Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Trick is to Stay Alive: Lady, Stay Dead (1981)

Lady, Stay Dead (Australia, 1981)
Rating: ***
Starring: Chard Hayward, Louise Howitt, Deborah Coulls

It’s funny to think that some films out there suffering from identity disorder; may it be comedies or drama, adventure flicks or horror films, there are titles in which it can’t seem to make up their minds to what it really wanted to be. While some producers take the easy way and combine two genres together, some movies like Lady, Stay Dead struggles to provide the best of each genre can offer and ends up “strangely unique”.

Gordon Mason is a loner who works as the handyman and gardener of a young singer, Marie Colby. Thing is, Gordon is mentally and emotionally unstable, first seen in the film caressing a blow-up doll while listening to Colby’s’s own single. So when the singer verbally abused him too much for tracking mud in her newly cleaned seaside mansion, Gordon snapped and rapes her, all in the delusion that he is doing her a favor. Understandably, Marie isn't too happy about the incident, which confuses Gordon into attacking and drowning her in a fish tank when she goes hysterical on him.

 Now with blood on his hands, Gordon tries to hide away the body, killing a concerned neighbor and his dog, but just when he thought he bumped off the only witness to his crime, Marie’s sister, Jenny, came later that day to house-sit. Immediately smitten, Mason shifts his attention to court Jenny, trapping her inside the house as he mocks and stalks her in every opportunity possible. Jenny now has no choice but to deal with an emotionally dangerous man and try to stay alive.

With a title like Lady, Stay Dead, you wouldn't expect this to be a slasher movie; if anything, I did expect a comical thriller under the vein of Weekend at Bernie’s hearing the title alone. Fairly enough, however, director Terry Bourke  chucked in some stalk-and-slash action in the middle portion of the film where Jenny became well aware of Mason’s twisted intentions. For the rest of the movie, I saw more grindhouse thriller than bodycounting.

Taking note on films like Maniac (1981) and Don't Go to The House (1980), the first portion of the plot appears to focus on Mason's exploits in "courting" his latest victim. At some point, it nearly became a psychological battle for sanity as he momentarily pictured his Marie's corpse coming to life but it was dropped in a twist and became a clumsy slasher film with Jenny fending herself against a powertool equipped gardener. It was standard stalk and attack reminiscent of the last third of most slasher films but seeing how Mason's a serial rapist rather than a homicidal psycho, the action and the villain himself failed to be all that impressive in terms of the horror approach.

Eventually, the film shifts back to being a thriller with a shootout scene that seems to place the movie in a hastier pace and added a higher kill count, with the latter featuring one of the most unfortunate victims in slasher history. The final product undeniably looked messy but at least it did made an effort to do something different from the majority of slashers coming out on that decade and be exploitative fun all the same time.

By all means, Lady, Stay Dead isn't necessarily a terrible movie but it did lacked the focus and creativity to perfectly merge these idea to create a solid story. At first it was a exploitation, then a survival flick, and then it finishes as a cop out movie with a slasher-esque ending, all packed in a measly 90 or so minutes of pure Ozploitation cheese. If you love obscure hammy grindhouse thrillers then Lady, Stay Dead remains as a welcome option.

1 female drowned in a fish tank
1 male hacked on the head offscreen with a shovel
1 dog shot
1 male shot with a shotgun, set on fire by a molotov cocktail
1 male killed offcamera
1 male shot to death
Total: 6

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Tune in Murder: Coda (1987)

Coda (Australia, 1987) (AKA "Deadly Possession", "Symphony of Evil")
Rating: ****
Starring: Penny Cook, Arna-Maria Winchester, Liddy Clark

(Wow, took me seven long years to finally see this. The joys of movie hunting!)

Some parts Halloween (1978) with the amateur snooping of Nancy Drew and a bit of Hitchcockian thrills for good measure, this Made-For-TV Australian thriller succeeds at a lot of things that most of its gorier theatrical or video counterparts normally fail in: direction, style, and quality.

When a student from a nearby music academy gets attacked in her apartment and left for dead, a man seen skulking around tries to help her only to be mistaken as the culprit, sparking a brief chase before evading capture. As responding cops swarm the place and manage to drive the girl to a nearby hospital, one Kate, neighbor of the attacked victim, finds herself tangled in the crime when she's brought in for questioning and she recognizes a police sketch of the suspect as her former-husband, Mike.

Mike, of course, claims he is innocence after Kate finds him hiding in her apartment. Hoping to clear his own name, he leaves to go to the same hospital the girl is taken to, but finds himself under further blame when someone beats him to it, kills the girl, and lead him to the open arms of the police. Believing that the cops got the wrong man, Kate curiously looks into the case and soon finds herself the next target of the attacker.

Perhaps I should start off with the only flaw of the movie, which would be fair since the rest of Coda is undeniably great; the film is grounded for realism and devoid of any kind of hamminess, hence it should work pretty well as a thrilling mystery. Sadly, with so little cast to focus on, limited red herrings that aren't that strong, and the clues being too obvious, the whodunit elements didn't do that well.

