Monday, December 30, 2013

Death to Snowboarders: Shredder (2003)

Shredder (2003) (AKA "Ski Weekend")
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Scott Weinger, Lindsey McKeon, Juleah Weikel

I've said it once and I'll say it again: sometimes, simplicity can be a good thing.

A quite fine example of a very basic slasher flick, Shredder showcases another carload of teenagers out to have some fun on the snow and inside their friend's warm lodge. This, however, might be a short-lived plan as someone dressed as a skier is brutally bumping them off one by one. When their numbers dwindle down too low, the kids are forced to find ways to defend themselves from the masked maniac but who exactly is this killer? And why does this maniac out to get them anyway?

That, my dear readers, is something for the film to know and for us to find out; multiple red herrings did pop up here and there and just as any good mystery goes, some of them gets bumped off unexpectedly. But keep in mind that Shredder isn't going for something smart, but rather aims for something easily digestible.

Death to Snowboarders!
Taking cues from "dead teen" slasher flicks of the 80s, Shredder relies on hammy scripting, low grade exploitation and bloody murders. It's simplistic plot is designed to dish out these elements with more priority and as far as I'm concerned, I find it a very decent effort; the kills are quite good, varying from the basics to the overly gory. If the film has anything to prove, it is that it can do  snowbound killings with much glee for the red stuff and dark humor, with the killer committing these gruesome acts sporting quite a cool get-up (pun intended) that's mostly made up of a casual winter sporting gear, breathing mask and goggles which sort of reminds me of Harry Warden from My Bloody Valentine (1981).

Outrageous T&A and unusual choices of love-play are among other highlights of the film, and too it's campy tone that didn't dwell in too much on the self-referential quips that most post-Scream slashers of that time have. (Save for one scene involving a virgin victim)

Unfortunately, for those looking for more than "just another slasher", this is where I can't defend the film; being as standard as it is in terms of plotting and build-up, Shredder has very little else to offer in terms of originality as a "dead teen" film. Everything here is predictable, killing off any supposedly scary or intense scenes to the point that it doesn't work too well, and the humor is a hit and miss for those who will find its sheer randomness as unfunny. (Well, not overly random, but there were moments when some of them just felt like that cuz they're so flat)

Hey, cool! a Kid-sicle!
And yet, I still find these shortcomings to be not as bad as some people put it. It could be perhaps I never really cared much for the supposed jokes and just saw everything as a very hammy and shallow take on the sub-genre. Acting is quite acceptable from its cast (despite most of the characters being annoying morons), the cinematography looks beautiful, and while it does lag in some scenes, the resulting direction is still darkly fun, providing even a random twist that kinda makes sense, if it wasn't so cheesy. Sometimes a fan just couldn't ask for more.

Not the best of its kind to have killers rampaging in the cold snow (I think I'll put Stephen King's The Shining or Norway's Dead Snow in that category), but on its own, Shredder did do good. If you've yet to see it, give it a try and let the bodies hit the snowbank like they're supposed to.

1 male nearly decapitated through a thin wire
1 female falls off a cliff (flashback)
1 male stabbed on the head with an ice pick
1 male stabbed and impaled through an icicle
1 female hanged on a scarf
1 male bludgeoned with shovel
2 skeletons found
1 male gets a ski pole shoved into his eye
1 female found stabbed on the chest
1 male decapitated through thin wire
1 male seen dead
1 female shredded through snow macerator
Total: 13

Insert girlish screaming here (The Kaiju Special)

Oh. My goosebumps. The Big G is back!
Hope they don't fuck it up like LASTtime...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Return of King Fungus: Time Walker (1982)

Time Walker (1982) (AKA "Pharaoh")
Rating: ***
Starring: Ben Murphy, Nina Axelrod, Kevin Brophy

Universal Monsters done ala slasher flick; not entirely new for me considering the number of werewolf "slashers" I've seen like Stephen King's Silver Bullet (1985), wherein the werewolf looked closer to a bear and have enough human monster in them to murder with a baseball bat. There is also the obscure Night Shadow (1989) where a drifting serial killer wreck havoc in a small town as a werewolf, albeit using more than his own claws to murder people. Frankenstein has May (2002), The Invisible Man has Hollow Man (2000), and now we see The Mummy slasherfied in a rather odd way...

Opening with the archeological dig of Tutankhamen's resting place, a university professor taking part of the excavation finds a hidden room with an oddly colored tomb. Shipping the mummy back to their institute, Professor McCadden leads the study, baffled by the body's written origins as stated on the sarcophagus, as well as the mysterious green mold that covers it. Thinking what they have is a find that needs to be shared to the world of science, the mummy is scheduled to be presented via live broadcast, much to the excitement of the dean and pretty much every other staff as it this would mean good publicity for the college. But as night falls, a late-working student discovers via x-ray that there are hidden gems in the tomb and steals them, planning to make a quick buck selling each around the campus ground. This, unfortunately, awakens the dormant mummy.

