Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Animals Will Hunt: You're Next (2011)

You're Next (2011)
Rating: ****
Starring: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen

There's hype. And then there's Hype!

With 2013 nearing its end, slasher films are seem to be running on a low streak when it comes to wowing its crowd. The cheesy sequeloid known as Texas Chainsaw 3D turned out to be a mixed cow, No One Lives ended up a drag, The Purge was overblown, Hatchet 3 was okay but missing a lot, and I am yet to see Curse of Chucky as I write this. I'm pretty sure I've seen plenty of other titles under this year and there many more that I'm dying just to get (Billy Club, Don't Go to The Reunion and Bloody Homecoming among many), but I'm focusing more on big budget titles that'll really stick to my noggin.

This is when I turn my attention to the long awaited home invasion slasher known simply as "You're Next"; supposedly released in 2011 via festivals, the film was shelved for quite some time, only to be released theatrically just this year. I waited long enough to see whether the praises this film was getting were well-deserved or not and for all franks and popcorns I can eat, I can say that, indeed, there is something rather special about this film.

I see you...
You're Next starts off with an obscured love-making couple getting murdered as soon as they finish by who appears to be a machete-wielding maniac. We then cut to one Crispian Davidson taking his new girlfriend Erin to meet his loaded yet highly dysfunctional family at a getaway country mansion where his parents are celebrating their wedding anniversary. Things are tense and jittery all through out with bad blood getting between brothers, Erin trying to fit in with her boyfriend's family (she is an Australian in a house full of Americans), and weird noises coming from upstairs freaking mum out. But as far family matters go, this is nothing compared to the shitstorm that's about to happen.

Once they settle in for the big dinner, a trio of masked intruders, armed to the teeth and hellbent on murder, simply shows up and begins killing them one by one in a seemingly meaningless slaughter. But what these killers don't know is that one of their intended targets has a secret of her own. Something that would actually put a deadly turn against them...

I have to give a big thumbs up for Adam Wingard, the director and editor behind this flick; the last works I've seen from him were his first feature, the splat-tastic yet flawed slasher flick Home Sick featuring Bill Moseley, and the strangely hypnotic serial killer/thriller A Horrible Way to Die. You're Next may not raise the bar any higher in terms of story as its really nothing more than just a slasherfied version of a home invasion thriller done dozens of times before with the likes of movies such as 2007's French Extreme Inside or even Spain's 2010 release Kidnapped (more or less the latter), but what the film did right is that it knew how to keep the ball rolling once shit finally hits the fan and doesn't let up with the bloodwork along the way.

Some witty script and stylized camera work improve the entertainment value of the movie, showing some thought in actually making the characters and the situation they're in more engaging. From time to time, the film shifts tones from seriously traumatizing to sly and cynical, toying with our heads to where exactly this film is going. Eventually, we get enough turns that got us diving into new suspects, unexpected developments and, yes, more bodycount.

What's more refreshing here is the characterization of this film's obvious final girl; undergoing a survivalist camp by a paranoid father back in Australia, Sharni Vinson plays Erin as a quick thinking and really hardcore gal that isn't afraid to shed some blood to protect herself and what remains of her boyfriend's family. While majority of the cast got killed off screaming and panicking, she's there to be graceful under pressure, setting up traps to disarm, distract and destroy!

The villains themselves are also really cool and intimidating with their black squad gear and merciless determination to simply kill everyone they can catch. (Which apparently include Ti West as one of the brothers. That'll teach you to waste our time with that "short film" Miscarriage in ABCs of Death! (2013)) Who they are and why they're doing this call for spoilers, but for most of their running time onscreen, their bloodshed works as fine as the creepy animal masks they're wearing.