Thankfully, the direction had us looking into the characters with enough dimensions, fairly paced to give us enough time to both know our might-be victims/suspect and build a brooding sense of suspense which soon escalates into familiar territories. Interesting to note is the fact that the main casts are mostly women, all of whom are portrayed to be more than cattle for the slaughter, which may have something to do with the cast having a reasonable amount of control over their roles.

With the main focus being on the plot and its characters, those who are looking for a heavy killcount would be disappointed though I personally didn't mind this since the story was compelling enough to entertain me and the performances of its casts didn't require the distraction of exploitable murders. In addition, the final third of the film features one of the best cat-and-mouse antics I've seen since the hallway axe murder of Prom Night (1980), involving our lead and villain going through darkened halls and claustrophobic libraries at closed university.

The art and music theme of the story also found its way into production, making great use of classical music to set the mood and enhance situations, as well as some well executed camera and visual work that's honestly simple but fits well nevertheless. A fine example of this would be that one sword murder where we see our killer seemingly hovers down a shadowed hallway, motionless and silent until it raises a sword and goes for the kill; it's a genuinely creepy scene and one that is visually impressive and caters well for slasher fans alike.

There isn't much else to say about Coda; it's a beautiful fun film to watch that didn't resort to nudity, gore, and cheese, something that is a lot to say comparing to most slasher films being released in the late 80s. A must see/own for those who love a simple slasher movie!

1 female thrown through a window, later had her life support turned off
1 female slashed to death with a sword
1 male found frozen in a freezer
1 male killed offcamera
1 female drowned
Total: 5

Monday, April 20, 2015

Axing Between Planes: The Horror Show (1989)

The Horror Show (1989) (AKA "House III: The Horror Show")
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Lance Henriksen, Brion James, Rita Taggart 

What's so odd about The Horror Show you ask? Everything.

The Horror Show was supposed to be the third entry to the Sean Cunningham's supernatural horror comedy franchise House, which, in this entry, he sat only as a producer and let director James Isaac switch away from the zombies and monsters of the franchise and try what could have been a new slasher opus. However, the use of dreams and a wise-cracking psycho made this film quite comparable to A Nightmare on Elm Street's brand of terror and the matter that Show's plot is noticeably similar to Wes Craven's own slasher movie-on-drugs Shocker (also in 1989) definitely didn't help marking this story well for originality. Then, there's the oh-so-present MPAA disagreeing with the film's juicy gore so a lot of the red stuff has to be cut, further disappointing many fans. (although I'm not sure if the version I watched was the gored up version or not, cuz I was looking at a lot of red stuff) Still, let's see how this Horror Show fare under my thoughts and perhaps find anything else to enjoy about it.

The story is about Detective Lucas McCarthy (the one and only Lance Henriksen) going through a phase where he is haunted by the most horrific capture he'd ever done; that of the infamous meat-cleaver wielding serial killer Max Jenke, shown in gruesome detail through a dream-flashback wherein he slaughtered countless victims and leaving them in varying states of mutilation, decapitation, and half way through a meat grinder, including Lucas' partner and one young hostage that later got her noggin lopped off. 

The good detective did eventually caught the perp and had him locked up where he is sentenced to death via electric chair, but the dreams' haunting nature continue to put Lucas in a position where he nearly sleep-strangled his wife and begin seeing weird shit all around. Thinking that by being there when the con fries would put him in ease, he personally arrives at the execution and watch as Jenke somehow survives the first few moments of being burnt by voltage, giving one last death threat to Lucas before finally dying off.

Now with the killer dead for good, Lucas does his best to move on with his life and it's easier said than done when weirder things start happening after the death, including a demonic turkey dinner, Max showing up in every channel of the TV, surge of electricity emitting maniacal laughter, and hallucinations of are-they-dead-or-not family members.

We soon come to learn that Max somehow harnessed the ability to control his physical being and had converted himself into pure electricity. (or something) Though this does very little to explain how a mass-murdering psycho got granted the power to open his own dimension in the later half of the movie, Lucas, nevertheless, arms himself and prepares to fight the monster one more time.

Though wildly enjoyable as a cheesy hookum of all things weird and supernatural, what The Horror Show lacked was focus on what it wanted to be as it juggles the tone between something serious to that involving talking roasts and transdimensional planes. (AKA the weird shit)

The story is workable, one that is curious if you could look pass the hammy scripting and wild direction. It plays around with the mental state of Henriksen's character even though we are sure that Jenke's behind of all the oddities happening; this being said, most of The Horror Show feels less of a slasher and more of a supernatural horror flick if it wasn't for the villain himself and the blade-related kill count still being present.