Now in search for the jewels, the bandaged menace stalks every corridor and hallway of the university, looking for the jewels, harming anyone that gets in the way and apparently building something unusually too advanced for an ancient Egyptian. In the meantime, McCadden is forced to answer to how the Mummy disappeared during the grand unveiling and learn the horrible effects of the green mold covering the mummy.

Technically, Time Walker isn't a slasher film of the strictest sensibility; molding together scifi and monster elements with slasher film trappings such as POV shots of the creature and lengthy stalkings of nubile teenage victims, the resulting movie is more of a standard B-Grade horror flick that's smothered with enough cheese to choke a rat. If anything else, the so-called mummy here isn't even all that evil either; bandaged up with a weird glowing pendant on its chest, the mummy is later hinted to be something more than human and, judging with its uncanny ability to put together machines, not from our planet either. It kills too, yes, but most of these were more defensive than an actual intended murder, one which involves a flesh-eating mold that was purely accidental.

Cue in a cheesy and very abrupt ending and you may have yourself an oddity of a horror film as it switches from one sub-genre to another, and yet I can't put myself to hate it.

While it may not be much of a slasher flick I was expecting, Time Walker is still a fun B-flick that goes well in a lazy night viewing; it's never boring, packed with a lot of quick scares and very tense moments including the monster entering a victim's home and silently menaces a baby before attacking its babysitter, and another involving a chase across the library, a scene awfully reminiscent of nearly every campus slasher made. Some hammy scripting also made the film an easily digestible dreck despite it's science-y overtone, giving much casual entertainment that's made to provide for our stranger needs.

All in all, Time Walker fails to be a real slasher, but as a monster flick heavily influenced by the sub-genre, I've say it did pretty good for itself. Definitely worth a shot!

1 male killed offcamera
1 female had her chest and face eaten by mold
1 male had his bones broken after hitting a wall
Total 3

Yes. very slasher-esque

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Cold Child's Love: Orphan (2009)

Orphan (2009) (AKA "The Orphan", "Esther")
Rating: ****
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman

Kate, a loving wife to her husband John and a caring mother to their two children Max and Daniel, sets out to adopt a third child after managing countless therapies for an alcohol problem she started after giving birth to a stillborn.

Visiting a local orphanage one day, she and her husband meet Esther, a talented and mature Russian girl whose politeness instantly won over the couple. Although not everyone in the family has grown to like Esther instantly (their son Daniel seem to have a thing against Esther's mature personality and Victorian-esque fashion), Kate and John try their best to keep things solid as a family, especially when their youngest daughter, Max, who's also deaf and mute, quickly becomes friends with her new adopted sister.

Things suddenly go for the creepily suspicious, however, when a series of accidents and disappearances begin to trail around Esther. Thinking there might be more to the girl than what they see, Kate attempts to find whatever she can on the child, but her suspicions mostly fall unto deaf ears as her history of alcoholism and severe mood swings bring little to make anyone take her seriously. It eventually becomes a race against time for the mother to discover the truth behind their Esther before it's too late.

There's usually two kinds of killer kid flicks; one that focuses on the psychological aspects of how it affects one family such as The Bad Seed (1956)We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) and Joshua (2007), while the other mostly involves them being murderers like Bloody Birthday (1981), Mikey (1992) and obscure classics like The Horrible House on the Hill (1974). Some killer kid flicks, though, combine elements from these two varieties but how effective it would be varies. 

Orphan can be described as something of The Omen meets The Bad Seed or Bloody Birthday, with the lead mother's suspicions of an evil child is left unheard due to the fact that it's just too unlikely, in the meantime showcasing a murderous youngin' doing violent killings. In a nutshell, the film offers nothing new but the direction and the performances of its cast makes it a worthwhile watch, delivering every clichés known in this sub-genre but with much style and flair that doesn't take itself too seriously and with no more but an aim to entertain as a brainless horror flick.

True, it does seem to have some very gritty and gutsy moments; the fact that Esther seems to be as cold as the winter setting whenever she does something evil (may it be murder, violent blackmail or seducing adoptive fathers) does call for some uneasy moments with as much manipulative emotional play as possible. It takes a while before it gets there, but with the main casts' stellar performances, Orphan is anything but boring even before the trouble starts.