Wolf Mask is good at what he do. And You're Next!
Some wouldn't get it, but You're Next is perhaps the next best thing there is in profiling home invasion flicks, after the rather disappointing outcome of the misdirected The Purge. Yes it is clichéd and lacking any real story apart from murder, mayhem and masquerades (both literal and figuratively), but for the right audience and for the right time, it's definitely a worthwhile slaughter flick for fans alike to enjoy.
1 female found slaughtered
1 male hacked on the head with machete
1 male shot through the head with arrow
1 female ran through piano wire, throat cut
1 female hacked on the head with machete
1 female struck on the temple with axe
1 male had his head beaten to a pulp with a meat hammer
1 male had his throat cut with machete
1 male stabbed to death with screwdrivers
1 male stabbed on the head with screwdriver
1 male gets his head pulped with a wooden log
1 male gets a live, glass-broken blender to the head, shreds
1 female knifed on the head
1 male stabbed on the neck and eye with knife
1 male hacked on the face with a projected axe
Total: 15
images (c) Google

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I Know What You Did A Few years Ago In India: Kucch To Hai (2003)

Kucch To Hai (India, 2003)
rating: **
starring: Ashay Chitre, Esha Deol, Anita Hassandani                                                  

As far as I can tell, when watching a Bollywood horror, one should expect cheese, shot-by-shot ripping, lengthy running times and countless musical numbers. (and I mean Countless musical numbers) I already have my share of Indian shot horror flicks including the infamous Indian "remake" of A Nightmare on Elm Street known as Mahakaal (1990), the not-so-remake-but-otherwise-ripped-off A Nightmare on Elm Street rendition known as Khooni Murda (1989), as well as the mildly entertaining but awfully cheap Jeepers Creepers 2/Tremors hybrid Kaalo (2010). (The latter being my first Bollywoods slasher and incidentally the only one I've seen so far that didn't include a musical number)

Now, as you read this review, I'm about to take a dip into that cheese again. This time, I Know What You Did Last Summer style with a dash of bad romantic teen comedy!

Told as a flashback by two ex-lovers while on board to New Delhi, it was the time of  blossoming romance as these two recall their last years as carefree and partying students. Karan was smitten by the new freshman Tanya and was trying his best to win her heart by doing lots of cheesy romance clichés as possible in traditional Bollywood manner. (Meaning lots of dance montages from these two or just one of them being lovey-dovey. Bleh)

It takes around an hour before we get our first horror scene, involving a random geek being stalked in a very empty dorm (thanks to everyone attending a 70s-themed prom that night) and ends up murdered by a cool looking hoodie killer with a sharp kukri. (or curved machete in laymen's terms) But being a random character, this guy's death was dismissed as suicide and it wasn't until a half hour or so before we finally get a real plot development, wherein Tanya was caught cheating on her exam and gets dismissed from the test.

Hoping to impress her, Karan devised a plan with their friends to steal Tanya's papers that night and forge a passing grade. Things went from bad to worse fast when Bakshi, the professor keeping the tests and a suspected killer, caught them breaking into his home and pursued them to the point they actually discover the professor's dead wife. Frightened, the group made a run for their jeep and accidentally hit their professor; kids began shouting, random dude comes and accuses them of doing something illegal (but leaves anyways) and it turns out that Bakshi wasn't really dead but wounded enough to stagger and fall into a nearby cliff. Clearly, if you have seen I know what you did Last Summer as much as any veteran slasher fan does, you know where this is going...

Fast forward to three years later, after Tanya and Karan ended their relationship, Karan is now engaged to his childhood friend Natasha and called in their friends to a remote snowy inn to celebrate. However, it appears that someone donning the same hoodie coat professor Bakshi was wearing have plans to murder them one by one. Could it be that Bakshi survived his fall and is now hellbent on revenge? Or is there somebody else involved in this killing spree?

Not much to say with this one save that I believe the only group of people who can really appreciate this movie is those who live for the cheese and only cheese. The acting is weak in general and I find it hard relating to anyone here; if it's anything, it's normally this kind of weak acting that can be made up with some excellent kills but even that hardly made a dent since the murders were barely bloody, miniscule in count and obscured by cheap quick-cuts. Add a colossal amount of false scares and padding, and all sense of decency as a slasher film were flushed down the toilet.

To be fair, the film has an impressive looking production from big-budget looking set-pieces to well-made cinematography. Some horror scenes did stood up, especially the incredibly tense aforementioned first murder and one cheesy scene involving the killer burying themselves under the thick snow and unearthing to get a close kill. ( How they figured out that the victim will stagger precisely on that location beforehand, or the fact that they actually survived that long while wearing a parka hood-full of snow over their face without freezing to death is beyond me), but apart from that everything else was forgettable.