Thankfully, the two main casts vehicle the movie to a passable viewing, each giving their best performance for their roles; Henriksen does an awesome job portraying a haunted cop whose desperation for some sense to what's going on with his world left him always on edge and willing to consult anybody for an answer. It's a doable role but as far as troubled heroes go, the movie's signature character, Max Jenke, is what gave it the most entertainment value; played by Brion James of the Bladerunner fame, his presence is a solid tribute to A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger from the maniacal smugness to the body-horror inspired reality bending powers, and much like the burnt bastard, he spends his time playing with his kills before doing them away. The overacting of his supposed uber-evil does get in the way of making him any more frightening than what he is intended to be, but its cheesy charms did gain this film an audience so I don't think this is much of a real flaw but rather a matter of taste.

The only real issue I see here is that the nature of the reveal on how Jenke ended up being in his near-supernatural state; it just came out of the blue and is a lot less practicable that the simple "deal with the devil" shtick makes more sense. There's also the point that, given the killer's new powers, the plot could had involved more thespians for Jenke to try it on and give us a better looking bodycount. Then again, looking at how much focus this movie is giving on story, this is yet another factor that makes The Horror Show a unique entry to this sub-genre and one that could learn to live with.

Whether you call it House 3 or simply The Horror Show, this oddly campy, story-driven slasher would have been something to be reckoned with but falls short from a better rating due to its lack of punch. The story is good, the acting is good, but the film just doesn't know where to lead it all and what we end up seeing is a rather passable supernatural horror with some fitting cheese. Good, but not great.

1 female found halfway through a meat grinder
1 male found mutilated
1 male head found in a deep dryer
1 male found with missing arms, bled to death
1 female decapitated with a meat cleaver
1 male hacked to death with a meat cleaver
1 male decapitated with a meat cleaver
1 male shot to death
Total: 8

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Something Sciencey and Deadly: Strange Behavior (1981)

Strange Behavior (New Zealand, 1981) (AKA "Dead Kids", Small Town Massacre")
Rating: ****
Starring: Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Dan Shor, Fiona Lewis

At a first glance, it may look like another dead teenager flick, but prioritizing a whodunit story and weird atmosphere over high bodycount and gratuitious exploitation makes this New Zealand production anything but another slasher.

Opening with a random teenager left alone in his house while his parents go out, his momentary freedom to smoke a cig and listen to 80s pop tunes interrupted by a sudden power outage. Making his way to the kitchen, he lights a candle and fools around making shadow puppets, only to discover he's not alone and gets a nasty eye stabbing from an intruding teenager.

Our mesmerized opening killer.
Later that morning, we shift our attention to the Brady family; Pete Brady is a bright student itching to go to college but is short in cash to apply just about anywhere. (and that includes the town's campus) Fortunately for him, his friend Oliver referred him to a local hospital, wherein the staff are looking for willing applicants to participate as human test subjects for their experiments involving some sort of mental exercise. (demonstrated on a chicken being controlled via video recording of a dead professor) Thinking it's the easiest way to make a few hundred bucks, Pete agrees to undergo the sessions.

That night, Pete and Oliver decided to join a costume party to honor their "independence"; one cheesy yet groovy dance sequence later, two teenagers from the gathering left to the woods for a quick make-out, unknown to them that a maniac in a ghoul mask followed them there. A boy was killed and the girl managed to run back to the party, where horrified partygoers caught a glimpse of the man in the mask as he scurries away into hiding. Safe from the crowd, but not from us, the viewers, the killer unmasked himself to reveal a familiar face.
Admin notice: back at prom, me and a date did that cheesy dance in Prom Night (1980).
How I wish we could had tried this hammy sequence instead.
Hearing this, as well as made aware of a missing boy the other night, Pete's father and local sheriff John Brady gets into the case, piecing together all the evidence he could find but finds himself stuck in coming up with any solid lead. In the midst of this, Pete undergoes the experiments and begins to notice odd things happening to his body. It soon ties up to a shocking conclusion, where a town's horrible past returns, leading to a twist that's honestly ingenious, if not overworked.

Many parts medical thriller, whodunit, teen slasher and mad science, Strange Behavior was a fresh, albeit weird take on the formulaic bodycounters of the early 80s, keeping enough of the subgenre to satisfy slasher hounds while catering to other kinds of scares and thrills. Masked killers and brutal knifing was generously provided on the plot but it's focus was obviously more on mystery, with a flow that's paced perfectly to keep us watching in intrigue and interest, enough red herrings to ponder about, and a twist that one wouldn't see coming.

Now if only this was a scarecrow slasher...
Those who are a bit squeamish on body horror would also find some bits here that would keep them cringing; one intense example is a patient getting a syringe full of chemicals into one of their eye sockets, and another involving a someone pissing blood during a date. There's also a gruesome revelation of what happened to one of the earlier victims, which later seen as a human scarecrow that's just unnerving to look at.

Production is fairly professional, which is a lot to say for a movie of this sub-genre; the lush New Zealand country side provides some great visuals and a nice small town vibe, direction had us peeking through solid scares and creep factors, but the things that this movie benefited from are it's characters and casts.