In fact, the whole movie might as well be a stepping stone into creating another horror icon for our generation; with her character's unusual origin and personality, Isabelle Fuhrman is pitch perfect in performing our titular orphan, perhaps one reason why this film is still welcomed by horror fans despite being underrated. The original draft of the film supposedly had her murdering more people and a more detailed origin of her past was to be given, but whether this might improve or worsen the film doesn't matter much, as the killer kid proves enough to make this film be a worthwhile look.

I also came to like the cinematography of this movie; the snowy white premises give a literal chilling atmosphere that goes so well to the film's semi-serious tone, a somewhat symbolic isolated feel that echoes to Kate's distraught on being alone on her suspicions. The violence is pretty graphic despite only three (successful) killings and for the scenes involving children in peril is pretty distressing. At that, the psychological aspect of the film plays quite well on manipulating not only our leads, but also the audience.

I will never understand what critics are blabbering about on how bad this film is as I find Orphan to be quite a thrill ride for true horror fans. Yes, it does turn into a cliché-ridden semi-slasher at the end after a seemingly plausible twist (and yes, I am aware that this has been done multitude of times before), but for the right mindset, that can be a good thing. For those who are into bad kids gone horribly wild, this flick is right up your alley! Try it out if you haven't seen it and let the nightmarish Esther be another reason for us to fear evil children!

1 bird crushed with a rock
1 female bludgeoned to death with hammer
1 male knifed to death
1 female shot, neck broken with a kick
Total: 4

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Snowy Holiday in: The Horrible House on the Hill (1974)

The Horrible House on The Hill (1974) (AKA "Devil Times Five", "People Toys", "Tantrums")
Rating: ***
Starring:  Sorrell Booke, Gene Evans, Taylor Lacher

What could be better on a cold holiday night than to spend a few times with your friends and family inside a cozy cabin? Well, definitely not one, not two, but five evil kids!

well, ain't they...cute?
Survivors of a (oddly sped-up) car crash while being transported to a kid's psychiatric ward, five insane tykes came out unscathed and venture to the next available house they can find, which just so happens to be owned by three vacationing wealthy couples and their manservant. While at first unamused by their arrival, the adults let them stay until they figure out what to do, leading to some grisly murders perpetrated by the killer kiddies who only wanted to "play" with them.

A precursor to killer kid slasher films, which in turn influenced by earlier deadly tyke films like The Bad Seed  (1956) and Village of the Damned (1960), The Horrible House on the Hill (Also known for famously as Devil Times Five) is a sleazier and more outrageous stab at the sub-genre, overloaded with gimmicky horrors and cheesy banter.

and how this was an "accident" is beyond me...
A deeply appreciated script is one element that makes The Horrible House far from horrible, giving life to each of its characters with much variety and witty humor to keep them interesting. Such highlights will include a random cat-fight by two biddies who happens to be mum and daughter, and the fact that these adults can't seem to notice how odd some of these "accidents" are until it's too late. The killer kids are also given their own unique personalities, from an innocent little doll-loving girl and a pre-teen pretending to be a nun, to pyromaniacs, soldier wannabes and a cross-dressing boy who can't get over being beaten in chess.

And with unique personalities comes unique kills, coming in imaginatively with death by piranhas and a machete-armed swingset, but some of them did come off rather odd as they're drawn out with a slow-mo gimmick, one of them being as long as over four minutes! Said kill was the kid's first victim, which involve them clubbing him to death with sledgehammers, chains and shovels, all done in a sepia tint. It's a minor set-back, as forty minutes into the movie, the film finally get its momentum and flows quite smoothly with the killings. To add the obscure tone to this film is its groovy 70s scoring that comes in quite odd with its semi-serious tone.

why exotic animals and killer kids are a bad combo
As an exploitation film, The Horrible House is a fun and fair movie that's made for the enjoyment for those who can stomach a really bad film, one that will include dumber-than-usual adults and cheesy killer kiddies. It's not all perfect, nor will it ever be as it hardly felt serious with its taboo subject of murderous children, but for its own sake of entertainment, the movie delivers with flair and atmosphere that only the true lovers of the obscure can appreciate. A must see for all true slasher fans, and too followers of killer kid movies!

1 male and 1 female mangled in car crash
1 male beaten to death
1 male garroted and hanged on an thin wire noose
1 male hacked on the neck with a hatchet
1 female drowned in bathtub whilst eaten alive by piranhas
1 male impaled on a machete
1 female set ablaze
1 female speared on the neck
1 male had his throat cut with razor
Total: 10

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Evil Men Do: Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) (AKA "Night of The Dark Full Moon")
Rating: ****
Starring: Patrick O'Neal, James Patterson, Mary Woronov

Criminally under-appreciated, this public domain proto-slasher might be one of the few titles to be actually ahead of its time.