Horror isn't really this movie's strong point, not with all the dancing, singing and corny love montages, but at least its interesting enough to keep me watching for nearly 3 hours, despite already knowing some of the twists and turns. Nothing else noteworthy here but if you love corny romance stories with a fair amount of scares (not to mention patience), then this Bollywood rip is yours to find. Also, it would probably help if you hadn't seen IKWYDLS or Urban Legend yet, but that would really question your credibility as a horror fan and your place in this blog...

(Shame on you!)

1 female found murdered (dream)
1 male garroted and hanged on thin wire
1 female body found
1 male slashed on the neck with a kukri
1 female killed with a kukri, later found hanged
1 male stabbed on the gut with a kukri
1 female falls off a cliff
total: 7

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Get Well Soon. Or Not: Visiting Hours (1982)

Visiting Hours ( Canada, 1982) (AKA "Get Well Soon")
rating: ****
starring: Michael Ironside, Lee Grant, Linda Purl

Slasher films were made infamous with the claim of them being misogynistic due to the number of nubile and sexually active women being "punished" for being so, well, sexually active, as well as the claims that their deaths doesn't come in quick and are often glamorized. Movies like John Carpenter's Halloween and William Lustig's Maniac have shown this by having their killers stressfully stalk their victims before dispatching them in a brutal manner, and more often than not these victims engaged in premarital sex.

80s slashers definitely have their hands full working around these notions to the public but that doesn't stop them from tackling the subject, one way or another. Take Visiting Hours here for example; among all slashers and Video Nasties I've seen, the film was one of the few that took on Misogyny in a rather more focused light and shows one woman's belief for it challenged by a very hateful maniac.

Coming home from an evening talk show where she expressed her distraught for victimized women everywhere, Deborah is a strong feminist who soon finds her home invaded by Colt Hawker, a creeper donning multiple body piercings, hellbent on killing women like her. (A childhood hatred grown into him after seeing his mum disfigure his dad with boiling water)

After a long struggle, Deborah survives her injuries long enough until help comes, forcing the intruder to flee and patiently stalk her around the hospital later, intending to finish what he started. However, things take a distracting turn when he also begins creeping into the household of one Shiela, a nurse Deborah befriends who, in turn, made a personal response to Deborah's attacker. Sidetracked by this, the psychopath takes his time to torment both women, in a mad mission to punish them for being strong.

Deep as it is, Visiting Hours certainly took a wild jab at the slasher formula and created something rather controversial and infamously unique for the sub-genre. While we do have movies that focused on misogyny such as Lucio Fulci's really depressing giallo/horror The New York Ripper, and too the aforementioned Maniac, Visiting Hours was done different by focusing on the victims's struggles and how the psychopath sees them, rather than exploiting it with cheap messy gore and momentous amount of cheese. As far as I can tell, Visiting Hours took the stab quite seriously, giving us a rather disagreeable fellow as a villain whose pure short-sighted hatred for women and his determination to kill one is as frightening as his ability to put on different disguises to avoid suspicion (a cheesy plot point for us to sit through) and apparent cold disregard for anybody else who got in the way. One very memorable scene, he mistakenly cuts off the respirator of one poor elderly woman after believing he's in his intended victim's room; wherein even after realizing his mistake, he simply just watches the old nameless woman die in a desperate attempt to breath. Real squeamish stuff.

Unfortunately, because of this "determination", Visiting Hours really took its time to flesh out its killer's attacks as the film's direction had him splitting his attention to two women. I actually find this idea quite interesting, but it did dragged the film to a bit of a snail's pace and a running time of nearly two hours. Fortunately, the stalks and attacks come in as brutal and nail-bitingly tense as they come, so I didn't mind the pace and I can easily overlook a running time so long as the premises is an interesting one.