Acting is quite solid, giving the cast of characters enough value to root for or feel for in a relatable way. That is, of course, if you can overlook some funny blurbs, strange things that just appears to be normal to them (cutting toe nails at the kitchen and a father walking into the bathroom while his son showers among a few)  and one scene of them doing a corny choreographed dance routine to Lou Christie’s “Lightning Strikes” during a party. Incidentally, these oddities are one of the few things that made this movie charming; it serves as a nice distraction for us while the plot waddles around with the "why-dunit" mystery.
One time masked sequence? No problem!
Even if it is cheesy weird, I am confident to say Strange Behavior (the film's original title, which I prefer over the bland "Dead Kids" ) is a must own for all true slasher fanatics, though one should keep a heads up as it is closer to that of a giallo-inspired thriller than a film about a mask psycho on a killing spree. Still, one should be open to have a good time and this movie definitely knows how to go with the flow, no matter how strange it gets from beginning to end. Recommended!

1 male knifed on the eyes
1 male knifed to death
1 male found mutilated
1 female gets a throat cut with a knife
1 male knifed to death
Total: 5

Monday, April 13, 2015

High Tension Reunion: To Sir, With Love (2006)

To Sir, With Love (Seuseung-ui eunhye) (South Korea, 2006) (AKA "Bloody Reunion", "The Teacher")
Rating: ****
Starring: Seong-won Jang, Eung-soo Kim, Yeong-seon Kim

Some people try their hardest not to forget their grade school years as it hold some of the most dearest and curious parts of their lives; your friends, your first game of hide and seek, your first field trip, your first schoolyard scrap, all of which endearing if not a little embarrassing at times given how soft and open our minds were back then.

Unfortunately, there are also those who wish to forget this portion of their past; may it be due to childhood bullying or some events too traumatic to mention, this is the central theme for South Korea's wonderful entry to the slasher cycle of 2006, To Sir, With Love.

A mix of the old slasher bone and torture porn-style gorno, it tells the story of Mrs. Park, a former elementary school teacher now fallen ill, disabled and currently under the care of one of her old students, Mi-Ja.

Seeing that Mrs. Park's conditions aren't getting any better and fearing that she'll die sullen, Mi-Ja plans a reunion to cheer up the ailing teacher, with six old classmates answering the invitation. It all seems fine at first but it is noticeable that the now adult former-pupils are uneasy around Mrs. Park. Through a series of flashbacks, we get to learn why...

When she was still teaching at grade school, Mrs. Park gave birth to a deformed and mentally challenged boy named Young-Win. The shame of raising a freak was too much for her husband, hanging himself in the basement one day while their son watched. The event was bitter enough for Mrs. Park to keep Young-Min locked up in the basement and vent her frustrations out on her class' own misfits, which turns out to be all six of those who gathered to the reunion in the present.

Each with their own personal grudges against their grade school teacher, whom they blame for their current status in life as "losers", they lash out their hatred for her and even got close to murdering her. However, someone in a creepy rabbit mask is out capturing, torturing and murdering the vengeful ex-students one by one. Could it be Young-Min out to protect his mother? Or is it someone else in the group gone utterly mad?

Since this was one of the few slashers I get to see and own during the early years of my collection, To Sir, With Love has a special place on my heart for being a disturbing yet beautiful piece of work; one of the biggest pros that aids this film is that the characters are well acted; each of the cast portraying them takes a deeply layered take on the typical cliched slasher victims, with much gut and persona that it's near believable in a highly dramatic way and it brings out a sense of dread that the story benefited from. Throw this in to a direction well in touch with a very resentful atmosphere and a pacing that broods toward the impending mayhem, then you'll have a slasher that's high on shocks, creepiness and some unexpected twists that keeps the plot as fresh as possible.

Production wise, it is visually stunning, more or less in the sense of premise, photography, and the film's deliriously brutal executions of its characters. The latter earns a high remark from me since I find the kills perfectly blended with the torture porn-style nasties popularized by films like Hostel and the SAW franchise; one fine example would be the killer's first victim, viciously slashed with a box cutter before dragging his dying body to a secret hideout, prying his jaws open with a pair of compasses and then force-feeding him with razor blades and a kettle of boiling water. It's pretty nasty and the killer himself isn't half bad with that creepy bloodstained cardboard rabbit mask.

The only bit that keeps me from giving this movie one more star (or half-a-star) was that the twist reveal leaves one large plot hole and it kinda brings a level of ridiculousness to the story. Not going to reveal much but it resembles the infamous twist from the extreme French slasher High Tension, with a slight more detail on the reveal that involves some child's soiled pants. Thankfully, this didn't effect much of the movie and it even ended it all with a depressing tone.

Tackling the idea of how much a teacher, being a child's second parent, can affect the well-being of the children placed under her responsibility, To Sir, With Love shuffles around being both a gory horror movie and a dramatic psychological thriller. This being mentioned, the movie is just a lot of fun and well-recommended for all slasher fans!

