all too exciting, but it wrapped all things up fairly and it certainly could have done so much worse.

Despite all its shortcomings, Teacher Shortage is still a fair watch if you like your indie slashers simple yet doable, with the right amount of carnage and commentary. Predictable and clunky it may be, its ambitiousness crafts a rather enjoyable effort that earns a worthwhile watch.

1 female had her throat cut with a mirror shard
1 female stabbed through the mouth with a sharpened ruler
1 female stabbed to death with a pair of scissors
1 male stabbed through the back with a machete
1 female stabbed through the temple with a screwdriver, exits to an eye
1 female had her throat slashed
1 female ran through the back with a pitchfork
1 female stabbed in the eye with a skewer, knifed on the gut
1 male hacked on the face with a meat cleaver
1 male stabbed in the face with a shovel 
Total: 10

Thursday, May 13, 2021

TV Terror: Another (2012)

Another (Japan, 2012 Animated Series)
Rating: ****
Starring: Natsumi Takamori, Naoko Sakakibara, Atsushi Abe

When it comes to anime and manga, I mostly keep myself grounded within the casual and lighthearted side of the geeky interest, meaning I tend to veer towards light-hearted comedies and/or slice-of-life titles a lot more than story-heavy, multi-season franchises. This is out from the fact that I'm not patient enough to sit through five hundred episodes of a single series, nor do I have the capacity to care about a plot that's as thick as ten Bibles when materialized in print. I simply prefer to take it easy when it comes to my Japanese comics and animation, which is why slice-of-life comedies and gag shorts cater best to my taste.

As a slasher fan, however, I wouldn't pass the opportunity to read a manga or see an anime that borrows heavily, if not entire structured around my favorite horror subgenre just to try it out. This leads me to watching one of the more intriguing horror anime titles I've seen in a long while; a supernatural murder mystery that's one part high school drama and one part Final Destination sequel, simply called Another (2012).

In its single season run of 12 episodes, the series tells the story of one 15-year-old Koichi Sakakibara, the new transfer student of a rural junior-high school who finds himself assigned to a particular classroom that's rumored to be cursed. As soon as he settles in, he's drawn to Mei Misaki, a weird and quiet eyepatch-wearing girl in his class whom both teachers and students seem to ignore as some sort unspoken rule that Koichi, understandably, finds odd. Curiosity eventually takes over the boy and he begins to look into the mystery surrounding the school, which in turn triggers a methodic series of fatal accidents and violent deaths befalling unto not only everyone in the afflicted class, but also their loved ones.

Visually, Another (2012) is a commendable work of animated horror drama that undoubtedly has its gloomy and suffocating feel made with an art direction that greatly focuses on dim lighting, twisty angles and a minimalist approach. The atmosphere these visuals create, in turn, goes heavily well with the show's plot considering how much it prompts an isolated feel drawn from not only the story's rustic small town premise, but also from the matter that there are hardly any other characters outside the class circle. This approach meant that the show's very mystery-centered, doing its best to hint and weave all the necessary red herrings and clues to what is happening to Koichi and Mei's peers and friends, working the concept of the curse first before slowly branching it out to shocking onscreen deaths that interestingly increases in number the further the series goes, and too putting cliffhangers to good use in each episode's end.

It is, however, hard to ignore the series' slow start courtesy of some mishandled opening exposition which made the first two episodes not only feel sluggishly paced, but redundant by the fact that we have to sit through our protagonist discover things we may already know from the start. It does this dance until the near end of the third episode, wherein we get out first kill and it was a spectacular one at that. 

On that note, I fully appreciate the balanced amount of gore, brutality, shock and suspense done for the deaths here in Another (2012); while the bloodletting is generous and carnally striking, I like the fact that the story tackles the subject of grief and loss during the series' slower moments. It gave the characters a lot more depth and it helps make the murders feel more cathartic and tragic even in their manic and occasionally exaggeratedly twisted moments. At most, the deaths featured fits wonderfully within the Final Destination franchise as we get a set of both subtle and not-so-subtle accidents taking out the cursed students one-by one. Highlights among these are the first death involving the wrong end of an umbrella and a terrifyingly claustrophobic end through a malfunctioning elevator. 

Around the last two episodes of the show, the chaotic tension finally breaks and the students go on a frenzied survival mode as they try to murder one another in hopes of ending the curse. It's around here that the show delves into superstition and paranoia, molding it around the supernatural and resulting to bountiful onscreen murders and free-for-all accidents that ends on a somewhat decent twist that's as heartbreaking as it is purgative after all that madness. 