The biggest positive I can see from this film here is that how it actually pits our two leads against the killer; there's a sense of realism to these attacks, a mirror to some of the more heinous acts of intolerance that exists even until today. The women here are no more than hard-working class doing their best to defend their rights as an individual and to berate them for believing this is just awfully nasty yet true even to this day and age. In fact, it was hinted that the Hawker character have not only bigoted his way against women, but also Jews, Hispanics and even Blacks, making him one of the nastier villains to come out from this sub-genre and more the reason for us to root for the leads to survive. For this, I have to give kudos to our main three leads, Michael Ironside (of the Scanner's fame), Lee Grant as Deborah and Linda Purl as Sheila.

While it isn't a slasher in its purest form, it incorporated the slice-and-dice formula with what I can call as a forerunner to the 90s "yuppies-in-terror" thrillers, making Visiting Hours pretty entertaining for most of the run, though I say "most" since those who are looking for an enormous bodycounting will the disappointed for the rather miniature count (I can assume six. I could include some of them but I'm pretty sure anyone can survive being pushed through an office window), all of them plainly involving people who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either way, I won't say that this is one of the most perfect slashers to be released in the 80s but it certainly one of the gutsier and, dare I say, "unique" titles fanatics should at least give a try. Not everyone's gonna get it nor will they appreciate the attempt to do something altogether different, but I enjoyed it, Lengthy running time and all! 

1 female found murdered
1 elderly female had her respirator cut off, suffocates
1 female stabbed on the back with switchblade
1 male stabbed with switchblade
1 male had his mouth ripped open
1 male stabbed on the gut with switchblade
total: 6

It's so...Halloween-esque!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Art, Music and Drillbits: The Driller Killer (1979)

The Driller Killer (1979)
rating: **1/2
starring: Abel Ferrara, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day

I obey, oh almighty all-caps sign on the screen!
Ah yes, Abel Ferara's infamous little nasty, oh what wondrous times we had together~!

Reno is an artist with problems; not only is he scraping for cash, but he's also repeatedly berated by his girlfriend and their lesbian roomie for cash and dope. To make matters worse, a band called The Rooster moved in to one of the neighboring apartments and their jam-out sessions are a big distraction for Reno from finishing his big commission work for an art collector who's willing to pay big.

Stressed beyond sanity, Reno eventually breaks out of his demeanor and goes through a nightly killing spree targeting homeless people with his battery pack-powered powerdrill, avoiding capture in each attack. And the more he went on with his daily life and newfound "hobby", the deeper and more personal he goes with his massacres. It isn't too long now before he's pushed further beyond the edge and killing vagrants won't be enough to satisfy his bloodlust anymore...

The Driller Killer is less of an actual slasher film as it focuses more on the titular character in his lowest, putting the film more in place with psycho-thrillers, as a precursor to movies like Maniac (1980) and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer but with the level of savagery from the killings far from restrained and features a bodycount as heavy as it can, gaining recognition among slasher fans.

It's a dirty movie in its coating, but underlying this seemingly nihilistic approach to the world, the film is a lot deeper than a mere a psycho with a powertool exploitation plot. As far as the flow is concerned for that case, the movie is as unsettling to follow as everything about it seems to be synced with Reno's gritty and alienated lifestyle. (made more effective with the film's low-budget and overall grindhouse feel) Hot flashes of violence and other disturbing visions work their way through the scenes while we watch our lead killer loses sanity from one moment to the next, paced to test our patience with this character as he boils down, fed up from the imperfections he has to lived with (a vagrant father, poverty and a dissatisfied girlfriend, just to name a few) and just decides to deal with the matter the only way he can, and apparently it involves a powerdrill.

However, as deep as The Driller Killer tries to fuse splatter film elements with  talks of social commentary, this doesn't hide the fact how cheap and raw the direction of the movie is. Unnecessarily drawn-out scenes are a common complain coming from this movie, and add the matter that the film's dialogue is anything but clear, it's not hard to imagine why some viewers would have a hard time trying to enjoy it. Still, it's a half-and-half workable movie, and it does have a sizable fan base, so I guess the gritty semi-realism this film has did its job to unnerve and distraught people.