1 male hangs himself
1 male repeatedly slashed with a box cutter, later force-fed with razors and boiling water
1 female had her eyes stapled open with a stapler, killed
1 male bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat
1 female falls off a cliff
1 male had his eyes thumbed
4 males and 2 females poisoned, later knifed to death
1 female found dead
1 female dropped to a sea side
1 female disappears
Total: 15

Twas: The Night Before Easter (2014)

The Night Before Easter (2014) (AKA "Happy Easter")
Rating: **
Starring: April Sinclair, Emily Chidalek, Alyssa Matusiak

(Admin note: as I write this, it is literally five days after Easter. I don't really care if this is a belated post but I am just excited to do this review as, for one, the directors of this movie happen to be friends with the horror blogger Justin Kershwell of Hysteria Lives, the very man and site that inspired me to run this dump you are visiting right now. Call it hero worship in a sense, I am willing to see a this low-budget hackathon just to see how well these guys do in amateur movie-making as well as pick up a few things that I can learn when I finally muster up to do my own slasher. (I'm playing with the idea, but I don't have the resources to do one...yet)

Of course, seeing I'm not too close with these guys, you can still expect a few criticism from my end. As any good reviewer should do...*puts on my powdered wig and does the best Jebediah Atkinson impression*)
Okay, maybe not as bad as Jebediah's own criticisms would be but, you get the case.
The Night Before Easter starts off with a couple watching a hilariously cheap slasher movie, only to get their night interrupted when they find out that a madman named Alex Sykes escaped his cell and possibly out for blood. Well, "interrupted" isn't the right word as they were calm enough to think about having sex, but true to any slasher opening, they have to die as Mr. Sykes, somehow, was already in the room with them...

Fourteen years (and one opening credit) later, we now follow a group of 20 somethings gathered in a storage building as one of them plans to tell the rest that she'll be moving to London for her dream job (and that she still likes one of the guys who, apparently, is dating a snooty rival). Things gone off rather fine with the gang deciding to play Hide-and-Seek to pass the time, but it soon dumps down for the bad when characters reveal hidden motives and terrible secrets, and then there's some guy in a cheap bunny suit wielding an axe making mincemeat out of them. Not the kind of hide-and-seeking they got in mind, I bet.

Definitely a throwback to the early 80s slashers, The Night Before Easter keeps a modest look by strictly following the basic slasher flow piece by piece, though nudity and gratuitous gore are noticeably missing. I will try to keep things all fair and forgiving as, obviously, this is a movie done by people with enough time, dedication, and passion for the sub-genre, despite low on budget and production experience. This being said, I am really impressed by the writing and characterization done for the film as they did give the characters enough personality and dimension to have us caring about most of them, or at least stay interested. It's very rare that we get o feel for characters in a slasher movie nowadays so this is a big approval for my viewing.

Sadly, we have a good half hour focusing on these characters before the killings begin, which would have been all good if it wasn't for a few distractions; as mentioned, since this was done with a meager budget, the editing and audio made it hard to follow some scenes, and the murders have no solid build-up and finishes way too quickly, leaving me feeling cheated that these guys just die off in unimpressive ways after all that waiting. Yes, again, I did pointed out the budget issue (apparently $4000), but I've seen enough SOV horror flicks to know that money is never a hindrance for a fun kill, and it's just a matter of execution and imagination.

And then there's the killer.
H'okay, how am I gonna put this...He kinda looks like a bad naked impersonation of the late Robin Williams with all his visible body hair dye in white and wearing some bunny eared mask that barely looked rabbit-ish. I'm sorry, but he makes the bloodstained cuddly-bunny suits from films like Bunnyman, Serial Rabbit and Easter Bunny Bloodbath look better in comparison.

It all ends down to a finale that was a mixed bag for me since, on one hand, it pays a good tribute to one of my favorite slashers ever, but on the other, I care very little at that point since I was already worn out on how cheap the slasher portions were.

In totality, The Night Before Easter was an interesting project; it had its heart on the right places but, due to the lack of budget, it ended up all over the place in a slight mess. Perhaps with a better editing and some more effort on the kills, I'm darn sure this movie would have been a fine home-made bodycounter.

1 male knifed on the back (film)
1 male killed (film)
1 male found castrated
1 female killed offcamera
1 female hacked with an axe
1 male gets a thrown buzzsaw to the back
1 female strangled with a length of chain
1 female decapitated with an axe
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 female hacked with an axe
1 female hacked on the head with an axe
1 male found with missing eyes
1 male hacked to death with an axe
Total: 13

Road Trip, Death trip: The Freeway Maniac (1989)

The Freeway Maniac (1989) (AKA "Breakdown")
Rating: ***
Starring: Loren Winters, Shepherd Sanders, Donald Hotton

Sometimes, it’s a healthier option to just go with the flow and let the stupidity of a movie entertain you for whatever it is worth. This, of course, is a gamble as some movies can be so stupid that loosening up would lead to a celluloid torture comparable to having your skullcap surgically removed and have your brain sautéed by Hannibal Lecter. Then again, there are also those movies that are so effin bad, it’s effin lovable and worthy enough to be enjoyed over and over again like a cheesy 80s pop song.