With modest character designs and talented voice actors bringing a sense of groundedness and intrigued flair to their roles, Another (2012) is simply one of the better horror anime entries a curious cat can try and rightfully enjoy. While one may have to work through a number of who’s who of characters involved in the plot (even more once we get around the second half!), it doesn't completely overcomplicate itself much and the mystery is fascinating enough in its twists and turns, dishing even bloody ends at the side to satisfy one's exploitative need for bloodshed. Animated supernatural murder mystery fun with a bodycount, what else could you ask for? 

1 female lands neck first unto an umbrella's tip (Episode 3)
1 female implied killed in car crash (Episode 4)
1 female mangled in a dropping elevator (Episode 4)
1 male suffers a heart seizure (Episode 5)
1 male suicide, repeatedly gouged his own neck with a knife (Episode 7)
1 female seen murdered, method unknown (Episode 7)
1 male dismembered through boat propeller (Episode 8)
1 male struck by lightning (flashback) (Episode 9)
1 female slipped off a cliff, mangled in fall (flashback) (Episode 9)
2 females and 1 male drove off a cliff after a rock hits their car (Episode 9)
1 male found crushed by a crashed excavator (Episode 9)
1 male impaled through the mouth with a branch (flashback) (Episode 10)
1 male found pinned to a wall with spikes (Episode 11)
1 female slips and snapped her neck (Episode 11)
1 male incinerated by flames (Episode 11)
1 female caught on wires, hanged (Episode 11)
1 female gets a thrown knife to the back (Episode 12)
1 female knifed on the back (Episode 12)
1 male crushed by a falling pillar (Episode 12)
1 female gets a thrown knife to the neck (Episode 12)
1 male brained with a steel rod (Episode 12)
1 female impaled by flying window shards (Episode 12)
1 female killed with a knife (flashback, Dead A) (Episode 12)
1 female hacked with a pickaxe (Death B) (Episode 12)
Total: 26

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Only Grue Can Prevent Forest Fires: The Legend of The Psychotic Forest Ranger (2011)

The Legend of The Psychotic Forest Ranger (Canada, 2011)
Rating: ***
Starring: Michael G MacDonald, Samuel MacDonald LeMoine, Colleen MacIsaac

This is the kind of movie you would get when the overall production was funded with cheese and beer. A lot of cheese and beer.

The premise isn't far off from your casual backwoods slasher as we follow four buddies out driving to the mountainous woods to celebrate their last days out of school. Seeing most of the gang are hardly the responsible mature-type and they barely packed for their trip save for a cooler full of beer, it isn't long before they're trailing down the road by foot later that night because they didn't bother giving the car a full tank of gas. Fortunately there's a seemingly unoccupied house nearby and, judgement and legality be damned, our gang breaks in to seek shelter.

After a series of false scares, awkward sleeping arrangements and an encounter with a random forest ranger who warns them of a prowler who's out lurking in the woods recently, the foursome double in numbers by morning as another group of teens show up hoping to party in the house, apparently keeping an eye at the place for some time and making sure the owners left to avoid trouble. All's fun and dandy, until one of them didn't return from gathering firewood.

Decades ago, you see, there was a priest-turned-forest ranger who died in a forest fire after trying to fight off some troublesome hooligans, swearing vengeance in Satan's name as he roasts. Some say he's gone, others will find him hunting down anyone unlucky enough to end up in his way, looking the least threatening until he's hacking his victims down to size and assaulting their ears with terrible puns and one-liners about forest safety. For our unlucky shmucks, they will find out this supposed legend's all too real and the unholy abomination that is a tubby, giggling, psychotic forest ranger will be their doom!

Now, understand that the bare bones of The Legend of The Psychotic Forest Ranger (2011) is that it's cheesy. Like, from the title alone, its high grade fromage should really go without saying. For anybody expecting something deep, new and unexpected, this film isn't gonna bother with any of that and it will just run its course as a homage of sorts to bad, late-80s cheddar horror and do-it-yourself movie magic with the enthusiasm of a so-bad-it's-good parody. For a low budget production, it isn't that badly made aesthetic-wise and it even scored some decent enough make-up effects for a few of the kills, but the predictable plotting and intentional bad acting and writing might turn away some folks who are looking for a more straight-faced affair in their horror movies. But if you know ahead what you're getting into and don't mind a ton of ham and tongue-in-cheek in your dead teenager films, then this has more than enough cartoonish campy fun (pun intended) to give around the bonfire, from the annoyingly hilarious victims and the cheesy Satanist axe-murderer in a ranger's uniform, to the paint-by-number slasher tropes and outrageous dialogue.