While not entirely the best Video Nasty to be included in the list, it certainly proved its worth. marketing of this film alone was controversial enough as upon its video release, its front cover features an edited screencap of one of the movie's nastier killings, much to the shock of angry mothers and religious zealots who fear the image was too extreme for the public. Well, personally it is, but it IS a horror movie so I don't usually expect cute lil' pegasus dancing in front of the cover.
Not even for you, Scootaloo!
All in all, a worthy viewing for fans of gore, grit or anyone who just had a thing for red-stained powertools.

1 male powerdrill to the chest
1 male killed with powerdrill
1 victim killed with powerdrill (mostly offscreen)
1 male powerdrill to the gut
1 male powerdrilled on the back
1 victim powerdrilled to death
1 male powerdrill to the back
1 male repeatedly powerdrilled on the back
1 male powerdrill to the forehead
1 male crucified with drillbits, powerdrill to the neck
1 male pinned to the door with via powerdrill through chest
1 female presumably killed with powerdrill
1 male powerdrill to the side
total: 13
These eyes had seen things. terrible things.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Jason's Wonky Psuedo Finale: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Rating: ***
Starring: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Kane Hodder                     

I can't hate this. Not even if I try. The film has great sentimental value for me as this is one of the first few DVDs I came to own during the ending years of my Grade School. I was and always will be Jason's fan boy and I find this little number, despite the lack of an actual Jason (mask, machete and all), as one of the wackiest, cheesiest and entertainingly mind-numbing entry to the iconic film series.

Some time after he ravaged Manhattan and seemingly melting away thanks to a conveniently present toxic waste flood (yes, apparently New York's underground sewage is filled with them), the hulking killer known as Jason Voorhees somehow survived this, made his way back to Crystal Lake and is about to embark on another night of machete mayhem, stalking a towel-clad victim in the middle of the woods. Just when we thought we'll have another girl cornered by the big guy, she gives a quick signal and an entire swat team suddenly shows up, raining lead on Jason before blowing him up with a grenade. (or a Rocket Launcher. I dunno, the explosion looked too strong to be just a grenade)

Believing that the Camp Crystal Lake slasher is finally resting in pieces, the team picks up whatever charred remains they can grab a handful off, leading us to a quite lengthy opening sequence involving a coroner playing around with Jason's chunky and horribly disfigured organs. It's all casual standard procedures until Jason's heart begins to pump on its own, hypnotizing the coroner into eating it (I still don't get how? Or why?) and somehow allowing Jason's spirit (or spirits. Why was there so many floaty, ghostly lights coming out of Jason's body to begin with?!) to possess the man and embark on another murderous rampage.

With all the murders leading to Crystal Lake, it questions the credibility of Jason's death; a prime time news report even has a special involving this controversy, which includes an interview with one infamous bounty hunter known as Creighton Duke, who somehow knows a lot about our killer and is seemingly aware on how non-human he is to begin with. He vows to bring Jason back to where he belongs, in exchange for a hefty sum of cash.

Back in Crystal Lake, a local diner is celebrating Jason's death with a two-for-one burger deal (with hockey mask shaped patties and French fries dubbed as "Jason Fingers"); Diana, a waitress there, seems to be troubled by the fact that these killings are happening again but she has bigger things to deal with as, apart from living a mediocre job, she's also trying to bring peace between her daughter, Jessica, and her ex-boyfriend Steven. Just as things couldn't get any worse for her, she also encounters Duke, who's looking for her specifically just for the job he needs to do. After a small ruffle in the diner, Duke is arrested for disturbing the peace and Diana tells Steven to meet up with her later that night, as she has something important to tell him.

Unfortunately, that night is also the time we come to learn that Jason (or his soul) has to jump from one body to the next (as the ones he possesses doesn't last too long and they melt, apparently), eventually killing his way to Diana's house and murders her, leaving a visiting Steven to blame.