The Freeway Maniac, doesn't fall in any of these category. In fact, it is best described as confused.

It tells the story of Arthur, our titular freeway maniac who got thrown to a mental asylum for murdering his mum and her boyfriend as a kid. He grows up into a fine well-built psycho with a mullet who, one day, finds the chance to escape captivity and murders every orderly that tried to stop him before hitting the road to continue the joys of spree killing.

Eventually, he crosses path with a rising starlet, Linda Kinney, who was just having the worse of luck; not only did she found her boyfriend sleazing up with another bimbo and nearly got herself assaulted by a couple of grease monkeys when her car broke down in the middle of the nowhere, she now has to deal with our runaway psychopath. After a lengthy chase, Linda eventually saves herself by tossing off Arthur with her car; psycho got captured, Linda got famous from the attack and becomes some sort of cult favorite cuz, a year later, she’s acting for a low-budget scifi movie titled “Astronette”.

While Linda goes into filming, Arthur escapes for the second time (!!!) and murders his way cross-county to the shooting, bumping off some of the casts and crew before going for the one that got away! Will he succeed? Will he fail? And how does anyone survive a four story drop?

I'm going to keep this review as simple as possible since there isn't really anything new to tell here; Arthur is a smirking maniac who simply kills anybody that are literally in the way, Linda is a girl with a dream, victims remain victims and the kills, though plentiful, reek of dairy.

Seriously on the latter, this movie boasts an impressive double digit killing spree, with some of the more entertaining bits being the bellyflop of death that Arthur did on a orderly early in the film (Take notice, again, of the "four story drop" claim I made at a previous paragraph), some guy getting ran over with a motorbike (with an obvious ramp placed under his shirt), and an impressive looking truck stunt that leads to multiple casualties. The rest of the count are simple stabbings, strangulation, blunt object braining and one guy getting hit on the chest with a chair. For the sake of this movie's corniness, I'm counting that last one as a death toll.

Production, from acting to lighting, to special effects and direction, is abysmal, however, but it's naturally expected from a low-budget cheesefest like The Freeway Maniac. Like, for real; with a plot so thin and straightforward, I wouldn't expect high standards. I guess that's one particular reason why I'm so forgiving to this movie; it's so unintentionally funny and it stank the stink of a hundred McDonald Big Macs: delicious in every way but it clogs up your arteries, destroys your liver and makes your butt look big.

That being said, this is yet again another junk food equivalent of a slasher movie. It's not meant to be enjoyed by just anybody, but by somebody! Somebody who can exchange character development for a dead body for every minute. Somebody who can enjoy seeing hammy acting and cheesy special effects. Somebody who probably smoked on something and is completely unaware of what they're watching. Have I ever done drugs? Hell, no! I got The Freeway maniac as an alternative!

Either that or Horror House on Highway 5 but even I still can't stomach that!

1 female knifed to death
1 male knifed to death
1 male hit on the chest with a chair
1 male brained against the wall
1 male strangled
1 female strangled
1 male pounded on the face
1 male thrown off a building, crushed by killer’s belly flop (!)
1 male strangled
1 male brained with a lead pipe
1 male had his head dragged across the road
1 male stabbed on the side with a syringe
1 male brained with a lead pipe
1 male ran over with a truck
1 female thrown off during a car crash
1 male and 1 female mangled in car crash
1 male and 1 female immolated in car explosion
1 male pounded to death
1 female impaled on a thrown javelin
1 male had his neck broken
1 male repeatedly ran over with a motorbike
1 male dismembered with a chainsaw
1 male brained to death with a hammer
1 male had his head pushed to a clothes peg
1 male hacked to death with a prop claw
Total: 27

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What Psychos Learn In Movies: Drive-In (2000)

Drive-In (2000)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Brenton Earley, Deshja Driggs, Rick Perkins

Drive In is one title that rarely gets thrown in a conversation as horror fans either have seen and hated it, or would have confused it with the infamously schlocky 70s proto-slasher Drive-In Massacre. Comparing the two however, Drive In is a more straight-forward take on a bodycounter and one that actually fares better for me.

The story is simple enough to follow; a drive-in theater across town is being petitioned by an upset community for showing nothing but horror movies. (Troma horror movies to be more exact so…yay?) What these people didn't know is that one of these concerned citizens have been locking up their mentally handicapped son Billy in their attic, with nothing but these films to watch every night for entertainment and company.

One night, however, Billy found a way to kill his way out of his room and begin a murder spree of his own, basing every murder from what he learned from the movies.

More or less, the film nothing too complex as everything is by the book as any standard slasher would be, which can either be a good or a bad thing based on your taste for horror flicks. Drive In has a level of cheesiness, both acting and scripting, and the plot juggles its focus back and forth from the staff dealing with personal and job-related issues, to Billy murdering anyone he can hold on to with anything he can use for the time. This is all done in a steady pacing and with characters bearing simple personalities that are to be slaughtered later in the plot (in defense of the unknown casts, some actually tried to be two dimensional), something that I’m sure only patient viewers or hardcore slasher fanatics can live through.