Breezing through its plot modestly paced and having silly shenanigans between each kills that have their moments of being giggle-worthy (at least, those that hit their marks), The Legend of The Psychotic Forest Ranger (2011) is just simple fun. Hardly a grand display of what a modern throwback slasher could be, I still find this as an entertaining mess that could have done worse!

1 male stabbed on the face with a broken bottle
1 female stabbed with a stick
1 male gets a bear trap snapped over his neck
1 female hacked with an axe
1 male hacked in half with an axe
1 female stabbed to death with a car key
1 male impaled with a thrown log
1 female beaten with a pot
1 male gets a police baton ran through his head, dies later
1 male and 1 female immolated in car crash
Total: 11

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Six-Fingered Hand of Bloody Redemption: The Redeemer (1978)

The Redeemer (1978) (AKA "The Redeemer: Son of Satan!", Class Reunion Massacre")
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Damien Knight, Jeannetta Arnette, Nick Carter

Oh, Lordy. This movie. This wonderfully horrible movie.

It starts with a shot of a hand punching out of a clear lake after a tedious run through the opening credits and a sacrilegious quote, revealing a boy with a very dated haircut casually walking out of the waters and boarding a bus headed to the town church. Elsewhere, a shadowy figure grants a sleeping fellow an extra thumb on one hand because spoiler-related reasons. And, yes, it's kinda gross-looking. One tiny thumb on top of an elongated one.

Urge to poke it with a stick... Growing...

We then we see that the soaky lil' dude is one with of the (more bullied) choirboys and the sermon is your typical fire-and-brimstone type about sins and whatnot, yelled by an equally typical Bible-thumping priest. This is where we get our character introductions interjected through out the righteous Gospel ramblings; John, a lawyer who values money more than a fair trial; Cindy, a party girl with multiple failed marriages; Terry, the eater of burgers; Jane, one who shoots at pigeons for fun; Roger, a vain actor who walked out of set because someone spilled a drink on his pants; and Kristen, a lesbian. Just, uh, just a lesbian. The six happen to be part of a small clique back at their highschool years and they all recently received an invitation to attend a reunion back at their alma mater.

Unbeknownst to them, they're the only ones who got the invites, which could've have just been weird, amusing even, if it wasn't for the loon out stalking and prowling around the campus killing them one-by-one. A loon with a penchant for hammy disguises, life-sized weapon-wielding puppets and Biblical tirades. A loon who calls himself- The Redeemer!  

Now, see, as much as I want to decimate this movie and make a mockery out of its flaws, I can't. I just simply can't. I have a soft spot for dumb cheesy movies, particularly those that are done with the right amount of unintentional humor and have made odd spectacles out of themselves, something The Redeemer here manage to do and a little more. For one, the atmosphere is just befittingly weird coming from the story's dream-like logic and semi-creepy direction, straight from the shot of a random choirboy rising out of the cold waters and the random double thumb appearing at one's hand, to the villain's unusual gimmick of donning random costumes and his somewhat supernatural nature. It plays well with the movie's good eye on expressive cinematography and, too, the villain's warped morality which can be best described as very shallow at best (or worst), yet strangely entertaining leaning on the fact he's going through all of this trouble of dropping swords and setting up blowtorch-equipped mannequins to attack just because the clique is guilty of things like eating too many fast food or loving themselves too much. That said, despite the absence of strong grue or a high count, I also came to like the murders perpetrated by our Redeemer here all for the sheer unusualness of it all, may it be the execution of the scene or the imagery itself.

Character-wise, it's hard to hide how regular the victims can be, unfortunately; don't get me wrong, the actors tried (and I mean, tried) to milk out any seriousness and talent they can muster to act their respective one-note meat bags, but writing and scripting are hardly this movie's strong points so they go against creating any real solid casts unsurprisingly. You could say the same for our titular killer with his holier-than-thou horror trope psychosis, but he at least has the thankful joy of being exaggeratedly bad, to the point that I can't really take him seriously despite the murdering business and all. (Like how can you? This guy can't even get the number of sins right. It's seven deadly sins, shmuck. Not six. Unless we're pulling a Se7en (1995) here and the killer is the seventh sin?!)