At his arrest, Steven had the luck to talk to Duke, who was more than willing (or, rather, for a price of breaking a couple of fingers) to share what he knows: apparently, Jason's ability to jump from one flesh bag to another has a fail safe. Just in case he's to lose his body to the point that he can't even regenerate, he has the alternative to possess a bloodline and use that body to regain his. (clothes and mask are apparently included in the package deal) In a convenient, shark-jumping franchise twist, Jason has a half-sister: Diana! So with her dead, that only leaves Jessica and her own daughter, Stephanie (the secret Diana was supposed to share with Steven), in Jason's main hit list. With that, the young father is forced to risk his own life to save his family and face a threat that seems to have no end.

The Voorhees house.
Which sortah looks like the Myer's house in Halloween 5...

Jason Goes to Hell is the result of the Box Office failure of Paramount's last Friday film "Jason Takes Manhattan". With the combination of a misleading title, numerous continuity errors, plot holes, and Jason's sudden ability to teleport and talk like a little boy, the Paramount film flopped, thus forcing the company to turn over the rights of Jason's further franchising to New Line cinema. (AKA, the home of Freddy Krueger!) Supposedly, this was yet again another attempt to end the franchise but for God knows what reason, the series survived despite the mixed reactions from loyal Friday the 13th fans and eventually builds up to the epic slasher smack down that would be known as Freddy vs Jason, something both Paramount and New Line were planning since the late 1980s.

what the...?
But prior to us discovering what makes Jason tick through the dream world, Jason Goes to Hell draws out some of its own new mythology on Jason to make the film as "unique" as possible, which ultimately leads to a hodge podge of horror movie ideas that doesn't feel quite fitting to a Friday film.

From Demonic possessions and magical relics, to "melt movies" and even riffing that famous massacre scene from The Terminator (and let's not forget some strange "cameos" of familiar looking items in the backgrounds. Necronomicon Ex Mortis anyone? How about Fluffy's Crate from Creepshow (1982)?), it's one crazy idea piling up after the other to the point that you almost forget that the film's was supposed to be about a big zombified killer in a Hockey mask murdering teens. Interestingly, the focus on teenagers here is almost absent as adults are placed in as victims and the only time we get to see teens being turned into mincemeat was during that one random and gratuitous scene where three hitchhiking kids got some trysting action - perhaps the only real sex scene this series has to offer until the 2009 remake - inevitably leading to Jason killing them in full gory display. Because of this, the story is more character driven and a lot more developed in ways that you never expected.

But, as any other Friday the 13th movie, Jason Goes to Hell never failed to deliver the bodycount; gore is glorious as ever with the film's pure brutality taking the spotlight. Messy kills such as full body splittings and people being smashed to walls, and too some very obscure overkills (one guy gets stabbed on the head with a probe against a grated table with enough force to slice his face, while another gets impaled on a steel rod and gets their skull squished like a melon just to name a few) are just some of the few pulpy murders our effects team were so willing to give us and another reason to love and forgive this film for its sins.

I also find the film's overly cheesy direction to be as equally fun as the bodycounting, giving the movie some bit of humor amidst the killings. (though the funnier ones present in the film's deleted scenes and alternative TV release. There's an exchange between Steven and his cop friend about being pointed at with your own gun that I find really hilarious!) I also love the final fight in this movie, where average joe Steven grapples with the fully revived yet still undead Jason, mano-a-monster, leading to one of the most epic Jason "death" I've seen in the franchise.

While obviously not the last film in the series, I find Jason Goes to Hell one heck of a screwed-up momentary last ride for Mr. Voorhees and loved every minute of it. It's not the best film in the series but it certainly made an impression for itself and I'm pretty damn proud of seeing it. While it might have taken another few years for him to come back in his full, hockey-masked glory to kill horny teenagers as he's supposed to (and another couple of years before he finally grapples with our dream menace, Freddy Krueger), at least it's safe to say Jason's new home (New Lines cinema, not Hell!) knew how to get our attention and entertain us in the most outrageous way!