The murder and scare scenes aren't all that bad despite being overly simple. They have some good build-up that keeps you guessing whether it will or will not happen, but the problem here is that, seeing Billy supposedly learned the joys of murder from gory Troma movies, some of us would expect he’ll do the killings quite messily. What we have here, rather, are simple strangulation, stabbings and braining. Then again, it does help ground the film in a more realistic light, both in terms of budget and storytelling, a bit of a say of how violent movies affect unstable or immature minds. Of course, this was dropped the moment the slasher parts start and we’re simply rolling down a familiar hill.

Drive In certainly not one of the better slashers to be released out there but it certainly isn't the worst. Like I said, the cheesiness and simple plotting worked well enough for me and I didn't mind the killer’s basic approach to murder, so I’ll give the movie an approval for effort, even more if it tried harder.

1 male stabbed on the neck with a broken bottle
1 male impaled with a sign post
1 male stabbed with a knife
1 female knifed to death
1 female strangled with a chord
1 male stabbed on the neck with a bong, bludgeoned against a steering wheel
1 male brained with a brick
1 female brained with a brick
1 female garroted
1 male stabbed on the gut
1 female drowned in melted butter
1 female had her back broken with a bear hug
1 male electrocuted to death
Total: 13

Monday, April 6, 2015

Big Bad Bunny Babbit: Easter Bunny Bloodbath (2010)

Easter Bunny Bloodbath (Canada, 2010)
Rating: *1/2
Starring:  Shayan Bayat, Meghan Kinsley, Travis Turner

Big killers in mascot suits. Sometimes creepy. Sometimes not. All boils down to how well said creepy suits are handled.

In this, yet another, Easter themed slasher (I think we have enough Easter slashers guys. Let's give Kwanza a chance! Or was it Quanza....Cwuanzah?), we start off with a black and white blast to the past, the 1960s to be more exact, where we see two siblings trading Easter Sunday candies. The younger of the two, lil Peter McKay, then spots a man dressed up as the Easter Bunny and welcomes him with his sister at the front door. Expecting more sugary sweets, they instead got greeted with a cleaver and big sister losts her head. Literally.

Forward 20 years later, Peter decided to celebrate his first Easter Sunday since the incident. He's doing this with a couple of friends and his girlfriend at his late father's woodland cabin, boozing up on beer and getting down with his sweetheart, all the while trying to disregard the creepy visions of a weirdo in a bunny suit.

Of course, the bunny mascot might be more real than he imagined as one by one, random bystanders and his friends fall victim to it. Is the killer from Peter's childhood back for another bodycount? Or is someone in the party crazy enough to do the killings themselves?

Early in the film (about 5 seconds), Easter Bunny Bloodbath made it clear it's calling back the days of old, when VHS Shot on Video horror movies ruled the video stores. Everything from cheap viscera to messy editing, it's a respectable thought and I for one give the producers credit for that. As for the actual movie, uh...

Let me put it this way; I can tell that this is supposed to be a horror-comedy, or at least a tribute to the so-bad-its-good Do-It-Yourself horror of the late 80s. There's cheesy acting and hammy scripts, two guilty pleasures we all known and loved from those age-old VHS titles, but the throwback was cooked to a burn and it ended up as the kind of humor that can be a hit or a miss. Unfortunate, and it could just be me, there was more misses than hits and I found myself either rolling my eyes, or smacking my own face to make sure I stay awake. (Pacing is, again, an issue. Would had kept me focused if the audio wasn't so crappy...)

So the horror comedy portion failed, what else could go wrong? How about store-bought Halloween props used as gory entrails? Or cheaply done digital splatter cuz budget? The victims to these killings aren't that likable themselves (annoying teenagers taking the role of college students. Yeah, really convincing, guys) so the point of these killings are lost from some fan's point of perspective.

I'm aware that the budget isn't all that big (they never was for SOV horror) and the production was as convenient as hobo with a can of beans, but these cons made the entire film looks like a slasher take of a grade school stage play. Honestly, they could had kept it Halloween (1978) simple and work on the creep factor rather than trying to make the film as gory as possible, but they wanted a nonsensical slasher and that's what they did. I shouldn't say anything ill for that claim as, being a guy with a soft spot for bodycount films, I appreciate the effort. But in the end, it just looked ridiculous.

The story is as basic as any backwood slasher would go: kids to go the woods, kids get killed, killer chases final girl, big twist, everybody dies. Nothing that will stray away a die-hard fan of the sub-genre but the execution is certainly something that'll divide attention, which is why this film have a few fans out there who simply loved the Shot-On-Video-Love-Letter approach Easter Bunny Bloodbath have, while I find myself siding with those who found the cheap, plot-hole heavy buckshot to the face that is this film nothing but a waste of time and DVD space.