Opening in one winter morning in the 1950s, a man is set ablaze outside his mansion one Christmas Eve. The man's only living benefactor, his grandson, returns to town twenty years later in hopes of selling the place, but not before talking to the town's council with his lawyer. What he didn't know is that the townsfolk are desperate on demolishing the mansion, hoping to keep a deadly secret buried forever; this proves to be more difficult done as an escaped mental patient had recently escaped and somehow find recluse in the abode.

Everything is not what it seems as plot twists and reveals shows more to this slasher than just your average doomed-teens-killed-by-psycho routine. The plot is engaging as it is interesting, taking a swing at some of the usual elements found in most 80s-released slashers such as the killer's motive sounding like an average revenge plot. Once the story and secrets slowly begin to unravel, though, it is then we begin spending a good time guessing what comes next and who is really killing all those who step inside the seemingly cursed mansion.

Slasher fans will see here a spot of clichés that'll soon become staple horror tropes; manic POV shot of the killer, creepy phone calls and brutal axe murders soon come to answer a slasher fan's need, making the movie a worthwhile watch as the story plays out its mystery.

The direction can be a bit slow for that matter, but the cheap production sometimes has its charm; low-light shots of the snowy mansion bring out its menacing nature, adding a macabre touch to the slayings. One scene actually has us watching a flashback sequence involving mental patients taking revenge on their doctors for locking them up; the entire scene is tinted and very gritty, thus a workable attempt for some tension. Red herrings do their part pretty well, although some of the acting could use some work. The climax can be a headscratcher as well, but once you fully understood what's going on, it does make sense albeit being a little improbable.

Silent Night, Bloody Night certainly showcased a lot of unsung pros for a proto-slasher over its own low-budget flaws, thus it still makes me wonder why it's so underrated. The film is a great side dish for any Holiday horror marathon, especially if you could get to watch it as a double bill with Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974). It's a bit complicated, slowly burning its way to a reveal that works on a certain level, but for all its axing, creepy phone-calling and twisty flow, it's a must-see or must-have for all slasher fans!

1 male burned to death
1 dog stabbed with a pocket knife
1 male and 1 female hacked to death with an axe
1 male bludgeoned with shovel
1 elderly female hacked with axe
1 elderly male had his hands cut off, hit by a car
1 male gets a broken bottle to the eye, killed (flashback)
2 males and 4 females murdered offscreen (flashback)
1 male shot
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot to death
Total: 17

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My 2013 Christmas Wish List

Well, looks like this is gonna be an annual thing, but truth be told, some of the things I wanted to have last year happened this year around so, who knows, maybe I'll get the same luck!

So here's this year's batch of things I wanted for Christmas, and whether I'm gonna get them or not, thought I should share them just for the heck of it!

1. A viewing/owning of
Devil Returns (Hong Kong, 1982)
Dean Koontz's Intensity (1997)
The Deadly Camp (Hong Kong, 1999)
Bloody Beach (Korea, 2000)
Deep In The Woods (France, 2000)
Eyes of Crystal (Italy, 2004)
The Legend of The Psychotic Forest Ranger (2010)
President's Day (2010)
Billy Club (2012)
Murder University (2012)
Varsity Blood (2013)

For these films has evaded my presence for far too long!

and, for a non-slasher
My Name is Khan (2010)
an epic piece of Bollywood drama that I just saw on TV with my whole family.
So good, I wanna keep it!
2. My very own Lament Configuration prop
No more folded cardboard crafts for me once I have this!
3. An official Jason Voorhees Hockey Mask prop (probably the one I can wear!)
Cuz all I have is a hand-made one done with paper-mached plastic...
4. A Stuntman Mike Bobblehead
Well, I'm a Tarantino Fan, and his little "love-letter" to slasher films just
has the coolest bad guy...up until he wuss out on those Ship-masting chicks
...meh, still worth a bobblehead!  
5. Sideshow's 15-inch Vinyl Figure of Sam from Trick'r Treat (2007)
The figure's short figure just nails it for me
6. Funko Pop of Sheldon Cooper, Amy Fowler and/or Derpy Hooves
Either Nerdy Love...
...or Nerd Love
7. A copy of DC's The Killing Joke
if I get this, this'll be my FIRST DC Trade Paperback
8. A Dream Rush Chucky toy
with that detailed accuracy, why the hell NOT?
9. Andrew W.K.'s The Wolf Album
The Japanese Import one with the bonus songs!
10. A Monster High C.A. Cupid Doll.
For my nerdy toy collection...
Hey, a dude is allowed to have his obscure hobbies!
So, what about you? What do you want for Christmas this Year?
Images (c) Google and Ebay