1 male gets an autopsy probe to the head, face grated
2 males bludgeoned to death offcamera
1 female slashed to death with scalpel
1 female split in half with rain spike
1 male had his head smashed offcamera
1 female had her head crushed with car door
1 male presumably melted
1 female gets a thrown knife sharpener to the back
1 male melts
1 female had her face crushed
2 males gets their heads bashed together
1 male had an arm broken, thrown dead against diner door
1 male accidentally shot with shotgun
1 male dunked head-first to a deep fryer, burnt
1 female gets her lower jaw bashed in
1 female impaled on barbecue skewer, head crushed open
1 male presumably melted offcamera
1 male stabbed on the gut with dagger
1 male nearly decapitated with machete
1 male had his back broken with bear hug
Total: 22


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Can Anybody Say "Ruh-Oh"?: Saturday Morning Mystery (2012)

Saturday Morning Mystery (2012) (AKA "Saturday Morning Massacre")
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  Jory Balsimo, Rebecca Beegle, Andrew Bujalski

I once wondered what would it be like if Scooby-Doo and company got trapped in a situation that's really, really messed up and are in risk of dying. Well, I guess I don't have to wonder anymore!

Stripped of cash and down-beaten by real authorities, a group of four young wannabe investigators and their dog starts to find the life of busting supernatural hoaxes isn't as great as it sounds. However, their next gig might be more fortunate for them when a hasty (and possible greedy) business type hires them to disprove any supernatural on-goings at a dilapidated mansion (believed to be the haunting grounds of ghouls, ghosts and the occasional Satanists) as his workers are apparently afraid to even go near it. As the group spends the entire night setting up gear around the mansion and dealing with some personal issues, they didn't expect that this might be the last night of their lives when it turns out they're not alone...

The original title for this movie was Saturday Morning Massacre, so with that alone you can tell that the twist would involve a decent amount of bodies dropping down dead. But before anything short of a bodycount happen, the film took a rather slow burn route as a dark and mature version of a Scooby-Doo episode, featuring a realistic counterpart for each of the cartoon's characters (including the dog) dealing with cases inspired by the cartoon show but with an edgier taste such as talks of child prostitution/trafficking and fabled murders that would later transpire into local legends. It's a great idea and I find myself very excited on how far they would go with the dark parody, even though it does feature more drama and character development than satirical actual laughs.

It maybe a hit-or-miss thing, but I guess the funnies here were more on the irony of the comparison as most of the time, Saturday Morning Mystery had us watching these people have real arguments, have sex, have hallucinatory drug trips, and walk around trying to see if they could spot anything unusual for their client even though it's painfully obvious to us what's really going on within the mansion. It lags around like that for a good hour, until someone discovers a dismembered hand, finds their client dead and their dog is being eaten raw by a feral boy. By then, things finally got interesting. Or at least tried to

It's a bit of a shame but seeing we spent more time covering our casts, I really wished the horror-centered last third wasn't so rushed but, to be fair, it's still a decent run as the sadistic streak of the movie treated us with our casts getting chopped up with a bloody axe in one awesome display of non-CG bloodwork, with all the relentless bat shit craziness to wreck havoc on these unsuspecting souls until the equally chaotic finale.

So while the concept partially works, and I'm pretty sure it could have been done a little better, Saturday Morning Mystery is still a reliably enjoyable ride for those looking for something rather new from their slasher films. (Or maybe not entirely new, but otherwise at least attempted to do something new) Performances are well acted, beautifully shot cinematography and delivers the gore with much flair and style, this little indie's destined for the occasional midnight run or guilty pleasure viewings.

1 male stabbed to death offcamera
1 dog found bludgeoned to death with hammer
1 male decapitated with axe
1 male repeatedly knifed on the back, killed
1 female seen with her head bashed to a TV (flashback)
1 male seen shot on the head (flashback)
1 male shot on the head
1 female cut in half with axe, shot
1 female drowned in puddle
Total: 9
Scooby Snacks can't save you now, Dog!

Monday, September 9, 2013

And Then They Were Fewer and Duller: Have a Nice Weekend (1974)

Have a Nice Weekend (1974)
rating: *1/2
starring: Michael B. MillerPeter DompeValerie Shepherd

Yet another take on the popular Agatha Christie bodycount book And Then They Were None (AKA Ten Little Indians), Have a Nice Weekend is a proto-slasher that may look slick and exploitative, but it actually fails to deliver all that much.