So with all of this said, I'm not gonna stop people from seeing this. If they want to see a modern day home-made horror movie then let them. I'll just stick with my opinions that killers in big bunny suits look better and creepier skulking in the dark, the only good movie out there that features a killer mascot is the Ozploitation The Director's Cut (2009), and the only good Easter themed slasher made in existence was Easter Bunny! Kill! Kill! Nuff said.

1 female beheaded with a cleaver
1 male hacked to death with a cleaver
1 female drowned in a pot of boiling water, head stomped
1 female strangled with a jump rope, stabbed on the eyes with handles
1 male castrated with a cleaver, killed
1 female pounded to death
1 female gutted offcamera, fetus torn out
1 male shot to death
Total: 8

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"No Problem": Happy Hell Night (1992)

Happy Hell Night (Yugoslavia/Canada, 1992) (AKA "Frat Night")
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  Larry Robinson, Lisa Nichols, Sam Rockwell 

When brothers clash for the same gal, things are bound to get ugly and this was the case for Eric, the house president of Phi Delta Sigma fraternity, when he found out that his younger brother, Sonny, is seeing (and canoodling) his ex-girlfriend. 

Bitter about this, Eric takes advantage on the fact that he has to initiate his brother to the fraternity via the annual Halloween Hell Night (under the nagging of their father, an ex-sigma) and, out of revenge, tasks Sonny a fraternity stunt that he originally thought was too risky for his pledges: you see, there is a local boogeyman named Zachary Malius, a man in a priest's garb arrested for the murders of seven sigmas and a local girl some years ago, apparently out of a Satanic ritual. Everybody claims he's still alive, waiting motionlessly for something inside his cell at a local nuthouse and Sonny and another pledge is supposed to take a picture of the man straight from said asylum should he exists.

After nosing around where they shouldn't be, the two eventually find the priest in his cell, covered in cobwebs yet very much alive and deadly. Malius grabs this opportunity to escape, killing his way out of the building and trails back to the frat house, where a convenient blackout had driven most of the partying guests out of the house, leaving several frat members and their dates in the dark, ripe for Malius' slaughtering spree.
A very 80s-esque slasher released in the early 90s, Happy Hell Night is your typical college initiation gone wrong type of horror flick, with a side of supernatural creepies. It has a cheesy tone siding with a nyctophobic atmosphere as well as some really gory killings at the hands of an effectively unnerving demon, which harks back at the early 80s entries of the sub-genre.

Sadly, the movie is underrated by many fans for some perfectly understandable reasons. For starters, the editing made the film look weird at times, the messy quick-cut fashion dealing more odds that resemble a rushed job, leaving a few scenes looking like two separate scenarios pasted together to create a jaggy flow on the plot. This gave the movie an unbalanced tone when it comes to its otherwise cheesy direction and scripting, but once the spree killing starts, it thankfully decided to ditch the cornball frat party atmosphere and went straight ahead with being a bloody bodycounter that somehow made this flaw work with the killer's supernatural state. As in, giving him a reason to be strangely in so many places at once.

Then, there's the fact it lacks any real sympathetic characters, with majority of the cast playing frat boys that are either douches or bearing the brain of a horny preteen, as well as foreign chicks that is just there to be fucked and killed. Character development is never a thing for slashers, but at least give the meat bags a personality that set one apart from the other. The final girl is a variation, at least; she's not a virgin, established quite early in the film, and the only form of accomplishment she have done against the killer was that she recite some spell while the two brothers tango with a homicidal demon.

Not a strong set of casts, but at least said killer was well worth seeing. In fact, he is one of the major pros this movie offered, with his pitch black orbs for eyes, lean built with a bone white skin, and a creepy voice that sounded like a homicidal Stephen Spielberg's ET. Malius's presence is so unnerving that the cheesiness of his otherwise hammy one-liners are almost lost in the abyss. His kills, though a good number of them are simple ice axe kills, are gory and bloody enough to satisfy avid bloodhounds, even if some of the murders fell victim to the movie's quick-paste editing.

It definitely has its moments once the action kicks in, Happy Hell Night is far from perfect but it didn't fail to entertain. It's paint-by-number approach to a basic slasher did make it predictable, a sure disappointment for those looking for something out of the ordinary, but for the right audience who just love to see a killer do away dumb frat boys via bodily mutilation and hackings, this is a worthy title to add to their collection, or at least see for the hell of it.

7 males and 1 female found slaughtered with a knife
1 male had a hand cut off, killed offcamera
1 female had her neck slashed with a scalpel
1 female gets an ice axe through her head
1 female killed offscreen with an ice axe, later found dismembered
1 female hacked to death with an ice axe
1 male found dead with hack wounds
1 male found crucified with nails driven to his face
1 male bled to death from hack wounds
1 female decapitated
1 male ice axed through the head, exits to an eye
1 male ice axed on the chest
1 male disappears
Total: 20
"No judging until seeing this movie"