Yes, The Redeemer (1978) is no real gem, but it's a personal treat that keeps splitting my sides with its ludicrous ham, as well as captivate me for just how absurd it can get. Perhaps you can say I find it so bad it's good, so much so that it deserves to sit proudly next to other lovable bad trashes like ThanksKilling (2008) and Nail Gun Massacre (1985). If you see yourself a wee bit curious enough to try it out then I say, go for it! Just remember to dim the lights in your noggin and not take any of it as high art as much as possible and you'll do mostly fine!


1 male shot on the neck
1 male set on fire with a blow torch
1 female shot with a shotgun
1 male gets a sword dropped unto his head
1 female drowned in a handwashing sink
1 male shot on the head
1 female hacked to death with a sword
1 boy seen dead from throat cut
Total: 8 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Troublesome Production of Harry Penderecki: Brutal Massacre: A Comedy (2007)

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy (2007)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: David Naughton, Brian O'Halloran, Gerry Bednob

Many a times I cover slasher movies that lean on the comical side, but had I ever cover comical movies that lean on the slasher side? 

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy (2007) is a mockumentary centered around low-budget horror director Harry Penderecki (An American Werewolf in London (1981)'s David Naughton), who hasn’t had a hit since his last opus, I'll take the ring back... And the finger, too!. Itching to make a real name for himself, he sets out to do Brutal Massacre, a backwoods slasher that's going to be his "big one" given everything goes smoothly. Big emphasis on given.

A satire comedy about low-budget horror movie productions, Brutal Massacre's just a real treat from beginning to end as we follow the scenes behind one supposedly infamous (for the more absurd and often hilarious reasons) horror director and his close-knit crew's days of filming, tackling every sorts of mishaps from finding the perfect shooting location and encountering creepy drunk houseowners (one of them looking a whole lot like Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)'s Gunnar Hansen. Unless...), to getting the right gore effects guy and surviving workplace hazards. (i.e. firing ranges and the occasional runaway knife) On a lack of a better term, these guys are just screwed with just so much bad luck and bad press that their misfortunes in this one project are simply chuckle-worthy, something the movie wears proudly with its snarky yet kinda intelligent dialogue and a good lot of talent involved.

Aside from the aforementioned David Naughton doing his silliest as an inspired yet very down-on-luck director whose self-praising and over-analyzation of his own shlocky projects bring forth plenty of laughs, we also have the likes of other horror icons like Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead (1978)) and Ellen Sandweiss (The Evil Dead (1981)), and too familiar faces of comedy like Brian O’Halloran of Clerks (1994) and Gerry Bednob from the Steve Carell comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) gracing the screen as assorted friends and/or crews just doing their best to get through the filming in one piece and their sanity intact, with or without the cost of their own frustrations, stupidity or, for some people, both. There are some genuine moments of chemistry and timing among these crowds so when a joke hits, it hits the right way. (running gag Gunnar Hansen anyone?) When a joke misses, however, it's pretty darn noticeable at how distractingly "hard" it wants to be (Yes, the rich Texan is funding this movie because he wants titties. Anything else?), but seeing there are more hits than misses here in my book, I'm willing to overlook these flaws for what's really no more than a fun comedy-of-errors that doesn't completely take itself too seriously.

Perhaps the factor that gets me on a really forgivable stride towards this movie is that despite being played for laughs, it is still a caricature of low budget filmmaking; Brutal Massacre is structured like an actual process, one that revels on highlighting a lot of possible issues one might meet during movie projects and as a horror fan since youth, I have a growing sense of fascination of what goes behind the camera and I kinda admire all the hard work these production crews put in making a single movie to cinematic life. Of course, there's nothing that much insightful going on here save for one or two apparently deep moments, but the matter this movie brought up problems like lazy and inept crew members, obnoxious locals and budget restraints and found ways to make it subtle yet funny earns modest points for me.

Yes, it's lowers its bar a bit due to some irregular jokey moments and sometimes questionable writing, but I'm committed in my words when I say Brutal Massacre: A Comedy (2007) is just in it for the laughs and I understand and appreciate that. It mostly knows the darkly funny side of low budget films and I like that it approached a different angle to exploit. If you have an itch for an independent mockumentary comedy about the happenings during that one shooting of a shlocky $1.99 slasher movie you can pick up at a bargain bin, then go get yourself a copy of this and watch out for short Indian cameramen with anger issues. Apparently they have a tick for the term "shot-on-video"...

1 male accidentally killed by a tossed knife
Total: 1

Seriously, this dude looks like Gunnar Hansen.