Not to say that the plot is uninteresting; it follows Chris, a war veteran, phoning in his family to meet up in their small island home to celebrate his return from Vietnam. Needless to say, Chris is clearly not alright in the noggin after all the atrocities he saw, thus his suspicious mannerism is anything but normal.

When he and his family finally make it to the island, things were going as smoothly as it can with some rocky man-to-man talk between family members along the way, until Chris starts to act up from his supposed trauma and tension rises within the group. It isn't long until one of them actually ends up slaughtered with a knife one family member was fascinatingly caressing during dinner. For some reason, these guys are taking forever to sink in the idea that this guy is dead (Can they not see the non-moving body bleeding from the neck?!) but once it does, the then tense family gathering becomes tenser as they begin to ponder which is them could be the killer.

As fun and curious as it sounds, Have A Nice Weekend could have been more exciting if it wasn't for the misleading tagline claiming an all-out massacre (only three quick murders) and the duller-than-mud acting. It slowly burns through the story with enough dramatics to work up some possible suspects for the incoming murders, but after two bodies dropping dead, we have to sit through a humorous patch work of whodunit monologues and flashbacks, pulling us into the action on figuring out who the real killer is. As far as I can tell, the revelation was far from what I expected, but any sense of excitement was dulled down by the anti-climatic (and barely heard) rambling of the guilty ones and a Psycho-inspired finale wherein the killer's psychiatrist explains to a surviving family member what happened, right after the movie literally says "The End".

Technicals, including special effects (very few), lighting, audio and scoring, are at level with a weekday morning TV thriller, so it's not hard to figure out why this movie's so obscure among us slasher fanatics. It'll depend how you take it, Have a Nice Weekend is either be one of the worst proto-slasher there is, or one of the more forgivable ones if you like your pre-Halloween bodycounters as cheesy and ineptly funny as possible. I'm more on the less impressed, but slasher film completists might find something to like about this film, but the real question here is how desperate are they to try?

1 male slaughtered with knife
1 male hacked on the head with hoe
1 male killed with fishing gaft
Total: 3
My Favorite five letters in the Alphabet.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When you see a Killah: Holla (2006)

Holla (2006)
Rating: **
Starring: Shelli Boone, Young Sir, Charles Porter

What happens when your usual urban horror moves out of the streets and into the woods? Pretty much just a black version of every backwoods horror known to mankind. The cheesy ones.

Holla (2006) is a practically an example of that, revolving around a TV sitcom star and her boyfriend heading to a cabin in the woods for some time away from their busy city life, joined by their friends and party-crashing colleagues. Later that night however, a masked intruder begins to kill away one friend at a time and it's only a matter of time before they figure out who the killer is and stop them.

Frankly, it's not a bad movie but it's barely anything to holla about either. It follows the clichés religiously and even packed up some decent killings for a slasher film, but it sadly reeks high in cheese to the point that I find some of the supposed comedy here to be a hit-or-miss case for its hammy nature. I admit, I chuckled and smirked a lot whenever these guys kept suspecting one of them to be the actual killer (and so damn sure of it as well), but the rest of the jokes didn't caught up with me. Still, I'm confident the cheesy jokes will worth something for some urban slasher/horror fans out there, I'll give the film at least that.

The flow of the story is slow at first but it never lost a momentum when shit finally hits the fan, which is always a good thing for a slasher. Rest of the production looks pretty decent for a low-budget film, from stylish tinted lighting to, at least, acceptable blood effects. The mystery regarding on who's doing the killings does provide some hokey fun, even if its a weak one. Sadly, the ending wasn't as strong as it's working itself to be thanks to the killer's hardly-engaging monologue and boring expositions, and too leaving an open door for a possible sequel.

As dull and overly familiar as its story is, I still find Holla (2006) to be an entertaining treat for the right circumstances and right audience. A semi-good rental for all cheddar enthusiasts, urban horror fans and slasher film completists.

1 female found stabbed on the temple with syringe
1 female knifed to death
1 male had his throat cut with knife
1 male shot on the chest with crossbow
1 male shot on the head
1 female shot
1 female hacked on the back with axe
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male shot
Total: 9